CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton suffered no setbacks on Saturday and is set to start against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, twelve days after suffering two small fractures in his lower back during an automobile accident.
Coach Ron Rivera said on Friday that he was "confident" Newton would start, and that he was awaiting final word from the medical staff on Saturday before making a definitive statement on the two-time Pro Bowler. A team official said the medical staff gave no reason on Saturday that Newton couldn't start.
Newton missed last Sunday's 19-17 victory over Tampa Bay as he recovered from the crash that occurred on his way to Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 9. He has shown no sign of pain or restrictions in his movement since taking the practice field on Wednesday.
The Panthers (5-8-1) remain in the hunt for the NFC South title and a playoff spot with New Orleans (6-8) and Atlanta (5-9). They need to win their final two games, along with a Saints loss, to win the division for the second straight year.
"I have to do the right thing for myself, the right thing for the team," Murray told ESPN.
Murray's teammates are confident that he will play, and owner Jerry Jones said Friday that things were trending in a positive direction.
The NFL's leading rusher, Murray is officially listed as questionable on the injury report, and all involved agree that he will make the ultimate decision about whether to play a week after suffering a fracture in his left hand against the Eagles and undergoing surgery the following day.
A protective plate and eight screws were inserted to facilitate healing and promote the quickest possible return to the field.
Murray has practiced wearing a glove he routinely wears but equipped with protective padding. Murray said he was involved in some contact in practice to allow him a sense of whether he could protect the ball, but acknowledged that is far different than playing in a game.
Murray's five lost fumbles are the most in the league among non-quarterbacks, but he has not fumbled in his past six games.
Murray said his decision will be based on pain tolerance and whether he is comfortable doing everything required of a running back.
That likely means Bulaga has cleared the final stage of the concussion protocol and will be available to start against the Bucs.
Bulaga said Friday he was close to being cleared.
"I think we're on a good track right now, so we'll see what comes about tomorrow and go from there," Bulaga said Friday. "I think I still need to go through a few more steps in testing and seeing the independent neurologist check what we have to do. I think I have a couple more steps."
Mathews was ruled out for Saturday's game against the San Francisco 49ers on Friday. Mathews did not practice for a second straight week and will miss his ninth game this season.
However, the Chargers will likely have the team’s franchise quarterback. Philip Rivers (back, chest) was a full participant in practice for a second straight day on Friday and is listed as probable on the team’s injury report.
Along with Mathews, receiver Keenan Allen (shoulder, ankle) and punter Mike Scifres (shoulder) also were ruled out.
Defensive tackle Corey Liuget (ankle) and tight end Ladarius Green (concussion, ankle) were full participants for a second straight day and are questionable. Defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) also was a full participant and is probable.
The six players are defensive backs Tarell Brown and Chimdi Chekwa, tackle Menelik Watson, receivers Vincent Brown and Denarius Moore and tight end Brian Leonhardt. The Raiders need to add just one player to the inactive list Sunday.
Cornerback D.J. Hayden (back) and defensive tackle C.J. Wilson (knee) are both listed as questionable. Hayden was limited in practice Friday. With Brown and Chewka out, Hayden, who’d start for Brown, is needed.
That hasn’t been the case, as they could be using their ninth different starting lineup on the line against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
Right tackle Gosder Cherilus has been ruled out for the game and Xavier Nixon will likely start there for the Colts. Offensive linemen Hugh Thornton (knee) and Joe Reitz (ankle) also have been ruled out against the Cowboys. Lance Louis is expected to start at right guard for the second straight week.
Here’s the rest of the injury report for the Colts:
In addition, starting left guard Dan Connolly (knee) and No. 3 cornerback Kyle Arrington (hamstring) are questionable, giving them a 50-50 chance to play.
In all, the Patriots list 12 players as questionable, while the Jets' key injury to monitor is with defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, who is also questionable with a toe injury.
Meriweather has missed the last two games because of the injury. He tried to practice Wednesday, but was clearly not right and struggled to plant and turn. He did not practice Thursday. The injury is a difficult one for any player, but especially one that has to push off and change directions like a defensive back. Or even just to plant and drive to the ball.
Phillip Thomas will continue to start in Meriweather's place. Meriweather signed a one-year deal to return to Washington last offseason. While he has always made it known that he likes playing here, the question will be what do the Redskins want. It could depend on whether they make any changes defensively. Improving the secondary should be a priority this offseason.
