Aug 25, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA;  San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) runs during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers rest TE George Kittle (groin), hope he’s ready for opener

The San Francisco 49ers hope that star tight end George Kittle will return to practice Monday after sitting out this week because of a “lingering” groin injury.

“We’re just taking care of him right now,” head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Thursday. “It’s still stuff lingering a little bit from when he has missed some time. … (Hopefully) we can get him going on Monday.”

The 49ers open the season Sept. 10 at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kittle, whose history of injuries includes missing the first two games of the 2022 season because of a groin strain, played 12 snaps in the preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers on Aug. 25. Kittle hasn’t played a full season since 2018.

“There’s always concern when something persists, and this has kind of lingered,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said on KNBR. “George usually has about one of these things a year, and when he gets through it, he’s good. Knock on wood that’s the case.”

Lynch used the team’s term “de-load” to talk about cutting back on activity for individual players. Kittle has missed practice time during training camp in addition to limited action in the preseason games.

“The great thing about George is he attacks it,” Lynch said. “Man, we miss him when he’s not on the field, not only because of his ability, but the energy he brings, so there has been a little void here the last few days, but we’re trying to get him right. He’s another guy with a ‘de-load’ week. We want him right, we want it all-load for Pittsburgh.”

Kittle, 29, had 60 catches for 765 yards with a career-best 11 touchdowns in 15 games (all starts) last season.

An All-Pro in 2019 and a four-time Pro Bowl selection, Kittle has totaled 395 receptions for 5,254 yards with 31 touchdowns in 82 career games (74 starts) with the 49ers.

The 49ers selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Iowa.

–Field Level Media

Jun 14, 2023; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp (10) during minicamp at Cal Lutheran University. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Rams WR Cooper Kupp has ‘setback’ in hamstring recovery

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp appears to be in danger of missing the start of the season after having a “setback” in his recovery from a hamstring injury, head coach Sean McVay said.

Kupp, 30, was injured in a training-camp practice Aug. 2, leaving the field 30 minutes into a workout. He was originally expected to be out 1-2 weeks but he missed all three preseason games, although he did participate in joint practices with the Denver Broncos last week.

“He has a little muscle strain so we’re taking it day by day,” McVay said.

The Rams have revamped their roster since winning the Super Bowl after the 2021 season, with Kupp one of the remaining veterans along with quarterback Matthew Stafford and defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Kupp played nine games last season before a season-ending ankle injury but led the NFL in receptions, yards and touchdowns in 2021.

The Rams are set to open the season Sept. 10 at Seattle, leaving little time for the 2021 All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection to resume on-field work.

Kupp is the No. 1 receiver for the Rams, who traded away Allen Robinson II, with Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell and Ben Skowronek following Kupp on the team’s depth chart.

Kupp has 508 catches for 6,329 yards and 46 touchdowns in 80 games (66 starts) since the Rams drafted him in the third round in 2017.

–Field Level Media

Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht during the NFL combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs GM likens overhaul to finding ‘gems at the dollar store’

Tom Brady’s retirement in February was the just the tipping point for Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht to put a massive roster overhaul in motion.

When the Bucs made their final roster cuts to 53 more than six months later, the team had gone from the oldest in the NFL to the eighth youngest. It was a necessary band-aid to tear off as Brady’s retirement brought a $35 million dead-cap hit and put the franchise nearly $60 million over the cap.

The ensuing months saw the departure of numerous veterans including running back Leonard Fournette and tackle Donovan Smith, and the addition of a slew of rookies — including six undrafted players who made the initial 53-man roster last week. They team with seven rookie draft picks on the roster.

“It was challenging for us, but it was fun. It was exciting,” Licht said Thursday. “Any time you challenge your staff to go find gems at the dollar store, there is kind of an excitement to it. That’s what we get paid to do.

“That’s how we earned our bones early, trying to kick the weeds and find guys, so it was a lot of fun for all of us.”

Licht admitted the focus was not only from getting younger while also paring the salary cap, but on getting faster and more athletic throughout the roster in the process.

“We knew that there would be a lot of opportunity for new faces, but if you would’ve told me back in April that we’d keep six undrafted rookies, I probably would’ve thought you were crazy,” Licht said. “But it worked out. We’re excited about every single one of them. I think a lot of them are going to play big roles for us.

