Report: Rihanna backed players, turned down SB LIII halftime

Report: Rihanna backed players, turned down SB LIII halftime

Superstar singer Rihanna turned down an invitation to perform at the 2019 Super Bowl in solidarity with protesting NFL players, according to multiple reports.

“The NFL and CBS really wanted Rihanna to be next year’s performer in Atlanta,” a source told US Weekly, which first reported the news. “They offered it to her, but she said no because of the kneeling controversy. She doesn’t agree with the NFL’s stance.”

Rihanna, who reportedly has an album and tour in the works, declined on principle despite the potential exposure, according to another source.

“The offer and exposure would have been great for Rihanna as she’s planning a new album and tour but she stuck to what’s right in her eyes,” a person close to the singer reportedly told Entertainment Weekly.

Rolling Stone said it had independently confirmed the news on Friday morning.

Fellow singer Pink, who performed the national anthem before Super Bowl LII in February, was also reportedly considered, but never reached an agreement.

Maroon 5, fronted by Adam Levine, was reportedly offered the job and accepted, though no formal announcement has been made.

Super Bowl LIII will take place in Atlanta on Feb. 3.

–Field Level Media

Bengals hold out hope WR Green could play vs Ravens

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals are leaving a slight possibility that receiver A.J. Green could play Sunday at Baltimore even though he hasn't practiced the last two weeks because of a toe injury.

Green initially was listed Friday as out for the game, as anticipated. Cincinnati later did an about-face and listed him

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals are leaving a slight possibility that receiver A.J. Green could play Sunday at Baltimore even though he hasn’t practiced the last two weeks because of a toe injury.

Green initially was listed Friday as out for the game, as anticipated. Cincinnati later did an about-face and listed him as doubtful, giving him a slight chance to play. The offense struggled without him during a 51-14 loss to the Saints last week.

The Bengals (5-4) need a win against the Ravens (4-5) to stay in the playoff chase.

Cincinnati ruled out linebacker Preston Brown with an injured right knee. Linebacker Brandon Bell was signed off the practice squad, and tight end Tyler Kroft went on injured reserve with a foot injury.

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Smoke from wildfire forces Raiders indoors for second day

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Raiders practiced at an off-site facility for a second consecutive day Friday as thick smoke from California's deadly wildfires blanketed the Bay Area.

Much like they did a year ago when similar conditions arose due to fires in Northern California, players and coaches were bused to an

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Raiders practiced at an off-site facility for a second consecutive day Friday as thick smoke from California’s deadly wildfires blanketed the Bay Area.

Much like they did a year ago when similar conditions arose due to fires in Northern California, players and coaches were bused to an indoor gym at the former Alameda Naval Air Station for practices Thursday and Friday.

Although the Raiders were forced to scale back their workouts as a result, coach Jon Gruden was mostly pleased with how things went under the circumstances.

“It’s like an indoor ice rink that was transformed into a soccer field,” Gruden said. “We didn’t have much room to get the splits and get the routes but I’m not going to make any excuses. We’re not the only people dealing with adversity right now. It was either that or get nothing so I’m really pleased with the players, the coaches and the preparation that we were able to get in.”

Smoke has filled the sky in Northern California for more than a week and the air quality has been at dangerously unhealthy levels in recent days.

The Raiders will get a break from the conditions with road games each of the next two weeks. They play Sunday in Arizona and are in Baltimore to face the Ravens on Nov. 25.

“We have to deal with what we have to deal with,” Gruden said. “We got a lot of reps in. We are confident that they know what to do. We just have to trust that they’ll go out there and perform at the highest level possible.”

The Raiders have lost five straight games and are 1-8 overall. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said that the fires have helped keep things in perspective.

“Our hearts go out to all the people who lost lives and property, and certainly to all the first responders.” Olson said. “For us, yeah, we are missing a practice. We are missing the ability to go outside, but for other people it’s changing their lives or has changed their lives. Nobody here on this team has lost lives or property, so we are fortunate in that regard.”

Right guard Gabe Jackson has tried to remain indoors as much as possible to avoid the smoke-filled air.

“From being here to going home I haven’t spent much time outside,” Jackson said. “You’re always concerned about what’s going on around you, especially the people that’s affected, but at the same time you have to do what you have to do.”

Notes: Wide receivers Jordy Nelson (knee) and Martavis Bryant (knee) did not practice and are out for Sunday’s game. . Cornerback Gareon Conley (groin) is questionable.

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Lions rule out Jones for game against Carolina

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions have ruled wide receiver Marvin Jones out of Sunday's game against Carolina because of a knee injury.

It will be only the second missed game for Jones in the past three-plus seasons. Panthers receiver Torrey Smith will also miss the game with a knee injury.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions have ruled wide receiver Marvin Jones out of Sunday’s game against Carolina because of a knee injury.

It will be only the second missed game for Jones in the past three-plus seasons. Panthers receiver Torrey Smith will also miss the game with a knee injury.

Detroit tight end Michael Roberts (shoulder) and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (ankle) are also out. Defensive linemen Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) and Damon Harrison (shoulder) are questionable.

Jones has 35 catches for 508 yards and five touchdowns this season. He became even more important to the Lions when they traded receiver Golden Tate last month.

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Steelers have capable fill-ins for injured linemen

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without key starters on their offensive and defensive lines when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

Right tackle Marcus Gilbert will miss his fourth straight game with a knee injury, while defensive end Stephon Tuitt has been ruled out with an elbow injury. Second-year

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without key starters on their offensive and defensive lines when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

Right tackle Marcus Gilbert will miss his fourth straight game with a knee injury, while defensive end Stephon Tuitt has been ruled out with an elbow injury. Second-year player Matt Feiler will fill in for Gilbert as he has the past three weeks, while nine-year veteran Tyson Alualu is set to replace Tuitt.

