Prescott efficient for Cowboys; Dalton stalls for Bengals

DENVER (AP) — ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys had another efficient preseason showing.

Andy Dalton bogged down a bit with his Cincinnati Bengals.

Prescott led a pair of scoring drives in three possessions, capped by a scrambling 6-yard scoring pass to Terrance Williams, before the Bengals rallied after halftime for a 21-13 exhibition victory Saturday night.

The Bengals had just two first downs in three Dalton-led possessions a week after he threw for two touchdowns with an offense that was revamped after finishing last in the NFL. One of the first downs was on Dalton’s 13-yard scramble after the Bengals (2-0) started with a pair of three-and-outs.

A week after throwing a 30-yard touchdown to rookie Michael Gallup on his only drive of the preseason opener in San Francisco, Prescott was 10 of 15 for 86 yards. The TD drive for a 10-0 lead was kept alive by an 8-yard slant to Gallup, who reached out for a nice catch inside the Cincinnati 10.

TEXANS 16, 49ERS 13

HOUSTON (AP) — Deshaun Watson threw a touchdown pass and Houston earned a preseason win over San Francisco.

Watson led the Texans down the field, going 5 of 8 for 73 yards, capped off by a 1-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington.

It was a much lengthier outing than the preseason opener in Kansas City when Watson attempted just one pass in his return to game action after missing the second half of his rookie season with a torn ACL.

Watson’s efficiency matched a nice opening drive from San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Trent Taylor.

Garoppolo’s night ended after his second drive when a deep pass to Dante Pettis bounced off Pettis’ hands and was intercepted by Johnson Bademosi. Garoppolo was 10 of 12 for 136 yards.

BUCCANEERS 30, TITANS 14

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jameis Winston gave Tampa Bay a potent reminder of what it will miss when the quarterback sits out his three-game suspension to start the regular season.

Winston threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns after coming off the bench in the second quarter, and the Buccaneers beat Tennessee in the teams’ second exhibition game.

Ryan Fitzpatrick started for a second straight week as the Buccaneers (2-0) prepare the veteran to run the offense while Winston sits out for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after the NFL investigated an allegation Winston groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in March 2016. Fitzpatrick helped the Bucs hold the ball for 9 minutes of the first quarter, but they settled for a field goal as the quarterback was 5 of 13 for 46 yards passing.

Winston completed eight of his first nine passes and left with a 151.4 passer rating. He threw for big chunks, hitting Mike Evans for 38 yards and then DeSean Jackson on a 54-yarder. Winston found Chris Godwin in a pack of Titans (0-2) in the end zone for an 8-yard TD and connected with Justin Watson for a 21-yard TD that gave the Bucs a 20-7 halftime lead.

CHARGERS 24, SEAHAWKS 14

CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Philip Rivers and Los Angeles looked almost ready for the regular season from their first series.

Russell Wilson and Seattle probably feel like they’ve got more work to do.

Melvin Gordon rushed for a short touchdown to cap a strong 70-yard opening drive by the Chargers’ first-team offense, and Rivers went 6 of 7 for 62 yards in Los Angeles’ 24-14 preseason victory over the Seahawks on Saturday night.

JJ Jones returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown late in the first half, and Mike Williams caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith in the second half of a solid performance by the Chargers (1-1) in the preseason home opener of their second season at compact StubHub Center.

While Rivers played only two series, Wilson was 13 of 21 for 193 yards while playing the entire first half for the Seahawks (0-2). His offense was limited to two field goals by execution mistakes in the red zone.

RAMS 19, RAIDERS 15

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rookie John Kelly rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown, and the Rams welcomed the Raiders back to the Coliseum with a preseason victory over Oakland.

Chris Warren rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown for the Raiders in their return to the venerable stadium that was their home for 13 seasons during their largely successful tenure in Los Angeles. Their still-passionate Southern California fan base turned out in force, filling the 95-year-old arena with black jerseys and loud cheers.

BRONCOS 24, BEARS 23

DENVER (AP) — Case Keenum moved the chains for the first time for Denver in a 24-23 exhibition loss to Chicago, and Chad Kelly threw another touchdown after leapfrogging Paxton Lynch on the depth chart.

Lynch’s second straight poor performance opened the door for the Bears to come back from a 23-10 fourth-quarter deficit.

Bears backup QB Chase Daniel threw two TD passes in the final five minutes, including a 12-yarder to tight end Ben Braunecker with 1:53 left to tie it. Pat O’Donnell’s extra point gave Chicago (1-2) its first lead.

Lynch had the Broncos (0-2) close to field goal range when Isaiah McKenzie, who had a half dozen fumbles as a rookie last year, coughed up the ball after a catch, and linebacker Isaiah Irving recovered for Chicago with 58 seconds left.

After a pair of three-and-outs in his dud of a Denver debut last week, Keenum rebounded from another three-and-out to lead two scoring drives on his final two possessions, finishing 8 for 13 for 78 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

JAGUARS 14, VIKINGS 10

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Yannick Ngakoue had an 11-yard sack that helped Jacksonville’s defense hold Kirk Cousins and Minnesota’s starting offense to three completions and three points, and the Jaguars reserves rallied for a victory over the Vikings.

Cousins was crisp in his only series last week, but the Vikings went three-and-out on two of their four possessions with their new quarterback. Latavius Murray’s second fumble, stripped by Malik Jackson, was recovered by Calais Campbell to end another drive. Cousins finished just 3 for 8 for 12 yards.

Minnesota’s defense was closer to midseason form, though, with an interception by Harrison Smith of Blake Bortles and another sure pick by Mackensie Alexander that was bobbled and dropped.

Bortles played the entire first half and went 12 for 20 for 159 yards, producing a touchdown run by Leonard Fournette on one of his seven series, the last of three possessions the Vikings starters were still in the game.

