Bills GM Doug Whaley says he had no idea Rex Ryan was in danger of losing job

It looks like Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley will keep his job with the organization, but his press conference Monday sent a message that he isn’t very tuned in to the team’s decision-making process.

“I wasn’t privy to any part of Rex Ryan being fired until I was told by [Bills owner] Terry Pegula,” Whaley told reporters. “We usually have those discussions at the year-end evaluation along with all the players, all our staff, all my staff. I wasn’t privy to that conversation so I can’t answer that.”

SB Nation’s Thomas George reported that Rex Ryan asked ownership that, if the plan was to fire him, to do it as soon as possible rather than wait until after the season. But the ownership’s choice to make that decision while leaving the team’s general manager entirely in the dark seems baffling.

Peterson is due to receive a $6 million roster bonus in March and receive an $11.75 million base salary in 2017. The Vikings have until Feb. 5 to decide if they will pick up his 2017 salary or avoid the $18 million cap hit.

“I’ve been taking in a lot here the past couple weeks, and just the fans here,” Peterson said, via Vikings.com. “I’ve been here for 10 years, and we have a great team. We have some great things going on in Minnesota. I would love to continue to be a part of that.

“I’m going into this thinking about my guys and wanting to be back with my guys. [I realize] that at the end of the day, it is a business, so I always just let the chips fall where they may. But I would love to finish my career here and try to help bring a Super Bowl to Minnesota.”

Peterson was the No. 7 overall selection in the 2007 NFL draft and has 11,747 career rushing yards with the Vikings along with 97 rushing touchdowns. With 253 more rushing yards, he would become the 16th player in NFL history to reach 12,000 yards and he needs three more rushing touchdowns to become the ninth player to reach 100.

Sanchez never made it to Los Angeles with the rest of Cheizaw

Sanchez never made it to Los Angeles with the rest of Cheizaw, though. He was arrested and convicted of armed robbery. The conviction was later overturned, but then that decision was reversed by a higher court. Sanchez served five years.

Sanchez said he’s thankful Kobe supported him by paying for his lawyer and paying for another friend to travel to Philadelphia to testify in court as a character witness. And that he doesn’t hold it against him, that Kobe did not testify on Sanchez’s behalf.

One, the people managing his career didn’t want him besmirching his appeal. This was 1998. Back when athletes didn’t make political statements or say anything that might offend the silent majority. They didn’t talk about things like race or class or violence or crime. If you wanted to be a crossover star, you needed to leave Philly behind.
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And two, the NBA and its corporate sponsors were growing increasingly uncomfortable with anything resembling the inner city, including players. They cringed at Allen Iverson’s cornrows and rap sheet. By 2005, the league would enact a dress code that banned clothes associated with hip-hop culture.

So no, it was not a good look for the league’s youngest superstar, the heir apparent to Michael Jordan as a player and as a corporate shill, to be showing up in a Philadelphia courthouse to vouch for his high school rapper friend who’d been accused of armed robbery.

Limited Mens Robin Ventura Jersey A few years ago, Sanchez saw Kobe when Lower Merion renamed its high school gym after him. Sanchez didn’t have tickets, so he waited outside. When Kobe walked out of the gym, he caught Sanchez’s eye and called out to him, “Hey, Sand.”

Murray will finish outside the top 25 in scoring at the position

J.J. Nelson, WR, Cardinals: For the third time in the past four weeks, Nelson scored double-digit fantasy points, his 19 on Saturday matching his season high (Week 8) and falling just one shy of his career high (20, 2015 Week 11). That gave him 55 fantasy points since (and including) Week 13, second-most among wide receivers behind only Jordy Nelson’s 72. J.J. Nelson was owned in only 10.48 percent and started in 2.08 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 16.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Authentic Mens Kellen Clemens Jersey Titans: Though a right ankle injury ended his day with roughly one minute remaining in the third quarter, Mariota’s performance up to that point fell far short of being useful in fantasy leagues. He scored only seven fantasy points, giving him a third consecutive week in single digits, the first time in his career he has done Kids Jonathan Broxton Jersey that. Fortunately, fewer than one-third of Mariota’s owners in ESPN leagues started him in any of the three weeks; his 29.2 start percentage on Saturday was his highest during that three-week span (12.9 percent in Week 14, 19.5 in Week 15).

