Another star running back appeared to be banged up as well: Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy.

The New England Patriots and cornerback Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX, may be headed for a divorce. Butler, playing for $3.9 million this season and a free agent next summer, wants a new contract. Eric Rowe started over Butler in Sunday’s 36-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints. Butler ended up playing more than Rowe, 49 snaps to 34, but the starting snub led to speculation about a possible trade.

The Patriots could use Butler to add to their capital a year after sending a first-rounder to New Orleans for Brandin Cooks. They could also use help with their pass rush and at receiver following a spate of injuries.

“It’s all about this year,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said about Butler and Rowe, per the Boston Herald. “I think what things have gone down in the past doesn’t really matter to us. We’re trying to get better for this year, and the guys that are out there and positions are where we think they need to be right now currently, and to help us win that particular week.

As for a veteran, the Redskins would likely pursue 33-year-old Alex Smith if he parts with Kansas City, or one of Minnesota’s triumvirate. All three Vikings quarterbacks — Case Keenum, Sam Bradford (another former Heisman winner) and Teddy Bridgewater — are pending free agents.

Perhaps the biggest injury news of the day relates to Cardinals star running back David Johnson, who left Arizona’s 35-23 loss to Detroit with a wrist injury. X-rays were negative, according to Pro Football Talk, but Johnson will have an MRI exam on Monday. Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN report that the MRI will determine whether Johnson will miss “a few weeks” or “half the season” with his sprained wrist.

However, it proved to be a false alarm, as McCoy was cleared to return following his wrist injury.

Fournette vs. McCaffrey … The Panthers have an interesting choice to make if they stay put at No. 8 and both Fournette and McCaffrey are available. At that point, it would be all about what style of offense Carolina wants to play with its new featured tailback, according to former NFL coach Jon Gruden.
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Losses to the Cardinals and 49ers are unforgivable for a team that should be making a late-season playoff push.

“One of the things that is important to point out about this that may not be evident and does not necessarily show up on our protocol sheet, is once a player gets a sideline evaluation, that is not the end of their contact with the medical staff,” Sills said. “Let’s say that a player comes off, gets the sideline evaluation and clears that, they pass that evaluation and are cleared to go back in and play.

Instead of there being hope for a deep playoff run, the lopsided defeat to the Rams produced speculation that a teardown of the roster could be in store. Would Coach Pete Carroll stay around for a rebuilding project around QB Russell Wilson and LB Bobby Wagner? The narrative certainly can change quickly in the NFL, can’t it?

The Titans no longer are deserving of a spot in the postseason. They have played their way out.

The future is bright with Jimmy Garoppolo at QB. The three straight wins with Garoppolo as the starter have raised expectations for next season. It always seemed like a near certainty that the Niners would franchise-tag Garoppolo this offseason if they couldn’t re-sign him first. But if anyone had any doubts about that, they should be erased. Garoppolo cannot be allowed to leave.

It promises to be quarterback-rich draft class, but the Browns’ possession of the No. 1 pick gives some players a decision to make: Would spending another year in college be more attractive than possibly landing in Cleveland? UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen already has said he would rather be drafted lower and end up with the right team than be drafted higher by the wrong team. Rosen must decide whether to enter the draft or spend another season at UCLA playing for the Bruins’ new coach, Chip Kelly.

Award watch … Here’s how one set of picks for this season’s major awards would look:

MVP: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots … With Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz’s season cut short by his knee injury, it comes down to Brady or Rams running back Todd Gurley II. Gurley has been terrific. But no player in the league has been more indispensable than Brady, whose game shows no signs of deterioration in the year in which he turned 40.jaguars_044

The 3-point king is having by far the best season of his career inside the arc, ranking eighth in the league in 2-point field goal percentage.

The seven players ahead of him on average stand 6-foot-10 (LeBron James the shortest among them at 6-8).