___

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Rams TE Higbee day-to-day after coughing up blood

Rams TE Higbee day-to-day after coughing up blood

Los Angeles

Rams TE Higbee day-to-day after coughing up blood

Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee is day-to-day after sustaining a chest injury during Sunday’s game that resulted in his coughing up blood in a hospital, coach Sean McVay told reporters Monday.

After reports surfaced earlier in the day that Higbee was taken to a local hospital for precautionary reasons before coughing up blood, McVay confirmed the details and called the injury a lung contusion.

Higbee, 26, was injured in the second quarter of the Rams’ 27-9 victory over the New Orleans Saints. Fellow tight end Gerald Everett received playing time in the potential absence of Higbee, who had two receptions for 21 yards before exiting Sunday’s game.

Higbee, who agreed to a four-year contract extension earlier this month, has six receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown this season.

A fourth-round pick in 2016 out of Western Kentucky, Higbee has played in all 50 games and caught 66 passes for 713 yards and five touchdowns in his career.

McVay also said that starting right guard Austin Blythe (ankle) is day-to-day.

Los Angeles plays at Cleveland next Sunday night.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs have Super Bowl aspirations as they open vs. Jaguars

Chiefs have Super Bowl aspirations as they open vs. Jaguars

Expectations for a

Chiefs have Super Bowl aspirations as they open vs. Jaguars

Expectations for a dazzling encore to last season do not seem to faze the Kansas City Chiefs.

Nor does the overtime loss in the AFC Championship Game, where the New England Patriots won the coin toss, scored a touchdown and kept the NFL’s MVP, Patrick Mahomes, from touching the football in the extra frame.

“There’s no hangover from that. Every year is a different year in this league,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.

If different is eventually defined as more explosive for Kansas City, it should again contend for a berth in the Super Bowl, a game the Chiefs last played in 50 seasons ago when they downed the Minnesota Vikings.

That quest begins Sunday when Kansas City visits Jacksonville. The Jaguars could present a stiff defensive challenge after adding rookie Josh Allen as an edge rusher to add to a talented defensive front.

Nonetheless, Mahomes, who begins his second year as a starter, is surrounded by his favorite targets in tight end Travis Kelce (103 receptions for 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns) and wide receiver Tyreek Hill (87 for 1,479 and 12 scores).

The Chiefs, who reported no new injuries going into the opener, boosted their offensive talent with the acquisition of LeSean McCoy after the veteran running back was recently released by the Buffalo Bills.

McCoy could play sparingly against the Jaguars, however, so he is not put in a “bad spot,” Reid said. That leaves Damien Williams to get the bulk of the carries after the journeyman excelled late last season as both a rusher and receiver.

“At every single position, I feel like we’re three to four deep,” said Mahomes.

Except quarterback, of course, where Matt Moore was signed as a backup after it was determined Chad Henne needed ankle surgery.

During Mahomes’ record-setting debut as a starter, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2017 draft joined Peyton Manning (2013) as the only players in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a season.

“Some of the things that went on were historical things,” said Reid, “but some great defensive coordinators in this league have had an opportunity to study him this offseason. That’s where the challenge comes in.”

Some adjustments surfaced when the Chiefs split their last six games last season but still earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

In addition to preparing for the NFL’s most productive offense of a year ago, the Jaguars are confronted with other issues. Hurricane Dorian curtailed their practice schedule and obviously disrupted the lives of everyone in the Jacksonville area. Temperatures in the 90s are expected during the game on Sunday.

“There’s been a lot of discussions about a lot of different things,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “The priority was to make sure everyone is safe and has a plan, and once we know that everyone is safe and has a plan with what they’re doing, then I think we just take things as they come.”

Nick Foles left Philadelphia and takes over as the Jacksonville quarterback. He is dealing with oblique soreness but is expected to play.

An unproven receiving corps could prompt the Jaguars to rely on running back Leonard Fournette, especially to limit opportunities for Kansas City’s potent attack. A year ago, Jacksonville lost 10 of its last 12, finishing 5-11 after reaching the AFC Championship Game during its 2017 run.

–Field Level Media

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Bengals geared up for Seahawks fans to bring the noise

Bengals geared up for Seahawks fans to bring the noise

If

Bengals geared up for Seahawks fans to bring the noise

If the Cincinnati Bengals could get a do-over on their schedule and pick another place to open their season, they’d likely take it.

With a new coach and offensive system, star receiver A.J. Green out with an ankle injury and an unsettled offensive line, heading into Seattle’s CenturyLink Field — one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL — isn’t the ideal way to start.

Plus, Bengals left tackle Cordy Glenn has been placed in the concussion protocol, putting his status for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks in doubt.

Not exactly the debut first-year head coach Zac Taylor, who is familiar with the setting in Seattle after having been an assistant the past two seasons with the NFC West rival Los Angeles Rams, was looking for.

“I’ve seen the worst of it,” Taylor said. “Seattle is one of the top places on the road that I’ve ever been part of. We really worked on it springtime on our non-verbal communication. That’s one of the things that we stress in everyday life — communication, verbal and non-verbal. It’s a great test. We feel like we have an answer.”

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton echoed Taylor’s comments.

“When you play in the noise, you’ve got to have great communication,” Dalton said. “You’ve got to make sure everybody’s on the same page. Everybody’s dialed in. Everybody’s listening.

“We’ll be prepared for it. We know it’s going to be loud — first game of the year. Seattle’s a loud place anyway. We can’t have the mistakes. We can’t be jumping offsides. We can’t do the stuff that will set you back. We’ve got to prepare for it and mentally be ready for it.”

The Bengals have pumped in loud music during practice to prepare for the Seahawks.

“It’s better than not having it,” Dalton said. “But it’s not the same as Sunday.”

Throw in the Seahawks’ acquisition of three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, and things could really get tough for the Bengals, who lost nine of their last 11 games last season to finish 6-10.

