New England Patriots inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, the team's leading tackler, is out for the rest of the 2013 season with a torn pectoral muscle. Mayo was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
Mayo is an every-down player in the Patriots' vast defensive scheme. He participated in nearly 96 percent of New England's defensive plays last season.
Brandon Spikes, a fellow Florida product, and rookie Jamie Collins could become the starters in the 4-3 defense with Spikes in the middle. Dont'a Hightower would remain at strong-side linebacker.
To fill Mayo's roster spot, the Patriots re-signed defensive tackle Andre Neblett. Neblett played in 30 games in three seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He was an undrafted free agent from Temple. He signed with the Patriots Oct. 9, then was released before Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints.
Yahoo Sports first reported Mayo's injury, which required surgery Tuesday.
He was injured in the second half of the Patriots' 30-27 victory over New Orleans on Sunday.
Retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was expected out for the season with a torn triceps last season when he was hurt Oct. 15, 2012. But Lewis wasn't placed on injured reserve and returned in December.
Torn pectoral muscles are typically season-ending injuries. Chicago Bears linebacker D.J. Williams had his season ended because of a similar injury.
This season, Mayo has 55 total tackles, including 35 solo tackles.
New England also lost wide receiver Danny Amendola and guard Dan Connolly to head injuries on Sunday.
Mayo joins Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork on injured reserve.
---Denver Broncos coach John Fox was surprised with the recent comments made by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay about quarterback Peyton Manning.
Irsay said in an interview this week that he lamented the fact that the Colts won only one Super Bowl during Manning's 14-year run in Indianapolis before the Colts released him in 2012.
"To me, in my opinion, they were disappointing and inappropriate," Fox said during his weekly appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio. "I mean, Peyton would never say anything. He's too classy to do that. But they sounded a little ungrateful and unappreciative to me for a guy that has set a standard, won a Super Bowl, won division titles, won four MVP awards. I'd be thankful with that one Super Bowl ring because there's a lot of people that don't have one."
Irsay attempted Wednesday to clarify his remarks, calling it a misinterpretation of what he said and blaming the team for not having a better supporting cast around Manning.
Manning returns to Indianapolis Sunday night for the first time since his departure. The Broncos will take on the Colts in a nationally televised game on NBC. The team is planning to pay tribute to its former star.
The four-time NFL MVP offered no reaction to what Irsay said or how the visit to Lucas Oil Stadium will affect him.
Irsay earlier praised Manning, saying he encouraged the Colts to draft Andrew Luck in 2012. But the Colts owner added that while Manning had great success during the regular season, he wanted to build a team that could win in January.
---The winless New York Giants plan to sign running back Peyton Hillis, according to reports.
Hillis was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in September. He worked out for the Giants on Tuesday along with Danny Ware, Fox Sports reported.
The Giants have been hit hard by injuries at running back, losing David Wilson (neck), Andre Brown (leg) and Da'Rel Scott (hamstring). Hillis apparently will back up starter Brandon Jacobs on Monday night when the Giants (0-6) face the Minnesota Vikings.
The 27-year-old Hills played for the Kansas City Chiefs last year but hasn't experienced the success he had with the Cleveland Browns in 2010 when he ran for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. He rushed for a combined 896 yards and four touchdowns the past two seasons.
---The NFL made Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall pay for his decision to wear green shoes to support Mental Awareness Week during last Thursday night's game against the New York Giants.
Marshall was fined $10,500 by the league for a uniform violation. He posted on Twitter a picture a notification letter informing him of the fine.
"Football is my platform not my purpose," he tweeted. "This fine is nothing compared to the conversation started & awareness raised."
Marshall, who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2011, received permission to wear the shoes, but he knew in advance that he would be fined for doing so.
---Less than two weeks after the Minnesota Vikings signed Josh Freeman, the fifth-year quarterback will start Monday night against the New York Giants.
"We're going to see how the week goes, but our anticipation is, he'll perform well," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday morning.
Frazier also indicated that Christian Ponder, who has been sidelined with a rib injury, will be the backup behind Freeman.
In Wednesday's practice, Freeman worked with the first-team offense during individual and group drills, followed by Ponder and Matt Cassel.
Cassel started the past two games while Ponder was out, leading the Vikings to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 29 before struggling in a loss to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday.
The 25-year-old Freeman joined the Vikings on Oct. 8 after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him five days earlier. He signed a one-year contract with Minnesota.
