Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh expected to draw interest from Raiders

Jim Harbaugh reached a new high point in his time at Michigan in 2021. It might prove to be his launching pad back to the NFL.

Harbaugh has emerged as a name to watch in the coaching searches for teams with head coaching vacancies, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Saturday, per sources informed of the situation. One of the teams expected to have some interest in Harbaugh: The Las Vegas Raiders, who have spent the majority of their season operating under interim head coach Rich Bisaccia and can win their way into the postseason Sunday night against the Chargers.

Harbaugh is expected to have some interest in the Raiders as well, per Rapoport, with enough interest from both sides to provide some legitimacy to a potential pairing.

A dalliance between the two would open the possibility of a return to the NFL for Harbaugh, who has spent more than the last half-decade attempting to turn his alma mater back into a contender among college football powers. His work produced the school’s first win over rival Ohio State in his tenure, its first Big Ten Championship Game victory, and its first appearance in the College Football Playoff, where the Wolverines lost to Georgia in the semifinal.

The reported interest between Harbaugh and prospective teams including the Raiders could simply be a leverage play on the part of Harbaugh, who has never been in a better position to draw a boost in compensation and additional security from Michigan. It could also be legitimate and lead him back to an NFL sideline, where he last led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance before an internal power struggle led to his departure in 2014 after four seasons.

Titans not activating RB Derrick Henry for Sunday’s game vs. Texans

Derrick Henry returned to practice this week, but he’ll need more time before he’s back on the playing field.

The Titans announced they did not activate their All-Pro back Saturday, and he will thus not play versus the Texans in Week 18. Henry was designated to return from injured reserve Wednesday, which marked the beginning of a 21-day window in which he must be activated to play in the postseason.

That’s been the target range for Henry, who suffered a Jones fracture in his foot in Week 8 that carried a 6-10 week timetable for recovery. Henry might be back in time for Tennessee’s playoff opener.

He and his teammates will all have an extra week of preparation if the Titans (11-5) beat the Texans, which would clinch the AFC’s top seed and the lone bye in the conference. NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe reported there remains plenty of optimism that Henry will be back for the playoffs as he continues to ramp up his activity.

With the two-time rushing champion out this weekend, D’Onta Foreman will continue to carry the bulk of the Tennessee’s backfield load. Foreman rushed for a career-high 132 yards last week and has topped 100 yards in three of the past five games. His contribution has been vital in the absence of Henry, who was in the midst of another historic campaign before going down.

Henry’s total of 937 rushing yards (tallied in just eight games) still ranks sixth in the NFL this season.

NFL injury updates, latest league news from Saturday, Jan. 8

The Pittsburgh Steelers need to win and some help to get in the playoffs. They got some help on the former front Saturday.

Cornerback Joe Haden and center Kendrick Green were activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Both are starters for Pittsburgh, which takes on Baltimore in a must-win Week 18 for both teams. The Steelers’ path to a postseason bid is a bit easier — they need a victory coupled with a Jaguars win over the Colts and the Chargers-Raiders game to not end in a tie.

Having Haden and Green should better their cause against the Ravens. The veteran corner has seen his usage increase since returning from a midseason foot injury. Green had started every game of his rookie campaign before last week.

The team will also be without defensive coordinator Keith Butler after it was announced that he will not be coaching due to COVID-19 protocols. Butler’s duties will be handled by coach Mike Tomlin and senior defensive asst/secondary coach Teryl Austin.

Wideout James Washington is also set to miss the game after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (rest/knee) and defensive tackle D.J. Reader (rest) have been ruled out versus the Browns.
Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward, who was listed as questionable with a groin injury, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday. Linebacker Malcolm Smith was also placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Running back D’Ernest Johnson was activated from the COVID list.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Keanu Neal (arm) did not return after getting hurt late against the Eagles. Earlier in the day, Dallas announced safety Donovan Wilson (illness) joined the team in Philadelphia after being listed as questionable. Safety Jayron Kearse and safety Darian Thompson were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The Cowboys activated tight end Blake Jarwin from IR.

