Bengals LB Preston Brown inactive vs Ravens

CINCINNATI (AP) — Preston Brown is inactive for the Bengals’ Thursday night game against the Ravens, leaving Cincinnati without two of its top linebackers.

Brown hurt his right ankle during an opening win at Indianapolis on Sunday and had been listed as questionable. The Bengals also are missing linebacker Vontaze Burfict, suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Backup tackle Cedric Ogbuehi — a first-round pick in 2015 — also is inactive for Cincinnati.

There are no changes in the Ravens’ starting lineups. Quarterback Lamar Jackson played in their opening win over the Bills and is Joe Flacco’s backup again. Robert Griffin III is inactive for the second straight game.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Saints sign ex-Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Dez Bryant has found a new team, agreeing to join the already prolific offense of the surging New Orleans Saints.

The former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, who has been looking for an NFL home since becoming a free agent in April, will now have a chance to catch passes

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Dez Bryant has found a new team, agreeing to join the already prolific offense of the surging New Orleans Saints.

The former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, who has been looking for an NFL home since becoming a free agent in April, will now have a chance to catch passes from one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history in New Orleans’ Drew Brees.

“There is certainly a skillset that he has that is going to be beneficial. So I look forward to getting to work with him. I look forward to building a rapport with him. I look forward to getting him involved in this offense and just become a complement to all the guys that we already have,” Brees said. “He’ll be a great addition.”

The 30-year-old Bryant and the Saints agreed to contract terms on Wednesday, and it remains unclear to what extent Bryant will play when New Orleans visits Cincinnati on Sunday.

Bryant spent his first eight years in the NFL with Dallas and last season caught 69 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns, including a 50-yard scoring play, for the Cowboys.

However, his professional reputation has been marred at times by public confrontations with coaches and teammates during games and practices.

Veteran Saints tight end Ben Watson said players in New Orleans’ locker room must guard against pre-judging Bryant based on superficial observations from old television clips without knowing all the facts or how Bryant has evolved personally since.

“I don’t know Dez. I wasn’t in the locker room with him in Dallas. I don’t know all the dynamics,” Watson said. “I also don’t know what’s transpired with him personally since that situation. So the great thing about a locker room, I think, is we take guys in and we say, ‘Hey, what are you like now?'”

Seeking salary cap relief, the Cowboys released Bryant after last season with two years remaining on the receiver’s five-year, $70 million contract.

Last season was Bryant’s best since he caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 TDs in 2014, which at the time was his third consecutive season with at least 1,200 yards receiving. He signed his last Cowboys contract right after that, but has not approached that level of production since — a central reason Dallas released him in April.

“What matters is, what are we going to do for the next eight games?” said Watson, who played for the Patriots when running back Corey Dillon arrived with a reputation as a malcontent from Cincinnati in 2004 and helped New England win a Super Bowl.

Watson was still with the Patriots in 2007 when they added another perceived malcontent in receiver Randy Moss, who caught 23 of Tom Brady’s NFL-record 50 TD passes that season.

“People change over time and there are certain factors you just don’t know about. So we just move forward,” Watson said. “If somebody’s new, you have a clean slate and you embrace that person because now they’re your teammate.”

Bryant was among several receivers to work out for the Saints on Tuesday. He’d previously met with Cleveland and Baltimore.

New Orleans (7-1), which has won seven straight and leads the NFC South, didn’t necessarily need another receiver.

Led by the record-setting Brees, the Saints rank seventh on offense overall, averaging 402.2 yards per game, and seventh in passing, averaging 289.9 yards. At the same time, New Orleans is without deep threat Ted Ginn Jr., who is currently on injured reserve and won’t be eligible to return until the final few weeks of the season, if he’s ready by then.

The Saints also have yet to receive consistent production from Cameron Meredith, a former Chicago receiving leader who was acquired in free agency, but who also is trying to come back from major knee surgery that wiped out his 2017 season.

Bryant’s return to the NFL with the Saints means he could play against his former club in a few weeks. The Saints play at Dallas on Nov. 29.

“They’re getting a great receiver. He goes up and attacks the ball better than I’ve seen anyone,” Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot said. “He’s definitely a special player and I’m glad he got picked up and I’m glad something worked out for him.”

Added Cowboys coach Jason Garrett: “I’m happy he has an opportunity to go play and finish the right way, it will be a great environment for him to go out and make an impact.”

New Orleans also has two games remaining against division rival Carolina (6-2).

“The nice thing is we don’t play them until December, so we will get an opportunity to see what they are doing with him,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said shortly after hearing about Bryant’s agreement with the Saints. “He’s a good player. He’s a guy that has shown he can go up and get the football.”

___

AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas and Steve Reed in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed.

___

For more NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/NFL and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 770 Words

Titans’ Butler struggling, now a target in pass defense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler knows why he has struggled so much that opposing quarterbacks keep picking on him.

"Just got to be more detailed and more disciplined on those little things," Butler said Wednesday. "I threw that last eight weeks behind me, and I got a whole 'nother eight

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler knows why he has struggled so much that opposing quarterbacks keep picking on him.

“Just got to be more detailed and more disciplined on those little things,” Butler said Wednesday. “I threw that last eight weeks behind me, and I got a whole ‘nother eight weeks to try to make up for it.”

Butler has to do something.

The Titans have allowed the fewest touchdowns in the NFL with 14. Yet, Butler has been the weak link: He has allowed the most touchdown passes (seven) and most yards receiving (618) of any cornerback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. The Dallas Cowboys scored both of their TDs at Butler’s expense Monday night in Tennessee’s 28-14 victory.

Butler is the cornerback that New England benched during the Super Bowl last February when the Patriots lost to Philadelphia. He then signed a five-year deal worth more than $60 million with $30 million guaranteed with the Titans in March.

He started the first five games this season. Over the past three, the Titans have started Adoree Jackson alongside Logan Ryan with Butler as the third cornerback.

With Butler on the field, Dak Prescott hit Amari Cooper for a 4-yard touchdown pass with his receiver creating space from Butler by running right before cutting back toward the left pylon. Butler appeared to look back at Prescott and left Allen Hurns wide open for a 23-yard TD pass.

Butler plays aggressively, which he said is hard to balance at times.

“Just got to work my way around it and just make plays and play football and do what I’ve been doing my whole career,” Butler said. “Just got to hold up.”

His next challenge comes Sunday against his former team when Tom Brady and the Patriots (7-2) visit the Titans (4-4). The Titans have been coaching Butler on his issues, and coach Mike Vrabel said Butler needs to have his eyes on the receiver in man coverage and not Brady.

“Malcolm knows that, and we’ve talked about that, and we continue to practice it, we continue to coach it and we try to show it to him,” Vrabel said. “When he does that, it’s pretty good, it’s competitive. He challenges the receivers. When you look back at the quarterback, your man has a tendency to go in another direction.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick still has not said why he benched Butler wouldn’t discuss the cornerback specifically on Wednesday when asked what Butler is doing differently. Instead, the coach talked about the Titans’ defense, which leads the NFL in fewest points allowed per game.

