Posts by National Football Post

Browns’ Kitchens: Beckham ‘ready to go’ for Sunday

Browns' Kitchens: Beckham 'ready to go' for Sunday

Odell Beckham Jr. is

Browns’ Kitchens: Beckham ‘ready to go’ for Sunday

Odell Beckham Jr. is “ready to go” for the season opener on Sunday, Cleveland Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said Friday.

Just a day earlier, the wide receiver said he was dealing with a lingering hip injury that prevents him from “opening up and sprinting.”

Beckham didn’t play in any preseason games but was a full participant in practice on Friday, The Plain Dealer reported.

Beckham, 26, missed 16 of 32 games during his last two seasons with the New York Giants. He played all 16 games only once (2016) in five years there.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection said Thursday the injury is getting better.

“It’s something that hopefully that keeps progressing and gets better and not worse,” he said.

The Browns will meet the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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Lines shift after Gruden says Brown likely to play

Lines shift after Gruden says Brown likely to play

Lines shift after Gruden says Brown likely to play

The possibility of Antonio Brown playing Monday night when the Oakland Raiders host the Denver Broncos sparked some movement in sports books on Friday afternoon.

DraftKings dropped the Broncos from 2.5-point favorites to one-point picks after news broke that Brown delivered an “emotional apology” on Friday, two days after having to be separated from general manager Mike Mayock during an intense exchange. Reports on Thursday said Brown likely would be suspended for the game.

The sharp change in the betting line occurred just minutes after Raiders coach Jon Gruden said “the plan” was for Brown to play Monday.

Westgate Superbook dropped Denver from -2 to -1, but soon raised the spread to 1.5.

Caesars/Harrah’s and Golden Nugget both switched Denver from -2 to -1.

–Field Level Media

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Patriots’ Gordon addresses substance abuse in statement

Patriots' Gordon addresses substance abuse in statement

New England Patriots wide receiver Josh

Patriots’ Gordon addresses substance abuse in statement

New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon offered his first public comments on Friday since being conditionally reinstated from his indefinite suspension last month.

Gordon issued the following statement ahead of his return to playing football on Sunday night as the Patriots open their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Foxborough, Mass.

“Before the 2019 season starts, I would like to address an issue that arose toward the end of last season,” Gordon, 28, wrote. “It’s been well documented that I have battled substance abuse for quite some time. Unfortunately, I did not take the time to focus on a solution to my problem until this past year. I am eternally grateful for the constant support from the NFL, NFLPA and the Patriots organization. I also want to thank my family, friends and all the fans who supported me while I addressed this issue.

“Going forward, I will not be discussing the details of my past. I plan to focus on the present and getting better every day. I hope people will judge me on what I do now and in the future. I look forward to being a member of the Patriots once again this season and doing my part by contributing on and off the field.”

Gordon was suspended on Dec. 20 for violating the terms of his previous reinstatement under the NFL substance abuse policy. He was conditionally reinstated on Aug. 16.

“Yeah, Josh has worked hard,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters on Friday. “He’s created an opportunity for himself. But, you know, I’m excited for our entire team. We’ve got a lot of guys — everybody’s worked hard, put a lot into it. It’s time to start playing. It’s time to see where we’re at.”

After breaking into the NFL with the Cleveland Browns in 2012 and making the Pro Bowl after the 2013 season, Gordon missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons due to suspensions related to substance abuse.

Gordon played in five games in 2017 after being reinstated. He played one game for Cleveland last year before being traded to the Patriots in September.

In 12 games last season, Gordon caught 41 passes for 737 yards and four touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs sign WR Hill to three-year, $54M extension

Chiefs sign WR Hill to three-year, $54M extension

Chiefs sign WR Hill to three-year, $54M extension

The Kansas City Chiefs signed wide receiver Tyreek Hill to a contract extension on Friday, two days before the regular season begins.

The Chiefs did not disclose the terms of the deal, however multiple outlets reported that it was a three-year, $54 million extension with $35 million guaranteed.

“We’re pleased we were able to reach an agreement with Tyreek to keep him in a Chiefs uniform for the foreseeable future,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said. “He understands our expectations of him as a member of this team and community. This extension is contingent upon the conditions Tyreek agreed to adhere to upon his return to the team in July.

“Tyreek is an elite player in this league and has played a major role in our team’s success, and we’re pleased that he’ll continue to make an impact for us.”

The deal, which makes Hill one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the league, comes after an offseason in which the police investigated allegations of child abuse after Hill’s 3-year-old son sustained a broken arm.

The NFL ruled that since the police investigation did not find enough evidence to charge Hill, he wouldn’t be punished or suspended by the league.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue my playing career here in Kansas City,” Hill said. “Kansas City is my home, and I appreciate the love and support from Clark Hunt, Coach Reid and Brett Veach along with my coaches and teammates. To Chiefs Kingdom, you’re the best fans in the world.”

Hill recorded 87 receptions for 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018 and was one of six Chiefs named to the 2019 Pro Bowl.

The 25-year-old Hill is the leading receiver for an explosive offense directed by reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes.

Kansas City opens the 2019 season Sunday at Jacksonville.

— Field Level Media

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Chiefs’ Nnadi named NFLPA’s first Community MVP

Chiefs' Nnadi named NFLPA's first Community MVP

Chiefs’ Nnadi named NFLPA’s first Community MVP

Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi was named the first recipient of the NFLPA Community MVP award on Friday.

Nnadi recently provided a shopping spree for a victim’s family following a mass shooting in May in his hometown of Virginia Beach, Va. He also hosted two back-to-school events for kids in Kansas City and Southeast Virginia.

“As my father says, ‘As Nnadis, we don’t receive, we give,'” the 23-year-old Nnadi said in a release from the NFLPA. “It was very fulfilling to help some special people get ready for the school year ahead.”

The NFLPA Community MVP program recognizes league players who are making a positive impact in their local communities.

The NFLPA will make a $10,000 contribution to Nnadi’s foundation or charity of choice in recognition of the award. In addition, a crowdfunding campaign has been established in Nnadi’s name through PledgeIt to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City.

The award will be given weekly during the season. Nnadi, along with the other 2019 Community MVPs, will become eligible to win the Alan Page Community Award, which is the NFLPA’s highest honor.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers’ Rudolph set for first start at San Francisco

Steelers' Rudolph set for first start at San Francisco

After his first

Steelers’ Rudolph set for first start at San Francisco

After his first NFL game experience last week in a 28-26 loss to Seattle, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph was asked how he would cope if veteran Ben Roethlisberger remained sidelined due to a right elbow injury.

“I am completely confident in myself, being a leader of a team, and playing games,” Rudolph said. “That’s what it all comes down to. If he’s out a while, I’m ready to roll.”

Well, Rudolph will have no choice but to be ready to roll, starting with Sunday’s trip to the San Francisco 49ers. Roethlisberger’s injury is indeed a season-ender, and Rudolph will make his first career start in a game Pittsburgh needs in the worst way.

The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Rudolph played decently against the Seahawks, hitting 12 of 19 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns with one interceptions. Rudolph posted a 92.4 passer rating, and NFL Network’s Deion Sanders observed during a Sunday night highlights package that the offense appeared to run better under Rudolph.

If the 0-2 Steelers are to turn around their early-season fortunes, Rudolph will have to continue to make their retooled offense run better. And he’ll have to do it against an opponent that has been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises.

San Francisco is off to a 2-0 start and has outscored its opponents 72-34. Granted, playing Tampa Bay and Cincinnati isn’t exactly the toughest start to a season, but the 49ers still beat both decisively on the road.

Making the wins even more notable was that San Francisco won in different manners. After using two interception returns for touchdowns to defeat the Buccaneers 31-17, the 49ers exploded offensively in Cincinnati, rolling up 571 total yards.

That was the sixth-highest single game total in franchise history. From 296 passing yards by Jimmy Garoppolo to 121 rushing yards by Matt Breida, the 49ers exhibited the kind of balance that makes any offense click.

“It seemed like for a while we didn’t have to call a third-down play … and that’s the goal,” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said. “When you get to third down, everyone in the league is pretty one-dimensional, and when you’re getting good plays on first and second down, it opens up everything.”

The only negative out of that outburst for the 49ers was losing left tackle Joe Staley to a fractured fibula, although the team believes he could return in eight weeks. Rookie sixth-round pick Justin Skule is expected to start in Staley’s place against Pittsburgh.

A product of Vanderbilt, Skule got 19 snaps in second-half garbage time at Cincinnati. With its bye coming up in Week 4, San Francisco could use that time to make a trade for a more experienced replacement or perhaps reconfigure its line.

Almost overshadowed by Roethlisberger’s season-ending injury was the Steelers’ trade with the Miami Dolphins on Monday for Minkah Fitzpatrick. The 22-year-old safety is expected to slot right into the starting lineup, offering immediate help for a secondary that has been strafed by Tom Brady and Russell Wilson in the first two games.

–Field Level Media

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Sucher, seeking first PGA win, leads Travelers

Sucher, seeking first PGA win, leads Travelers

Zack Sucher,

Sucher, seeking first PGA win, leads Travelers

Zack Sucher, who has missed the cut in 26 of his previous 36 PGA Tour events, is the surprise leader halfway through the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn.

The 32-year-old Atlanta native shot a 5-under-par 65 on Friday at TPC River Highlands, and he holds a two-shot lead after closing the second round at 11-under 129.

Chez Reavie and Keegan Bradley are tied for second at 9 under after each shot 66 on Friday.

Ryan Moore (second-round 64) and Bronson Burgoon (68) share fourth place at 8 under. Australia’s Jason Day (63) and England’s Paul Casey (68) are among seven players tied for sixth at 7 under. Day produced the best round of the tournament.

Sucher’s only professional win came five years ago on the then-Web.com Tour. His best result in three previous events this year was a tie for 35th in the AT&T Byron Nelson. He didn’t appear in a PGA Tour event last year while fighting ankle and knee injuries, and he made the cut in just three of 14 events in 2017.

Sucher started hot on Friday while beginning on the back nine. He chipped in for eagle on the par-5 13th hole, then added three consecutive birdies from Nos. 15-17. Sucher added one birdie and one bogey on the front nine.

“Absolutely, it feels great,” Sucher said, according to AFP. “A lot of work to be done, but right now it’s feeling great. … I just feel a lot better in my game right now. After being out, just this year in general I’ve felt a whole lot better.

“This will be a little bit of a different feeling being in the final group of a PGA event. After the first few swings, I’ll settle in and be hopefully good to go.”

Day produced a stretch of four consecutive birdies among his seven birdies and no bogeys.

“It was disappointing to shoot even par yesterday because I know I played a lot better than the actual score showed,” Day said. “To capitalize on the opportunities that I had out there today, I definitely need it.”

Defending champion Bubba Watson shot a 66 on Friday, leaving him at 5 under, tied for 26th.

Among those missing the cut were Jordan Spieth (1 under on Friday, 2 over total), Tony Finau (1 over on Friday, 2 over total) and Phil Mickelson (6 over on Friday, 3 over total).

–Field Level Media

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Report: Saints WR Thomas seeks $22M per year

Report: Saints WR Thomas seeks $22M per year

Report: Saints WR Thomas seeks $22M per year

New Orleans receiver Michael Thomas is reportedly seeking an average annual salary of $22 million, about $4 million more than the Saints’ latest offer.

Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com reported the sizable gap in the ongoing contract negotiations on Friday, adding that nothing would be resolved soon as Thomas is currently in Europe.

Thomas, 26, was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2018 with a league-leading 125 catches for 1,402 yards and nine touchdowns.

ESPN reported earlier this week that the Saints are “comfortable” with making Thomas the highest-paid receiver in the NFL.

General manager Mickey Loomis confirmed on Mad Dog Sports Radio that the Saints are working on a long-term deal, with Thomas entering the final year of his rookie contract.

