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  • Giants WR Cruz eager to return to field
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz is ready for his long-awaited football close-up this Saturday.

    • "I'm ready," Cruz said upon taking the podium, flashing that megawatt smile of his that fans have come to know and love. "It's been a long time coming. I had a good week of practice, everything feels great, so I'm just excited."

      Oh sure, it's just a meaningless preseason game against the neighboring New York Jets, but for Cruz, the game formally known as the MetLife Bowl is much more than who earns the right to gain possession of the Snoopy Trophy that's given to the winner.

      "This one is crossing so many hurdles, so many barriers, so many ups and downs that I had to face to get to this moment," Cruz said. "Now I'm just ready to relax and just go play some football again. To me this game is bigger than just a game."

      Almost two years to the day since he first suffered a potentially career-ending knee injury in October 2014, Cruz has overcome one setback after another and is set to play in his first game Saturday against the Jets, the team that essentially helped launch his star back in 2010.

      Head coach Ben McAdoo and the Giants have been pacing Cruz's return so as to avoid any more setbacks, such as what he suffered last summer when he tore his calf muscle. Although Cruz did strain his groin this summer, the team's training staff came up with a plan designed to pace his return to the field.

      The plan worked.

      "He got through a good practice on our Wednesday practice on Tuesday. Yesterday he got through a three-hour practice in good shape," McAdoo said. "When he first got out here this week, he showed a burst and showed some acceleration, he can put his foot in the ground. He had a really nice release on a slant, which reminded me of the Houston game a few years ago, so it is encouraging."

      No one is more encouraged than Cruz, who has tried to stay patient while his body heals. Now that he has that opportunity, he can't help but be a little giddy.

      "I feel like a rookie again. There will be butterflies, there will be anxiety. There has been for some time now."

      Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said earlier this week that he saw flashes of the old Cruz during practice this week.

      "There was the suddenness, the explosiveness, the things that I have in my mind, visions of 2011 in terms of that type of quickness," Sullivan said. "So obviously that is something to be excited about, and again, we're just progressing and hoping for the best.

      "We're not trying to get overly excited or put too much pressure, just taking it one day, one rep at a time; and he's certainly shown some flashes."

      McAdoo said that Cruz will get some early game snaps with the starting offense, though he didn't indicate if there was a set number in mind.

      Whatever he gets, Cruz is looking to build on what he started on the practice field.

      "Obviously this game is more for me to get hit, have that opportunity to get that game rep, have those game-like actions with Eli (Manning), being on the same page, all those things that you look forward to as a player," Cruz said.


      --S Darian Thompson suffered a shoulder injury in the Giants' loss to the Buffalo Bills. Thompson, whose status has been defined as "week-to-week," will likely miss the rest of the preseason. However, according to a source, there is optimism that the rookie free safety will be ready by the time the Giants get into their preparation for their Sept. 11 season opener at Dallas. "We say week-to-week, but to me it's hour-to-hour," said head coach Ben McAdoo on the rookie's status.

      --LG Justin Pugh (shoulder) is unlikely to play against the Jets this weekend after being limited in practice. If Pugh doesn't play, look for Bobby Hart to get his second start of the preseason at left guard.

      --FB/TE Will Johnson (burner) remains week-to-week; he will not play Saturday night against the Jets.

      --WR Geremy Davis (hamstring) is 50-50 to play against the Jets. Davis was able to practice on a limited basis this week, but McAdoo said a decision would be forthcoming on the second-year receiver.

      --TE Matt LaCosse (knee) is not expected to play Saturday night. LaCosse missed this week of practice with a knee injury suffered in last week's game vs. Buffalo.

      --LB J.T. Thomas (hamstring) was removed from the physically unable to perform list this week. Thomas is not expected to play Saturday night.

  • NFL notebook: Patriots acquire LB Mingo from Browns
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    The New England Patriots acquired linebacker Barkevious Mingo from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a late-round pick in the 2017 draft.

    • Mingo was the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft but only had seven sacks over his first three seasons.

      Cleveland, which traded the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft to the Eagles to stockpile selections in the 2017 draft, receives New England's fifth-round pick next year.

      The Browns declined to pick up Mingo's fifth-year option during the offseason, which assured Mingo would become a free agent following this season.

      New England is looking to shore up its pass rush and decided it was willing to take a flyer on the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Mingo.

      Mingo had just 18 tackles and didn't record a sack while playing in all 16 games last season.

      Mingo played college football at LSU and departed for the NFL after his junior season.

      --Outspoken Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison met with NFL investigators as the league studies allegations linking him and three others to performance-enhancing drugs.

      Harrison, who has repeatedly criticized the process, reportedly met with investigators for about 45 minutes before joining the Steelers at practice. He didn't speak with reporters when he later departed the team facility.

      "My understanding is everything went very smoothly," Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, told the Tribune-Review of Pittsburgh. "There were no problems and no issues."

      The meeting stems from an Al-Jazeera report that named Harrison, Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers and former Packers linebacker Mike Neal as players who received performance-enhancing drugs from an anti-aging clinic in Indianapolis.

      Former Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning also was named in the report. The NFL investigated the claims against Manning and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

      Matthews and Peppers were reportedly interviewed by NFL investigators on Wednesday. Neal, a free agent, is reportedly slated to be interviewed on Friday.

      The allegations against the players were made by former clinic employee Charles Sly, who later recanted his story.

      --Nick Martin went from the starting center of the Houston Texans to staring at a rookie season on injured reserve due to an ankle injury.

      Martin, the 50th pick in the 2016 draft, was slated to start for the Texans this season. But a severe ankle injury suffered in a joint practice with the New Orleans Saints last week is likely to cost Martin the entire season.

      Martin is expected to undergo surgery and be placed on season-ending IR.

      A replacement for Martin could be on the roster, but if the Texans try veteran Tony Bergstrom and second-year center Greg Mancz this week and find they need to add competition, Houston will mine final roster cuts before the season begins on Sept. 11 against the Chicago Bears.

  • Steelers' Harrison meets with NFL over PEDs probe
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    Outspoken Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison met with NFL investigators on Thursday as the league studies allegations linking him and three others to performance-enhancing drugs.

    • Harrison, who has repeatedly criticized the process, reportedly met with investigators for about 45 minutes before joining the Steelers at practice. He didn't speak with reporters when he later departed the team facility.

      "My understanding is everything went very smoothly," Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, told the Tribune-Review of Pittsburgh. "There were no problems and no issues."

      The meeting stems from an Al-Jazeera report that named Harrison, Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers and former Packers linebacker Mike Neal as players who received performance-enhancing drugs from an anti-aging clinic in Indianapolis.

      Former Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning also was named in the report. The NFL investigated the claims against Manning and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

      Matthews and Peppers were reportedly interviewed by NFL investigators on Wednesday. Neal, a free agent, is reportedly slated to be interviewed on Friday.

      The allegations against the players were made by former clinic employee Charles Sly, who later recanted his story.

  • Bears OT Long might miss season opener
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Kyle Long's status for the season-opener remains unclear due to a shoulder issue.

    • The Chicago Tribune, citing unnamed sources, said it is a labrum issue. The Bears are not confirming this.

      Coach John Fox wouldn't say whether he thought Long would start the opener.

      "It doesn't really matter what I think," Fox said. "There are medical people involved and when he's cleared, he'll play."

      There's no doubt the impact a missing Long has on the offensive line.

      "You're missing that big guy that can lock down the three-technique," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "Whenever he's in there, you know that side is pretty much going to be void. You don't really have to worry about that. You're going to have room to step up.

      "He's been a three-time Pro Bowler. He's a heck of player for good reason."

      While coaches would give no indication about Long's status, at least Cutler indicated Long wasn't playing the third preseason game with Kansas City.

      "We'll miss him this week, and hopefully we'll get him back soon," Cutler said.

      The line took on an unusual look without Long, and also when right tackle Bobby Massie missed the final two practices before Saturday's game due to illness.

      Garry Williams was the starting right tackle. Ted Larsen went from center to right guard. And Cornelius Edison was the starting center. It's possible the Bears play with that lineup against the Chiefs.

      Edison was a practice squad player last year.

      "I'm comfortable with whoever's available," Fox said. "Nobody comes and rescues you in this business, so we're comfortable putting him (Edison) out there.

      "He's been at practice, been part of our team. We'll see how he performs."

      --The play of rookie left guard Cody Whitehair continued to draw high praise. He made large strides from the first preseason game to the second.

      "He's a smart kid," Cutler said. "He's quiet, he kind of fits in with that group and he's doing exactly what we ask him to do.

