Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy out with appendicitis, expects to be on sideline against Eagles

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy is away from the team to undergo surgery for appendicitis but expects to be on the sideline Sunday night for a highly anticipated rematch with Philadelphia.

The team said McCarthy was hospitalized after experiencing abdominal pain Wednesday morning. He was expected to have surgery in the afternoon and be released later in the day.

Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, a former head coach in Atlanta, addressed reporters during McCarthy's regularly scheduled news conference Wednesday. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was expected to handle those duties Thursday.

McCarthy, who turned 60 last month, is in his fourth season as coach of the Cowboys but first as the play-caller. Quinn didn't want to address a contingency plan for play-calling since he was expecting McCarthy to be available for the game.

The Cowboys (9-3) trail the defending NFC champion Eagles (10-2) by a game in the NFC East. Dallas takes a 14-game home winning streak into the rematch and needs a victory to maintain realistic hopes of taking the division crown from Philadelphia. The Eagles won the first meeting 28-23 in Philadelphia.


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Zach Wilson to start at quarterback for the Jets on Sunday against the Texans

Zach Wilson is back in as the New York Jets’ starting quarterback.

Wilson, benched for two games after struggling in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers, will be under center for the Jets’ home game Sunday against the Houston Texans.

Coach Robert Saleh announced the decision to start Wilson on Wednesday, a day after New York waived Boyle following two ineffective starts and signed Brett Rypien off Seattle’s practice squad. The Jets also have veteran Trevor Siemian, who replaced Boyle in the fourth quarter of New York’s 13-8 loss to Atlanta last Sunday.

“Zach gives us the best chance to win,” Saleh said.

Siemian will serve as Wilson's backup and Rypien will be the emergency No. 3 quarterback.

The Jets (4-8) have lost five in a row and appear headed to a 13th straight season without a playoff berth. It’s the NFL’s longest active postseason drought.


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Panthers say goodbye to Spartanburg, will host training camp in Charlotte next summer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers are staying home next summer for training camp.

The Panthers have joined a growing trend of NFL teams who’ve decided to streamline football operations by remaining at the team headquarters where they train year-round. The Panthers were one of just six NFL teams still hosting training camp away from home.

The Panthers have held training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., every year since their inception in 1995, with the exception of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic when it was held in Charlotte.

Wofford College is the alma mater of late Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who sold the team to David Tepper in 2018.

“We’re excited to hold training camp at our facility in Charlotte,” Panthers president Kristi Coleman said on the team's website. “We appreciate Wofford and the Spartanburg community for their hospitality over the years.”

The Panthers say they're working through logistics on how best to accommodate fans during camp as they don't have the same room they had at Wofford College. More details will be announced at a later date.

The team also announced it is removing its dome practice field as part of a larger effort to upgrade the team’s practice and training facilities. The dome will be removed after the season and work will begin on the new practice fields.

The changes, which are expected to be completed by next summer, will allow the Panthers to have three full-length practice fields, which is how it was before Tepper built the dome after buying the team.

The layout will provide additional space to practice and the opportunity to rotate fields to minimize wear and tear, per the team.

“Removal of the Dome is the start of an ongoing process to upgrade the team’s facilities,” said Caroline Wright, the senior vice president and chief venues officer at Tepper Sports & Entertainment. “Future changes and enhancements include modifications to the fields with the goal of constructing a field house for football operations and community opportunities. In the interim, the team will be exploring options to hold practices indoors, should the need arise.”

The Panthers had planned to move their team headquarters and practice fields to Rock Hill, South Carolina, but the deal fell through with the state-of-the-art facility half built.

The Panthers will kick off the season with Fan Fest in South Carolina and will hold Back Together Football in Charlotte.


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Bills GM says edge rusher Von Miller to practice and play while facing domestic violence charge

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Though disappointed in the allegations of domestic violence made against Von Miller, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane stressed on Wednesday that he wants the legal process to play out and not rush to making any judgements.

Otherwise, Beane said, Miller will participate in practice and is expected to play on Sunday when the Bills (6-6) travel to play the Kansas City Chiefs (8-4). Beane spoke for the team as the Bills returned from their bye week off, and a week after Miller turned himself in to police in a Dallas suburb after being charged in a warrant with domestic violence against the mother of his children, who is pregnant.

Miller faces a charge of third-degree felony assault of a pregnant woman, which is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He is free after posting a $5,000 bond.