“I think you just always have to be ready and be prepared when you do get opportunities to play more,” Alualu said. “You just have to make sure there’s no drop-off when someone goes out, especially with it being Tuitt because we all know what he’s capable of and what he’s done.”

Gilbert has only played 13 of the team’s last 25 games after missing just three games the previous two seasons.

It will be Feiler’s fifth start of the season and sixth of his career. He has already started four games this season. The first came in Week 3 against Tampa Bay, the Steelers’ first win of the season, when Gilbert sat with a hamstring injury.

“I’m just trying to stay ready because you never know when they’re going to need me,” Feiler said. “I’ve just been preparing like I have been every week like I’m going to be playing.”

The Steelers have won all four times Feiler has started at right tackle, including the last three games. Those wins were part of a five-game winning streak that has helped the Steelers climb atop the AFC North after a 1-2-1 start.

The Steelers have averaged 424 yards of total offense the previous three weeks, including 140 on the ground. James Conner, third in the league with 771 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, has rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the last three weeks. Conner will play Sunday after leaving last week’s win against Carolina with a concussion.

“Every lineman wants to run-block and kind of push other guys around,” Feiler said. “We’ve been clicking. We’ve been staying on the field longer and keeping our momentum. It’s a lot of fun.”

Alualu will get the start against Jacksonville, a city where he spent his first seven seasons before signing with the Steelers.

The Jaguars shocked the Steelers on the road, 30-9, last season and did it again in the playoffs, winning 45-42 in Pittsburgh before falling to New England in the AFC Championship game.

Leonard Fournette rushed for 290 yards and five touchdowns in those two games against the Steelers. He missed six games because of injury this season before returning last week during a loss at Indianapolis. The Jaguars have lost five of those six and are 3-6, last in the AFC South.

“Their record doesn’t show how hard they’re playing,” said Alualu, who has exchanged texts with former teammates. “The guys in the locker room are still fighting. We have to understand that we’re going to get their best.”

During the win streak, the Steelers’ defense has allowed an average of 269 yards of total offense, including 70 on the ground. In their first four games, they gave up an average of 418 yards, including 115 rushing.

Tuitt, who has appeared in all nine games, is key part of Pittsburgh’s pass rush, which is tied for second in the league with 31 sacks. Tuitt has 32 tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss and 11 quarterback hits.

Alualu hasn’t reached the quarterback yet this season, but he finished with a career-high four sacks mainly in a reserve role in 2017.

“It’s a good problem to have when you have good depth,” Alualu said. “That’s always helpful.”

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Pair of Titans’ starters in Conklin, Morgan back vs. Colts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans are getting a pair of starters back for their trip to Indianapolis on Sunday.

Right tackle Jack Conklin has been cleared from the concussion protocol after missing last week's win over the Patriots, while outside linebacker Derrick Morgan is set to return after practicing fully the

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans are getting a pair of starters back for their trip to Indianapolis on Sunday.

Right tackle Jack Conklin has been cleared from the concussion protocol after missing last week’s win over the Patriots, while outside linebacker Derrick Morgan is set to return after practicing fully the past two days after missing the last three games with an injured shoulder.

Wide receiver Taywan Taylor will be a game-time decision after missing last week’s game with a left foot hurt in Dallas. Taylor said he did some different mobility exercises and feels a lot better.

Only running back David Fluellen (knee) is ruled out against the Colts (4-5). Left guard Quinton Spain (ankle) and wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (ankle) also are questionable for the Titans (5-4).

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On hot seat? Packers’ McCarthy focuses on getting road win

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Mike McCarthy knows his job is on the line.

The Green Bay Packers' 13th-year head coach acknowledged he is aware that the team's 4-5-1 record has led to questions about his future.

But he insisted he and the team are focused on next week's pivotal NFC North matchup

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Mike McCarthy knows his job is on the line.

The Green Bay Packers’ 13th-year head coach acknowledged he is aware that the team’s 4-5-1 record has led to questions about his future.

But he insisted he and the team are focused on next week’s pivotal NFC North matchup with the Vikings in Minnesota, and not the uncertainty surrounding his job security.

“That’s the job. That’s the way this business has gone,” McCarthy said Friday. “We set a standard here the past 12 years, and it’s our responsibility to play to that standard. That’s the way we approach it.”

The 27-24 loss in Seattle on Thursday left the Packers 0-5 on the road and third in the division behind the Chicago Bears (6-3) and the Vikings (5-3-1). A seemingly softer portion of the schedule follows next week’s showdown with Minnesota, but a loss in that game could put the Packers in a hole too deep to climb out of.

McCarthy has had teams rally late in seasons past, including in 2016, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers famously said the team could “run the table” over the final six weeks. After starting 4-6, the Packers won eight straight games to win the NFC North and advance to conference title game, in which they fell to the Atlanta Falcons.

That was Green Bay’s fourth NFC championship game under McCarthy, who led the 2010 team to the Super Bowl title. His Packers made the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons before missing the postseason last year, when Rodgers missed nine-plus games with a broken right collarbone.

“I have great confidence. I’ve been in this position before, so I have confidence in how we do things,” McCarthy said. “You have to react — there’s no doubt about that — but you can’t overreact. So, you’ve just got to stay in tune with the specifics and the details of why we’re not getting it done in those situations.”

The Packers have lost three of their last four games, despite being in position in the fourth quarter to win on the road against the Rams, Patriots and Seahawks.