The Seahawks finished 10-6 and made the playoffs last season in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

They acquired Clowney last weekend in a trade with Houston for two linebackers and a third-round draft pick next year.

“I’m glad it’s over, the whole process of being traded and everything,” Clowney said. “I’m glad I can be a part of this team here now and get going on a new journey.”

Clowney went through his first practice in Seattle on Monday.

“His excitement about coming here and being part of this team and ready to take advantage of this opportunity to show where he belongs. He’s not going to let this go by now,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He wants to show us that we’ve got to have him here. That’s thrilling for us to hear. We’ll see what goes down in the long haul.”

Clowney will play on one end of the Seahawks’ defensive line, with Ziggy Ansah on the other. Ansah, another former Pro Bowl player, signed as a free agent with Seattle in the offseason.

“Those guys are like bookends. They’re exactly what you’re looking for on the edge,” Carroll said. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to see these guys come together and be a factor and play off one another and complement each other.”

–Field Level Media

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Falcons, Vikings open season seeking redemption

Falcons, Vikings open season seeking redemption

Falcons, Vikings open season seeking redemption

After missing the playoffs last season, both the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons are eager for the chance to bounce back in 2019.

The quest to return to prominence in the NFC begins on Sunday, when the Vikings host the Falcons in Minneapolis.

Two seasons ago, Minnesota went 13-3 and memorably reached the NFC Championship Game. In 2016, Atlanta nearly won the Super Bowl before another postseason appearance in 2017. However, each took a step back in 2018, with the Vikings going 8-7-1 and the Falcons a dismal 7-9.

Meaning, both teams should be amped to better those respective performances from last season.

“It will be a good test,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said at his Wednesday press conference. “I think Atlanta is a good football team and well coached. Hopefully, we are too. I think it’s going to be a really good football game.”

A successful season for Minnesota could depend on how Year 2 in town for Kirk Cousins and the offense goes. Now, with full-time coordinator Kevin Stefanski’s zone-scheme system, with help from adviser Gary Kubiak, in place.

Cousins became the first quarterback in league history last season to throw for at least 4,000 yards (4,298) and complete 70 percent of his passes (70.1) with at least 30 touchdowns and 10 or fewer interceptions (he hit the last two figures exactly). However, Minnesota’s offense was inconsistent and held to 10 points or fewer four times.

Cousins still has arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who combined for 215 receptions, 2,394 yards and 18 touchdowns. Diggs, however, did not practice Wednesday due to a hamstring issue and will be monitored.

The overall key for Minnesota, though, could be running back Dalvin Cook, healthy again after playing just 15 games in his first two seasons — rushing for 969 yards.

Defensively, the Vikings feature essentially the same faces from a unit that ranked fourth in the NFL allowing 309.7 yards per game.

“Every year is a new year,” Zimmer said. “I think you go in with everything the same. Hopefully, we approach things with a chip on our shoulder and out to prove something.”

Atlanta also has plenty of star power, beginning with quarterback Matt Ryan, who has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in eight straight seasons and had 35 touchdowns with seven interceptions in 2018. As Julio Jones (113 catches, 1,677 yards, eight TDs in 2018) nears a new contract, he’s still Ryan’s top option, with Calvin Ridley looking to build on a rookie season that featured a team-leading 10 TD catches.

With Tevin Coleman now in San Francisco, the Falcons’ backfield belongs to Devonta Freeman. He needs to stay healthy, however, after playing just two games in 2018 because of knee, foot and groin injuries, the last of which ended his season.

Injuries also hindered an Atlanta defense that ranked 25th in average points allowed (26.4) and 28th in yards allowed (384.5) last season. However, coach Dan Quinn is now coordinating that group and has key contributors in linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal healthy after they combined to play seven games last season because of injuries.

“Preseason-wise, we focused on getting better and closer, and I certainly think we made a lot of strides on that,” Quinn said this week. “But, you don’t rush that process. You keep battling through it, and keep getting better.”

Minnesota has won three in a row against the Falcons, most recently, 14-9 at Atlanta in 2017.

–Field Level Media

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With Elliott in fold, Cowboys ready to host Giants

With Elliott in fold, Cowboys ready to host Giants

With Elliott in fold, Cowboys ready to host Giants

The Dallas Cowboys finally have Ezekiel Elliott in the fold and now they will hope a 41-day holdout will not lead to some rust for the running back when they host the New York Giants in their season opener on Sunday.

“He’s in very good shape, he looks good, but he hasn’t been practicing with pro football players,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ll just see how he fits back in, but he’s a quick study, he’s a smart guy and he’s got an excellent football IQ. We’ll just see where he is and adjust accordingly as we go.”

Shortly before Dallas began its first complete workout on Wednesday ahead of the season opener, Elliott agreed to a six-year, $90 million contract extension.

When he lines up in the backfield to start his fourth season, Elliott will be the league’s highest-paid running back with $50 million guaranteed, and the $15 million per year breaks the standard set by the $14.4 million per season Todd Gurley got from the Rams last year.

Elliott was seeking a long-term deal as he entered the last season of his rookie contract. Quarterback Dak Prescott is in the same situation, but didn’t hold out. The duo helped the Cowboys win the NFC East in two of the last three seasons, but Dallas has yet to get past the divisional round, extending a drought that goes back to the 1995 season.

“I feel good,” Elliott said. “I’m excited to be back. I’m excited to be back on the field. I’m excited to go win some ballgames.”

New York is entering its second season under coach Pat Shurmur. The Giants also are starting their first without wideout Odell Beckham Jr and possibly the last with quarterback Eli Manning as a starter.

Shurmur won five games last season after the Giants were 3-13 in 2017 and then the team traded Beckham to Cleveland. They used the No. 6 pick to select Daniel Jones out of Duke to eventually be Manning’s successor.