Denver Broncos linebacker Baron Browning (shoulder) is questionable to return versus the Chiefs. Prior to the game, Denver announced kicker Brandon McManus and punter Sam Martin have been medically cleared to play Saturday versus the Chiefs. Offensive tackle Bobby Massie (concussion) was added to the injury report and ruled out.
The Detroit Lions activated offensive tackle Penei Sewell and offensive tackle Taylor Decker from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Sewell (thumb, illness) and offensive tackle Will Holden were added to the injury report and listed as questionable for Sunday versus the Packers.
The Green Bay Packers activated offensive lineman Josh Myers off injured reserve.
The Jacksonville Jaguars added wideout Tavon Austin to the injury report with a hamstring injury. He is questionable for Sunday versus the Colts.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams suffered a toe injury against the Broncos. Head coach Andy Reid told reporters that Tyreek Hill dealt with a sore heel on Saturday, which was why he played sparingly.

The Minnesota Vikings activated guard Ezra Cleveland, offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw and cornerback Parry Nickerson from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Tight end Ben Ellefson was activated from IR.

Philadelphia Eagles center Brett Toth (knee), defensive tackle Marvin Wilson (eye) and defensive back Kary Vincent Jr. (foot) did not return after being listed as questionable against the Cowboys. Linebacker Shaun Bradley (shoulder) and tight end Tyree Jackson (knee) were ruled out in the second half.
New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee) has been downgraded to out for Sunday versus the Dolphins.
The San Francisco 49ers activated cornerback Dontae Johnson, defensive back Jimmie Ward and cornerback K’Waun Williams from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley was activated from IR.

The Seattle Seahawks placed Brandon Shell on IR and placed guard Kyle Fuller on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers activated guard Aaron Stinnie from IR.
The Tennessee Titans did not activate running back Derrick Henry (foot) from injured reserve.

The Washington Football Team placed tight end Ricky Seals-Jones on IR and linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Tight end Sammis Reyes (hamstring) has been downgraded to out for Sunday versus the Giants.
Roster moves
The Arizona Cardinals elevated tight end David Wells and linebacker Tahir Whitehead to the active roster from the practice squad.

The Atlanta Falcons elevated wideout Austin Trammell from the practice squad.
The Baltimore Ravens elevated safety Tony Jefferson, offensive tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith, defensive tackle Isaiah Mack and tight end Tony Poljan to the active roster.
The Chicago Bears signed wideout Dazz Newsome to the active roster.

The Cincinnati Bengals elevated quarterback Jake Browning, defensive tackle Mike Daniels, kicker Elliott Fry, safety Trayvon Henderson, defensive end Noah Spence, guard Keaton Sutherland, wideout Trent Taylor and defensive tackle Renell Wren.
The Carolina Panthers added tight end Stephen Sullivan, running back Reggie Bonnafon, wide receiver C.J. Saunders, cornerback Madre Harper, defensive tackle Frank Herron and wide receiver Keith Kirkwood to the active roster.

The Cleveland Browns elevated cornerback Brian Allen, safety Adrian Colbert, cornerback Herb Miller, defensive end Curtis Weaver and guard Hjalte Froholdt from the practice squad.
The Dallas Cowboys elevated safety Tyler Coyle and running backs JaQuan Hardy and Ito Smith from the practice squad.

The Detroit Lions elevated linebacker Tavante Beckett and offensive tackle Dan Skipper from the practice squad.

The Green Bay Packers elevated defensive lineman Abdullah Anderson and linebacker La’Darius Hamilton from the practice squad to the active roster.

The Houston Texans elevated defensive lineman Michael Dwumfour, wideout Jalen Camp and linebacker Connor Strachan to the active roster.

The Jacksonville Jaguars elevated punter Joseph Charlton, running back Nathan Cottrell, quarterback Danny Etling, wideout Josh Hammond and offensive linemen Badara Traore and Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms from the practice squad.

The Las Vegas Raiders signed WR Tyron Johnson to the active roster, activated TE Derek Carrier from the reserve/injured list, released TE Daniel Helm and activated G Lester Cotton and DT Damion Square from the practice squad.