Meriweather has missed a combined nine games the past two seasons, a combination of injuries and suspensions for illegal hits. He was suspended for the first two games this season after an illegal hit in the preseason.
The Redskins promoted linebacker Steve Beauharnais off the practice squad to take his place.
Meanwhile, defensive end Jason Hatcher (knee) and linebacker Gabe Miller (ankle) both were ruled out for Saturday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Linebacker Keenan Robinson (knee) is doubtfutl while left tackle Trent Williams (shoulder) is questionable. Will Compton would take over for Robinson, who has missed the past two games.
Here is the final injury report for Miami:
Out: OL Nate Garner (illness)
Doubtful: RT Dallas Thomas (foot), RB Daniel Thomas (knee)
Questionable: LB Jelani Jenkins (foot), CB Jamar Taylor (shoulder), S Don Jones (shoulder)
Probable: TE Charles Clay (hamstring, knee), CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle), LB Jonathan Freeny (hamstring), LB Chris McCain (ankle), LB Koa Misi (hamstring, knee), LB Jordan Tripp (foot)
The Dolphins are getting healthy down the stretch. Last week, their linebackers were decimated with injuries. However, at least two linebackers -- Misi and Freeny -- are expected to return. Jenkins is listed as questionable but practiced all week and has a solid chance of returning to the lineup. The biggest injury on this list is Thomas, Miami’s starting right tackle. He missed practice all week and is not expected to play. Backup Jason Fox is projected to be his replacement. Rookie Billy Turner also could get some reps.
Manning participated in the walk-through and threw in individual drills Friday and is still on track to start against the Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium. Other than when he missed the 2011 season because of spinal-fusion surgery Manning has not missed a start in his 16 other NFL seasons.
Thursday Manning participated in the Broncos’ walk-through, went through the team stretch and then went back into the Broncos’ complex to get treatment on his leg. Friday he remained in the field for practice, throwing throughout the portion open for viewing.
“He’s improving, I thought he had good work out there [Friday],’’ said Broncos head coach John Fox, following Friday’s practice.
Manning, who played last Sunday’s game with flu-like symptoms after getting four IVs Saturday night and Sunday morning combined, injured his thigh on a rollout with 5 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the first half.
He stayed in the game for the next eight plays, but gave way to Brock Osweiler, who finished out the first half. Manning went on to play the entire second half.
Also Thursday, linebacker Brandon Marshall (left foot) and tackle Paul Cornick (toe on right foot) did not practice.
Running back Juwan Thompson (hip, knee), who was held out of Thursday’s practice, took part in Friday’s on a limited basis. Also limited were running back Ronnie Hillman (left foot), left tackle Ryan Clady (right thigh), center Will Montgomery (knee) and cornerback Kayvon Webster.
Tight end Jacob Tamme (ribs), who had been limited in Thursday’s practice, was a full participant in Friday’s practice. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (right ankle), Anderson (left ankle) and tight end Julius Thomas (left ankle) all took part fully in Friday’s practice.
"Chris Canty has made progress all week," coach John Harbaugh said.
Asked if he would call Canty a game-time decision, Harbaugh said, "I wouldn't call it anything."
If Canty can't play or is limited, Lawrence Guy would be asked to step up. Guy, who was signed after he was waived by the San Diego Chargers, has two career starts but none in the past two seasons.
Three other players are listed as probable: returner Jacoby Jones (illness), cornerback Anthony Levine (ankle) and running back Bernard Pierce (back). All had full participation Friday.
Bowe and Hali were listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on the final injury report of the week. But coach Andy Reid said he expected both players to be available to play.
Bowe leads the Chiefs’ wide receivers in catches (51) and yards (667). He hasn’t worked since last Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders.
“He’s taking in some fluids and trying to maintain those fluids,’’ Reid said. “We’ll just see how he does. He is making improvement.
“I think he’s going to be ready to play.’’
The Chiefs practiced indoors on artificial turf for the second straight day because of snow on the practice field. Hali worked on Wednesday when the Chiefs practiced outdoors and on grass.
Reid said Hali didn’t practice on the artificial turf as a precaution, but that he would play against the Steelers.
Hali is second on the Chiefs with six sacks. He had one of his best games of the season last week with a sack and four quarterback pressures.
The Chiefs have 10 other players on their injury report, but they were all listed as probable for Sunday’s game. This group includes running back Jamaal Charles (knee and ankle).
That's because for the second straight day, Emmanuel Lamur missed practice, working instead Friday on the rehab portion of the practice field. The base strongside linebacker typically lines up with tight ends in certain passing situations. He's drawn his fair share of good ones this year, too.