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: Though his 20 fantasy points fell far short of his season high — that was his 29 in Weeks 5 and 8 — keep in mind that he accomplished it in just under three full quarters of action before being lifted with the Patriots leading 34-0 for backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady’s owners, who started him in 88.4 percent of ESPN leagues (second-most among quarterbacks) might complain about wanting more, but it was his sixth 20-point performance of the season and 83rd in his career. Only Manning (105) and Drew Brees (91) have had more.

David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals: His 29 fantasy points led all running backs (through the Saturday night game), and gave him a whopping nine games (out of 15) this season with at least 20.

Johnson is also one game shy of a perfect 16-for-16 game season scoring double-digit fantasy points in each. The only running back in history to have managed a perfect such year was Emmitt Smith in 1995.

Aaron Hernandez identified by witness as triggerman in 2012 double murder

A man who survived a drive-by shooting in 2012 in Boston has identified former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez as the shooter, according to the Associated Press.

Raychides Sanches was asked by prosecutors on Tuesday to describe the scene in Suffolk Superior Court, where Sanches said Hernandez was the shooter, and reportedly nodded in his direction.

He has looked more dynamic than ever, and the fact that he isn’t on the roster is startling.

LB Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys

Five Cowboys players made the roster as starters, so it’s hard to be too upset about snubs, but Lee might legitimately be the best player on that team. The Cowboys were the first team in the NFL to clinch a playoff spot, and they own just two losses on the season. Lee has been a big part of that success. For how much credit Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott get on offense, Lee has been better on defense.

Lee has totaled 140 tackles on the season and is always around the ball. He can rush the passer, he can tackle any running back, and the only reason he’s not considered the absolute best linebacker in the league is that he’s had a few seasons derailed by injury. This is not one of them.

DT Damon Harrison, New York Giants

Harrison makes the Giants defense work. He’s been instrumental in New York’s late-season success, and he is the reason the rest of the defense has so many standout performers. Olivier Vernon has recorded 8.5 sacks despite being all over the field, and Harrison causing havoc in the backfield is a big part of that. He’s a 350-pound defensive tackle who has 80 tackles. That’s unreal.

Fantasy Fallout: Adrian Peterson is back, but he’s got nothin’ on Kenneth Farrow

What a story it would be: Adrian Peterson, one of the NFL’s all-time great running backs, makes an unlikely return from a knee injury in Week 15 — and leads your team to a fantasy championship.

Unfortunately, that scenario seems a little far-fetched even in a fantasy world. Yes, Peterson declared Friday that he is “ready to roll” and plans to return for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. And ESPN’s Bob Holtzman reported that one of Peterson’s teammates said he “looks like Adrian” in practice.

But expectations have to be low for a guy who has not played since Week 2 and who was averaging only 1.6 yards per carry at the time for a rushing offense that ranks last in the NFL with 73.4 yards per game.

ESPN Vikings reporter Ben Goessling said that if Peterson does in fact play this week, the Vikings will likely work him in slowly. He could play more in Week 16, but that might depend on whether the Vikings are still in playoff contention.

“Peterson says he’s playing Sunday, but the Vikings have cautioned this week that he’s got some things to get reacquainted with, particularly considering the fact Pat Shurmur wasn’t the offensive coordinator the last time Peterson played,” Goessling said. “The Vikings have been in the shotgun two-thirds of the time since Shurmur took over for Norv Turner, and shotgun sets haven’t exactly been Peterson’s preferred method of getting the ball. Still, the Vikings are likely to use him for the potential of explosive plays.”

The Bears are getting top receiver Alshon Jeffery back from a four-game suspension. ESPN Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson said the cold weather also could limit Chicago’s passing attack. Other than that, he would trust Jeffery to make an immediate impact. Jeffery also needs to develop a rapport with backup QB Matt Barkley — who estimated that he had never thrown a practice pass to Jeffery before this week. But Jeffery predicted this week that, “It won’t take long. We’ll get it together.”

