Steelers’ Roethlisberger (elbow) misses practice again

 

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger skipped practice again Thursday with a right elbow issue.

 

Roethlisberger, 36, sustained the elbow injury late in Pittsburgh’s tie with Cleveland on Sunday. He didn’t practice Wednesday.

 

On Thursday, backup quarterback Joshua Dobbs worked with the first team. Dobbs, a Tennessee product, was taken by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

 

Roethlisberger said Wednesday that the injury wasn’t significant. It also isn’t unusual for him to skip throwing on Wednesdays during the season.

 

Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner declined to discuss specifics about the home opener Sunday against Kansas City and whether Roethlisberger would play.

 

Roethlisberger last sat out a start because of an injury in October 2016. He missed a loss to New England after he underwent a left knee procedure.

 

Dobbs said that if Roethlisberger is a no-go, he’ll be ready.

 

“Practice as if you’re going to play week-in and week-out, so when Sunday comes you’re ready to go when your number’s called, whatever it is,” Dobbs told reporters.

 

“I know if my opportunity comes, if my number’s called, I’ll be ready to go in and play and play to win.”

 

–Field Level Media

Chargers hoping to establish run game early against Rams

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers haven't needed to rely too much on their run game during their first two games, but that might change on Sunday against the unbeaten Rams.

The Chargers (1-1) have called runs on 37.5 percent of their plays the first two weeks, which is the

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers haven’t needed to rely too much on their run game during their first two games, but that might change on Sunday against the unbeaten Rams.

The Chargers (1-1) have called runs on 37.5 percent of their plays the first two weeks, which is the fifth-lowest percentage in the AFC. Despite that, they are averaging 116 yards, which is above the league average of 104 yards.

In other words, Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler aren’t getting a lot of carries, but they are making the most of their plays.

“They’ve been very effective,” offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. “It’s been a tremendous help for us because it opens up other things like play action.”

Gordon has only 24 carries, which is his lowest total for the first two games in his four-year career, but he is tied for the team lead in receptions with 15. Gordon had the second three-touchdown game of his career in last week’s 31-20 win at Buffalo, with two TDs coming on catches. He’s also gained over 100 yards from scrimmage in six of his last eight games dating to last season.

While the quarterback matchup between the Chargers’ Philip Rivers and the Rams’ Jared Goff is attracting plenty of attention, the running back battle between Gordon and Todd Gurley is tantalizing as well. Both were drafted in the first round in 2015, with Gurley having the advantage so far. He led the league in yards from scrimmage last season with 2,093 while Gordon was fifth (1,581).

“We compete. It’s not like we hate each other. We both want to prove we are the best back and it happens that we compete in the same city,” Gordon said.

Ekeler had a career-high 77 yards on 11 carries in last week’s win at Buffalo. Three of his longest carries came on runs off the left side.

Whisenhunt continues to find different ways to use the second-year back. In the opener against Kansas City, Ekeler caught a 13-yard touchdown while last week he was getting most of the carries.

“They are starting to use both of us in different ways and it has been working,” Ekeler said. “It’s going to be important again this week because they have a real solid front five. If we can get the run game going early that can help us in play action.”

The Chargers have a lot of experience facing a Wade Phillips defense. They faced Phillips twice a year when he was with Denver in 2015-16.

The Rams have one of the best interior pass rushes in the league with Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald at the tackles. They also have gone 12 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.

One of the best matchups could be center Mike Pouncey going up against Suh. The two went up against each other often during practices in Miami the past three seasons.

“That’s going to make things a lot easier for me and a lot of other guys,” Gordon said of Pouncey. “You have a bully like that up front that ain’t scared to back down, that gets them other guys going.”

Pouncey, who is in his first season in Los Angeles after seven seasons in Miami, said getting the run game going early is going to be vitally important this week.

“Any time you can run the ball it keeps us on schedule,” he said. “We have been over 100 yards in each game, which is something to build off of.”

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Khalil Mack, Bears defense look to turn sacks into turnovers

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — In just a few weeks, linebacker Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears defense feel they've established an identity.

The identity is no secret: They're coming after the quarterback and the football.

