NFL injury notebook: Packers’ Rodgers questionable for Vikings

NFL injury notebook: Packers’ Rodgers questionable for Vikings

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings due to the left knee injury he suffered in the opener against the Chicago Bears.

“Aaron’s getting better,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy told reporters on Friday. “He was in the meeting this morning. I would say he feels better than he did at the beginning of the week.”

The Packers didn’t practice on Friday but will hold their typical light Saturday on-field workout. Whether or not Rodgers will be a participant remains unknown. Still, Rodgers could play Sunday even if he doesn’t participate in the physical phase as he has been doing the mental preparation all week.

Also, receiver Davante Adams (shoulder) is listed as questionable for the Minnesota game. Linebacker Oren Burks (shoulder) also is questionable while safety Josh Jones (ankle) will miss the contest.

–Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette missed practice Friday for the third straight day and was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.

Fournette suffered a right hamstring injury during last Sunday’s game against the New York Giants. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone termed Fournette as a game-time decision.

“We’ll see where he is,” Marrone told reporters. “If he’s ready go out there, he’ll be full go.”

Marrone said earlier this week that he was comfortable with Fournette playing even if he didn’t practice. T.J. Yeldon will start if Fournette can’t play. Yeldon (ankle) was a limited participant in Friday’s practice.

–Ben Roethlisberger practiced with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time this week, making him the likely starting quarterback Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs visit Heinz Field.

Roethlisberger missed Wednesday and Thursday practices with an elbow injury but worked with the starting offense on Friday. Roethlisberger declined comment and head coach Mike Tomlin provided no additional details. Roethlisberger was intercepted three times and lost two fumbles in a 21-21 tie in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns.

Backup quarterback Josh Dobbs took the first-team reps Wednesday and Thursday, Tomlin said. Dobbs said he will be ready “if my number is called.”

–Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans with a right elbow injury.

Mariota was a limited practice participant for the second straight day on Friday after being listed as a full participant on Wednesday. Titans coach Mike Vrabel was unable to firm up Mariota’s chances of playing. Vrabel offered that backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert will likely see action as well.

Two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan (concussion) hasn’t cleared the protocol and won’t play Sunday. He was injured against the Dolphins. Tennessee is still missing right tackle Jack Conklin (knee), meaning the Titans will have two backup tackles trying to slow down the Houston trio of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus.

–Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman will miss Sunday’s against the Carolina Panthers because of a lingering knee injury, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Per the report, coach Dan Quinn ruled out his starting running back when he was sidelined for practice again Friday after missing practice all week. Freeman was later listed as out on the team’s injury report.

Backup Tevin Coleman will handle the starter’s workload when the Falcons host the Panthers on Sunday, with Ito Smith serving as the main backup and Brian Hill to be called up from the practice squad. Also, wide receiver Russell Gage (knee) and guard Ben Garland (calf) also were ruled out of Sunday’s game.

–Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner was ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons due to a concussion.

Turner suffered the injury in the season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys. He was placed in the concussion protocol and did not practice all week.

Receiver Damiere Byrd (knee) will miss the game after also being hurt against the Cowboys. Receiver Curtis Samuel (heart) will miss his second straight game.

–Indianapolis left tackle Anthony Castonzo experienced a “minor setback” in his recovery for a hamstring injury and will miss Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins, according to coach Frank Reich. It will be the second straight game Castonzo has missed.

Also ruled out for Sunday’s game are defensive lineman Denico Autry (ankle), cornerback Chris Milton (concussion) and offensive lineman Denzelle Good (knee, wrist).

Running back Marlon Mack (questionable, hamstring) is on track to make his season debut. Reich was pleased with what he saw from Mack during Friday’s practice.

“He looked good. He’s got that explosiveness, that quickness,” Reich told reporters. “He’s really made good progress. [I} feel confident for the game that if Marlon is up, ready to go, we will use him accordingly.”

–Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles’ status for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is up in the air after missing his second straight practice, per multiple reports.

Sproles, 35, was sidelined Thursday and Friday because of a “slight hamstring issue,” according to coach Doug Pederson. The 13-year veteran took the bulk of the team’s running back snaps in the first half of the Eagles season-opening win over Atlanta, rushing five times for 10 yards and adding four catches for 22 yards. He also served as the team’s main punt returner against the Falcons.

If Sproles is out Sunday, the Eagles expect to give more touches to Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement. Pederson admitted easing Ajayi’s workload against Atlanta after he had battled a foot injury during the preseason. But Ajayi became what Pederson called the second-half “workhorse” against the Falcons, finishing with 15 carries for 62 yards and two touchdowns.

Clement and wide receiver DeAndre Carter are both candidates to handle punt-return duties Sunday if Sproles can not play.

–The New York Giants had hoped to have pass rusher Olivier Vernon back for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, but coach Pat Shurmur said the team has ruled him out.

Vernon missed the season opener with a high ankle sprain suffered near the end of training camp. Shurmur said earlier this week he expected to see Vernon on the field, but after the linebacker missed a third straight practice on Friday, the coach declared he will not dress for the game.

Vernon had 37 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles in 12 games for the Giants in 2017.

–Detroit Lions Pro Bowl guard T.J. Lang will miss Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers due to a back injury.

Lang missed most of the preseason with a foot injury before suffering a back injury during Monday night’s season-opening loss to the New York Jets.

Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder) and running back LeGarrette Blount (shoulder) are listed as questionable. Ansah also left the Jets’ game and an MRI exam didn’t reveal any significant damage.

–Field Level Media

NFC heavyweight Rams, Bears match up in Week 14 main event

NFC heavyweight Rams, Bears match up in Week 14 main event


NFC heavyweight Rams, Bears match up in Week 14 main event

The Los Angeles Rams have a chance to clinch a first-round playoff bye when they visit the Chicago Bears on Sunday night at Soldier Field.

Los Angeles (11-1) clinched the NFC West title for the second straight season. A win this weekend would give the Rams their first playoff bye since the 2003 season, when Mike Martz coached the team in St. Louis.

“It’s crazy right now, the energy and what’s going on,” Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said this week to the Los Angeles Times. “It’s just amazing — crazy in a good way. And we’ve got to keep it going.”

A difficult challenge awaits against Chicago (8-4), which also has sights on the postseason in its first season under head coach Matt Nagy. The Bears won five games in a row before losing in overtime to the New York Giants.

Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has sat out the past two games because of a shoulder injury but could return for the prime-time matchup. He has passed for 2,469 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season, while backup Chase Daniel has passed for 515 yards, three touchdowns and two picks in two starts.

“I feel strong that he will play, but I’ve got to see more,” Nagy said Wednesday. “I’m anxious to get him out there and see him throw the ball around in practice with the guys.”

Both teams boast high-caliber offenses to go along with defenses that are hungry for takeaways.

The Rams are averaging 34.9 points per game thanks to a dynamic attack that includes, among others, Jared Goff at quarterback and MVP candidate Todd Gurley at running back. Gurley already has 1,649 yards from scrimmage (1,175 rushing, 474 receiving) and 19 total touchdowns (15 rushing, four receiving).

The Bears are not too far behind, averaging 28.7 points per contest. Anthony Miller and Tarik Cohen have scored six touchdowns apiece, while Trey Burton and Jordan Howard have five touchdowns apiece.

On defense, the Bears rank first in the NFL with a plus-30 takeaway margin. The Rams (plus-22) are tied for fourth.

Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack has thrived since Chicago acquired him from the Oakland Raiders before the start of the season. In 10 games, he has nine sacks, five forced fumbles and an interception return for a score.

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has 16.5 sacks to lead the league. He has a shot at former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record of 22.5.

“I’m just playing football,” Donald said to NFL Network last week. “Whatever happens, happens.”

–Field Level Media

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Rookie-dominated Cardinals set for Stafford, Lions

Rookie-dominated Cardinals set for Stafford, Lions

The Arizona Cardinals figured they would likely have

Rookie-dominated Cardinals set for Stafford, Lions

The Arizona Cardinals figured they would likely have a rookie playing quarterback in December.

But they never envisioned Josh Rosen getting his on-the-job training behind an offensive line with three other rookies undergoing the same baptism by fire.

The Cardinals (3-9) try to regroup behind their sewn-together offensive line when they host the Detroit Lions (4-8) on Sunday.

Left tackle D.J. Humphries went on injured reserve with a knee injury on Wednesday and that transaction completed a wipeout of the team’s preseason projected starting line.

Center A.Q. Shipley suffered a knee injury in training camp, right guard Justin Pugh injured his knee in mid-November and right tackle Andre Smith was released in late November. Standout left guard Mike Iupati suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s victory over the Green Bay Packers and he was placed on IR on Tuesday.

That leaves a patchwork unit of rookie left tackle Korey Cunningham, rookie left guard Colby Gossett, rookie center Mason Cole, right guard Oday Aboushi and right tackle Will Holden. Aboushi and Gossett joined the team in late October and Holden came aboard last week.

“You know you’re going to have some difficulties,” Arizona coach Steve Wilks told reporters. “You face that each and every year. But the attrition that we’ve had on the offensive line is just, I never experienced anything like this. But again, we’ve got to find ways to get guys ready to play.”

The group will try to provide Rosen (10 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) time to throw as the first-round pick looks to shake out of his recent doldrums.

Rosen has passed for fewer than 150 yards in each of the past three games. He is just 32-of-65 for 390 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions during the stretch.

But Lions coach Matt Patricia fears a breakout could happen at any time. He feels Arizona has the type of skill players to pose problems.

“They’ve got a lot of good players, (receiver) Larry Fitzgerald and (running back) David Johnson, they just give him an opportunity to get the ball to those guys in different ways, to allow him to control it,” Patricia told reporters. “He’s obviously learning and going through the process right now.”

Detroit ranks 26th in scoring defense (26.3) and has given up 30 or more points in four of its defeats.

The Lions have dropped five of their past six games and close the season with three of four games on the road.

Defensive tackle Damon Harrison said it is important for Detroit to finish the season strong.

“It’s all about confidence,” Harrison told reporters. “It’s hard to gain confidence when you’re losing. Just stay in it. Be able to go into the offseason on a good note.”

Meanwhile, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is having a spotty season despite throwing for 3,086 yards. Stafford has thrown 18 touchdown passes — 11 shy of last season’s total — and his 11 interceptions top the total of 10 he threw in each of the past two campaigns.

Detroit revealed Wednesday that Stafford is dealing with a back injury. As for the rise in interceptions, offense coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said the miscues aren’t solely the fault of the signal caller.

“I think turnovers are always an offensive team stat,” Cooter said during a conference call. “There’s 11 guys on the field, there’s a bunch of coaches, bunch of other players. We’re all trying to do our job at the highest level we can do it.”

The Cardinals rank 29th in the NFL in turnover margin at minus-9 but are receiving standout play from defensive end Chandler Jones, who ranks third in the NFL with 12 sacks.

The Lions posted a 35-23 victory in last season’s meeting to end a seven-game slide against the Cardinals. Stafford passed for a season-high four touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Ravens plan to put brakes on Mahomes, Chiefs

Ravens plan to put brakes on Mahomes, Chiefs

A league-leading scoring average of 37 points provides a potential advantage for the Kansas City Chiefs where it matters most -- the scoreboard.

Let Andy Reid elaborate.

"It always comes down to, and don't slight the defense here, because

Ravens plan to put brakes on Mahomes, Chiefs

A league-leading scoring average of 37 points provides a potential advantage for the Kansas City Chiefs where it matters most — the scoreboard.

Let Andy Reid elaborate.

“It always comes down to, and don’t slight the defense here, because that’s important, but the thing is based on a points system,” said the Chiefs coach, who needs one more win to tie Marty Schottenheimer (205) for seventh on the all-time NFL wins list.

“Whoever scores the most wins the game. I don’t know any more than that. That’s what you try to do. It’s pretty simple, right? I’ll leave it at that.”

The Baltimore Ravens (7-5) intend to do anything to complicate such simplicity. They rank first defensively in the NFL, allowing 281.7 yards and 17.8 points. The Ravens will visit Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday looking to end an eight-game home win streak for the Chiefs, who at 10-2 own the best record in the AFC.

The matchup looms as a difficult test for both Kansas City units.

Although Patrick Mahomes has been lights out as a first-year starter, the Chiefs quarterback figures to see a variety of blitzes from schemes the Ravens effectively disguise.

Defensively, the Chiefs have struggled all season, allowing 33 points and 171 rushing yards last week to the woeful Oakland Raiders. Now, Kansas City faces a Baltimore offense that has won three straight with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, rushing for 716 yards over that span while controlling the clock an average of 37-plus minutes.