“We’ve had some conversations, and I like keeping that close to the vest until there’s something to report, but look, we love what Mike’s done for us,” Loomis said. “He’s a fantastic player, one of the best at his position in the league, and hopefully we can keep him a Saint for a long time as well.”

The Saints recently agreed to a three-year deal with defensive end Cam Jordan, but locking up Thomas might be pushed into the 2020 offseason.

If the two sides remain far apart on value, Thomas could be given the franchise tag for 2020. The tag value for 2019 was $16.7 million.

Thomas’ four-year deal signed as a second-round pick out of Ohio State calls for him to be paid $1.15 million in salary in 2019.

–Field Level Media

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Buccaneers waive RB Wilson

Buccaneers waive RB Wilson

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived

Buccaneers waive RB Wilson

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived second-year running back Shaun Wilson on Friday.

Wilson played in five games as a rookie, rushing for 29 yards on six carries and catching three passes for five yards.

The 23-year-old Wilson also averaged 17.4 yards on seven kickoff returns. He finished the season on injured reserve due to a shoulder injury suffered on Nov. 11 against the Washington Redskins.

Wilson played college football at Duke.

–Field Level Media

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Rams, Browns looking to put together complete games

Rams, Browns looking to put together complete games

The

Rams, Browns looking to put together complete games

The Los Angeles Rams know what it is like to be the NFL’s flavor of the month, and in prime time Sunday night there will be plenty who will tune in to see if they symbolically pass the torch to the latest up-and-comer.

The Cleveland Browns have not yet lived up to the hype they carried into the season, but they are coming off a victory over an overmatched New York Jets team Monday and will try to keep their stride against the Rams on Sunday in front of their own fans.

The Browns were humbled at home 43-13 by the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, but took down the Jets 23-3 behind 161 receiving yards from Odell Beckham Jr. and 325 passing yards from quarterback Baker Mayfield, who insists the offense can be even better.

“I think it falls back on me just playing better, getting the ball out and getting completions like I keep harping on. Just trusting the system,” Mayfield told reporters this week. “Everybody is going to do their job. We know what everybody is going to do. That is why we practiced in camp. That is why we did everything like that. Just trust and do my job.”

The Rams might be 2-0 but they have their offensive inconsistencies, too. Second-half mistakes led to a closer-than-necessary 30-27 victory at Carolina in Week 1, and in their home opener last week, the Rams didn’t score their first touchdown against New Orleans until late in the third quarter. And that was a game in which the Saints struggled to move the ball without quarterback Drew Brees.

Injuries to Rams tight end Tyler Higbee (lung contusion) and guard Austin Blythe (ankle) have both listed as day-to-day moving forward, potentially creating more adjustments for an offense still searching for a flow.

“Whatever the doctor’s orders are, that’s what’s in the best interest of Tyler, is exactly what we’ll follow,” Rams head coach Sean McVay told reporters of Higbee, who coughed up blood and was hospitalized briefly following his injury. “What that means as far as this week, the following week, we’ll have a little bit more updates as we go.”

After passing for 186 yards against the Panthers, Rams quarterback Jared Goff recovered from a slow start Sunday to throw for 283 yards and a touchdown.

Los Angeles running back Todd Gurley rushed for 97 yards in Week 1 and 63 yards last week, while scoring his first TD, but has not yet looked like a force after entering the season with questions about a knee issue from last year.

While the Rams’ defense looks further along than the offense, defensive tackle Aaron Donald is still nursing a sore back that surfaced in the first half against the Saints. Both he and running back Malcolm Brown (ankle) were limited in practice Wednesday.

The Browns’ midweek injury report was packed. At full speed Wednesday were Beckham (hip), running back/return man Dontrell Hilliard (concussion) and kicker Austin Seibert (hip). Those limited included guard Joel Bitonio (abdomen) and wide receiver Rashard Higgins (knee).

Tight end as David Njoku is out Sunday after breaking his wrist in Monday’s game. Others that did not practice Wednesday: safety Morgan Burnett (quad), right tackle Chris Hubbard (foot), linebacker Christian Kirksey (chest), left tackle Kendall Lamm (knee), defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (ankle), safety Damarious Randall (concussion) and linebacker Adarius Taylor (ankle).

–Field Level Media

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Reports: GM Mayock, WR Brown physically separated after spat

Reports: GM Mayock, WR Brown physically separated after spat

Wide receiver

Reports: GM Mayock, WR Brown physically separated after spat

Wide receiver Antonio Brown approached Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock while he was watching practice to initiate the exchange that led to the men being physically separated on Wednesday, ESPN and NFL Network reported Friday.

Brown is expected to be suspended by the Raiders for conduct detrimental to the team and miss at least the Week 1 game, with $30 million in guaranteed money also on the line should the Raiders opt to take a hard-line position in the matter.

According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Brown confronted Mayock over being fined almost $54,000 and called Mayock a “cracker” and addressed him with a number of “cuss words” during the altercation. Anderson reported Mayock began to walk away because he felt the situation would escalate.

Head coach Jon Gruden did not take a side in the matter Thursday and appears truly conflicted despite a pattern of behavior from Brown that would seem to indicate a lack of dedication to the Raiders. Gruden did say an official announcement would come “later.”

“Like I said, I’m not going to get into all of this,” Gruden said. “Obviously, [Brown] wasn’t here today, and when we have some information for you, we’ll give it to you. … I’ve been talking about the same guy every day.

“… I’m emotional about it, I hope you understand why. I think a lot of this guy. I think Antonio is a great receiver, and deep down I think he’s a really good guy. So, I’m frustrated, I’m not going to say anything more about it, hope it all works out. But I don’t have anything official to say about anything else until I get all the facts, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said Brown is still hoping to play Monday night when Oakland begins the regular season at the Coliseum in a division game against the Denver Broncos.

“Right now I think his relationship with Coach Gruden is good, very good,” Rosenhaus said Friday. “I’m not going to get into his relationship with Mike Mayock, but I will say that we’re hopeful that that will be a good one, as well. It has been in the past; it can be in the future.”

–Field Level Media

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Report: Raiders WR Brown issues ’emotional apology,’ might play Monday

Report: Raiders WR Brown issues 'emotional apology,' might play Monday

Report: Raiders WR Brown issues ’emotional apology,’ might play Monday

Wide receiver Antonio Brown approached Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock while he was watching practice to initiate the exchange that led to the men being physically separated on Wednesday, ESPN and NFL Network reported Friday.

According to ESPN, Brown was flanked by the team’s captains on Friday morning when he opened a team meeting with an “emotional apology.”

The Raiders have not made an official statement on his status for Monday’s regular-season opener, but multiple outlets reported Thursday that Brown would be disciplined. NFL Network reported Friday that the sense in Oakland was that Brown might actually be in the lineup.

Brown had been expected to be suspended by the Raiders for conduct detrimental to the team and miss at least the Week 1 game, with $30 million in guaranteed money also on the line should the Raiders opt to take a hard-line position in the matter. Indications from NFL Network’s were the Raiders were leaning toward letting up after Brown’s apology.

There has been plenty of drama around Brown since he was acquired from the Steelers and signed to a contract extension.

Per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Brown confronted Mayock on Wednesday over being fined almost $54,000 and called Mayock a “cracker” and addressed him with a number of “cuss words” during the altercation. Anderson reported Mayock began to walk away because he felt the situation would escalate.

Head coach Jon Gruden did not take a side in the matter Thursday and appears truly conflicted despite a pattern of behavior from Brown that would seem to indicate a lack of dedication to the Raiders. Gruden did say an official announcement would come “later.”

“Like I said, I’m not going to get into all of this,” Gruden said. “Obviously, [Brown] wasn’t here today, and when we have some information for you, we’ll give it to you. … I’ve been talking about the same guy every day.

“… I’m emotional about it, I hope you understand why. I think a lot of this guy. I think Antonio is a great receiver, and deep down I think he’s a really good guy. So, I’m frustrated, I’m not going to say anything more about it, hope it all works out. But I don’t have anything official to say about anything else until I get all the facts, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said Brown is still hoping to play Monday night when Oakland begins the regular season at the Coliseum in a division game against the Denver Broncos.

“Right now I think his relationship with Coach Gruden is good, very good,” Rosenhaus said Friday. “I’m not going to get into his relationship with Mike Mayock, but I will say that we’re hopeful that that will be a good one, as well. It has been in the past; it can be in the future.”

Brown also missed time due to a frostbite-like condition on his feet, an incident Gruden said wasn’t Brown’s fault but stemmed from improper protection on his feet during cryotherapy.

Then he sat out during a dispute with the NFL over his helmet, returning only after losing two grievances.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Raiders WR Brown issues ’emotional apology’ to team

Report: Raiders WR Brown issues 'emotional apology' to team

Wide

Report: Raiders WR Brown issues ’emotional apology’ to team

Wide receiver Antonio Brown approached Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock while he was watching practice to initiate the exchange that led to the men being physically separated on Wednesday, ESPN and NFL Network reported Friday.

According to ESPN, Brown was flanked by the team’s captains on Friday morning when he opened a team meeting with an “emotional apology.”

The Raiders have not made an official statement on his status for Monday’s regular-season opener, but multiple outlets reported Thursday that Brown would be disciplined.

Brown is expected to be suspended by the Raiders for conduct detrimental to the team and miss at least the Week 1 game, with $30 million in guaranteed money also on the line should the Raiders opt to take a hard-line position in the matter.

Per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Brown confronted Mayock over being fined almost $54,000 and called Mayock a “cracker” and addressed him with a number of “cuss words” during the altercation. Anderson reported Mayock began to walk away because he felt the situation would escalate.

Head coach Jon Gruden did not take a side in the matter Thursday and appears truly conflicted despite a pattern of behavior from Brown that would seem to indicate a lack of dedication to the Raiders. Gruden did say an official announcement would come “later.”

“Like I said, I’m not going to get into all of this,” Gruden said. “Obviously, [Brown] wasn’t here today, and when we have some information for you, we’ll give it to you. … I’ve been talking about the same guy every day.

“… I’m emotional about it, I hope you understand why. I think a lot of this guy. I think Antonio is a great receiver, and deep down I think he’s a really good guy. So, I’m frustrated, I’m not going to say anything more about it, hope it all works out. But I don’t have anything official to say about anything else until I get all the facts, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said Brown is still hoping to play Monday night when Oakland begins the regular season at the Coliseum in a division game against the Denver Broncos.

“Right now I think his relationship with Coach Gruden is good, very good,” Rosenhaus said Friday. “I’m not going to get into his relationship with Mike Mayock, but I will say that we’re hopeful that that will be a good one, as well. It has been in the past; it can be in the future.”

–Field Level Media

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Dolphins sign OT Webb, place LB Van Ginkel on IR

Dolphins sign OT Webb, place LB Van Ginkel on IR

Dolphins sign OT Webb, place LB Van Ginkel on IR

The Miami Dolphins signed offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb and placed linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel on injured reserve, the team announced Friday.

Webb, who visited the Dolphins earlier in the week, was released by the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 31.

Webb, 31, has played in 81 career games with the Bears (2010-12), Minnesota Vikings (2013-14), Oakland Raiders (2015), Seattle Seahawks (2016) and Indianapolis Colts (2018) since being selected by Chicago with a seventh-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Van Ginkel, who was a fifth-round pick by Miami in the 2019 NFL Draft, played two seasons at Wisconsin after transferring from Iowa Western Community College following his sophomore campaign. Van Ginkel didn’t play in the preseason because of a foot injury that has affected him since the second week of training camp.

— Field Level Media

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Gruden: Plan is for WR Brown to play in season opener

Gruden: Plan is for WR Brown to play in season opener

Gruden: Plan is for WR Brown to play in season opener

Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden announced Friday that Antonio Brown is expected to play in the team’s season opener against the Denver Broncos, mere hours after the wide receiver reportedly issued an apology.

