NFL receiving leader Wes Welker has been fined $10,000 for making a “snow angel” after scoring a touchdown for the New England Patriots last Sunday.
Welker, who leads the league with 109 receptions, fell to the ground on his back just behind the end zone and brushed both arms and legs back and forth in the snow after catching an 11-yard pass from Matt Cassel in the second quarter. That gave New England a 28-0 lead in its 47-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
The NFL imposed the penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, specifically for participating in an illegal demonstration by going to the ground after his touchdown, league spokesman Corry Rush said.
The Panthers were without both starting defensive tackles at practice, ahead of their regular-season finale against the league’s top offense.
Maake Kemoeatu, who missed last Sunday’s loss to the Giants with a sprained right ankle, rode a stationary bike during the workout. Damione Lewis, who injured his shoulder against the Giants, also sat out.
That could leave the Panthers with Darwin Walker and rookie Nick Hayden as the starters against high-scoring New Orleans in a game Carolina (11-4) needs to win to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“They weren’t able to practice today and we’ll see what tomorrow brings,” coach John Fox said. “Neither one of them are out for an extended time. It’s just a matter of getting them ready. When the medical people clear them, they’ll play.”
The Giants rushed for 301 yards in their 34-28 overtime win Sunday, taking advantage of the Panthers’ problems up front. Backup defensive tackle Gary Gibson was hampered by a broken hand in that game, and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
The Panthers filled the roster spot by signing defensive tackle J’Vonne Parker, who had been on Atlanta’s practice squad. Hayden was signed off the Panthers’ practice squad Saturday.
“It’s all concerning. We’re playing the No. 1 offense in the league,” Fox said.
Starting receiver Muhsin Muhammad (foot) and tight end Jeff King (knee) also missed practice Wednesday.
Carson Palmer was encouraged by how his elbow reacted to a day of limited practice, leaving the quarterback more confident he can avoid reconstructive surgery.
Palmer joined the team for 7-on-7 drills Tuesday and made about 30 passes, including several long throws. He tore a ligament and tendon in the third game of the season when his arm was hit while he threw a pass.
On the advice of doctors, he rested the elbow for two months to see if the injury would heal on its own. He’s been slowly increasing his throwing for the last couple of weeks, testing the elbow to see how it feels. He’s hoping to avoid reconstructive surgery, an operation that few NFL quarterbacks have undergone.
“I felt good,” he said. “Nothing great to report, nothing out of the ordinary.”
Palmer hopes to practice with the team the rest of this week if the weather permits — the Bengals don’t have a covered practice field, and they don’t want to have Palmer throwing a slippery ball in the rain. Palmer will then consult his doctors and figure out the next step.
Given how his throwing in practice has gone, Palmer said there’s less of a possibility he’ll need surgery.
“We’ll evaluate it after we get through this week and see what happens there,” he said. “From what they’ve said, it seems like it’s a smaller possibility or lesser possibility than it was a couple of months ago.”
Palmer said there’s no specific date for when he has to finally rule out surgery.
Coach Tony Dungy has ruled three players out of Sunday’s finale, a list that could grow by week’s end.
Dungy said middle linebacker Gary Brackett, outside linebacker Freddy Keiaho and running back Dominic Rhodes will not play against Tennessee. Brackett has missed three straight games since cracking a bone in his lower right leg and is the only one who would be held out for medical reasons, Dungy said.
Keiaho (hamstring) and Rhodes (chest) both missed practice Wednesday but probably would play if it was a playoff game, but Dungy wants them to rest.
“Dom’s down a little bit, so he’s definitely out of this game,” Dungy said. “And we’re going to rest Freddy this week.”
It’s become almost an annual routine for the Colts (11-4), who find themselves wrapping up the season with another meaningless home game. A victory at Jacksonville last week locked them into No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs. They will visit the AFC West champion, either Denver or San Diego, in the first round of the playoffs next week.
Dungy has played his starters sparingly in past situations when the Colts have locked up their playoff position, and intends to do the same Sunday.
Also missing practice Wednesday were Brackett, safeties Bob Sanders (right knee) and Melvin Bullitt (shoulder) and backup running back Chad Simpson, who played with a sprained ankle against Jacksonville. Simpson is expected to get more playing time this week.
The Colts also rested Pro Bowl defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and starting defensive tackle Keyunta Dawson.
Return specialist and part-time quarterback Joshua Cribbs injured his right ankle while running a pass pattern during practice.
Cribbs was cutting back for a pass when he came up limping. After walking to the sideline in Cleveland’s indoor practice field, Cribbs had his ankle examined by a trainer.
As he was leaving to get his ankle re-taped, the media were asked to leave at the end of the 30-minute period that practice is open for viewing.
A team spokesperson said Cribbs later returned to practice.
The Browns are expected to use Cribbs in a more prominent role in their offense this Sunday against Pittsburgh because they are down to starting fourth-string QB Bruce Gradkowski.
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