The Los Angeles Rams activated defensive back Jake Garvase and signed defensive back Grant Haley from the practice squad, signed kicker Ryan Santoso to the practice squad and waived defensive back Juju Hughes.

The Minnesota Vikings added tight end Zach Davidson, defensive end Kenny Willekes, linebacker Tuf Borland, cornerback Bryan Mills, safety Myles Dorn, defensive tackle T.Y. McGill and cornerbacks Parry Nickerson and Tye Smith to the active roster.
The New York Jets released defensive lineman Shaq Lawson and safety Sharrod Neasman and activate wideout Tarik Black, defensive lineman Ronnie Blair and offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher from the practice squad.

The Philadelphia Eagles elevated running back Jason Huntley, defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, offensive tackle Kayode Awosika, linebacker Christian Elliss, defensive back Jared Mayden, defensive back Mac McCain, tight end Richard Rodgers, tight end Noah Togiai, offensive tackle Casey Tucker and defensive tackle Raequan Williams from the practice squad ahead of Saturday’s game versus the Cowboys.

The San Francisco 49ers elevated cornerback Darqueze Dennard, linebacker Mark Nzeocha and linebacker Curtis Robinson from the practice squad.

The Seattle Seahawks added tight end Tyler Mabry, wide receiver Cody Thompson and defensive backs Michael Jackson and Josh Jones to the active roster.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed wide receiver Cyril Grayson to the active roster and elevated running back Kenjon Barner and tight end Darren Fells from the practice squad.
The Tennessee Titans are elevating running back Jordan Wilkins, defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand for Sunday’s game versus the Texans. Defensive lineman Kevin Strong has also been promoted to the active roster.

The Washington Football Team added defensive end William Bradley-King, safety Jeremy Reaves, fullback Alex Armah and tight end Temarrick Hemingway to the active roster.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was fined $10,300 for taunting after a touchdown scramble in last week’s loss to the #Bills, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.
Cleveland Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was fined $12,875 for throwing Steelers wideout Chase Claypool’s shoe in Week 17, per Pelissero.

Broncos head coach Vic Fangio’s future up in the air entering Saturday’s finale vs. Chiefs

Vic Fangio met with Broncos general manager George Paton in recent days to present his plans and make his case to stay for a fourth season as head coach, and sources say Fangio’s future remains up in the air entering Saturday’s finale against the Chiefs.

Multiple league sources not connected to the Broncos believe the team will ultimately decide to move on. But no final decision has been made or communicated to Fangio, who likely would make staff changes if he stays.

Paton — the first-year GM who will make the final call — has a strong relationship with Fangio and respects his work ethic, per sources. Fangio, 63, remains one of the NFL’s top defensive minds, and the Broncos rank No. 3 in scoring defense this season despite being gutted by injuries, particularly at linebacker and cornerback. They started this season 3-0 and were in the playoff chase at 7-6 before Teddy Bridgewater suffered a concussion on Dec. 19 against the Bengals.

But the Broncos have struggled offensively for much of the past three seasons amid two coordinators and a seemingly endless quarterback carousel. The lack of answers at QB makes judging Fangio’s tenure a difficult one.

Denver enters Saturday with a 19-29 record in Fangio’s tenure and hasn’t made the playoffs in six seasons since its Super Bowl 50 win over Carolina, the longest such streak for a Super Bowl winner in NFL history.

The franchise itself also is set to go through a transition. The Broncos haven’t had an owner since the late Pro Football Hall of Fame owner Pat Bowlen turned over control in 2014 to longtime president/CEO Joe Ellis amid Bowlen’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. (Bowlen died in 2019.) Pending the resolution of a lawsuit over another late former owner Edgar Kaiser’s right of first refusal on any sale, the Broncos could be sold as soon as this spring or summer.

Paton has spoken with Ellis and president of football operations John Elway while evaluating Fangio’s future. But the decision is Paton’s to make now. And Fangio would instantly become an in-demand defensive coordinator candidate.