“No one wants their name associated with any accusation like that, so that’s a natural disappointment. I’m sure he’s disappointed,” Beane said. “But things happen sometimes, and again, we have to remember people, we have to give them their fair due process. That can happen to anyone in this room. And I would hope we would all wait and let that play out before we rush to judgement."

Saying the Bills are following the NFL's lead, Beane called the allegations serious while adding they seemed “out of character” for a person he’s come to know over the past year and a half since signing Miller in free agency.

In Dallas, the district attorney's office informed The Associated Press on Wednesday that it had no updates on the investigation since Miller turned himself in a day after the alleged assault occurred on Nov. 29. According to a police affidavit which officers wrote, Miller twice put his hands on the neck of the woman, pulled out a chunk of her hair and threw her onto a couch. The woman was treated for minor injuries, including bruising on her neck, police said.

The woman and Miller have been in a relationship for seven years and have children together, police wrote in an affidavit supporting the arrest warrant.

Speaking after Beane, Bills coach Sean McDermott said Miller wasn’t going to practice on Wednesday but will practice fully on Thursday as part of a plan that was put in place before the bye week.

As for the allegations, McDermott said: “It’s a very, very serious situation. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about that.” The coach then deferred to Beane in saying the GM spoke for the team, while McDermott was placing his focus on practice.

Beane said he’s discussed what happened with Miller and his representatives but preferred keeping those conversations private. Beane said he’s also been in contact with the NFL and doesn’t anticipate Commissioner Roger Goodell placing Miller on the exempt list.

The NFL issued a statement on Wednesday saying it continues gathering information and following all legal developments.

In the past, players aren’t placed on the commissioner’s exempt list until formal charges are filed by a prosecutor or through the findings of a grand jury, or when the league’s own investigation concludes there was a potential violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

The woman told police she was six weeks pregnant and showed them a photograph of a positive pregnancy test and a screenshot of a text conversation with Miller in which they discussed the possible due date of the child and a doctor visit.

According to police, Miller threw the woman's laptop on the couch and stomped on it. After pulling out some of her hair and throwing her on a couch, he put both hands on her neck. She told police she recorded some of the attack and, when she threatened to call police, he left.

Miller is the NFL’s active leader in sacks with 123 1/2, which is 19th all-time. Selected No. 2 overall by the Denver Broncos in the 2011 NFL draft, he is a three-time All-Pro and an eight-time Pro Bowl pick. A popular and highly visible player, he has appeared in television commercials for brands including Old Spice and Progressive.

He has two Super Bowl rings, from the 2015 season with the Broncos and 2021 with the Rams after Denver traded him to Los Angeles during that season. He then signed with Buffalo the following spring.

Miller was born in DeSoto, south of Dallas, and was a two-time first-team All-American at Texas A&M. He holds the Broncos’ career record in sacks with 110 1/2.


Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.


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Oddsmakers set historic low over/under totals in 2 NFL games this week

The oddsmakers aren't expecting many points in a couple of NFL games this week.

According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the over/under for the Patriots-Steelers game on Thursday night and the Jaguars-Browns game on Sunday are both currently set at 30.5 points.

Sportradar has tracked over-unders for the past 15 seasons and that would be the lowest total in that span, beating the 32.5 for a Saints-Browns game in Week 16 last season and a Browns-Steelers game in Week 14 of the 2009 season. Both those games finished under.

There are good reasons for those low totals. The Patriots are last in the league in scoring at 12.3 points per game for the lowest average for any team at this point in the season since 2011.

The Steelers are set to start Mitch Trubisky at quarterback with starter Kenny Pickett hurt.

The Browns and Jaguars also could both be using backup quarterbacks with Joe Flacco expected to make his second start of the season for Cleveland after being signed off the street late last month and Trevor Lawrence's status in doubt for Jacksonville because of a sprained ankle. C.J. Beathard, who hasn't started a game since 2020, would likely start in Lawrence's place.


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Offensive struggles mount for the Patriots, Giants and Jets

Inside the Numbers dives into NFL statistics, streaks and trends each week. For more Inside the Numbers, head here.


It's been more than a decade since the NFL featured three offenses as challenged as the ones for the New England Patriots, New York Jets and New York Giants.

Blame it on quarterback injuries, bad rosters, poor coaching and downright bad play, those three teams rank at the bottom of the NFL in scoring.