The Miami Dolphins also have to get used to life with a new quarterback in the wake of Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury. ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker said he thinks almost all of Miami’s skill-position players will be negatively impacted, because the team will likely throw the ball less and because teams will likely stack eight men in the box even more than they already have against RB Jay Ajayi — “which is saying something.” But one player Walker said he could see benefitting is WR Kenny Stills. “He is Miami’s deep threat, and the long ball is [new QB Matt] Moore’s best throw,” Walker said. “I don’t see Moore throwing it 40 times, but there will be a few opportunities to hit big plays over the top.”

ESPN Bengals reporter Katherine Terrell warned fantasy owners against rushing to put receiver A.J. Green back in their lineups. Green is listed as doubtful after returning to practice this week from his hamstring injury. A source told ESPN’s Holtzman that Green is targeting next week for his return. Terrell said Bengals rookie WR Tyler Boyd would be a better option this week — though it’s not a great matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Alabama hires Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator

Saban announced on Friday that Steve Sarkisian will serve as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He’ll replace the outgoing OC, Lane Kiffin, who was hired as Florida Atlantic’s head coach earlier this week.

Sarkisian had served as an analyst for Alabama this season after being fired by USC at midseason in 2015.

Alabama will have its leading passer (Jalen Hurts, a true freshman) and leading rusher (Damien Harris, sophomore) returning in 2017, as well as star WR Calvin Ridley (a sophomore). WR ArDarius Stewart, a redshirt junior, has not announced his intentions for 2017, but even if he decides to apply for early draft eligiblity, Sarkisian will inherit a young offense loaded with potential. Making an in-house hire to replace Kiffin should provide some welcome offensive stability for those players.

In a preview video released Friday, Fisher — who was fired Monday after five dangerously mediocre seasons with the team — pulled no punches when asked why he was let go.

“He didn’t win enough games, and the organization has a much bigger picture,” Fisher said of himself. “And I don’t think I was ever part of seeing the new stadium.”

Fisher’s jab about “beating the Rams” came in response to being asked what his “perfect scenario” would include if he winds up coaching again.

It’s fair to wonder, though, if that chance will ever arrive. Notched alongside Dan Reeves with an NFL-“best” 165 career losses, Fisher is no sure bet to land another job.

Of course, NFL coaches are recycled at a ridiculous rate. All it takes is another league owner willing to buy what Fisher is selling.

Peterson’s return had been targeted for Week 16 versus the Green Bay Packers.

It’s not the first time Peterson has returned earlier than expected. Clearly, the quick-healing colossus is from a different planet than the rest of us.

Week 15 will come and go without the services of Julio Jones.

Charles Woodson changed the way the NFL thinks about defensive backs

It was over and Charles Woodson was ready to ride the game bus for the final time. He exited Arrowhead Stadium and found his family, chatted with them, gave hearty hugs, took warm pictures and then turned and looked for his final Oakland Raiders ride. It was over and on this final day, everything that he had routinely done for nearly two decades in professional football became moments to instantly memorialize. OK, got to the stadium … completed warm-ups … absorbed everything at halftime … played the rest of the game … shook hands … surveyed the crowd …

All of it a snapshot, yet a blur for Charles Woodson.

Washington: Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA
Washington’s run to the playoffs has been done with a defense that ranks near the bottom of the league against the run. Clark, who can play over the nose, is a powerhouse against the run.

Houston Texans: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
It seems a little cliché to give Texans quarterback Christian Hackenberg of Penn State. The fit works, but he hasn’t played like a first-round pick in a couple years. Wentz is similar in many ways to Lynch, but doesn’t get the fanfare because of where he plays.

Seattle Seahawks: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Russell Okung is a free agent after the season, and if he happens to leave Spriggs would be a solid replacement. He’s an athletic left tackle who will undoubtedly rise during the offseason process.

New York Jets: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
The only running back under contract for the Jets next season is Zac Stacy, who is currently on injured reserve. Elliott is an instant-impact running back when he’s given the opportunity, which he strangely didn’t get enough at Ohio State.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
Pittsburgh still needs to find talent in the secondary, and White is easily the best cornerback available. He offers good length and playmaking at the position.

This may have been one of the weirdest seasons ever, but it has resulted in an eclectic and unpredictable playoff field that should make January weekends a lot of fun.

