The Seahawks placed rookie outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis on injured reserve Friday, ending his season because of a shoulder injury he suffered in the game at Kansas City on Nov. 16. Pierre-Louis had become part of the regular rotation at linebacker while Bobby Wagner was out with a turf toe injury.

The Seahawks also claimed rookie cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy off waivers Friday from Indianapolis. Purifoy (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) left Florida after his junior year in 2013 to enter the 2014 NFL draft, but was not selected. He was signed by the Colts as a rookie free agent.

Purifoy went into the preseason competing with cornerback Marcus Burley before the Colts traded Burley to the Seahawks on Aug. 30 for a sixth-round draft pick in 2015.

Signing Purifoy could mean that nickelback Jeremy Lane may be out longer than expected. Lane, who was on injured reserve for seven games with a groin injury, did not play Thursday because of a glute injury.

Latavius Murray one of four Raiders out this Sunday

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Raiders are literally limping into the final five weeks of the season.

Running back Latavius Murray will not play in this Sunday’s game in St. Louis because of a concussion, one of four Oakland players already ruled out. Rookie left guard Gabe Jackson is questionable because of a knee injury, while three others are probable.

The biggest concern is in the secondary. Starting cornerback Carlos Rogers will miss a fifth consecutive game with a knee injury while backup Neiko Thorpe will also sit out.

TJ Carrie, a reserve cornerback, and backup safety Larry Asante are still nursing lingering injuries as well.

Here’s the Raiders’ complete injury list from Friday:

Out: RB Latavius Murray (concussion), S Jonathan Dowling (back), CB Carlos Rogers (knee), CB Neiko Thorpe (hand).

Questionable: G Gabe Jackson (knee).

Probable: S Larry Asante (shoulde), CB TJ Carrie (ankle), TE Brian Leonhardt (concussion).
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Another week with the Jets, and more quarterback intrigue. This time coach Rex Ryan cited a “Jet decision” in giving second-year quarterback Geno Smith his first start since throwing three interceptions in 10 minutes against the Bills on Oct. 26.

Linebacker Calvin Pace put a good face on it, saying he believes in Smith when asked about the switch. So what gives Pace that confidence?

“One, I really don't have a choice," he said.

Ouch.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
AP Photo/Bill KostrounGeno Smith will likely get a chance to finish the season as the Jets' starting QB, coach Rex Ryan said.
Pace continued: "Two, he's got the tools. He's just got to believe in himself and go out there and execute and do what [offensive coordinator] Marty [Mornhinweg] tells him to do, and just make some plays."

Ryan usually explains those decisions by saying the player gives the Jets the best chance to win, but he has dovetailed with this start for Smith, saying it’s in the best interest of the organization. Instead, it appears the Jets are going to see if Smith is able to develop into a franchise quarterback.

“Most quarterbacks take a few years to develop and then you put them in, and that’s probably the best way to do it in an ideal world," Ryan said. “But the two situations we’ve had haven’t been ideal.”

Ryan is also referring to Mark Sanchez, who just led the Eagles to a win over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. He also started for the Jets during his rookie season, and seems to be hitting his stride outside of New York.

“I think [Sanchez] looked tremendous last night, until I passed out from the tryptophan or whatever," said Ryan, referencing the effects of his Thanksgiving turkey. "He looked terrific.”

Mornhinweg said he always wanted to bring Smith back into the starting spot. At 2-9, the Jets were formally eliminated from the playoffs last week. The offensive coordinator disputed a report that said he wanted veteran quarterback Michael Vick to start this week again.

“There is no question that Geno can be a fine quarterback in this league,” Mornhinweg said.

The seesaw starting rotation makes it difficult for an offense described by Mornhinweg as “off just a little bit” to get back in sync. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley has seen the years of development at quarterback culminate in a 2-9 season and a lot of uncertainty at quarterback.

“I think you’ve just got to go with a decision and stick with it,” Kerley said. “But that’s just me, I’m not a coach.”