      "He's really talented. You can see some stuff he does, the way he passes things off, it comes natural to him."

      Nose tackle Eddie Goldman finds the rookie more than a challenge in practice.

      "He's a good run blocker, pass blocker too," Goldman said. "In the run he comes off low. In the pass he has good balance and good feet.

      "He's probably stronger than me. He just has a good grip. When he gets a hold of you he's not going to let you go."

      --Edison is the third center Cutler has taken snaps from this preseason. He went through three centers in the 2015 regular season.

      Cutler has to provide some direction for Edison, who was undrafted largely due to a torn ACL suffered just prior to selection day.

      "It's just being really vocal and really helping him along," Cutler said. "And once he starts seeing it how I see it, how the coaches see it, it comes pretty fast."

      --In the shutout loss to Denver in the preseason opener, the Bears offense looked nonexistent. It changed drastically against New England, and the first team departed the game with a lead.

      Cutler attributed the turnaround to coordinator Dowell Loggains' steady approach.

      "I think the major point for us was let's not panic, let's not hit the fire alarm and put guys in a panic," Cutler said. "Because it was the first preseason game and we watched the film and a lot of the stuff that went wrong was because of mistakes, So it was a matter of just kind of cleaning that stuff up and just going back to work. Which I thought we did a really good job of offensively. Hopefully we can do that this week, too."

      --One of the more interesting roster battles appears to be two players who came in together when Marc Trestman was coach and Phil Emery the GM -- Will Sutton versus Ego Ferguson.

      Neither defensive lineman was considered an ideal fit for the 3-4 scheme that utilizes a two-gap approach up front in the base. Both are considered more gap-shooters, especially Sutton. Ferguson, at least, has size on his side.

      However, Sutton has probably made more plays in camp and preseason. Because the Bears selected Jonanthan Bullard in the third round, it's possible either Ferguson or Sutton will be launched.

      "That'll be based on their performance, like anybody in a battle for one of those 53 spots," Fox said. "Again, we're still in that (roster) process; we're only halfway through."

      --The battle between fullbacks Paul Lasike and Darrel Young is one that the Bears wouldn't have even thought about last year. The approach when Adam Gase was offensive coordinator was to line up a tight end in the backfield if a fullback was needed, or the Bears often went to an unbalanced line with an extra tackle to help in obvious running situations.

      Now the thinking seems to have changed under Loggains with Lasike and Young battling for a spot as blocking back.

      "I think it kind of helps if you have a fullback," Fox said. "Otherwise it's hard to use one. We've added two fullbacks to the roster and they'll be part of that evaluation.

      "You know there's a lot of different personnel groups and you try to have your best one out there. A year ago it was kind of a different situation than this year as far as the talent of your football team and how it's situated."

      NOTES: Running back Jeremy Langford (foot) returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis and said Thursday he plans to play in Saturday's game. He missed four practices due to the left foot, which was injured in the Aug. 19 loss at New England. ... Defensive end Jonathan Bullard missed practices Monday through Wednesday for personal reasons, then returned Thursday. "Without going into too much detail, I think sometimes things outside of football kind of hold precedent over football," coach John Fox said about his rookie's absence. ... Right tackle Bobby Massie (illness) missed Wednesday and Thursday's practices due to illness. A flu bug has gone through the team and affected several players, including cornerback Deiondre' Hall, fullback Darrel Young and cornerback Tracy Porter. ... Wide receiver Eddie Royal (concussion) continued to practice wearing a red jersey, signifying he isn't to have contact. However, he has been running routes in scrimmages. On Wednesday, Royal was running Kansas City plays with the look team against the first-team defense. Marc Mariani and Daniel Braverman took the first-team snaps at slot receiver without Royal on first team. ... Tight end Zach Miller (concussion) continued to play with the first team, but like Royal, wore a red jersey to signify he isn't to have contact.

  • Colts keeping wraps on offense during preseason
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts could be without eight starters for Saturday night's preseason game (7 p.m. ET) with the Philadelphia Eagles due to injuries. That includes six on defense.

    • Indianapolis offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski understands the reaction from fans who want to see more of a regular-season tempo displayed and a wider choice of plays called during the preseason.

      "Preseason is always a mixed bag when you're working with three different groups. Between the first group, the second group and the third group, there may be things that you're happy with and there will be things that you're not happy with," Chudzinski explained.

      There weren't many long passes downfield when quarterback Andrew Luck was in the game for the first two offensive series against Buffalo last week. But those type of plays will come in due time, according to Chudzinski.

      "We wanted to get the ball out quick, out of his hand. Those are things that we've been working on quite a bit," he said. "We wanted him to open up, be decisive and get to his next progressions. And we really saw some good signs of that. That was good to see."

      Looking ahead to this week's preseason game with Philadelphia, Chudzinski thinks that the Colts will open up their offensive playbook a bit more.

      "Typically you don't do everything that you're going to do [once the regular season begins]. We don't game plan a lot [in the preseason]. As it goes, maybe this week a little more than other weeks," he said. "You still want to be executing and doing some of the base things. Really, as much as anything, you want to put guys in position to find out what they can do."

      --Outside linebacker Robert Mathis has yet to play in a preseason game and will not play in the Colts' final two preseason matchups. Mathis is not hurt, according to head coach Chuck Pagano.

      "How old is he? He's 35. A lot of wear and tear on a 35-year-old body that plays like that, so you have to be smart," Pagano said. "It would be just foolish on my part to do something egregious when a guy doesn't have to."

      --With a rash of injuries that has hit the roster hard, the Colts coach admits that paring down the roster won't be an easy call over the next two weeks.

      "You would like to have 53 guys that are all available. We know right now, for instance, the defensive line we know that there are two players there, one (defensive tackle Art Jones) doesn't count because he is going to miss four games because of a suspension so you can carry an extra guy," Pagano said.

      --Recently signed cornerback Antonio Cromartie will not play in Saturday night's game with Philadelphia. Pagano said that Cromartie has been cramming to quickly learn the Colts' defensive playbook and is in good enough shape to play. But he is expected to sit out the Eagles game and next week's preseason finale at Cincinnati. Cromartie is expected to start against Detroit on Sept. 11.

      NOTES: Cornerback D'Joun Smith will sit out the Philadelphia game as he continues to nurse an ankle injury. Smith has been on a pitch count during practice. He has seen limited practice time since the start of training camp. It had been hoped that he would make a push for a starting job but that hasn't materialized. ... Rookie G/T Joe Haeg will be sidelined indefinitely with a sprained right ankle. Haeg, who was hurt against Baltimore last week, had been playing well. He had worked himself into position as the Colts' top utility offensive lineman and was being considered for the starting job at right guard. ... Offensive tackle Joe Reitz isn't expected play against the Eagles on Saturday night due to a back issue. He has missed the last two days of practice. Reitz is still expected to start in the season opener with Detroit on Sept. 11 but probably will see limited work at Cincinnati next week if cleared to play. ... Cornerback Jalil Brown continues to battle a foot injury. Brown has been limited in practice and will not play against Philadelphia on Saturday night. He needs to be able to return for next week's preseason finale at Cincinnati with roster cuts coming up soon.

  • Patriots acquire former first-round LB Mingo from Browns
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    The New England Patriots acquired linebacker Barkevious Mingo from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a late-round pick in the 2017 draft.

    • Mingo was the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft but only had seven sacks over his first three seasons.

      Cleveland, which traded the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft to the Eagles to stockpile selections in the 2017 draft, receives New England's fifth-round pick next year.

      The Browns declined to pick up Mingo's fifth-year option during the offseason, which assured Mingo would become a free agent following this season.

      New England is looking to shore up its pass rush and decided it was willing to take a flyer on the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Mingo.

      Mingo had just 18 tackles and didn't record a sack while playing in all 16 games last season.

      Mingo played college football at LSU and departed for the NFL after his junior season.

  • Stork a no-show, Redskins wait for new center
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins still aren't sure when or if center Bryan Stork, acquired in a trade with the New England Patriots on Wednesday, will report for his physical, the mandatory next step to make the transaction official.

    • After a walkthrough practice held for military personnel at Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said there was no timeline for Stork to report and that he was "still talking to his agent."

      Stork had started 21 games and played in 26 over the previous two seasons with the Patriots, but has sustained four documented concussions dating to his college career at Florida State and was not expected to win back his starting job. New England planned to release him Wednesday before the trade with Washington occurred.

      Injuries played a part in Stork's departure from New England.

      He started training camp idle because of a concussion, his fourth documented head injury in four years, dating to his college career at FSU.