Regardless of who’s the coach, the Broncos also figure to be heavily invested in this year’s QB market. Bridgewater’s contract is up after this season and he will miss a third consecutive game Saturday since the concussion. Drew Lock, a second-round pick in 2019, has taken Bridgewater’s place and is 8-12 in his career as the starter.

49ers DC DeMeco Ryans: ‘I have the utmost respect’ for Rams WR Cooper Kupp as a receiver, blocker

Coach Carter was in theaters and Let Me Love You by Mario was the No. 1 song in the U.S. the last time an NFL player won the receiving triple crown, but that can all change on Sunday.

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp has a chance to earn the prestigious honor and become the first player to do so since Steve Smith Sr. accomplished the feat with the Panthers in 2005. The fifth-year pro, who leads the NFL in receiving yards (1,829), receptions (138) and touchdown receptions (15) this season, could also break Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yards record (1,964) and capture Saints WR Michael Thomas’ single-season receptions record (149) with a strong showing on Sunday.

Kupp, however, said earlier this week he’s more focused on helping the Rams clinch the NFC West with a win over the San Francisco 49ers than he is on the award.

Standing in his and the Rams’ way this weekend is a 49ers defense that’s allowed the fifth-fewest points per game (15.8) over the last four weeks. Niners defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans understands the challenge in front of his group, recognizing the unique chemistry between Kupp and quarterback Matthew Stafford. If the 49ers are to advance to the playoffs, Ryans’ unit will have to find a way to keep the duo contained — as much as anyone can.

“I think those guys started to mesh really well together, started to jell and they have a really good connection,” Ryans told reporters on Thursday. “That’s why you’ve seen the success that they have. Two smart players working together there, I have the utmost respect for Kupp, not only him in the passing game, but you see how he blocks in the run game. That’s where it really makes me tip my cap to the guy. He’s not afraid to get in there and block, whether there’s a defensive end, whether it’s a nickel, whether there’s a linebacker he will get in there and block. And I definitely respect him for that.”

Although the 49ers comfortably won their last meeting with the Rams, a 31-10 affair in Week 10, Kupp still hauled in 11 receptions for 122 yards.

“The biggest thing with Kupp, he’s a very smart player,” Ryans said. “Talented, can run all the routes they need him to run. A very smart player. Very efficient route runner and yeah, his quarterback over there in Stafford can find him wherever he is on the field.”

Although his sights are set on doing “whatever it takes” to win Sunday’s game, Kupp acknowledged earlier this week that setting the individual records would be special. He did make sure to recognize the 17th game this season as a factor in him potentially reaching those milestones.

“It would be a pretty incredible thing,” Kupp said. “There are a lot of good football players in this league, a lot of really good receivers who I’ve got a ton of respect for, so it would be very cool. …

“What those guys did in 16 games, it wouldn’t seem right to, I don’t know, for those to be broken in 17 games. It wouldn’t hold the same weight to me as it does for guys that have done that in a 16-game season and the accomplishments those guys had, and the seasons they put together. Those are incredible things, incredible accomplishments. You kind of have to separate the two.”

Kupp’s humble attitude and desire to continue learning as a student of the game has earned him the respect from his coaches and teammates. He’s no longer just the kid from Eastern Washington University who the Rams took a chance on in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

“It’s a great reflection of the team, but of his accomplishments within the team,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said this week. He’s been such a special player, not only this year, but really since we drafted him five years ago. [I] love Cooper Kupp. It’d be outstanding.”

Former Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown officially a free agent after clearing waivers

Antonio Brown is officially a free agent … again.

Upon his release from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, the veteran wide receiver expectedly cleared waivers on Friday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported via the NFL’s transaction wire.

Brown, 33, was released following his disruptive actions during the Bucs’ Week 17 contest against the New York Jets.

With the situation involving his former organization still ongoing, it’s unclear what the next few months will hold for Brown in regard to his NFL future.

Friday’s news officially makes it possible for Brown to sign with any team of his choosing, should a suitor emerge. The polarizing wideout turns 34 in July.

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