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Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray game-time decision again with sprained left ankle

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray will be a game-time decision for a second straight week, coach Kliff Kingsbury said Friday.

Murray returned to practice Friday after missing five straight. He last practiced the week of Arizona’s Thursday night loss to the Green Bay Packers, against whom he sprained his left ankle late in the fourth quarter.

“He’s progressing,” Kingsbury said. “Obviously, it’s good to have him out there. See how he feels tomorrow and Sunday and go from there.”

Murray doesn’t have to be “100 percent” healthy to play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, Kingsbury said. He wants to make sure Murray can “move well enough to protect himself.”

“He’s got to be able to move enough to where he can protect himself, do what he does, escape, extend plays, things of that nature,” Kingsbury said.

Murray felt like had made “crazy strides” from a week ago, he said Wednesday. He missed the first game of his NFL career on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. In his place, backup quarterback Colt McCoy led Arizona to a 31-17 win.

The Cardinals have discussed “all possibilities” relating to their approach to Murray and whether to rest him for another game or play him Sunday if he’s ready.

“I mean, in this league, it’s week-to-week, as you know,” Kingsbury said. “You got to try to win every game you have an opportunity to win. So, if he is ready to go, he’ll play.”

Kingsbury said Murray is “not that fun to be around currently” because of how much he wants to play Sunday.

Kingsbury also said wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will be a game-time decision with a hamstring injury. He’s hopeful Hopkins will be ready to play after missing the third game of his career on Sunday, but said he wasn’t sure.

“You don’t want to lose somebody like that for an extended period of time, if you can help it, and he hadn’t missed many games in his career,” Kingsbury said. “So, we want to make sure when he’s back, he 100 percent can do everything he does.”

Kingsbury expects safety Budda Baker to play against the Panthers after being on the injury report with a concussion and knee injuries throughout the week. Kingsbury was also hopeful that wide receiver Rondale Moore will play Sunday with a concussion and a neck injury.

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Dallas Cowboys consider sitting Ezekiel Elliott to heal injured knee, source says

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The Dallas Cowboys will consider providing running back Ezekiel Elliott some time off to heal from the knee injury he has been managing, including the possibility of holding him out of next Thursday night’s game in New Orleans, a source told ESPN.

The source does not believe that placing Elliott on injured reserve is a consideration at this time.

Elliott has consistently downplayed the significance of his injury. Asked last week whether he had discussed with the coaches taking time off, Elliott said it wasn’t necessary.

“It’s football,” he said. “You get hurt. You aren’t going to be 100%. I’m tough. Play through it.”

However, in a conference call Friday, coach Mike McCarthy admitted concern about Elliott.

“It’s that time of year, McCarthy said. “Zeke’s running style is ferocious. He gives a pounding, and he takes some hits. We need to evaluate that, and this week we’ll see what the preparation looks like for him.”

The Cowboys have lost three of their past four games, and Elliott’s rushing total has declined each of the past four weeks — from 51 to 41 to 32 to 25 yards against the Las Vegas Raiders.

After Thursday’s 36-33 overtime loss to the Raiders, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Elliott has limitations and that the coaches went into the game seeking to establish the running game and planning 25 touches for Tony Pollard.

The Cowboys were averaging 152 rushing yards per game and nearly 5 yards per attempt through Week 8. That’s down to 84.5 yards per game and 3.8 yards per rush over the past four contests.

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Saquon Barkley, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard among injured New York Giants

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants may have a new play-caller, but much like the recently fired Jason Garrett, he will be working shorthanded.

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard was ruled out, wide receiver Kadarius Toney is doubtful and running back Saquon Barkley is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants fired Garrett on Tuesday because the injury-riddled offense hasn’t been able to score enough points. Coach Joe Judge has said the role will be filled collaboratively, but senior offensive assistant Freddie Kitchens is expected to call plays now without some of the team’s most potent weapons.

Toney and Shepard are nursing quad injuries. They did not practice this week. Barkley is dealing with an ankle injury that he admits could “nag” him throughout the remainder of the season.

