Five quick hits covering most everything else I know this morning:
Tony Romo almost certainly will be good to go Sunday night in New Jersey. His right hand ballooned after hitting it on Eagles defensive end Jason Babin's helmet early in the Dallas-Philly game Saturday. X-rays were negative, and there is no structural damage. Romo said afterward he'd have returned to the game if he had to play; the game wasn't meaningful after the Giants capped their victory over the Jets. I can tell you there's very little concern inside the Cowboys about his readiness for the NFC East championship game against the Giants.
FOX seethes. And why wouldn't the NFC's network, after the NFL put the second Dallas-Giants game in four weeks on NBC this Sunday night as the final game of the 2011 regular season? The Cowboys are one of FOX's big draws -- by far. Dallas-Forth Worth is the nation's No. 5 TV market, and Dallas fans are everywhere. This year, as it turns out, FOX got two of Dallas' six NFC East games. Both Giants' games went to NBC, the Washington-at-Dallas game to ESPN, and Dallas-at-Philly to NBC. Dallas, as it turns out, played three games against New York teams, including opening at the Jets. FOX went 0-for-3 in televising them; all went to NBC.
Now, many of you will ask (and have asked), "Why couldn't the NFL put another game in the Sunday night slot? Why not Cincinnati-Baltimore, for instance? Or why not Kansas City-Denver, with Tim Tebow playing for a playoff spot?'' I can tell you this: The NFL would have preferred to not take the second Giants-Cowboys game and give it to NBC. But blame the left side of the Kansas City field-goal unit for that. I believe Kansas City-Denver, which would have been an AFC West title game Sunday had the Chiefs beaten Oakland Saturday, would surely have been NBC's game Sunday night. But when the Raiders caved in the left side of the field-goal team -- Jon Asamoah, Barry Richardson and Steve Maneri, if my eyes were right on the replays I saw -- to block Ryan Succop's potential game-winner at the close of regulation (more about that in Special Teams Player of the Week), that eliminated this game.
Why? Because the league wants to play all Week 17 games in which division races or Wild Card spots are on the line at the same time. Say the league put Kansas City at Denver on Sunday night. If Oakland loses to San Diego in the afternoon, Denver wins the AFC West before it'd kick off at night. Same things, though as it turns out a bit more complex in Cincinnati-Baltimore. If Pittsburgh loses at Cleveland, and several other teams lose earlier, Baltimore could be locked at the No. 2 seed and Cincinnati at No. 6, with nothing to play for. Giants-Dallas moved because it was the only true win-and-you're-in game, whenever it was played, with no other game having any bearing on the outcome of the NFC East. That won't make FOX any happier, but it's a fact of NFL TV life. The league's going to put the game with the most on the line as the final Sunday-nighter of the year.
Adrian Peterson will be hard-pressed to open 2012 in the starting lineup for Minnesota. The opener is 37 weeks away. The rehab for the knee injury he suffered Saturday -- an ACL tear with MCL damage, and probably other damage in the knee -- will take about eight to 10 months after surgery. It's an injury much like the 2001 knee injury suffered by Colts running back Edgerrin James, according to SI.com's injury expert, Will Carroll, and also similar to the injury suffered by Wes Welker at the end of the 2009 season. James returned nine-and-a-half months after surgery, Welker after seven months.
"Wes Welker's rare,'' Vikings coach Leslie Frazier told me Sunday. "But I talked to Adrian on the plane on the way home last night. He's down, of course. But he will attack his rehab viciously. He is such a strong-minded guy. We won't know everything about the damage until the surgery is done, but we think if everything goes perfectly, Adrian will be back to play at the start of next season. I think he'll turn out to be one of those case studies people look at when they want to see how a guy rehabbed to come back strong.'' Carroll made an interesting point about the rehab. "There's no reason to believe Peterson won't be able to come back at or near the same level,'' Carroll said via email. "The biggest issue will be confidence. Peterson will have to believe in his knee the way he did on every step before that last one Saturday. That's the biggest issue, but one I believe he can overcome.''
But there's good news in Minnesota: Look for the Vikings to get a stadium deal done soon in greater Minneapolis. Last week, a source with knowledge of the Vikings stadium situation told me it's not a matter of if, but when the club and state officials finish negotiations to build a stadium at one of three sites -- one favored by owner Zygi Wilf in suburban Arden Hills, or two in downtown Minneapolis. As I reported on NBC last night, you should look for the Vikings to build the stadium in Minnesota and drop out of play to be the team that moves to Los Angeles. This is significant because the Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires after this season. The team would be the only NFL free-agent team (a team without a stadium lease, in other words), and there's no doubt in my mind that the AEG team or Ed Roski, or both, would swoop in soon after the season and try to sign the Vikings up to move to LA. About six weeks ago, NFL CFO Eric Grubman went to Minnesota not to badger local politicians and the governor but to state a fact: If they waited until after the season to hammer out a deal with the Vikings, they'd risk losing control of the decision-making process. The implication was clear: The Wilf Family is not from Minnesota, and ownership had already pledged $425 million to the stadium effort, and if that wasn't going to be good enough to get a deal done, the family might have to look elsewhere. Now it appears the deal will get done in Minnesota, and as they should, the Vikings will stay in the great north.
