Shaq Thompson has signed a four-year contract extension with the Carolina Panthers to keep him with the franchise through 2023.

Agent Doug Hendrickson told ESPN it is a $54.2million pact with a maximum value of $57m, with $28m guaranteed and containing a signing bonus of $16m.

Thompson, 25, was due to become a free agent at the end of the season as he was playing under the fifth-year option.

He was drafted with the 25th overall pick in 2015 and has started every game for the 5-7 Panthers so far this season, making a career-high 93 tackles along with having three sacks and the same number of passes defended.

"Shaq is our type of person and our type of player," general manager Marty Hurney said as the team announced the extension on Saturday. 

"He's proven that he can play linebacker at a very high level, and he's got all the traits you want. 

"He's smart, he's physical, he can run and he's very versatile. He fits the blueprint for what we want at the position."

Thompson said of his new deal: "It means everything. What this organisation has done for me and my family, it's just tremendous.

"It feels good. It shows they have trust in me and faith in me to go on with the future of this young team that we have. 

"They see that I can help and I can be a part of the leadership of this group. That's really big for me. 

"They showed loyalty and love towards me and my family. I was able to show them that I have potential. This is my first year being a starter and I've been able to show what I can do.

"I want them to know I'm going to give it my all. This is just the beginning for me."

The Cleveland Browns have activated tight end David Njoku off injured reserve ahead of their Week 14 encounter with Ohio rivals the Cincinnati Bengals.

Njoku, who has not played since suffering a wrist injury in the win over the New York Jets in Week 2, will now return to give quarterback Baker Mayfield another weapon over the final four games.

A first-round draft pick in 2017, he had four touchdowns in each of his first two seasons in the NFL and caught a pass in the end zone from Mayfield in Week 1 of the 2019 campaign against the Tennessee Titans.

The Browns are 5-7, two games back from the Pittsburgh Steelers, who currently hold the final berth in the wildcard race.

Eli Manning will start for the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 14 after Daniel Jones was officially ruled out of the game.

Quarterback Jones - who took over as the Giants' starter in Week 3, leading the team to back-to-back victories in his first two NFL outings - has not practiced all week due to a high ankle sprain.

The rookie suffered the injury in the 31-13 home loss to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday, a result that extended New York's losing streak to eight games.

Manning will now make his 245th start for the franchise in an all-NFC East battle in Philadelphia on Monday.

"He looks good. He's had a good week. He always has a good look in his eye," Giants offensive coordinator Mike Shula said on Friday.

The two-time Super Bowl winner will be aided in his return by the availability of Golden Tate. The wide receiver is set to feature after clearing concussion protocol, but tight end Evan Engram is again out.

They will also be without Jabrill Peppers; the safety has been placed on injured reserve, bringing an end to his campaign, due to a back injury. 

Sean Chandler - signed off the practice squad - takes Peppers' place on the roster, while the fit-again Kareem Martin replaces fellow linebacker Chris Peace, who - like Peppers - is also done for the season.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown has apologised to "the organisations I offended" as he bids to return to the NFL and "repair what I broke".

Brown is without a team after he was released by the New England Patriots earlier in the season amid allegations of sexual assault against him, which he strenuously denies, and misconduct.

The 31-year-old's departure from the Patriots in September was the latest move of a chaotic 12 months, with the player having also left the Pittsburgh Steelers and then the Oakland Raiders.

Brown clashed with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before getting a trade away from the Steelers, joining the Raiders.

However, he never played for Oakland, ultimately calling for the team to release him - and getting his wish - after numerous controversies, including a holdout with the NFL and a fine from the Raiders.

A stint with the Patriots was cut short, too, but Brown hopes to make amends - despite previously saying he would not return to the league.

"First and foremost, I'd like to apologise to my family, friends and anyone who I offended," he wrote on Instagram on Friday.

"I never once meant to make anyone feel like I wasn't thankful and appreciative of the opportunity that I was afforded to play the game I love. I've worked hard over the years to earn a chance to compete in the greatest game on earth.

"Over the years I was met with challenges and I can honestly say I didn't handle those challenges in the manner that I should have.

"Over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to think about everything that's transpired and I am deeply sorry to all who I've offended.

"While my behaviour was inexcusable, sometimes when people are coming at you with false information and allegations, we handle ourselves in ways that we sometimes regret.

"I do take full responsibility for my actions and I'm working everyday to repair what I broke.