“We’re not going to turn on each other or nothing. We love each other and we stick together as a team,” defensive back Tramon Williams said. “Is it frustrating? Yes, it’s very frustrating to come out on these types of losses when you know you should be winning these games.”

Against the Seahawks, the Packers had a 21-20 lead with 9 minutes left and were facing third-and-5 at Seattle’s 12-yard line when Rodgers was sacked, forcing them to settle for a field goal to make it 24-20.

Seattle responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive. When Rodgers missed an easy third-down throw on the ensuing possession, McCarthy opted to punt on fourth-and-2 with 4:20 to go. Green Bay never got the ball back.

“It’s tough losing on the road. It’s tough losing by one possession. Obviously, I’m frustrated, not just by the last throw but some other stuff that we could’ve done better out there,” Rodgers said. “This is an important, obviously, six-game stretch left. I still believe we have a lot to play for.”

McCarthy said Friday that he still felt it was a “solid decision” to punt in that situation, and that his decision not to challenge a 34-yard Russell Wilson-to-Tyler Lockett completion that set up the go-ahead touchdown was based on not having a clear replay to look at in the coaches’ booth. But he acknowledged both calls were open to second-guessing.

“Frankly, those are the kind of decisions that keep all of us up,” McCarthy said. “Now that I’m standing here and I know what the result is of them running out the clock, you go, ‘Oh, yeah, I wish I would’ve went for it on fourth-and-2.'”

“My first reaction was to go for it,” he added. “But we talked it over game management-wise and that’s the decision I made.”

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Chargers list Bosa as questionable for Sunday vs. Broncos

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa and tight end Antonio Gates are listed as questionable for Sunday's game.

Coach Anthony Lynn said Friday that Bosa remains a game-time decision but that he looked good in team and individual drills after missing two months due to a bone

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa and tight end Antonio Gates are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Coach Anthony Lynn said Friday that Bosa remains a game-time decision but that he looked good in team and individual drills after missing two months due to a bone bruise to his left foot. Bosa has been listed as limited on the practice report this week.

Gates did not practice Wednesday or Thursday due to a knee injury but was a limited participant Friday.

Wide receiver Keenan Allen (finger/hip) is expected to play after being listed as limited the past two days. Mike Williams was a full participant Friday after being limited on Thursday.

Cornerback Trevor Williams (knee) is out for Sunday’s game.

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Falcons’ Deion Jones out, Matt Bryant active for Dallas

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones is still not ready to play and will be inactive Sunday against Dallas.

Kicker Matt Bryant had a good week of practice and will be on Atlanta's game-day roster after missing the last three games with a sore right hamstring.

Coach Dan Quinn

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones is still not ready to play and will be inactive Sunday against Dallas.

Kicker Matt Bryant had a good week of practice and will be on Atlanta’s game-day roster after missing the last three games with a sore right hamstring.

Coach Dan Quinn ruled Jones out after Friday’s practice but hopes he will be ready when Atlanta plays Thursday at New Orleans. Jones returned to the active roster this week after spending two months on injured reserve with a broken right foot.

“He’s certainly close,” Quinn said. “We were able to give him more reps as the week went on. He’s been working in the pass game for a while. This week he got really involved in the run game and taking guys on and the power that goes with it.”

The Falcons (4-5) will face the Cowboys (4-5) with a defense that ranks third worst in yards allowed and fourth worst in scoring. Strong safety Keanu Neal’s season ended in the opener, and free safety Ricardo Allen was lost for the season two weeks later.

Bryant, the franchise career scoring leader, was a full participant in practice for the second straight day. Quinn said the Falcons have no immediate plans to cut Giorgio Tavecchio, who is 5-for-5 on field-goal attempts with a pair of 50-yarders. Tavecchio will not be active Sunday but will stay on the roster in case the 43-year-old Bryant has a setback.

Friday’s injury report listed receivers Calvin Ridley (elbow) and Mohamed Sanu (hip), linebackers De’Vondre Campbell (calf), Foyesade Oluokun (elbow) and Bruce Carter (knee) and safety Damontae Kazee (shoulder) as full participants. Defensive end Derrick Shelby was limited with a sore groin.

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Ravens QB Flacco doubtful for Bengals

Ravens QB Flacco doubtful for Bengals

Joe Flacco was listed

Ravens QB Flacco doubtful for Bengals

Joe Flacco was listed as doubtful on Friday’s injury report as the Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback mystery continues, two days prior to Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Flacco didn’t practice all week because of a hip injury, while rookie Lamar Jackson returned to practice on Friday after sitting out a day due to illness. Robert Griffin III took all the practice snaps on Thursday.

“There will be a quarterback starting. I can guarantee that,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters, partly in jest. “And, every play, there will be at least one quarterback on the field.”

Harbaugh said Flacco could play despite not practicing.

Flacco has passed for 2,465 yards and 12 touchdowns against six interceptions this season.

The quarterback drama comes at a time when the Ravens (4-5) have lost three straight games and four of their last five.

Jackson, the Ravens’ first-round pick, was removed from the injury report after practicing on Friday. He is 7-of-12 passing for 87 yards and one touchdown and could be in line for his first NFL start.

“Very diligent, very smart, very aware quarterback,” Harbaugh said of Jackson. “He sees the game well, and then now all the process that goes into just training that eye has been valuable. So, we have seen improvement, and in practice, he looks good.”

Griffin has started 40 regular-season games but his most recent one was the season finale for the 2016 Cleveland Browns. He has been inactive for all nine games this season.

“They brought me here to be a pro. They brought me here to help this team if need be,” Griffin told reporters. “If my number is called, I’ll be able to go out there and lead this team.”