Gruden’s comments are the latest in a whirlwind saga surrounding Brown, who approached Raiders general manager Mike Mayock while he was watching practice to initiate an exchange that led to the men being physically separated on Wednesday, ESPN and NFL Network reported.

According to ESPN, Brown was flanked by the team’s captains on Friday morning when he opened a team meeting with his “emotional apology.”

“That’s the plan,” Gruden told reporters of Brown’s expected participation for the season opener.

“Antonio’s back today. We’re really excited about that. Ready to move on. He’s had a lot of time to think about things. We’re happy to have him back and I know Raider Nation is excited about that too,” Gruden said.

Brown, 31, initially had been expected to be suspended by the Raiders for conduct detrimental to the team and miss at least the Week 1 game, with $30 million in guaranteed money also on the line should the Raiders opt to take a hard-line position in the matter.

There has been plenty of drama around Brown since he was acquired from the Steelers in March and signed to a contract extension.

Per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Brown confronted Mayock on Wednesday over being fined almost $54,000 and called Mayock a “cracker” and addressed him with a number of “cuss words” during the altercation. Anderson reported Mayock began to walk away because he felt the situation would escalate.

Gruden did not take a side in the matter Thursday and appeared truly conflicted despite a pattern of behavior from Brown that would seem to indicate a lack of dedication to the Raiders.

Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said prior to Gruden’s announcement that the wideout was hoping to play in the season opener.

“Right now I think his relationship with Coach Gruden is good, very good,” Rosenhaus said. “I’m not going to get into his relationship with Mike Mayock, but I will say that we’re hopeful that that will be a good one, as well. It has been in the past; it can be in the future.”

Brown also missed time due to a frostbite-like condition on his feet, an incident Gruden said wasn’t Brown’s fault but stemmed from improper protection on his feet during cryotherapy.

Then he sat out during a dispute with the NFL over his helmet, returning only after losing two grievances.

–Field Level Media

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Saints QB Brees has thumb surgery, calls it ‘successful’

Saints QB Brees has thumb surgery, calls it 'successful'

Saints QB Brees has thumb surgery, calls it ‘successful’

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees underwent surgery on Wednesday on his injured right thumb, he reported on Instagram.

“Complete…successful surgery. This is my attempt at giving everybody a (thumb’s up),” he captioned a photo that showed him with a smile on his face and a heavily wrapped right, throwing hand.

The Saints have not given a timetable for his return, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported he is expected to miss six weeks.

The 40-year-old Brees was injured in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams after hitting his hand on Aaron Donald’s hand while following through on a throw.

Brees, a second-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, has missed just one game because of injury since joining the Saints in 2006, which came in 2015 due to a shoulder issue. He has missed just two other contests of a possible 210 with the Saints, both while resting in Week 17 with the team’s playoff position secure.

The league’s all-time leading passer needs 155 yards to become the first in NFL history to pass for 75,000 yards. He is 18 passing touchdowns shy of leapfrogging Peyton Manning (539) for most all-time, though New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is tied with Brees at 522.

–Field Level Media

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Redskins QB Smith still facing many hurdles

Redskins QB Smith still facing many hurdles

Washington

Redskins QB Smith still facing many hurdles

Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith said “learning to run again” is one of the biggest hurdles he faces during his ongoing recovery from a devastating leg injury.

Making his first public comments since suffering a compound fracture in his right leg in November, the 35-year-old told a Fox 5 DC reporter he hasn’t given up hope of playing again.

“That’s the plan,” Smith told Angie Goff on her Oh My Goff podcast published Friday. “There are steps I’ve got to conquer before I get there. … Learning to run again. That’s a big one. I’m already throwing. Throwing isn’t a problem, but dropping, moving around, change of direction.”

Smith said he still has to wear an external fixator on his leg for another 4-6 weeks.

“The steps I’m at now are lifestyle steps,” he said. “I’m still working on playing basketball with my kids and running around after my daughter. Those are things I have to conquer anyway until I get to the point where I’m walking on the field. I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited about that challenge. The stronger I get every week, the more I do, the more hopeful I am that that’s a real possibility.”

Smith suffered compound and spiral fractures to his tibia and fibula in a Week 11 loss to the Houston Texans and underwent surgery Nov. 18. He then battled a subsequent infection and remained hospitalized until Dec. 16.

The Redskins acquired Smith from Kansas City before the 2018 season. He signed a four-year contract extension that put him under contract for five years and $111 million. It included $71 million in injury guarantees.

Washington hasn’t settled on a starter for 2019. The Redskins acquired veteran Case Keenum in a trade with Denver in March and drafted Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins in the first round in April. Colt McCoy is recovering from his own leg injury, but is expected to join the position battle in training camp.

–Field Level Media

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Committee OKs interference replay through 2019

Committee OKs interference replay through 2019

Committee OKs interference replay through 2019

A rule change allowing for late-game instant replay of pass interference calls and non-calls should remain in effect for the 2019 season only, the NFL’s competitions committee has unanimously recommended.

Thursday’s announcement from NFL Football Operations indicates that the rule could be eliminated or extended after the season, depending on feedback throughout the year.

The call to make pass-interference plays reviewable arose after the NFC Championship Game in January, when the Los Angeles Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman wasn’t flagged on a play that league officials later admitted should have been a penalty. As a result, the Rams halted a drive by the Saints and ultimately won the game in overtime to earn a berth to Super Bowl LIII.

Under the new rule, the replay official will stop the game after the two-minute warning of each half and during overtime when there is “clear and obvious visual evidence” that a pass interference foul may or may not have occurred, based on viewing the play live or any initial replays.

In order to prevent excessive game stoppages, the criteria for a replay on pass interference will be stricter than other reviewable plays. Only a significant act that hinders a pass catcher’s ability to make a play will be overturned.

–Field Level Media

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Six tied for lead at Travelers Championship

Six tied for lead at Travelers Championship

Six players

Six tied for lead at Travelers Championship

Six players are tied for the lead at 6 under par as wet conditions Thursday led to a bevy of low scores during the first round of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn.

A trio of Americans — Ryan Armour, Bronson Burgoon and Zack Sucher — posted 64s on the par-70 TPC River Highlands course along with Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes and South Korea’s Kyoung-Hoon Lee.

Chez Reavie, fresh off a tie for third at the U.S. Open, continued his momentum with a 65. He is tied at 5 under with Keenan Bradley, Scott Langley, Brady Schnell, Robert Streb and England’s Paul Casey.

Patrick Cantlay reached 6 under before the Memorial champion put his tee shot in the water on the par-3 No. 8 — his 17th hole of the day. He finished in a pack of 12 players at 4 under that also includes England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who is playing in the event for the first time.

Cantlay turned professional at the event in 2012, a year after carding a 10-under 60 at TPC River Highlands — still the only 60 in PGA Tour history by an amateur. He led after 36 holes last year before finishing in a tie for 24th.

“I like coming back to places that I like playing golf at,” Cantlay said. “I hit the ball really well today. One missed shot cost me two.”

Another shot off the pace is Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who is making his professional debut after a tie for 12th at Pebble Beach last Sunday. Hovland is tied at 3 under with Phil Mickelson, the only back-to-back champion (2001-02) in event history. Mickelson is in the field for the first time since 2003.

Defending champion Bubba Watson has won the event three times, but he managed only a 1-under 69 on Thursday and is in a tie for 61st. That’s still two shots better than top-ranked Brooks Koepka, who continued his uninspired play outside of majors with a 1-over 71 that included four bogeys against three birdies.

Burgoon, 32, posted his first under-par opening round since March. Having missed the cut in 10 of his past 14 starts and currently 140th in the FedEx Cup standings, Burgoon needs a strong finish to the season to secure his Tour card for next season.

“My whole golf career has been an uphill battle, honestly,” he said. “I feel like I’ve made golf a little more complicated than it should be. I’m trying to simply things and get my mind where I can compete.

“One thing I can do is compete.”

NOTES: Hovland’s former Oklahoma State Cowboys teammate Matthew Wolff shot an even-par 70 in his pro debut. … Watson is one victory shy of Billy Casper’s event-record four. Watson and Koepka are paired with Tony Finau (1 over par) for the first two rounds. … Jordan Spieth shot a 3-over 73 on Thursday that included a triple-bogey on the par-5 13th hole when he put his tee shot out of bounds and another shot in the water. … Casey held a four-shot lead entering the final round last year, only to lose to Watson.

–Field Level Media

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Cards’ Nkemdiche arrested after traffic stop

Cards' Nkemdiche arrested after traffic stop

Police in Scottsdale, Ariz., arrested Arizona Cardinals defensive end

Cards’ Nkemdiche arrested after traffic stop

Police in Scottsdale, Ariz., arrested Arizona Cardinals defensive end Robert Nkemdiche for alleged speeding and driving without a license earlier this month, ABC 15 Arizona reported Wednesday.

The incident occurred June 6 at 6:30 a.m., according to police documents obtained by the TV station. Police allege that Nkemdiche was driving 75 mph in a 45 mph zone.

After pulling over Nkemdiche, police learned there was a warrant out for his arrest on an allegation of driving on a suspended license and failing to appear in court, per the police report.

The Cardinals issued a statement: “We are aware of the June 6th incident involving Robert Nkemdiche. We have alerted the NFL office in accordance with the league’s personal conduct policy and will comment further when appropriate.”

Per ABC 15, the police report also mentioned that officers found a “white powdery substance, consistent with cocaine” in a small case in the car’s interior console.

The police in the report wrote, “Based on the totality of the circumstances, it was decided not to pursue testing of the credit card holder in lieu of impounding the item for destruction with Robert’s cooperation.”

Nkemdiche, 24, was a first-round draft pick in 2016. He appeared in a total of 17 games for Arizona his first two seasons, then made his first six starts while playing in 10 games in 2018. Nkemdiche posted a career-high 32 tackles last season and registered the first 4.5 sacks of his career.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Suspended Pats WR Gordon works with Brady

NFL notebook: Suspended Pats WR Gordon works with Brady

Suspended

NFL notebook: Suspended Pats WR Gordon works with Brady

Suspended New England Patriots wideout Josh Gordon and quarterback Tom Brady got together for a workout this week.

Brady posted a GIF on Instagram on Wednesday showing him throwing to Gordon, with the caption “Practice makes perfect.” ESPN reported the photo came from a workout Tuesday.

Brady regularly connects with teammates for workouts during the offseason, but Gordon’s future is murky after he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in December for violating the terms of his reinstatement from a yearlong ban for substance abuse.

The Patriots have supported Gordon since the suspension, offering him a restricted free agent tender, which Gordon signed in April. If he is able to play this season, New England would welcome him back.

Gordon, 28, played one game for the Cleveland Browns last year before being traded to the Patriots in September. In 12 games, he caught 41 passes for 737 yards and four touchdowns.

— Police in Scottsdale, Ariz., arrested Arizona Cardinals defensive end Robert Nkemdiche for alleged speeding and driving without a license earlier this month, ABC 15 Arizona reported.

The incident occurred June 6 at 6:30 a.m., according to police documents obtained by the TV station. Police allege Nkemdiche was driving 75 mph in a 45 mph zone.

After pulling over Nkemdiche, police learned there was a warrant out for his arrest on an allegation of driving on a suspended license and failing to appear in court, per the police report.

— The Green Bay Packers waived tight end Michael Roberts after he failed a team physical, according to multiple reports. The Packers claimed Roberts off waivers from the Detroit Lions on Monday.

The Lions released Roberts on Friday after his trade to the New England Patriots for a 2020 seventh-round pick was rescinded due to a failed physical.

