Curran: Manning's injury will sink Colts

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Curran: Manning's injury will sink Colts

While much is uncertain about the Peyton Manning situation, there's one thing Tom E. Curran can say for sure.

"I can't imagine Kerry Collins (whom the Colts signed to step in for Manning) . . . keeping a team that's been kept afloat by Peyton Manning, up in that upper echelon of the AFC," said Curran.

And that's bad news for the Colts, since Manning's absence will be long-term. "I've read, and been told, that that two- to three-month timetable is a bit optimistic," said Curran.

In fact, there's a chance it could be permanent.

"Often in the NFL, you'll often see a player basically just disappear," said Curran. "It happened . . . with Sterling Sharpe, neck injury; it happened with Troy Aikman; it happened with Michael Irvin . . .

"When players' necks get screwed up and they are going through procedures that are not rapidly . . . giving them relief . . . it becomes almost a no-brainer that you have to stop playing football."

Mitchell rising fast but somehow totally unaware of fantasy football

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Mitchell rising fast but somehow totally unaware of fantasy football

FOXBORO -- It seems unlikely that a 23-year-old who has spent much of his life around sports would be unaware of how fantasy football works. But Malcolm Mitchell insisted on Friday that he was that 23-year-old. 

Over the last seven days, Mitchell has been the second-most added player in ESPN.com fantasy leagues behind only Steelers tight end Ladarius Green. The rookie wideout went undrafted in many fantasy leagues before the start of the regular season, but his production has spiked over the last three weeks making him one of a hot commodity for people headed into the fantasy playoffs.

In wins over the Niners, Jets and Rams, Mitchell has caught 17 passes for 222 yards and three scores. 

"I have family members mention it, but I never know what they're talking about," Mitchell said when asked if he was asked about his newfound popularity among fans of fantasy football. "I'm not sure how that works. If someone said it, I'd probably have no idea what it means."

A fewer lockers down from Mitchell is the stall of rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who cut into Mitchell's back-and-forth with reporters joking, "I've got him on my team!"

Mitchell's confusion over the phenomenon that is fantasy football seemed to be genuine as he asked questions about how teams operate and what fantasy free-agency means. 

Those who've picked him up probably don't mind that Mitchell is in the dark on the subject -- and the same goes for the Patriots coaching staff, it's safe to assume -- as long as he continues to do his job as well as he's done it in recent weeks. 

Griff Whalen practicing for Patriots, wearing No. 14

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Griff Whalen practicing for Patriots, wearing No. 14

FOXBORO -- The Patriots took to the practice field behind Gillette Stadium on Friday with all but one player. 

Wideout Danny Amendola was the only player not present at the session. Newly-acquired receiver Griff Whalen was present and wearing No. 14. 

Safety Jordan Richards was back on the practice field for the first time since suffering a knee injury against the Jets in Week 12. Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder), Elandon Roberts (hamstring), Eric Rowe (hamstring) and Matthew Slater (foot) were all limited in practice on Thursday, but were on the field Friday.