      Temperament might have played a role, too.

      Stork was tossed out of a joint practice with the Chicago Bears last week, got the boot from coach Bill Belichick during a minicamp practice in June and drew a costly penalty for a head butt in the AFC Championship game against the Broncos.

      Feistiness is not a prerequisite in Washington but general manager Scot McLoughan has said he prefers a certain edge to his offensive linemen.

      While waiting for Stork, the Redskins are weighing what to do with their starters this week.

      Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was all set to play last week. He went through warm ups. He had his shoulder pads on just 45 minutes before the second preseason game against the New York Jets. Yet when backup Colt McCoy was heading down the tunnel to the field for final warm up, he learned that he would be playing instead. He wasn't the only one.

      Washington scratched a number of key players including tight end Jordan Reed, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and both wide receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. Linebacker Will Compton had to remove his eye black after getting late word. That shouldn't be an issue this week against the Bills when all healthy starters are expected to play close to a half.

      "We'll see how it goes. A lot of it is going to depend on how we are doing in the first half," Gruden said. "But I'd like to at least to get a good half. Sometimes offense is out there a long time, defense isn't, or vice versa. We may need to come out for the third quarter. We'll see how the play count is and we'll go from there."

  • Bills OT Henderson thriving after battle with Crohn's disease
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- One of the feel-good stories of a training camp that sure didn't produce many, was the return of offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson to practice. Henderson had not practiced in full with the Bills since last November after being diagnosed with Crohn's disease. He underwent a couple offseason surgeries, had to change his diet and go on medication, and there was a point when it appeared his football career could be over.

    • It's uncertain whether Henderson can still make the team, especially with the way Cyrus Kouandjio has performed in the training camp, but for now, Henderson is back on the field and competing, and that was good to see.

      "It felt awesome; I've been out for about eight months so it felt great to be out there with my teammates and get back in the groove," Henderson said following his first practice on Monday. "It felt like playing my first game in the league, I was a little nervous because I've been out so long, but other than that it felt great to be back out here."

      Coach Rex Ryan had Henderson working with the second unit, but with Cordy Glenn still sidelined and Kouandjio taking most of his reps at left tackle, Henderson was worked into the rotation with the first unit. "I'm really happy that he's been cleared to participate, that's a great thing," Ryan said. "Anytime it's a medical deal, you're just pulling for the individual, you know how much he wants to play ... you see how much a guy wants it. He had major adversity and there's only one way to do it and he has to be the guy that does it."

      Henderson knows he's way behind everyone else. He has been working with trainers right along in camp to maintain his conditioning, but he's still trying to gain back all of the weight that he lost and he said he's about 5-to-10 pounds away.

      "As of right now, I've been out for a while so it's all about competing," Henderson said. "Whatever the outcome is, of course I would love to start. Jordan has it right now and he's my teammate and I wish the best for him and he wishes the best for me. Early on I had some of those doubts (that my career was in jeopardy), I didn't know what the future had set for me, I just kept doing everything the doctor said, eating right and moving forward to get back on the field," he said. "Not a lot's different, just the diet, certain things I have to stay away from. Stay away from the stuff know I have to stay away from and I think I'll be fine."

      --The Bills are confident that they won't miss the recently released Karlos Williams. With the addition of Reggie Bush, and the emergence of Mike Gillislee, the Bills are comfortable with their depth behind starting running back LeSean McCoy.

      "We feel pretty good about it," said Ryan. "Obviously, with Shady, you've got a Pro Bowl running back heading the list, so that's pretty good. I think Reggie Bush is somebody that we know that we want to keep fresh, but he's still got a lot of juice left. And then Gillislee, I think is probably the No. 2 back right now. And then the young kid (Jonathan) Williams and then it was good to see James Wilder have a bounce-back game."

      Jonathan Williams was the Bills' fifth-round draft pick this year, so he'll make the team, but if the Bills only keep four running backs, Wilder would probably be the odd man out, and he doesn't have any more practice squad eligibility remaining.

      Gillislee, who is in concussion protocol this week and may not play in the Bills' third preseason game against Washington, is the favorite to be the backup primarily because Ryan has said he doesn't want to over-work the 31-year-old Bush. Bush was brought in to help in the return game and most likely get playing time as the third-down back because he can be a productive receiver out of the backfield.

      "We're going to be smart with him," Ryan said of Bush. "I mean we don't want to just run his legs off as the No. 2 back. But make no mistake, he's going to play for us and contribute not just as a returner but on offense as well."

      -- The Bills closed out the St. John Fisher College portion of their training camp on Wednesday, and it did not end on a very good note as three more players went down with injuries.

      Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who has a litany of ailments that have sabotaged his first three NFL seasons, banged his head on the ground after catching a pass late in the workout and was taken off the field immediately and entered into the NFL's concussion protocol. He probably won't play against the Washington Redskins on Friday.

      Starting right tackle Jordan Mills suffered a knee injury, the extent of which coach Rex Ryan was uncertain, and he could not finish practice. And cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, already battling an ankle injury, suffered a quad contusion and also watched the rest of the session from the sidelines.

      Also, rookie quarterback Cardale Jones was held out for the second straight day as he's battling a shoulder injury that he incurred in the preseason victory over the Giants on Saturday. "It wasn't obviously a perfect training camp, but I think we accomplished a lot of things in this camp," Ryan said in his closing remarks. "We don't want to major in putting hurdles out there, but we seem to do a pretty good job of it right now."

      Still, Ryan said he likes the way his team has fought through the adversity and stayed on task in preparation for the season, and he believes the Bills will be ready to roll come Sept. 11 in Baltimore.

      "I think we've handled it extremely well," said Ryan. "I mean guys are focused and we're playing well, that's the thing. We're practicing well against each other, we're playing well, so that's a big thing."

      NOTES: Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) is expected to make his preseason debut Friday against the Redskins, though Rex Ryan won't play him very much. ... Quarterback Cardale Jones has battled a bruised shoulder and he may not be able to play. With only two other quarterbacks on the roster, that means Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel will have to split the game. ... Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman has been battling an ankle injury, and then he suffered a quad contusion Tuesday and is status for the game is unknown. ... Strong safety Duke Williams has made a strong push in camp and not only has likely made the team, he may be the starter if Aaron Williams remains sidelined because of a concussion. ... Running back James Wilder Jr. should see extended playing time in Washington as he's right on the bubble of making the roster.

  • Texans C Martin likely out for season
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    Nick Martin went from the starting center of the Houston Texans to staring at a rookie season on injured reserve due to an ankle injury.

    • Martin, the 50th pick in the 2016 draft, was slated to start for the Texans this season. But a severe ankle injury suffered in a joint practice with the New Orleans Saints last week is likely to cost Martin the entire season.

      Martin is expected to undergo surgery and be placed on season-ending IR.

      A replacement for Martin could be on the roster, but if the Texans try veteran Tony Bergstrom and second-year center Greg Mancz this week and find they need to add competition, Houston will mine final roster cuts before the season begins on Sept. 11 against the Chicago Bears.

  • Strike threat real, players fed up with Goodell
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    At least one team's player rep went on record this week warning NFL players to begin preparing for a strike — even though the league's current Collective Bargaining Agreement does not expire for nearly five years.

    • Can there be a clearer vote of no confidence in the leadership of commissioner Roger Goodell?

      Goodell has spent the last few years lurching from one crisis to another, from Ray Rice to Adrian Peterson, from steroids to supplements, from under-inflated footballs to over-inflated egos, and still, too often, we do not know what the penalty is for a particular act, or even if there is one, until after the fact.

      There have been ample signs that the leadership of the NFL Players Association is at odds, to put it mildly, with Goodell over his handling of player discipline. The suggestion has been made, repeatedly, that he ought to recuse himself from that particular task and turn it over to a neutral party who is not beholden to the owners who sign his check.

      The suggestion has been consistently ignored, and the latest result is the warning from Steelers guard Ramon Foster, the team's player rep. Foster went public after two teammates were suspended because of substance abuse issues, but what he said was that "there are bigger issues than pot."

      Recalling the lockout after the 2010 season that led to the current CBA, which players believe is slanted in favor of the owners, Foster said the players have to "hit (the owners) in the pocket" in the next negotiations.

      "Money always talks," he said. "For us to do that, we have to save on our end. We can't be just blowing money and not realize what's coming, especially with guys coming into the league now."

      Of course, the problem with telling players in 2016 to prepare for a lockout or strike in 2021 is that most of the 2016 players will be out of the league by then, given that the average career length is less than four years.