“That’s our challenge as an offense is we’re playing 11 guys, we’re playing their coaching staff and the schemes they put up against us,” Belichick said. “And, right now, they’re playing better defense than anybody in the league. So, we’ll see how we do. I don’t know. It will be tough, I know that

Patriots receiver Julian Edelman said Butler is a cornerback who’s strong at playing the ball in the air. Edelman also has a lot of respect for a man he called a “heart player,” whose progress from being undrafted out of South Alabama to now is proof of the cornerback’s hard work.

“He’s gotten beat a couple of times, but that goes with the nature of his game,” Edelman said. “He’s a real aggressive player that competes, plays the ball well through your hands. He’s long, (strong) upper body. He’s got that ability to make up speed with the ball in the air while looking back. A lot of corners can’t do that. I got a lot of respect for Malcolm.”

Notes: The Titans held a walk-through practice Wednesday. RT Jack Conklin (concussion protocol) did not practice along with WR Taywan Taylor, whose left foot was in a walking boot in the locker room; LB Daren Bates (illness); and S Dane Cruikshank (knee). LB Derrick Morgan (shoulder) and WR Tajae Sharpe (right ankle) were limited.

___

AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower contributed to this report from Foxborough, Massachusetts.

___

Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 634 Words

Tyrell Williams emerges as deep threat for Chargers

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers have proven during the first half of the season that they have plenty of weapons on offense. One who has emerged is Tyrell Williams, who has become a deep threat during the past month.

Going into Sunday's game at Oakland, the fourth-year wide receiver

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers have proven during the first half of the season that they have plenty of weapons on offense. One who has emerged is Tyrell Williams, who has become a deep threat during the past month.

Going into Sunday’s game at Oakland, the fourth-year wide receiver has four touchdowns and is averaging 28.8 yards per catch over the past three games.

“He’s become a complete receiver. His receiving skills, he’s just taken them to another level,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.

With Keenan Allen still drawing double teams, Williams continues to benefit from single coverage. Five of his receptions during the past three games have gone for 20 yards or more, including a 75-yarder against Tennessee on Oct. 21. He is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (five), second in yardage (451) and third in receptions (22) during the first half of the season.

“I think it’s really just been seeing what the defense does, when to take shots, being able to get over the top and trusting my ability to go up and get the ball or run past the defense,” said Williams, whose 20.5 yards per reception average is third in the league.

Philip Rivers also hasn’t been afraid to go to Williams on consecutive plays if the matchup is favorable. Williams caught both passes on a two-play, 89-yard drive midway through the second quarter of the Oct. 14 game at Cleveland, including a 45-yard touchdown where he got leverage over cornerback Damarious Randall.

While Williams has made his biggest impact on downfield plays, he has also shown his improvement in other areas. Late in the first quarter of last Sunday’s game at Seattle, Williams made a diving grab on a back shoulder fade for a 14-yard touchdown while being covered by Tre Flowers.

Williams said catching back shoulder passes and route running were two things that he placed added emphasis on improving this past offseason.

“My first few years, I was always just looking to get the ball down the field. I wasn’t really prepared for back-shoulders,” he said. “It was kind of a timing thing and getting used to that, but now I’ve kind of figured out how to be running fast but still be prepared for that back-shoulder stuff.”

Los Angeles (6-2) has won five straight for the first time since 2014 and will face a Raiders defense that is 24th against the pass. Williams had three receptions for 66 yards in the first meeting on Oct. 14, which the Chargers won 26-10. One of the catches was for 48 yards.

“Hopefully that stays the same and they don’t switch it up. It’s nice to get single coverage and Keenan still being able to go for 100 like he did, to be firing on all cylinders,” he said.

Notes: Defensive end Joey Bosa did not do any team drills, meaning he’s unlikely to play in his first game of the season this week. … Lynn has left open the possibility that LB Kyzir White could return later in the season. White was placed on injured reserve Saturday due to a knee injury.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

___

Follow Joe Reedy at www.twitter.com/joereedy

Read More 474 Words

Mitchell Trubisky, Bears’ offense maintaining focus

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears' offense refuse to become mired in mistakes or popular assessments.

Trubisky long ago ditched social media to focus his attention on operating coach Matt Nagy's new offense, and the result has been a 5-3 record and first place in the NFC North

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears’ offense refuse to become mired in mistakes or popular assessments.

Trubisky long ago ditched social media to focus his attention on operating coach Matt Nagy’s new offense, and the result has been a 5-3 record and first place in the NFC North at the midpoint.

While the Bears’ defense is generally regarded as the major reason for Chicago’s rise from last place, Trubisky sees the offense making stready strides forward heading into Sunday’s divisional battle with the Detroit Lions.

“There’s still areas I have to improve within my game and am still growing in that, but I feel comfortable and confident with where I am as a leader with command of this offense, getting in and out of the huddle, seeing things post-snap,” Trubisky said. “I think it’s all starting to slow down, so just trying to improve all areas of my game.”

Chicago’s defense ranks fifth, but the Bears are fifth overall in scoring and also rank first in scoring after opposing turnovers (82 points). And while Trubisky has suffered from fits of wildness, his 96.1 passer rating is just .04 below Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Trubisky completed 28 of 49 for 355 yards with three touchdowns and an interception the last two games, and had several possible interceptions dropped.

“The only thing that I can think of in regards to just our offense and not his accuracy, we’ve played some pretty solid defenses here the last few weeks,” Nagy said. “I think they’re underrated, especially the last two weeks with the Jets and Buffalo. Then you go back to the Patriots.

“There’s some good schemes and some good players, but that’s good for us, that’s good for him. There were a couple balls now and then that got away from him. He’ll be the first to tell you. I’ll be the first to let him know that, but that’s OK. We’ll keep improving.”

Teammates see improvement in Trubisky within the offense in so many ways, they’re getting tired of talking about it.

“This is like the 30th time I’ve had that quetsion,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “I say the same thing every time. It’s just him being more demanding of us as players and just his leadership outside of what the coaches are telling him — at the line of scrimmage, making those adjustments, audibles and things of that nature.”

Trubisky insisted at the outset of training camp that he’s off social media for this season, so he said he’s unaware of public criticism.

“I don’t really check it that often and I don’t really have it on my phone,” Trubisky said. “So I don’t hear any of the outside noise, whether it be positive or negative. I just have a lot more time, and my focus is elsewhere; within football and my family and everything else I’ve got going on.”

Some players spend much of their off time on social media.

“Most of it last year had been negative, so it’s just a lot of negativity that I blocked out of my life,” Trubisky said. “I’m able to just focus on what I needed to do and who I want to be as a player and as a person. It has been a good thing for me just getting off that.”

Trubisky’s accuracy has slipped at a time when he didn’t have wide receiver Allen Robinson as a target due to a groin injury. But that could change this week. Robinson went through a full Wednesday practice for the first time since before missing two games after he tried to play through his injury.

