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Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown ruled out of Sunday’s game vs. Chicago Bears due to ankle injury

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ growing list of key players missing games because of injury will now include wide receiver Antonio Brown, whom coach Bruce Arians ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears due to an ankle injury.

Brown missed practice all week with a sprained ankle, which he suffered in the Bucs’ 28-22 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 14. But the extra rest wasn’t enough for Sunday.

It will be Brown’s second game missed this season after missing Week 3 because of COVID-19. Brown’s 418 receiving yards are second most on the team — 2 yards shy of Mike Evans and 9 more than Chris Godwin. Second-year wide receiver Tyler Johnson is expected to step into Brown’s role.

“Tyler has done a good job. Everyone has a lot of confidence in Tyler,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “He does a good job out here whenever he gets his chance and he’s made a bunch of plays in games. It’s certainly not too big for him and I think he’s got a good attitude, a good work ethic. We’ve just got to keep all trying to get better together.”

The Bucs will also be without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who continues to recover from a rib injury, inside linebacker Lavonte David, who is recovering from a low ankle sprain, and cornerback Richard Sherman, who has a pulled hamstring.

Arians had said earlier in the week that he “had his fingers crossed” David might return.

The status of outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul is to be determined after he missed practice all week with shoulder and hand injuries.

On a positive note, Arians said that safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who has missed the past two games after suffering a concussion in Week 4 at the New England Patriots, cleared the concussion protocol Thursday and will be active Sunday, meaning the Bucs will have three of their original starting five defensive backs (Winfield Jr., Jordan Whitehead and Jamel Dean) playing Sunday.

A win Sunday would put the Bucs at 6-1, which would be their best start in franchise history.

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Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield taking break from ‘all social media for foreseeable future’

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CLEVELAND — As he recovers from shoulder surgery, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield plans to rest his thumbs as well.

Mayfield said he’s going to take a break from “all social media for the foreseeable future.”

Ironically, the polarizing QB went on his Instagram page Wednesday to announce his hiatus from tweeting and posting.

“Gotta do what’s best to focus on me, my family and loved ones,” Mayfield wrote. “Appreciate all the support. Time to get right.”

Mayfield concluded his message by also including a contact for anyone making business or marketing inquiries.

Mayfield recently concluded a dreadful, injury-filled fourth season with the Browns, who were among the NFL’s most disappointing teams. Cleveland went 8-9, missed the playoffs and dealt with drama, much of it involving Mayfield.

Late in the season, Mayfield went on Twitter to dispel a story about issues between him and coach Kevin Stefanski. He called the report “clickbait” and added that “many other Cleveland local media continue to be drama stirring reporters with no sources or facts.”

Mayfield’s wife, Emily, also used her Twitter platform to claim he received death threats. Mayfield downplayed those and described his attackers and critics on social media as “keyboard warriors.”

The 26-year-old Mayfield injured his left, non-throwing shoulder in Week 2 while trying to make a tackle and struggled all season. He recently underwent surgery in Los Angeles for a torn labrum and is expected to need more than four months to recover.

The team said he should begin light throwing in April.

Following the season, both Stefanski and Browns general manager Andrew Berry publicly supported Mayfield by saying they believe he will bounce back next season as their starter. However, it’s likely the team will at least explore other options at quarterback during this offseason.

Mayfield is under contract next season for $18.9 million after the team exercised his fifth-year option.

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Baltimore Ravens targeting Michigan Wolverines’ Mike Macdonald to be new DC

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The defensive coordinator who keyed Michigan‘s dramatic turnaround in 2021 is on the cusp of heading back to the NFL.

The Baltimore Ravens have targeted Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, a former Ravens assistant, to be John Harbaugh’s next defensive coordinator, sources told ESPN.

A deal is expected to be finalized in the upcoming days, according to sources. Macdonald has been replaced on the road recruiting by a graduate assistant coach, Dylan Roney, in preparation for his departure.

The Detroit Free Press first reported that the Ravens were targeting Macdonald.

This comes after Macdonald stabilized a defense that keyed a one-year turnaround for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, as the Wolverines went from 2-4 in 2020 to the College Football Playoff and a 12-2 record this past season.

Michigan’s scoring defense under Macdonald improved from No. 95 in 2020 with 34.5 points per game to No. 8 with 17.4 ppg. Michigan went on to beat Ohio State for the first time since 2011 and win the Big Ten for the first time since 2004.