The Jets rank 30th at 14.3 points per game, followed by the Giants at 13.3 and the Patriots at 12.3 — marking the first time since 2011 that three teams scored fewer than 15 points per game in the first 12 contests.

Coach Bill Belichick's Patriots are easily the worst of the three offenses as the lowest-scoring team through 12 games since the 2011 Rams were at 11.7.

New England has been shut out twice at home for the first time ever after losing 6-0 to the Chargers last week and is the first team since 1938 to lose three straight games while allowing 10 or fewer points in each of them.

The Patriots had lost 10-6 to the Colts and 10-7 to the Giants in the previous two games. The last team to do that was the Chicago Cardinals, who lost four in a row when allowing 10 or fewer points each game in 1938 when players still wore leather helmets and teams ran the ball more than twice as often as throwing it.

New England will try to break that streak on Thursday night against Pittsburgh in a game projected to have few points scored. With the Steelers set to start Mitch Trubisky at quarterback and the Patriots likely going to Bailey Zappe for a second straight game, the over-under for the game has been set at 30.5 points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Sportradar has tracked over-unders for the past 15 seasons and that would be the lowest total in that span, beating the 32.5 for a Saints-Browns game in Week 16 last season and a Browns-Steelers game in Week 14 of the 2009 season. Both those games finished under.

Making matters worse for the Jets and Patriots is the fact their defenses have been playing at a high level for much of the season. The Jets (4-8) are allowing 19.6 points per game — excluding defensive and special teams scores — and the Patriots (2-10) are even better at 18.6.

They are the only two teams since at least 2000 to have losing records after 12 games, while allowing less than 20 points per game to opposing offenses.

The Jets have scored only 10 offensive touchdowns, the fewest through 12 games since the 1993 Bengals also had 10.

The issues for the Giants revolve around a poor offensive line and quarterbacks who hold onto the ball too long. New York has taken 69 sacks so far this season for the second most through 12 games to the 73 taken by the Eagles in 1986.


The San Francisco 49ers have been at their best against the toughest competition.

San Francisco handed Philadelphia its second loss of the season with a 42-19 victory that featured six straight drives for the 49ers that ended in touchdowns.

The Niners now have four wins by at least 23 points against teams that are currently in playoff position, having also beaten Pittsburgh 30-7, Dallas 42-10 and Jacksonville 34-3.

Only two teams in NFL history have ever had three wins by at least 23 points against teams that made the playoffs with Kansas City doing it in 2021 and Green Bay in 1996.

San Francisco has outscored teams in playoff position by 102 points in six games — including losses to Cleveland and Minnesota. The plus-17 points per game differential against playoff teams would rank third best among the 1,290 teams that have had at least five games against playoff teams, trailing only the 2007 Patriots (+19.7 points per game) and the 2014 Patriots (+18.0).


The Cowboys head into Sunday's showdown against Philadelphia on a dominant run at home with their 14 straight wins in Dallas in the regular season and playoffs being the second-longest streak in the last 10 seasons to New England's 21-gamer from 2017-19.

The Cowboys have tied an NFL record by scoring at least 40 points in four straight home games, joining the Bengals (2013), Rams (2000), Chargers (1960-61) and Lions (1952). Dallas has also scored at least 30 points in seven straight home games, tied for the third longest ever.

The recent play from quarterback Dak Prescott is a big reason why. He has 20 TD passes and only two interceptions in his last six games. Prescott threw 16 TD passes in November, the 11th time a QB has thrown for that many TDs in a single month.


Cincinnati's Jake Browning made the five-year wait between wins as a starting QB worthwhile.

Filling in for the injured Joe Burrow, Browning delivered an impressive performance, going 32 for 37 for 354 yards with one TD pass and one TD run in a 34-31 overtime win over Jacksonville in his second career NFL start. Browning's last win as a starter came in the 2018 Pac-12 title game for Washington against Utah.

Browning joined Vinny Testaverde (1992 vs. Green Bay) as the only players ever to throw for at least 350 yards, complete at least 85% of his passes and have a TD run and pass in the same game.

Browning also had the 11th game ever with at least 35 attempts and an 85% or better completion percentage with Drew Brees the only player to do it twice. The others who did it once each were Rich Gannon, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.


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Lions lose best interior defensive lineman, putting Alim McNeill (knee) on injured reserve

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions put their best interior defensive lineman, Alim McNeill, on injured reserve with a knee injury and signed cornerback Kindle Vildor off the practice squad.