It’s also possible tight end Adam Shaheen could be back from a foot injury suffered in preseason.

The defense also had good injury news when linebacker Khalil Mack had his first full practice since suffering an ankle injury against Miami on Oct. 14.

Now it’s up to Trubisky and the offense to find a groove, even while heaviliy scrutinized.

“I think any time you are drafted as a quarterback early and high in the draft, you’re always gonna be critiqued,” Nagy said. “But again, the only thing that he needs to worry about is what I think about him and what people in this building think about him. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion and that’s OK, that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that.

“But as long as he just understands that the only thing that matters is what we think, nothing will affect him.”

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 698 Words

Bills’ McCoy not talking as production keeps dropping

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The more LeSean McCoy's production drops, the less the Buffalo Bills running back wants to talk about it.

"Don't worry about me, I'll be all right," McCoy said following practice Wednesday before excusing himself by saying he had to go lift weights. "I ain't ducking you, honest. I'm

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The more LeSean McCoy’s production drops, the less the Buffalo Bills running back wants to talk about it.

“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be all right,” McCoy said following practice Wednesday before excusing himself by saying he had to go lift weights. “I ain’t ducking you, honest. I’m trying to get myself together.”

And off he went. McCoy returned to the locker room briefly about 45 minutes later, before exiting yet again upon seeing a large group of reporters gathered at his stall.

Whatever frustrations McCoy has while enduring the worst start to a season in his 10-year career, or concerns he might have about an offense not producing at an alarmingly anemic rate, he’d prefer to keep to himself as Buffalo (2-7) prepares to play at the New York Jets (3-6) on Sunday.

McCoy hasn’t formally addressed the media since acknowledging he’s never been through as bad of a stretch as this in his life, following a 25-6 loss to New England on Oct. 29. After gaining 12 yards on his first carry against the Patriots, McCoy combined for just 1 more yard on his final 11 attempts of the game.

“I’ve had bad games, but this, the flow of the season and everything, is bad,” he said.

Things got worse Sunday, when McCoy managed 10 yards on 10 carries in a 41-9 loss to Chicago.

“He’s’ too talented for that,” fullback Patrick DiMarco said. “He’s a guy that can change a game and take over a game. He knows that. We know that. Upstairs they know that. We’ve got to get him going.”

One issue is he’s part of a patchwork offense that’s scored just 96 points, topped 300 yards net offense twice and has no continuity at quarterback . McCoy’s also had off-field distractions amid allegations of abusing his son — which he’s denied — stemming from a lawsuit filed by his ex-girlfriend.

And age could be catching up to McCoy, who turned 30 in July.

Coach Sean McDermott doesn’t buy it and blames McCoy’s struggles on the entire offense.

“There’s been some opportunities to hit some holes that weren’t hit, and there’s been some opportunities where the seam was there, and we didn’t get the movement we needed,” McDermott said. “It’s been really a combination, but we’ve got to give him more opportunities to make more big plays for us.”

A year after topping 1,100 yards rushing for the sixth time, the NFL’s 2013 rushing leader is barely on pace to break 500.

He’s managed 267 yards rushing and has yet to score in essentially seven games this season. McCoy missed one game due to a rib injury, and was limited to playing two snaps before sustaining a concussion in a 37-5 loss at Indianapolis three weeks ago.

McCoy hasn’t scored since having a touchdown rushing and receiving in a 24-17 win over Miami on Dec. 17. And he hasn’t topped 100 yards since finishing with 156 on a snow-covered field in a 13-7 overtime win against Indianapolis on Dec. 10.

The recent swoon in production spans the NFL trading deadline on Oct. 30, and amid speculation McCoy might have been dealt because he has one year left on his contract, or that he was open to leaving a rebuilding team in order to play for a contender.

General manager Brandon Beane dismissed the narratives by saying McCoy’s silence stems from mere frustration.

“I can tell you, LeSean is very happy here. He’s frustrated just like I am, just like a lot of guys on our offense,” Beane told The Associated Press. “He’s a winner. He’s a competitor. And he’s not happy with our whole offense. He thinks he can do better.”

And Beane has such confidence in McCoy, he sees no reason why the running back won’t be back next season.

“We don’t see a guy who’s a declining player. We see a guy who’s still playing well, and he’s one of the better players at his position in the league,” Beane said. “He is working hard. He’s trying to be the best he can. And he’s going to continue to do that. And if he wasn’t, then we probably would’ve moved on.”

NOTES: McDermott wasn’t prepared to identify which quarterback will start against the Jets. Rookie Josh Allen, who has missed three games with a sprained right throwing elbow, practiced on a limited basis, while Derek Anderson remains in the concussion protocol. … Buffalo shuffled its practice squad by signing WR Cam Phillips and CB Xavier Coleman and releasing WR Hunter Sharp. … On Tuesday, the Bills cut starting CB Phillip Gaines and promoted CB Levi Wallace from the practice squad.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 711 Words

Patriots sign offensive lineman Matt Tobin to 53-man roster

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Patriots have signed offensive lineman Matt Tobin to the 53-man roster.

Tobin practiced with the team on Wednesday. He takes the place of Brian Schwenke, who was placed on injured reserve. The move comes a day after the Patriots signed linebacker Albert McClellan and defensive back Obi Melifonwu

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Patriots have signed offensive lineman Matt Tobin to the 53-man roster.

Tobin practiced with the team on Wednesday. He takes the place of Brian Schwenke, who was placed on injured reserve. The move comes a day after the Patriots signed linebacker Albert McClellan and defensive back Obi Melifonwu and released offensive lineman Cole Croston and defensive lineman Geneo Grissom.

Tobin played four seasons in Philadelphia from 2013 to 2016 and spent 2017 in Seattle. He was inactive for the 49ers for two games this season before being released on Sept. 19.

Tobin was originally signed by the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2013. He was traded from Philadelphia to Seattle last August.

He has appeared 57 games with 21 starts.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 72 Words

NFL’s running renaissance highlighted by Gurley’s MVP look

Ezekiel Elliott likes to give Todd Gurley credit for the NFL's running renaissance because the Los Angeles Rams star ended an unprecedented two-year drought of backs taken in the first round of the draft.

With MVP-type numbers on a team looking like a Super Bowl contender, Gurley is the best example why it's a good

Ezekiel Elliott likes to give Todd Gurley credit for the NFL’s running renaissance because the Los Angeles Rams star ended an unprecedented two-year drought of backs taken in the first round of the draft.

With MVP-type numbers on a team looking like a Super Bowl contender, Gurley is the best example why it’s a good time to be a running back not many years after the position seemed undervalued in what is still considered a passing league.

“Definitely it’s starting to re-emerge,” said Elliott, who was the NFL rushing leader as a rookie in 2016 with the Dallas Cowboys. “He was the first one in that draft and then as the years went on, more backs started to get picked and they’ve all been doing well. I wouldn’t take all the credit, but I think it’s just a new age of backs.”

