Chiefs safety Eric Berry being tested for lymphoma
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) breaks up a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks tight end Cooper Helfet (84) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium on Nov 16, 2014. Kansas City won the game 24-20. John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Prayers and well wishes poured in Monday night for the Kansas City Chiefs' perennial Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry.
The team placed him on season-ending non-football illness list, after weekend tests revealed he has an abnormal mass in his chest.
It may be lymphoma, a type of cancer.
"We're about 75% done with the testing, we think," Chiefs head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said. "We still don't have a definitive answer."
Testing included X-rays and blood work.
Chiefs brass were first notified Thursday, the day of the team's loss at Oakland, that something might be up with the health of the fifth-year player from Atlanta.
Berry, 25, will visit a lymphoma specialist in Atlanta to identify the mass in his chest.
"I am truly thankful for all of the support from family, friends, coaches, teammates and the entire Chiefs kingdom," Berry said in a statement. "At first I was in shock with the diagnosis on Saturday and did not even want to miss a game, but I understand that right now I have to concentrate on a new opponent.
"I have great confidence in the doctors and the plan they are going to put in place for me to win this fight. I believe that I am in God's hands and I have great peace in that. I know my coaches and teammates will hold things down here the rest of the season and until I am back running out of the tunnel at Arrowhead ... I will be back!"
Berry missed most of the 2011 season after blowing out an ACL. In his other four seasons he has been named to the Pro Bowl.
Among waves of current NFLers offering support via social media was Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, whose Seahawks lost at Kansas City just a week ago Sunday.
"Praying for Eric Berry to have healing," Wilson tweeted. "Rooting for you to stay encouraged. Stay Strong boss."
STILL STARTING ... FOR NOW: Robert Griffin III remains the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins. So said head coach Jay Gruden on Monday afternoon.
But Jon's younger brother underlined that that assessment is not in stone.
"We're still in the process of really evaluating the tape (from) the last couple of weeks with all our players, and we'll make a decision here shortly," Gruden said.
"But we have every intent that Robert will be the starter this week, yes."
What won't be on Griffin's side as the 'Skins staff probes his play in losses to Tampa Bay and San Francisco is that the offence has scored 20 points total and been bad on converting third downs.
"We can't attribute it all to Robert," Gruden said. "He is the quarterback, though, so we have to look at every avenue and figure out where we can improve."
MALLETT DONE?: The Houston Chronicle's John McClain reported Monday that word out of the Texans locker room was quarterback Ryan Mallett is done for the season, with a torn right pectoral muscle.
Mallett fought through the pain of the injury in a sub-standard passing performance in Sunday's loss to Cincinnati.
Houston head coach Bill O'Brien refused to confirm the report.
"Mallett is still being evaluated," O'Brien said. "Basically, we'll have more to report toward the end of the week."
The report likely is true. In that event, Ryan Fitzpatrick likely would get his starting job back, after having been benched for Mallett three weeks ago -- right, coach?
"The next guy is going to step up, whoever that might be," O'Brien said. "We'll figure that out."
FINE ON THE WAY: Don't be surprised if Detroit Lions centre Dominic Raiola sits out Detroit's game on Thursday against Chicago, or at least is heavily fined.
Raiola cheap-shotted New England Patriots defensive lineman Zach Moore on Detroit's last-play kneeldown on Sunday in a blowout loss, lunging at Moore's knees.
But that's not all.
By Monday afternoon, video hit the web showing Raiola smashing the back of Moore's helmet earlier in the game with a hard, roundhouse punch. It sent Moore flying facemask-first to the ground.
"Well, I'm sure there's a lot of frustration from Raiola. That's obvious," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on Monday morning. "They've never beaten us. (He) had a tough day in there dealing with (nose tackle Vince) Wilfork and (end Dont'a) Hightower and those guys.
"I'd say that was probably frustration. We saw a lot of that at the end of the game."
Indeed, Lions linebacker C.J. Mosley committed a personal foul on a New England field-goal attempt.
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, who has shown this year he is unafraid to crack down on Lions players who do dumb things, hopefully handles this as his predecessor, Jim Schwartz, didn't.
SUPER KATY: In case you missed the NFL's announcement late Sunday night, Katy Perry will be the halftime performer at the Feb. 1 Super Bowl in Arizona.