Roberts, 25, has 13 receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns in 23 NFL games, with 48 yards and two scores coming in one game last season (at Miami).

–Field Level Media

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Texans aim to keep Watson upright vs. Chargers

Texans aim to keep Watson upright vs. Chargers

Two

Texans aim to keep Watson upright vs. Chargers

Two teams seeking to move above .500 meet Sunday when the Houston Texans visit the Los Angeles Chargers in Carson, Calif.

The Chargers return home after dropping a 13-10 road decision to the Detroit Lions. It is the ninth time in the past 11 years the team has started 1-1.

Adding to Los Angeles’ frustration were two missed field goals, Austin Ekeler’s fumble on Detroit’s 1-yard line and Philip Rivers’ late-game interception deep in Lions territory.

“I’d expect us to be fired up and ready to bounce back,” said Rivers, who became the eighth player in NFL history with 55,500 career passing yards. “I think we’ve shown the ability to do that over the years when we’ve lost some tough ones.”

Houston heads to ROKiT Field at Dignity Health Sports Park off a 13-12 home victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans dropped their season opener at New Orleans on a 58-yard field goal on the game’s final play.

On offense, the Chargers rank fourth overall with 429.5 yards per game. They’re eighth in passing (298.5 ypg), and despite the absence of holdout Melvin Gordon, they’re 10th in rushing (131.0 ypg).

Houston’s offense has struggled, ranking 21st in total offense (338.5 ypg) and 24th in passing (185.5). The Texans, however, have averaged 153 rushing yards (No. 5).

The Texans’ biggest offensive problem has been protecting quarterback Deshaun Watson. He has been sacked four or more times in eight consecutive games, tying the longest such streak since sacks became an official stat in 1982. That, after Houston acquired left tackle Laremy Tunsil from Miami before the season opener.

Although each team was close to being unbeaten so far, both have had issues defensively. Los Angeles is ranked 17th overall (357.5 ypg) and Houston 23rd (395.5).

The Chargers have fared better against the pass (eighth, 209.0) than the run (28th, 148.5). But the unit sustained another blow Sunday when safety Adrian Phillips broke his forearm. He subsequently was placed on injured reserve.

“His versatility is huge,” coach Anthony Lynn said of Phillips. “He was a special teams Pro Bowler last year. He’s the captain of that secondary. He’ll be hard to replace. But we have some guys who are going to try to fill his shoes.”

The loss of Phillips, and the absence of safety Derwin James (foot) and running back Gordon, means the Chargers are missing three of their seven Pro Bowlers from last season. Tight end Hunter Henry (knee) remains out, and wide receiver Keenan Allen (knee) and kicker Michael Badgley (groin) were limited Wednesday.

The Texans are 22nd in the league defending the pass (270.0 ypg) and 23rd vs. the run (125.5).

One bright spot has been outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who has thrived after Houston traded Jadeveon Clowney. Mercilus was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after registering three tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits and two forced fumbles against Jacksonville.

“Whitney has been a very productive player for us over the years,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s been a guy who’s known really for just doing his job. He just does a good job of setting the edge in the run game, and then rushing the passer.”

Some bragging rights also will be on the line, as Texans defensive end J.J. Watt will face younger brother Derek, a Chargers fullback.

O’Brien also said his team needs to “be ready for the field,” as it will host a Los Angeles Galaxy soccer match Saturday night. What effect, if any, that has on the turf likely won’t be known until just before game time.

–Field Level Media

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Bears, Nagy search for remedy after ‘ridiculous’ opener

Bears, Nagy search for remedy after 'ridiculous' opener

On the optimistic side, Matt Nagy

Bears, Nagy search for remedy after ‘ridiculous’ opener

On the optimistic side, Matt Nagy has 10 days to evaluate and implement a fix for an ailing offense after the Chicago Bears put up three points in what the second-year head coach termed a “ridiculous” showing Thursday against the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers won the opener 10-3 at Soldier Field.

“It just seemed a little scattered tonight with all our personnel (groups) and just trying to find a rhythm and trying to find our identity on offense, and we just put ourselves in bad situations and shot ourselves in the foot,” quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said after throwing a game-sealing interception in the end zone with 2:03 remaining. “It’s just we were uncharacteristic of usually who we were tonight as an offense, and I think we just need to do our job. But we just couldn’t find a rhythm, and I don’t think it’s because we didn’t play in the preseason, because we were rolling in practice, and it just didn’t translate the week of practice we had to the game. We’re going to look at the film and try to find out why and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine helped spare the Matt LaFleur in his coaching debut. The Bears went 3 for 15 on third downs.

The Packers put up negative yardage in the first quarter and survived with a win despite consistently moving the chains on only one drive, which ended in Aaron Rodgers finding tight end Jimmy Graham in the end zone.

Chicago dialed up only 12 handoffs in the game, while Trubisky threw 45 passes and never found the strike zone. Rookie David Montgomery, a star of the preseason for the Bears, managed six carries and one reception.

“That part is new to us a little bit, so we’ve got to make sure that, again, we figure out how to get that thing right,” Nagy said. “And luckily it is the first game of the year.”

Nagy will be knuckles deep in his game plan for the Denver Broncos and former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio by the time the rest of the Week 1 slate gets underway Sunday. Fangio knows all the flaws and personalities inside the building, and he likely already has a decent jump on his plan to keep the Bears’ offense in hibernation next week in Denver.

Nagy might take a day or two to get over putting up a 3-spot in the primetime 2019 opener.

“There’s humility there just for the fact that I know that our guys – we feel really good, we felt good going into it,” Nagy said. “I don’t know what the exact word is for it other than that what you can’t do and what you can’t fall into the trap of is all of a sudden making this seem like it was the Super Bowl and we just lost the Super Bowl. We didn’t lose the Super Bowl, we lost the first game of the regular season. We just need to make sure that we pull back and understand, okay, we’re 0-1, we were 0-1 last year, let’s go ahead and figure out how we rally together.”

–Field Level Media

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Brown saga thickens as Broncos visit Raiders

Brown saga thickens as Broncos visit Raiders

Antonio Brown's arrival

Brown saga thickens as Broncos visit Raiders

Antonio Brown’s arrival in Oakland was supposed to represent a recharging of the offense. Instead, it has been nothing but a headache.

Brown is expected to be suspended for Monday’s season opener against the visiting Denver Broncos after his antics led to a near-physical altercation with general manager Mike Mayock on Wednesday, according to multiple reports Thursday.

Brown’s suspension was widely reported, but the Raiders stopped short of confirming it, though coach Jon Gruden told reporters he is tired of talking about Brown.

“I’m emotional about it, I hope you understand why. I think a lot of this guy,” Gruden said after Thursday’s practice. “I think Antonio is a great receiver, and deep down I think he’s a really good guy. So, I’m frustrated, I’m not going to say anything more about it, hope it all works out.”

Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, wore out his welcome with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it seemed to be a worthy move when Oakland acquired him in March for third- and fifth-round picks. The Raiders later signed Brown to a three-year, $50.125 million deal.

But training camp was filled with drama, ranging from the cryotherapy treatment that caused frostbite on his feet, to Brown losing two grievances against the NFL in a battle to wear a helmet ruled to be outdated, to $53,950 in fines for skipping a practice ($40,000) and a walkthrough ($13,950).

Brown ratcheted up the tension by posting a letter from Mayock about the fines on his Instagram account on Wednesday. Then came the furious exchange of words, a day before he was listed as a non-participant — per the team, “not injury related – conduct” — for practice.

Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is hoping his client will play in the opener.

“That’s up to the Raiders,” Rosenhaus told ESPN. “If it’s up to us, he would like to play. But ultimately that’s going to be their decision. He would like to honor his contract and fulfill his commitment to the Raiders. That’s what we’re trying to hammer out with the team right now.”

The situation regarding Brown is overshadowing the start of the season in which Oakland is trying to rebound from a 4-12 mark.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr passed for a career-high 4,039 yards last season but had a career-low 19 touchdowns.

Denver will be unveiling a new quarterback in Joe Flacco, who was acquired in the offseason from the Baltimore Ravens.

The 34-year-old figures to be an upgrade over the likes of recent signal-callers such as Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum and has quickly ingratiated himself with stellar receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

“Flacco’s a baller,” Sanders told reporters. “Probably one of my favorite quarterbacks of all time, him and Peyton (Manning). They’re close. I’m looking forward to going on Sundays and competing with him because I know what type of guy he is.”

Flacco started 163 regular-season games over 11 seasons with the Ravens while passing for 38,245 yards and 212 touchdowns. He also was Super Bowl MVP in the big game following the 2012 season when he passed for 287 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Now Flacco is charged with getting Denver back to the postseason after missing the stage in three straight seasons. In fact, the Broncos were just 11-21 over the past two campaigns, posting back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1971-72.

“The goal is that 17 weeks from now, we’re still preparing for games,” Flacco said.

The Broncos have a new head coach in Vic Fangio — who was on the losing side of Flacco’s Super Bowl triumph — but the same old stars on the defensive side in linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris.

Miller has 98 career sacks in eight seasons, and Harris has 19 career interceptions in eight campaigns.

–Field Level Media

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Amos, Packers outlast Bears in defensive slugfest

Amos, Packers outlast Bears in defensive slugfest

Amos, Packers outlast Bears in defensive slugfest

In an old-school game reminiscent of the old NFC Central — also known as the Black and Blue Division — the visiting Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 10-3 in Matt LaFleur’s coaching debut as the NFL kicked off its 100th season with the league’s oldest rivalry Thursday night.

The Packers hired LaFleur as coach to resurrect the Aaron Rodgers-led offense, but it was second-year coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense and a former Bears defensive back that helped Green Bay upset the defending NFC North champions.

“We’ve got a defense,” a smiling Rodgers said afterward on the NBC broadcast.

With Chicago in the red zone and trailing 10-3 with 2:03 remaining, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky fired a pass into the end zone that was intercepted by former Chicago safety Adrian Amos, whom the Packers signed in free agency.

The Bears got the ball back at their own 14 with 1:33 and one timeout remaining, but Trubisky & Co. went four-and-out, with Preston Smith’s sack on fourth-and-8 clinching it.

The Packers led 7-3 at halftime, and that score held into the fourth quarter. Chicago crossed midfield early in the fourth, but three consecutive penalties made it first-and-40, and two dropped passes made it third-and-40.

Green Bay tacked on a 39-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 5:15 remaining, a drive keyed by 28-yard completions to receiver Trevor Davis and tight end Robert Tonyan.

A key moment came on a second-and-10 from Chicago’s 49 with 4:16 remaining. Trubisky hit receiver Taylor Gabriel for a 24-yard catch while tumbling out of bounds. Trubisky rushed the offense to the line of scrimmage, but LaFleur threw his challenge flag, and the completion was overturned by review.

Chicago kept moving, though, before Amos’ interception on third-and-10 from the 16.

Chicago’s defense, which led the NFL in points allowed last season and returned four Pro Bowlers, dominated the start of the game. Green Bay’s first three possessions resulted in three punts and minus-12 yards.

With the Packers’ offense going in reverse, the Bears’ field position was on fast forward. They started their second drive at Green Bay’s 36 but settled for a 38-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro. As the ball split the uprights, the Soldier Field crowd erupted, no doubt due to memories of last year’s double-doink miss by Cody Parkey in a playoff loss to the Eagles.

One big play changed everything, as Rodgers employed a fake end-around to receiver Davante Adams and hit fellow receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a gain of 47 early in the second quarter. Rodgers followed with short completions to tight end Marcedes Lewis and Adams before hitting tight end Jimmy Graham for an 8-yard touchdown, despite 12 defenders on the field.