Offensive lineman James Hurst (back) and outside linebacker Tim Williams (ankle) have been ruled out. Listed as questionable are safety Tony Jefferson (thigh), offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and cornerback Tavon Young (ankle).

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Broncos OL Garcia out for season

Reports: Broncos OL Garcia out for season

Denver Broncos

Reports: Broncos OL Garcia out for season

Denver Broncos left guard Max Garcia will miss the rest of the season after the team discovered he had suffered a torn ACL, according to multiple reports.

Garcia practiced Thursday, but was taken for an MRI after feeling discomfort in the knee afterward.

Garcia was already filling in for starter Ron Leary, who was lost for the season with an Achilles injury.

Center Matt Paradis is also out for the year with a broken leg, leaving the Broncos thin along the offensive line.

Billy Turner figures to replace Garcia at left guard.

Linebacker Brandon Marshall missed Friday’s practice with a knee injury, putting his availability for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers in doubt.

–Field Level Media

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Packers TE Graham suffers broken thumb

Packers TE Graham suffers broken thumb

Green Bay Packers tight end

Packers TE Graham suffers broken thumb

Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham has a broken thumb, multiple outlets reported Friday.

Graham had the thumb examined on Friday to determine the extent of his injury.

The Packers haven’t confirmed the injury and haven’t released a timetable for his return.

Graham, 31, left Thursday’s 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the second half after making one catch for 13 yards.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection has 34 catches for 452 yards and two touchdowns this season, but he has been limited to one catch in three of the last four games.

Lance Kendricks, Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan figure to see more time if Graham is sidelined. Tonyan, a rookie from Indiana State, caught his first career pass Thursday night — a 54-yard reception from Aaron Rodgers for a touchdown.

–Field Level Media

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Packers TE Graham having thumb examined

Packers TE Graham having thumb examined

The Green Bay Packers are

Packers TE Graham having thumb examined

The Green Bay Packers are concerned tight end Jimmy Graham might have a broken thumb, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Graham will have the thumb examined on Friday to determine the extent of his injury.

Graham, 31, left Thursday’s 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the second half after making one catch for 13 yards.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection has 34 catches for 452 yards and two touchdowns this season, but has been limited to one catch in three of the last four games.

Lance Kendricks, Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan figure to see more time if Graham is sidelined. Tonyan, a rookie out of Indiana State, caught his first career pass Thursday night – a 54-yard touchdown reception from Aaron Rodgers.

–Field Level Media

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Jamon Brown is giving a big lift to Giants’ offensive line

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — A reclamation project off the waiver wire is galvanizing the New York Giants' beleaguered offensive line.

Just two weeks ago, Jamon Brown thought he was without a job. He was released by the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 31 after spending the better part of four years with

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — A reclamation project off the waiver wire is galvanizing the New York Giants’ beleaguered offensive line.

Just two weeks ago, Jamon Brown thought he was without a job. He was released by the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 31 after spending the better part of four years with the team. Brown, a guard for the Rams who started all 16 games and a playoff game in 2017, was on the waiver wire.

“That was definitely disappointing,” Brown said. “I didn’t see it coming.”

Brown had signed a $2.5 million, four-year contract with the Rams after being selected in the third round by the team out of Louisville in 2015. He earned a starting spot as a right guard with the Rams in 2017 after missing most of his rookie season with a fractured right leg.

In July, however, Brown was suspended for the first two games of the 2018 season after violating the NFL’s policy for substance abuse. He would not comment on what banned substance he used.

When the season began, Brown was replaced by Austin Blythe as the starter at right guard for the Rams and he never regained his spot.

“It was all very disappointing, the way it went down,” Brown said. “I never got the opportunity to make things right.”

As part of a numbers crunch, after the Rams acquired defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brown was released.

At the same time, the Giants’ offensive line was in turmoil. The problems began when former first-round pick Ereck Flowers was released after a move to right tackle from left tackle didn’t pan out.

One free-agent signing, tackle Nate Solder, hasn’t lived up to the four-year, $62 million contract he signed in the offseason. Center Jon Halapio broke his right ankle and lower leg in the second week of the season. Free agent Patrick Omameh didn’t perform well and was released.

Amid the upheaval, the Giants took a chance on Brown, a 6-foot, 340-pounder.

“We knew that he was a starter on a team that won 11 games last year,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s a big man, a really big man. We liked what we saw in Jamon.”

When the claim on Brown became official, the Giants were on their bye week. So Brown flew to New Jersey and met with Shurmur and team officials. He worked out for a couple of days, then headed back to Los Angeles to clean out his apartment.

“I got a lot of frequent flier miles,” Brown said.

The Giants resumed practice last week and Brown was learning the offense. He practiced as if he were going to play.

Sure enough, on Saturday before the game with the San Francisco 49ers, Omameh was let go. Brown slid in as the starter in the game in California. That meant Brown flew back and forth across the country four times in two weeks.

“It’s really crazy how that all turned out,” Brown said. “I’m still learning the Giants’ way. I’m learning everything I can. This is definitely a great opportunity for me.”

Brown was part of the line that gave Eli Manning time to throw, allowed only one sack provided room for sensational rookie Saquon Barkley to run. More important, the Giants won 27-23 on Monday night for their second win in nine games.

“I thought he did a good job,” Shurmur said of Brown. “I thought he did some of the things that we thought he could do. I think that’s a settling force for the quarterback when he’s pretty certain that the interior of the pocket’s going to be firm.”

Brown will start at right guard when the Giants host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. He tweaked his ankle during Friday’s practice, but the team did not list him on the injury report.