Detroit also added Tyson Alualu and Matt Farniok to the practice squad and released linebacker Raymond Johnson from it.

The NFC North-leading Lions (9-3) made the moves Tuesday, two days after McNeill was injured in a win at New Orleans. Detroit will play at Chicago (4-8) on Sunday.

McNeill made 31 tackles and six were for losses, including a career-high five sacks. He also a forced fumble and defended a pass. McNeill has started 35 games over three years with the Lions.

Vildor played in two games earlier this season with Tennessee. He started in 22 of 44 games the previous three years in Chicago, with 97 tackles and an interception.

The 36-year-old Alualu played in 17 games, including two starts, last season in Pittsburgh. He has started 113 of 191 games over three seasons with the Steelers and six in Jacksonville, with 416 career tackles and 25 sacks.


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Bailey Zappe appears likely to make his 2nd straight start for the offensively challenged Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — All signs point to quarterback Bailey Zappe making his second straight start for the New England Patriots on Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 2022 fourth-round pick addressed the media from the podium on Tuesday, usually a good sign when trying to figure out who will be under center for the next game. Still, Zappe prefers to have coach Bill Belichick make the official declaration in advance of the prime-time matchup.

“Coach has made it pretty clear, but I’ll let him announce it to everyone,” Zappe said. “That’s private right now, and whenever he announces it, that’s with him. I try to prepare every week like I’m the guy. Nothing different from me.”

Zappe’s first start of the season didn’t feature a turnover, an area that plagued Mac Jones during the 11 games he started for New England this year. But there was more bad news than good: Zappe didn't lead the Patriots to the end zone in a 6-0 home loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Patriots have lost five straight and rank last in scoring offense (12.3 points per game).

“There were some misreads and misfires by me. Just been working on that stuff as much as possible,” Zappe said. “There weren’t any questions as far as the operation. We didn’t have any questions as far as the plays. We got to the line (of scrimmage) and we were rolling.”

Because of the quick turnaround, Zappe spent a portion of Sunday night preparing for a Pittsburgh team that’s in the AFC playoff mix. The Patriots held their lone on-field practice of the week on Tuesday.

“We have a short week so it’s about mental reps,” Zappe said.

Not much has gone well for the Patriots this season. The team has lost 10 games for the first time since 2000, Belichick's first season on the New England sideline.

But the 24-year-old Zappe is finding some positives from the work he's put in to get an opportunity to start.

After all, he was released by the Patriots near the end of training camp. He signed to the practice squad with the team that drafted him, then made the 53-man roster ahead of the season opener. And now he's fielding questions from the podium.

“It’s been a long ride. (Sunday) was an amazing opportunity,” he said. “This is the place I want to be. I want to play for guys that I have built a relationship with over the past two years. I want to play for (offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien) and coach Belichick.”

Zappe believes he's been able to stay levelheaded during the Patriots' ugly season.

“Control what you can control. It’s what we say around here. I’m not really big into those things. I’m really cool, calm, and collected,” Zappe said. “That’s how my dad brought me up. That’s how my mom brought me up. I don’t really try to dive into trying to overwhelm myself. I try to control what I can control. Whatever my read is, I try to do my best. If something happens and I make a mistake, I try to go back and learn from it. I try to not really dive into and ride the roller coaster.”

NOTES: It’s likely the Patriots won’t have leading rusher Rhamondre Stevenson on Thursday. Stevenson was injured in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, and he did not participate in Tuesday’s practice.


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Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland shrugs off blip in historic season as Eagles await

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — From pick-6s to picked apart, DaRon Bland has seen a sudden change in his breakout season as the Dallas cornerback prepares to face A.J. Brown and company in an anticipated rematch with Philadelphia.

One thing about Bland, he bounced back from getting burned for 107 yards in the first quarter by Seattle's D.K. Metcalf to getting his NFL-leading eighth interception in the second half.

And another thing about the league's new record holder for interception returns for a touchdown in a season with five, Bland probably never worried much about it in the first place.

The unheralded 2022 fifth-round pick out of Fresno State didn't change his low-key persona as the pick-6s piled up.

Bland also wasn't flustered much when the Cowboys decided to keep veteran Stephon Gilmore on Metcalf after Bland's early struggles in the 41-35 victory over the Seahawks last week.