–Field Level Media

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Soccer match stymies Jets’ plan to get K Vedvik a test run

Soccer match stymies Jets' plan to get K Vedvik a test run

Recently signed New York

Soccer match stymies Jets’ plan to get K Vedvik a test run

Recently signed New York Jets kicker Kaare Vedvik never has booted footballs inside MetLife Stadium, so the team planned to get him inside the venue Friday for a trial run ahead of Sunday’s opener against the Buffalo Bills.

But the plan was stymied by a soccer match.

The United States Men’s National Team faces Mexico in a friendly on Friday night, meaning the stadium wasn’t in football configuration. The uprights weren’t up and the artificial surface had been replaced by grass.

“We’ll have to adjust on the fly,” Jets special teams coordinator Brant Boyer told reporters Thursday.

Boyer wanted to get Vedvik inside the facility so he could get familiar with how the ball moves after it comes off a kicker’s foot. The winds were a primary concern.

“(The plan was) to test the winds a little bit because it swirls a little bit in some areas,” Boyer said. “It’s always good to get in there if you can. It’s just a matter of them having that soccer field in there.”

Boyer’s audible was for Vedvik to have a longer pregame session prior to Sunday’s game.

Vedvik, a 25-year-old Norwegian, was claimed by the Jets last Sunday after being waived by the Minnesota Vikings a day earlier.

Vedvik was acquired by the Vikings from the Baltimore Ravens on Aug. 11 for a fifth-round pick but was just 1-of-4 on field goals for Minnesota. His only make was from 27 yards.

“It wasn’t mechanical,” Vedvik told reporters of his struggles with the Vikings. “I just went 1-for-4. It’s as simple as that. I think anything more into it is just overanalyzing a problem that doesn’t necessarily exist.”

New York needed a kicker after losing Pro Bowler Jason Myers (33-of-36 field goals in 2018) to the Seattle Seahawks in free agency. Chandler Catanzaro struggled during training camp before retiring. Taylor Bertolet missed three field goals in the final preseason game before being cut.

Boyer thinks the Jets now have their kicker.

“He’s got a really big opportunity here,” Boyer said. “It’s all ahead of him. It’s just a maturation process. If he can grow and learn from his mistakes, I think he can do really well in this league, I really do.”

–Field Level Media

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Cowboys: No deal imminent for WR Cooper

Cowboys: No deal imminent for WR Cooper

The Dallas Cowboys signed running back Ezekiel Elliott to a contract extension

Cowboys: No deal imminent for WR Cooper

The Dallas Cowboys signed running back Ezekiel Elliott to a contract extension before Sunday’s season opener. Wide receiver Amari Cooper is another story.

“There haven’t been a lot of negotiations with Amari (Cooper), period,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Thursday, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. “And I’m not free to be able to share why. I think at some point we’ll start that. I don’t know what their parameters will be.”

Unlike Elliott, Cooper was not holding out in search of a new deal. He’s expected to play when the Cowboys meet the visiting New York Giants on Sunday.

The Morning News reported that Cooper is not necessarily waiting for Atlanta’s Julio Jones to sign his expected extension and reset the wide receiver market, as many have speculated.

The Cowboys began training camp with their three biggest stars seeking contract extensions. Elliott held out before signing a six-year, $90-million deal on Wednesday. Cooper and quarterback Dak Prescott have been practicing and playing with the team throughout the preseason.

In July, Jones said he “for sure” expected the Cowboys to reach a long-term contract extension Pro Bowl receiver Cooper, who’ll earn nearly $14 million during the final year of his rookie contract in 2019. He’s set to hit free agency next offseason.

Cooper, 25, has said he wants to remain in Dallas but is willing to play out the season in an effort to prove that he is worthy of a top-dollar deal.

Dallas acquired Cooper from the Oakland Raiders last October in exchange for a first-round pick. Overall, he had 75 receptions for 1,005 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

–Field Level Media

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Redskins RB Peterson possible healthy scratch

Redskins RB Peterson possible healthy scratch

Washington Redskins running back Adrian

Redskins RB Peterson possible healthy scratch

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson could be a healthy scratch for the first time in his career in Sunday’s opener at the Philadelphia Eagles.

Head coach Jay Gruden said Thursday a decision hadn’t been made on how many backs will be active, or if Peterson — who doesn’t play special teams — will be one of them. The decision also will depend on health elsewhere, with five Washington players either sitting out or limited in practice this week.

“We’ve got a lot of ‘ifs’ we’ve got to worry about,” Gruden told reporters. “We’re just going to go (out) tomorrow see who’s active, see who can play, and then we’ll make the determination come Sunday.”

Derrius Guice, a 2018 second-round pick who is healthy after missing his rookie season with a torn ACL, is slated to start. Chris Thompson is listed behind Peterson on the depth chart but is the team’s top third-down back, with Wendell Smallwood the other back on the roster.

Peterson, 34, joined Washington after Guice’s injury last August and rushed for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns while starting all 16 games, his most productive season since 2015. He re-signed with the Redskins on a one-year deal this offseason.

One player working to get healthy enough to play in the opener is tight end Jordan Reed, who is recovering from his seventh known concussion dating back to college.

Reed practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day on Thursday but remains in concussion protocol.

“He’s been taking tests,” Gruden said. “Now it’s just a matter of how he does on though tests and then how he feels at night sleeping, in the morning when he wakes up and when he goes through the drills. Then he continues to pass the test and continues to progress then they’ll allow him back on the field.”

Reed, 29, has missed multiple games in all six of his NFL seasons, including 10 in 2017 and three last year.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Raiders create chaos before opener

NFL notebook: Raiders create chaos before opener

NFL notebook: Raiders create chaos before opener

The Oakland Raiders plan to suspend wideout Antonio Brown after he “got into it” with general manager Mike Mayock, multiple outlets reported Thursday.

Multiple outlets reported Brown had to be held back from Mayock by teammates. NFL Network reported that Brown told Mayock he would hit him in the face, then punted a football and said, “Fine me for that.”

Their exchange occurred Wednesday after Brown went on Instagram and posted a letter he received from Mayock detailing the $53,950 in fines he accrued while missing time in training camp.

Head coach Jon Gruden declined to get into details after practice, telling reporters the team would have “an official announcement later.”

–Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones did not play in the preseason and said he is “trying to be ready” to face the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1, but stopped short of saying he would be on the field in Minneapolis.

Jones and the Falcons have been negotiating toward a new contract for months.

Owner Arthur Blank said in March the team wanted a deal done before training camp. General manager Thomas Dimitroff set a goal of the start of the season — which is Sunday.

–Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said he plans to play Sunday despite an ongoing hip injury that prevents him from “opening up and sprinting.”

Beckham updated reporters on the status of an ailment he has been dealing with for weeks. He did not play in the preseason.

“It’s like an extremely fast car with like a little alignment or something off,” he said. “And it’s right in the center of what you need. Now, the car can still go, but it’s dangerous, you know what I mean?”

–Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson could be a healthy scratch for the first time in his career in Sunday’s opener at the Philadelphia Eagles.

Head coach Jay Gruden said a decision hadn’t been made on how many backs will be active, or if Peterson — who doesn’t play special teams — will be one of them. The decision also will depend on health elsewhere, with five Washington players either sitting out or limited in practice this week.

Derrius Guice, a 2018 second-round pick who is healthy after missing his rookie season with a torn ACL, is slated to start.

–Ezekiel Elliott might not be on a snap count Sunday against the New York Giants after all.

According to head coach Jason Garrett, the Dallas Cowboys will wait at least another day before deciding whether Elliott should be limited in Week 1 after missing five weeks of preseason work during a contract holdout.

Elliott reported to the team Wednesday, signed a $90 million contract and was in meetings from sunrise to sunset to get up to speed on some of the essentials of the team’s game plan for the Giants. He was officially limited in practice, but Garrett said that was by design.

–The Cowboys likely will not offer big money to wide receiver Amari Cooper anytime soon.

“There haven’t been a lot of negotiations with Amari (Cooper), period,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Thursday, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. “And I’m not free to be able to share why. I think at some point we’ll start that. I don’t know what their parameters will be.”

Unlike Elliott, Cooper was not holding out in search of a new deal. He’s expected to play when the Cowboys meet the Giants on Sunday.

–San Francisco 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward could miss Sunday’s season opener at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after breaking a finger in Wednesday’s practice.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and cornerback Richard Sherman both confirmed the injury to reporters.

–Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs returned to practice after he was out a day earlier.

The Vikings are hopeful Diggs will be on the field for Sunday’s regular-season opener with the Atlanta Falcons in Minneapolis.

–Atlanta Falcons rookie offensive lineman Kaleb McGary could start Sunday’s season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, just five weeks after undergoing a heart procedure.

Head coach Dan Quinn said the first-round pick (31st overall) will be on the active roster, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constutition. McGary, 24, had a cardiac ablation on July 31, a procedure designed to correct heart rhythm issues.

–The Los Angeles Rams and tight end Tyler Higbee agreed to terms on a four-year extension through 2023.

The deal has a base value of $31 million (more than $36 million with incentives) and includes $15 million in guarantees, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported. Higbee, 26, was entering the final year of his four-year, $2.9 million rookie contract signed in 2016.

–More than 38 million Americans — 15 percent of the country’s population — are expected to place bets on the National Football League this season, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA).

Based on a study conducted by Morning Consult, the AGA report stated that millions of Americans now have access to regulated betting within the United States. The report also said that 24 percent of the population would plan to wager on NFL games if it were legal to do so in their state.

–Field Level Media

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49ers DB Ward breaks finger, uncertain for Sunday

49ers DB Ward breaks finger, uncertain for Sunday

49ers DB Ward breaks finger, uncertain for Sunday

San Francisco 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward could miss Sunday’s season opener at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after breaking a finger in Wednesday’s practice.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and cornerback Richard Sherman both confirmed the injury to reporters on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, he broke his finger, but I think he’ll be fine,” Sherman said. “I think he’s mentally where he needs to be. I don’t think he’s down-and-out about this. He’s been through harder things in his life than a few injuries.”

Ward broke his collarbone in the offseason but was healthy in time for preseason. His last two seasons were both ended by forearm fractures, after the former first-round pick battled foot and shoulder fractures early in his career.

Ward, 28, was the 49ers’ first-round pick (30th overall) in 2014. He has played in all 16 games just once through five seasons.

Tarvarius Moore, a 2018 third-round pick, is expected to fill in for Ward if he can’t play.

“T -Moore has been doing a great job and showed he’s earned the right to go out there and play,” Saleh said.

–Field Level Media

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Brown saga ends as Raiders prepare for Broncos

Brown saga ends as Raiders prepare for Broncos

Antonio Brown's

Brown saga ends as Raiders prepare for Broncos

Antonio Brown’s arrival in Oakland was supposed to represent a recharging of the offense. Instead, it was nothing but a headache.

The “plan” was for Brown to play in Monday’s season opener against the visiting Denver Broncos. Instead, Brown was released by the Raiders on Saturday and then agreed on a deal with the New England Patriots later in the day.

Brown’s antics in Oakland included a near-physical altercation with general manager Mike Mayock on Wednesday, and nearly led to a suspension. Then on Friday, Brown opened a team meeting with an “emotional apology,” and coach Jon Gruden welcomed him back and hopes to have him on the field against Denver.

“Antonio’s back today. We’re really excited about that,” Gruden told reporters. “Ready to move on. He’s had a lot of time to think about things. We’re happy to have him back and I know Raider Nation is excited about that too.”

Less than 24 hours later, Brown was released — a move he requested — and agreed to sign with the Patriots.

Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, wore out his welcome with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it seemed to be a worthy move when Oakland acquired him in March for third- and fifth-round picks. The Raiders later signed Brown to a three-year, $50.125 million deal.

But training camp was filled with drama, ranging from the cryotherapy treatment that caused frostbite on his feet, to Brown losing two grievances against the NFL in a battle to wear a helmet ruled to be outdated, to $53,950 in fines for skipping a practice ($40,000) and a walkthrough ($13,950).