“It’s an exciting time. Whenever you have a young team and are thinking you can compete with that young team, it’s great. It worked out well for us.

“We’re paying the bills right now.”

Whether the Bucs can be competitive in 2023 remains to be seen. After being preseason favorites during each of Brady’s three seasons, Tampa Bay is now the longshot to win the NFC South — including +750 at BetRivers and +1000 at DraftKings.

Head coach Todd Bowles spoke to the overall intelligence he sees in the team’s rookie class, which he believes picked up the Bucs’ system extremely quickly. He believes if players have the talent, they can play and contributing no matter the experience level.

“We have guys on the team that can play ball. Just because their names are not known doesn’t mean they can’t play,” Bowles said. “They’re just unknown at the time, but they’ll be known pretty soon.

“It’s up to us to get them ready and it’s up to them to play, and we feel confident in that.”

The Bucs face a difficult opening stretch that will likely determine realistic expectations. After opening at Minnesota, Tampa Bay will play host to Chicago and defending NFC champion Philadelphia before its first divisional game at New Orleans ahead of a Week 5 bye.

There are still veterans at key positions the Bucs will rely heavily on to get through that opening gauntlet. Among them are wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin along with quarterback Baker Mayfield, who won the job over Kyle Trask to begin the season.

“Baker was obviously better or we wouldn’t have chosen him to be the starter,” Licht said. “I think Baker is in a great head space right now, so I’m excited to see how this turns out.”

Meanwhile, the defense will be led by linebackers Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David and Devin White along with nose tackle Vita Vea and defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr.

“I just know I like the vibe that our team has right now, I like the energy and I like how far we’ve gotten in the offseason as a team,” Licht said. “I can’t make any predictions — I just feel like our team has the DNA to want to compete against anybody.”

–Field Level Media

Aug 18, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Matt Corral (2) scrambles during the second half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Patriots claim QB Matt Corral off waivers

New England claimed quarterback Matt Corral off waivers from the Carolina Panthers, NFL Network and ESPN reported Thursday, giving the Patriots a second quarterback for their 53-man roster.

The Patriots raised eyebrows before Tuesday’s roster cutdown deadline when they let go of both Bailey Zappe — who started two games in 2022 — and rookie Malik Cunningham. Trace McSorley was also released on Monday.

Mac Jones was the only quarterback on the Patriots’ initial 53-man roster after Tuesday’s deadline. Zappe and Cunningham were re-signed on Wednesday to the team’s practice squad.

Coincidentally, the Panthers traded up with the Patriots in 2022 to select Corral in the third round (No. 94 overall). They gave New England a fourth-round pick, which it used to take Zappe, and a 2023 third-rounder.

Corral, 24, had a productive career at Ole Miss but suffered a leg injury during his final game, the Sugar Bowl in January 2022. He then missed his entire rookie season with the Panthers due to a Lisfranc injury sustained in a preseason game against the Patriots.

Corral made the Panthers’ initial 53-man roster this week as a backup to No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Young and veteran Andy Dalton, but Carolina waived him on Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

Aug 21, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) passes the ball during warmups prior to their game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Most intriguing bets in the Super Bowl futures market

One week before the NFL regular season begins, we surveyed the futures market to find our best bets.

The Chiefs and Eagles are betting favorites to meet again in Super Bowl LVIII, with BetMGM offering odds at +1400, which is as good a place as any to start with 2023 predictions.

History would suggest that bettors would be wise to expect a different matchup. There has been one instance (Cowboys vs. Bills – Super Bowl XXVIII) where the same teams faced one another in back-to-back Super Bowls.

Given the long list of talented quarterbacks like Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa in the AFC, the Chiefs face a more difficult road than the Eagles in returning to the Super Bowl.

Here are the most intriguing futures we found ahead of Week 1:

–Eagles to win the NFC (+330 at FanDuel)

When we examine the NFC at the most important position, quarterback, the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts appears to be head and shoulders above the competition.

Philadelphia finished with the highest margin of victory (9.3 points per game) in 2022 despite Hurts missing two weeks due to a shoulder injury.

For a second straight season, the Eagles pulled off another impressive draft haul, landing two defenders in the first round with Georgia’s Jalen Carter (ninth overall) and Nolan Smith (30th overall), who should boost the league-leading pass rush.