The Bears hope to build momentum Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals after they beat Seattle 24-17 Monday

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — In just a few weeks, linebacker Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears defense feel they’ve established an identity.

The identity is no secret: They’re coming after the quarterback and the football.

The Bears hope to build momentum Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals after they beat Seattle 24-17 Monday night. And a defense leading the NFL in sacks is giving them a shot at climbing over .500 for the first time since September 2014.

“Consistency is what you want, especially from a defense on the road,” Mack said. “It’s going to be very important to go out, pack our defense and do what we’re capable of doing.”

Mack’s impact has gone beyond consistency for the defense. Now they’re all trying to get the football the way he did when he stripped it from quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson while they threw in each of the first two games.

“If you can’t tell, it’s very contagious,” Mack said.

There’s method to the madness Mack has created on the field.

“You definitely consciously work on that,” Mack said. “That’s something you want to preach throughout the whole defense — getting the ball back to the offense. Creating a short field (for the offense) is a great feeling, but it feels even better when you can score it yourself.”

Linebacker Danny Trevathan had two sacks and a forced fumble against Seattle and was the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. The defense has 10 sacks in all, and has scored two touchdowns on interception returns.

“The ball is the most important thing on the field,” Mack said. “You can get the big hits. But the ball is very, very important, especially in a game.”

They think it will only get better.

“Oh yeah, that’s what they pay us the big bucks for,” Trevathan said.

Mack came over in a trade just before the season with Oakland and received the biggest defensive contract in history, with $90 million guaranteed.

New teammates immediately saw big plays from him against Green Bay in the opener, with a fumble forced, recovered, a sack, an interception and a touchdown return.

They all wanted to imitate him.

“I believe for us, just seeing it happen, you’ll want to go out and do it yourself,” linebacker Leonard Floyd said. “It definitely motivates the rest of the team to go out and make those types of plays.”

By watching Mack, Floyd thinks he can pick up techniques for getting around the corner and knocking out the ball.

“It’s definitely a skill you can learn,” Floyd said. “It’s a skill of just wanting to get the ball out. Just when you get the opportunity, you want to force a turnover.”

Another reason the Bears defense sees possible improvement ahead is they’ve operated so far at less than 100 percent capacity.

Floyd still has to wear a club cast on his right hand to protect a fracture, and doesn’t have a sack. He said he hopes this week to reduce the size of the protective cast.

Rookie Roquan Smith has eight tackles, a sack, and just started to make an impact last week after holding out most of training camp. And Mack says he’s still adjusting to a new team, new scheme and playing again after a preseason holdout.

While new teammates are imitating Mack, he’s also gaining a respect for them — Trevathan in particular.

“You can tell he won a championship,” Mack said of the former Bronco. “That’s definitely what he’s bringing to the table, that communication and vibe that you feel from your vocal leader.”

The Bears finished 10th defensively last year, ninth in points allowed, and they expected to be better. Mack’s addition has changed expectations outside of Halas Hall, but coach Matt Nagy insisted it did nothing to his belief in the team.

“It didn’t change any mentality at all,” Nagy said. “I told (reporters) from the day we walked into this building here, there was one goal and that was to win the Super Bowl. That was it. That was with the team that we had, before Khalil.

“Now that he gets here, he helps us get better on that side of the ball and helps us be better as a team as a leader. The goal never changed. Maybe it has to outsiders, but for people in this building it hasn’t changed.”

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NFL notebook: Rodgers (knee) will play

 

 

Aaron Rodgers plans to play with a left knee injury for the third consecutive game on Sunday, and the Green Bay Packers' perennial MVP candidate is worried his condition will get worse before it improves.

 

"Obviously that's a concern," Rodgers said Wednesday. "Hopefully it goes the other way."

 

Rodgers did not

 

 

Aaron Rodgers plans to play with a left knee injury for the third consecutive game on Sunday, and the Green Bay Packers’ perennial MVP candidate is worried his condition will get worse before it improves.

 

“Obviously that’s a concern,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “Hopefully it goes the other way.”

 

Rodgers did not practice last week until a light workout Saturday before playing Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. He was hurt in the first half of the season opener against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. It’s unlikely Rodgers will practice much this week, if at all, but he does plan to be on the field Sunday when the Packers (1-0-1) visit the Redskins (1-1).