A stingy Baltimore defense, led by the likes of defensive end Terrell Suggs and linebacker C.J. Mosley, factors into the possession advantage.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, however, realizes Mahomes presents a big-play threat with 43 passes of 25-plus yards and 41 touchdown strikes.

Those marks lead the NFL and incorporate the dynamic speed possessed by receivers such as Tyreek Hill, as well as well as the creativity of Reid, a coach Harbaugh once worked under in Philadelphia.

“He’s had coaches on his staff over the years that have specific areas of study,” Harbaugh said. “They look at college football and probably high school football. Probably junior high football, knowing Andy, and he just does a great job of that.”

Although the Chiefs released running back Kareem Hunt after a video was uncovered of an altercation last year’s NFL rushing leader had with a woman, standouts still exist. In addition to Hill, Travis Kelce is an elite pass-catcher who leads NFL tight ends with 1,082 yards receiving.

“In reality, holding this team to what we did last (week) is probably not going to happen,” said Ravens safety Eric Weddle, referencing the 131 yards Baltimore allowed in beating Atlanta 26-16. “But we can make things tough on them. We can create turnovers. We can hold them in the red zone. So those things are areas that we can do, and if we do that, we’ll be successful.”

Although Jackson is expected to start at quarterback, the Ravens’ Joe Flacco (hip) resumed activity at practice this week. Also, offensive tackle James Hurst could return from a nagging back injury.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins returned to restricted practice reps for the Chiefs, who have still not used Eric Berry, though the veteran safety is participating in limited drills.

–Field Level Media

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Colts take swing at South-topping Texans

Colts take swing at South-topping Texans

If one is searching for

Colts take swing at South-topping Texans

If one is searching for a turning point to the Houston Texans’ season, rewind to Week 4 and a winless club fighting to avoid flushing its season after one month.

After starting 2018 with three straight losses to give it nine in a row, dating back to 2017, Houston coughed up a 28-10 third quarter lead at Indianapolis and trailed in overtime. But the Texans got 29 and 37-yard field goals from Ka’imi Fairbairn in the final 1:50 of the game to pull out a 37-34 win.

That started a nine-game winning streak that’s carried Houston (9-3) to the brink of an AFC South title. Should Jacksonville win Thursday night in Tennessee, the Texans could clinch on Sunday if they beat the Colts in a rematch.

“Pulling through the adversity, it just kind of slingshotted us to where we’re at now,” Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson said. “That was one game where we went through all types of phases, situations that kind of put us through this nine-game winning streak. It was the start of everything.”

Texans coach Bill O’Brien could have been headed for unemployment had his team dropped to 0-4. Instead, nine straight wins have furthered the notion that last year’s 5-11 record was a byproduct of a crushing injury wave more than poor talent or terrible coaching.

While Houston is riding the wave, Indianapolis was drowned by it last week in Jacksonville. Quarterback Andrew Luck’s streak of eight straight games with at least three touchdown passes ended in a bagel.

The 6-0 loss to a Jaguars team that had lost eight of nine prior to the game was made even more maddening by the Colts’ inability to pick up points from any of three situations where they turned down cinch field goals to go for it on fourth down and failed.

The last miss, which happened with 2:38 left when Luck was sacked for a 9-yard loss on fourth and goal from the 1, put Indianapolis in a four-team tie at 6-6.

That’s a game behind surging Baltimore for the AFC’s second wild-card spot.

“At the end of the day, it came down to execution,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “Offensively, we just didn’t execute and that ultimately falls on me. It’s my job to put the players in the best position and we didn’t get that done.”

Luck and Watson combined for 839 yards and six touchdown passes in their September 30 meeting, four by Luck. But a failed fourth down gamble in Indianapolis territory gave the Texans a chance to win it, and Watson hit DeAndre Hopkins for 24 yards to set up Fairbairn for the game-winner.

–Field Level Media

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Packers pick up pace for Falcons after McCarthy move

Packers pick up pace for Falcons after McCarthy move

Packers pick up pace for Falcons after McCarthy move

When the schedule came out in the spring, Sunday’s matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers had all the makings of a potential classic.

Two of the NFL’s best teams.

Two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.

At an iconic venue in December.

So much for that.

The Falcons (4-8) and Packers (4-7-1), who met in the NFC Championship game two years ago, are stumbling into Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field.

The Packers have lost five of their last six games. Because of it, coach Mike McCarthy was fired after his team lost at home to the woeful Cardinals. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who was fired four games into his fourth season as coach of the Dolphins in 2015, will serve as interim coach.

“I told the guys, we’re looking for them to make progress, we’re looking for them to improve,” Philbin said. “We’ve got to clean up some areas and get better. I told them today again, I don’t have the magic pill. I told the defense, we’ve got to get off blocks, we’ve got to cover people, we’ve got to pursue, we’ve got to get guys on the ground and tackle well. I told the offense, we’ve got to block, we’ve got to throw and catch, we’ve got to run hard with the ball. That’s ultimately what wins games. Schemes are important but not as important as playing guys together and playing with great effort and playing fundamentally sound. That’s really the focus.”

The Falcons have lost their last four games. Coach Dan Quinn’s job appears safe after owner Arthur Blank gave him a ringing endorsement.

“Having a boss like him, you really want to get it right for him because of the support that he gives to me,” Quinn said. “I definitely appreciate it. I wasn’t looking for any of those things in that way, but I definitely appreciated it. And I recognized that the questions go with the territory when you fail more tests than you pass. Certainly these two teams who are strong and proud teams have had disappointing seasons up to this point.”

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, the 2016 MVP, is having an excellent season. He’s completed almost 71 percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns vs. five interceptions. But the Falcons have a feeble running game and a propensity to sleep walk through the third quarter. During their four-game losing streak, they’re yet to score 20 points.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the 2011 and 2014 MVP, is 23 passes away from breaking Tom Brady’s NFL-record streak of 358 consecutive passes without an interception. But he’s completed only 61.8 percent of his passes. The Packers have been awful on third down all season, a major reason why they’re only 16th in the league in scoring.

“I think everybody’s kind of realizing that we’re all under the microscope even more,” Rodgers said. “Who knows what the changes are going to be after the season? So, there’s the feeling that more eyes are on all of us, whether Mark (Murphy, the team president and CEO) or Brian (Gutekunst, the general manager) or scouts. I feel like the energy was good today. Unfortunately, the urgency that you need early in the season, we kind of had out in practice today.”