The Eagles used their fourth-round pick on another Bulldog in cornerback Kelee Ringo (105th overall). Ringo will join Illinois safety Sydney Brown (66th overall) in the secondary, which already features quality depth at cornerback.

In the second round, Philadelphia selected Alabama offensive tackle Tyler Steen (65th overall), and all five players could see plenty of action early on.

And the team addressed Hurts’ backup spot by signing Marcus Mariota. That depth and the lack of proven, quality quarterbacks in the NFC make Philadelphia the likelier of the two Super Bowl teams to get back to the big game.

–Bengals to win the AFC (+550 at FanDuel)
Bonus: Bengals vs. Eagles Super Bowl exacta (+2000 at BetMGM)

We already know the Bengals believe they’re the biggest challenge to the Chiefs.

The Bengals dodged a bullet with Burrow when their franchise quarterback suffered a non-contact calf injury during training camp. Although things looked grim initially, the Bengals plan to have Burrow ready for Week 1, and he was back at practice this week.

After narrowly losing to the Chiefs by a field goal in the AFC Championship Game, the Bengals retooled their roster, receiving an A for their offseason grade from Pro Football Focus.

Cincinnati bolstered its offensive line, snagging Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. on a four-year deal.

In the 2023 NFL Draft, the Bengals used their first three picks to strengthen their defense with Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy (28th overall), Michigan cornerback DJ Turner (60th overall) and Alabama safety Jordan Battle (95th overall).

If there’s one team that can supplant the Chiefs in the AFC, it’s the Bengals. It’s worth noting that Cincinnati is 3-1 against Kansas City with Burrow under center.

But Cincinnati isn’t the only team with a legitimate shot to take down the champs.

–Ravens to win the AFC (+1100 at Caesars)
Bonus: Ravens vs. Eagles Super Bowl exacta (+4000 at BetMGM)

Healthy and happy, quarterback Lamar Jackson enters the 2023 season with the security of a new long-term contract. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if questions about his durability dissipate for good.

Let’s not forget that Jackson is still only 26 years old. The Ravens are 46-19 (.708) with the former MVP as their starting quarterback.

Baltimore’s defense finished the year seventh overall in Football Outsiders DVOA (defense adjusted value over average) metric. And despite opting not to re-sign veteran players like edge rushers Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul and Steven Means in free agency, the roster appears deep enough to withstand those losses.

Young edge rushers David Ojabo, Odafe Oweh and Tyus Bowser should be ready to take on more responsibility in pressure packages.

The Ravens are also well-positioned to overcome the loss of free agents Marcus Peters and Kyle Fuller at the cornerback position.

Veteran Rock Ya-Sin will join three-time Pro Bowl selection Marlon Humphrey in the secondary.

There are a few new toys to play with at the wide receiver position after the Ravens signed the dynamic Odell Beckham Jr. to a one-year deal. Beckham could form a scintillating partnership alongside Baltimore’s 22nd overall pick, Zay Flowers (Boston College).

Flowers has been a much-discussed player in Baltimore for his potential to make a big impact.

–Field Level Media

Aug 24, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5) reacts against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie QB Anthony Richardson named a Colts captain

Rookie starting quarterback Anthony Richardson was one of seven Indianapolis Colts players voted as captains by their teammates, coach Shane Steichen announced Thursday.

Richardson, the No. 4 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, joins an impressive list of players that includes All-Pros and Pro Bowl selections.

The six players, in addition to Richardson, are:
–Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, a five-time captain with the San Francisco 49ers (2018-19) and Colts (2021-23) and a 2020 first-team All-Pro
–Linebacker Zaire Franklin, in his fourth season as a Colts captain, who set a team record with 166 tackles last season
–Linebacker Shaquille Leonard, voted a captain the past five seasons and a three-time first-team All Pro
–Cornerback Kenny Moore II, named a captain for the second time and was Indianapolis’ 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee
–Center Ryan Kelly, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and first-time captain
–Guard Quenton Nelson, a three-time captain and three-time first-team All-Pro

Richardson, 21, was named the starting quarterback in mid-August. He’ll make his regular-season debut on Sept. 10 when the Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars, an AFC South division foe.