Brown ratcheted up the tension by posting a letter from Mayock about the fines on his Instagram account on Wednesday. Then came the furious exchange of words, a day before he was listed as a non-participant — per the team, “not injury related – conduct” — for practice.

Now, the Raiders are moving on from Brown as they attempt to rebound from a 4-12 mark.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr passed for a career-high 4,039 yards last season but had a career-low 19 touchdowns.

Denver will be unveiling a new quarterback in Joe Flacco, who was acquired in the offseason from the Baltimore Ravens.

The 34-year-old figures to be an upgrade over the likes of recent signal-callers such as Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum and has quickly ingratiated himself with stellar receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

“Flacco’s a baller,” Sanders told reporters. “Probably one of my favorite quarterbacks of all time, him and Peyton (Manning). They’re close. I’m looking forward to going on Sundays and competing with him because I know what type of guy he is.”

Flacco started 163 regular-season games over 11 seasons with the Ravens while passing for 38,245 yards and 212 touchdowns. He also was Super Bowl MVP in the big game following the 2012 season when he passed for 287 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Now Flacco is charged with getting Denver back to the postseason after missing the stage in three straight seasons. In fact, the Broncos were just 11-21 over the past two campaigns, posting back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1971-72.

“The goal is that 17 weeks from now, we’re still preparing for games,” Flacco said.

The Broncos have a new head coach in Vic Fangio — who was on the losing side of Flacco’s Super Bowl triumph — but the same old stars on the defensive side in linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris.

Miller has 98 career sacks in eight seasons, and Harris has 19 career interceptions in eight campaigns.

–Field Level Media

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Brown saga overshadowing Raiders’ opener against Broncos

Brown saga overshadowing Raiders' opener against Broncos

Antonio Brown's arrival

Brown saga overshadowing Raiders’ opener against Broncos

Antonio Brown’s arrival in Oakland was supposed to represent a recharging of the offense. Instead, it has been nothing but a headache.

The “plan” is for Brown to play in Monday’s season opener against the visiting Denver Broncos after his antics led to a near-physical altercation with general manager Mike Mayock on Wednesday, and nearly led to a suspension.

But on Friday, Brown opened a team meeting with an “emotional apology,” and coach Jon Gruden welcomed him back and hopes to have him on the field against Denver.

“Antonio’s back today. We’re really excited about that,” Gruden told reporters. “Ready to move on. He’s had a lot of time to think about things. We’re happy to have him back and I know Raider Nation is excited about that too.”

Brown indicated he was ready to put his focus to football.

“I’m excited to be out here today,” Brown told reporters on Friday. “I apologized to my teammates and the organization. Enough talk, man. I’m excited to be out here with my teammates. I’m grateful for all the fans. I’m excited to be a part of the Raiders and see you guys soon.”

Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, wore out his welcome with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it seemed to be a worthy move when Oakland acquired him in March for third- and fifth-round picks. The Raiders later signed Brown to a three-year, $50.125 million deal.

But training camp was filled with drama, ranging from the cryotherapy treatment that caused frostbite on his feet, to Brown losing two grievances against the NFL in a battle to wear a helmet ruled to be outdated, to $53,950 in fines for skipping a practice ($40,000) and a walkthrough ($13,950).

Brown ratcheted up the tension by posting a letter from Mayock about the fines on his Instagram account on Wednesday. Then came the furious exchange of words, a day before he was listed as a non-participant — per the team, “not injury related – conduct” — for practice.

The situation regarding Brown is overshadowing the start of the season in which Oakland is trying to rebound from a 4-12 mark.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr passed for a career-high 4,039 yards last season but had a career-low 19 touchdowns.

Denver will be unveiling a new quarterback in Joe Flacco, who was acquired in the offseason from the Baltimore Ravens.

The 34-year-old figures to be an upgrade over the likes of recent signal-callers such as Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum and has quickly ingratiated himself with stellar receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

“Flacco’s a baller,” Sanders told reporters. “Probably one of my favorite quarterbacks of all time, him and Peyton (Manning). They’re close. I’m looking forward to going on Sundays and competing with him because I know what type of guy he is.”

Flacco started 163 regular-season games over 11 seasons with the Ravens while passing for 38,245 yards and 212 touchdowns. He also was Super Bowl MVP in the big game following the 2012 season when he passed for 287 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Now Flacco is charged with getting Denver back to the postseason after missing the stage in three straight seasons. In fact, the Broncos were just 11-21 over the past two campaigns, posting back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1971-72.

“The goal is that 17 weeks from now, we’re still preparing for games,” Flacco said.

The Broncos have a new head coach in Vic Fangio — who was on the losing side of Flacco’s Super Bowl triumph — but the same old stars on the defensive side in linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris.

Miller has 98 career sacks in eight seasons, and Harris has 19 career interceptions in eight campaigns.

–Field Level Media

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Books offering bevy of Daniel Jones props

Books offering bevy of Daniel Jones props

Daniel Jones

Books offering bevy of Daniel Jones props

Daniel Jones has been fodder for critics and oddsmakers ever since the New York Giants surprised the NFL world by selecting the former Duke quarterback sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

From daily breakdowns of his offseason performance to prop bets around when he would throw his first preseason interception, everyone has had an opinion about Jones.

The Giants aren’t doing Jones any favors by giving him his first career start at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Since 2009, rookie quarterbacks making their first career start on the road are 10-18 (.357), although they have gone 13-14-1 against the spread in those 28 games, according to CBS Sports.

PointsBet has the Giants as a 6.5-point underdog with a +230 moneyline to beat the Bucs, and the sportsbook is offering an OddsBoost from -335 to +100 that Jones will throw at least one touchdown on Sunday.

FanDuel is offering +480 on Jones throwing for at least 250 yards — and the Giants pulling the upset. The book’s -122 Over/Under on his passing yards Sunday is 231.5

DraftKings has some bigger-picture odds, with a -121 moneyline that Jones will throw for fewer than 3,100.5 yards this season (the Over is +100). Jones earning the Week 3 nod did vault his Offensive Rookie of the Year odds to +1000, behind only Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (+175), Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown (+500) and Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (+600).

–Field Level Media

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Mickelson admits winning a U.S. Open unlikely

Mickelson admits winning a U.S. Open unlikely

Mickelson admits winning a U.S. Open unlikely

One year away from his 50th birthday, Phil Mickelson is starting to accept what is becoming painfully obvious: His best chance to win a U.S. Open is likely gone.

Less than a week after he finished tied for 52nd at last weekend’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Mickelson was getting set to participate in the Travelers Championship at Cromwell, Conn., but the topic of a certain Grand Slam tournament was still being discussed.

“I really don’t have many more chances,” Mickelson told reporters Wednesday from the Travelers Championship. “I probably have to come to the realization that I’m not going to win a U.S. Open.”

Mickelson has won the Masters three times (2004, 2006, 2010), the PGA Championship once (2005) and the British Open once (2013), but the tournament he covets most has been just out of his reach.

He has teed off in the U.S. Open 26 times, and his best finish is second place, doing that a record six times. His most recent runner-up finish came in 2013.

Next year’s U.S. Open will take place at Winged Foot Golf Club at Mamaroneck, N.Y., where Mickelson fell apart on the 72nd hole of the 2006 championship, when he just needed a par for the title but made double bogey.

He has 44 victories in his career and still appears to be playing at an elite level, but playing his best during U.S. Open week is something he still desires. His last win came at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, and he also won in Mexico in 2018.

“When I do play well, I’m able to play at a comparable level to what I played like at the height of my career and I’m able to pick off wins,” Mickelson said. “I’m just not having as many opportunities.

“That’s been the hardest thing for me is having the energy levels and recovering and being focused for each shot in four rounds. But I’m not going to stop trying. You never know.”

–Field Level Media

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Pats suspended WR Gordon works out with Brady

Pats suspended WR Gordon works out with Brady

Suspended New England Patriots wideout

Pats suspended WR Gordon works out with Brady

Suspended New England Patriots wideout Josh Gordon and quarterback Tom Brady got together for a workout this week.

Brady posted a GIF on Instagram on Wednesday showing him throwing to Gordon, with the caption “Practice makes perfect.” ESPN reported the photo came from a workout on Tuesday.

Brady regularly connects with teammates for workouts during the offseason, but Gordon’s future is murky after he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in December for violating the terms of his reinstatement from a yearlong ban for substance abuse. According to The Athletic, the league does not have an update on Gordon’s status, with the preseason less than two months away.

The Patriots have supported Gordon since the suspension, offering him a restricted free agent tender, which Gordon signed in April. If he is able to play this season, New England would welcome him back.

Gordon, 28, played one game for the Cleveland Browns last year before being traded to the Patriots in September. In 12 games, he caught 41 passes for 737 yards and four touchdowns.

After breaking into the NFL with the Browns in 2012 and making the Pro Bowl after the 2013 season, Gordon missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons due to suspensions related to substance abuse.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: TE Roberts fails another physical; waived by Packers

Reports: TE Roberts fails another physical; waived by Packers

Reports: TE Roberts fails another physical; waived by Packers

The Green Bay Packers waived tight end Michael Roberts Wednesday after he failed a team physical, according to multiple reports.

The Packers claimed Roberts off waivers from the Detroit Lions on Monday.

The Lions released Roberts on Friday after his trade to the New England Patriots for a 2020 seventh-round pick was rescinded due to a failed physical.

Roberts, 25, was a fourth-round pick out of Toledo in 2017 after catching 13 touchdowns as a senior. The 25-year-old has 13 receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns in 23 NFL games, with 48 yards and two scores coming in one game last season (at Miami).

–Field Level Media

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Lions QB Stafford reportedly played with broken back

Lions QB Stafford reportedly played with broken back

Detroit Lions

Lions QB Stafford reportedly played with broken back

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played through broken bones in his back last year, according to a team reporter.

Mike O’Hara, a long-time Lions beat reporter who now works for the team’s website, said of Stafford on a recent episode of his podcast, “He had a broken back last year. Broken bones in his back.”

Asked by podcast host Ken Brown if he was allowed to say that, O’Hara replied that the information had “been reported. I read that. Word gets out in the NFL.”

O’Hara told MLive he stands by his words. Meanwhile, MLive reports Stafford played through injuries that were more serious than reported, although the outlet did not confirm any broken bones.

After taking 12 hits against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 2, Stafford was listed with a back injury for the final four weeks of the 2018 season, including limited participation and questionable designations for games in Weeks 14-16. He played in all four games, throwing for 691 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions as the Lions went 2-2.

Stafford, 31, has played in 128 straight games since missing 19 across his first two seasons. That’s the sixth-longest start streak by a quarterback in NFL history and the third-longest active streak (behind Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan).

He posted down numbers across the board last season, throwing for 3,777 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, his worst marks since 2010, 2012 and 2015.

–Field Level Media

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Thousands of Broncos fans pay tribute to Bowlen

Thousands of Broncos fans pay tribute to Bowlen

More than

Thousands of Broncos fans pay tribute to Bowlen

More than 5,000 Denver Broncos fans attended owner Pat Bowlen’s memorial service on Tuesday, according to the team.

Bowlen died last week at age 75 after a fight with Alzheimer’s disease. The team hosted a public memorial service at Broncos Stadium at Mile High, where fans walked past photos and memorabilia from Bowlen’s life and watched a video tribute in his honor.

Former Broncos players such as John Elway, Rod Smith and Peyton Manning also attended the service. Bowlen posthumously will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August.

Beth Bowlen Wallace thanked fans and friends for sharing stories about her father and his impact on the community.

“It’s been very comforting,” Bowlen Wallace said. “It’s been an overwhelming time emotionally for all of us, but to see the fans and to see the players and the staff that have come through has brought great comfort because we realize, which we already did, it just solidifies how much my father meant to this community. It’s mirrored back to them how much this community meant to my father.”