And an age of young backs. Gurley went 10th overall to the Rams when they were in St. Louis, followed five picks later by Melvin Gordon to the Chargers when they were still in San Diego. Now both backs are in LA.

Elliott was the first of two straight rookies to win the rushing title, followed by Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt last season. Among the top 10 rushers this season, eight are 25 or younger.

That’s still not getting to New York Giants rookie Saquon Barkley , the No. 2 overall pick and highest back taken since Reggie Bush went second in 2006.

“I guess I kind of did start the first-round thing again,” Gurley said. “But those guys are great players. They put themselves in great positions to be where they are at today, and you see why they are having success in the NFL.”

Elliott got a top-four thing going when the Cowboys drafted the Ohio State star fourth overall in 2016. Now there have been three straight years with a back taken at least that high: Leonard Fournette fourth out of LSU the year in 2017, then Barkley from Penn State this year.

The other top 10 running back over the past three drafts also illustrates one reason runners could be in vogue: their ability as pass catchers. Carolina took Christian McCaffrey eighth overall out of Stanford last year, even with the perception he might be a third-down back.

Now McCaffrey has a respectable 111 carries for the playoff-contending Panthers while ranking fourth among running backs with 49 catches.

“A lot of times teams that had a feature back, he was considered the first- and second-down guy, and then they put in a little scatback to be the third-down receiver,” said Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane, who had a hand in drafting McCaffrey while with Carolina. “Well, now, you’re getting these guys that can do it all.”

Hunt and Barkley have made it back-to-back seasons for rookies to start their careers with six or more straight games of at least 100 scrimmage yards. Barkley’s run ended there, but now he’s at seven of his first eight games despite another miserable season for the Giants (1-7).

Hunt started his career with seven straight last year — the first rookie to do that since Kevin Jones for Detroit in 2004.

Not that multipurpose lead backs are a new thing.

“I don’t think anyone’s ever matched how Marshall Faulk produced in the passing game, and that seems like 8 million years ago,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of a back who was the 2000 NFL MVP in the middle of three straight years with at least 1,300 yards rushing and 800 receiving.

Oh, and Faulk was the second overall pick in 1994.

“I just think of these guys have been doing this stuff in this league for years,” Linehan said. “I think people probably targeted them because they’re the best with the ball in their hands.”

Gurley is well on his way to his first rushing title with 868 yards; leads the NFL with 16 touchdowns, including 12 rushing; and has a chance Sunday against Seattle to become just the fourth player with at least one TD in each of the first 10 games. The others are all Hall of Famers.

The former Georgia standout has a 162-yard lead over James Conner, the replacement for Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh when Bell decided to stay away from the Steelers rather than play under the franchise tag.

Conner’s emergence also shows the depth of the 2017 class — even with Fournette missing all but two games with a hamstring injury after rushing for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie for a team that reached the AFC championship game.

The second-year group has two of the NFL’s top three rushers in Conner and Hunt, who have almost 1,400 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns between them, while Hunt has another six receiving TDs.

The versatility of 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara helps quarterback Drew Brees in one of the NFL’s best offenses in New Orleans. Dalvin Cook (Minnesota) and Joe Mixon (Cincinnati) are expected to play leading roles in their respective run games.

And forget for a moment about the draft. Another second-year player, Matt Breida in San Francisco, is ninth in the NFL with 531 yards rushing after going undrafted. Denver rookie Phillip Lindsay is sixth at 591 after not getting selected.

“A lot of times there’s a lot of backs in the draft,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “You might be able to get one that’s close in the second round, but you won’t get that left tackle who’s a star in the second round or that defensive lineman or that outside ‘backer or that corner.”

There’s a different kind of renaissance with the Redskins: an “old” guy leading the way. Adrian Peterson, the 33-year-old three-time league rushing champ, has helped Washington to the NFC East lead by ranking fifth with 604 yards.

“I don’t think that position’s ever been devalued,” Gruden said. “I think you look at what Zeke’s done and you look at some of the other young running backs, Le’Veon Bell, and what type of impact they can have on your football team.

“We’re learning that right now firsthand with Adrian Peterson. Even though we didn’t draft him, obviously, but the impact these backs can have on your football as far as running game, controlling the clock and then the play-actions. It’s big time.”

It’s been big at draft time recently as well.

___

AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 999 Words

Falcons bolster pass rush by adding veteran Bruce Irvin

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons made a move to bolster their lackluster pass rush by agreeing to a one-year deal with defensive end Bruce Irvin on Wednesday, reuniting the veteran with coach Dan Quinn.

Irvin, cut by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, became a free agent after clearing waivers on

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons made a move to bolster their lackluster pass rush by agreeing to a one-year deal with defensive end Bruce Irvin on Wednesday, reuniting the veteran with coach Dan Quinn.

Irvin, cut by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, became a free agent after clearing waivers on Tuesday with $3.8 million remaining on his contract. The Falcons play at Cleveland on Sunday.

Irvin, 31, is an Atlanta native. He celebrated his return home by posting on his Twitter account “Man it’s time! You can’t put a price on the chance for me to play for my people and city! It’s bigger than money!”

Irvin was expected to arrive in Atlanta on Wednesday night and join practice on Thursday. Quinn said Irvin will play against Cleveland.

The Falcons rank 27th in the league with 17 sacks. Takk McKinley has a team-leading 5½ sacks, but Vic Beasley has only one. Beasley led the league with 15½ sacks in 2016.

The Falcons hope Irvin adds new punch to the pass rush.

“He’s definitely a big addition to our team,” said defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who has three sacks. “As a player and as a person, we know the personality he plays with matches what we want to portray or have up front, that dog mentality. We’re ready to go hunt.”

Quinn said the homecoming and the chance to play in a familiar scheme were motivating factors for Irvin.

“It’s pretty rare you get to play in your home city,” Quinn said. “He recognized that might be a special moment for him and he really is challenged.”

Quinn said Irvin also is motivated to show he can be a successful pass-rushing end after being waived by the Raiders.

“He really is ready to prove it,” Quinn said, adding often a player’s “most memorable competitive moments are in prove-it times, so I love it he feels he’s got some things to prove and really wants to play well. That’s what we talked about.”

The Falcons’ defense had more good news on Wednesday. Linebacker Deion Jones, who has been on injured reserve since suffering a foot injury in the season-opening loss at Philadelphia, returned to practice. He is not eligible to return until next week’s game against Dallas and has not been placed on the active roster.

“It’s going to be awesome,” said Beasley of Jones’ return. “We’ve been waiting on him to come back. He’s a definite leader on the defensive side of the ball and not just the defense, on this team. There are a lot of guys who look up to him.”

Quinn said Jones’ snaps in practice will be watched closely this week. He said he has no timetable on Jones being cleared for a game.

The Falcons (4-4) have won three straight despite losing starting safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal to season-ending injuries. Starting guards Andy Levitre and Brando Fusco and running back Devonta Freeman also are on IR.