“I’m going to bring energy,” Brown said. “I think I can be reliable because I’ve been doing this awhile. I’ve experienced my times of success.”

NOTES: The Giants listed no injuries after Friday’s practice. Brown (ankle), LB Alec Ogletree (ribs), CB Antonio Hamilton (hip), FB Eli Penny (back) and S Curtis Riley (shoulder) all practiced fully, so the team is 100 percent healthy for a second straight week. … Another reclamation project, WR Corey Coleman, whom the Giants picked up after he was waived by three teams this season, will more than likely remain the main kickoff return specialist. Coleman had three returns for 92 yards, including a 51-yarder, against the Niners.

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Broncos lose guard Max Garcia to knee injury

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Left guard Max Garcia showed up at the Denver Broncos' headquarters Friday with a sore left knee, something that initially seemed like a minor annoyance for a team preparing for two big offensive line changes already.

With right guard Connor McGovern preparing for his first NFL start at center

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Left guard Max Garcia showed up at the Denver Broncos’ headquarters Friday with a sore left knee, something that initially seemed like a minor annoyance for a team preparing for two big offensive line changes already.

With right guard Connor McGovern preparing for his first NFL start at center and Elijah Wilkinson set to make his first pro start at right guard, Garcia went for an MRI.

The result was devastating: a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Garcia is the third starting offensive lineman the Broncos have lost this season, joining guard Ronald Leary (Achilles) and center Matt Paradis, who had surgery on his broken right leg earlier this week.

“It’s been a tough year for us O-linemen,” left tackle Garett Bolles said. “It’s a shame to see three guys that are really close to me go down, but at the same time I know that we have guys behind them that have stepped up to the plate and are going to smack a home run.”

Garcia’s injury further staggered a team that’s trying to salvage a season featuring four one-score losses, including to the league’s two 9-1 teams the Rams and Chiefs, by a combined seven points.

“It was really weird, I watched (Thursday’s) practice from the last play back to the first play and he didn’t miss a down,” coach Vance Joseph said. “So, the play he was injured on, I saw it, it was kind of a slip. It was no big deal. He finished up practice.”

Joseph said Billy Turner, who started four games at right tackle when Jared Veldheer was out with a knee injury, will start at left guard Sunday when the Broncos (3-6) visit the Los Angeles Chargers (7-2).

This will mark the Broncos’ sixth different lineup on the O-line this season, but Joseph said it won’t affect the game plan.

“I thought leaving camp that we had the best line that we’ve had around here in a while as far as depth and as far as guys who can play” multiple positions, Joseph said. “It happens. It’s football. We’ve got Billy Turner playing the left guard with Eli playing the right guard along with Mac playing the center, so I’m comfortable. Let’s go play.”

He said recently signed seven-year veteran center Gino Gradkowski will be active Sunday along with rookie swing guard Sam Jones.

“Ain’t too many guys left ,” he said.

Through every combination the Broncos have run the ball with success as rookies Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman have rushed for 900 yards and seven touchdowns with veteran Devontae Booker adding 144 yards, a touchdown and a team-high 5.8-yard average.

What they’ve had trouble doing is protecting quarterback Case Keenum, who has 11 touchdowns and 11 turnovers and has been sacked two dozen times.

Still, offensive coordinator Billy Musgrave has been reluctant to reduce his use of three-receiver sets that put more pressure on the thinning O-line.

The turnstile hasn’t helped Bolles, a 2017 first-rounder, refine his raw game after playing just one season of major college football.

“It’s been hard having different lineups. I’ve had five different lineups, so it’s been frustrating,” Bolles said. “But it doesn’t matter who’s next to me, they’re going to make me better, I’m going to make them better and you’ve just got to roll with the punches and work out the kinks.”

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Jags turn to former Giants starting OT Flowers vs Steelers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are down to their fourth left tackle, starting a player they signed off the streets against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Coach Doug Marrone says former New York Giants first-round draft pick Ereck Flowers will start in place of Josh Walker, who missed practice all week because of

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are down to their fourth left tackle, starting a player they signed off the streets against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Coach Doug Marrone says former New York Giants first-round draft pick Ereck Flowers will start in place of Josh Walker, who missed practice all week because of a foot/ankle injury. Walker was listed as doubtful on the injury report Friday. Flowers and Walker alternated series last week at Indianapolis.

Walker was filling in for Josh Wells, who started four games after Cam Robinson tore a knee ligament in Week 2.

The Jaguars (3-6) also could be without another starting offensive lineman. Right guard A.J. Cann (hamstring) is listed as questionable. Nose tackle Marcell Dareus (triceps) also is questionable. Dareus has started all nine games.

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AP source: Broncos lose guard Max Garcia to knee injury

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Denver Broncos left guard Max Garcia is out for the season because of a torn knee ligament, a person with knowledge of the injury said.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because coach Vance Joseph was at practice and wouldn't be addressing the

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Denver Broncos left guard Max Garcia is out for the season because of a torn knee ligament, a person with knowledge of the injury said.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because coach Vance Joseph was at practice and wouldn’t be addressing the media until later. An MRI Friday revealed a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament.

Garcia apparently was injured during Thursday’s practice, although he finished the workout and wasn’t listed on the team’s injury report.

The Broncos (3-6) travel to Los Angeles on Sunday to face the Chargers (7-2). Denver already was down two starters on the offensive line after losing left guard Ronald Leary (Achilles) last month and center Matt Paradis (broken ankle) in the last game.

Now, Billy Turner will move over to left guard, between scuffling left tackle Garett Bolles, who leads the league in holding calls for the second straight season, and Connor McGovern, who will make his first start at center Sunday.