Robertson left the Yankees after a 39-save season in 2014

He was solid in 2008, but he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in August, necessitating Tommy John surgery that sidelined him the rest of the season (they finished one game out of the wild card, losing on the season’s final day) and almost all of 2009. The Mets then made a deal with the Red Sox, netting back 2 minor leaguers. Wagner pitched 17 games with the Mets and Red Sox but did not have a save in the final year of his contract.

When considering Papelbon’s performance strictly on the field, it’s hard to deny he was a successful signing for the Phillies, even though he never pitched a postseason inning with the club. The question is how successful he was when you consider that he signed the largest free-agent contract for a reliever at the time of his deal.

Among relievers to pitch at least 150 innings from 2012-2016, the time Papelbon was pitching on his free agent contract, he ranked 18th in ERA+ (150) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.3).

Robertson left the Yankees after a 39-save season in 2014 (the Yankees’ first post-Mariano Rivera season). In two seasons with the White Sox, he has 71 saves (34 and 37), but he’s also blown 14 (one shy of the MLB high of 15 by Santiago Casilla). Robertson’s numbers declined in 2016, particularly with regard to strikeouts and walks. He’s reportedly on the trade block as the White Sox are in the midst of a full-scale rebuild.

History suggests, however, that doing so might lead to bad things for those teams. Sometimes these mega deals work out, but sometimes they backfire significantly. Below are a few examples of long deals given to free-agent closers and how they worked out. We’ll look at these deals mostly through a traditional lens of valuation while also considering win probability added (WPA).

As the going rate for closers only seemed to rise, the Dodgers appeared in a position to have to choose between Turner and Jansen after re-signing Hill last week. Now they might get all three; Turner is close to a deal as well.

Jeff Fisher says it was ‘hilarious’ when he couldn’t find his challenge flag

Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher couldn’t find his challenge flag in the third quarter of a 26-10 loss against the New England Patriots in Week 13.

However, he eventually found the flag and won the challenge. Fisher explained why he couldn’t locate his flag. He explained that it was “hilarious,” via NESN.com.

Johnson, who retired earlier this season after eight games with the Tennessee Titans, continued his tradition of taking children on a huge shopping spree.

At Smith’s annual Christmas event, the children were given $200 Target gift cards while Papa John’s donated a pre-shopping pizza party for the children. Each child also received a gift bag, a Holiday Helpers T-shirt, and items from Target and the Ravens.

A reminder, though: Even if Smith likes to play Santa Claus, he does not want St. Nick coming to his house.

Last year, Smith asked for “a healthy Achilles” for Christmas, and he got his wish. The 37-year-old returned to the field this season and has caught 54 catches for 589 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games.

Both Smith and Johnson are future Hall of Fame wide receivers, but their impact has been felt well beyond the football field.

If not, props to Joe’s sibling. That’s some good younger brother-ing right there.

The Ravens visit the Patriots on Monday Night Football this week. Someone should probably check the walls in Flacco’s hotel room to see if he’s trying to gain an extra advantage.

the Raiders and Chiefs have played each other 25 times in the regular season in December or January

See what the latest playoff picture looks like and simulate your own playoff scenarios.

Since 1973, the Raiders and Chiefs have played each other 25 times in the regular season in December or January. Only in that 1995 game has the division title been the prize.

The rivalry lived on not only by some notable games between the teams, but through the stories of Bell and others involved. The Chiefs and Raiders over the years have asked former players to speak to the current team before games, and that helps keep the history alive.

“We always have old players come in and talk to us and tell us how violent the games used to be and how physical they used to be,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “That’s really the main thing that sticks out — how violent and physical the games were. They would always talk about that.”

The last time Philip Rivers played in North Carolina was in 2003 — during his final year at NC State.

“It’s just something I’ll never forget. Here he is still talking to his dad about the game, what happened and what he could have done better.’’

He relished talking about anything but a season that has gone awry at 4-8.

San Diego coach Mike McCoy also seemed to relish taking a trip down memory lane of his time at Carolina instead of a 5-7 season marred by about as many close losses as the Panthers have experienced.

Sunday’s game will be a lot about memories for the head coaches.

Rivera was the linebackers coach at San Diego in 2007 and defensive coordinator from 2008 until 2010. He saw firsthand how badly Rivers wants to win, remembering the disappointment after losing the AFC Championship Game following the 2007 season.