–Field Level Media

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Ailing Newton, Panthers enter Browns’ lair

Ailing Newton, Panthers enter Browns' lair

As messed up as the

Ailing Newton, Panthers enter Browns’ lair

As messed up as the Cleveland Browns have looked at times, the Carolina Panthers arrive with perhaps more pressing problems.

The teams face off Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, with the Browns looking like the team in a better mindset.

Meanwhile, the Panthers (6-6) have tumbled out of the projected NFC playoff mix with four consecutive losses and the week began with the firing of two defensive assistant coaches.

“We put ourselves in this situation and we have to get ourselves out,” Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said.

That’s a theme that has reverberated around the Panthers.

“The last few games we have played have come down to the last opportunities we have had, whether it be on offense or defense,” coach Ron Rivera said. “You just have to make a play. That is unfortunately something we haven’t been able to do right now.”

Rivera has made changes, taking over defensive play-calling duties. Plus, the team fired defensive line coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary / cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura at the start of the week.

“Ultimately, I’m charged with putting the team in the best position to succeed, and I felt these moves were necessary in order to do that,” Rivera said.

Defensive coordinator Eric Washington will oversee the front seven.

Cleveland (4-7-1) is coming off a 29-13 loss at Houston after winning two games in a row. So the Browns have had a considerable better stretch than Carolina.

Even with last week’s setback, Browns coach Gregg Williams describes a good vibe around the team.

“The guys have been very determined, very focused,” Williams said. “We have to put ourselves in better position to win. … But the guys never flinched.”

Newton threw four interceptions at Tampa Bay, marking his most pick-offs thrown since his rookie season, and sat out Wednesday’s practice to rest a weary throwing shoulder.

“I can’t allow that and accept that from myself,” Newton said. “I just have to do a better job with my accuracy and decision-making.”

The Browns also gave up four turnovers in the loss at Houston.

“The value of protecting the ball you can’t over-value that,” Williams said. “We have to protect the ball.”

Like Newton, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is a past Heisman Trophy winner. A year ago this weekend, he received the honor as a player for Oklahoma.

He’s the first Browns quarterback to throw for at least one touchdown in nine straight starts since Bernie Kosar in 1987. He set the team’s rookie record for passing yards in last week’s game.

“Our offense has been outstanding in the last month,” Williams said.

Mayfield, who wasn’t intercepted three times at Houston, hasn’t been sacked in the past three games.

“I think his mobility is excellent,” Williams said. “There’s just a feel for playing the position and extending the play.”

Williams said he doesn’t think the three pickoffs thrown by Mayfield will impact him going into the Carolina game.

Both teams have floundered in key defensive situations. That’s among the reasons at the root of Rivera’s frustrations.

The Browns have similar concerns.

“We’ve got to execute (on third-down defense),” Williams said.

The Panthers are 1-5 on the road. They’ve been close a few times on the road, but slow starts have been the norm.

“You’ve got to make plays earlier in the game so that it doesn’t come down to that (at the end),” linebacker Luke Kuechly said.

Carolina put tight end Greg Olsen on injured reserve Wednesday, ending his injury-riddled season.

The Browns might be without cornerback Denzel Ward, who has been in concussion protocol and was held out of practice Wednesday.

The Panthers remain in range of the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints because those teams matchup twice across the last three weeks of the season.

Carolina has won four of five all-time meetings with the Browns, including the most-recent matchup in 2014 at home. Cleveland’s lone victory came 24-23 in 2010 at home.

–Field Level Media

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Mebane back with Chargers after family emergency

Mebane back with Chargers after family emergency


Mebane back with Chargers after family emergency

Los Angeles Chargers nose tackle Brandon Mebane was back with the team for Wednesday’s practice after missing two weeks to be with his infant daughter, who was born last month with a heart condition.

Mebane had been with his wife, Amena, and their two older children, Mahailey and Makai, in Omaha, Neb. while their newborn daughter, Makenna, has been receiving medical treatment. Makenna was born prematurely on Nov. 12 with a heart condition that will require surgery to compensate for a missing valve.

Mebane told reporters his daughter was born more than a month early and developed a stomach infection, which she is now recovering from. The surgery was pushed back a few months by the infection as Makenna continues to recover.

The parents learned of the heart condition in July and had been planning for the surgery, finding a hospital they preferred in Omaha. Amena and the children have been living in Omaha throughout the season, and Mebane has flown from Los Angeles to Omaha early each week to see them before flying back on Tuesday nights.

“It’s been a long and hard, pretty tough year for me,” Mebane said. “But I’ve been praying way more, keeping my faith and my older two kids.”

The 33-year-old is one of two defensive captains in his third year with the Chargers and 12th in the NFL. He has 32 tackles (three for loss), one forced fumble, one sack and three QB hits in 10 games this season, missing wins over the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers the past two weeks.

“He’s back in practice and doing good,” coach Anthony Lynn said of Mebane. “He’s back with the team, and it’s good to see Brandon.

“He’s one of our leaders. He’s a captain for a reason. On our team, these guys voted him that, and they’ve missed him. His leadership on the field is important, not just his ability. He’s a good man.”

The Chargers (9-3) host the Cincinnati Bengals (5-7) on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Bears’ Trubisky near 100 percent

NFL notebook: Bears' Trubisky near 100 percent

Rest has restored Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell

NFL notebook: Bears’ Trubisky near 100 percent

Rest has restored Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who said Wednesday he is “really close” to 100 percent.

Trubisky is expected to return to the lineup Sunday for the Bears’ NFC showdown at Soldier Field against the Los Angeles Rams. He missed the past two games with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder.

“Arm feels really good. Just throwing as much as they’ll let me and taking care of it,” Trubisky said. “I’m just making sure I’m 100 percent when I get back out there.”

Trubisky remains on the injury report but practiced without limitation Wednesday for the first time since his injury. Chase Daniel, 1-1 in Trubisky’s stead, worked with the second team.

–Police in Cleveland have launched an internal investigation to determine how the NFL got the police report for the Feb. 10 incident involving ex-Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, according to multiple reports.

News of the fight between Hunt and a 19-year-old woman gained renewed attention last Friday when TMZ posted surveillance video from a downtown Cleveland hotel that shows Hunt shoving the woman and then kicking her while she is on the ground. The Chiefs released Hunt hours after the video was made public.

The city released records that show the NFL didn’t ask for police reports until the video surfaced. But Wednesday, the city said that an unidentified Cleveland police offer gave the report to the NFL, according to TMZ.

–Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders tore his left Achilles tendon during practice.

Sanders was helped off the field and appeared to be in significant pain after going down while running a route uncovered. An MRI confirmed the tear, leading the Broncos to place Sanders on injured reserve and claim wide receiver Andre Holmes off waivers, a day after he was cut by the Buffalo Bills.

–Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was limited in practice due to a shoulder injury but is expected to play Sunday.

Coach Ron Rivera provided few details on the injury, only briefly summarizing by saying, “We’ll see what the doctors say.”

–Green Bay Packers interim head coach Joe Philbin said that longtime assistant coach Winston Moss was fired for more than his critical tweet referencing quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“It’s never about one thing … it’s not about a tweet or anything like that,” said Philbin, who replaced the fired Mike McCarthy “I just think the fit right now isn’t where it needs to be.”

Moss, a longtime assistant coach under McCarthy, was fired Tuesday, hours after tweeting, in part, “Find somebody that is going to hold #12 and everybody in this building to a #LombardiStandard!”

–Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott said he would appeal the NFL’s $13,369 fine for his Thanksgiving Day touchdown celebration. During a win over Washington, Elliott dropped $21 into the oversized Salvation Army kettle behind the end zone in Arlington, Texas.

–The Bengals placed wide receiver A.J. Green on injured reserve. Green has torn ligaments in his right big toe and will have season-ending surgery, ESPN reported Monday.

–New York Giants safety Landon Collins is headed to injured reserve with a shoulder injury that is expected to require surgery, ESPN reported. Coach Pat Shurmur said no decision has yet been made but acknowledged surgery is likely.

–Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard is week-to-week with a knee injury. The third-year corner, who leads the NFL with seven interceptions, didn’t practice Wednesday.

–New Orleans left tackle Terron Armstead (pectoral) returned to practice for the first time since in Week 10. Armstead has missed three games, including last Thursday’s loss at Dallas when New Orleans gained only 65 rushing yards and saw its 10-game winning streak end.

–The Oakland Raiders placed wideout Martavis Bryant (knee), safety Reggie Nelson (shoulder) and defensive end Shilique Calhoun (neck) on IR.

–The Green Bay Packers placed cornerback Kevin King (hamstring) on IR.

–The Arizona Cardinals put left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) on IR and signed free agent Joe Barksdale.

–Former Bills wideout Kelvin Benjamin went unclaimed on waivers, a day after being released.

–The NFL placed referee Roy Ellison on administrative leave as it investigates a Sunday altercation between the umpire and Buffalo defensive end Jerry Hughes. The NFL Referees Association said in a statement it expects Ellison to be cleared.

–The Washington Redskins signed quarterback Josh Johnson and placed cornerback Quinton Dunbar (shin), wideout Trey Quinn (ankle) and guard Jonathan Cooper (biceps) on IR.

–The Chiefs signed backup center Austin Reiter to an extension. Terms were unavailable.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Cleveland police reviewing Hunt incident

Reports: Cleveland police reviewing Hunt incident

Reports: Cleveland police reviewing Hunt incident

Police in Cleveland have launched an internal investigation to determine how the NFL got the police report for the Feb. 10 incident involving ex-Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, according to multiple reports Wednesday.

News of the fight between Hunt and a 19-year-old woman gained renewed attention last Friday when TMZ posted surveillance video from a downtown Cleveland hotel that shows Hunt shoving the woman and then kicking her while she is on the ground. The Chiefs released Hunt hours after the video was made public.

The city released records that show the NFL didn’t ask for police reports until the video surfaced. But Wednesday, the city said that an unidentified Cleveland police offer gave the report to the NFL, according to TMZ.

“Following an internal review, it has been determined that in February 2018 a member of the Cleveland Division of Police provided a copy of the police report involving the February 10, 2018 assault incident at The 9 to a representative from the National Football League,” per a statement to TMZ. “The report did not go through the official public records request process.”

The city also said it is reviewing the “overall response” by the police department regarding its handling of the incident.

Hunt was not arrested or charged. Nevertheless, he went unclaimed on waivers on Monday after his release from the Chiefs.

–Field Level Media

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Mayfield won’t lobby Browns to hire OU coach

Mayfield won't lobby Browns to hire OU coach

Mayfield won’t lobby Browns to hire OU coach

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield can see Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley getting a head coaching position in the NFL one day, but doesn’t plan on pushing his pro team to hire his former college mentor.

“Lincoln’s been ready,” Mayfield said Wednesday. “Just who he is, how he coaches, the respect level he’s had from all of his players. How detailed he is. He’s ready. But that’s his decision. He’s got something special there (at Oklahoma). I don’t think anybody’s going to blame him if he stays there for the next 20 years.”

Riley, who spent three years working with Mayfield at Oklahoma as quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator and head coach, could still be a contender for the Browns job that was vacated when Hue Jackson was fired in October. And the Green Bay Packers have a position open after they sent Mike McCarthy packing on Sunday following a loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

“Obviously, you guys can take it how you want,” Mayfield added. “I have a relationship with Lincoln. It’s been great. We had success. But whatever decision is made here I’m going to make the most of it. Obviously, there’s been a level of comfortability with him in the past that I’ve had. But whatever happens, happens.”

Mayfield, though, doesn’t plan to consult with Browns general manager John Dorsey or Riley about the opening. “It’s not my decision,” he said.

Yet the rookie believes Riley has a promising future awaiting in the NFL.

“Like I said earlier, some of those coaches that are so successful, they have a standard and they live by that standard every day,” Mayfield said. “He does it with football, family. He’s just a great human being. Wants the best for everybody. Always encouraging.”

The 4-7-1 Browns will host the 6-6 Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Riley will lead Big 12 Conference championship game winner Oklahoma (12-1), which secured the fourth and final College Football Playoff spot, to the Orange Bowl, where the Sooners will play No. 1 Alabama (13-0) on Dec. 29.

–Field Level Media

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49ers’ Shanahan glad Broncos didn’t hire him

49ers' Shanahan glad Broncos didn't hire him

Arizona Cardinals: With left

49ers’ Shanahan glad Broncos didn’t hire him

Arizona Cardinals: With left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) placed on injured reserve, the Cardinals are now without all five of their original offensive line starters entering training camp. Center A.Q. Shipley (knee) was lost in August, and right guard Justin Pugh (knee) followed in November. Left guard Mike Iupati (knee) went on IR on Tuesday, a week after right tackle Andre Smith was released. Humphries had a setback with his knee last week, coach Steve Wilks said, and was shut down with hopes of avoiding major surgery, which will be determined sometime in the future. A first-round pick in 2015, Humphries has played in just 27 games in four years. The team picked up his fifth-year option, which is worth $9.625 million and guaranteed only for injury, in April.