Irvin played with Seattle when Quinn was the team’s defensive coordinator.

Irvin had three sacks with Oakland, but played only nine snaps in a 34-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night.

Irvin (6-3, 250) played four seasons with Seattle before joining the Raiders in 2016. He had eight sacks as a rookie in 2012 and matched that career high with Oakland in 2017.

He set a career high with six forced fumbles in 2016. His 11 forced fumbles since the start of the 2016 season are the most in the NFL in that span.

For his career, Irvin has 40 sacks and 15 forced fumbles.

Oakland was expected to enter the season with Irvin and Khalil Mack leading the defense as bookend pass rushers.

Instead, Mack was traded to Chicago a week before the season for a package of draft picks following a lengthy holdout. The Raiders rank last in the league with seven sacks.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 590 Words

Jets’ Darnold has strained foot, could miss game vs. Bills

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold could be headed for the sideline this week — and maybe longer.

The New York Jets rookie quarterback has a strained right foot, coach Todd Bowles announced Wednesday, leaving Darnold's status for the team's game Sunday against Buffalo in doubt.

"It's just adversity," Darnold said after

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold could be headed for the sideline this week — and maybe longer.

The New York Jets rookie quarterback has a strained right foot, coach Todd Bowles announced Wednesday, leaving Darnold’s status for the team’s game Sunday against Buffalo in doubt.

“It’s just adversity,” Darnold said after practice. “You’ve just got to deal with it, get better as soon as possible, get back on the field as soon as possible.”

Bowles said it was too early to rule out Darnold for the game, and clarified that the injury was a strain — not a sprain, contrary to published reports.

“They’ve got him listed as day to day,” Bowles said.

Darnold was surprisingly wearing a boot on his foot at the start of practice Wednesday, and watched in sweats and a green Jets cap as McCown and Davis Webb, currently on the practice squad, threw passes in individual drills.

“Obviously, I want to be out there with the guys,” Darnold said. “I want to go out there and play. Hopefully, if I’m able to go out there and play Sunday, I will. If not, I’m just going to treat it as another learning experience. When adversity hits, it’s up to me how to respond. That’s all I can worry about.”

Darnold was injured during the Jets’ 13-6 loss at Miami last Sunday , possibly on a fourth-quarter sack by Cameron Wake in which the quarterback came up limping. He took a few other big hits, so he was uncertain as to when the injury occurred.

Darnold finished the game, and said he was “a little dinged up,” but didn’t indicate he had any serious issues.

“Yeah, I feel fine,” Darnold said Monday. “Some bumps and some bruises, but everything is good.”

Bowles said Monday that Darnold had not expressed to him that he was “dinged up.” Bowles typically speaks to the team’s trainers later in the afternoon on the day after games.

“I mean, it was kind of in the midst of the action,” Darnold explained Wednesday. “Sometimes, you get hurt or nicked around and things just kind of happen. I just thought I was fine coming out of the game and went through protocol and that’s just kind of how it went. Went through some of the tests and something was obviously a little different than usual.”

Darnold dealt with a broken foot in high school that sidelined him for most of his junior season. He said this is not close to as serious an injury.

“Like any injury, I’m just going to go about protocol and do exactly what the trainers do and be in here as much as possible and get better,” he said.

If Darnold is unable to start, 39-year-old backup Josh McCown would take his place. McCown was the starter last season, but hasn’t taken a snap this year as Darnold won the job out of training camp — beating out both McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.

“When you’re in a backup role, you just go in and do your job,” McCown said. “That’s the main thing. We’ll prepare as if — like I do every week — I’m going to be the starter and we’ll go from there.”

Darnold has struggled mightily during the Jets’ three-game losing streak, and he leads the NFL with 14 interceptions.

The No. 3 overall draft pick in April has thrown for 1,934 yards and 11 touchdowns, but his 55.0 percent completion rate and 68.3 quarterback rating rank at the bottom of the league. In his past three games, Darnold has thrown two TD pass and seven interceptions.

The struggles had some fans and media wondering if perhaps Darnold would benefit from sitting a game or two.

Now, it appears he and the Jets might not have a choice.

New York has its bye-week break after the game Sunday against Buffalo, and then doesn’t play again until Nov. 25, when the Jets take on New England. That could give Darnold a few weeks to rest and heal the foot without missing much time.

“We don’t want to rush things,” Darnold said. “That’s one thing we don’t want to do. I’m eager to get back out there on the field with my guys, but at the same time, I’ve got to take care of my body, first and foremost.”

NOTES: WRs Robby Anderson (ankle) and Quincy Enunwa (ankle), TE Neal Sterling (concussion), S Terrence Brooks (illness), C Spencer Long (knee/finger) and NT Steve McLendon didn’t practice. … LBs Frankie Luvu (neck) and Kevin Pierre-Louis (foot), CB Trumaine Johnson (quadriceps) and LG James Carpenter (shoulder) were limited. … The Jets re-signed RB De’Angelo Henderson to their practice squad. A spot was vacated when Cleveland signed CB Juston Burris off the practice squad.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 734 Words

Safety Jones says he and Dolphins are ‘on the same page’

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Reshad Jones is expressing no regrets and offering no explanation.

The Miami Dolphins safety mysteriously took himself out of last week's win over the New York Jets and watched the second half from the sideline. In the aftermath, coach Adam Gase said communication problems between defensive coordinator Matt Burke and players

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Reshad Jones is expressing no regrets and offering no explanation.

The Miami Dolphins safety mysteriously took himself out of last week’s win over the New York Jets and watched the second half from the sideline. In the aftermath, coach Adam Gase said communication problems between defensive coordinator Matt Burke and players needed to be addressed.

On Wednesday, Jones declined to say why he was a spectator for much of the game, but he may have been unhappy with the Dolphins’ plan to rotate safeties against the Jets. He came out after only 10 snaps.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

___

Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve_Wine.

Read More 59 Words

Floundering Jaguars take ‘must-win’ approach against Colts

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars used their bye week to ponder the team's precarious position.

Mired in a four-game losing streak and being 0-2 in the AFC South, they came to this conclusion: They must win at division rival Indianapolis (3-5) on Sunday.

It's essentially a playoff atmosphere for Jacksonville (3-5) in early

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars used their bye week to ponder the team’s precarious position.

Mired in a four-game losing streak and being 0-2 in the AFC South, they came to this conclusion: They must win at division rival Indianapolis (3-5) on Sunday.

It’s essentially a playoff atmosphere for Jacksonville (3-5) in early November.

“This is a thousand percent a must-win,” linebacker Myles Jack said Wednesday. “No. 1, it’s a conference game that we’ve got to win. And then we’re on a four-game losing streak, so we can’t lose another game.”

NFL teams are usually reluctant to put too much emphasis on any one game, especially in the middle of the season. But for the Jaguars, who openly talked about having Super Bowl aspirations , they understand another loss or two likely would end their dwindling playoff hopes.