HEAT IS ON?: Denver Broncos head coach John Fox did not deny the team has worked out other placekickers. At the end of training camp the team chose to cut Matt Prater and go with Brandon McManus, who is 9-of-13 (.692) on field goals and hasn't even attempted one from 50 yards out or beyond. Prater last year was an incredible 100-of-102 on field goals and extra points, and set a new record for the longest field goal ever kicked in an NFL game, 64 yards.
"There is no search for a kicker," Fox said. "We have tryouts every week at a lot of different positions. My satisfaction with Brandon McManus is kind of like our record. We're 8-3. I wish we were 11-0 but we are where we are, and we're always looking to improve our team if we feel we need to."
Josh Gordon, Browns wide receiver
He led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards last year (despite missing two games) for a reason. He's that good. Finally back from a 10-game drug suspension, Gordon had 16 balls thrown his way in Atlanta. Clearly he and Brian Hoyer are not close to being in sync. Yet Gordon, rust and all, still nabbed eight of them for 120 yards.
We're not buying
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers quarterback
San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh actually said this Sunday about his quarterback: That he was "great with a capital G, at the highest level of great." In reality, Kaep had a good day. Not great. When your defence plays as lights-out as the 49ers' did, your quarterback did not play great if you put up only 17 points.
The worst of several awful clock-management issues at the end of both halves in the Browns-Falcons game was when Atlanta head coach Mike Smith called a timeout with 55 seconds left, facing 3rd-and-2 from the Cleveland 35. Matt Ryan's errant throw stopped the clock again. Falcons kicked a field goal but left way too much time for the Browns, who won it. I woulda let the clock run on both plays.
Trailing the Pats 27-9, Detroit still had a pulse early in the fourth when Lions quarterback Matt Stafford took off and ran in an attempt to pick up a first down on a 4th-and-10. As he got near the marker, one Patriot had a chance to tackle him. Stafford instantly slid -- and came up a yard short of the first down. He shoulda sold out and charged hard. Bad optics, man.
The Dolphins coulda made an emphatic statement and really got themselves in the thick of the AFC wild-card hunt if they could have kept playing as well as they did in the first three quarters at Denver. But they couldn't. Instead, they allowed 22 points and lost. So now they're 6-5, not 7-4.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
Shaun Hill, Rams quarterback
He'd led St. Louis into position to beat the Chargers. With a 2nd-and-goal at the San Diego 4, however, he threw a bad interception to kill an otherwise impressive comeback attempt.
HERO OF THE WEEK
Tony Romo, Cowboys quarterback
It's about time we named him a hero of the week, isn't it, after all those "Goat of the Week" awards of year's past? With Dallas trailing the Giants 21-10 at halftime and bereft of all momentum, Romo was clutch, completing 9-of-12 for 157 yards and three TDs, twice erasing New York leads in the Cowboys' 31-28 win.
ZERO OF THE WEEK
Dominic Raiola, Lions centre
Not only did he viciously cut-block Patriots D-lineman Zach Moore on Detroit's final-play kneeldown in a 34-9 loss at New England, but video from earlier in the game that surfaced Monday shows Raiola throwing a hard, roundhouse punch to the back of Moore's head, which temporarily floored the Patriot. Prepare to enjoy Thanksgiving Day at home with your family, Dom.
FIVE STORIES TO WATCH
1. Game of the year: Patriots at Packers
It is. And it might just stand up as that. No team in the NFC is as hot as the Pack. Ditto the Patriots in the AFC. This is as legit a late-season Super Bowl preview as we can remember. Both teams have the superstar passers, but also surprise with their smashmouth ground-gaining proclivity. Game deserved to be in primetime.
2. (U.S.) Thanksgiving Day triple-header
Of this year's three Thursday games, the latter two feature important matchups of division arch-rivals sporting identical records: Philly at Dallas, both 8-3 in the NFC East, in late afternoon; and Seattle at San Fran, both 7-4 behind Arizona in the NFC West, in primetime. You don't look well. You'll have to leave work early on Thursday.
3. Believe hype on rookie wide receivers
For months, experts tried to convince us the wide receiver class of 2014 was especially talented and deep. It isn't hyperbole to state this might be one of the best single-position draft classes in NFL history. Tampa Bay's Mike Evans (with 505) and the Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. (503) lead all NFLers in receiving yards this month.