Second-year pro Elijah Wilksinson is also making his first NFL start, at right guard next to right tackle Jared Veldheer, who missed a month with a knee injury before returning to action in Denver’s last game, against Houston on Nov. 4.

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Eagles DT Jernigan could return vs. Saints

Eagles DT Jernigan could return vs. Saints

Eagles DT Jernigan could return vs. Saints

Philadelphia defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan could play for the first time this season on Sunday when the Eagles take on the New Orleans Saints.

“Still optimistic, we’ve got to get through today and tomorrow obviously with him and see where he’s at,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said before Friday’s practice. “It’s just a matter of day-by-day and getting through the practice and seeing where he’s at.”

Jernigan returned to practice last week for the first time since having surgery in April to repair a herniated disc in his back.

The Eagles must decide by Nov. 26 whether to activate Jernigan from the non-football injury list and add him to the 53-man roster. If they do not, he will not be allowed to play this season.

Jernigan, 26, tallied 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks and started 15 games in his first season in Philadelphia in 2017. He added two tackles during the postseason for the Super Bowl LII champions.

He spent the previous three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, who selected the Florida State product in the second round in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Pederson also said tight end Richard Rogers, who was also recently returned from injured reserve, is in the same boat as Jernigan.

Adding either or both would require the Eagles to make room on the roster. Cornerback Ronald Darby, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury recently, would be an obvious candidate.

Pederson was more confident in the return of right tackle Lane Johnson, who sat out last week with an MCL sprain, and cornerback Sidney Jones, who has missed three games with a hamstring injury.

“He’s a lot closer, he’s had a really good week of practice, feels a lot better health-wise,” Pederson said regarding Johnson’s status. “I would expect him to (play), yes.”

–Field Level Media

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When things go sour in the NFL, QBs often are changed

When things go sour, an NFL team's fan base often points to two people: the guy calling plays on the sideline, and the man behind center trying to execute them.

As we get deeper into the 2018 schedule, the futures of some coaches could be tied to how their quarterbacks have struggled —

When things go sour, an NFL team’s fan base often points to two people: the guy calling plays on the sideline, and the man behind center trying to execute them.

As we get deeper into the 2018 schedule, the futures of some coaches could be tied to how their quarterbacks have struggled — or outright flopped.

Doug Marrone and Blake Bortles in Jacksonville? Perhaps.

Vance Joseph and Case Keenum in Denver? Possibly.

John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco? Could be.

Then again, each of those coaches could keep their jobs and have new QBs in 2019. And we know Jon Gruden isn’t going anywhere in Oakland, though Derek Carr might head elsewhere.

Nor is Pat Shurmur, despite a discouraging first year in the Jersey Meadowlands, likely to leave the Big Apple. But the status of a 37-year-old Eli Manning is in more doubt.

It would be a surprise to see Adam Gase out in Miami. Considering how much he has been out of the lineup in his seven-year career, it would not be a stunner to see Ryan Tannehill depart the Dolphins.

Let’s take a look:

NEW YORK

Manning is not a washed-up has-been. His arm remains strong, his knowledge of the game is irreplaceable, and he has three enviable options in Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram.

What he doesn’t have is anyone who can block with any regularity. Manning is about as mobile as Shurmur, maybe less so, and when he doesn’t get the necessary time to set himself, he’s not likely to find a comfortable place to throw.

Yes, it’s time for the Giants to look for a replacement, but not necessarily someone to take over next year. How about finally improving perhaps the worst offensive line in the league and seeing what Manning can do behind it?

Otherwise, Carr could wind up an option as Gruden keeps wheeling and dealing.

DENVER

Keenum has another year to go on the deal he parlayed his best career season (in Minnesota) to get with QB-desperate Denver. Cutting him will cost a $10 million cap hit, so unless John Elway can work a trade for that prohibitive contract, Keenum figures to be back with the Broncos.

The cupboard is bare behind him, especially after Chad Kelly got himself arrested and then released. Plus, Keenum once again has had to learn a new offense, and he’s had some knee issues.

Elway could be enticed to add a veteran who has won a Super Bowl, as he did with Peyton Manning (did someone say Flacco?), but only if he can deal Keenum.

BALTIMORE

Flacco, who’s had a better (but not great) season than in recent years, is bothered by a hip injury. And his eventual replacement, Lamar Jackson, was chosen in the first round of April’s draft.

The massive contract Flacco earned after winning the 2012 championship as Super Bowl MVP was extended in 2016 and he is signed through 2021. But the Ravens can open up $10.5 million in salary cap space by releasing Flacco, 33, after the season, with a potential savings of $18.5 million if they designate him as cut after June 1, which would damage his value elsewhere.

He won’t command the same kind of money on the open market, but he will command attention for his strong arm, solid leadership, willingness to play hurt, and, well, a pedigree that rarely reaches free agency with a few good years left.

Gase in Miami certainly would like a QB who can get on the field regularly.

MIAMI

Brock Osweiler is the 19th starter since Dan Marino ended his Hall of Fame career. None has been a star, though Chad Pennington could have been had his shoulder not been so brittle.

Gase would seem to be tied to Tannehill, who has played in five games this year, none last season, because of injuries. When healthy, Tannehill helped get the Dolphins to the playoffs as a wild card in 2016, Gase’s first year in Miami. Then he was hurt for the postseason.

Gase has been something of a QB guru in other stops, so a young guy who can stay in the lineup might be appealing. Or maybe a 20-something needing a change of scenery such as Jameis Winston or Bortles.

TAMPA BAY

Perhaps the most puzzling case of all because Winston, the top pick in the 2015 draft, should be a slam dunk as the future. He isn’t.