“We put ourselves in this situation,” quarterback Blake Bortles said. “We created this small margin for error by not winning football games. We’ve put ourselves here. We know we still got a chance and we’ve got to play really well for the whole second half of the season to go where we want to go.”

The Jags are counting on running back Leonard Fournette’s return making a significant difference.

Fournette missed six of the last seven games with a strained right hamstring. He practiced in full for the first time in more than a month Monday and did the same Wednesday.

Jacksonville built its offense around Fournette and hasn’t been nearly as physical or effective without him. The team signed Jamaal Charles for a week and then traded for Carlos Hyde in hopes of filling the void, but neither move paid dividends.

Coach Doug Marrone said he lost faith in his offensive line in London, specifically in short-yardage situations, but has since stopped short of proclaiming Fournette the team’s savior.

Players, though, believe Fournette’s return could be a turning point.

“I know everybody’s fired up to have him back in the lineup,” Bortles said. “I know I’m excited to watch him run. I know guys are excited to block for him and kind of see him go. We got so used to him doing his thing last year and watching that and do everything off of that. Not having him has made us change some of the things we do, but to be able to have him back and healthy and ready to go is exciting.”

Marrone evaluated coaches, players and schemes during the bye week, but decided not to make any wholesale changes. He tweaked the schedule significantly, mostly so guys wouldn’t feel like things were the same after the break.

“It’s just kind of like the atmosphere is a little tighter,” Jack said. “Obviously, everybody is — I wouldn’t say desperate — but we just need (a victory). It’s a must-win week. As the weeks go on, it just gets worse and worse. Hopefully this is the week we change it.”

With the sense of urgency on the rise, the Jaguars have started to unravel.

There was a locker room scuffle last month following a loss to Houston, a players-only meeting the next day and then a run-in with London police over an unsettled nightclub tab.

They have eight games left to save the season. It starts with a “must-win game” against the Colts, who have won two in a row.

“I don’t think you can look at it as a whole eight games — ‘we’ve got to win eight games in a row or six out of the eight,'” Bortles said. “Obviously, playing Indy is a division game, and that’s an important one.

“It’s kind of like Doug talked about all week and all last week: you’ve got to win one to get it rolling. It’s all anyone’s really focused on right now.”

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 584 Words

Browns lose defensive starters Kirksey, Gaines to injuries

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The losses are piling up for the Browns — in the standings, and on the sideline.

On Wednesday, two defensive starters were added to the stack.

Cleveland placed linebacker Christian Kirksey and cornerback E.J. Gaines on injured reserve, ending their seasons with seven games remaining and putting further strain

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The losses are piling up for the Browns — in the standings, and on the sideline.

On Wednesday, two defensive starters were added to the stack.

Cleveland placed linebacker Christian Kirksey and cornerback E.J. Gaines on injured reserve, ending their seasons with seven games remaining and putting further strain on a unit lacking quality depth and experience.

“Those two guys, they really set a precedent for what we wanted to do as a team, as a defense,” said cornerback T.J. Carrie. “And, of course, they’ll still be here sparingly in and out throughout the week, but it’s a lot different when they were on the field fighting with you, blood, sweat and tears with you, through the trenches.

“We’re going to definitely miss that. Those are two players that we can’t replace.”

One of the team’s captains, Kirksey injured his left hamstring in the second quarter Sunday as the Browns (2-6-1) lost their fourth straight game, 37-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Gaines sustained his second concussion in three weeks when he took a knee to the helmet while trying to make a tackle in the first quarter.

The loss of Kirksey is especially damaging because he’s one of the team’s leaders. The fifth-year pro has played on the weak side and in the middle this season, making 43 tackles and two interceptions.

“Kirko is kind of the heart and soul of the defense, heart and soul of the team in the locker room, on the field, just how he goes about his business,” said linebacker Joe Schobert, a 2017 Pro Bowler who returned to practice after missing three games with a hamstring injury. “It’s the next-man-up mentality, but there’s things that you’re going to miss.”

Schobert’s return will help ease the loss of Kirksey, and the Browns are expected to have defensive back Damarious Randall for Sunday’s game against Atlanta after he missed last week’s game with a groin injury.

Linebacker Jamie Collins (ankle) and rookie cornerback Denzel Ward (hip) were limited in practice, but interim coach Gregg Williams expects both back on the field Thursday.

Randall, who has played cornerback and free safety, felt he was healthy enough to play last week, but Williams kept him out so he would have the versatile defensive back for multiple games. Randall’s absence became magnified when Ward and Gaines went down on the Chiefs’ opening drive, forcing Williams to adjust his game plan against the NFL’s most electrifying offense and play seldom-used reserves Denzel Rice and Tavierre Thomas.

“It’s very hard,” Carrie said of losing two key players. “It changes the game plan. It changes a lot of things because you can only give practice reps to so many guys, and so you get guys that come in and they’re athletes, but it’s hard when you don’t know the schematics of the little details that we put in for that game.”

And, as luck would have it, the banged-up Browns will have to deal with a talented Atlanta team that has overcome its own injury issues and reeled off three straight wins.

Schobert’s return is vital to Cleveland’s defense as he’s the one responsible for calling out Williams’ pre-snap schemes and getting his teammates organized — an on-field coach.

After missing three weeks, getting back on the field will be a welcomed change for Schobert, who had played every defensive snap since the start of the 2017 season until he got hurt on Oct. 21 at Tampa Bay.

“It is just different. It is weird,” Schobert said of being inactive. “Especially with a hamstring. You just walk around on the sideline feeling good and watching people on the field thinking you can be out there — wishing you could be out there. You just have to kind of suck it up and take it into your own role however you can help a team in that aspect.

“That is what I was doing. Just kind of jumped right into more of a coaching aspect, trying to keep myself involved that way. I think it helped.”

NOTES: Rookie LT Desmond Harrison was limited in practice after missing last week’s game with an undisclosed illness. Greg Robinson stepped in and played well in his first start for Cleveland. Williams hasn’t decided who he’ll play against the Falcons. “What we will do is every day is an interview and both of them are taking reps,” he said. “By the end of the week, we will make what is best and it is good — the fact that you have depth. Guys can compete and get ready to roll.” … The Browns signed DB Juston Burris to the active roster off the Jets’ practice squad. A fourth-round pick in 2016, he appeared in 34 games for New York.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 742 Words

With weak offense, Gruden’s Redskins can’t mount comebacks

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Coach Jay Gruden's Washington Redskins have established a pattern: When they get a lead, they win; when they trail, they lose.

The Redskins (5-3) are the only one of the NFL's 32 teams that both has managed to avoid a single loss after holding a lead AND also has failed to

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Coach Jay Gruden’s Washington Redskins have established a pattern: When they get a lead, they win; when they trail, they lose.

The Redskins (5-3) are the only one of the NFL’s 32 teams that both has managed to avoid a single loss after holding a lead AND also has failed to come back to win a game after trailing.