 

“Obviously, I’d love to be better than I was last week as far as health-wise, but there’s some factors that are out of my control,” Rodgers said.

 

–Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook did not practice, calling himself day-to-day as he recovers from a hamstring injury sustained last Sunday against the Packers.

 

Cook departed in the fourth quarter of the 29-29 tie, but after the game, he downplayed his removal and attributed it to cramps.

 

After sitting out practice Wednesday, Cook confirmed his hamstring issue to the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press and said, “I’m just taking it day by day. I’ll see how I feel at the end of the week, but it’s going to be day by day.'”

 

–Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was a limited participant in practice due to ankle and thumb ailments, according to the team’s injury report. The Texans (0-2) host the New York Giants (0-2) on Sunday.

 

Hopkins, who also dealt with the issue last week, leads the Texans with 14 catches for 188 yards and one touchdown through two games.

 

Fellow receivers Keke Coutee and Will Fuller V were also limited in practice because of hamstring issues, as was linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (back), who missed Sunday’s loss to Tennessee. Defensive end J.J. Watt (knee) and safety Kareem Jackson (ankle) were listed on Houston’s initial injury report, but both participated in practice.

 

–Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was back at practice on Wednesday, two days after skipping team meetings.

 

Brown was a no-show in Pittsburgh on Monday when the team gathered in the aftermath of a 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Coach Mike Tomlin, who confirmed the absence, said Wednesday that Brown was disciplined. Even so, the wideout is heavily involved in the Steelers’ Week 3 game plan.

 

Defensive end Cam Heyward, one of four team captains, said he also met with Brown but declined to divulge any additions from their chat. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he spoke to Brown and wasn’t worried, adding that the wide receiver didn’t address teammates.

 

–Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had hoped to return from his left ACL injury to start the season. Even though he is a few weeks behind schedule, he told reporters Wednesday he is thrilled to have all the doubts behind him as he prepares to start on Sunday.

 

Wentz, 25, said he is confident that his knee has healed sufficiently for him to play effectively. He will wear a brace during games.

 

“I feel comfortable with it,” he said. “We’ll see after this season how I feel with it, but I feel good with it right now. It’s definitely something the doctors recommend and so I’ve gotten used to it by now and I feel really comfortable with it.”

 

–Quarterback Case Keenum sat out the Denver Broncos’ practice with a sore knee, according to KUSA-TV.

 

Backup Chad Kelly, selected by the Broncos with the final pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, ran the first-team offense in Keenum’s absence. The TV station reported that Denver expects Keenum, 30, to return to practice on Thursday.

 

The Broncos signed Keenum to a two-year, $36 million contract in March. So far this season, he has thrown for 551 yards with three touchdown passes and four interceptions. He also has a rushing touchdown.

 

–Shortly before Josh Gordon took the practice field with the Patriots for the first time, New England coach Bill Belichick was still insisting the trade for the wide receiver had not yet been finalized. Gordon suited up wearing No. 10.

 

During his media availability, Belichick refused to address the newest weapon for the Patriots.

 

“I’m not going to talk about players that are not actually, I would say, on our roster totally,” Belichick said, per NFL.com. “When that happens, that happens. If it happens.

 

“There are terms that have to be met before the trade is finalized. And when those are completed, then we’ll have a completed trade. Until they are completed, I’m not going to get into it.”

 

–The Cincinnati Bengals signed former Seattle Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls to shore up their backfield depth with Joe Mixon expected to miss time. Rawls had joined the New York Jets in the offseason but failed to make the 53-man roster. Running back Tra Carson was waived to make room for Rawls.

 

Mixon, one of the heroes of Cincinnati’s hard-fought victory over AFC North rival Baltimore on Thursday night, had minor knee surgery on Saturday that is expected to keep him out for approximately two weeks. He was in and out of the game because of the right knee injury. Originally hurt in the first half, he finished with 84 rushing yards on 21 carries and was noticeably limping afterward.

 

Giovani Bernard is expected to take over starting duties with Mixon out.

