Chiefs-Raiders, Seahawks-49ers: When top NFL rivalries sour

Two of the NFL’s most intense rivalries have turned sour.

When the Chiefs visit the Raiders in a series that dates to the AFL and has been as good as any in pro football, the oddsmakers see Oakland (2-9) getting routed — at home — by Kansas City. Most of America sees it that way, too.

“I know this, when it comes to Chiefs and Raiders, it doesn’t matter records,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, whose team is 9-2. “It’s one of those deals and you better come ready to play against a Jon Gruden-coached football team. That’s the way I am approaching it with the guys right now. I just think that’s very important.”

Since the Raiders moved back from Los Angeles to Oakland in 1995, there’s been only one season when both clubs had winning records (2016). The rivalry has been less heated since Marty Schottenheimer left as Kansas City coach in 1998 and Raiders owner Al Davis died in 2011. But this gap is success is ridiculous.

A more recent rivalry to savor has been San Francisco vs. Seattle. With the Seahawks (6-5) retooling but still competitive, and the 49ers (2-9) perennially rebuilding, that magic seems gone. Indeed, the league flexed this game off prime time.

“We had some great battles over the years,” says Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, specifically referring to the matchups with Jim Harbaugh when he led the 49ers. “If that’s what you guys want to call a rivalry, I’m not trying to minimize that part, it’s just that isn’t the way I talk and act and think about it. The better the other team is, the more it brings out the best you have, and I love that.”

The weekend began Thursday night with Dallas’ 13-10 home victory over New Orleans. Ezekiel Elliott scored the only Dallas touchdown and the Cowboys (7-5) stifled Drew Brees and the Saints (10-2), ending New Orleans’ 10-game winning streak. New Orleans failed to score in the first half, with Brees throwing for 39 yards.

There are no more byes on the schedule.

Kansas City (10-1) at Oakland (2-9)

It’s a bit complicated, but a Chiefs win and losses by Miami, Tennessee, Houston, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Cincinnati in certain combinations hand KC a playoff berth. Not that anyone doubts one is coming.

The Chiefs have won six of seven in this series and Reid’s teams are 16-3 coming off a bye.

Here’s a weird stat: Oakland stands fifth in the NFL with 34 points on opening drives. It’s third worst with 1.32 points per drive after that.

San Francisco (2-9) at Seattle (6-5)

Most intriguing here is Richard Sherman now wearing a 49ers jersey. The star defensive back for seven seasons in Seattle hasn’t done much in San Francisco: Sherman had 32 picks for Seattle, most in the NFL during that span. He has zero interceptions and four passes defensed this season.

“It’s different. Just the dynamic of the NFC West has changed,” Sherman says. “It’s changed a few times throughout the years. Early on when I first came in the league, San Fran was at the top and winning the division and went to a few NFC championships. In the middle of that, Seattle came up and was battling with Frisco, and for one crazy year Arizona came out of nowhere and had a really good season and made it to the NFC championship.

“There was a lot more teeth to the rivalry during those middle years for a number of reasons because there were several story lines. Since then, coaching changes have happened here, personnel changes have happened elsewhere, and the Rams have become incredible in the division and are playing really good football. So a lot has changed.”

The Seahawks have won eight straight and 10 of the past 11 vs. the 49ers. Seattle, which plays four of its final five at home — the other game is at the Niners — are 26-13 in regular-season games in December/January under Carroll.

Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) at Pittsburgh (7-3-1)

The scoreboard might explode at Heinz Field as Class of 2004 QBs Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger light it up.

Rivers set an NFL record for highest completion rate (96.6 percent) and tied the mark for consecutive completions (25) in last week’s rout of Arizona. He has multi-TD games in every outing this season, but will be without running back Melvin Gordon (knee).

Roethlisberger’s 97-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster last week gave him four 90-plus yard passes, most in NFL history. He threw for 462 yards in the loss at the Broncos, his sixth game of 450-plus yards. No other QB in NFL history has more than four.

Pittsburgh has won four of the past five meetings and is 15-3 at home against the Chargers.

Neither team can afford a stumble as it approaches likely postseason berths. LA can’t fall further behind KC in the AFC West, and the Steelers have hopes of a first-round bye.

Minnesota (6-4-1) at New England (8-3)

More records are within Tom Brady’s reach. With two touchdown passes against Minnesota, Brady would pass Peyton Manning’s 579 for the most passing touchdowns in NFL history, including the postseason. He also would beat Brett Favre’s 508 for the third-most regular-season touchdown passes.

With the Vikings’ best cornerback, Xavier Rhodes, leaving last Sunday night with a hamstring issue, stymieing Brady could be a major challenge for Minnesota as it chases NFC North leader Chicago.

“I remember when we were going in Cincinnati I’m watching him pregame and he was just throwing these darts,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says of Brady, “and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re in trouble today.’ But his accuracy, I think he sees so many things now, I think with the experience. I don’t know that he’s changed all that much.”

Washington (6-5) at Philadelphia (5-6), Monday night

Among the many so-so teams in playoff contention are the Redskins, operating without their No. 1 quarterback, Alex Smith, and the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles, with a torn-up secondary.

Colt McCoy had 268 yards passing, two touchdowns and three interceptions last week. Something to look for: Adrian Peterson needs two TDs to pass Jim Brown (106) for fifth most in NFL history.

Philly’s secondary is ravaged by injuries, so a strong pass rush likely is needed.