The Giants also say they believe they bolstered their offensive line by acquiring Kevin Zeitler from Cleveland to give running back Saquon Barkley even more support after he rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns in his rookie season.

“It’s the first game of the year, and we have to put our best foot forward,” Shurmur said. “We have to do everything in our power to beat Dallas. That’s the importance of it. I tell the players all the time, it’s the players, not the plays. So, we have to get the players ready to play and go do it.

The quarterback transition could wind up being similar to when Kurt Warner began the 2004 season and Manning took over in the final weeks, but the Giants are not ready to proclaim when and if Jones will start a game this season.

Instead, they are focused on getting off to better starts. Since last winning the Super Bowl in the 2011 season, the Giants have won one season opener and are a combined 2-14 in the first half of the season in the last two campaigns.

“You always want to get off to a good start, that’s always the goal,” Manning said. “Right now, we just have to focus on our game plan, on the Cowboys, what they are doing, and we need to go out there and play well.”

Dallas has won the last four meetings with the Giants and nine of the last 12.

–Field Level Media

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Wentz returns as Eagles open against Redskins

Wentz returns as Eagles open against Redskins

The Philadelphia Eagles

Wentz returns as Eagles open against Redskins

The Philadelphia Eagles will welcome quarterback Carson Wentz back into the starting lineup when they host the Washington Redskins in the season opener for both teams on Sunday.

Wentz was shut down with a stress fracture in his back for the final three regular-season games and two playoff games last year.

The 26-year-old Wentz sat out the entire preseason but has repeatedly stated that he’s completely healthy heading into the 2019 season.

“I think we’re all excited,” said Wentz, who recently signed a long-term contract extension. “You know, I think it’s been a long offseason as it always is. And you know, not fully having all the ones out there in the preseason, I think we’re all just really chomping at the bit to get out there Week 1 at the Linc (Lincoln Financial Field).

“And I think everyone’s really excited because we know we have a lot of talent.”

Eagles coach Doug Pederson doesn’t seem concerned that Wentz hasn’t played at all in the preseason.

“I don’t believe in that,” Pederson said of easing Wentz into the game. “I don’t ease anybody in. I think you have to go in fully prepared. That’s why you go through training camp, especially at that position.”

Wentz will have plenty of offensive weapons, led by Zach Ertz, who set an NFL record with 116 receptions by a tight end last season. The Eagles also brought back speedy wideout DeSean Jackson and traded for running back Jordan Howard.

Jackson (finger), defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (foot) and cornerback Ronald Darby (knee) are all expected to play against the Redskins, though Pederson wouldn’t officially confirm it.

The coach, however, is ultra-excited about beginning his fourth season.

“It never gets old,” Pederson said. “Those emotions will never go away, and the passion and the desire and we have to keep it.”

The Redskins will face a daunting challenge during the initial month of September, beginning with their annual trip to Philadelphia.

They’ll open the season without Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, who is still holding out. Donald Penn, 36, is expected to start in his place, with Ereck Flowers at left guard. That’s a difficult way to start in protecting the blind side of quarterback Case Keenum.

“I’m kind of numb to the fact, so we’re just going to coach the guys we have,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Williams’ absence. “That’s all we can do right now.”

Gruden did say that he’s confident in the players who will protect Keenum.

“I feel good about it,” Gruden said. “We’ve just got to be ready. That’s a major (Philadelphia) pass rush. They’ve given us problems the last few times we’ve played.”

Keenum is with his fifth team in eight seasons but remains steadfast that he’s ready to lead the team.

“I’m excited. I really am,” Keenum said. “I don’t take that lightly. The opportunity, the position I’m in … I’ve been there before and I know it’s a tough job and there’s only 32 of them. I’m very honored, I’m excited to continue to earn the right to be the leader for this team, to be the quarterback of this team.”

The Redskins will be anchored on defense by cornerback Josh Norman, who will be matched up against wideout Alshon Jeffery. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has recorded at least 11 sacks in each of the past three seasons.

–Field Level Media

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Beckham, Garrett lead Browns’ easy win over Jets

Beckham, Garrett lead Browns' easy win over Jets

Beckham, Garrett lead Browns’ easy win over Jets

Odell Beckham Jr. had a career-long 89-yard scoring reception and Myles Garrett recorded three sacks as the Cleveland Browns posted a 23-3 victory over the New York Jets on Monday night at East Rutherford, N.J.

Baker Mayfield completed 19 of 35 passes for 325 yards and the touchdown to Beckham, who had six catches for 161 yards. Beckham’s big showing came at MetLife Stadium, the venue he called home for five seasons with the New York Giants before being traded to the Browns during the offseason.

Nick Chubb added a rushing touchdown and Austin Seibert kicked three field goals for Cleveland (1-1), which impressively rebounded from a season-opening 43-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

New York (0-2) totaled 262 offensive yards without starting quarterback Sam Darnold (mononucleosis) and also lost fill-in Trevor Siemian to an injured left ankle with 7:47 left in the second quarter. Siemian was 3-of-6 passing for 3 yards before exiting.

Luke Falk finished the game and completed 20 of 25 passes for 198 yards. Le’Veon Bell rushed for 68 yards on 21 carries and caught 10 passes for 61 more as New York suffered its seventh straight home setback.

The Browns, who had 375 offensive yards, scored the game’s first 13 points while quickly taking control.

Seibert kicked field goals of 23 and 48 yards in the first quarter, and Chubb scored on a 19-yard run through the left side to make it 13-0 with 10:16 left in the half.

Siemian was injured about 2 1/2 minutes later when he was hit by Garrett after throwing a deep incompletion. Siemian’s toes pressed into the turf and his left leg twisted as he felt the brunt of the weight of his lower body plus Garrett’s body weight falling on him.

Falk entered and drove the Jets to Sam Ficken’s 46-yard field goal with 2:56 left in the half.