"I do know that if I'm ever given the opportunity to play the game that I love, I'm going to work extremely hard to show the world how much I appreciate another chance.

"To the organisations that I offended, I offer my sincere apology to you and my hope is that you forgive me and help me move on from this minor setback. I look forward to competing and helping a team reach their goals."

Bill Belichick jokingly suggested he may try to tempt Wes Welker out of retirement as the New England Patriots continue to search for a solution to their kicking issues.

The Pats boast a 10-2 record this season despite having to chop and change the identity of their kicker, using four different players in the role so far.

Stephen Gostkowski was the starter before being placed on injured reserve and, after Mike Nugent failed to successfully fill the void, Nick Folk's spell with the team was cut short when he had an appendix operation.

Kai Forbath was on duty for the Week 13 defeat to the Houston Texans, kicking a field goal while landing one of his two extra-point attempts, but he was subsequently released on Monday.

While there are reports Folk may return to New England in time for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, they had still yet to have a recognised kicker on their roster early on Friday.

Asked about the situation in his news conference, Belichick said: "We will just have to see how it goes. We will go with what we've got, or… I don't know, see how it goes."

The Patriots head coach was then questioned over reports Folk is set to return, though when asked if an announcement was expected, he simply replied: "Nope".

Punter Jake Bailey is an option having accepted the added responsibility of kick-off duties in Gostkowski's absence, though Belichick seemed relaxed over the situation as he proposed the idea of a familiar face coming back to the team.

Welker's name cropped up during the media session as the wide receiver was occasionally utilised as an emergency kicker during his NFL career – including slotting over an extra point for the Pats in 2010.

"We were talking about him the other day – maybe we can see if we can round him up," Belichick jokingly said of Welker, who is now on the coaching staff at the San Francisco 49ers.

On a more serious note, he added: "If we lost three guys in any position it would be a problem."

Frustrated Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was cut off from a radio interview on Friday after swearing live on air.

The Cowboys slumped to 6-7 with defeat against the Chicago Bears on Thursday, after which Jones bemoaned "losing, losing, losing".

As pressure builds on Dallas head coach Jason Garrett, Jones was apparently still unhappy as he began an interview with 105.3 The Fan the next day.

The owner initially responded to criticism, saying: "Get your damn act together yourself, OK? Settle down just a little bit.

"I don't like your attitude to come in. I've been travelling all night and don't have the patience to jack with you today."

However, Jones was soon cut off following a question that suggested the team had "quit" on Garrett, as the 77-year-old complained about "bull****".

The station said Jones had been automatically taken off air by the studio system due to his swearing, although the interview then continued.

The Cowboys, who remain top of a poor NFC East, will hope to lift Jones' spirits against the Los Angeles Rams next week.

Odell Beckham Jr. may have admitted he was unsure of what the future holds, but the Browns receiver insisted that did not equate to unhappiness in Cleveland.

Former first-round pick Beckham was traded to the Browns by the New York Giants in the offseason but the three-time Pro Bowler has failed to live up to the hype.

He has caught just two touchdowns in 2019 and has gone six games without passing 100 yards receiving, a milestone he has only surpassed twice in 12 games.

With the Browns 5-7 and facing an uphill battle to make the postseason, Beckham was noncommittal when asked about his future on Thursday.

"What's the future hold? I don't know, I don't know the answers for that," he said at a news conference.

"Right now, I'm just taking it a day at a time, trying to finish healthy, trying to win these last four games and see what happens."

Beckham addressed the fallout from those comments on Friday, though he did not clarify if he wanted to remain a Brown beyond this season, with his contract in Cleveland running until 2023.

"Ok... I NEVER said I was not happy in Cleveland, just like everyone else I'm hopeful for better results. Period. Next story plzz," he wrote on Twitter.

The Chicago Bears are fearful linebacker Roquan Smith's pectoral injury may be serious.

Smith, the eighth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, left Chicago's 31-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys in the first quarter after trying, unsuccessfully, to stop Ezekiel Elliott scoring a touchdown.

It was the Bears' third straight victory, keeping them in the mix for a playoff berth in the NFC, but head coach Matt Nagy hinted Smith could be missing for his team's final three games.

The linebacker had arguably the best game of his career in Week 13, having contributed 16 tackles and two sacks in the Thanksgiving win over the Detroit Lions.