Los Angeles Rams (10-1) at Detroit (4-7)

The Rams have their eyes on winning out to put the heat on New Orleans for overall home-field advantage in the NFC. First up, a pair of NFC Central opponents — at Chicago next week is the tougher test.

Los Angeles clinches the NFC West with a win or Seattle loss. Todd Gurley leads the league with 1,484 scrimmage yards and 17 scrimmage TDs, and DT Aaron Donald has been practically unblockable at times. He had two strip-sacks in the win over the Chiefs.

The Lions have lost four of five as Matthew Stafford has thrown for three TDs and four INTs in the past four games.

Chicago (8-3) at New York Giants (3-8)

NFC North-leading Chicago aims for a sixth straight win; the Bears won three times in 12 days, once without starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Chase Daniel started against the Lions on Thanksgiving, going 27 for 37 for 230 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

But it’s defense that marks these Bears, hardly a surprise. They lead the NFL with fewest first-half points allowed (64), are tops with 20 interceptions and are tied for the league lead with 16 forced fumbles.

Giants RB Saquon Barkley is one of four rookies in NFL history with touchdowns rushing and receiving in consecutive games. He has 100-plus yards from scrimmage in 10 of 11 games and Barkley ranks third in the NFL with 1,410 yards from scrimmage. He probably will find it tough going Sunday.

Cleveland (4-6-1) at Houston (8-3)

Houston is on quite a roll with eight consecutive wins, has beaten Cleveland four straight times and six of the past seven meetings.

Still, the Browns are dangerous under interim coach Gregg Williams and with top overall draft pick Baker Mayfield playing well. Cleveland ended a 25-game road losing streak last week at Cincinnati as Mayfield threw a season-high four touchdown passes.

Mayfield must keep a watch for J.J. Watt, whose sensational comeback season peaked with nine tackles, 1½ sacks and a forced fumble last Monday night. Watt, tied for second in the NFL with 11½ sacks, had three tackles for losses, one sack, forced and recovered a fumble and had a TD reception in his last game against Cleveland in 2014.

Indianapolis (6-5) at Jacksonville (3-8)

Indy is up, Jacksonville is awful.

A victory would give the Colts their first six-game winning streak since opening their 2009 AFC championship season 14-0. Andrew Luck has a TD pass in an NFL-best 34 straight games and three or more TDs in eight consecutive games, tying Peyton Manning for No. 2 all time.

The Jaguars have dropped seven straight, fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and benched QB Blake Bortles. Cody Kessler was 0-8 as Cleveland’s starter in 2016.

Jacksonville is without RB Leonard Fournette, suspended one game for leaving the bench and instigating a fight in Buffalo.

Denver (5-6) at Cincinnati (5-6)

The Bengals have lost five of six and now are without Andy Dalton (thumb); third-year quarterback Jeff Driskel gets his first NFL start Sunday.

Ground games could be key here. Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay ranks second among NFL rookies with 780 yards rushing, and with Dalton out, Joe Mixon — 89 yards vs. the Browns — should be busy toting the ball for Cincinnati.

Broncos star linebacker Von Miller has sacks in six straight games.

Baltimore (6-5) at Atlanta (4-7)

Only the sixth meeting, with Baltimore’s 19-13 OT victory in Atlanta in 1999 the only win by a visiting team.

Baltimore owns the NFL’s top-ranked defense, allowing a league-low 18 points per game, and has found a winning formula on offense as undrafted rookie Gus Edwards has rushed for at least 100 yards in two straight games. Rookie QB Lamar Jackson has been dynamic on the ground while Joe Flacco heals a hip injury.

The highly disappointing Falcons have their second three-game losing streak this season, but Matt Ryan needs two completions to pass Carson Palmer for 11th on the career list, and has topped 300 yards passing and a 100 QB rating in five of the past six games.

Carolina (6-5) at Tampa Bay (4-7)

Carolina’s three straight losses endanger its playoff chase. Don’t blame RB Christian McCaffrey, who had 125 yards rushing, 112 receiving for a club-record 237 scrimmage yards and two TDs last week vs. Seattle. Top draftee D.J. Moore has 17 receptions for 248 yards in the past two games.

Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul has 10½ sacks.

New York Jets (3-8) at Tennessee (5-6)

For Tennessee to have any thoughts about making the postseason, it must win games such as this. The Jets have lost five in a row and other than placekicker Jason Myers, offer little resistance. Myers has five field goals of 55 yards or longer this season, most by any kicker since 2000.

The Titans have won 13 of their past 16 home games and do a few things pretty well. They have 56 total penalties, fewest in the league, and have allowed 25 TDs, tied for fifth fewest in the NFL.

Arizona (2-9) at Green Bay (4-6-1)

Not much to watch with these also-rans. Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald needs four catches to pass Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (1,281 with 49ers) for most receptions in NFL history with one team. Fitzgerald has scored in all five of his previous games against the Packers.

Packers WR Davante Adams has a career-high 1,022 yards receiving, scoring at least 10 TDs for a third straight season.

Buffalo (4-7) at Miami (5-6)

Don’t look for a scoring spree here: Buffalo ranks 31st in offense, Miami is 28th.

Although the Bills have topped 300 yards in the past two games after failing to do so in the first six, their passer rating of 58.9 is worst in the NFL. They have been outscored by 111 points.

Miami does have regular QB Ryan Tannehill back from a shoulder injury. He has won his past seven home starts.

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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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