 

–Field Level Media

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Texans’ O’Brien rips superintendent over Watson comment

Texans' O'Brien rips superintendent over Watson comment

Houston Texans: Quarterback Deshaun Watson said he's not worried about the Houston-area superintendent of schools making an inflammatory comment about the trustworthiness of black quarterbacks. Lynn Redden -- superintendent of the Onalaska Independent School District in the Piney Woods, about an hour north of Houston --

Texans’ O’Brien rips superintendent over Watson comment

Houston Texans: Quarterback Deshaun Watson said he’s not worried about the Houston-area superintendent of schools making an inflammatory comment about the trustworthiness of black quarterbacks. Lynn Redden — superintendent of the Onalaska Independent School District in the Piney Woods, about an hour north of Houston — is reportedly under investigation for a comment made on Facebook about Watson holding onto the ball as time ran out in Week 2. Redden claimed he thought the comment was a direct message. “When you need precision decision making you can’t count on a black quarterback,” Redden wrote, later admitting to the message in a Houston Chronicle interview. Texans coach Bill O’Brien shared his pointed thoughts on the post Wednesday. “I really don’t want to waste a lot of time responding to outdated, inaccurate, ignorant, idiotic statements. I’ll just let Deshaun’s proven success on the field (and) his character off the field speak for itself. He’s one of the greatest guys I’ve ever coached. He represents everything that’s right about football, about life. His teammates respect him, his coaching staff respects him. In this day and age, it’s just amazing that that BS exists, but it does.”

Indianapolis Colts: Le’Raven Clark could remain in the lineup at left tackle Sunday, and the task is tall against the Philadelphia Eagles’ deep defensive line rotation. Clark started at left tackle in Week 2 when Anthony Castonzo’s chronic hamstring injury kept him on the sideline, after Joe Haeg filled in for Castonzo in Week 1. Castonzo will attempt to return and make his season debut against the Eagles, but head coach Frank Reich indicated the Colts are playing it safe with quarterback Andrew Luck’s blind-side protector. “We think he’s going to be back,” Reich said, cautioning that both player and coach expected Castonzo to start at Washington.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette was back on the field for practice Wednesday, returning for the first time since he exited the Week 1 win over the New York Giants with a hamstring injury. Fournette, who said his hamstring popped, did not play last week in the Jaguars’ win over the Patriots. But his understudy, T.J. Yeldon, missed practice Wednesday with an ankle injury. Quarterback Blake Bortles said Fournette looked good. “It looked like he was Leonard. He was flying around, making some good plays. He got some touches and looked good,” Bortles said.

Tennessee Titans: Quarterback Marcus Mariota experienced tingling in two of his fingers, and the Titans are not sure when he will be ready to return from an elbow injury suffered Week 1. Mariota took the practice field Wednesday with the index and middle fingers cut out of a glove on his throwing hand. He said the issue is with the nerves in those fingers. “It’s getting better, but it is frustrating. It is hard because it’s one of those things where you can’t really do a whole lot,” Mariota said. Blaine Gabbert, who started Week 2 and guided Tennessee to a 20-17 win over Houston, will continue to take the first-team reps with the offense in preparation for Sunday’s game with the Jaguars.

–Field Level Media

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Bears rolling out new plan for Trubisky

Bears rolling out new plan for Trubisky

Chicago Bears: Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky remains his own harshest critic, which is not a major shock to head coach Matt Nagy. Nagy said Wednesday he wants Trubisky not to dwell on individual plays that don't work, and to leave failed drives in the past to avoid

Bears rolling out new plan for Trubisky

Chicago Bears: Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky remains his own harshest critic, which is not a major shock to head coach Matt Nagy. Nagy said Wednesday he wants Trubisky not to dwell on individual plays that don’t work, and to leave failed drives in the past to avoid carrying the weight into more important spots in the game. One area in which Trubisky is excelling is throwing on the move. Nagy said changing the launch point is elevating Trubisky’s comfort level and confidence. “Mitch does a really good job,” Nagy said. “He did it in college. He was really good outside the pocket. And so we need to be able to figure out ways to do that and where we feel it’s advantageous for the offense and I know he’s comfortable in that.”