"He has a pec[toral injury]. We'll get more details here in the next couple of days," Nagy told reporters.

"It doesn't look real good for him.

"It could be a big loss. The way that Roquan has been playing the last couple of weeks, flying around, making plays, you just love that confidence that he's bringing to the defense.

"The depth that Ryan [Pace, Bears general manager] and his guys have created on this roster allows someone like Kevin Pierre-Louis to step up and make plays. You feel bad for Roquan but we know we have guys that can fill in."

The Bears season appeared to be heading south when they were beaten by the Los Angeles Rams in mid-November to drop to 4-6.

However, much-maligned quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's recent good form has helped to turn their campaign around, with the 25-year-old throwing six touchdowns and just two interceptions over the past two weeks.

"Right now, the identity between the defense and offense, it doesn't feel like one of those deals where if we don't hold them to under 14 points, we don't have a chance to win," Nagy added.

"We feel like we're finally, in all three phases, working together.

"When you have that, you know going into most games you're going to have a chance to win."

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did not try to sugarcoat his team's latest loss after they fell to a third straight defeat against the Chicago Bears on Thursday.

A 31-24 loss at Soldier Field increased the pressure on Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, who had been defended by Jones in the wake of the Thanksgiving defeat to the Buffalo Bills.

Jones had said he would not make a coaching change last week and was hopeful of the Cowboys embarking on a winning streak, but the latest loss leaves Dallas at 6-7, albeit they are still top of a poor NFC East.

Asked if he thought the team was "going backwards", Jones told reporters: "It's levelled out here. It's losing, losing, losing.

"I'm not trying to be funny here, but the point is that we've got to win a football game. I don't care what the standings are, what the numbers are."

Jones has already said he expects Garrett to be "coaching in the NFL next year", though he did not explicitly say that will be with his franchise.

Yet the Cowboys owner denied the uncertainty surrounding Garrett's position has led to Dallas' on-field struggles.

"The same way that my praise of them has contributed," he argued.

"You may have noticed I've been praising them too. So much for words, seriously. So much for words.

"I don't think so.

"We know that that score didn't indicate how bad they beat us. The score was a lot closer, they beat us real good."

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady played down his toe and elbow injuries as the NFL Super Bowl champions prepare to face the Kansas City Chiefs.

Patriots star Brady was limited in practice on Thursday, with a toe and right elbow issue hampering the veteran.

However, the 42-year-old – a six-time Super Bowl champion and four-time MVP in the NFL showpiece – made light of the injury report.

"That might be the first time my toe's ever been on the injury report. You know us Patriots," Brady told Westwood One Sports.

"We're pretty diligent about listing everything, so I guess we have to make mention of my toe now as well."

"Isn't there some HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] violation or something like that, when I start talking about all my injuries? I'm doing pretty good," Brady added of his elbow.

"At this time of the year, I'll take it. I'll take anything if I'm still able to go out there and feel like I can play my best. I'm feeling really good, really positive about this week. We have a really great challenge ahead of us."

Brady was speaking ahead of Sunday's showdown against the Chiefs (8-4), with the Patriots (10-2) looking to bounce back from last week's 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans.

"It is going to be a very, very tough game," Brady said. "Hopefully we can go out there and play with the fire and energy we have, and go out there and have a great performance."

In 12 games this season, Brady has completed 297 throws for 3,268 yards – fifth in the NFL – and 18 touchdowns.

Mitchell Trubisky led the way as the Chicago Bears boosted their NFL playoff hopes with a 31-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Bears quarterback Trubisky had four total touchdowns to help Chicago (7-6) to a third consecutive win on Thursday.

Trubisky – who finished 23 of 31 for 244 yards – threw three TD passes, while he also rushed for one against the slumping Cowboys in Chicago.

After being held scoreless in the second and third quarters, the Cowboys (6-7) rallied to outscore the Bears 17-7 in the final period.

However, the Bears held on to see off the Cowboys at Soldier Field and heap further pressure on under-fire head coach Jason Garrett following a third straight loss.

The Cowboys struck first on the road – running back Ezekiel Elliott rushing for a two-yard touchdown with six minutes remaining in the opening quarter for a 7-0 lead.

That was as good as it got for the Cowboys, with the Bears taking control courtesy of Trubisky's arm.

Trubisky connected with Allen Robinson on a five-yard touchdown pass to level the game at 7-7, after the Bears QB had highlighted the drive by throwing a 30-yard pass to JP Holtz.