Ryan said he expected Smith to be the Jets' starter for the rest of the season, but he wasn’t definitive.

“I would anticipate that and hope that’s the case but we’ll see,” Ryan said.

So with that ringing endorsement, Smith will make his return on Monday night against Miami, a divisional opponent and a national audience. Still, the bland platitudes he offered didn’t betray any nerves.

“I can’t worry about that,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to making positive plays and staying in the moment and taking it one play at a time. I’ve got to go out there and read my keys and do what’s right on that particular play. I can’t be focused on what’ll happen here down the line because that’ll sidetrack me from what’s really important, which is going out there and playing the game."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Clay Matthews wants his shot. So does Micah Hyde.

Both almost certainly will get the chance on Sunday against the New England Patriots.

But there's nothing on film to suggest that either of those Green Bay Packers' defensive players will be able to shut down – or even slow down – tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Whether it's a linebacker such as Matthews or a slot cover guy like Hyde – or even a safety or a cornerback – it does not seem to matter. Oh, the Packers will surely try some of all of those combinations, but ...

[+] EnlargeGronkowski
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesPatriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is a matchup nightmare for any team, and keeping him in check is much easier said than done.
"I don't know that a lot of people have had great success covering him," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Friday. "He can go vertical. He's a big guy. He's got a big wing span. You've seen him catch a ball thrown behind him and pull it in. He likes the physical part of the game. He's going to challenge you in terms of tackling. If you go up on his upper body, the guy's big and strong. Tacklers bounce off of him.

"You've got to have a plan to try to get the second and third guy there. He obviously gives them a matchup issue. And then Tom Brady's always aware of who's matched up on him."

After a slow start during which he was working his way back into form following ACL surgery, no tight end in the league has been more productive than Gronkowski. Since Week 5, he has 45 catches for 665 yards and six touchdowns. That's nine more catches and 200 more yards than any other tight end during that span, which encompasses the Patriots' current seven-game winning streak.

None of the Packers' three position coaches – Winston Moss (linebackers), Darren Perry (safeties) and Joe Whitt (cornerbacks) – whose players could conceivably be used in coverage against the Patriots' 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end -- could identify one type of player who has had the most success defending Gronkowski this season.

Said Moss: "It requires a mindset to where the entire defense has to be ready to handle their assignments."

Said Perry: "No, this guy just makes plays. It seems to not even matter who's covering him. He's going to find a way to make plays and we've just got to hopefully slow him down a little bit. He's a great player."

Said Whitt: "He's very hard on little guys because little guys can't bring him down. He's very hard on big guys because he can separate from them. So he's a dynamic player, and he plays with a great play speed and effort."

That sounds like what defenders used to say about former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley.

"I think you could say that," Whitt said. "He's a matchup issue; he really is."

So who will it be on Gronkowski?

Maybe Matthews.

"There could potentially be some opportunities in the game where I'm matched up against him," Matthews said this week. "Yeah, we'll see. Obviously, I enjoy those opportunities to kind of showcase my talents, especially at something that is not my normal pass rushing."

Perhaps Hyde.

"I didn't go to the coach and say, 'I want him,' but at the same time I think it will be fun," Hyde said. "Whoever is lined up against him, I have confidence in any one of our guys that lines up against him, and it's going to be a good opportunity."

And don't forget about outside linebacker Julius Peppers, who has dropped into coverage more this year than in perhaps his first 12 NFL seasons combined. He has a pair of interceptions, both returned for touchdowns, to show for it.