After facing Rob Gronkowski, Delanie Walker and Jimmy Graham among others, Lamur would be expected this weekend to defend Julius Thomas, Denver's big red zone passing target.
If the hamstring injury Lamur suffered late in last Sunday's 30-0 win over Cleveland hasn't calmed by Monday night, then he'll likely be replaced by Taylor Mays, a safety who has been used as a linebacker in the past. There are other options available to the Bengals, too, including backups Marquis Flowers, Chris Carter and Nico Johnson, linebackers coach Matt Burke said.
Burke acknowledged that Mays has been in his meeting room all this week in the event Lamur can't go.
Before a season-ending Week 8 injury last season, Mays was beginning to emerge as a solid enough option at the nickel linebacker spot. He spent much of his time before the injury playing there with Lamur shelved from the preseason due to his own season-ending issue.
As far as the health of the linebacker positions are concerned, it's been a year to forget for Burke. Lamur's latest injury comes after he, Rey Maualuga, Vontaze Burfict and Jayson DiManche have all already missed games. Maualuga missed four, Burfict is on season-ending injured reserve after finishing just two games, and DiManche went on IR two weeks ago.
"That's just how it goes. We're cursed this year," Burke said. "We know that's part of sports, it's part of the game. If you deal with injuries, it's 'when.' So you always have to have those contingency plans. We're not changing what we do. Next man up. Those guys have been here. They're responsible for knowing what they're doing to play and it's time to go."
Along with Lamur, receiver James Wright, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury, also didn't practice Friday. Like Lamur, he got in work on the rehab and conditioning parts of the practice field. Fellow receiver A.J. Green, who was sick Thursday, returned to full practice participation.
Here's the full Friday injury report:
DID NOT PRACTICE
LB Emmanuel Lamur (hamstring)
WR James Wright (knee)
OT Andrew Whitworth (veteran's day off)
WR Brandon Tate (illness)
LIMITED PRACTICE PARTICIPATION
CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Achilles)
DE Carlos Dunlap (calf)
FULL PRACTICE PARTICIPATION
WR A.J. Green (illness)
TE Jermaine Gresham (toe)
DE Margus Hunt (ankle)
CB Terence Newman (ankle)
OL Mike Pollak (knee)
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Friday morning that he was "pretty positive" Murray, who had surgery Monday to repair a broken left hand, would play Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. Murray, the NFL's leading rusher, actually held the ball at times in his left hand during the brief portion of practice open to the media.
On Thursday, Murray said the final decision to play would be his, and coach Jason Garrett agreed to an extent.
"He knows how he feels more than anybody else," Garrett said. "It's our job as coaches and the medical staff to evaluate him and see if he's functional. If we see things that don't add up to what he's saying about how he's feeling, we'll certainly have that communication. But he's the one that knows about himself more than anybody, and we trust his feedback. He's a veteran player. He knows what it takes to play in a game."
Murray and the Cowboys won't know until Sunday if he can withstand the pain of getting hit over and over on carries. Murray carries the ball predominantly in his right hand, but he does deliver stiff arms and break his fall at times with his left hand. He would also have to pass protect.
He is wearing a hard plastic shell on the top of his glove for added protection. It is possible he could take pain medicine before kickoff to get through the game.
"You try your best to make your best educated guess," Garrett said.
The Packers don't practice on Fridays, but coach Mike McCarthy estimated that Bulaga would have been able to participate on a limited basis if they did. That suggests Bulaga is in the final stages of being cleared from the concussion he sustained in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss at the Buffalo Bills and could be cleared for practice on Saturday.
"As we say in here all of the time, you're either a part of the protocol or you're not a part of the protocol," McCarthy said. "He's still in it, and he's making progress."
If Bulaga can't play, JC Tretter, who finished Sunday's game, likely would start against the Bucs. Tretter fared well until he allowed Mario Williams' strip-sack that resulted in a safety on the Packers' final drive.
"JC's been getting a lot of reps throughout practice, both inside and outside," McCarthy said. "He obviously had a lot of reps this week with Bryan not participating. So he's getting better."
Here's the Packers’ full injury report:
CB Davon House (shoulder)
RB Eddie Lacy (eye)
G T.J. Lang (ankle)
OLB Clay Matthews (biceps)
OLB Mike Neal (abdomen)
OLB Nick Perry (shoulder)
G Josh Sitton (toe)