Seibert booted a 43-yard field out as time expired to give Cleveland a 16-3 halftime lead.

The big play to Beckham all but assured the Browns’ victory. Cleveland was at its own 11-yard line when Mayfield hit a wide-open Beckham with a short throw at the 22. Beckham headed upfield and outran four New York secondary players with 3:32 left in the third quarter.

Beckham also made an acrobatic one-handed, 33-yard reception in the opening quarter to set up Seibert’s first field goal.

–Field Level Media

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Woodland leads Rose by one at U.S. Open

Woodland leads Rose by one at U.S. Open

Woodland leads Rose by one at U.S. Open

It naturally should be mostly about Gary Woodland and England’s Justin Rose at this stage of the U.S. Open.

But Brooks Koepka is lurking, and that’s enough to swing a bunch of attention his way for the final round at Pebble Beach.

Woodland maintained the lead through Saturday’s third round, posting a 2-under 69 on the shores of northern California.

Woodland is at 11-under 202 for the tournament and goes into Sunday’s final round with a one-shot edge on England’s Justin Rose, who registered on 68 on Saturday. Rose closed with a birdie, cutting his deficit in half from when the round began.

Yet Koepka, the two-time defending champion, is just four shots off the lead.

“I feel good,” Koepka said. “I feel like if I can just make a few putts, I feel like I could be right there, right next to Gary.”

Woodland endured only his second bogey of the tournament on the par-4 eighth hole. From there, he had pars the rest of the way other than a birdie on No. 11, his third of the day after two on the front nine.

Woodland has been in the top 10 in two of the past three majors, so he’s gaining comfort in pressure situations.

“I can be confident with the way I’m working the golf ball right now,” Woodland said. “I’m starting to work both ways, which has been an adjustment for me. I think the golf course sets up beautifully for me.”

Rose rolled in a birdie putt from the fringe on the par-5 14th for one of his clutch conversions, bouncing back from a bogey at the 13th. He finished with five birdies against two bogeys on the day.

Woodland and Rose will be in the final pairing for the second day in a row.

“It’s going to be a fun day,” Rose, the 2013 champion, said of Sunday. “(Being) one (stroke) back gives me the freedom to feel like I’ve got everything to gain, nothing to lose.”

Koepka moved within two shots of the lead at one point. His bogey-free 68 was his best mark of the tournament so far, leaving him at 7 under going into the final round.

“Just keep doing what I’m doing,” said Koepka, who has also won back-to-back PGA Championships, with the second coming last month. “Obviously whatever I’m doing is working. … Trying to be three back going into the back nine, you never know from there, see what happens. Make a couple of birdies, put some pressure on guys.”

Chez Reavie (68) and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen (70) are level with Koepka in third place.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (70) is alone in sixth at 6 under.

“I felt for the most part today I did the right things,” McIlroy said. “And I need to do 18 more holes of that, but just get a little bit more out of the round than I did today.”

Matt Kuchar (70) looked like he would be a factor after an eagle on the sixth hole and a birdie on the seventh put him 4 under for the round. But he had back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 8 and 9, and again at Nos. 16 and 17 following a birdie at the 15th. He sits at 5 under with Chesson Hadley (70), who bogeyed the final hole.

England’s Danny Willett shot 67 for his lowest round in any U.S. Open, recording the best score of the day.

“You play good golf, there’s a good score out there,” Willett said.

After a pair of 71s, Willett has moved into good shape at 4 under for the week.

“We put ourselves in that position regardless of what the leaders do,” Willett said. “We’re going to be in nice position to go out there (in the final round) and have a decent finish regardless of what the guys at the top do.”

Tiger Woods shot 71 to remain at even for the tournament. He used birdies on Nos. 16 and 18 to save a round that included five bogeys.

“I had to try to fight back and claw out a round today, which I was able to do,” Woods said.

Woods, who is tied for 27th, was still bummed about missed opportunities the first two days, figuring that’s the reason he hasn’t entered the list of contenders.

“If I was able to clean up my rounds the first two days, I would be closer to the lead than I am now,” he said.

–Field Level Media

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Woods’ movement stalls with third-round 71 at U.S. Open

Woods' movement stalls with third-round 71 at U.S. Open

Woods’ movement stalls with third-round 71 at U.S. Open

Moving day at the U.S. Open didn’t equate to an improvement in Tiger Woods’ fortunes.

His movement was one stroke back, one stroke forward, as he had five birdies and five bogeys in an even-par 71 round on Saturday on a cool day at Pebble Beach.

Woods also is even par through three rounds with a 213 total. He knows that placement doesn’t typically equate to any final-day surge occurring at the prestigious tournament being held on the northern California coast.

“I’ve had my chances to post good rounds — today, this week,” Woods told reporters after Saturday’s round. “Today was a perfect example. I fought back, and if I was able to clean up my rounds the first two days, I would be closer to the lead than I am now.”

Woods felt he needed a strong start on Saturday to try to work himself in the mix. Instead, the opposite happened, as he bogeyed two of the first three holes.

“Those are supposed to be some of the easier holes, and I’m a couple over and had to fight back the entire day, and I was able to clod around a few more, which is pretty good,” Woods said.

Woods seemed to escape his fog — on a day in which low-lying clouds blocked the sun from baking the course — with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5.

But a three-putt bogey on No. 7 pushed him over for the round. Another bogey on No. 12 hurt, but Woods scored birdies on three of the last five holes (14, 16 and 18) though he had another bogey on 15.

What stuck with Woods is he felt the course conditions were more favorable than the first two rounds, yet he didn’t take advantage.

“They were able to get some mowers on the fairways, and they were a little bit quicker,” he said. “I think they did a great job of setting it up so that we can make birdies. And if you do miss them on the wrong spot, then you still can get up and down here, which is not always the case.”

The cool conditions presented another challenge for Woods, who said his body was aching throughout Saturday’s round.