Macdonald’s hire at Michigan proved to be one of the most impactful in all of college football last season. His schemes helped eliminate Michigan’s propensity to give up big plays under former defensive coordinator Don Brown. Under Macdonald, the Wolverines yielded 100 yards less per game in 2021, an average of 330.8 after giving up 434.3 the prior season.

Macdonald also helped launch the Heisman candidacy of defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who finished as a finalist for the award after finishing with 14 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Macdonald, 34, would become the youngest defensive coordinator in the Ravens’ 26-year history. Before leaving for Michigan last year, Macdonald spent seven years in Baltimore (2014-20), joining the Ravens in 2014 as an intern. He was Baltimore’s inside linebackers coach for three seasons (2018-20) and was considered the heir apparent for the Ravens defensive coordinator position before leaving for Michigan.

The Ravens fired Don “Wink” Martindale on Friday after the sides were unable to agree on a contract extension through 2023, a source said. Under Martindale, the Baltimore defense ranked in the top 10 in three of four seasons.

Macdonald would take over a Ravens defense that finished No. 25 in the NFL last season. That was Baltimore’s worst defensive ranking since it was 25th in 1997.

In 2018, Macdonald interviewed for the Ravens defensive coordinator position that eventually went to Martindale. Now, four years later, it appears Macdonald will get his chance to step into that role.

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New York Giants won’t trade for Deshaun Watson, seek to ‘build an offense around’ Daniel Jones

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants don’t appear likely to make major changes at quarterback in 2022, and they definitely won’t be in the market for Deshaun Watson.

“We’re not trading for Deshaun Watson,” Giants co-owner John Mara said Wednesday after introducing Joe Schoen as the team’s new general manager. “There are so many reasons why we wouldn’t do that. Cap-wise, we couldn’t afford [the acquisition], but more importantly, with the allegations that are out there right now, that is just not the right fit for us.”

Daniel Jones has been New York’s starting quarterback for the past three seasons but has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play since being drafted No. 6 overall in 2019.

Watson wants to be traded from the Houston Texans but didn’t play this past season while facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior.

Schoen said Watson wasn’t even a topic he addressed during the interview process, almost as if he viewed not having interest in Watson as common sense.

Watson has a no-trade clause in the deal he signed with Houston in September 2020 and is set to make $35 million in base salary next season.

“Where we are salary-cap-wise and the pending legal issues, I don’t know how you can go down that road right now,” Schoen said.

The Giants are currently projected to be about $5 million over the salary cap next season and still have Jones on his rookie contract for at least another year.

Schoen and a new head coach who is expected to be hired by early next week will have to decide whether to exercise Jones’ fifth-year option for 2023. The Giants have until May before making that decision.

In the meantime, it appears the Giants are committed to moving forward with Jones, the No. 6 overall draft pick in 2019. Jones threw 10 touchdown passes and seven interceptions in 11 starts this past year before missing the final six weeks with a neck injury.

Jones is expected to be medically cleared in plenty of time for the 2022 season, and Schoen still sees enough potential to have him part of the Giants’ plans.

“The kid has physical ability. He’s got arm strength, he’s athletic, he can run,” Schoen said. “I’m really excited to work with Daniel.

“Again, when the new staff gets in here, we’ll build an offense around Daniel to accentuate what he does best.”

There are reasons for the Giants to build around the 24-year-old Jones, who has flashed potential despite playing with an insufficient supporting cast.

The Giants were 28th in the NFL in pass block win rate this season at 53.6%. Their starting running back, tight end and top four wide receivers all missed at least two games as they finished with the 31st-ranked offense.

The Giants organization still seems to believe in their starting quarterback for most of the past three seasons.

“We do feel Daniel can play,” Mara said. “We’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up since he’s been here. We keep changing coaches, keep changing coordinators, keep changing offensive line coaches. I take a lot of responsibility for that. But let’s bring in the right group of coaches now and give him some continuity and try to rebuild the offensive line and then be able to make an intelligent evaluation of whether he can be the franchise quarterback or not.

“I have a lot of hope in Daniel. I know how badly he wants it. I know how the players feel about him. We are certainly not giving up on him by any stretch of the imagination.”

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