4. Bills playing at home this week?
It appears so, after six or seven feet of snow was dumped on the South Buffalo area last week, forcing the Jets game to be moved to Detroit. Bills president Russ Brandon told WGR AM-550 on Monday that all signs pointed to Ralph Wilson Stadium being cleared and ready for Sunday's home game against the Browns.
5. RG3 vs. Andrew Luck comparisons
Yes, the Washington Redskins play at Indianapolis on Sunday. That means the top two overall draft picks in 2012 -- Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III -- face off at about the worst time possible for the Washington signal caller. He has never played or looked worse as a professional as he has this month.
Odell Beckham Jr., Giants wide receiver
But of course. After watching his catch-for-the-ages, how could his stock not be shooting up? He was a non-entity from June (when he suffered a bad hamstring injury) until well into October. Now look at him.
The Seahawks pass rush. You can win a bet with this one: You know that defence that ate up the Broncos offensive line in the Super Bowl and harassed Peyton Manning all game long? Guess how many sacks it has this season? Just 16. That's the fourth fewest in the league.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Yes, it has come to this. Tom Coughlin, head coach of the New York Giants. Two Super Bowl championships, yes, but you cannot have your team lose six consecutive games in back-to-back seasons and not expect to wind up here. Thing is, New York is playing significantly better this year. They're just finding ways to lose.
'GREATEST CATCH EVER'
Did you see that crazy catch late Sunday night?
By Monday morning everyone in the NFL world was raving about it. And rightly so.
If you didn't watch it live on NBC/TSN, and if you care a drop about the NFL, you've undoubtedly seen multiple-angle highlights by now of Odell Beckham Jr.'s scintillating touchdown catch in the New York Giants' 31-28 loss to Dallas.
Quarterback Eli Manning lofted a deep pass down the right sideline to Beckham, the Giants' standout rookie wide receiver. Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr tried to shove him out of bounds as both sprinted downfield. Two officials threw flags for pass interference on Carr.
Beckham was undeterred by the shove, however. He bulled his way past Carr, looked back, located the ball, jumped backward -- as some are saying, like Keanu Reeves' character Neo dodging bullets in the Matrix. Then, he reached across his body and far over his head with his right hand while falling back in mid-air, looked almost backward and upside down as he followed the ball and snared it with his thumb and index and middle fingers, and landed on his butt/back in the end zone for the score.
He never cradled the ball, never needed to get his other hand on it to secure it.
Everyone at MetLife Stadium went nuts. Twitter shuddered. The Internet rocked.
One-handed spears of footballs aren't rare anymore, even at the college level. Receivers practise them, and the (legally) uber-sticky gloves receivers all wear really help in this regard.
Maybe the most amazing thing about it is how long a pass that was. That ball had velocity. It's not so hard for a big-handed NFLer such as Beckham to catch a short floater with one hand. But a long bomb? That's incredibly difficult.
Many are calling it the greatest football catch they've ever seen. It ranks in my top-five for sure. I can't recall a better one.
After sitting out almost all of training camp and not playing in his first game until Oct. 5, the rookie suddenly has 41 catches for five touchdowns and 609 yards. He's legit.
"I hope it's not the greatest catch of all time," Beckham said. "I hope I can make more. It really means nothing without a win. We still go home at the end of the day with a loss. That's not fulfilling."
Here are some of the plaudits from others:
CRIS COLLINSWORTH, NBC commentator:
"That may be the greatest catch I have ever seen in my life."
TOM COUGHLIN, Giants head coach:
"He's got a gift, there's no doubt. I've seen him make a lot of one-handed catches, to be honest with you. But none falling down like that, going away and being able to snatch the ball like that and then stay in bounds after being fouled. That was quite a thing, too."
TONY ROMO, Cowboys quarterback:
"That one is right there with anything I've ever seen. That was pretty impressive."
VICTOR CRUZ, Giants wide receiver:
"That's the best catch I've ever seen."
LeBRON JAMES, NBA superstar:
"Man I just witnessed the greatest catch ever possibly by Odell Beckham Jr.! WOW!!!!"
CRIS CARTER, Hall of Fame wide receiver:
"That's as good as it gets."
MICHAEL IRVIN, Hall of Fame wide receiver:
"INCREDIBLE!!! ... simply one of the greatest grabs in a game I have ever seen. WOW."
RICHARD SHERMAN, Seahawks all-pro cornerback:
"My Goodness ... That young man is bad!!!"