“I probably wouldn’t have done that,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said, “if I was worried about how somebody would react to it.”

The penchant for interceptions didn't start when Bland grabbed a fluttering ball and ran 22 yards for a score after a hit by Trevon Diggs on New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley in the opener.

Bland led the Cowboys with five interceptions as a rookie last season, and he's the only player with at least 10 since he entered the league. Bland has 13.

The NFL record for pick-6s in a season fell when Bland got the last two in consecutive weeks against Carolina and Washington.

“It’s just opportunities,” Bland said. “You can’t chase a pick-6 or you’re going to get a touchdown scored on you. When it comes, you’ve just got to be ready.”

Being a low-round draft pick wasn't really a new experience, either.

Bland took the only scholarship offer he had, a notch below college's highest level at Sacramento State of the Football Championship Subdivision. He transferred to Fresno State for his final season, and caught the eye of Cowboys defensive backs coach Al Harris.

There were 15 players listed as cornerbacks taken ahead of Bland in the 2022 draft, and another dozen with the more generic tag of defensive back, which he had.

Bland played all 17 games as a rookie, with eight starts, and now all those players, and every other cornerback in the NFL, are listed behind him in the latest Pro Football Focus rankings at the position, despite the hiccup against the Seahawks.

There won't be anywhere for Bland to hide Sunday night against the defending NFC champion Eagles (10-2), who beat the Cowboys (9-3) by five at home, but had their NFC East lead trimmed to a game with a loss to San Francisco last weekend.

DeVonta Smith starts opposite Brown for quarterback Jalen Hurts, an MVP candidate along with Dallas QB Dak Prescott. There will be chances for Bland to get burned again.

“I think it’s life in the NFL. It’s the reality of what these men compete in,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I don’t anticipate any change in the way he approaches it and the way he plays.”

Less than two weeks after triggering Bland's first interception return for a score, Diggs sustained a season-ending knee injury in practice.

Suddenly, Bland was starting outside opposite Gilmore instead of in the slot. The second pick-6 came in Bland's second game in that role, the third three more games after that.

“Nothing changed,” Bland said. “Just try to keep that same mindset coming in. Just try to keep attacking and be sound. It was definitely devastating when he first went down.”

Metcalf's 73-yard touchdown on Seattle's third play came when Bland tried to step in front of a slant route to knock the ball down, not intercept it. He's been praised for staying within the scheme as the 24-year-old closed in on history.

“As humans, you have four pick-6s to tie the record, you can’t help but just, ‘I want to break this record. I’m going to make this play,’” safety Jayron Kearse said. “With him, it’s just been, what’s meant to happen is going to happen, regardless.”

Bland broke the record when he jumped a sideline route against Washington, and brought Sam Howell's pass back 63 yards, breaking Howell's attempt at a tackle and sidestepping receiver Terry McLaurin and running back Brian Robinson Jr., who collided around the 10-yard line trying to bring Bland down.

“To witness something like that from such a down to earth, young player, a genuine guy. He’s a quiet kid. And he just comes to work,” Kearse said. “The right person did it, a guy that’s deserving, that came in and went straight to work from day one.”

Kearse is in his eighth season, still looking for his first pick-6. So he chuckled at being asked what he sees as the key to bringing an interception all the way back.

“I don’t know,” Kearse said with a smile. “He’s the right guy to talk to when it comes to that. Whatever he says, it’s law.”

Anyone listening will have to lean in for Bland's answer. It won't be very loud.


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Roger Goodell says football will become a global sport in a decade

LAS VEGAS (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sees football becoming a global sport within the next decade, with his league at the forefront of that effort.

That includes, Goodell said Tuesday, adding another international market to next year's regular-season schedule. He wasn't specific, but Brazil and Spain are the front-runners. An announcement is expected in the next month or two.

“We’re really excited about that,” Goodell said of entering a new market. “I don’t see that as much as expanding the number of franchises as I do expanding the opportunity for people to really just enjoy the game.”

Goodell was speaking at a forum that included officials from Las Vegas teams and events to promote the Super Bowl, which will be played at Allegiant Stadium on Feb. 11.

He said the league's championship game will return to Las Vegas many times after this season.

“I think probably I would not have said 10 years ago that I would see myself sitting here for a Super Bowl,” Goodell said. “But I’m not surprised because I think the leadership here in this community saw the opportunity and had the vision. One thing I’ve seen, when they get involved, they’re going to get something.”