"I've had a little success with it this year," Peppers said. "It's something that I wanted to do, and I've been able to do it since I've been here."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills (6-5) will try to win back-to-back games when they host the Cleveland Browns (7-4) Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Here is what to watch for from the Bills' side:

1. Getting back on track at home: The Bills have arguably been worse at home this season (3-3) than on the road (3-2), a message not lost on Doug Marrone's team this week. "I just talked to them about it," Marrone said Wednesday. "We have not done a very good job here. It’s been a long time since we’ve won a game at our stadium, so I talked to our players about that right after I brought them up after practice." The Bills' meeting Sunday with the Browns will be just their second true home game in a span of 41 days, the other being a 17-13 loss to the Chiefs. Turnovers were a problem in that game, and overall the Bills are minus-4 in turnovers at home. In what will be their second to last home game of the season, the Bills will have quarterback Jim Kelly as part of the pre-game festivities. That should fire up the crowd, but we'll see if it lasts.

Jackson
Watkins
2. Attacking Browns' defense on ground: Though the Sammy Watkins-Joe Haden match-up will be one to watch during the game, the Bills don't figure to have much success throwing Sunday. Opposing quarterbacks have the NFL's fourth-lowest completion percentage (58.3) and the lowest QB rating (75.4) against Cleveland, the same stout pass defense that Browns coach Mike Pettine brought to the Bills' defense last season. But like Buffalo's run defense in 2013, the Browns have issues this season. The Browns allow 4.47 yards per carry, the fifth-worst mark in the league, while opposing rushers gain first downs on more than 25 percent of their runs. The Bills removed Fred Jackson from the injury report this week, but the feeling here is that the Bills will still split snaps between him, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown.

3. Shake up at skill positions, returner: The Bills' active roster was shuffled last week when fullback Frank Summers and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin were both healthy scratches. I asked offensive coordinator Nate Hackett on Friday what Goodwin had to do to get back on the 46-man roster. "It's just like anybody," Hackett said. "Just continually improving and getting better and getting a good rapport with the quarterback, and so I wouldn't be surprised if we see him soon, because I'm a big fan of Marquise." If Goodwin returns to the active roster Sunday, it might not be on special teams, where Marcus Thigpen looks poised to take over as a kick and punt returner. Meanwhile, with Chris Gragg (knee) out this week, look for MarQueis Gray to make his debut Sunday.

4. Besting their 2013 record: With a win Sunday, the Bills will guarantee their first 7-win season since 2008, when they finished 7-9 for a third consecutive season. That could be "exhibit A" when Doug Marrone and Doug Whaley's jobs come up for review after this season. The Bills will have tough sledding in December, beginning with their trip to Denver next week, but having their best season in six years will be a selling point for this coaching staff. If the Bills can win two more games this season, guaranteeing at least an 8-8 season, it would be their best mark since 2004.
BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel on Friday used his scrambling ability on a few details but overall spoke with conviction and clarity when addressing last week’s incident in a Cleveland hotel that sparked a police report.

He provided background and context of the Saturday morning in question. He seemed eager to address what he felt was, in his words, “blown out of proportion” by the alleged victim. He squashed the notion he had an "entourage," an important distinction, given the connotation that word carries. He even thanked the media for not overreacting to the story.

Manziel
The only thing he wouldn’t touch was whether he threw or took a punch -- a crucial detail, to be sure. What exactly happened when the scrum escalated is still unclear. But considering the NFL’s normally sanitized approach to off-field problems, he answered more questions than most. Manziel doesn’t seem like he has a lot to hide, which is partly why he garners interest. He elicits a reaction from fans. In this case, that personality trait helped him.

It seemed Manziel genuinely didn’t want this kind of attention and is disappointed it played out publicly, with “many untruths” to surface Monday, he said. Unless wild surveillance video surfaces or the Browns suddenly get new info about what happened, there’s nowhere else for the story to go.

This doesn’t change the reality the Browns didn’t want Manziel out at 2:30 a.m. the morning before a game, which Manziel also seems to understand.

