Protect the football and it should fix everything

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Protect the football and it should fix everything.

That seems to be the viewpoint of Mike McCarthy, whose Green Bay Packers have a variety of issues that have led to a 2-2-1 start.

“The big part of that game is focusing on the things we can control,” McCarthy said Monday, one day after his team lost at Detroit, 31-23 after digging itself a 24-0 hole. “We have to take care of the football.”

The Packers turned over the ball three times Sunday. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers lost a pair of fumbles and the ball glanced off cornerback Kevin King while he was blocking on a first-quarter punt.

Green Bay didn’t force any turnovers defensively, and through five games, the Packers are minus-2 in turnover differential, having lost it eight times (six fumbles, two interceptions) while taking away the ball six times (two fumbles, four interceptions).

McCarthy said he believes turnovers contributed to his team losing the field position battle; he had the Packers at minus-300 in terms of hidden yardage.

While he admitted that veteran kicker Mason Crosby’s five misses — four field-goal attempts and one extra point — also factored into Sunday’s loss, McCarthy said the Packers’ struggles went deeper than the 13 points those misses left on the field.

“The common thread there is the turnovers, which obviously that rolls into the field position,” McCarthy said, pointing out that Green Bay outgained Detroit 521 yards to 264. “Obviously we missed some field goals and so forth. (But) the fact of the matter is, I was very pleased with how we moved the football.”

In three of their games this season, the Packers have trailed by double-digits: 20-0 early in the third quarter against Chicago, 28-10 at halftime at Washington, and 24-0 at halftime Sunday.

Rodgers took much of the blame publicly after the game, acknowledging, “I’ve got to play better in the first half.”

“It’s frustrating. We’ve been kind of a one-half team: one good half and one not-so-good half,” said Rodgers, who finished the game completing 32 of 52 passes for 442 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions (108.0 passer rating). “I was a little off. I missed a couple I usually hit. We missed some opportunities there.

“(It was) definitely a disjointed game — not punting, putting up a lot of offense and not winning the game.”

The offense hasn’t been the only side of the ball that’s been disjointed.

Against Washington, for example, Green Bay gave up 323 yards in the first half, and only 63 in the second. Against the Lions, the defense allowed 160 of 264 yards and 24 of their 31 points in the first half.

“We need to put a whole full game together,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said Monday. “Making more plays, finishing tackles, making this defense better. If we can critique ourselves and figure out what we can do better as individuals, I think we’ll be better as a whole.

“As DBs, the one thing we want to do is catch interceptions, and capitalize on the opportunities we get. This is a long season. We’ve got to take advantage of our opportunities when we get them, and when they come, they come in bunches. We just have to make plays when the time comes.”

The Packers also have struggled with penalties, committing 12 for 112 against Detroit. For the season, Green Bay has committed 43 penalties for 413 yards; the Packers’ opponents have been flagged only 30 times for 262 yards.

“Whether it’s a slow start, fast finish, loose in the middle, it’s all irrelevant because if you don’t take care of the football, there’s going to be other negative statistics that come off of that,” McCarthy said. “This is not a getting-close-enough type of sport. We get that. We didn’t win the game.

“It’s part of the challenge in the early season. We have to get a little more detailed. The penalties were another negative. But taking care of the football and the penalties was a huge part of our not reaching the goal we set out to accomplish.”

___

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Bears, Nagy search for remedy after ‘ridiculous’ opener

Bears, Nagy search for remedy after 'ridiculous' opener

On the optimistic side, Matt Nagy

Bears, Nagy search for remedy after ‘ridiculous’ opener

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Brown saga thickens as Broncos visit Raiders

Brown saga thickens as Broncos visit Raiders

Antonio Brown's arrival

Brown saga thickens as Broncos visit Raiders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Amos, Packers outlast Bears in defensive slugfest

Amos, Packers outlast Bears in defensive slugfest

Amos, Packers outlast Bears in defensive slugfest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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

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

Recently signed New York

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

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

But the plan was stymied by a soccer match.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boyer thinks the Jets now have their kicker.

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

–Field Level Media

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Cowboys: No deal imminent for WR Cooper

Cowboys: No deal imminent for WR Cooper

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

Cowboys: No deal imminent for WR Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Redskins RB Peterson possible healthy scratch

Redskins RB Peterson possible healthy scratch

Washington Redskins running back Adrian

Redskins RB Peterson possible healthy scratch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Raiders create chaos before opener

NFL notebook: Raiders create chaos before opener

NFL notebook: Raiders create chaos before opener

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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49ers DB Ward breaks finger, uncertain for Sunday

49ers DB Ward breaks finger, uncertain for Sunday

49ers DB Ward breaks finger, uncertain for Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Brown saga ends as Raiders prepare for Broncos

Brown saga ends as Raiders prepare for Broncos

Antonio Brown's

Brown saga ends as Raiders prepare for Broncos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Brown saga overshadowing Raiders’ opener against Broncos

Brown saga overshadowing Raiders' opener against Broncos

Antonio Brown's arrival

Brown saga overshadowing Raiders’ opener against Broncos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Books offering bevy of Daniel Jones props

Books offering bevy of Daniel Jones props

Daniel Jones

Books offering bevy of Daniel Jones props

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Mickelson admits winning a U.S. Open unlikely

Mickelson admits winning a U.S. Open unlikely

Mickelson admits winning a U.S. Open unlikely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Pats suspended WR Gordon works out with Brady

Pats suspended WR Gordon works out with Brady

Suspended New England Patriots wideout

Pats suspended WR Gordon works out with Brady

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Reports: TE Roberts fails another physical; waived by Packers

Reports: TE Roberts fails another physical; waived by Packers

Reports: TE Roberts fails another physical; waived by Packers

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Lions QB Stafford reportedly played with broken back

Lions QB Stafford reportedly played with broken back

Detroit Lions

Lions QB Stafford reportedly played with broken back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Thousands of Broncos fans pay tribute to Bowlen

Thousands of Broncos fans pay tribute to Bowlen

More than

Thousands of Broncos fans pay tribute to Bowlen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Falcons WR Jones in line for extension

NFL notebook: Falcons WR Jones in line for extension

The

NFL notebook: Falcons WR Jones in line for extension

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Jackson, Mahomes do battle as Ravens visit Chiefs

Jackson, Mahomes do battle as Ravens visit Chiefs

Plentiful reasons exist for Patrick Mahomes

Jackson, Mahomes do battle as Ravens visit Chiefs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Falcons WR Jones ‘trying to be out there’ Sunday

Falcons WR Jones 'trying to be out there' Sunday

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones did not

Falcons WR Jones ‘trying to be out there’ Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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Browns WR Beckham still hampered by hip injury

Browns WR Beckham still hampered by hip injury

Cleveland Browns

Browns WR Beckham still hampered by hip injury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

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