Goodell said, according to CBS, that advertising sold out for this Super Bowl earlier than usual.

The Super Bowl was touted at the forum as the biggest event to ever occur in Las Vegas, a city known for hosting major events, including a Formula One race that recently took place.

But now the city also is becoming known as a professional sports town, and the Raiders have played no small part in that.

“(The NFL's) commitment to Las Vegas matters to us,” said Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “You have changed Las Vegas. Allegiant Stadium has changed Las Vegas.”

Goodell said Las Vegas even furthers the mission to grow the game globally because it's an international destination.

He said the fact the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles is adding flag football will benefit the NFL's mission to grow the game beyond the nation's shores.

That has been the league's goal since it began playing regular-season in other countries about 15 years ago. Five regular-season games were played overseas this season — three in the London and two in Germany.

“I am convinced that this game is going to be a global sport,” Goodell said. "We could've sold over our two games in Germany 4.5 million tickets. They sold out in minutes. And it’s literally the same with the U.K. I think you’re going to see a very global NFL, not necessarily with franchises, but maybe like have one playing games on a global basis. And I see that happening in the next five to 10 years."


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Mitch Trubisky thinks he can still be a starting quarterback. His next chance begins Thursday

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mitch Trubisky insists he's too worried about the New England Patriots to think about how the next few weeks might affect the arc of his career.

Still, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2017 may be running out of opportunities to prove he can be an NFL starting quarterback. His next chance will begin on Thursday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) host the reeling Patriots (2-10).

Kenny Pickett, who leapfrogged Trubisky on the depth chart 14 months ago, is out indefinitely after undergoing right ankle surgery on Monday.

Enter Trubisky, who at 29 believes he can still deliver on the talent that made the Chicago Bears trade up to take him ahead of players such as Patrick Mahomes and Christian McCaffrey.

Not that Trubisky wants to talk about it.

Asked if he feels as if the next month is an audition of sorts — be it in Pittsburgh (where Pickett remains a work in progress), or elsewhere — Trubisky simply shrugged and said repeatedly he's simply “excited” for the chance to be on the field to prove he's not quite ready to be a career backup.

“I’m still growing,” he said. “I’m still learning and trying to get better every day. I’ve got some experience under my belt, but I’ve made some good plays and for me it’s going to be (about) consistency.”

It always is with Trubisky, who can tantalize with his athleticism one minute and throw an ill-advised pass into triple coverage the next.

It's been that way basically from the moment Trubisky entered the league. He endured four turbulent years in Chicago then spent a season hitting the reset button behind Josh Allen in Buffalo in 2021 before signing with the Steelers in the spring of 2022.

Pittsburgh offered a chance at a fresh start. It hasn't exactly worked out that way. The Steelers drafted Pickett weeks after even though Trubisky emerged from training camp as the starter, the leash was short. A month into the season, Trubisky was benched.

He took the demotion gracefully, and a player who knows what it's like to enter the league with outsized expectations has tried to help Pickett deal with them while not being overcome by them.

The results have been mixed, with Pickett's best attribute being that he simply doesn't make the kind of mistakes that cost the Steelers games.

He also, however, has struggled to be a difference-maker, too often settling for the safe (and sometimes ineffective) throw when the moment requires more.

That won't be a problem with Trubisky, who has never met a needle he didn't like to thread, regardless of the results. He's become a frequent sub during Pickett's injury-marked tenure and has already filled in three times this season after Pickett left for various reasons.

Trubisky's numbers when getting thrust into the middle of games this season have been merely OK. He's completed 29 of 49 passes for 273 yards with two touchdowns and two picks and has yet to orchestrate a comeback win.

Yet his mindset is decidedly different than the cautious-to-a-fault Pickett. Trubisky, who has far less to lose at this point than the player the Steelers have anointed as their next franchise quarterback, has no issues letting it fly.

For better or for worse.

Against Jacksonville on Oct. 29, the Steelers had the ball trailing by a touchdown with 10 minutes to go when Trubisky tried to hit Allen Robinson running down the seam near midfield. One problem: there were three Jaguars blanketing Robinson, including safety Andrew Wingard, who stepped in front of the pass to end any comeback hope.

In the third quarter against the Cardinals, Pittsburgh had a chance to make it interesting when Trubisky tried essentially the same play, throwing a pass into a tight window to a streaking Connor Heyward at the goal line.