Pat McManamon: On Friday, Johnny Manziel said a drunk, obnoxious fan accosted him in the lobby of his residence last weekend. The fan said he was trying to be a fan and Manziel’s “entourage” attacked him. Manziel said his entourage was his mother -- in town to visit -- and his roommate. Manziel was not charged, and the police didn’t seem to think he did anything wrong. This little story should now fade into whatever oblivion these stories fade. And it might fade in part because Manziel addressed what happened. He stood, spoke his piece, and took questions. He left a couple of details hanging, but folks dragged into court sometimes claim the fifth (NOT that Manziel has any reason to do so, mind you). At this point, Manziel deserves props. In so many years past a story like this would fester as Browns players hid behind statements or other jargon. Manziel talked, addressed it and gave his side. The world did not end, nor did the Rivers of Babylon overflow. Much of the sting from the incident has been defused. Props to Manziel for doing it, props to the Browns for not stonewalling. The truth, as is often said, will indeed set you free.

 

 
IRVING, Texas – In Jason Garrett’s world, he hardly ever takes big-picture views, but Friday was a slightly different.

The picture he took might not have been big, but it was about what the Dallas Cowboys have to do to make the playoffs.

Garrett
Garrett
Now 8-4 after their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys find themselves outside of the playoff picture with four games to play.

“This is what I know: If we do what we are supposed to, plan to do and want to do then good things are going to happen for our football team,” Garrett said. “The way you do that is you focus on today and you focus on your preparation for one game.”

The Cowboys would make the playoffs by winning their final four games and finishing 12-4, but they are 2-3 in their last five games, have a rematch against the Eagles on Dec. 14 and host the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 21 at AT&T Stadium, where they are just 3-4 this season.

It won’t be easy.

The Cowboys return to Valley Ranch on Saturday for meetings and a quick walk-through and start their preparation for Thursday’s game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Garrett’s message when he addresses the team Saturday will be about what went right and wrong against the Eagles and what has to go right for them in December.

“A big part of what we have to do as a coaching staff is to teach everybody how to think about things,” Garrett said “That’s a big part of what our job is, put things in the proper perspective, get their focus on the right things.”

The right thing is the Bears, but Garrett does not believe the challenge in delivering the message is any different than what he said earlier in the season.

“We’d be saying the same thing if the outcome would’ve been the reverse,” Garrett said. “We got to get focused on beating Chicago. We have to learn from this game, build on the good stuff, correct the bad. It wasn’t perfect. Let’s get back to work. Let’s get ready for this next challenge. Treat this like a Monday, [Saturday] like a Tuesday, and here we go.”
IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys return to practice on Sunday to get ready for next week’s game against the Chicago Bears, Tony Romo will fall back into the same practice plan he has followed since the second game of the regular season.

Romo
The Cowboys will have a Wednesday practice in terms of preparation for the Bears game, and Romo has not practiced in a full Wednesday practice since September. He practiced this week leading into the Thanksgiving game against the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Cowboys did nothing more than walk-throughs to get ready.

Romo struggled in the 33-10 loss, completing 18 of 29 passes for 199 yards. He was intercepted twice and sacked four times. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett reiterated Friday what he said after the game regarding the condition of Romo’s back.

“I don’t think he was bothered physically,” Garrett said. “Maybe bothered by a pass rush.”

It was the first time since Sept. 23, 2012 that Romo, who is playing through two transverse process fractures, did not have a touchdown pass, a span of 38 games, which is the fifth-longest streak in NFL history.

“He’s a human being,” Garrett said. “He’s dealing with stuff. Everybody’s dealing with stuff. At times I thought he threw the ball well. He certainly missed some throws and just the overall environment, there were some tight throws he had to make; there were people around him. We’re behind. We’re throwing a lot. All those things factored together. Just wasn’t as clean as we wanted it to be.”

Garrett said linebacker Rolando McClain was checked out Friday and is expected to be OK. He has been slowed in recent weeks by a knee injury. McClain was in and out of the lineup Thursday, but Garrett does not believe McClain, who did not play football last season, is wearing down.