The Bears settled for a 36-yard field goal, which Eddy Pineiro converted, before they moved 17-7 ahead thanks to Trubisky's pass to Robinson with 10 seconds remaining in the half.

That lead stretched out to 24-7 in the third quarter when a 14-yard touchdown pass from Trubisky found Anthony Miller, though Elliott's two-yard TD run reduced the deficit with 15 minutes remaining.

But Trubisky dashed the Cowboys' hopes after he ran for a 23-yard TD of his own to give the Bears a 31-14 advantage, with Dak Prescott's touchdown pass to Amari Cooper not enough for Dallas.

Cowboys quarterback Prescott was 27 of 49 for 334 yards and a touchdown.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner will miss Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals due to a shoulder injury.

Conner announced his absence after he was limited in practice for the second consecutive day on Thursday.

The 2018 NFL Pro Bowler has missed two straight games following a shoulder injury sustained against the Cleveland Browns on November 14.

Conner, who has missed five of the past six games hampered by injuries, told reporters: "I don't want to look too far ahead.

"It's still going to take some time. We'll see. Hopefully I can get out there as soon as possible, but this week, no."

"Just don't want to take none of the game reps away from some guys that are going to be active," Conner added. "Nice to get out there and just run around."

The Steelers are 7-5 for the season and second in the AFC North – in contention for the final wildcard spot amid a two-game winning streak.

"Honestly, taking it day-by-day," Conner said. "So whatever that may be, I'm not going to count it out until I'm done for sure."

Odell Beckham Jr. cast doubt over his future with the Cleveland Browns, saying he was unsure what was ahead.

Beckham has struggled to live up to expectations after being traded to the Browns from the New York Giants in March.

The 27-year-old has just two receiving touchdowns this NFL season – his career-low is three during an injury-affected 2017 campaign – and the Browns are 5-7, two games outside a wildcard berth.

And Beckham was noncommittal when asked about his future with the Browns on Thursday.

"What's the future hold? I don't know that, I don't know the answers for that," he told a news conference.

"Right now, I'm just taking it a day at a time, trying to finish the season healthy, trying to win these last four games and see what happens."

Beckham, a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, spent five seasons with the Giants and was named to three Pro Bowls.

The wide receiver said his future was not something he was focused on right now.

"I feel like I've been here before asking questions about the next team while I'm on a team already and it's just something I tune out right now," Beckham said.

"Catch me in the offseason and we'll see what happens. I don't know God's plans, I just follow his lead."

The Browns face the struggling Cincinnati Bengals (1-11) on Sunday.

The Buffalo Bills against Lamar Jackson's Baltimore Ravens is the stand-out match-up of the Week 14 NFL schedule.

Orchard Park plays host as the Ravens chase a ninth straight win, having moved to top spot in the AFC last week.

But that is far from the only game to keep an eye on in the coming days, with the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers meeting, while the New England Patriots take on the Kansas City Chiefs.

As division rivals the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks also face one another, there is plenty to look forward to.

Using data from Stats Perform, we take a closer look at all the Week 14 fixtures.

 

Jordan Veasy has credited Colin Kaepernick for helping him to get his latest NFL chance with the Washington Redskins.

Washington signed Veasy to their practice squad on Wednesday after he was released by the Buffalo Bills – the fourth team with whom the wide receiver had failed to nail down a spot since he went undrafted in 2018.

In between leaving Buffalo and getting the call from the Redskins, Veasy took part in Kaepernick's much discussed workout in Georgia last month.

The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback gave a demonstration that his skills are in fine order despite being without a team since the 2016 season, during which he polarised opinion by kneeling for the United States national anthem in protest against perceived racial injustice and police brutality.

Veasy was on hand to receive a deep ball down the left sideline that went viral on social media and, while Kaepernick remains unattached, the 24-year-old believes the upturn in his own prospects is not unrelated.

"It helped. That's one of the reasons I wanted to be a part of [the workout]," he told the Washington Post.

"Just being a part of the history of it, and I knew it was going to help me.”

Veasy said the experience of operating in tandem with Kaepernick's still "live arm" was "surreal", having been keeping himself in shape in his home city of Gadsden, Alabama.

"I was going to be in Gadsden running routes anyway," he added. "Might as well run 'em in front of some scouts."

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