The ball somehow made it between two defenders only to glance off Heyward's outstretched hands. The Steelers missed a field goal a moment later and the game was essentially over.

While Trubisky knows he needs to take care of the ball, he also understands the Steelers can't remain a legitimate AFC playoff contender if they only reach the end zone once a game.

“You've got to find ways to score points,” he said. “So I’m trying to be that catalyst that will be a difference-maker, whether you're starting or coming off the bench.”

Trubisky, however, allowed he'll be “calmer” on Thursday than the customary adrenaline spike that comes when being thrust onto the field in the middle of the game.

While interim offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner doesn't think the offense will change much with Trubisky behind center, Trubisky will get a chance to have input on the game plan, which doesn't happen most weeks.

“There is a personality there for him that’s different than (Pickett) just because they’re different people,” Faulkner said.

At different stages of their careers. The Steelers are still heavily invested in Pickett going forward and Trubisky is under contract through the 2024 season to essentially be the backup.

All of that could change over the next handful of games. If Trubisky flourishes and the Steelers reach the playoffs thanks in part to the offense instead of almost because of it, maybe the dynamic in the quarterback room will change by training camp.

Or maybe another team will see Trubisky and view him as a potential stop-gap and make Pittsburgh an offer.

Everything is on the table for a player who has a Pro Bowl on his resume and faith that his best football is in front of him, not behind him.

“I'm just going to go out and play my game.”


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Patrick Mahomes headlines list of nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award

Two-time league MVP Patrick Mahomes headlines the list of 32 players chosen as finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.

Each of the teams nominated one player for the prestigious honor named for the late Payton, a Hall of Fame running back for the Bears. The award recognizes a player for community service and excellence on the field. It has been given annually since 1970 and will be presented at “NFL Honors,” the TV show on Feb. 8, during which The Associated Press reveals its individual seasonal award winners.

Mahomes will try to join the award’s namesake, Payton, and nine other players who have won both the NFL MVP and the NFL Man of the Year Award. The others who have pulled off that double are: Kurt Warner, LaDainian Tomlinson, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, John Elway, Joe Theismann, Ken Anderson and Johnny Unitas.

All 32 nominees will receive a donation of up to $55,000 in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of his choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide. Along with the other 31 nominees, Mahomes will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.

Mahomes was nominated for his work with his foundation, 15 and the Mahomies Foundation, which has placed an emphasis on improving the lives of children with a continued focus on supporting health, wellness, and various communities in need of resources. To date, more than $4 million in grants and programs have been distributed by the foundation.

In addition, Mahomes has donated $1.625 million as well $1,500 for every touchdown in the regular season to Boys and Girls Clubs of America in addition to his $1.625 million donation. He has also partnered with Make-A-Wish to grant wishes of 10 children who have life-threatening illnesses.

“As a dad of two, it means the world to me to be able to provide opportunities and support to underserved youth, and my family and I are so humbled to be in the running for an award that means so much to the Chiefs organization and to our community,” Mahomes said in a statement. “It’s crazy to see the way 15 and the Mahomies has grown and continues to make more and more of a difference for kids here in Kansas City, across Texas and beyond.”

Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott won the award last season. Among the other active players who have previously won the award are Denver's Russell Wilson and Atlanta's Calais Campbell.

The nominees:

Jonathan Ledbetter, Cardinals

Bradley Pinion, Falcons

Roquan Smith, Ravens

Dion Dawkins, Bills

Bradley Bozeman, Panthers

Justin Jones, Bears

Ted Karras, Bengals

Anthony Walker Jr., Browns

DeMarcus Lawrence, Cowboys

Garett Bolles, Broncos

Frank Ragnow, Lions

De’Vondre Campbell, Packers

Jon Weeks, Texans

Zaire Franklin, Colts

Dawuane Smoot, Jaguars

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

Maxx Crosby, Raiders

Derwin James Jr., Chargers

Cooper Kupp, Rams

Alec Ingold, Dolphins

Harrison Phillips, Vikings

Jonathan Jones, Patriots

Tyrann Mathieu, Saints

Saquon Barkley, Giants

Solomon Thomas, Jets

Lane Johnson, Eagles

Cameron Heyward, Steelers

Arik Armstead, 49ers

Bobby Wagner, Seahawks

Antoine Winfield Jr., Buccaneers

Jeffery Simmons, Titans

Terry McLaurin, Commanders


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