Barkley returned on Monday night to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after missing four straight games. He was a limited participant at practice this week.

“The ankle is something that anytime you hurt that ankle is going to nag throughout the season,” Barkley said. “But that is just something you have to stay on. You have to keep up and it gets better week by week.”

Barkley said he expects to play on Sunday; that is his mindset. He played last week and insists the ankle is improving, according to Barkley.

While the Giants (3-7) are expecting Barkley on the field, they are going to be without Shepard, tight end Kaden Smith (knee) and fullback Cullen Gillaspia (calf).

Toney and tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle) are doubtful. It would also be a surprise if safety Logan Ryan (reserve/COVID-19) were cleared to return this week.

Toney is the Giants’ leading receiver with 35 catches for 392 yards. Shepard is second on the team with 32 receptions for 324 yards, despite being sidelined three different times by injuries.

Shepard has dealt with injuries to each hamstring and now his quad. This will be his third straight game missed, and the sixth this season.

Toney, the Giants’ first-round pick out of Florida earlier this year, suffered his quad injury in the second half of Monday night’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also missed time earlier this season with an ankle problem that sidelined him for two games.

The Giants seem to be holding out some hope that Toney can play.

“He’s in key with the game plan. KT’s a real smart guy in terms of being in the meetings, going through some of the stuff internally in the bubble with some walk-through stuff and all,” Judge said. “He understands the concepts of what he has to do. It’s been a couple of weeks as a young player that he’s been able to get out there on a Friday and practice for us at a good level and get him into the game and make plays for us.”

The problem, in this case, is that Toney did not get to practice on Friday. It makes it unlikely he plays Sunday against the Eagles.

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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers doesn’t practice because of toe injury but will play vs. Los Angeles Rams

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Keeping quarterback Aaron Rodgers off his fractured toe was more important to the Green Bay Packers this week than getting him on the practice field.

That’s how coach Matt LaFleur approached the lead-up to Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers did not practice Friday, making him a nonparticipant all week. A week earlier, he at least got a few reps in the Friday practice leading up to last Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings — a game in which Rodgers started slowly but was nearly unstoppable after halftime, leading touchdown drives on every second-half possession.

Jordan Love handled all the practice snaps all week.

“Well, he came down to practice,” LaFleur said Friday of Rodgers. “He didn’t participate in practice, but he was out there and relaying the calls to Jordan, just getting that practice of just saying the playcalls.”

LaFleur left no doubt that Rodgers will start, saying, “Yeah, he’ll play.”

This has become the new norm since Rodgers went on the reserve/COVID-19 list Nov. 3. He missed the following game at Kansas City and returned to the team the day before the Nov. 14 game against Seattle, a 17-0 win. Since his return from the reserve list Nov. 13, Rodgers has practiced just once.

“It’s been how it’s been going the past couple of weeks,” Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “The one thing that I’ll tell you is, my respect for him as a player goes up nonstop. Everybody talks about how he can throw the ball as good as he can, but his toughness is unbelievable. For him to do what he’s doing with this going on is awesome. We trust him a ton and know that he’s going to do whatever he needs to do to get ready for the game and to be able to go.”

Rodgers on Wednesday cleared up some of the mystery surrounding his toe injury, which he said happened during his COVID-19 quarantine, and left open the possibility that he could have surgery during next week’s bye as long as it wouldn’t keep him out of any games.

“It comes down to managing the pain,” Rodgers said earlier this week.

The Packers (8-3) have several other injury issues to deal with, while the Rams (7-3) are coming into the game relatively healthy off their bye week.

In addition to playing without three starting offensive linemen (David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins and Josh Myers) and two of their top defensive players ( cornerback Jaire Alexander and outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith), the Packers have three key players listed as questionable for Sunday: running back Aaron Jones (knee), wide receiver Allen Lazard (shoulder) and outside linebacker Rashan Gary (elbow). None of those three played last week against the Vikings, but they all practiced to varying degrees this week.

“If a guy is cleared to play, we’ll let him go,” LaFleur said when asked about the impact of next week’s bye on the decision-making process. “But you’re also mindful of what you have in front of you.”

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