      Nonetheless, Foster predicted a labor dispute was brewing, adding, "They've hired certain people on their legal team, the NFL has, and we have to be the type of players and union that's not borrowing money from banks and stuff like that to survive a lockout, a strike.

      "That can't happen this time around. We have to be smarter this time around because there are a lot of things we're going to be fighting for, and a lot of things they are going to want and we're going to want, too."

      The question, however, as always, is whether the players can remain unified over a demand to force the commissioner to relinquish some of his power when history tells us his power affects only a very small percentage of the players in the league. In the past, the players have given up on that demand in return for some other accommodation, and we're a long way away from finding out if the issue of player discipline has grown in importance enough for the players to unify over it.

      Perhaps what is most remarkable about all of this, however, is how with the money continuing to pour through the NFL at record levels, with salaries and television revenue rising, with the game's popularity continuing to reach record levels, there remains this undercurrent of distrust and dislike between the people who play the game and the people who run the game.

      You could never hope to hold out Goodell's predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, as the ideal commissioner — not with the drip of revelations about concussions, among other things — but Tagliabue never engendered the distrust among the workers that Goodell does.

      One prime reason for that is because Tagliabue forged a close alliance with the late Hall of Fame guard Gene Upshaw, the head of the players union, and the two men had each other's trust, and the backing of their constituents.

      Goodell has not formed any kind of a partnership with DeMaurice Smith, who succeeded Upshaw as the players union head.

      Now, and this is just amateur psychology talking here, maybe there's an explanation for this dichotomy.

      Tagliabue never really sought the NFL commissionership. He just happened to be available when a group of newer owners got into a snit because a group of older owners tried to force Jim Finks, a long-time team executive, down their throats as the successor to Pete Rozelle. He already had a high-profile spot as the league's lead attorney, and probably would have been content remaining in that role. In other words, he had no ego tied up in the job and so he was more interested in building bridges to the players than flexing his muscle.

      On the other hand, Goodell is an NFL lifer, and the commissioner's gig represents the apex of his dreams.

      He has said more than once his key goal is to protect the NFL's shield, the league logo, and it's clear he regards that shield as the province of the owners, with the players simply transient employees.

      His actions have made it clear, repeatedly, that the power of the office is important to him, and thus he has set an early red line for the next negotiation with the players.

      --Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than six decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

  • Lions release RB Ridley
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    Veteran running back Stevan Ridley was released by the Detroit Lions.

    • Ridley was one of six running backs on the depth chart and signed a one-year deal with $250,000 guaranteed after spending last season with the New York Jets.

      The move could signal the return of starter Ameer Abdullah. After surgery on his shoulder in January, Abdullah has been limited in workouts and began practicing with a non-contact jersey.

      Theo Riddick nailed down the third-down back role last season and the Lions are pleased with rookie seventh-round pick Dwayne Washington. Washington helped his cause with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Steelers.

      Ridley could draw interest from the New England Patriots, his first NFL team, because of injury woes in their backfield. Dion Lewis underwent knee surgery and the Patriots parted with Donald Brown because of durability issues.

  • Bosa reps fire back at Chargers
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    The San Diego Chargers pulled their "best offer" to unsigned first-round defensive end Joey Bosa after the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 draft rejected the team's offer on Wednesday.

    • Bosa's reps fired back, calling the public statement revisionist history.

      The Chargers reportedly agreed to pay 85 percent of Bosa's $18 million signing bonus, but did not budge on the offset language common in rookie deals. Bosa's representative said the team's position was unfortunate, and added that the Chargers were silent for 14 days after the team submitted a contract proposal on July 28, the day before camp began.

      "We gave Joey's representatives our best offer last night, which was rejected today," the team said in a statement Wednesday. "The offer that we extended was for Joey to contribute during all 16 games and beyond. Joey's ability to contribute for an entire rookie season has now been jeopardized by the valuable time he has missed with his coaches and his teammates. Since Joey will not report at this time, his ability to produce not just early in the season, but throughout the entire season, has been negatively impacted.

      "As a result, we will restructure our offer since Joey will be unable to contribute for the full 16-game season without the adequate time on the practice field, in the classroom, and in preseason games."

      The Chargers said they presented Bosa with an offer that included:

      -- An initial signing bonus payment that is larger than any rookie has received in the last two NFL drafts.

      -- More money in 2016 than every rookie in this year's class except one (Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz).

      -- The largest payment and the highest percentage of signing bonus received in the first calendar of any Chargers' first-round pick since the inception of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (2011).

      Bosa is the only unsigned first-round pick from the 2016 draft.

      At this point, all we can do is continue to fight for a fair contract on behalf of our client, as we do for all of our clients.

      "The Chargers can focus on trying to sway public opinion, but our focus will remain on our client and securing a contract for him that is fair and consistent with his draft position," Bosa's agents said Wednesday.

      The main issue reportedly is regarding how guarantees will be distributed. Bosa was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year with 13.5 sacks in 2015 (26 in his career).

  • Seahawks RB Prosise set for preseason debut
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    RENTON, Wash. -- Running back C.J. Prosise will make his preseason debut for the Seahawks on Thursday night against the Dallas Cowboys.

    • "We're ready to go with him. It will be limited but we'll get him in there," Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. "We're looking forward to just getting him started and getting some snaps. He'll play throughout, kind of just sprinkled in plays, just to see what he can do. This is the first step. It's a big deal."

      Seattle selected Prosise in the third round of May's draft with the intention of having him factor in extensively as a third-down back this season. His background as a receiver at Notre Dame intrigued the Seahawks and sparked curiosity about the different ways they could use him on offense.

      But so far during training camp and most of the offseason, Prosise has been sidelined with injuries.

      A hip flexor issue kept him out for the majority of OTAs and mini-camps back in May and June. He then suffered a hamstring injury on the opening day of training camp and has missed a significant numbers of practices since.

      "He's looked really good in practice and everything we've ever seen of him looks good, we just haven't seen very much," Carroll said." He just needs to get going, get started, get back to hitting and getting tackled, taking care of the football and all that kind of stuff.

      "He's a very smooth gifted athlete and he's fast too. You can see that, and he's got really good hands. He's got a style that you can see, I think you guys will recognize pretty early he gets a little bit of room, a little bit of space. He looks like he can help us. He's done a very good job learning his stuff, as far as we can tell up to this point. He's got a lot of stuff in protections, pickups and stuff like that, that we're anxious to see him demonstrate but he's looked very good in practice with that stuff."

      Prosise pencils in as the third running back on Seattle's depth chart behind Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael. Fellow draft picks Alex Collins and Zac Brooks, and undrafted free agent Troymaine Pope slot in from there. With Marshawn Lynch retiring after last season, Seattle feels comfortable in their depth and options in the backfield.

      "We have good depth," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "You saw all the way to Troymaine Pope going in there and he had a really big game for us, so there's a lot of guys to choose from, a lot of guys are getting reps, and what you want to have happen is to have tough decisions to make at the very end."

      --Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham returned to team workouts for the first time on Wednesday since coming off the physically unable to perform list two weeks ago.

      Graham was eased into full team work during Seattle's final walkthrough practice of the week prior to Thursday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys. He's been limited to individual drills and rehab work since being activated on Aug. 10.

      "He was involved today in this tempo, which is a good tempo to start the transition. He will be picking up steam here in the next couple weeks."

      Carroll opened the door to the possibility that Graham wouldn't be ready for the start of the regular season last week. While he still is uncertain when Graham will be able to play, Carroll said all signs are positive in Graham's recovery.

      "He had a great week this week," Carroll said in an interview on KJR-AM on Tuesday. "He had his best day yesterday, really a big workload and he handled everything and feels really good coming out of that. So we'll see. There has never been that deadline in my mind. We just want to get him back when he's ready. But he looks really good, everything is positive and he's really fired up and that's what he wants to do. We'll see if we can get that done."

      Patellar tendon injuries have proven to be difficult for athletes to return from and resume their previous form. Victor Cruz of the New York Giants has not played since suffering the same injury in 2014. However, Carroll believes the player he's seeing going through rehab work on a daily basis looks every bit the player Graham was when they traded for him a season ago.

      "He looks exactly the same," he said. "I don't think he's going to be any different at all when he comes back. He's worked too hard. We'll have to see how the rigors of the games, how that weighs on him but I don't see that. He looks really, really good. It's just been a marvelous effort by Jimmy to get back and the trainers to work with him. We just need to do it in the right timing. There's not a rush. This is a very long season and if it takes a couple extra weeks that's fine."