Los Angeles Rams: With backup running back Malcolm Brown (broken collarbone) likely headed to IR, coach Sean McVay told reporters second-year back Justin Davis and rookie sixth-rounder John Kelly will share the role moving forward, depending on the situation. Neither has played an offensive snap all season, and Kelly has yet to play in an NFL game as he’s been inactive all year. “I think it’s going to be more anxiousness than anything,” Kelly said when asked about nerves. “I don’t really do nervous.” Kelly ran for 197 yards and three scores on 46 carries in the preseason, while Davis had seven carries for 41 yards.

San Francisco 49ers: As he prepares to face the team his father, Mike Shanahan, led to two Super Bowl titles, Kyle Shanahan told reporters Wednesday he’s glad the Denver Broncos didn’t hire him as their head coach in 2017. “Definitely thought it was a much better situation for myself (in San Francisco), not that that was my choice or anything,” said Shanahan, who had a four-hour interview in Denver before the Broncos hired Vance Joseph. Kyle Shanahan was later hired by the 49ers. “I’d like to say I made the decision pretty hard on them,” he added. “I definitely am happy where I am, and I think it’s definitely a better situation not being there with my dad. Also, that’s my wife’s home. That’s my home. I enjoy going back there to visit, but I like living where I’m at.” Mike Shanahan also won a Super Bowl with the 49ers, as their offensive coordinator in 1994.

Seattle Seahawks: Bobby Wagner has been to four consecutive Pro Bowls and named first-team All-Pro three times in that span, but he had never won NFC Defensive Player of the Week in his seven-year career until Wednesday. The honor was well deserved, as Wagner stuffed the stat sheet about as full as possible against the 49ers on Sunday, posting 12 tackles (two for loss), one sack, two QB hits, two passes defensed, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception, which he returned 98 yards for a touchdown. Wagner has 97 tackles this season despite, according to Pro Football Focus, not missing one all year.

–Field Level Media

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Seeking Salvation? Cowboys’ Elliott appeals fine

Seeking Salvation? Cowboys' Elliott appeals fine

The NFL is looking to

Seeking Salvation? Cowboys’ Elliott appeals fine

The NFL is looking to take more money out of Ezekiel Elliott’s pocket in response to the Dallas Cowboys running back’s Thanksgiving celebration.

Elliott said he would appeal the $13,369 fine the league handed him for his touchdown celebration on Nov. 22, when he dropped $21 into the oversized Salvation Army kettle behind the end zone in Arlington, Texas.

“I mean, I didn’t really expect a fine, really don’t care about the fine,” Elliott said Wednesday. “It’s all for a good cause and we’re trying to bring awareness to the Salvation Army, and if the NFL doesn’t like that, then, I mean, that’s on them. I’ll pay their little fine.”

After running for a 16-yard touchdown against the Washington Redskins with 10:02 left in the first quarter, Elliott pulled out $21 — the amount matching his uniform number — and dropped it in the bucket.

In the fourth quarter of the same game, a 31-23 Dallas win, Elliott lifted teammate Dak Prescott into the Salvation Army kettle after the Dallas quarterback scrambled for a 5-yard touchdown run.

Postgame, Elliott and Prescott both announced $21,000 donations to the Salvation Army, and the Cowboys said they would match the amounts.

The NFL gave Prescott a warning but did not fine him. Two years ago, Elliott jumped into the Salvation Army bucket following a touchdown, and he wasn’t fined in that instance.

Asked about the league’s different responses to the two celebrations, Elliott said, “A lot of things they do define ridiculous. But I mean, that’s not really any of my business, not really anything I can change so I’m just going to keep being focused on this season, keep being focused on leading this team and focused on going out there and winning ballgames.”

Fine money the league collects is earmarked for ex-players, but Elliott said in this case, he wishes the money would be given to the Salvation Army.

–Field Level Media

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Saints LT Armstead returns to practice

Saints LT Armstead returns to practice

New Orleans

Saints LT Armstead returns to practice

New Orleans left tackle Terron Armstead returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since injuring his pectoral muscle in the Saints’ Week 10 win at Cincinnati.

Armstead has missed three games, including last Thursday’s loss at Dallas when New Orleans gained only 65 rushing yards and saw its 10-game winning streak snapped.

Listed as a limited participant on the practice report, Armstead told reporters his recovery was “going pretty well” and that he could play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Armstead, 27, has been an effective but oft-injured starter since New Orleans drafted him in the third round in 2013. He has missed 18 games in the past three seasons.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs reward C Reiter with extension

Chiefs reward C Reiter with extension

Chiefs reward C Reiter with extension

Denver Broncos: Denver traded Demaryius Thomas to open up opportunities for rookie second-round draft pick Courtland Sutton, but fourth-round rookie DaeSean Hamilton will be leaned on heavily now as well with Emmanuel Sanders (torn Achilles) out for the season. “There’s a reason why I’m in the NFL,” Hamilton said of his confidence in himself. “I don’t expect there to be any downfall.” The team also will count on Tim Patrick and River Cracraft, both of whom were undrafted free agents in 2017. “We have capable guys and I’m very comfortable with that room,” head coach Vance Joseph said. “It’s young, but it’s a proven room.” Added Sutton, “We’ve all got to step up and step into these roles that we’ve been handed, and not look back into it.”

Kansas City Chiefs: After filling in admirably for starter Mitch Morse at center in Weeks 8-11, Austin Reiter was rewarded with a contract extension on Wednesday, the team announced. No terms of the deal have been reported, but the 2015 seventh-round pick was set to become a restricted free agent after this season. Depending on the size and length of the deal, it could mean the Chiefs view Reiter as the future starter at the pivot, as Morse will hit unrestricted free agency in March. The team gave left guard Cameron Erving a two-year extension worth up to $15.7 million in September. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (signed through 2020), left tackle Eric Fisher (2021) and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (2022) are each locked up for at least two years.