Why the Rams have the best job out there -- if, as appears likely, the team parts ways with coach Steve Spagnuolo after the season. Also said this on TV last night. St. Louis will lead the NFL in cap room. St. Louis has its quarterback of the future, if you still believe in Sam Bradford, and I believe most people in the league still do. St. Louis will have either the first or second pick in the 2012 draft, assuming a loss to San Francisco Sunday, and with the lust for quarterbacks among teams in the top 10 (Miami, Washington, Indianapolis and maybe Buffalo and Cleveland), the Rams could turn the pick into something great. Well, the first pick could be turned into a gold mine -- maybe three first-rounders. The second pick could bring quite a bit too, if either Robert Griffin III or maybe Landry Jones comes out in the draft. I know, I know. Many of you are saying the San Diego job, or the Miami job, will be better. And it may turn out that way. But think of the Rams if Bradford returns to 2010 form -- and there's no reason to think he won't, unless you believe he's too brittle, which is possible. Think of three or four prime picks in the top 35 this year ... or three this year and two next year. And think of a flood of free agents getting squeezed by a cap that's not going up much if at all in the next two years, and think what happens if the Rams can sign three or four very good players (Calais Campbell? Arian Foster? Mario Williams? Cliff Avril?) in the next two years. The Rams are heading into an interesting offseason.
Finally, a rewarding win, followed by some emotion.
When the Patriots scored 27 second-half points to rally past Miami Saturday, they were probably going to be emotional enough in their locker room afterward. But Bill Belichick gave the game ball to owner Robert Kraft, who's had a difficult year with the summer death of his wife, Myra. Belichick said a few words about the significance of the Krafts, and then tackle Matt Light got up and pulled out an oil painting the players paid to have commissioned for Kraft. The painting show a group of Patriots players in a huddle raising their hands and an index finger, pointing to the initials "MHK,'' for Kraft's late wife. Light said the players wanted to do something to commemorate the season that had been dedicated to Myra Kraft. An emotional Robert Kraft told the players there wasn't a player on the team he wouldn't be proud to have at his dinner table with his family, and how important the players were to the community. One of those present said it was the most emotional thing he's seen in a Patriots locker room in the Kraft era. Good for the players, good for Belichick, and very good for Kraft.
Please, please, please: Do not let anyone who loves football start the momentum about an 18-game schedule because we're having so much fun watching the NFL this year.
Consider this my annual harangue about the stupidity of the 18-game schedule, and my congratulations to DeMaurice Smith, his player reps, and all union and rank-and-file player leaders for fighting the league on this issue.
Houston played Indianapolis Thursday night on national television. Houston and Indy, combined, had 34 players from their 53-man rosters on the injury report. With Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart out for the season, the quarterbacks in the game were Dan Orlovsky and T.J. Yates. The two best players -- arguably -- on the Texans missed the game; Andre Johnson's missed nine with hamstring problems, and Mario Williams is out for the year with a torn pec. Dallas Clark missed it with a neck injury, and on the other side, Gary Brackett, the Colts' defensive leader, is out for the year with a rotator cuff injury.
Think of the 10 most famous players on the two teams. I'd say they're, in order, Peyton Manning, Andre Johnson, Dwight Freeney, Mario Williams, Arian Foster, Matt Schaub, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Robert Mathis and Gary Brackett. Six of the 10 missed this game, the 15th of the season. You could give me another game with a fraction of the injuries. And I'd give you both starting quarterbacks missing from Oakland-Kansas City, and both starting running backs missing from the same game. All adding more games will mean is more teams will be short more players in them.
And here's where I'll note the 11 current lawsuits (that may morph into one large class-action suit sometime this winter) by players claiming the NFL hasn't done enough to address the issue of head trauma and concussions in the game. Two more suits got filed last week -- one led by Jamal Lewis, the other by Leon Searcy and some Dolphins -- claiming the league knew the dangers of head trauma and wasn't proactive in assessing the risks. My theory is these cases are not going away. Why tempt fate by adding more games to a sport that already is risky enough, and making 10 tons of money?
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