Detroit Lions: Matt Patricia’s NFL voyage began with the New England Patriots as a quality control coach in 2004, when his best friend on the support staff of Bill Belichick was an offensive assistant. They’ll convene again Sunday night at Ford Field when first-time head coach Patricia goes for his first win by trying to stop that assistant — current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “Josh and I are really close,” Patricia said. “I think the two of us leaned on each other quite a bit, helped each other out a lot as young coaches and developing into wherever we are right now. … Utmost respect for him.” Even McDaniels expects a few surprises from Patricia. “He’ll keep you off balance. There’s definitely an element of spinning the wheel with Matt,” McDaniels told Masslive.com.

Green Bay Packers: Cornerback Kevin King’s groin injury kicked the door open for the Minnesota Vikings’ fourth-quarter rally last week, and King is a longshot to return this week at Washington. King, 23, was a first-round pick in 2017 — his season ended early due to a shoulder injury — and helped frustrate Kirk Cousins through three quarters in Sunday’s game. Without King, the Packers are going to need to be creative. “We probably didn’t handle Kevin King’s injury very well,” McCarthy said. “We just weren’t as detailed down the stretch. It was obviously an ability for them to extend drives, and they hit the big play there on the (75-yard Stefon Diggs) touchdown, too.”

Minnesota Vikings: Settling the kicker position might finally be checked off of general manager Rick Spielman’s to-do list. The Vikings parted with kicker Daniel Carlson in what head coach Mike Zimmer described as an easy decision after Carlson failed to deliver in overtime at Green Bay. His replacement happens to be the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history, Dan Bailey. Bailey was on the street only because the Dallas Cowboys opted not to pay his $4 million salary and released him Sept. 1. “I wanted to go somewhere that had an opportunity to win and be a part of an organization that’s right there and right on the brink of having a lot of success,” Bailey said Wednesday. “When this situation came up, it fit the bill perfectly. I can’t complain about eight games out of the year inside (at U.S. Bank Stadium); that was a plus.”

–Field Level Media

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Reich downplays reunion with defending Super Bowl champs

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Frank Reich has the inside track on Philadelphia.

He coached the quarterbacks, helped construct one of the league's most innovative offenses and worked closely with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz before leaving for Indianapolis in February.

On Sunday, the Colts are hoping Reich's knowledge could give them a leg up on

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Frank Reich has the inside track on Philadelphia.

He coached the quarterbacks, helped construct one of the league’s most innovative offenses and worked closely with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz before leaving for Indianapolis in February.

On Sunday, the Colts are hoping Reich’s knowledge could give them a leg up on the defending Super Bowl champs this weekend.

“Nothing too dramatic, a few things here and there,” Reich said when asked about this week’s conversations with defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

“Not anything that would be over the top. My experience is if you say too much it just confuses the matter. So you give a few personnel things, a few philosophical things, maybe one or two things to look for and then you let our defense play the way we’ve been playing.”

Of course, Reich downplays the significance of this weekend’s reunion. Most coaches do.

But Reich’s third game as a head coach will understandably be a big deal.

It was in Philly where Reich went from rising assistant to head coaching candidate after spending two seasons with coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz, who is expected to make his season debut Sunday.

It was in Philly where Reich finally put his fingers on the Super Bowl ring that eluded him so many other places.

It was in Philly where Reich turned down interviews so he could focus solely on winning playoff games with Nick Foles following Wentz’s season-ending knee injury.

And it was in Philly where he finally got the Colts’ phone call after Josh McDaniels reneged on a commitment to take over as head coach.

Neither Reich nor his players see much point in making this game bigger than it needs to be.

“I didn’t even think about that (Reich’s return),” quarterback Andrew Luck said Wednesday. “I don’t think anyone in this locker room needs extra motivation to win a game for him. I mean I think our guys are hungry to play. Yeah, that would be special, that would be special, that would be cool.”

Reich already has given the Colts (1-1) a fresh perspective.

They are off to their best start since 2013 and Luck has looked like his old self in an offense that, not so surprisingly, resembles the Eagles’ plan.

Four-time Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton is off to the best start of his career as he lines up in multiple spots. Running backs Marlon Mack and Jordan Wilkins delivered a one-two punch last week that was reminiscent of Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement. Nyheim Hines possesses natural versatility, like Darren Sproles, and the Colts’ tight ends are being asked to do more, too.