Winston is due $20.9 million next season, the final year of his rookie deal. That’s way more than he is worth, and though the Bucs picked up his fifth-year option, they could release him in ’19 and not owe him anything; 2019 is guaranteed only in case of injury, which is why some speculate Winston may not play again this year.

He comes with lots of talent, but still lacks maturity. He has had off-field issues and was suspended for the first three games this season.

Do the Bucs want to start over at the position, knowing Winston’s potential remains sky high?

JACKSONVILLE

Convinced after coming oh-so-close to making the Super Bowl that Bortles could be their franchise guy, the Jaguars signed him to a three-year, $54 million contract that includes a $16 million salary in 2019. So there would be $16.5 million in dead money if he is cut.

And, like Keenum, the numbers for a trade likely are prohibitive.

But folks in Jacksonville believe, despite the current 3-6 mark, that the Jags are built to win soon. Maybe not with the struggling Bortles, however.

This history team boss Tom Coughlin has with Manning adds some intrigue, but a move for a veteran to replace Bortles might target someone younger and more mobile.

OAKLAND

Gruden has publicly backed Carr, but it’s difficult to gauge if that support is strong or even real. Given his maneuvers to redo the Raiders, it appears with Gruden no one is safe.

Gruden would love to find a Rich Gannon clone, maybe a Flacco or even a Nick Foles. And cutting Carr would create only $7.5 million in dead money, hardly prohibitive.

Then again, Gruden has three first-round selections in the 2019 draft. Using one on a quarterback makes a lot of sense.

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AP Pro Football Writers Josh Dubow and Arnie Stapleton, and Sports Writers Tom Canavan, Steven Wine, Mark Long, Fred Goodall and David Ginsburg contributed.

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How ‘Bout Them Cowboys? New book examines America’s Team

Gary Myers has covered Jerry Jones longer than any pro football writer, so it seemed logical and natural to write a book about the owner of the most valuable franchise in the world.

"How 'Bout Them Cowboys?" (Grand Central Publishing) is an in-depth look at America's Team, still the most popular in the

Gary Myers has covered Jerry Jones longer than any pro football writer, so it seemed logical and natural to write a book about the owner of the most valuable franchise in the world.

“How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?” (Grand Central Publishing) is an in-depth look at America’s Team, still the most popular in the NFL even though it hasn’t reached a Super Bowl in 23 years and isn’t likely to this season.

Myers was with the Dallas Morning News when Jones bought the team in 1989 and cleaned house. Now a radio host at WFAN in New York, Myers remembers it well — and tells it entertainingly and informatively in his book.

“I was taken aback when he got weepy —real tears — when he started talking about how he put himself at risk financially to buy the Cowboys in 1989,” Myers says. “He said he asked his doctor why recalling that period of his life made him so emotional and was told it was a traumatic experience for him. Even so, seeing this multi-billionaire in tears caught me by surprise, to say the least.”

There’s a lot in Myers’ book that could catch readers by surprise. Such as:

—Jones admits he’s still bitter about the circumstances that led to his divorce with Jimmy Johnson, who coached the Cowboys to the 1992 and ’93 NFL titles. And Myers reveals “Troy Aikman has still not forgiven Johnson for leaving him. A few years ago, they were having a beer together, when Aikman said to Johnson, ‘We could have been Brady and Belichick.'”

—The Hall of Fame party Jones threw for himself in Canton, Ohio in 2017 cost $8 million and included a two-hour concert by Justin Timberlake. One of the invited guests was Roger Goodell.

“I have a picture in my book of Jones having a drink with Goodell and Jon Bon Jovi at the party,” Myers says. “Five days later, Goodell called Jones to tell him he was suspending Ezekiel Elliott for six games. Jones is convinced Goodell showed up at the party knowing he was going to suspend Elliott (who was also at the party), but did not want to ruin Jones’ weekend. Instead, he ruined his season.”

Jones has said Goodell previously told him he would not suspend Elliott and to this day he feels betrayed. Goodell has emphatically said he did not tell Jones that.

There are dozens more such intriguing and often-unrevealed stories in “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?” Myers had five hours of one-on-one interviews with Jones and, he jokes, actually got in at least seven questions.

ALABAMA REUNION

Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley cover most of a decade’s worth of leading receivers at Alabama. They’ll be on the field as players together for the first time when Cooper and the Dallas Cowboys visit the Atlanta Falcons and the veteran/rookie duo of Jones and Ridley.

Jones is a two-time All-Pro, Cooper made the Pro Bowl his first two seasons, and Ridley leads all rookies with 500 yards receiving. Oh, and they each won a national championship at Alabama. In fact, Ridley won two.

“A lot to like about them,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Certainly they were trained very well at Alabama, probably really good players going there, developed to become great players coming out of there. And they’ve definitely shown that at this level.”

Cooper wasn’t supposed to make this Alabama connection when the season started: Oakland wasn’t on Atlanta’s schedule. But the Cowboys traded next year’s first-round draft pick for him in hopes of having a new No. 1 receiver after letting Dez Bryant go in a cost-cutting move during the offseason.

“I’m cool with both of those guys,” Cooper said. “None of us played together, so none of us have been on the field together. So that’ll be really cool to go out there and be on the same field.”

CAM’S WINE

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said if wasn’t an NFL quarterback he’d want to be a sommelier. Newton has recently developed a love for wine— and cigars — although he said his recognition of most wines is “terrible.”

“I picked up a hobby that I really enjoy,” said Newton. “I think I’m on sauvignon blanc right now, really light wine, and a good mild smoke.”