“He’s been dealing with a couple of things -- the knee, the groin, some other things that he’s had over the course of the last month or so sometimes that can have an impact on your performance,” Garrett said. “But he did some good things in the game. He didn’t show up quite as much as he did certainly the other night. But we’ll get him healthy and cleaned up and get them rolling again for next week.”

Defensive end George Selvie suffered a sprained thumb, “but we think he’ll be OK,” Garrett said.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' coordinators only address the media once a week, so Friday was the first chance we had to speak to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell about what went wrong in Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. There was a lot to ask.

McClain
Start with the Tony Romo touchdown pass to Cole Beasley -- the 45-yard catch-and run in the third quarter that cut the Giants' lead to 21-17. Beasley caught the ball over the middle with no one covering him, Zack Bowman missed a tackle and Jayron Hosley couldn't catch Beasley as he raced for the end zone. Middle linebacker Jameel McClain blitzed on the play, which was apparently the first mistake.

"He was not supposed to pressure on that play. He was supposed to be in coverage. That was an error," Fewell said.

Fewell said he didn't know why the error occurred -- whether McClain misinterpreted the call or confused it for another similar call from the same formation. But he admitted that mistakes such as these are frustrating.

"That's why I don't have hair," Fewell quipped. "It's not genetic. That's the reason why I don't have any hair."

The Giants have been fine with the way McClain has played for the most part since taking over at middle linebacker for the injured Jon Beason. But there is a reason they signed Beason to a big free-agent deal in the offseason, and they do miss him.

Beason
"It's like you lost your starting quarterback," Fewell said. "You lose a guy who, he really didn't practice in the preseason and they elect him captain based just on what he did from last October through OTAs. That says a lot about a guy."

But Fewell knows he has to get by without injured players. That's life as a coach in the NFL. So the fact that he's taking the heat for things like his new middle linebacker missing an assignment and helping give up a long touchdown does not come as a surprise to him.

"That comes with the job," Fewell said. "I'm responsible for it."

He also addressed the personnel groupings and strategy on the Cowboys' game-winning touchdown drive -- something head coach Tom Coughlin seemed to question earlier in the week. Fewell said the main reason he didn't have his pass-rush personnel on the field for that entire drive was that there was a lot of time remaining on the clock and he couldn't be certain the Cowboys would be passing on every down.

"It really wasn't a two-minute situation, so to speak," Fewell said. "They had a lot of time on the clock, so they could run it, they could do a number of things."

Nonetheless, he did admit that pass-rusher Damontre Moore was supposed to be on the field for the final touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, and that the coaches deserved blame for not having the right personnel on the field in that situation.

"We just didn't do a good enough job managing that," Fewell said. "That was a poor job on our part."
The news that running back Ray Rice won his appeal of an indefinite suspension has no affect on the Baltimore Ravens.

Rice
Rice
Even if Rice signs with another team, it doesn't impact the Ravens' salary cap. Rice will count $4.75 million this year and $9.5 million in 2015, regardless of whether he plays this season or not.

The bigger issue for the Ravens is Rice's separate grievance against the team claiming wrongful termination of his $35 million contract. If he wins in that case, he could collect as much as $3.5 million in salary (what he will lose in not playing the final 14 games this season).

The NFL has placed a $1,411,765 charge against the Ravens' cap to reflect the pending Rice grievance against the team. If Rice wins that grievance, the Ravens' cap could be charged as much as an additional $2.1 million.

Rice is now eligible to sign with any team, but the Ravens made it clear in September they wouldn't be interested in a reunion.

"[Ray Rice] will not play for us," owner Steve Bisciotti said two months ago.

Without Rice, the Ravens have the No. 6 rushing attack this season. Justin Forsett is third in the league with 903 yards, 243 more than Rice gained last season.
PHILADELPHIA -- Bill Davis heard the talk. Two weeks after getting taken apart by Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, his players were talking about how the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line was all hat and no cattle.