“The forces have to go somewhere,” said Woods, who has undergone four back surgeries. “And if they’re not in the lower back, they’re in the neck, and if not, they’re in the mid-back and if not they go to the knee. You name it. …

“Let me put it this way, I feel every shot I hit. I think that’s always going to be the place from here going forward.”

–Field Level Media

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Beckham sports $2M watch, gets benched by NFL for visor

Beckham sports $2M watch, gets benched by NFL for visor

Beckham sports $2M watch, gets benched by NFL for visor

The ongoing cat-and-mouse game between the NFL and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. reached new heights on Monday night … in terms of money and playing time.

A week after playing a game while wearing a wristwatch reportedly valued at $350,000, Beckham wore no such watch during Monday night’s game against the Jets in East Rutherford, N.J.

Instead, before the game, Beckham stepped onto the MetLife Stadium turf for warmups wearing something that put his Week 1 watch to shame. ESPN cameras caught him sporting a metallic and clear watch, which looked just like the Richard Mille RM 56-02 Tourbillon Sapphire. There are only 10 in existence … and they are valued at more than $2 million each.

Unrelated to jewelry, the NFL still found fault with Beckham on Monday, sending him to the sideline after an amazing first-quarter catch set up a first-and-goal.

Officials reportedly told Browns coach Freddie Kitchens that Beckham’s gold-tinted visor was in violation of the league’s rule that permits players to wear only clear visors. Kitchens was told to remove Beckham from the game so the visor could be changed out.

By the time the new visor was in place, however, Beckham missed a third-and-goal play, and the Browns settled for a field goal.

Beckham ultimately got the last laugh, though, as his visor allowed him to see a pass from Baker Mayfield and take it 89 yards for the final touchdown in the Browns’ 23-3 win. It was the longest reception in Beckham’s six-year career.

“All I want is it to be fair around the league. If you’re going to tell me to do something, do it for everybody else,” Beckham said during a postgame interview on ESPN. “You let people stay in the game on ‘Monday Night Football’ with gold visors, everybody else has tinted visors, and you pull me off and it hurts my team, and I hurt my team on third-and-goal.

“You can warn me, do something, but don’t pull me off on third-and-goal. All I want is it to be fair. I just want to play football.”

During the Browns’ season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 8, Beckham wore a Richard Mille RM 11-03 McLaren Flyback Chronograph watch. A day later, the NFL reportedly called the Browns and informed them Beckham could no longer wear the watch during games as it violated the league’s rule “prohibiting hard objects.”

–Field Level Media

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Saints’ Anzalone to IR; DE Granderson activated

Saints' Anzalone to IR; DE Granderson activated

The

Saints’ Anzalone to IR; DE Granderson activated

The New Orleans Saints placed middle linebacker Alex Anzalone on injured reserve Monday due to an unspecified injury.

The Saints filled the roster vacancy by activating undrafted rookie defensive end Carl Granderson. He was recently released from jail following a 43-day stay related to a sexual battery case.

Anzalone played in all 16 games (seven starts) last season with 59 tackles (45 solo), two sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles. As a rookie in 2017, he was limited to four games (all starts) due to a shoulder injury. During his college career at Florida, he was plagued by shoulder ailments.

The Saints previously had been granted a roster exemption for Granderson. As part of the exemption, which was lifted Monday, the Saints had a two-week window to decide whether to keep Granderson on the roster. The 22-year-old was able to attend meetings and practice during that period.

Granderson had been charged with touching two women while they slept at his apartment in 2018 when he was a senior at Wyoming.

He reached a plea deal in July, accepting lesser charges of sexual battery and unlawful contact, that he thought would allow him to avoid jail time. However, the deal was rejected by a district judge, who sentenced Granderson to six months in jail.

Another district judge subsequently allowed Granderson to be freed from jail early, suspending the remainder of the sentence and placing him on supervised probation.

–Field Level Media

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Jets’ Siemian exits with ankle injury

Jets' Siemian exits with ankle injury

Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian sustained

Jets’ Siemian exits with ankle injury

Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian sustained an ankle injury and exited the field midway through the second quarter of New York’s Monday night game against the Cleveland Browns.

The Jets later announced Siemian’s ankle ailment was being evaluated.

Siemian was injured when he was hit by Browns defensive Myles Garrett after throwing a deep incompletion in East Rutherford, N.J. Siemian’s toes pressed into the turf and his left leg twisted as he felt the brunt of the weight of his lower body plus Garrett’s body weight falling on him.

Siemian was able to walk off the field and soon was taken into the locker room for observation. He had completed 3 of 6 passes for 3 yards.

Luke Falk, a former star quarterback at Washington State, replaced him. Falk drove the Jets to a field goal to narrow their deficit to 13-3 with 2:56 left in the half.

Siemian started Monday because Sam Darnold was out due to mononucleosis.

–Field Level Media

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Jets’ Siemian exits with apparent leg injury

Jets' Siemian exits with apparent leg injury

Jets quarterback Trevor

Jets’ Siemian exits with apparent leg injury

Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian sustained an apparent left leg injury and exited the field midway through the second quarter of New York’s Monday night game against the Cleveland Browns.

Siemian was injured when he was hit by Browns defensive Myles Garrett after throwing a deep incompletion in East Rutherford, N.J. Siemian’s toes pressed into the turf and his leg twisted as he felt the brunt of the weight of his lower body plus Garrett’s body weight falling on him.

Siemian was able to walk off the field and soon was taken into the locker room for observation. He had completed 3 of 6 passes for 3 yards.

Luke Falk, a former star quarterback at Washington State, replaced him. Falk drove the Jets to a field goal to narrow their deficit to 13-3 with 2:56 left in the half.