      NOTES: RB Thomas Rawls will be ready for the regular season opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 11, according to head coach Pete Carroll. ... TE Jimmy Graham was eased into team drills for the first time on Wednesday during the team's final walkthrough practice prior to Thursday's game with Dallas. Graham was activated off the PUP list two weeks ago but has been limited to individual drills and rehab work until now. The workload will be increased over the next couple weeks. ... RT J'Marcus Webb will make his preseason debut after missing the first two games with a knee injury. Carroll said Webb will primarily remain at right tackle, though he could get a few snaps at left tackle as well. ... SS Kam Chancellor will make his preseason debut after missing the first two games with a groin injury. ... DT Jordan Hill will make his preseason debut after missing the first two games with a groin injury. ... RG Germain Ifedi will play after being given a day off on Tuesday to rest a minor oblique strain. .. WR Kasen Williams will not play as he continues to deal with a lingering hamstring injury. ... TE Nick Vannett won't play as he didn't practice all week after suffering a high-ankle sprain last Thursday against the Minnesota Vikings. ... DT Jarran Reed won't play after aggravating an ankle injury and injuring his toe in last Thursday's game against the Vikings.

  • Bucs rookie Hargreaves gaining confidence
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    TAMPA, Fla. -- Rookie Vernon Hargreaves made a splash with two interceptions in Saturday's Tampa Bay Buccaneers preseason win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and then Tuesday's joint practice with the Cleveland Browns saw the first-rounder pick off Robert Griffin III twice in 7-on-7 work.

    • Hargreaves has started working with the first-team defense, both at outside cornerback and inside at nickel, and linebacker Lavonte David said his recent surge went hand-in-hand with the former Wharton and Gators star simply building some self-confidence.

      "His confidence skyrocketed since Day 1. Skyrocketed," David said. "All you need, for a rookie, all you need to do is just make some plays, make plays here and there and your confidence boosts and your game takes over. That's what's been going on. You can tell he's carrying himself different now, has a little swagger to him. He's making plays and that's the reason we got him. He's doing what he's supposed to do."

      --As Bucs rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo has struggled in his first two preseason games with three missed kicks, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said Tuesday that he's made a concerted effort to encourage the second-round pick to remain confident and push through his current problems.

      "One thing I've done with him is go to him and encourage him. He's a rookie," McCoy said. "He was drafted high as a kicker, so a lot of expectations come with that with being the guy. Who better than me to go talk to him about being drafted high and being expected to be the guy right away? Especially with me struggling the way I did early on with injuries and not living up to expectations, who better to go talk to him? I just go encourage him and say 'Hey, listen, stay the course. It'll come along.'"

      --Bucs coach Dirk Koetter wants his team to get off to a faster start Friday against the Browns than they did in the first two preseason games.

      "More than anything I want to come out of it healthy," Koetter said. "We can say all we want about these preseason games, but just in the last couple days we get some guys nicked up and the bottom line is it's 18 days until Atlanta. And we've got to worry about having the best 46 guys we can out there on September 11. So that's the number one thing. And then after that you just want as crisp of execution as you can get. But again, we're going to be mixing (and) matching lineups based on trying to protect guys' health."

      NOTES: G Ali Marpet had a walking boot on his right sprained ankle and did not practice Wednesday. His preseason is most likely over but they hope to have him available for the season opener at Atlanta Sept. 11. ... PK Roberto Aguayo, who went 3-of-6 in field goal tries in practice Tuesday and was booed, did not have to attempt any kicks against the Browns on Wednesday. ... C Evan Smith moved to right guard to replace injured G Ali Marpet in the starting lineup Thursday. ... QB Jameis Winston was intercepted by Browns CB Joe Hayden for the second straight day.

  • Saints' Byrd enjoying healthy camp
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 25, 2016

    METAIRIE, La. -- After two years of watching free safety Jairus Byrd struggle with back and knee injuries, the New Orleans Saints are starting to see what they expected to see out of their big-ticket free-agent pickup in 2014.

    • Byrd hasn't been able to display the ball-hawking skills he showed while with the Buffalo Bills, which made him a coveted free agent, but he's remained healthy for training camp for the first time with the Saints.

      And he's making those plays again. On Monday, Byrd had an interception, then broke up a pass intended for Brandon Coleman in the end zone during Tuesday'spractice.

      "It's been steady progress with him. ... I know it's been a long, challenging road," coach Sean Payton said Tuesday. "He had a significant knee injury here. He feels healthy.

      "He's an instinctive player, and I think the last couple days he's made some plays and breaks on the ball and things that are encouraging."

      --With a self-imposed deadline of the start of the regular season to get a contract extension done looming in 2 1/2 weeks, Saints quarterback Drew Brees said Wednesday there is no change in talks.

      Brees, who is going into the final year of a five-year, $100 million contract he signed in July 2012, said he won't talk about a new deal with team officials once the regular season begins.

      "I'll just say there is nothing to report right now," Brees said Wednesday. "(It's) focus on football and we will see where it leads prior to the season."

      Prior to the start of training camp, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said he doesn't expect the contract to be a distraction if the two sides don't agree on a new deal.

      "Lots of players play into the last year of their contract," he said. "It happened the last time with us (in 2012). It's not a preference ... but it's nothing unusual."

      --Payton took time to dismiss cornerback Keenan Lewis' claims that he was cut Friday because he wasn't one of new defensive coordinator Dennis Allen's guys.

      Payton noted that it would have been difficult for a problem to develop between the two considering Lewis hasn't been on the field that much throughout the offseason or in training camp.

      Lewis, who played in only six games a year ago because of sports hernia and knee injuries, had hip surgery in January. He started camp on the PUP list, then came off it and practiced one day before being sidelined again.

      Allen let Payton's comments speak for themselves.

      "I think Sean addressed it," Allen said. "Those decisions are made at a certain level within the organization."

  • Payton wants more from Saints' offense
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    METAIRIE, La. -- There's no question about what Saints coach Sean Payton wants to see out of his team in its third exhibition game Friday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

    • Payton didn't need much time to get to the heart of the matter Wednesday following two uneven performances by his offense in losses to the New England Patriots 34-22 and Houston Texans 16-9.

      "I want to see our (No. 1) offense do better," he said. "I want to see us play better in the (offensive line). I want to see us run the ball better. The third down numbers have been solid, but I would say that's important.

      "There are a handful of position battles. It is still selecting that right group for the 53 and I would say there are a number of spots ... there are a handful of spots you're hoping that, in the third preseason game, you can see some guys step up."

      In addition, the Saints ramped things up with their game-planning this week to get players ready for the regular-season opener on Sept. 11 against the Oakland Raiders.

      "From a film study, a handout, a game plan book and a personnel report, (it's) more this week," Payton said. "It's trying to put everyone in that mindset as to how it will be when we get going here and start playing against Oakland."

      --One of the position battles Payton was talking about is at kicker as incumbent Kai Forbath and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Connor Barth compete.

      Payton suggested the battle will play out to the end after both kickers dueled at the end of Wednesday's practice.

      Barth kicked first and was good on 4-of-5 attempts. Forbath followed and also knocked through four or five kicks before drilling a 54-yarder for the win.

      Ironically, Payton groused about Forbath after he missed a 54-yarder in the fourth quarter of a 34-22 loss to the Patriots in the exhibition opener. The Saints trailed by nine points at the time and his miss sealed their fate.

      "We have to continue in the next two weeks, next two games, to try and put them in situations where something jumps out," Payton said in acknowledging that the competition is close. "Both of them are handling it well.

      "Hopefully, we receive more opportunities in this game. Whether it be field goals, PATs ... we're going to be looking at that position at kickoff more rather than have (punter) Thomas (Morstead) do that."

  • Patriots' Garoppolo takes strange environment in stride
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has started each of the Patriots first two preseason games this summer as he prepares to open the season with the first four starts of his professional career filling in for the suspended Tom Brady.

    • Bill Belichick made it clear the day before training camp opened that getting Garoppolo ready for the regular season opener in Arizona was the team's "priority."

      But there is certainly an interesting dynamic at play this summer in Foxborough. The Patriots have been Brady's team for some 15 years. He's been around all summer and will be until his suspension sends him away for four weeks, beginning the week leading up to the opener.

      So in some ways two quarterbacks are leading and taking the reins as the starter in New England, creating a strange working dynamic.

      "It's a tough situation at times, but you can't worry about that too much," Garoppolo said. "It's one of those things where if you start worrying about that, then you can't focus on whatever it is -- your reads, your checks, whatever it may be. You just have to go about your business the same way you always have. I'm not trying to do something crazy and do something I've never done before, I'm trying to be myself and do what I do."