–Field Level Media

Dec 29, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis (13) drops back to pass against the Oklahoma Sooners in the second quarter during  the 2022 Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Take 5: CFB Week 1 Odds, Trends & Predictions

After last week’s soft launch, the college football season begins in earnest with all top 25 teams in action on a Week 1 docket that includes 55 games involving Power 5 programs.

The marquee matchup and lone game between ranked teams features No. 5 LSU taking on No. 8 Florida State at Camping World Stadium on Sunday, but there are interesting trends emerging throughout the schedule.

Our college football experts break down their five favorite props and predictions for Week 1:

Georgia Tech plays host to Louisville on Friday night in an interesting season-opening ACC tilt.

Both teams are debuting new quarterbacks – Texas A&M graduate transfer Haynes King for the Yellow Jackets and former Cal quarterback Jack Plummer for Louisville. King is charged with resurrecting a Tech offense that managed just 17.2 points per game last season, while Plummer takes the reins for new Cardinals coach Jeff Brohm, who makes his coaching debut for his alma mater.

King and Plummer bring experience to their new teams, but it could take a few games to find a comfort zone.

QUICK PICK: The 58.5-point line in a game Louisville is favored by 7.5 points in has seen the Under backed by 77 percent of the bets and 87 percent of the money at BetMGM. We also like the under with the defenses likely to be a step ahead in the opener. –Louisville 27, Georgia Tech 23

The unranked Cavaliers play Saturday for the first time since three players died in a campus shooting last November. Virginia crosses the border to visit No. 12-ranked Tennessee with Monmouth transfer Tony Muskett named the starting quarterback for new coach Tony Elliott.

The Volunteers are 28.5-point favorites as quarterback Joe Milton III takes over full-time for Hendon Hooker. Milton replaced the injured Hooker and completed 19 of 28 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns in an Orange Bowl win to close last season.

QUICK PICK: Milton has yet to throw a pick in 17 appearances for the Vols, who have CFP aspirations. It shapes up as a rough opener for Elliott’s four-touchdown underdogs. –Tennessee 48, Virginia 17

New Stanford coach Troy Taylor won’t announce his quarterback before game day on Friday, but none of his four options — Myles Jackson, Ari Patu, Ashton Daniels and Syracuse transfer Justin Lamson — have attempted more than 16 career passes.

Hawaii is coming off a 35-28 loss at Vanderbilt in a game in which returning quarterback Brayden Schager threw for a career-high 351 yards with three touchdowns.

QUICK PICK: The Warriors’ defense leaves plenty to be desired. They do have a game under their belts as they play their home opener. Hawaii opened as a 10-point underdog, with the line at BetMGM shifting significantly to 3.5 as the public has backed Hawaii with 72 percent of the spread-line money. –Stanford 30, Hawaii 27

Colorado is unranked but Deion Sanders’ crew will draw plenty of eyeballs for its season-opener at future Big 12 opponent TCU. The Horned Frogs are ranked No. 17 as they attempt to build on last season’s CFP title game appearance.

Sanders has overseen a massive roster overhaul for a team that went 1-11 last season, with only 10 of last season’s 84 scholarship players still with the program. Seven of those are on offense, which will be run by Deion’s son, Shedeur, at quarterback after his transfer from Jackson State.

TCU coach Sonny Dykes said he won’t even bother watching film on Colorado given all the turnover. Chandler Morris returns at quarterback after losing the job to Max Duggan following a left knee injury in last season’s opener.

QUICK PICK: There is massive hype around the Buffaloes, but also plenty of question marks given the mass exodus and turnover. Colorado is a 20.5-point underdog at BetRivers, where TCU has drawn 65 percent of the spread-line bets while the Buffaloes have been backed by 54 percent of the money. –TCU 34, Colorado 23

The lone Top 25 matchup will be contested in primetime on Sunday in Orlando, with LSU coach Brian Kelly saying “you might be looking at two teams that mirror each other in a lot of ways.”

That begins at quarterback, with both teams featuring dynamic athletes with Heisman aspirations. Florida State’s Jordan Travis and LSU’s Jayden Daniels attempt to make strong opening statements in the national TV spotlight.