The former Buccaneers starter was benched at Tampa Bay and replaced by rookie Mike Glennon because of ineffectiveness and also after a public disagreement with coach Greg Schiano. In three starts this year for the Bucs, Freeman had thrown two touchdown passes and three interceptions, and had a 59.3 passer rating.
Freeman, a 2009 first-round NFL Draft pick, started 47 games for the Buccaneers between 2010 and 2012. Last season, he passed for 4,065 yards with 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
---If the NFL has considered selling additional Thursday night games to another media outlet, the league is not acknowledging it.
"Wondering where the idea of Thursday night doubleheaders came from? So are we. We have not considered this," NFl spokesman Brian McCarthy said Wednesday on Twitter. "Haven't even discussed it."
The Wall Street Journal reported that the NFL is disappointed that the NFL Network game isn't drawing more viewers and it was considering adding a second game for a doubleheader package that might create more interest. The league currently has 13 games on Thursday nights during the regular season.
The NFL has discussed the idea with media entities but hasn't put together a specific package yet, the WSJ reported. There is speculation that Google and Netflix could be among the potential buyers of a new package.
Adding a Thursday night game could be a tough sell with the players, though. San Francisco wide receiver Anquan Boldin already has complained about the weeknight games.
"If you're so concerned about player safety, then why do you have every team in the league playing on Thursday night when they just competed on a Sunday, knowing how difficult it is for guys to get back to being healthy after playing on Sunday?" Boldin said earlier this week.
---Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Carl Nicks underwent surgery Tuesday night on the left foot after a recurrence of a MRSA infection, the team announced.
Nicks missed Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles after the serious infection was diagnosed. Details of the procedure were not known, but coach Greg Schiano said Nicks had received a second opinion before going ahead with it.
It is unknown when Nicks might be able to return to the field, Schiano said. Nicks missed the first two games of the season before returning to play in the next two games.
Nicks and Buccaneers kicker Lawrence Tynes first picked up the serious infection, which is resistant to some antibiotics, during training camp in August. Rookie cornerback Johnathan Banks was diagnosed last week but played against the Eagles.
Tynes has not rejoined the team while battling the MRSA with antibiotics. The NFL Players' Association has filed grievance against the Buccaneers on Tynes' behalf.
---Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did not practice Wednesday.
He was excused to tend to personal matters related to the death of his 2-year-old son but will return to the team facility in Eden Prairie, Minn., on Thursday.
Because the Vikings play Monday night, the game-plan installation portion of the practice week won't begin in earnest until Thursday.
"I expect him to be back (Thursday), ready to go," Vikings coach Les Frazier said of Peterson.
Peterson played in the Vikings' 35-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, two days after the death of his son.
The 2-year-old died from injuries sustained in an alleged aggravated assault at the hands of Joseph Patterson, who is being held in a South Dakota jail. Patterson was dating the mother of Peterson's son.
---Former Pro Bowl wide receiver Irving Fryar was indicted on charges of conspiracy in theft for a mortgage fraud scam, the New Jersey state's Attorney General office announced.
According to prosecutors, Fryar and his mother, Allene McGhee, attempted to steal nearly $700,000 by applying for five home equity loans on her house during a five-day period in 2009.
Fryar, 51, is now pastor of New Jerusalem House of God in Mount Holly, N.J., and a football coach at Robbinsville High School. The school district suspended Fryar without pay.
Fryar and his mother were not arrested. According to the Trenton Times, they will be summoned to appear before a superior court judge for arraignment. The newspaper could not reach Fryar or McGhee for comment.
Fryer played for the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins from 1984 to 2000. He ranks 18th in NFL history with 851 career receptions and 15th in receiving yards with 12,785.
---After denying earlier in the week that Jay Ratliff would be waived, the Dallas Cowboys released the veteran defensive tackle under a failed physical designation.
Ratliff, 32, had not played this year. He was placed on the physically unable to perform list before the season with sports hernia and hamstring injuries, but was eligible to be activated from the PUP this week.
The 2005 seventh-round draft pick went to four Pro Bowls during his eight-year career with the Cowboys. Last year, he was limited to six games and had 25 tackles with no sacks.
NBC Sports reported during the Cowboys' Sunday night victory over the Washington Redskins that the team was planning to make the move with Ratliff. However, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Monday that such a move was not imminent.
Ratliff signed a five-year, $48.6 million contract extension in 2011. The move allows the Cowboys to avoid paying his $1.34 million base salary this season and roll over the majority of his $10.268 million cap charge to next year, the team's website reported.