The first is good, of course. The latter could prove to be truly problematic as the season progresses if the offense overseen by Gruden and carried out by quarterback Alex Smith continues to be as ineffective as it’s been.

“I don’t think we’re probably even aware” of Washington’s inability to erase a deficit this season, Smith said Wednesday, then added: “Certainly we’ve been in a lot of games that have been back-and-forth.”

That last assertion is not accurate. Not at all.

During each of the Redskins’ eight games this season, whichever team scored first not only won — it never fell behind. Not even once.

In last week’s 38-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Washington was down 14-0 early, cut that to 14-7, then never got closer.

“It’s just a mindset really: You’re never out of it until the final gun. We’ve just got to keep playing. I don’t think guys played less hard because we got down. We just didn’t make enough plays to come back,” Gruden said. “That’s something we need to figure out: a way to put our players in position to, A, get the ball back when were on defense and, B, get the ball in the end zone at a decent rate on offense.”

Heading into the NFC East leaders’ game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5) on Sunday, the Redskins are putting up a mere 20 points and 343.9 yards per game, which both rank 25th. No team below them in either of those two categories has a record above .500.

The Bucs, in contrast, rank No. 7 in points at 28.6, and No. 2 in yards at 446.8.

It’s the defense that’s been Tampa Bay’s downfall while losing five of its past six games — worst in the league in points, allowing an average of 34.4, and third-worst in passing yardage, at 307.1.

An inability to mount a comeback is typically the mark of a bad club.

Currently, the only teams other than Washington without an erase-a-deficit victory this season are the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars, who are both 3-5.

Over the previous four complete seasons, the only two teams to go an entire campaign without even one such win were the 2017 Cleveland Browns of 0-16 infamy and the 2017 New York Giants, who were 3-13.

During Gruden’s 4½ years in charge of Washington, it owns 15 victories in games in which it trailed, which is just the 27th-best total in the NFL. The teams with fewer? The Browns (9), Jaguars (10), Giants (13), Chicago Bears (13) and Indianapolis Colts (14).

“You can probably count on one hand how many comeback wins we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Gruden said, exaggerating a bit. “That’s something that we have got to do a better job of.”

Notes: At the portion of Wednesday’s practice open to the media, two of the three offensive linemen signed off the street Monday lined up with the starting unit, with Jon Cooper at left guard and Austin Howard at right tackle. Morgan Moses, the regular RT, worked by himself on a separate field, wearing a big brace on the right knee he injured against Atlanta, although he could be ready to play instead of Howard by Sunday. … The other linemen were Ty Nsekhe at LT, Chase Roullier at C, Tony Bergstrom at RG.

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 560 Words

Joseph says Broncos, bitter Thomas need to move on

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Vance Joseph says the Broncos and former Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas both need to just move on from their recent breakup.

Thomas said in a radio interview Monday, a day after his successful homecoming in a 19-17 Texans win in Denver, that he was misled by the Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Vance Joseph says the Broncos and former Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas both need to just move on from their recent breakup.

Thomas said in a radio interview Monday, a day after his successful homecoming in a 19-17 Texans win in Denver, that he was misled by the Broncos about the possibility of a trade, was asked to surrender snaps to the team’s rookie receivers and was heartbroken over not being named a captain this year.

Joseph said Wednesday he had “great respect for D.T.,” was “disappointed with how he recalls the conversations going,” and “we’ve got to move on.”

“He’s got to move on. We’ve got to move on,” Joseph said. “He’s no longer a Bronco and I can’t spend any time worrying about that. But as far as reading that stuff, I’m disappointed it was presented that way, I really am.”

Thomas aired his frustrations during an interview with former Broncos Rod Smith and Ray Crockett on Orange & Blue 760-AM in Denver, a Broncos broadcast partner.

Thomas said the day before he was traded, Joseph told him the trade talk wasn’t true.

“I said, ‘How is that not true? My agent called me today and said (general manager John) Elway wanted a fifth-round pick for me.’ So, are we telling stories to each other now? I thought we were going to be men about this,” Thomas said.

In his first comments about Thomas’ criticisms, Joseph said, “I’m disappointed with how he recalls the conversations going.”

“It was obviously a week and a half where the rumors and gossip were flowing, and we talked about the rumors and gossip — until something happened, we all had to focus on doing our jobs and winning football games,” Joseph said. “From my end, that was discussed.”

Thomas also complained in the interview that he wasn’t named a captain this year, something he’d been three times before, and suggested there were some shenanigans in the vote counting: “I go to a meeting room and it’s like every player came to me and were like, ‘How are you not a captain? We picked you.’ … It was heartbreaking.”

Free agent quarterback Case Keenum and longtime center Matt Paradis were named offensive captains this year, and Joseph said Thomas never conveyed his disappointment over his exclusion.

“No, no. And our players vote for the captains,” Joseph said. “They vote for the guys they see fit, who they want to lead their football team. So, I’m not sure where that came from or who discussed that with D.T. But again, I have great respect for him. The players vote for the captains. They voted for who they thought were the best guys to lead their football team. And that’s it.”

Thomas also said in his interview that new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni told him he’d have to surrender playing time so the Broncos could give more snaps to rookie receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. He also said he was the only veteran receiver who was told this.

Thomas added, “I don’t understand that because I’ve never cried about getting the ball. I didn’t get (upset) about nothing … it just hurt me. I’m emotional. I’m empty. I’m empty still.”

Thomas caught three passes for 61 yards in the Texans’ win Sunday in Denver, where the Broncos honored their former receiver with a video tribute before the game and by putting a giant “Thank you” on the 10-story-high banner of Thomas outside their stadium.

“We have great respect for D.T.,” Joseph said. “He was a great player here and we honored him on Sunday. We didn’t win the game; he won the game. I think it’s a little frustration on his part, but I’m disappointed in how it came out because I don’t recall it being discussed that way. And that’s OK. The last point: we’ve got to move on.”

Notes: Paradis underwent surgery Wednesday to repair his right leg, which he broke Sunday. … The players were given a four-day furlough for their bye week after an indoor practice Wednesday.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

___

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Read More 645 Words

Dolphins’ Tannehill out again, eyeing Week 12 return

Dolphins' Tannehill out again, eyeing Week 12 return

Miami

Dolphins’ Tannehill out again, eyeing Week 12 return

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will miss his fifth straight game on Sunday at the Green Bay Packers, head coach Adam Gase confirmed Wednesday.

With the Dolphins taking their bye in Week 11, Gase said the goal is to have Tannehill, who has battled weakness and discomfort in his right (throwing) shoulder, ready for a Week 12 trip to the Indianapolis Colts.

“We haven’t had the jump that he was looking for, so that’s why we’re kind of taking a step back,” Gase told reporters. “We have time now, now that we made the decision of him not playing this week.”

Tannehill has taken part in individual drills at practice without throwing, instead going through a throwing motion without a ball. Asked if the quarterback has made significant progress since he was first ruled out before an Oct. 14 game against the Chicago Bears, Gase said he was unsure.