Los Angeles Chargers: In his final game before entering the NFL, Philip Rivers led his team to a 28-10 victory over Marvin Lewis, as the Bengals’ staff was coaching the North team in the 2004 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Rivers threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns to pick up MVP honors in the game, which came about three months before Rivers was traded to the Chargers — whose staff coached the South team — as part of the package for Eli Manning on draft day. “Obviously he’s continued to grow as a fine player, but he was there and he was a fine leader,” Lewis recalled Wednesday of the encounter. “Obviously, the Chargers’ staff was coaching the other side and had Philip on their team, so they saw great things in him which caused the move they made to get Philip. I don’t think he’s disappointed anybody there.”

Oakland Raiders: Head coach Jon Gruden is known for praising opponents’ top players, but he was particularly effusive about the guy the Raiders will have to contain on Sunday, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. “What’s the greatest thing about this man, I’ve told all of our receivers, if you get a chance to watch him practice, you’ll see what unlocks the greatness in him,” Gruden said. “He’s the hardest working man, I think, in football. Hardest working player I’ve ever seen practice. I’ve seen Jerry Rice, I’ve seen a lot of good ones, but I put Antonio Brown at the top. If there are any young wideouts out there, I’d go watch him practice. You figure out yourself why he’s such a good player.”

–Field Level Media

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Jaguars RB Fournette aims to salvage tough season

Jaguars RB Fournette aims to salvage tough season

Jaguars RB Fournette aims to salvage tough season

Houston Texans: Running back D’Onta Foreman was activated Tuesday and figures to further bolster a rushing attack that is tied for second in the NFL at 140.8 yards per game. Foreman has missed the past 12-plus months since tearing his Achilles tendon and was removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list on Tuesday. “The reason why we brought him up is that we feel like maybe eventually, whether it’s this week, next week, some week, he can help us win a game, so we felt like it was a good decision for our team,” coach Bill O’Brien said during a press conference. Foreman returned to practice on Nov. 14 and is eager to help out a team that has won nine straight games. “I practice day in and day out,” Foreman said. “I’ve been getting a lot of scout team reps, just trying to take advantage of my opportunities.”

Indianapolis Colts: Center Ryan Kelly (knee) has missed the past two games and figures to be doubtful to return this Sunday against the Texans. Kelly missed his seventh straight practice on Wednesday and did rehab work off to the side. Indianapolis coach Frank Reich said the plan is to be cautious with Kelly’s recovery. “He’s doing great and making progress,” Reich said. “We want to get him back as soon as we can but we still want to be smart about it.” Reich also is downplaying the game against Houston while outsiders refer to it as a must-win affair. “We don’t put ourselves in must-win situations,” Reich said. “We put ourselves in must-get-better situations. That’s been our mantra the whole year.”

Jacksonville Jaguars: Running back Leonard Fournette will be back for Thursday’s game against the Tennessee Titans after missing last week’s game against the Colts due to a one-game suspension for fighting. Fournette said it was difficult not being with his teammates. “It was tough, knowing what I could have done to help the team,” he told reporters. “It was tough.” It was been a rough second season for Fournette, who rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie. He injured a hamstring in Week 1 and reinjured it again in Week 4 and has just 314 yards and four touchdowns on 90 carries. However, Fournette showed life by rushing for 95 yards in consecutive games prior to serving the suspension.

Tennessee Titans: Tennessee saved its playoff hopes by rallying from a 16-point hole against the New York Jets last Sunday and is certainly in must-win mode against the Jaguars. Jacksonville isn’t going back to the playoffs after reaching the AFC title game last season and the Titans don’t want to join them as a 2017 playoff team that misses the postseason this time around. “That’s something we can’t allow to happen,” Tennessee defensive end Jurrell Casey said. “We want to keep them where they’re at — at the end of the division and leave them there. We got to make sure we take care of our part. At the end of the day, we can’t worry about them. We have to worry about ourselves because we ain’t played so hot this year ourselves.”

–Field Level Media

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Aikman says Jimmy Johnson deserves Cowboys honor

Aikman says Jimmy Johnson deserves Cowboys honor

Aikman says Jimmy Johnson deserves Cowboys honor

Dallas Cowboys: Former Cowboys executive Gil Brandt became the 22nd member of the team’s Ring of Honor last Thursday. Troy Aikman, one of the 22, wants a 23rd member to join the select company. That’s his former coach, Jimmy Johnson, who led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles in five seasons as the head coach. “I do know that not being in the Cowboys Ring of Honor is a major disappointment to him,” Aikman told radio station 1310 The Ticket. “It’s a major disappointment to me, for that matter. The guy turned the franchise around and brought back America’s Team and made the Cowboys relevant again. I ran into a lot of people when we began to win and they said they were big Cowboys fans, but that stadium was not selling out in 1989. It probably wasn’t in ‘88 the year before I got there either. Jimmy was a big part. He certainly was an architect of putting together those teams and drafting those players that you could argue was maybe the most talent in the history of our sport.”

New York Giants: The Giants might not listen to his opinion as they plan for 2019 and beyond, but one New York Super Bowl-winning quarterback had a strong endorsement of another New York Super Bowl-winning quarterback. “I’d have him on my team anytime, any game, any type of game,” New York Jets legend Joe Namath said to MSG about Eli Manning. “Between the lines on the grass or outside on the street — I think he’s a winner. I know he’s tough.” Namath added: “I think they need a team, they need more players. When you’re asking me about building around a quarterback … with Lady Luck on his side, you can get up into your 40s and still be productive. I still think Eli has a few more years left in him where he can be productive.”

Philadelphia Eagles: The brother of second-year defensive end Derek Barnett was killed in a hit-and-run in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, The Tennessean reported. Police in Nashville said 33-year-old David Barnett died as a result of a crash at 3:25 a.m. Felipe Castelblanco, 47, was charged with vehicular homicide by intoxication in the head-on collision, the newspaper reported. Derek Barnett has been on the injured reserve list since he had shoulder surgery in late October. He had 19 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks on the season.

Washington Redskins: Quarterback Colt McCoy had surgery on his broken right leg and already has been ruled out for the season. But is he really? Coach Jay Gruden announced the surgery and said it was successful, adding it was “wishful thinking” that he could be back in two to three weeks, with four weeks more likely, according to NBC Sports Washington. The Redskins sit 6-6 in the NFC East, just a game behind Dallas for the division lead, and haven’t been mathematically eliminated. If the QB combo of Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson can get the Redskins to the playoffs, it isn’t impossible to think McCoy could be back. Until then, McCoy and starting quarterback Alex Smith, whom McCoy replaced when Smith suffered a devastating leg injury in Week 11, can offer guidance to Sanchez and Johnson.