Cox
"I don’t think they were trying to talk trash," Davis, the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive coordinator, said. "I really don’t. I think they were trying to say, 'Hey, we’re good, too, and we respect them.' I think that’s really all that was trying to be communicated. They came ready to play, they really did. And we see these guys (the Cowboys) in two weeks. So it’s four more quarters just around the corner for us."

The Eagles held up their end. They limited Dallas running back DeMarco Murray to a season-low 73 yards on 20 carries. That’s a 3.7-yard average.

"When you face the top rusher in the NFL and the O-line that’s attached to it, you’ve got to bring your A game," Davis said. "That’s what we tried to do today. That’s all you can do at the end of the day, hope you play defense collectively against the run."

They might have meant a little disrespect to the Cowboys, but it turns out it was in response to a perceived lack of respect from the outside world. Defensive end Fletcher Cox, who normally does the thankless tasks of a 3-4 defensive end without complaint, was simply tired of hearing about how great the Cowboys' offensive line was.

"We knew we had to keep that chip on our shoulder," Cox said. "We believe in each other. We play for each other. You know, 3-4 ends are probably the most underrated players out there. We don’t get a lot of pub. But the folks upstairs know what I’m doing."

The Eagles play a two-gap system, which means their three down linemen are responsible for tying up blockers and letting the linebackers run free to make tackles. They have only allowed one 100-yard rusher, San Francisco’s Frank Gore, all season. Murray has hit the 100-yard mark 10 times in 12 games this season. Arizona held him to 79 yards on 19 carries.

Another major factor Thursday was the progress made by inside linebacker Casey Matthews. With the groin injury to Emmanuel Acho, Matthews played every down in the spot normally held by veteran DeMeco Ryans. Davis said Matthews has really asserted himself in the job.

"Casey did a great job of lining it all up," Davis said. "Casey’s getting better and better. Every call he made, it was solid. He’s animated. Now our guys know that Casey’s going to run the show, and we’re comfortable with that."

The Eagles' defense has had very good (Giants, Carolina) and very bad (Green Bay, Jacksonville) games. In Dallas, it looked like it would be able to hold up in a playoff game. That is a big turnaround from the Green Bay game two weeks earlier.

"We came ready to play," Davis said.
SAN DIEGO -- San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews suffered an injured shoulder against the St. Louis Rams last weekend but fully participated in practice this week and is probable for Sunday’s contest against the Baltimore Ravens.

Along with Mathews, safety Jahleel Addae (concussion) and receiver Eddie Royal (toe) are probable for Sunday.

Defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) and linebacker Andrew Gachkar (knee) did not practice all week. Carrethers has been ruled out for a second straight week, while Gachkar is questionable for Sunday.

Guard Ryan Miller was added to injury report Friday. Miller was a limited participant due to a groin injury and is listed as questionable for Sunday. Miller was active last week against the Rams as a reserve offensive lineman, so the Chargers might have to do some juggling on the active roster to make sure they have enough depth along the offensive line.

Defensive tackle Tenny Palepoi also missed a second straight day of practice to attend to a personal matter. San Diego only has six defensive linemen available if Palepoi does not play Sunday. But either way, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said his team has enough depth up front defensively for the Baltimore game.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The 19-3 victory Thursday night for the Seattle Seahawks against the San Francisco 49ers was crucial in many ways, but one key way is the fact that the Seahawks have the toughest finishing schedule in the NFL.

The Seahawks finish the season against teams with a combined record of 29-17, a .630 winning percentage. That’s easily the highest among the four teams competing for the two NFC wild-card spots.

The 49ers (7-5) are one game back of the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys and Seahawks, all at 8-4. San Francisco has the second-hardest remaining schedule among the playoff contenders in the NFC.

The Seahawks, however, still aren’t out of the picture for the NFC West title, even though they will need some help. The Arizona Cardinals are 9-2 entering Sunday’s game at the 4-7 Atlanta Falcons.