      The backup-turned-fill-in-starter made it clear, though, that Brady has done his best to help out his understudy.

      "We have a ton of conversations, day in and day out. We're together 24/7, but he's been helpful this whole way," Garoppolo said. "Whether it's encouragement, helping me with little things here and there, he's been nothing but helpful and I thank him for that."

      --Belichick made a number of transactions this week, releasing a handful of veterans a week in advance of the mandated cut down to 75 players on Aug. 30. Center Bryan Stork (traded), wide receiver Nate Washington, running back Donald Brown, defensive back E.J. Biggers and defensive tackle Frank Kearse all have multiple years of NFL experience and the early release gives them a chance to potentially snag a job elsewhere. While that clearly wasn't the sole reason for the moves, Belichick acknowledged it's a side benefit to the players.

      "The intent of doing what we've done with the roster is because of where we are, what we feel like is best for our team at this point in time, although I think that some of the moves that we made are also best for some of the players as well, to be honest with you," Belichick said. "Not that that's the main reason that we did it but it's a part of the residual of doing what's right for everybody.

      "Obviously injuries, they're a factor at this time of year for every team so there are some positions where you need depth, some positions where you have depth and you can't play everybody. I think that's definitely the case and in some positions for us we have more players than we can really play against Carolina, so if we're not going to play them and then we're going to have to release them at the 75 cut after the game, then there is an argument to just doing that now which gives the player an opportunity that kind of clears it up for us a little bit. I think there is some of that."

  • Patriots' Brady wants to play Friday
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quarterback Tom Brady confirmed Tuesday both the fact that he was supposed to start last week's second preseason game against the Bears as well as the reports that he didn't end up playing after cutting his thumb in an accident with scissors just before the contest.

    • "I was just ready to go, had everything on. I was just trying to get something out of my shoe and the scissors slipped; just a silly accident," Brady declared, with a small wound in the middle of his thumb visible at the press conference podium. "I wanted to go and coach (Bill Belichick) said it's probably best, for what I was going to go out and do, if we just take it easy. So that's what I ended up doing. I wish I could have played. I've been missing playing and I want to get out there with my teammates. I feel like that's what my job is and responsibility is to go out there and be with my team, so it was tough not to be out there.''

      New England's soon-to-be-suspended quarterback also missed two days of practice this week, excused from the team for personal reasons. "I don't comment on any personal situations," Belichick responded when asked about the absence.

      Brady didn't offer much more insight upon his return to Gillette Stadium.

      "I just had to take care of something, so it's good to be back with the team," Brady said. "I missed everybody, so just getting caught up on everything. It's a big week for us, going to Carolina and just kind of cramming a lot of things in today so I can be ready for practice, but I feel good."

      With his four-game Deflategate suspension on the horizon and Brady having yet to take a game rep this summer -- he missed the first contest to attend to a memorial service for a family member, the quarterback made it clear he hoped to see some action in the third preseason affair in Carolina.

      "I'd like to be out there every time I get a chance to play, so you only get so many opportunities a year," Brady said. "I only have so many opportunities left in my life, so I'd like to take advantage of any opportunity, any and all of them if possible. When you see your teammates out there in their uniforms and ready to go, you want to be out there with them."

  • Eagles WR Matthews: I will be ready for Week 1
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews, sidelined since August 5 with a bone bruise to his left knee, expressed confidence on Wednesday that he will be back in plenty of time for the season-opener against Cleveland on Sept. 11.

    • "I promise I'll be ready for the first game," Matthews said. "I don't like to put percentages on anything, but at the same time, I'm definitely feeling good. I'm doing a lot better. I'm running around, moving, lifting, jumping. I'm back doing pretty much all of that stuff."

      Matthews has missed the first two preseason games and is likely to miss the last two, including Saturday's game against Indianapolis.

      "The coaches want me to be patient because if there ever was a time to be patient, this is it. We're just being smart with it so that when I go back out there, I can be Jordan," he said. "I don't have to go out there and feel my way through. I can go out there and -- boom! -- let's go get it."

      Matthews said he expects to return in time to participate in a "pretty good amount of" practices with quarterback Sam Bradford and the rest of the starters.

      The 24-year-old Matthews hasn't missed a regular-season game in his two NFL seasons. Last season he had 85 receptions for 997 yards and eight touchdowns.

      --Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has all but said that rookie third-round pick Isaac Seumalo will be the team's season-opening starting left guard, but veteran Stefen Wisniewski isn't giving up without a fight.

      Wisniewski, who signed a one-year deal with the Eagles in the offseason after 77 career starts with Jacksonville and Oakland, will start in place of Seumalo Saturday against Indianapolis after the rookie strained a pec muscle in his chest.

      "I definitely think it's an audition to be the starter," Wisniewski said. "I think I've been playing starter-quality football all camp. The job's still open. I'd be lying to you if I told you I wouldn't be disappointed if I'm a backup (when the season opens."

      Pederson said earlier this week that Seumalo "has done nothing not to be the starter." On Wednesday, after revealing Seumalo's injury, he said, "I'm not going to let an injury keep Isaac out of the starting rotation."

      --Linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who signed a one-year deal with the Eagles this week, is the fourth player to sign with the team who previously played for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Tulloch spent six of his 10 NFL seasons with Schwartz -- three in Tennessee (2006-08) and three in Detroit (2011-13).

      "He's a very experienced player," Schwartz said. "He's played at a high level of production. He plays with a lot of spirit. He's heavy in the run game. He has natural leverage, which is a kind way of saying he's short. But he's really powerful. He understands blocking schemes and he has a good understanding of pass games."

      Tulloch will come in as the backup to starting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks.

      --WR Josh Huff, a 2014 third-round pick, is on the bubble. The outstanding play in training camp and the preseason of undrafted rookie Paul Turner, along with the recent addition of Dorial Green-Beckham, could make Huff, who has not played particularly well this summer, expendable.

      NOTES: CB Aaron Grymes will miss Saturday's game against Indianapolis with a shoulder sprain. He hurt it making a diving end zone interception against Pittsburgh. ... G Isaac Seumalo, who is expected to be the team's season-opening starting LG, strained a pectoral muscle in his chest and won't play Saturday against Indianapolis. The Eagles listed him as day to day. ... DT Mike Martin, will miss his third straight preseason game with a knee injury.

  • Eifert aims to return for Bengals' opener
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    CINCINNATI -- Tyler Eifert continues to make progress coming off ankle surgery stemming from an injury he suffered in the Pro Bowl.

    • On Wednesday, Eifert was seen working out on the rehab field, which is a crowded place for the Bengals these days.

      Eifert began running on Monday. He's still hoping to be ready for the Bengals' regular-season opener at the New York Jets.

      --George Iloka said the Bengals are approaching Sunday's preseason game at Jacksonville as if it's the regular-season opener.

      "We're treating this like a real game in terms of our game planning and preparation," the veteran safety said. "We'll see where we are this week. It's like any Sunday. Go out there, force turnovers, stop the run."

      Cincinnati is 1-1 in the preseason after a 30-14 win at Detroit.

      While coach Marvin Lewis said he won't predetermine how long the starters will play Sunday, the Bengals will be without several injured regulars, all of whom remain hopeful to be ready by the opener.

      "Our approach is based on our players and what we need to get done by position," Lewis said. "We know what level of conditioning work that we monitor all the time. We can use those numbers from the game to know where we are. Some guys will get extended a little longer. Others won't."

      --WR Tyler Boyd has been among the standouts in preseason. While much is still yet to be determined over the next two weeks, it appears Boyd is in line for a starting role.

      "Tyler Boyd has been tremendous," Lewis said. "He's made a step forward in that way."

      --WR Brandon LaFell participated in practice on Wednesday. He has been out with a torn ligament in his right hand but is on track to play Sunday at Jacksonville.

      LaFell was signed this past offseason to provide experience alongside veteran A.J. Green with a core of largely young receivers.

      "I never wasn't optimistic," Lewis of LaFell's health.

  • Packers mum on Matthews, Peppers meeting with NFL
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    DE PERE, Wisc. - Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers were scheduled to meet with NFL investigators in Green Bay on Wednesday regarding their alleged involvement with performance-enhancing drugs.

    • Those with the team were mostly tight-lipped about the matter, which has dragged on since the start of training camp a month ago.

      Matthews and Peppers didn't appear in the locker room during a nearly hour-long access period for reporters Wednesday afternoon, when the Packers didn't practice in advance of their preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday night (10 p.m. ET).

      General manager Ted Thompson subsequently held his weekly news conference but refused to say much after he made some initial comments about the investigation last week. At that time, Thompson said the organization has always supported and will continue to support its players.