Travis tries to build on last season’s 10-3 campaign that began with a dramatic victory over LSU. The Tigers rebounded from that defeat to finish 10-4 and win the SEC West before losing to eventual national champion Georgia in the conference title game.

QUICK PICK: Both teams boast experience and finished last season with some force. LSU is a 2.5-point favorite, but is also without suspended defensive tackle Maason Smith while also dealing with backfield injuries. We give a small edge to the underdog ‘Noles with a +114 moneyline at BetRivers. –Florida State 30, LSU 26

–Field Level Media

Aug 11, 2023; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA;  Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) looks on against the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

NFL won’t punish Tyreek Hill for marina incident

The NFL said Thursday it will not take action against Dolphins wideout Tyreek Hill over an alleged assault at a Miami marina back in June.

News reports at the time of the incident said Hill allegedly struck a marina employee during a disagreement on June 18. Police investigated but no charges were filed. Attorneys for both sides released a joint statement in July announcing that the situation had been resolved.

Hill told reporters earlier this summer that he was not concerned about a potential punishment or suspension from the league. He said his only focus was on the upcoming season.

“When I’m able to come here and play ball, man, I get a chance to get away from all that at the end of the day,” Hill said. “So that’s the great thing about football. God has blessed me to be able to perform and do what I do, and I’m blessed and grateful for that, and I just can’t make bonehead mistakes like that.”

Hill, 29, is entering his second campaign with the Dolphins after playing his first six years with the Kansas City Chiefs. He posted career highs in receptions (119) and yards (1,710) and scored seven touchdowns in 17 games last season.

A seven-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time All-Pro, Hill has career totals of 598 catches for 8,340 yards and 63 touchdowns in 108 games (90 starts).

–Field Level Media

Jul 28, 2023; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young (99) gestures on day three of Commanders training camp at OrthoVirginia Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders DE Chase Young uncertain for opener

Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young has not yet been medically cleared to return from a stinger that occurred in the preseason opener.

Head coach Ron Rivera confirmed after practice Thursday that Young’s status remains uncertain for the Sept. 10 season opener against the visiting Arizona Cardinals.

“The guy is practicing and doing everything we need him to do right now as he’s getting ready for the opener,” Rivera told reporters. “I have no idea what the doctor’s going to do, but I do know right now that he’s told him he can continue to progress and get himself ready to go. Until then, there’s nothing we can tell you, nothing we can say.”

Young, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, has been practicing without pads but has not participated in any full-contact activities since his Aug. 11 injury at Cleveland.

Rivera said Young’s status will be updated next week after a follow-up examination. It’s a positive sign that the team elected not to place Young on injured reserve, which would have kept him out the first four weeks.

Young, 24, tore his right ACL in November 2021. He missed the final eight games that season and sat out the first 14 games in 2022 while recovering from the injury.

The 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year has posted 75 tackles, 17 quarterback hits, nine sacks and three fumble recoveries in 27 career games (26 starts).

–Field Level Media

A general view during the South Bend Riley-South Bend Washington high school football game on Friday, September 23, 2022, at TCU School Field in South Bend, Indiana.

South Bend Riley Vs South Bend Washington

Son of Packers’ Super Bowl winner dies at 17

Julius Poppinga, a defensive end and lacrosse player at Westlake High School in Thousand Oaks, Calif., died after being hospitalized with breathing issues. The 17-year-old was the son of Brady Poppinga, who won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers.

The school announced his death on Wednesday. The Ventura County Star said he suffered an asthma attack last week that put him in the hospital, followed by a collapsed lung, before his death.

The Los Angeles Times reported he appeared in Westlake’s season opener on Aug. 18 but hadn’t played or practiced since.

Jasmine Poppinga paid tribute to her younger brother on Instagram.

“(T)aking this tragic event and looking at it in a positive way has been hard, but instead of grieving I would rather celebrate his 17 wonderful and beautiful years on this earth and all the impacts he made in my life, my families, his peers, teammates, teachers, coaches, and anyone who has ever met him,” she wrote. “julius’s caring and supportive traits have supported me throughout my whole life. i am beyond proud to be his sister and best friend.”

Brady Poppinga played in 100 NFL games (57 starts) over eight seasons, the first six in Green Bay (2005-10), followed by single-season stints with the then-St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys. The 2010 Packers won the Super Bowl.

–Field Level Media