The Seahawks will play the Cardinals in Arizona on Dec. 21 and already beat them at Seattle last week. But Seattle still needs Arizona to lose to someone else, even if the Seahawks win in Arizona.

Here’s is the strength of schedule for the four NFC teams in wild-card contenders at the moment:

Seahawks (8-4) -- .630.
49ers (7-5) -- .556.
Dallas Cowboys (8-4) -- .522.
Detroit Lions (8-4) -- .422.

The remaining four opponents for Seattle are the Philadelphia Eagles (9-3), the 49ers (7-5), the Cardinals (9-2) and the St. Louis Rams (4-7).
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The only injury concern for the Baltimore Ravens is rookie slot receiver Michael Campanaro, who is listed as questionable.

Campanaro injured his hamstring Oct. 26 and returned to practice this week. The seventh-round pick has been limited all week in practice leading up to Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers.

"He’s coming along. It’s a process with a hamstring [injury]," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "You can’t really push that thing too much. What usually happens with hamstrings is [the team trainers] are pretty conservative, and then all of a sudden they come back and tell you he’s ready to go."

Harbaugh added, "But he did practice this week. It wasn’t all the time as fast as we want it to be, because we don’t want a setback. I imagine I’ll find out Sunday if he’s ready to go or not, and if he is, we’ll see. That’s really the best we can do right now.”

Linebackers Terrell Suggs (foot) and Pernell McPhee (shoulder) and reserve offensive tackle Jah Reid (hand) are all probable after full participation in Friday's practice.
CINCINNATI -- There will be a slice of Cincinnati Bengals history on the line Sunday when they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

With a victory, the Bengals would win three consecutive, uninterrupted road games for the first time in franchise history.

The franchise record for consecutive road games won is five, set across the 2008 and 2009 seasons. But never before has the franchise, in three straight weeks, had three straight games outside the Queen City that it has won.

"History? I didn't know that," Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap said when asked about the possible feat earlier this week. "I guess that's an opportunity for us to capitalize on that. But our main focus is on winning our next game and beating Mike Johnson and Anthony Collins down there with the Tampa Bay Bucs."

Johnson and Collins are former Bengals who rejected bids by the Bengals and signed instead with Tampa Bay in free agency. The pair have endured a difficult season, going 2-9 after being part of three straight playoff runs with the Bengals.

"Yeah, it's difficult," Johnson admitted. "Any time you come into a new situation you want to believe everything's going to be a fair deal and go smooth and go in and dominate. But there's been a learning curve and we know we've taken some bumps and bruises, but nobody has let up. We're still grinding down here and still working and trying to get better. That's all you can do."

Despite their 2-9 mark, the Buccaneers are still in the NFC South race, and thus well within the playoff chase. So they still have something to play for, adding to the difficulty of winning this third straight road game for the Bengals.

That fact, combined with the strain three straight weeks of travel can put on a player, makes this the Bengals' "greatest challenge to this point," offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said.

"I really think this is going to have to be our best week of football the whole season so far," Whitworth said. "You put on the tape and you really wouldn't understand their record. They look good and they play good. They dominate teams."

Just last week the Bucs were up 10 on the Bears at halftime before Chicago scored 21 unanswered in the third quarter to win the game 21-13. They've had even closer losses, too. Five of the nine defeats have come by six points or less.

If the Bengals are able to follow up road wins at New Orleans and Houston with a third straight, count Whitworth among those who will be most appreciative of the team record. After having to endure the physical and mental demands the last three weeks have put him through, he knows how rare it is for teams to win so many games away from home in quick succession.

"We've been almost a two-hour flight away three weeks in a row now, going back and forth. It's hard on you," Whitworth said. "After a game, you sit on a plane for two hours and it messes up your recovery time. And Saturdays when you're leaving, that's another time to recover. When you play at home, you've a little more time to recover, do more cold tubs, more things in therapy.

"It's definitely different. It's a challenge, and we knew that a long time ago."

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