Brittany Bowlen said her father might not have believed the public response.

“He’d be incredibly overwhelmed by all of the support and love,” she said. “And there would definitely be a small part of him that would be like, ‘What the heck?’

“It’s pretty astonishing to see all of these artifacts and things that were important to him in life and meet all of these people that truly loved him. I think he’d be really incredibly overwhelmed by the support. I think it would be moving for him. It really would.”

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Falcons WR Jones in line for extension

NFL notebook: Falcons WR Jones in line for extension

The

NFL notebook: Falcons WR Jones in line for extension

The Atlanta Falcons are confident they will re-sign wide receiver Julio Jones to a new long-term extension before training camp begins next month, ESPN reported Tuesday.

Jones has two years remaining on his deal, which owes him $9.6 million in 2019 and $11.4 million in 2020. He signed a contract adjustment as training camp opened last July — giving him $4.4 million, including $2.9 million from his 2019 salary, up front — and the team reportedly promised to do a full extension this offseason. That came after Jones missed the Falcons’ entire offseason program and threatened to hold out into training camp.

The 30-year-old again missed voluntary workouts this summer, but he showed up for mandatory minicamp. He told reporters in April he isn’t concerned with being the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver.

In his eighth season, Jones is coming off of his sixth Pro Bowl selection — fifth in a row — after catching 113 passes for a league-high 1,677 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He remains the NFL’s all-time leader in career receiving yards per game (96.7).

–Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played through broken bones in his back last year, according to a team reporter.

Mike O’Hara, a long-time Lions beat reporter who now works for the team’s website, said of Stafford on a recent episode of his podcast, “He had a broken back last year. Broken bones in his back.”

After taking 12 hits against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 2, Stafford was listed with a back injury for the final four weeks of the 2018 season, including limited participation and questionable designations for games in Weeks 14-16. He played in all four games, throwing for 691 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions as the Lions went 2-2.

–The former NFL running back who wore “He Hate Me” on his jersey during his season in the XFL was found safe after going missing in South Carolina, according to a report from the Charlotte Observer.

Police said Torrold “Rod” Smart was located and was OK, the Observer reported. Earlier in the day, the Lancaster (S.C.) County Sheriff’s Office said Smart was a “missing endangered person” and was seeking information regarding his whereabouts.

Smart, 42, played college football at Western Kentucky. As an undrafted free agent in 2000, he was signed by the then-San Diego Chargers but was released. The following year, he played for the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL, then later in 2001 played in the Canadian Football League and with the Philadelphia Eagles. He played four more seasons with the Carolina Panthers.

–New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is headed for paydirt, one way or another.

General manager Mickey Loomis said on Mad Dog Sports Radio that the Saints and Thomas have begun talks geared toward a long-term deal. Thomas, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, had 125 receptions for 1,405 yards in 2018.

“We’ve had some conversations, and I like keeping that close to the vest until there’s something to report, but look, we love what Mike’s done for us,” Loomis said. “He’s a fantastic player, one of the best at his position in the league, and hopefully we can keep him a Saint for a long time as well.”

–More than 5,000 Denver Broncos fans attended owner Pat Bowlen’s memorial service, according to the team.

Bowlen died last week at age 75 after a fight with Alzheimer’s disease. The team hosted a public memorial service at Broncos Stadium at Mile High, where fans walked past photos and memorabilia from Bowlen’s life and watched a video tribute in his honor.

Former Broncos players such as John Elway, Rod Smith and Peyton Manning also attended the service. Bowlen will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame posthumously this August.

–Former Senior Bowl director and Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage is expected to join the New York Jets’ personnel department under new general manager Joe Douglas, NFL Network reported.

Per the report, Savage’s role is not yet fully defined, but an announcement “should come this week,” absent a setback. NFL Network also reported Ravens assistant director of pro personnel Chad Alexander will join the Jets as director of player personnel.

ESPN reported the Jets are hiring Indianapolis Colts vice president of player personnel Rex Hogan as assistant general manager, after Hogan served as New York’s senior director of college scouting from 2015-17.

–Field Level Media

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Jackson, Mahomes do battle as Ravens visit Chiefs

Jackson, Mahomes do battle as Ravens visit Chiefs

Plentiful reasons exist for Patrick Mahomes

Jackson, Mahomes do battle as Ravens visit Chiefs

Plentiful reasons exist for Patrick Mahomes to think he’s a trendsetting NFL quarterback. After all, he is the reigning MVP following his first season as a starter.

Yet Mahomes remains humble as he leads the Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) into a home matchup on Sunday against another young phenom among NFL quarterbacks, Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens (2-0).

Could a pattern be emerging to try to emulate the flashy substance Mahomes brings?

“I don’t think it’s necessarily my success but the success of the offense in general,” Mahomes said. “As coaches (adopted) Air Raid spread offenses and intertwined that with NFL offenses of old, it’s kind of helping other guys come into the league and have their opportunities.”

Jackson dazzled the first two weeks, throwing for 324 yards and five touchdowns in an opening romp over Miami before rushing for 120 yards and throwing for 272 last week against Arizona.

With a potent mix of RPOs, Jackson can help Baltimore control the clock and keep the electric Mahomes from possessing the football.

“That’s not my job. My job is to score touchdowns, drive the ball downfield,” Jackson countered. “I’m not really worried about him. My job is to worry about my team, my side of the ball, offense, scoring points.”

Nonetheless, comparisons will be drawn between the two young quarterbacks, particularly since Mahomes was not even voted among the top-10 for the Heisman Trophy in his last season (2016) at Texas Tech. That was the year Jackson won the Heisman while at Louisville.

Mahomes did go 10th in the 2017 draft after the Chiefs moved up 17 spots to snag him.

Among his eye-popping highlights a year ago was a 48-yard heave on fourth-and-9 to Tyreek Hill to help the Chiefs overtake the Ravens in a 27-24 overtime outcome.

“That pretty much gave us home-field advantage in the playoffs,” said Mahomes, “so it was one of my favorite (NFL) throws, if not my favorite so far.”

Coming off four second-quarter touchdown passes last Sunday to shellshock Oakland 28-10 rates as spectacular too. Mahomes fired for a whopping 278 yards in the period, second in NFL passing annals behind a 294-yard quarter Drew Brees provided New Orleans in a 2008 game.

The Chiefs will be without left tackle Eric Fisher, who started the game at Oakland but hobbled off with a groin injury he suffered in practice. He underwent surgery Wednesday and will miss a few weeks. Hill (collarbone) also remains out. Running backs LeSean McCoy (ankle) and Damien Williams (knee) both missed practice on Wednesday.

Five players did not practice Wednesday for the Ravens. Injuries to cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) and safety Brynden Trawick (elbow) are considered most serious. Mark Andrews continues to deal with a sore foot, though he tops NFL tight ends with 220 yards receiving and is ready for another opportunity in Kansas City.

“A lot of guys kind of grew up in that game (last year),” Andrews said. “I think Lamar being able to play a tight game like that was big for his growth. It’s one of those games that I don’t think a lot of people have forgotten.”

Andrews also missed practice last Wednesday but was fine for Sunday, totaling eight catches for 112 yards and a touchdown against Arizona.

–Field Level Media

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Falcons WR Jones ‘trying to be out there’ Sunday

Falcons WR Jones 'trying to be out there' Sunday

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones did not

Falcons WR Jones ‘trying to be out there’ Sunday

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones did not play in the preseason and said he is “trying to be ready” to face the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1, but stopped short of saying he would be on the field in Minneapolis.

“As far as me, what I’m doing, I’m getting me ready to go,” Jones said. “There’s no if he will play, not going to play.”

Jones and the Falcons have been negotiating toward a new contract for months. Owner Arthur Blank said in March the team wanted a deal done before training camp. General manager Thomas Dimitroff set a goal of the start of the season — which is Sunday.

Jones, 30, on Thursday offered no updates. His approach this week is to answer the phone if his agent needs him. Jones said his agent will keep him posted on contract news, and talk to him only if he needs Jones’ input.

“When things have changed, he’ll come to me,” Jones said. “I’ve been at work. When I’m at work, I don’t be on my phone. When I be up here at 6:15, 6:45, I’m here.”

Dimitroff said the Falcons fully expect Jones to be the highest-paid receiver in the NFL when his contract is finalized. Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas signed for $100 million over five years, pushing the price tag for top pass catchers to an all-time high.

Multiple outlets reported Thursday a deal between Jones and the Falcons was imminent.

–Field Level Media

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Browns WR Beckham still hampered by hip injury

Browns WR Beckham still hampered by hip injury

Cleveland Browns

Browns WR Beckham still hampered by hip injury

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said he plans to play Sunday despite an ongoing hip injury that prevents him from “opening up and sprinting.”

Beckham was not listed on Wednesday’s injury report for the season opener against the visiting Tennessee Titans. On Thursday, he updated reporters on the status of an ailment he has been dealing with for weeks. He did not play in the preseason.

“It’s like an extremely fast car with like a little alignment or something off,” he said. “And it’s right in the center of what you need. Now, the car can still go, but it’s dangerous, you know what I mean? So, it’s just something I’ve been trying to figure out, in and out of rehab every single day. Never really dealt with anything like that.”

Beckham, 26, missed 16 of 32 games during his last two seasons with the New York Giants. He played all 16 games only once (2016) in five years there.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection said the injury is getting better.

“It’s something that hopefully that keeps progressing and gets better and not worse,” he said.

“But it’s just something you have to deal with. We have a game Sunday, so it’s time to go. … I’ll be running as fast as I can run. If that’s not a hundred [percent], I feel confident in myself that wherever I’m at, I’ll be ready to play with wherever I’m at.”

–Field Level Media

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Koepka, Mickelson commit to Shriners event

Koepka, Mickelson commit to Shriners event

Brooks Koepka

Koepka, Mickelson commit to Shriners event

Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson committed to play in next month’s Shriners Hospital for Children Open at TPC Summerlin in Nevada.

Koepka, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, participated in the Las Vegas-area event four straight years from 2014-17. He was the runner-up in 2016.

Mickelson has competed in the tournament 12 times, but not since 2005. He placed second in 2000.

“Just awesome, and we are very excited to announce the addition of two championship golfers to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open field, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson,” tournament executive director Patrick Lindsey said Thursday. “Their commitments speak volumes to our hard work in attracting top-caliber players to Las Vegas’ only PGA Tour event.”

The tournament runs from Oct. 3-6.

— Field Level Media

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Mayfield: Browns WRs ‘licking their chops’

Mayfield: Browns WRs 'licking their chops'

Baker Mayfield and the

Mayfield: Browns WRs ‘licking their chops’

Baker Mayfield and the Browns are hungry to hit the field Sunday when the regular season begins with the Tennessee Titans in Cleveland.

The highly anticipated debut of Odell Beckham Jr. and the first Browns team in years to have serious playoff expectations has everyone itching for kickoff, and Mayfield said he senses it in his wide receiver corps.

“I have full confidence in all our playmakers, our skill position guys that if they have one-on-ones, they should be licking their chops and they should all take that as disrespect because that’s the type of team we have and we need to take advantage of,” Mayfield told The Plain Dealer. “It’s going to be a matchup game …

It’s going to look like a lot of matchups that we can take advantage of, a numbers game.”

Mayfield said not to make anything out of Beckham not logging many snaps in the preseason and missing parts of offseason workouts. He pointed out that he didn’t throw a single pass to Jarvis Landry last year until he unseated Tyrod Taylor as the Browns’ starting quarterback.

“I always pride myself on being an accurate guy, but [Beckham] is kind of a security blanket if I do make a mistake. Just knowing what he can do to affect the defense, it helps us as an offense as a whole but also just to know that I have that threat at all times is great,” Mayfield said.