–Field Level Media

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Packers place CB King (hamstring) on IR

Packers place CB King (hamstring) on IR

Packers place CB King (hamstring) on IR

The Green Bay Packers placed cornerback Kevin King on injured reserve with a hamstring injury Wednesday.

It’s the second straight year the 2017 first-round pick will finish the season on injured reserve, after a shoulder issue bothered him as a rookie. King had sat out the last four games after missing time with a groin injury earlier this season. He has played in just 15 games through two seasons.

King finishes the year with 17 tackles, one interception and two passes defensed in six games, all starts.

The Packers also placed running back Tra Carson (ribs) on injured reserve and claimed cornerback Natrell Jamerson (from the Houston Texans) and defensive lineman Fadol Brown (from the Oakland Raiders) off waivers.

Jamerson, who turns 23 on Dec. 15, was a fifth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in April, but he failed to make the Week 1 roster and was claimed by the Texans in September. He played 78 defensive snaps in 10 games, totaling seven tackles and a pass defensed, before being waived Tuesday.

Brown, 25, spent the 2017 season on Oakland’s practice squad and played in eight games for the Raiders this season, tallying 17 tackles and two QB hits.

Carson, 26, played 83 of his 88 snaps this year on special teams.

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Saints CB Lattimore gets another shot at Bucs WR Evans

Saints CB Lattimore gets another shot at Bucs WR Evans

Saints CB Lattimore gets another shot at Bucs WR Evans

Atlanta Falcons: Quarterback Matt Ryan has been sacked 36 times and taken a lot of punishment this season, which worries the Falcons. Ryan was knocked down eight times in last Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens to raise his season total to an NFL-leading 91. “I’m concerned about it because if we’re not protecting him in the way that we can, then that gets hard,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said in a press conference. “There are some games that the score is out of whack and it turns into a dropback game, there are going to be more chances for a defense to go after them, you know that. But at the end of it, yeah, I’m concerned, but I’m as concerned about us playing as well as we can.” Considering the abuse, Ryan has a stellar touchdown-to-interceptions rate of 25 to 5.

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton continues to have shoulder woes and the quarterback admits he may need further surgery in the future. He had his throwing shoulder repaired following the 2016 season but he is again experiencing issues. “I would not have expected me to still have things lingering from that (surgery), but at the end of the day it is what it is,” Newton told reporters. “It’s about managing pain and understanding you have a job to do, a responsibility to put your best product out on the field, and I want to do that for myself and this team.” Coach Ron Rivera suggested the injury could lead to someone else — Taylor Heinicke is the backup — on the field if it worsens. “We just have to be ready to do something different if we have to,” Rivera said. “I think that’s probably where we are going to get to. I’m not sure yet, but we’ll see how it goes.”

New Orleans Saints: One of the team’s two losses came in Week 1 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers notched a 48-40 victory. The teams clash again on Sunday and cornerback Marshon Lattimore will be under the microscope after having troubles with Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans (seven receptions for 147 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown). Lattimore has bounced back from that contest to enjoy a solid season and Saints coach Sean Payton doesn’t think the focus should be on the 22-year-old. “It wasn’t just about Mike and Marshon that day,” Payton said on a conference call. “The quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) was comfortable in the pocket and in this league you have really good football players. A quarterback that’s throwing it extremely well, we turned the ball over offensively. There were a number of things, but yes, Marshon we feel like is one of the better corners in this league and I’m glad we have him.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Coach Dirk Koetter isn’t sure he wants to get into a second shootout with the explosive Saints but also thinks what happened in Week 1 has no bearing on the rematch. “That was a shootout in Game 1,” Koetter said. “Their offense has been on fire all season and the thing that jumps out at me is how well their defense is playing and I’m not saying they didn’t play well before, but they’re No. 1 in the league in rush defense and the pressure they’re getting on quarterbacks (is impressive). I just think that was a day in Week 1 where we were fortunate to win the turnover battle (New Orleans committed the only two) and both teams were making a lot of plays and we made just enough.”

–Field Level Media

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Raiders WR Bryant, S Nelson placed on IR

Raiders WR Bryant, S Nelson placed on IR

Wide receiver

Raiders WR Bryant, S Nelson placed on IR

Wide receiver Martavis Bryant’s rocky season with the Oakland Raiders came to an end Wednesday.

Bryant was placed on injured reserve with a posterior cruciate ligament injury after missing the previous three games. The Raiders also placed safety Reggie Nelson (shoulder) and defensive end Shilique Calhoun (neck) on IR.

Bryant was acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers for a third-round pick during the 2018 NFL Draft and released before Week 1, but he re-signed with the Raiders two weeks later. He caught 19 passes for 266 yards and no touchdowns in eight games.

The 26-year-old struggled to stay on the field, starting with migraine headaches in training camp that forced him out of practice, before his knee injury. He is due to hit free agency in March.

Nelson, 35, had started all 64 games over the past four seasons but sat out Week 8 and ceded his starting job to former first-round pick Karl Joseph over the last four weeks. He finishes the year with 29 tackles and two interceptions.

The moves made room for the official signing of running back C.J. Anderson, which was reported Tuesday, and defensive end Kony Ealy.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos place WR Sanders (Achilles) on IR

Broncos place WR Sanders (Achilles) on IR

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders tore his

Broncos place WR Sanders (Achilles) on IR

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders tore his left Achilles during Wednesday’s practice, the team confirmed.

Sanders was helped off the field and appeared to be in significant pain after going down while running a route against air. An MRI confirmed the tear, leading the Broncos to place Sanders on injured reserve and claim wide receiver Andre Holmes off waivers, a day after he was cut by the Buffalo Bills.

Holmes, 30, had 12 catches for 157 yards in 12 games (three starts) with Buffalo this season. He played for Broncos offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave from 2015-16 with the Oakland Raiders.

Much of the receiving burden will be placed on rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton this week against the San Francisco 49ers and cornerback Richard Sherman. Demaryius Thomas was traded at the deadline in late October.

Sanders, 31, was on pace for his fourth career 1,000-yard season with 71 receptions for 868 yards and four touchdowns in 2018. He has one year and $10.25 million remaining on his contract.

It is the third season-ending injury to a Broncos starter that occurred in practice this year, after tight end Jake Butt and guard Max Garcia each tore ACLs in practice. Joseph said Sanders’ injury was unrelated to a heel injury he battled last week.

–Field Level Media

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