Rudy Patino, who works as a food service provider for the Panthers, is a resident wine expert and Newton said he’s learned some things from him about the hobby.

“I feel like if I had a gift of a hidden talent, outside of playing an instrument, I would want to be a sommelier,” Newton said. “Those senses that you have. … For those who don’t know it, it’s being able to distinctively tell what type of wine it is, where it’s from and everything about wine by just the taste, the look and pretty much the feel of the wine. It’s just pretty cool to come across a person on a day-to-day basis that knows what they’re talking about. It’s just like playing football. It’s an ongoing thing that you have to constantly keep taking your nose and taste buds through.”

Newton said he if was to create his own wine he would call it “Boogie Down.”

“As in boogie down your esophagus,” Newton said with a smile.

BRITISH TRAINING

USA Football will lead the training of more than 1,000 football coaches across Britain in 2019. USA Football, a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the sport’s national governing body, will drive education for British American Football Coaches Association members, spanning school-based to adult programs.

British coaches will receive USA Football in-person training and online course work. More than 10,000 U.S. school districts and youth programs combined enrolled in USA Football-developed coach education this season, including nine of the country’s 10 largest school districts.

“Our sport’s community is truly a global family,” said BAFCA President Wayne Hill of Birmingham, England. “We love the game as much as Americans do, and teaming up with USA Football is a historic point for the sport here. Much like in the States, what’s taught and played today is not your father’s gridiron — it’s done a lot smarter, but is just as much fun. This partnership enables us to deliver a smarter, safer game for our athletes through coach education.”

Organized football is played on six continents spanning approximately 70 countries, a figure that has nearly doubled in the past 10 years.

GREEN EAGLES IN BIG EASY

The Philadelphia Eagles will be wearing their home green jerseys at New Orleans on Sunday. What’s that all about?

A bet.

In March, coaches Doug Pederson of the Super Bowl champion Eagles and Sean Payton of the Saints made the wager, which was revealed during the summer for the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Pederson has a much better golf game than Payton and finished 32nd at the tournament, while Payton was 77th. Pederson had offered strokes or points in the Modified Stableford scoring format, but Payton turned them down.

Payton made a $5,000 donation to Autism Challenge in Philadelphia as part of the bet.

“Well, it is our home jersey. It is our home color,” Pederson says. “And so we are excited to wear that. We’ve done it a lot this year on the road, wearing our home greens on the road. So you know it’s something that our guys enjoy.”

When Pederson made that bet, did Payton say the Saints would go with their color rush, or a white jersey?

“He didn’t say one way or the other,” Pederson adds. “I would imagine it would be the whites, but he did not say.”

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AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner, Schuyler Dixon and Rob Maaddi, and Sports Writers Brett Martel and Steve Reed contributed.

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Ravens hope to take what Bengals’ defense keeps giving

Ravens hope to take what Bengals' defense keeps giving

The Cincinnati

Ravens hope to take what Bengals’ defense keeps giving

The Cincinnati Bengals are playing historically bad pass defense.

The Baltimore Ravens aren’t sure which one of their quarterbacks will try to take advantage of that when they host their AFC North rivals Sunday.

The Bengals rank last in the NFL in passing yards allowed and have yielded more than 500 total yards in each of their last three games, which had never been done before in the Super Bowl era.

They have allowed 158 points over the last four games, including a 51-14 drubbing at the hands of the New Orleans Saints last week.

That led Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis to fire defensive coordinator Teryl Austin this week and take over the defensive play calling himself.

Baltimore’s quarterback situation has been shaken up by injuries.

The Ravens rank ninth in the NFL in passing offense, but starting quarterback Joe Flacco might not be available because of a hip injury. Making matters cloudier is that rookie No. 1 draft choice Lamar Jackson, next in line behind Flacco, joined him on the sideline at practice Thursday because of illness.

That left just Robert Griffin III as a healthy quarterback. Griffin, who was out of the NFL last season, hasn’t started a game since 2016 when he was with the Cleveland Browns.

Ravens head coach Jim Harbaugh said Flacco could play Sunday even if he doesn’t practice, as long as he’s healthy enough by game time.

“He’s got experience. He’s a smart guy. He knows how to prepare,” Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told the Baltimore Sun. “I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t play really well without any practice.”

Both teams are in desperate need of a win. Baltimore (4-5) is coming off a bye, and Cincinnati (5-4) has lost three of four.

The Bengals won the first meeting, 34-23, in Cincinnati in the second week of the season.

In that game, Flacco completed 32-of-55 passes for a season-high 376 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked four times and lost a fumble.

Jackson has seen limited action as a change of pace to Flacco’s traditional pocket passing. The rookie has completed 7 of 12 passes for 87 yards and one touchdown, and he has rushed for 139 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries.

In the first meeting, Jackson played six snaps – three at quarterback and three at wide receiver. He rushed two times for 6 yards.

“We know when Joe’s in there he’s going to stand in that pocket and try to do deep passes down the field and checkdowns,” Bengals linebacker Preston Brown told Cincinnati.com.

“That’s all you’ve really got to worry about: deep passes, checkdowns and crossing routes. But with Lamar in, you never know what you’re going to get,” Brown said.

Lewis said he has more on his mind than who winds up playing quarterback for the Ravens.

“Lamar is going to be a good, young player in the NFL,” Lewis told Cincinnati.com. “We spent a lot of time with Lamar (before the draft), but right now it’s about us, and that’s important.”

The Bengals have injury issues of their own. Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, who had three touchdown catches in the first meeting, could miss his second consecutive game because of a toe injury. Running back Joe Mixon (knee) was limited in practice Thursday.

–Field Level Media

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