Curry’s ability to finish among the trees isn’t simply significant within the context of this season either. Entering 2017-18, there have been 63 instances of a player making at least 60 percent of his 2s. Every one of them was done by a player standing at least 6-5, which gives the 6-3 Curry a shot at finishing with the best 2-point field goal percentage ever by a player of his stature (shoutout to 6-3 Brad Davis for making 59.5 percent in 1982-83 on 7.4 attempts per game).

“I was thinking about having (Puddicombe) try to focus on some sort of relaxing mechanism while you step up to the line, but we haven’t brought in anyone (experts) yet. … Meditation is very hard. We’re gonna keep doing it in hopes that some of the young guys can pick it up and get into it.”

Walton is hoping the next appointment with Puddicombe in February, after a grueling five-game road trip, will help the team somehow with its awful foul shooting.

“We tend to only struggle in our minds when we are either thinking back and going over and over on things we aren’t happy with or when we are thinking forward kind of either worried of how things will turn out or hoping they will turn out a certain way,” Puddicombe said of the outside pressures younger athletes can face and the short attention span that this multitasking generation can have impacting their performance.

Tagovailoa’s surging performance, from Alabama’s 13-0 deficit to its 26-23 overtime win, “validated that this really not a fluke, it’s not an anomaly.”

National quarterbacking stardom from Saint Louis School: routine!

The school sits up on Kalaepohaku, which Medeiros called “a large hill or a mountain, one of the two” — this week, surely a mountain — and which Mariota mentioned in his Heisman speech with, “To the men of Kalaepohaku, and the Saint Louis brotherhood, thank you for teaching me to be always mindful and faithful.”

It hatched in 1846, overseen by Marianist Catholics. Its first 10 years of teaching came in the native Hawaiian language. It has 880 students, K-through-12. It’s 53 percent native Hawaiian, Medeiros said, plus other Polynesian students. It’s on its third campus, built of adobe in 1926. It shares its mountain with Chaminade University. Its students graduate in white tuxedos. jaguars_019

The ugly ironies in the recent cases are overwhelming.

Al Davis, the late father of current Raiders owner Mark Davis, never needed a league rule to hire Tom Flores, Art Shell or Amy Trask. Also, Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders’ general manager, who got his job the old-fashioned way — paid his dues for years, then got a chance from his old organization — spoke out against token interviews “just to satisfy the rule.”

He said that in 2013, when the NFL managed to hire zero minority candidates for eight head-coaching and seven general manager openings that offseason. The lowlights: The Chiefs essentially pulled a Raiders in hiring ex-Eagles coach Andy Reid after just four days, while meeting the minimum Rooney Rule requirements; and the offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl champion Ravens, Jim Caldwell, did not get a single interview.

Officials at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass., discovered Hernandez’s body with a bedsheet tied around his neck shortly after 3 a.m. on April 19, but it took more than a day for state officials to rule the death a suicide. This caused a brief controversy surrounding Hernandez’s remains, including his brain, which the family had requested be sent to Boston University’s CTE Center for further study.

President Trump has said his fight with NFL players is about respecting the flag and honoring veterans — not race. But the president and some conservative commentators have made wealth a part of the debate, inflaming racial resentment among Trump’s white working-class supporters who express no tolerance for black athletes raising concerns about institutional racism while making millions of dollars a year.

Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders: An ankle injury that Cooper aggravated in Week 14 likely will keep him out in Week 15. Cooper has been a big disappointment in fantasy this season, and if his owners have managed to get this far without him, they obviously have other options.

Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles: Ertz cleared concussion protocol and practiced Wednesday. He should return to TE1 status despite the loss of quarterback Carson Wentz. Philadelphia visits the New York Giants in Week 15, and Ertz will be looking to settle back into the offense while Nick Foles takes over behind center. Foles could look Ertz’s way quite a bit simply as a check-down option. Either way, Ertz owners should have him in the lineup.jaguars_004