Siemian started Monday because Sam Darnold is out due to mononucleosis.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos rename stadium ‘Empower Field at Mile High’

Broncos rename stadium 'Empower Field at Mile High'

Broncos rename stadium ‘Empower Field at Mile High’

The Denver Broncos officially renamed their stadium Empower Field at Mile High on Wednesday, ending a period of more than a year without a naming-rights sponsor.

The team announced the deal, which is subject to approval by the Metropolitan Football Stadium District and covers 21 years through 2039.

The venue had previously been called Broncos Stadium at Mile High since June of 2018, following the bankruptcy of former naming-rights sponsor Sports Authority. Sports Authority’s name remained on the building for two years after the company’s 2016 closure, before signs were taken down in January of 2018.

The stadium, which debuted in 2001, was originally called Invesco Field at Mile High before Sports Authority bought naming rights in 2011.

A Denver-based company, Empower is the nation’s second-largest retirement plan provider.

–Field Level Media

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Jets RB Bell wants plenty of carries in team debut

Jets RB Bell wants plenty of carries in team debut

Jets RB Bell wants plenty of carries in team debut

Le’Veon Bell doesn’t want to be a spectator in his first NFL game in nearly 20 months. He wants to see the ball a lot.

Bell makes his debut for the New York Jets on Sunday when they face the Buffalo Bills, and he declared himself ready to go after sitting out last season due to a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The running back told coach Adam Gase, who calls plays, “don’t hold back.”

“I can carry 50 (times) if you ask me,” Bell said after Wednesday’s practice. “When I say, ‘Don’t hold back,’ I mean literally that. I don’t want to go out there and try to sprinkle me in or anything like that. I’m ready to play football.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment. A lot of people are excited to see me play. Quadruple that, and that’s how I feel.”

Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets in the offseason. He refused to sign the franchise tender of $14.5 million with Pittsburgh last season and ended up sitting out the entire season.

“I’m not trying to prove anybody wrong,” Bell said. “I’m not trying to prove the Steelers wrong. Everybody is trying to format me with the Steelers. I’m not talking about the Steelers anymore. I’m done talking about the Steelers. I want to worry about the Bills, and I want to worry about the Jets. That’s it.

“I’m going to go out there and prove to myself I’m the same player, if not better. I want to prove to my teammates I’m the same player, if not better — and the Bills.”

Bell rushed for 5,336 yards and 35 touchdowns and caught 312 passes for 2,660 yards and seven scores during five seasons with Pittsburgh. He rushed for more than 1,200 yards three times and was named to the Pro Bowl on each occasion.

He figures he is in the prime of his career at age 27 and he is feeling fresh after avoiding the pounding last season that a running back takes.

Gase is waiting to see Bell’s skills on display. He recently watched Steelers tape “to remind ourselves who that is back there.”

Gase said Bell is the best running back he has ever coached.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers stare down Patriots in Sunday night opener

Steelers stare down Patriots in Sunday night opener

Tom Brady has

Steelers stare down Patriots in Sunday night opener

Tom Brady has never lost to Ben Roethlisberger at Gillette Stadium and is 8-3 all-time against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The New England Patriots and Brady, who is 5-0 at home in the matchup, will be celebrating their sixth Super Bowl victory in Foxborough, Mass., on Sunday night before kicking off the 2019 season against Roethlisberger’s Steelers.

Roethlisberger said Wednesday it would be “an honor” to share the field again with Brady, who is opening his 20th season in the NFL.

“I will get nervous — more excited, nervous,” Roethlisberger said. “We’re going up there. I’m sure they’re dropping a banner or whatever they are going to do. What an exciting and awesome opportunity for us all. I think it’s cool to be a part of, honestly. You go out there and watch it. You try and channel it to say, ‘That needs to be us next year.’ That’s the way I look at it.”

A road win over the Patriots would be one small step forward. A home win for New England could get the ball rolling once again.

The biggest loss from the roster for each club from last season is on offense.

Pittsburgh isn’t sad to roll into Gillette Stadium and not see Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who retired after collecting 41 receptions for 685 yards and eight touchdowns in his career against the Steelers.

Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown, a favorite target of Roethlisberger’s for several years, is with Oakland after the equivalent of a messy divorce. The Steelers also severed ties with running back Le’Veon Bell, but he was last on the field for the team in 2017.

Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster steps in as the Steelers’ top receiving threat, with James Washington close behind.

“They’re mainly a three-receiver team,” Belichick said. “They play four guys, probably play five if (Diontae) Johnson’s healthy. But they have good depth at receiver, good depth at tight end, good depth at running back. So I’m sure we’ll see a lot of those guys, however they decide to play them. But they have good depth offensively and a very good offensive line.”

The only player on Pittsburgh’s injury report is safety Sean Davis (ankle), who did not practice Wednesday. The three players on the New England injury list — receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring), tight end Matt LaCosse (ankle) and defensive back Obi Melifonwu (ankle) — practiced in a limited capacity Wednesday. Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, who dealt with a broken thumb during the preseason, was not on the report.

“It’s the first game of the year. They are the world champs,” Roethlisberger said. “We’re just trying to get to where they have been. It will be exciting for all of us. I know the crowd will be excited. Sunday Night Football, it’s not a 1 o’clock game. All those things add up to an exciting night.”

In their meeting last year, Dec. 16 in Pittsburgh, the Steelers prevailed 17-10. That left the Patriots 4-1 in the teams’ past five regular-season meetings. New England has won six of 10 home games between the teams.

“It’ll be good to get started, but (the Steelers) do a good job,” Belichick said. “They’re a tough team to prepare for, a tough team to play against, but it’s the National Football League. Everybody falls into that category. So we’ll start grinding through it here.”

–Field Level Media

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WR Brown takes umbrage with fines from Raiders

WR Brown takes umbrage with fines from Raiders

Wide receiver

WR Brown takes umbrage with fines from Raiders

Wide receiver Antonio Brown voiced his displeasure over social media after being fined $53,950 by the Oakland Raiders for skipping a mandatory walkthrough on Aug. 22 as well as a training camp session four days earlier.