      Thompson had a short reply when asked Wednesday whether the interviews being granted by Matthews and Peppers with the league help to bring the case closer to resolution.

      "I'm going to stick to my earlier (comments), and I'm out of this," Thompson said. "So, I'm not going to comment on it. I don't mean to belittle your question, it's a valid question, it's just I'm not going to be one of the people adding my voice to this."

      Matthews and Peppers are among four players the NFL planned to interview in the next week regarding their alleged connection to PEDs per a television report by the Al-Jazeera network last December.

      On Aug. 15, the two Green Bay defensive standouts as well as Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison and ex-Packers linebacker Mike Neal were named in a letter sent by NFL executive Adolpho Birch to the NFL Players Association. That letter detailed a plan to indefinitely suspend those players if they didn't speak with league investigators by Aug. 25.

      The threat of suspension came long after Charlie Sly, a former intern at an anti-aging clinic who made the doping allegations against several professional athletes in the TV report, recanted his claims.

      Matthews and Peppers maintained their innocence when they last spoke to reporters the first few days of training camp.

      Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a few other teammates voiced their support for the veteran leaders this week.

      "It'll be nice for those guys to get it behind them and move forward without this hanging over their heads," Rodgers said.

      --Rodgers' extensive work in the team's only two open practices this week was a good sign the 32-year-old star will make his belated preseason debut Friday.

      "I think I'm going to play," Rodgers said Tuesday.

      Though he made the declaration early in training camp that he felt ready to start the season, Rodgers is open to getting some game action before the preseason ends next week. Head coach Mike McCarthy said the goal is to play Rodgers against the 49ers, but the playing-time details weren't going to be known in-house until Wednesday.

      "Whatever Mike wants me to do," said Rodgers, who wouldn't speculate how long he would play back in his native Northern California.

      Keeping Rodgers and the rest of the healthy starters on offense on the field for at least a quarter seems realistic. The Packers aren't expected to have top backup quarterback Brett Hundley, who aggravated an ankle injury as the starter in the win over the Oakland Raiders last week and didn't practice this week.

      After Rodgers, the Packers would turn to undrafted rookies Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams.

      "I'm not sure how long (McCarthy) wants me to play, but it'll be good to get out there and get some work with the guys," Rodgers said.

      Rodgers' expectation is he will be among several starters whom McCarthy will rest for the preseason finale, Sept. 1 at the Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers then will be idle until they open the season Sept. 11 at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

      While feeling the offense doesn't need him on the field in a preseason contest to be sufficiently prepared for Week 1, Rodgers says what little game action he gets before then will benefit his conditioning to be able to play four quarters when the season starts.

      Rodgers also is looking forward to get his teammates moving at a good pace in Green Bay's no-huddle offense.

      "It'll be good to feel the tempo if I play (Friday) -- I'm expected to play," Rodgers said. "So, if I play Friday, it'll be good to feel the tempo out there if we get some stuff in the no-huddle that we're used to."

      Rodgers also will get a feel for newly named starting center JC Tretter and veteran Jared Cook, a newcomer at tight end, in a game setting.

      "It's going to be a good test just to see how he runs the offense, how he calls the plays and for me to keep up," said Cook, who signed with the Packers in the offseason after being cut by the Los Angeles Rams.

      --The timing of Rodgers' first preseason game jibes with the return of top receiver Jordy Nelson to practice in the last week.

      However, a year after Nelson sustained a season-ending torn ACL in a preseason game at the Pittsburgh Steelers, the ninth-year pro isn't expected to play Friday. Nelson strongly hinted he also won't play in the Packers' final preseason game next week.

      Nelson emphasized the goal is to be ready for opening day Sept. 11.

      He said being tackled in a game situation before then isn't important in his comeback from not only the ACL injury in his right knee but also an injury to his left knee that kept him sidelined the first three weeks of training camp.

      After being activated from the physically unable to perform list Aug. 17 and participating in pregame warmups in uniform the next night, Nelson was limited to individual drills in practice this week. McCarthy hopes to get Nelson involved in team segments at practice next week.

      "We're progressing," Nelson said. "Obviously, we're going to see how the body reacts. It's how it is every time you go do something."

      Nelson surprised himself in one regard in his first big practice day since his return on Monday. He ran several pass routes on air and caught passes primarily from Rodgers but also from Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams.

      "I felt better (Monday), honestly, than what I thought I was going to be, wind-wise, conditioning-wise, of running those routes and being full padded and everything," Nelson said. "So, I thought that was a good sign."

      Nether Nelson nor Rodgers is concerned about their timing in the passing game being disrupted even if they don't play a game together before the end of the preseason.

      "We've got a thousand reps together (from the past)," Rodgers said.

      Rodgers referenced a throw he made to Nelson in a one-on-one drill against Pro Bowl cornerback Sam Shields in practice Tuesday.

      "I quipped to (quarterbacks coach) Alex (Van Pelt), 'I could throw that ball with my eyes closed' because I know exactly where he's going to be," Rodgers said. "That's the beauty of us playing together for a long time."

      --Corey Linsley lost his starting job, but the demoted center doesn't believe his season is lost because of a vexing hamstring injury that has kept him off the field since camp opened in late July.

      "I'm not giving up on that. I'm not out for the year," Linsley said Tuesday. "But, it's a matter of when this thing is going to heal, you know? So, it's frustrating from that aspect, but you've just got to deal with it."

      Linsley aggravated a torn hamstring when he was working out on his own shortly before camp started. He originally suffered the injury in the spring, when he was with the team but wasn't participating in on-the-field activities as he completed his recovery from an ankle injury that cost him three games late in the season.

      Though optimistic he won't need surgery, Linsley could be ticketed to the reserve/physically unable to perform list after being the only Packer presently on the active PUP list. Starting the season on PUP would keep Linsley sidelined a minimum six weeks.

      Linsley was accepting of McCarthy's announcement Monday that Tretter, a fourth-year pro, is the starter at center. Two years ago, a knee injury sustained by Tretter late in the preseason opened the door for then-rookie Linsley to start at center, a job the fifth-round draft pick held for two seasons.

      "There's nothing I could do about it," Linsley said. "I'm not out there practicing. They've got to go with who's practicing, and JC's a great player, and I think everybody knows that.

      "I'm not out there competing with the guys, and just like Mike said, availability's important. But, I'm confident in what I can do, and I've shown what I can do, so you've just got to rest back on your confidence and then get healthy."

      --The Packers cut three players this week after reaching injury settlements with each of them.

      They included first-year guard Matt Rotheram (biceps) and a pair of undrafted rookies - offensive tackle Josh James (hamstring) and long snapper Jesse Schmitt (broken hand).

      That leaves Green Bay with 88 players on the roster, two short of the maximum. The first round of camp cuts to 75 players must be done by Tuesday afternoon.

  • Panthers' preseason game against Patriots no dress rehearsal
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- When he actually speaks, Bill Belichick sure can have a way with words.

    • Take what he said Monday when asked about Friday's matchup between the Patriots and Panthers at Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET) and whether the third preseason game truly is a "dress rehearsal" for the regular season.

      "I don't know what that means," he told Boston radio station WEEI. "In terms of playing time it might be a little different, but in terms of game-planning and strategy, what we see in the regular season compared to what we see the in third preseason game I don't even think you're in the same universe.

      "I don't see any comparison at all. It's too far away, I don't see how you could compare them, from that standpoint."

      Care to chime in, Ron Rivera?

      "I love what coach Belichick said," Rivera, the Panthers head coach, said after Wednesday's practice. "It's a complete world apart. The one thing you can't do is emulate the atmosphere, the intensity level, and quite honestly, even though you do game plan, you don't game plan everything."

      This is the third straight year the Panthers and Patriots have met during the third week of the preseason.

      In each of the past two seasons, Rivera has kept his starters in through one series of the third quarter, and that's the plan again for Friday. Who the defense will face at quarterback is less clear.

      Tom Brady, who is set to serve a suspension during the first four games of the regular season, hasn't even been in the stadium for the Patriots' first two exhibitions. He was attending a family member's memorial service for the first and was sent home before the second after cutting his thumb with a pair of scissors.

      But to Rivera, the Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo question doesn't matter much.

      "Whether (Brady) plays or not I think is inconsequential in terms of this game," Rivera said. "This is, to a degree, the dress rehearsal, but for the most part, we're going to go out and do what we do. We've looked at what they've done in the preseason and that's what we're game planning against."

      --There hasn't been much said about contract negotiations between the Panthers and defensive tackle Kawann Short because there hasn't been much negotiating.

