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NFL notes

Jets' Darnold to start

Sam Darnold is set to return as the New York Jets' starting quarterback Sunday against the Buffalo Bills as long as he has no further complications with his injured shoulder. 

Coach Adam Gase said Darnold, who was limited all three days at practice, would be monitored Friday to determine his playing status. The quarterback was officially listed as questionable on the team's injury report.

“Things are trending in the right direction," Gase said. "Hopefully, barring any setbacks, we'll get him going on Sundays — this Sunday.”

Darnold has missed the last two games with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder suffered in New York's loss to Denver on Oct. 1. He returned to finish that game, but has sat out since while Joe Flacco has started in his place.

If Darnold got through practice Friday with no issues, he'll be under center against the Bills.

"We'll roll, yeah," Gase said. “He'll be good.”

Despite being limited Wednesday and Thursday, Darnold was able to show the Jets enough progress in his recovery to make them optimistic about his chances of playing.

“He's looked good,” Gase said. "It's like one of those things where you don't see anything that is alarming or looks different. I'm sure he doesn't feel like he did in Game 1 of Week 1, but he's not giving us any indications where I don't see any lack of velocity. I haven't seen him throw any balls where they either die or he couldn't get the distance. I haven't seen any of that.

“Everything looks normal.”

Darnold said Thursday he was eager to get back on the field, but acknowledged there was still some pain in his shoulder at times — "but it’s nothing crazy. I feel like I’m capable of dealing with it.”

Gase said the team had to weigh that with what the doctors thought in order to make the best decision for Darnold and the Jets.

“It's not really like I'm worried about him re-hurting his shoulder or anything,” the coach said. “It's just more that he's in pain. There's a little bit of pain there for him that he's not complaining about to the extent where it's like we shouldn't play him type of deal.

“He wants to play. That was the biggest decision we had to make as a group was, is this the right thing to do? He wasn't really looking to take no for an answer.”

The 0-6 Jets have struggled on offense all season, even when Darnold was playing. They rank last or close to last in the league in several significant categories. But having the athletic 23-year-old quarterback in the lineup at least gives Gase some flexibility with his play calling as opposed to having the 35-year-old Flacco in.

Giants trade Golden to Cards

The New York Giants have traded linebacker Markus Golden to the Arizona Cardinals for a sixth-round draft pick in 2021.

The Giants announced the deal on Friday, less than 24 hours after losing a heart-breaker to Philadelphia to fall to 1-6. The NFL trading deadline is Nov. 3 and the Giants may be a seller with their chances of making the playoffs slipping.

Arizona needs depth at linebacker after losing 2019 All-Pro Chandler Jones for the season because of a biceps injury sustained on Oct 11 against the Jets.

Golden played his first four seasons with the Cardinals before signing with the Giants as a free agent last year. He led New York with 10 1/2 sacks last season but his playing time decreased with the new coaching staff.

Golden was a free agent after last season but he was unable to get a new contract. The Giants re-signed him on Aug. 4. He had 10 tackles, 1 [1/2] sacks, four quarterback hits and one pass defensed. He played 27 snaps against the Eagles and had a sack.

The Giants signed defensive end/linebacker Jabaal Sheard last week. Fellow linebacker Oshane Ximines (shoulder) also is eligible to come off injured reserve for New York's next game, at home against Tampa Bay on Nov. 2.

Golden played in 46 regular-season games with 24 starts when he was with the Cardinals from 2015-18. He also started two postseason games. Golden had 142 tackles, 19 sacks, three passes defensed, six forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery for the Cards.

The Giants are scheduled to play host to the Cardinals in MetLife Stadium on Dec. 13.

Former Vikings LB Blair dies

Matt Blair, one of the great linebackers in Minnesota Vikings history and a six-time Pro Bowler who played in two Super Bowls, has died. He was 70 years old.

His death was announced by the team. Blair, who had been suffering from dementia, died Thursday after an extended period in hospice care, according to the Star Tribune.

"He'd been suffering for a while, so I guess maybe it's a blessing in disguise," former teammate Scott Studwell told the newspaper. "But it's still too young. It's a sad day."

Vikings owner Mark Wilf said in a statement: "Matt Blair was a great presence at Vikings events and a tremendous teammate long after playing. He embodied the best of what it means to be a Viking. Matt is a Ring of Honor player whose legacy will live on forever with the franchise and in the community he loved."

Drafted in the second round out of Iowa State in 1974, Blair played all 12 of his NFL seasons for the Vikings, from 1974 to 1985. He started 130 of the 160 regular-season games he played, racking up 1,452 tackles, the second most in team history.

He finished his career with 16 interceptions, 20 fumble recoveries and 20 blocked punts, extra points and field goals.

In a 2015 interview with the Star Tribune, then-64-year-old Blair began crying, saying a neurologist told him and his wife, Mary Beth, that his early signs of dementia were likely the result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to concussions. CTE cannot be diagnosed until after death.

Bengals' Mixon out

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is out with a foot injury and won't play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

Mixon injured his right foot in the first half of last week's game with the Indianapolis Colts but later returned. He didn't practice this week and was ruled out Friday. The Bengals didn't disclose the specific nature of the injury.

Giovani Bernard likely will get the start at running back with Mixon unavailable.

Mixon has 428 yards and three touchdowns this season and averages 3.6 yards per carry. He also has 138 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Saints' Sanders, Thomas out

New Orleans Saints receiver Emmanuel Sanders has tested positive for COVID-19 and Michael Thomas remained unable to practice on Friday because of a recent hamstring injury. Neither will be able to play Sunday against Carolina.

Thomas, the 2019 AP Offensive Player of the Year after setting an NFL record with 149 catches in a season, was listed as out on the Saints' final injury report of the week. He has not played since the season opener, when he caught three passes for 17 yards before spraining his ankle when running back Latavius Murray was tackled into the back of the star receiver's lower legs.

He was on schedule to return from the ankle injury in Week 5, only to be benched because of an outburst at practice in which he punched defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson. His punishment was lifted during the Saints' Week 6 bye, but now he has a new lower-body injury, the severity of which Payton did not want to discuss.

"I'm not going to get into details but it's something he's working through and we'll leave it at that," Payton said.

Sanders had a career-high 12 catches for 122 yards in New Orleans' last game, a 30-27 triumph over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5. He has caught 26 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns this season for the Saints (3-2).

Sanders practiced on Thursday but was not feeling well afterward and was immediately tested for COVID-19.

When Sanders' test came back positive, Payton said a combination of players and coaches totaling about 20 people who might have been close to Sanders were tested and all were negative.

Payton said the club has already determined that there was no issue with its coronavirus protocols

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