NFL rumors roundup

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Here's a look at some of the top rumors for Monday, Nov. 30:

  • As New England holds its collective breath awaiting word on Rob Gronkowski's knee injury, NFL Network's Albert Breer tweeted some news on another major injury that severely hampered the Patriots during their Sunday night loss to the Denver Broncos. According to Breer, New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower suffered an MCL sprain late in the second quarter. Hightower will likely only miss a few weeks, as knee sprains are typically not season-ending. While New England is fortunate Hightower likely won't miss the rest of the season, this still leaves the Patriots' linebacker corps in dire straights moving forward. New England has already been without linebacker Jamie Collins for the past four weeks due to a mysterious illness, so Hightower's injury forced Jerod Mayo, Jonathan Freeny and recently promoted Darius Fleming into the critical role of slowing down Denver's zone running attack. As MassLive's Kevin Duffy tweeted, C.J. Anderson ran wild on New England's defense after Hightower left the game. The Broncos amassed 136 yards and three TDs on 17 carries after Hightower's injury, while managing just 43 yards on 15 carries with the linebacker patrolling the middle of the field. With only a one-game lead on Denver and the Cincinnati Bengals for the top seed in the AFC, an extended absence from Hightower could prove the difference between the AFC title running through Foxborough or New England hitting the road to try to defend its crown. UPDATE: Patriots fans can now breathe a sigh of relief. According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, Gronkowski is unlikely to miss more than one game and may not even miss that.

  • Denver's run defense also took a hit when T.J. Ward and Sylvester Williams both went down on the same play in Sunday night's victory. According to Mike Klis of 9News, both Denver defenders suffered high-ankle sprains while trying to take down LeGarrette Blount on the same play. The injuries to both players were shockingly similar, according to Ward. "Got rolled with Sly on the same play, in the same area on the same tackle," Ward told reporters after the game. Klis expects both Ward and Williams to at least miss the Broncos' next game against the San Diego Chargers.

  • Two of the Arizona Cardinals' three-headed running back monster came out a little worse for wear from Sunday's victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Chris Johnson left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury while Andre Ellington followed him to the locker room shortly thereafter with a foot injury. Arizona general manager Steve Keim elaborated on the injuries Monday, telling Arizona Sports 98.7 that Johnson suffered a bone bruise in his knee and Ellington injured a toe. With both running backs out of action, the Cardinals turned to rookie David Johnson, who was featured prominently in their offense when Ellington suffered a PCL injury earlier this season. The injuries to both running backs are worth monitoring heading into the final weeks of the fantasy football season. If either back is unable to play in Week 13, David Johnson should garner consideration as a waiver wire addition in fantasy leagues. UPDATE: Despite Keim's earlier statement that Chris Johnson only suffered a bone bruise, Fox Sport's Jay Glazer has reported that the starting running back suffered a fractured tibia. ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that the Cardinals are now trying to determine if Johnson can return by the end of the season.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger self-reported concussion symptoms near the tail-end of Pittsburgh's loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, forcing the QB from the waning moments of the game. Bleacher Report's Jason Cole is reporting that, despite his initial concern, Roethlisberger does not have a concussion and is expected to clear the league's mandatory protocol. Despite the positive reports, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler can't help but note the beating Pittsburgh's franchise QB has been taking. Pittsburgh has only allowed Roethlisberger to be sacked 1.7 times per game, yet his laundry list of injuries from action in 2015 is extensive. As Fowler points out, the Steelers' playoff hopes rest on the shoulders of No. 7. If he continues to show up on the injury report week after week, the postseason won't likely be in Pittsburgh's future.

  • Rumors had been swirling since the USC Trojans fired coach Steve Sarkisian that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly could possibly return to the college ranks and become the next USC head coach. Those rumors can finally be put to rest. The Trojans removed the interim label from Clay Helton, making him their permanent head coach for the near future. According to Rapoport, it seems those Kelly-to-USC whispers were not unfounded. Rapoport tweeted that before USC signed Helton to a multi-year contract, the Trojans touched base with Kelly to gauge his interest in the position. There has been plenty of speculation regarding Kelly's future with the Eagles given how his venture "shopping for the groceries" has failed to pan out. Now that USC is no longer a possible destination for the coach, it seems rumors of Kelly possibly heading to the Tennessee Titans for a reunion with Marcus Mariota, who Kelly coached during his time with the Oregon Ducks, at season's end will likely pick up steam. UPDATE: Chip Kelly told reporters Monday, including ESPN's Phil Sheridan, that he has "never been involved" with any of the college jobs he has been linked to during his time with the Eagles. "I've never discussed a college job since I came here," the coach said. "Everybody can just write whatever they want or say whatever they want, and everybody just takes it as the truth. It's the world we live in. If you have to sit there and combat everything that comes out, I think you're wasting time."