Brown shared the following two-graph letter signed by Raiders general manager Mike Mayock over Instagram:

“Dear Antonio: As you know, you did not participate in the Raiders’ walk through on August 22,” the letter begins. “Your absence from practice was unexcused. Accordingly, you are hereby fined $13,950 pursuant to Article 42, Section 1(a)(viii) of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Raiders’ Club Discipline Schedule.

“You were previously fined $40,000 for missing Raiders’ preseason training camp on August 18. Please be advised that should you continue to miss mandatory team activities, including practices and games, the Raiders reserve the right to impose additional remedies available under the Club’s Discipline Schedule, the CBA and your NFL Player Contract, including, but not limited to, additional fines and discipline for engaging in Conduct Detrimental to the Club.”

Brown wasn’t pleased with the letter, judging by his response.

“When your own team want to hate but there’s no stopping me now devil is a lie,” Brown wrote in the caption. “Everyone got to pay this year so we clear.”

Brown has dealt with blistering feet as a result of a frostbite mishap during cryogenic therapy as well grievances involving his helmet during the offseason.

The 31-year-old Brown, however, is expected play in the season opener against the Denver Broncos on Monday.

The Raiders acquired the seven-time Pro Bowl selection from the Pittsburgh Steelers in a trade in March and later signed him to a three-year, $50.125 million contract.

Brown caught at least 100 passes and exceeded 1,200 receiving yards in each of the past six seasons with the Steelers. He appeared in 130 games with Pittsburgh from 2010-18, catching 837 passes for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Panthers’ Newton off injury report ahead of opener

Panthers' Newton off injury report ahead of opener

Panthers’ Newton off injury report ahead of opener

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was left off Wednesday’s injury report entirely, less than two weeks after an injury scare in the team’s third preseason game.

Though Newton left the Aug. 22 game against the New England Patriots in a walking boot, head coach Ron Rivera said last week there was “no doubt” the quarterback would be ready for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Los Angeles Rams. On Wednesday, Rivera added that Newton won’t be limited on Sunday.

“I feel good about the work that he has done,” Rivera said.

Newton met the media Wednesday for the first time since the injury, but he declined to discuss it, saying only, “Focused on the Rams.”

The 30-year-old and 2015 MVP is also coming off of right shoulder surgery as he enters his ninth NFL season. He completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 3,395 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 14 games last season.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Dolphins trade DB Fitzpatrick to Steelers

Reports: Dolphins trade DB Fitzpatrick to Steelers

The Miami Dolphins traded disgruntled

Reports: Dolphins trade DB Fitzpatrick to Steelers

The Miami Dolphins traded disgruntled defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 2020 first-round draft pick, multiple media outlets reported Monday night.

If true, that would give the Dolphins three first-round picks in the 2020 draft, adding to their own and the one they acquired from the Houston Texans in the trade involving tackle Laremy Tunsil in late August. Miami also holds two first-round picks in 2021 and multiple second-round picks in each of the next two drafts.

Fitzpatrick reportedly was allowed to seek a trade, and agent Joel Segal had contacted a number of teams. The 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft apparently has been unhappy with playing multiple positions. The Dolphins used Fitzpatrick at cornerback, nickel cornerback and safety.

Before the reports of the deal emerged, media reports indicated that Miami’s potential trade partners included Dallas, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Washington.

In August, Fitzpatrick’s mother ripped the Dolphins via Twitter for playing her son out of position. Melissa Fitzpatrick said Minkah was being incorrectly used at strong safety.

After a joint practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that day, Minkah Fitzpatrick said his mother was right.

“She feels very strongly. She’s not wrong,” Fitzpatrick said. “Coach has asked me to do something right now. I got to do what they ask me to do. If we have to have some discussions in the future, we’ll have those discussions. I’m not 215 pounds, 220 pounds. So playing in the box isn’t best suited for me, but that’s what Coach is asking me to do.”

The Dolphins (0-2) have been accused of tanking this season after trading away many veteran players, including Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills in the Texans trade and linebacker Kiko Alonso to the New Orleans Saints.

The Steelers are off to an 0-2 start, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season due to a right elbow injury.

–Field Level Media

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Manning pays tribute to late Broncos owner

Manning pays tribute to late Broncos owner

Peyton Manning offered

Manning pays tribute to late Broncos owner

Peyton Manning offered a warm tribute Saturday to longtime Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who died this week at age 75 after battling Alzheimer’s disease.

Manning said his respect for Bowlen had “a lot to do” with him joining the Broncos in 2012 after spending his first 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Manning won a Super Bowl championship with the Broncos in following the 2015 season, which marked his final one in the league.

The Broncos and Bowlen’s family announced that they would host a public tribute for the late owner on Tuesday at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. The tribute will include personal memorabilia along with pictures and a video celebrating his life and contributions, according to the team.

“My deepest sympathies go out to the entire Bowlen family,” Manning said. “I met Mr. Bowlen for the first time when I played for the Indianapolis Colts and I was over in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl when he was also there at his Hawaiian home. I saw him several times throughout the years and had short, brief conversations with him that I really enjoyed. …

“It was an honor to play for Mr. Bowlen’s organization, as I’ve said numerous times. I always had great respect for the Denver Broncos during my time playing for the Colts competing against his organization. So much of that credit goes to Pat Bowlen and his desire to be the best and to win. That had a lot to do with me signing with the Denver Broncos — that I knew Mr. Bowlen was all about winning and I knew the people that he had hired would carry on that tradition and legacy. It was a great decision to come play here — we still live here today. I’m grateful for Mr. Bowlen and the legacy that he’s established with the Broncos, in the NFL and certainly in this Denver community. He will be missed by many. It was an honor to know Mr. Bowlen and a real pleasure to have played for his team — the Denver Broncos.”

–Field Level Media

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