      The sizable impasse became clear as soon as Short's side made it known they're looking for a Fletcher Cox-like $17 million-a-year contract. According to a league source, general manager Dave Gettleman began talks unwilling to go much higher than $15 million per season.

      The scenario has been similar to former cornerback Josh Norman's last summer. Short will make a bit over $1 million in the final year of his rookie deal, and the two sides will pick things back up again after the season.

      "Somewhere along the line, they'll figure it out. I believe they will," coach Ron Rivera said. "He's too important a player for us, and KK likes where he is. We'll see where it all unfolds."

      Like they did with Norman, the Panthers could use the franchise tag on Short. Unlike Norman, it's unlikely the whole thing will suddenly blow up leading to Short leaving next spring.

  • Raiders QB Carr pushing the limits in preseason
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    ALAMEDA, Calif. -- A throw-it-up-for-grabs interception tossed by Derek Carr in the second preseason game was familiar for a known risk-taker.

    • Carr, however, insisted the pass intended for second-year wide receiver Amari Cooper wasn't a mistake he would duplicate once the regular season begins. Quarterbacks coach Todd Downing has urged Carr to be bold in August.

      "Sometimes people are going to be mad at me for certain things in the preseason," Carr said. "Coach Downing always tells me, 'It's a great opportunity to see what you can get away with.' I take that to heart and do it."

      The Raiders host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday in their next preseason game, and Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is fine with Carr's approach. In fact, Musgrave can see a big difference with the quarterback in the second year of the offensive system.

      "Not having to learn a new language and having been around the block once before, he's able to take it to the next level, take it to the graduate level from undergrad, and put his own spin on things,'' Musgrave said. "He can solve problems almost before the problems emerge at the line of scrimmage.''

      --Undrafted free agent running back Jaylon Richard was back at practice two weeks after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, and Musgrave was glad to see him.

      Richard was signed to the roster in the offseason after coming to rookie camp on a tryout basis. He is similar to fifth-round draft pick DeAndre Washington in that he is 5-foot-8 and compactly built, but he may be more explosive.

      `"For a while he was doing something spectacular each and every day in practice and so it's good to have him back out there,'' Musgrave said. "It really reminded us of what we missed in practice the last two weeks with him not being there.''

      Richard feels he is quickly getting back in the mix but isn't sure if he'll play Saturday night against Tennessee.

      "I definitely feel good to be out there as far as the intensity standpoint,'' Richard said. "It's a day-by-day thing. You're really doing your best to push it every day trying to be seen. It feels good to be back out there.''

      --The Raiders Week 3 preseason opponent is the same as their Week 3 regular-season opponent, creating a scenario coach Jack Del Rio termed "unorthodox . . . both sides, I'm sure will hold a few things back."

      Linebacker Ben Heeney, however, sees it as an opportunity to go out and be physical. The Raiders were pushed around on their opening drive by Green Bay, and Tennessee comes to Oakland with running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in tow.

      "It's preseason, so they're not going to be showing too much," Heeney said. "But we won't be, either. Just to get out there and get a feel for the type of team they're going to be in Week 3 will be good."

      --Tight end Colton Underwood, a longshot to make the roster, seemed surprised that his video proposal to Olympics gold-medal gymnast Aly Raisman went viral.

      "I was just asking a girl on a date," Underwood said. "It turned into something much bigger."

      Raisman accepted Underwood's offer. The potential romance was pushed along by backup long-snapper Andrew East, who is married to Shawn Johnson, a former Olympic gymnast.

      --Seth Roberts emerged from training camp last season as the Raiders' slot receiver with starters Amari Coooper and Michael Crabtree. He caught 32 passes for 480 yards and five touchdowns.

      Roberts, who leads the Raiders with five catches for 59 yards, including a 33-yard hookup with Connor Cook against Green Bay, looks at the younger receivers and realizes he was in their shoes a year ago.

      "They ask a lot of questions,'' Roberts said. "I feel like that's cool, but what I did, I just sat back and watched. I'm the type of guy I don't say much. I just check my surroundings and watch the veterans.''

      While Roberts' spot on the roster appears secure, Del Rio sounded as if he didn't want him getting too comfortable.

      "He's been OK. I think he's starting to feel pushed a little bit, which is what we'd like to have,'' Del Rio said. "He's been a good player for us.''

  • NFL notebook: Chargers pull 'best offer' to DE Bosa
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    The San Diego Chargers pulled their "best offer" to unsigned first-round defensive end Joey Bosa after the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 draft rejected the team's offer on Wednesday.

    • "We gave Joey's representatives our best offer last night, which was rejected today," the team said in a statement. "The offer that we extended was for Joey to contribute during all 16 games and beyond. Joey's ability to contribute for an entire rookie season has now been jeopardized by the valuable time he has missed with his coaches and his teammates. Since Joey will not report at this time, his ability to produce not just early in the season, but throughout the entire season, has been negatively impacted.

      "As a result, we will restructure our offer since Joey will be unable to contribute for the full 16-game season without the adequate time on the practice field, in the classroom, and in preseason games."

      Bosa is the only unsigned first-round pick from the 2016 draft. The two sides reached a stalemate July 28, the day before the former Ohio State star was due to report to training camp.

      -- Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison will meet with NFL investigators on Thursday over the Al-Jazeera report that linked him to performance-enhancing drugs.

      Harrison has been informed the meeting is 11 a.m. ET Thursday at the Steelers' practice facility, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

      Harrison and Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers were among the four active players implicated in the Al-Jazeera report. Matthews and Peppers were meeting with the league Wednesday.

      Free agent linebacker Mike Neal will meet with NFL investigators on Thursday in Chicago.

      -- After almost a week of silence following the emergence of additional disturbing allegations of domestic violence against Josh Brown, New York Giants co-owner John Mara emerged with a statement of support for his team's veteran kicker.

      Mara said that organization was "comfortable" with re-signing the then-free agent.

      Brown, who received a one-game suspension by the NFL for a May 2015 incident in which he was arrested for allegedly grabbing the wrist of his now ex-wife in a heated dispute at a home the couple shared in Woodinville, Wash.

      Brown told reporters last week that the charges against him were dropped by the King County district attorney five days following his arrest.

      -- The NFL's competition committee reportedly has added two new members, who are selected by commissioner Roger Goodell.

      Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway are joining the competition committee, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

      The competition committee is led by chairman Rich McKay, who is the president of the Atlanta Falcons. McKay had been suspended from the committee as part of the Falcons' penalty for pumping fake noise into the Georgia Dome during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, but he was reinstated a year ago.

      -- The New England Patriots traded former starting center Bryan Stork to the Washington Redskins.

      Stork started 17 games over the past two seasons, but the 2014 fourth-round pick had durability issues and recent problems controlling his emotions.

      New England will receive a conditional draft pick in return, according to multiple reports. Stork was second in the chase for the starting center job to 2015 undrafted free agent David Andrews.

  • Browns' Jackson intent on seeing Gordon on field
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns are not interested in trading away Josh Gordon, despite an ESPN report claiming that several teams have called to inquire about the wide receiver.

    • Gordon was suspended 10 games in 2014 and all of last season by the NFL. He was reinstated prior to training camp and will play in the preseason game against the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday (8 p.m. ET). He missed the first two preseason games with a quadriceps injury.

      "He's talented, obviously," coach Hue Jackson said. "The more I can see him and feel him before he will be away and not able to do that, the more I can understand when he gets back and he can hit the ground running the right way."

      Gordon is suspended for the first four games of the season.

      -- The Browns and Buccaneers practiced together Tuesday and Wednesday in Florida. The heat index was 109 degrees on Tuesday and 104 on Wednesday.

      "I don't know if I learned anything new," Jackson said after the Wednesday practice in shells. "What I was most excited about was how they fought. They fought hard. The elements were hot, it was tough, it was a whole different schedule doing things. I wanted it to be that way. I wanted to get away from the routine."

      The Browns practice in the afternoon when they are at their training facility. The joint practices were in the morning.

      -- Rookie wide receiver Corey Coleman missed the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury. He will play Friday.

      "I feel really good," Coleman said. "We took it slow easing me back in, but now I'm full speed, full go. I still have room to improve, but overall, I think I came here and did my job, got back into great shape out here and just competing with the guys at a high level."

      Coleman was nagged by soft tissue injuries at Baylor.

      -- Defensive back Jamar Taylor is taking reps as the starting right cornerback. He picked off a pass from Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon in practice Tuesday. He could be the nickel back if he does not beat out Tramon Williams for the starting right cornerback job.