“It’s hard for me to say, because I think [Tannehill is] tired of me asking him,” Gase said. “So I just quit asking him. I just know they’ll come to me if they feel like he’s had a big improvement.”

Brock Osweiler will make his fifth consecutive start. He’s thrown for 1,034 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions in five games. The Dolphins have gone 2-2 in Tannehill’s absence to sit at 5-4, a half-game out of the AFC’s second wild-card spot.

Elsewhere, starting offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James each took part in individual drills on Wednesday after leaving Sunday’s game against the New York Jets with knee injuries.

Gase was noncommittal on their statuses for Sunday’s game, noting that neither player was able to do much in team drills.

–Field Level Media

Read More 227 Words

Cowboys LB Lee sidelined four to six weeks

Cowboys LB Lee sidelined four to six weeks

Cowboys LB Lee sidelined four to six weeks

Dallas Cowboys standout linebacker Sean Lee will reportedly be sidelined four to six weeks after injuring his left hamstring during Monday night’s loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Lee pulled up while chasing Titans tight end Jonnu Smith on a pass play.

“We anticipate him to be out for a little bit, no question about that,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett told reporters without getting specific about how much time Lee would miss.

Lee missed three games with a pulled hamstring earlier this season. The 32-year-old has 27 tackles in five games this season.

Rookie first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch will move back into the starting lineup. The first-round pick ranks second on the team with 63 tackles in eight games (three starts).

Also, Cowboys offensive guard Connor Williams will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and miss Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Garrett said the belief is Williams’ recovery will be a “short-term thing.” A timetable will be pinpointed after Williams undergoes the procedure.

Williams, a rookie, has started all eight games and hasn’t missed an offensive snap. The second-round pick suffered the injury during Monday’s game against the Titans. He reported additional knee soreness to team trainers on Tuesday.

Either Adam Redmond or Xavier Su’a-Filo will replace Williams in the starting lineup.

–Field Level Media

Read More 163 Words

Jaguars RB Fournette practicing, on track for Sunday

Jaguars RB Fournette practicing, on track for Sunday

Jacksonville

Jaguars RB Fournette practicing, on track for Sunday

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette appears ready for a return to the field after practicing Wednesday, the team’s first full session since its bye week.

Fournette has not played since Week 4 because of a hamstring injury and has only appeared in two games this season, rushing for 71 yards on 20 carries. After aggravating the injury on multiple occasions, he has remained out as the team tries to avoid any future setbacks. He participated in individual drills Monday.

Also practicing on Wednesday was quarterback Blake Bortles, who is battling a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury sustained in the fourth quarter of the team’s Week 8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in London.

“It’s just banged up,” Bortles told reporters Wednesday. “No different than anybody else getting a nick or a bruise or whatever.”

Cornerbacks A.J. Bouye (calf), who sat out the game in London, and Quenton Meeks (knee) missed practice on Wednesday.

The Jaguars (3-5), who are on a four-game losing streak, return to action Sunday against the Colts in Indianapolis.

Jacksonville traded for Carlos Hyde while Fournette was out and also has T.J. Yeldon available in the backfield. Yeldon leads the team with 334 rushing yards on 81 carries.

–Field Level Media

Read More 148 Words

Report: Jets’ Darnold has foot sprain, out Sunday

Report: Jets' Darnold has foot sprain, out Sunday

Report: Jets’ Darnold has foot sprain, out Sunday

New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has a significant right foot sprain and will miss Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, according to a New York Daily News report on Wednesday.

The report adds that the team hopes Darnold will return in Week 12 against the New England Patriots, after the Jets’ bye, but is not overly optimistic.

Darnold sat out Wednesday’s practice, observing in street clothes with a walking boot on his right foot. It was his first missed practice since a brief holdout during training camp, before he signed his rookie contract.

It’s unclear when Darnold was injured, but he told reporters on Monday that he felt “fine” despite taking a number of big hits in Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. Miami totaled four sacks and seven QB hits on Darnold, forcing him into four interceptions, including three in the fourth quarter.

“Some bumps and some bruises, but everything is good,” Darnold said.

Head coach Todd Bowles told reporters on a Monday conference call he wasn’t aware of any injury to the rookie.

Darnold, who has started every game this season, finished Sunday’s game in Miami 21 of 39 for 229 yards, no touchdowns and the four picks. His rating (31.8) was a career low, and his total of 14 interceptions this season leads the NFL by four.

Overall, Darnold has passed for 1,934 yards and 11 touchdowns but has completed just 55 percent of his throws.

If Darnold is out, 39-year-old Josh McCown would make his first start of the season. McCown threw for 2,926 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 starts in 2017 before breaking his hand late in the season.

–Field Level Media

Read More 217 Words

WR Bryant to join Saints on one-year deal

WR Bryant to join Saints on one-year deal

Former

WR Bryant to join Saints on one-year deal

Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant agreed to a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, according to multiple reports.

He won’t have to wait long for a chance to show his old team what he has left.

The Saints (7-1, 1st in NFC South) play Dallas (3-5) on Nov. 29.

Bryant will sign the deal on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

A tweet by the NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport announcing the deal was shared by Bryant with the hashtag #ThrowuptheX, a reference to his celebration move.

Bryant, who turned 30 on Sunday, has been a free agent since he was released by Dallas in April. He has visited several teams, including a workout with the Cleveland Browns in August. When Bryant worked out with the Browns, he briefly negotiated with the team but never came to terms.

Bryant took part in a workout with the Saints on Tuesday.

Bryant, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, has 7,459 receiving yards and 73 touchdowns in his career. Last season, he notched 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns in his eighth NFL year, all with the Cowboys.

Not long after his release from Dallas, Bryant turned down a three-year contract offer from the Baltimore Ravens, according to several media outlets. He intended to sign a one-year contract this season, then work on a longer-term deal starting next season, the reports said.

–Field Level Media

Read More 177 Words

Eagles expect Sproles, Johnson back vs. Cowboys

Eagles expect Sproles, Johnson back vs. Cowboys

Eagles expect Sproles, Johnson back vs. Cowboys

Philadelphia running back Darren Sproles could be back on the field for the first time since Week 1 when the Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

Sproles, who will retire after the season, had five carries for 10 yards and four catches for 22 yards in an 18-12 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 but has been sidelined by an injured hamstring since.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday that Sproles is ready to rejoin practice and should be in the lineup Sunday night.

Pederson also said right tackle Lane Johnson is expected to play, despite sustaining a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee during a Week 8 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.

Johnson went down in the first half against the Jaguars and was carted to the locker room. He did not return.

Philadelphia had its bye week after the London game, giving Johnson and Sproles extra time to get healthy.

The team also lost cornerback Jalen Mills to a foot injury against the Jaguars and say he’ll be re-evaluated later this week to determine whether he can play.

-Field Level Media

Read More 132 Words