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NFL: notebook: FCC aims to end blackouts

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:27 p.m.

U.S. regulators proposed eliminating the rule that keeps cable providers and satellite broadcasters from showing NFL games and other sporting events that lack sellout crowds.

The blackout rule, crafted almost 40 years ago to promote live attendance, may no longer be necessary to ensure the public can see games, the Federal Communications Commission said in an email. Eliminating the rule would require a vote by the agency following a public-comment period.

Cable and satellite companies are forbidden from carrying professional games that local broadcast stations don't show because event tickets remain unsold.

Professional football is the sport most affected by blackouts, the FCC said. Under NFL policy, TV broadcasts of home games in a team's home territory are blacked out if the game isn't sold out 72 hours in advance. The rule was designed to protect home gate receipts from “invading telecasts” from distant TV stations, the agency said.

The NFL's Ken Edmonds said fewer than 6 percent of last season's games were blacked out, according to the filing.

Seattle's CB Browner suspended indefinitely

Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner has been suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

The suspension is the second in two seasons for Browner. He was suspended four games last season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Browner, who was injured in Week 10 against Atlanta and hasn't played since, filed an appeal of the suspension while injured and the Seahawks were waiting for an answer from the league.

Browner is in his third season with the Seahawks. He started all 26 games he has played for the Seahawks and has 19 tackles, one interception and 10 passes defensed this season.

The suspension likely ends Browner's time with the Seahawks. He will become a free agent after the season and could file for reinstatement after one year.

Bills' Manuel out vs Dolphins

Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel will miss the Bills' game against the Dolphins because of swelling in his left knee, and Thad Lewis will start in his place.

Coach Doug Marrone said Manuel would be ready to return for the season finale against the Patriots.

Manuel had a procedure on the knee after being hurt in second preseason game but returned for the opener. He then sprained his other knee against Cleveland on Oct. 3 and missed four games.

Lewis went 1-2, including a victory over Miami, in place of Manuel before getting injured himself. He went 21 of 32 for 202 yards and an interception in the 23-21 win over the Dolphins.

Bills receiver Stevie Johnson was also ruled out for Sunday. He is excused to be with his family in California after the death of his mother.

Redskins' Fletcher: ‘99 percent' chance he retires

Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, one of the most durable players in NFL history, says there's a “99 percent” chance he'll retire at the end of the season.

Fletcher announced Wednesday that Sunday's game against the Cowboys will almost certainly be his final home game in the NFL.

He held out a one percent chance that he'll return next year — just in case he has a change of heart.

The 38-year-old undrafted player from Division III John Carroll has never missed a game in the NFL. He has played in 254 consecutive games, the longest streak by a defensive player since the 1970 merger. He's also started 213 in a row, the all-time mark for a linebacker.

Schaub to start at QB for Texans

Matt Schaub will start at quarterback for an injured Case Keenum on Sunday against Denver when the Texans try to end a 12-game skid.

Schaub, who was benched after six games, will start for the first time since Oct. 13. Keenum has an injury to a ligament in his right thumb and was unable to grip the football on Tuesday.

Also, running back Ben Tate will be placed on the injured reserve after another injury to his ribs. Already without Arian Foster, the team signed Jonathan Grimes to take Tate's roster spot and add depth at running back

Meester retiring after 14 seasons with Jaguars

No suit and tie. No stage and backdrop. No family and friends.

Veteran Jaguars center Brad Meester, a blue-collar lineman who spent his entire career trying to avoid the spotlight, announced his retirement in fitting fashion. Meester stood by his locker following a morning walkthrough and called it quits after 14 seasons.

Meester's home finale will come Sunday against Tennessee. His final game will be Dec. 29 at Indianapolis, about 360 miles from his home outside Iowa City, Iowa.

He is one of only five active players who have spent at least 14 seasons with the same team, joining New England quarterback Tom Brady, former Cleveland and current San Francisco place-kicker Phil Dawson, Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski and Chicago long-snapper Patrick Mannelly.

Jets' Holmes willing to take pay cut

Santonio Holmes says he would be willing to take a pay cut to remain with the Jets after this season.

The mercurial wide receiver who restructured his contract last offseason is likely to be cut because of his hefty salary that includes a salary cap number of $10.75 million. Holmes is scheduled to make $8.25 million in base pay, plus another $2.5 million in bonuses.

Around the league

The Saints signed veteran kicker Shayne Graham to replace Garrett Hartley, who was released on Tuesday afternoon, two days after failing to convert two field goals in a 27-16 loss at St. Louis. … The Bears remain optimistic seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs will play this weekend at Philadelphia. … Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will wear a brace on his left knee in Sunday's game against the Patriots, a precautionary move in the wake of the injury he sustained last Monday night in Detroit.

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