The Browns are familiar with head coach Freddie Kitchens, who will work with offensive coordinator Todd Monken to build the game plan each week and keep Mayfield comfortable. He had 27 touchdown passes in 14 games in his rookie season in 2018 and now adds Beckham to the mix.

But Mayfield said he believes the Browns should enter Sunday’s game ignoring outside expectations and projections.

“Nobody has done anything yet, so I’d say everyone is starting the same — square one,” Mayfield said. “I’d say it’s pretty hard to live up to any hype if you’re listening to the outside. None of that really matters, so I think we’ve got a bunch of guys who have bought in to what’s going on in this building and the standards that we’re setting. So to us that’s all that matters.”

–Field Level Media

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Vikings WR Diggs returns to practice

Vikings WR Diggs returns to practice

Vikings WR Diggs returns to practice

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs returned to practice Thursday after he was out a day earlier.

Diggs missed Wednesday’s practice with a hamstring strain.

The Vikings are hopeful Diggs will be on the field for Sunday’s regular-season opener with the Atlanta Falcons in Minneapolis.

The 25-year-old caught 102 passes for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns — all career highs — in 15 games last season.

–Field Level Media

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Brown ban shifts line, Raiders become dogs against Broncos

Brown ban shifts line, Raiders become dogs against Broncos

Brown ban shifts line, Raiders become dogs against Broncos

Antonio Brown is likely to be on the sideline Monday night when the Oakland Raiders open the regular season, and oddsmakers responded Thursday by shifting the game from a pick ’em to giving the Denver Broncos a two-point edge.

Denver is -2.5 against the Raiders at DraftKings and Fan Duel made the same move just hours after news of Brown’s looming suspension broke. According to multiple national reports, Brown and general manager Mike Mayock had a heated exchange Wednesday, hours after Brown took his beef to social media for being fined nearly $54,000.

Westgate Superbook brought the over-under down from 43.5 to 42.5. As of 3 p.m. ET, William Hill Sportsbooks held with the Broncos at -1.5.

The offensive side of the ball is in flux for Oakland without Brown as the No. 1 receiver, but the Raiders are accustomed to being in formation without him.

Rookie Josh Jacobs could get a heavier workload at running back, but Denver’s defense is viewed as a strength with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb on the edge and new head coach Vic Fangio at the controls.

–Field Level Media

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Prospect of Brown suspension shifts Raiders-Broncos line

Prospect of Brown suspension shifts Raiders-Broncos line

Prospect of Brown suspension shifts Raiders-Broncos line

Antonio Brown is likely to be on the sideline Monday night when the Oakland Raiders open the regular season, and oddsmakers responded Thursday by shifting the game from a pick ’em to giving the Denver Broncos a two-point edge.

Denver is -2 against the Raiders at DraftKings, and Caesars made the same move just hours after news of Brown’s looming suspension broke. According to multiple national reports, Brown and general manager Mike Mayock had a heated exchange Wednesday, hours after Brown took his beef to social media for being fined nearly $54,000.

The offensive side of the ball is in flux for Oakland without Brown as the No. 1 receiver, but the Raiders are accustomed to being in formation without him.

Rookie Josh Jacobs could get a heavier workload at running back, but Denver’s defense is viewed as a strength with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb on the edge and new head coach Vic Fangio at the controls.

–Field Level Media

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Take 5: Kyler, Kliff and the unknown of Week 1

Take 5: Kyler, Kliff and the unknown of Week 1

Take 5: Kyler, Kliff and the unknown of Week 1

Week 1 of the regular season is thrilling not only because football is back, but also because we finally learn more about the offseason’s great unknowns.

Chief among this year’s mysteries the Arizona Cardinals’ all-in bet on the Air Raid, Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. The uncertainty of what to expect makes Sunday’s visit from the Detroit Lions fascinating, even if neither team is pegged as a major playoff contender.

1. Will the Air Raid fly out of the gates, or crash and burn?

Remember when Chip Kelly and Michael Vick eviscerated the Washington Redskins to open the 2013 season? Of course you do. Well, Kingsbury and Murray are hoping for an encore.

Kingsbury kept his powder dry during the preseason, eschewing the no-huddle, four-WR sets and packaged plays that define his offense. Most of his concepts aren’t new to the NFL, but he’ll present them in myriad ways through tempo, formations, motion and varied personnel. Murray’s quick release, precision and legs fit perfectly in the quick-timing scheme.

Matt Patricia has the unenviable job of game-planning for the unknown, preparing for ghosts that his defense may or may not see. A few tactics he will surely lean on: blitzes and, especially, stunts and twists.

Expect teams to blitz Murray relentlessly early on, to test both his mettle and the soundness of Kingsbury’s protections. With wide offensive-line splits and limited protection calls, the scheme is vulnerable to extra rushers and especially stunts, as penetrators can surge easily into adjacent gaps and clear the way for loopers.

As he did in New England, Patricia loves bringing stunts, usually from muddy fronts that show six or seven potential rushers but only bring four or five. Free agent prize Trey Flowers is a key part of these. The Cardinals must be ready with an answer.

2. Hill vs. Ramsey, Round 2

In Week 5 in Kansas City last year, Jalen Ramsey covered Tyreek Hill only occasionally, seeing five targets in the matchup. The first three were incomplete — two vs. man coverage, one vs. zone — but Hill got free late in the third quarter for a 10-yard hitch under Ramsey’s zone cushion and a 36-yard fade vs. man coverage.

Sunday’s matchup in Jacksonville should be juicier, as Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said Ramsey will shadow Hill.

“Our linebackers can run,” Wash said. “All of our guys can run. We can just say, ‘Hey, Jalen, you go take care of him.'”

That suggests the Jaguars will play mostly man coverage rather than Wash’s typical Cover-3 (and sometimes Cover-4). How often will he put Ramsey on an island with no safety help?

Ramsey can win a fair fight, but Andy Reid rarely settles for fair fights. He’ll have Hill whirring in presnap and jet motion throughout the game, forcing Ramsey to chase across the formation and limiting opportunities to press. It should make for a terrific back-and-forth battle.

3. Can McVay shred the blueprint?

Defenses finally caught up to the Rams’ offense late last season, culminating in a 3-point output in Super Bowl LIII, using a few consistent tactics: condensed fronts along the D-line and Cover-4 (also called quarters) on the back end.

The Bears and Patriots were particularly effective, using 6-1 fronts — six men on the line of scrimmage, one off-ball linebacker — to disrupt L.A.’s zone running game, and Cover-4 to squelch deep play-action designs.

The Panthers are suited to use similar tactics on Sunday in Charlotte. Luke Kuechly’s smarts and range fit perfectly as the lone ‘backer in a 6-1 front, and cornerbacks James Bradberry and Donte Jackson are well-versed in off-zone.

Sean McVay had the whole offseason to adapt and draw up counterpunches, so he’ll surely have some answers. More diversity in the run game (gap-scheme runs with pull-blockers instead of pure zone) could solve the 6-1 front problem, assuming McVay trusts first-time starters Joe Noteboom (left guard) and Brian Allen (center).

4. How much will Seattle cater to Clowney?

Jadeveon Clowney is a devastating talent, but the Texans deployed him in a unique role. That’s not to say he can’t slot in as an immediate star for the Seahawks, but it’s unclear how similarly Seattle will use him.

While tremendously gifted, Clowney has never been a pure edge-bender who threatens offensive tackles outside (partly why he’s never reached 10 sacks in a season). He more often goes through or inside offensive tackles, or better yet, guards and centers. The Texans weaponized Clowney by matching him one-on-one with interior linemen, often out of five-man fronts and usually from a stand-up, roving position.

Attacking the interior would be wise Sunday against the visiting Bengals, who are weak at guard after injuries and Clint Boling’s retirement. With defensive tackle Jarran Reed suspended, the Seahawks have more room to bump Clowney inside, but it’s unclear if they’ll want him standing up and roving like he did in Houston.

Either way, Clowney should thrive from Day 1 against the run, where he uses physicality and relentlessness to blow up runs on the front side and chase down ball carriers from the back side.

5. What can Tunsil do for O’Brien?

Bill O’Brien wanted Laremy Tunsil so desperately that he paid more than the Bears did for Khalil Mack or the Browns did for Odell Beckham Jr. While the Texans obviously needed better protection on the edge, this was a drastic measure.

Was O’Brien thinking solely of keeping Deshaun Watson healthy at all costs? Does he have broader plans — more deep dropbacks or fewer 6- and 7-man protections — in mind with the blind side fortified? Does he trust the rest of the offensive line?

O’Brien preferred having five eligible receivers running routes in New England, but he hasn’t had that luxury in Houston. Tunsil doesn’t necessarily solve that problem, though. While he should be able to handle Saints second-year end Marcus Davenport in New Orleans on Monday, right tackle Seantrel Henderson will need help against All-Pro Cameron Jordan.

The onus is also on Watson to manage the pocket properly. While the line was indeed poor in 2018, he often sensed pressure that wasn’t there, bailing on an adequate pocket and creating actual pressure in the process. His tendency to hold the ball also accounted for several sacks.

A better feel in the pocket and quicker distribution will be key on Monday and throughout 2019.

–By David DeChant (@DavidDeChant), Field Level Media

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Redskins sign LB Spence, place Rodgers-Cromartie on IR

Redskins sign LB Spence, place Rodgers-Cromartie on IR

Redskins sign LB Spence, place Rodgers-Cromartie on IR

The Washington Redskins have signed free agent outside linebacker Noah Spence and placed cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on injured reserve, the team announced Wednesday.

Rodgers-Cromartie, who has seven tackles and no interceptions in two games this season, suffered a leg injury on Sunday during the Redskins’ 31-21- loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Ten players are now on the team’s IR list, and are eligible to start practicing after six weeks and play after eight weeks. However, only two players are eligible to come off injured reserve during a team’s season.

Spence, a second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2016 NFL Draft, joins a team in need of a pass rush after recording only two sacks in two games, the second-fewest total in the league.

Spence, 25, made 5 1/2 sacks in his rookie season, playing in all 16 regular-season games with three starts.

Last year, he played in 12 games but made only three tackles.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Savage expected to join Jets’ scouting staff

Report: Savage expected to join Jets' scouting staff

Report: Savage expected to join Jets’ scouting staff

Former Senior Bowl director and Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage is expected to join the New York Jets’ personnel department under new general manager Joe Douglas, NFL Network reported Tuesday.

Per the report, Savage’s role is not yet fully defined, but an announcement “should come this week,” absent a setback. NFL Network also reports Ravens assistant director of pro personnel Chad Alexander will join the Jets as director of player personnel.

ESPN reports the Jets are hiring Indianapolis Colts vice president of player personnel Rex Hogan as assistant general manager, after Hogan served as New York’s senior director of college scouting from 2015-2017.

Savage, 54, worked with Douglas when both were with the Baltimore Ravens, Savage as director of college scouting (1996-2002) and then director of player personnel (2003-04) and Douglas as a scout (2000-2014). Alexander knows both men well, having worked for the Ravens since 1999.

Both Savage and Douglas also spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles, though they did not cross paths (Savage from 2010-12 and Douglas from 2016-19).

Savage served as the Browns’ GM from 2005-08, helping the team to its only 10-win season since 1994 when they went 10-6 in 2007.

He became the executive director of the Senior Bowl — the annual showcase of top senior college prospects in Mobile, Ala. — in 2012 and ran the event for six years before stepping down in May 2018.

The Jets previously missed out on other reported targets for Douglas’ staff. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay pulled his name out of consideration, while the Eagles promoted Andy Weidl — to VP of player personnel, Douglas’ old job — and Ian Cunningham (to assistant director of player personnel) to prevent them from following Douglas to New York.

–Field Level Media

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