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Game won't be flexed

Broncos matchup stays in afternoon

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / December 8, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH - The NFL announced yesterday that it will keep the Patriots’ game at Denver Dec. 18 at its original time of 4:15 p.m. on CBS (Channel 4) instead of flexing it into the “Sunday Night Football’’ slot on NBC.

The announcement did not come until midafternoon. In general, league rules stipulate that a decision on whether to flex a game be made 12 days before the game is to be played, which in this case was Tuesday.

There was no official statement as to why the decision was made to keep the game in the afternoon. The Patriots referred inquiries to a league spokesman, who said there are “many, many factors’’ that go into scheduling decisions, and that internal discussions would not be offered for public consumption.

It was believed that Patriots owner Robert Kraft was fighting to keep the game on CBS for a couple of reasons: First was the difference between returning home from Denver at around 2 a.m. or 6 a.m. Monday. The Patriots would essentially lose a day in a short week leading up to its Christmas Eve game against Miami.

Second, the Kraft Group has business interests with CBS beyond the network’s contract to broadcast AFC games, i.e. the CBS Scene restaurant at Patriot Place.

However, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King tweeted last night that Kraft “did not strong-arm this game to stay off Sunday night.’’ King said that while Kraft wanted the game to remain in the afternoon, that is not the reason behind the decision.

Though NBC pays $650 million per year to air just 18 games - while CBS pays $622.5 million a year to air 102 games - part of NBC’s contract allows it to flex games in Weeks 10-15 and 17 to get as appealing a matchup as possible.

However, when the decision was made last month to take last week’s Patriots-Colts game out of prime time and instead show Saints-Lions, CBS had Broncos-Vikings moved from its network to Fox. This week’s Broncos game, against Chicago, is also on Fox.

Now, CBS will not miss out on its chance to showcase Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Broncos counterpart Tim Tebow, and garner the high ratings many believe will come along with the matchup.

The Ravens-at-Chargers game will remain in the Sunday night slot Dec. 18.

Gearing up

The Patriots were in full pads for yesterday’s practice for the first time in three weeks. Because of heavy rain, the workout was held inside the Dana-Farber Field House.

Stevan Ridley (not injury-related), Brandon Spikes (knee), and Sebastian Vollmer (back/foot) did not participate.

On his Twitter feed, Ridley wrote that he was in his native Mississippi and would be returning to the team today.

A dozen Patriots were listed as limited, including Wes Welker (knee) and Kyle Arrington (foot).

For Sunday’s opponent, the Redskins, safety LaRon Landry (groin) and punter Sav Rocca (left ankle) didn’t practice, while guard Maurice Hurt (knee), tackle Jammal Brown (hip), defensive end Stephen Bowen (knee), linebacker London Fletcher (ankle), and cornerback DeAngelo Hall (back) were limited.

Fletcher update

Coach Bill Belichick was asked about Dane Fletcher, who remains limited at practice and hasn’t played since Oct. 16, and whether anything is hindering the second-year linebacker other than the thumb injury listed on the injury report.

“I think it’s a combination of things,’’ said Belichick. “It’s a combination of being healthy enough and then being able to get enough reps on the practice field to perform your job well enough to play.

“There’s conditioning, there’s execution, there’s timing, there’s all of those things. When that happens, then the player is ready to play.

“Until that happens, then he is less than ready to play. It’s not just being healthy, it’s being able to perform on the field at a high level that’s a high competitive level for what we’re doing.’’

League sources said yesterday that Fletcher has undergone more than one surgery, and is still wearing a hard cast on his right hand.

Filling in

Dorin Dickerson, who worked out for the Patriots last week, was signed to fill the open spot on the practice squad. Dickerson was a seventh-round pick of the Texans last year. At the University of Pittsburgh, the 6-foot-2-inch, 227-pounder played receiver, tight end, and linebacker.

Chad Finn of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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