Eberflus, who faced the Eagles twice a year while coaching previously in Dallas, has the Colts defense clicking, too.

Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard was selected as the AFC’s defensive player of the week Wednesday after getting 18 tackles in last weekend’s 21-9 victory at Washington.

Eberflus can always seek additional advice from linebacker Najee Goode, a free-agent signee who played with the Eagles last season.

The Eagles know all about the potential pitfalls in facing their former offensive coordinator and are planning accordingly.

“He (Reich) knows, obviously, our structure offensively, what we try to do, how we attack things and maybe even some of the terminology and verbiage. So, we have to be careful there,” Pederson said on a conference call with Colts’ reporters.

“At the same time, we can’t change everything. There is some similarity, but at the same time we’re aware of it. We are looking forward to seeing him again on Sunday and welcoming him back to Philadelphia.”

Even if the reception is less than warm — as Eagles’ fans tend to make it.

But Reich returns with fond memories of the city, organization and staff that welcomed him with open arms and nothing but gratitude for the opportunity he got. All he wants to do now is win.

“It (leaving Philadelphia) was bittersweet in that it was such a great experience there, such a good relationship with everyone there,” Reich said.

“But there’s only 32 of these things and if it’s a goal and it’s an aspiration, you have to seize the moment.”

Notes: Indy has signed running back Jeremy McNichols to the practice squad, released quarterback Phillip Walker from the practice squad and waived running back Josh Ferguson from the injured reserve list. … Team owner Jim Irsay and his family have donated $100,000 to the Wheeler Mission to help the local charity expand the Center for Women & Children, which provides emergency shelter and long-term programs for homeless women and women with children.

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Pats tempering expectations as Gordon practices for 1st time

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Josh Gordon arrived at a Patriots' team facility that was abuzz with excitement about what he could potentially bring to their depleted receiving group.

There was also just as strong a sentiment in the building to keep any lofty expectations in check — at least for now.

Gordon practiced

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Josh Gordon arrived at a Patriots’ team facility that was abuzz with excitement about what he could potentially bring to their depleted receiving group.

There was also just as strong a sentiment in the building to keep any lofty expectations in check — at least for now.

Gordon practiced with the Patriots for the first time Wednesday since being traded by the Browns on Monday.

New England worked out a deal with Cleveland for the embattled receiver about 48 hours after the Browns announced their intention to cut ties with him, saying they had “reached a point where we feel it’s best to part ways and move forward.”

It never came to that, with the Patriots offering a fifth-round pick for a freakishly athletic player on the field, who often has been less than dependable off it.

Gordon has been suspended multiple times by the NFL for violations of its drug policies since being drafted by the Browns in 2012. He missed the entire 2015 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and hasn’t come close to duplicating his All-Pro 2013 season, in which he had 87 receptions for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns.

He’s appeared in only 11 games since then.

It may be why coach Bill Belichick remained coy Wednesday morning when asked about what Gordon could add to New England’s offense, saying that the trade was yet to be finalized.

An hour later Gordon took the practice field wearing the No. 10 jersey once occupied by former Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who was traded to San Francisco last season.

Gordon was a limited participant in practice with a hamstring issue and didn’t speak with the media afterward.

But his new teammates said he has been welcomed with open arms. It’s up to him to fit in on a team that demands discipline.

“I think the slogan kind of stands for itself — ‘Do your job’ is kind of the big mantra that’s preached around here. I’m sure he’s had that conversation with coach,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said.

“I think it’s just more about him getting comfortable. … Whatever he needs, whatever questions he has, obviously we’re all here to help him.”

While there’s uncertainty about just how Gordon will fit into New England’s strict culture, it is a gamble the Patriots appear willing to take.

They’ve been trying to plug holes at receiver after starting the season without Julian Edelman (suspended for first four games), Danny Amendola (signed with Miami in free agency) and Brandin Cooks (traded to Los Angeles Rams).

The Patriots have brought in several new faces since the season began, creating a constant jumbling on the depth chart.

Quarterback Tom Brady has compensated by spreading around passes to nearly everyone in the offense. In the season-opening win over Houston, he completed passes to eight different players. Seven different players caught at least one pass in Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville.

Adding a big-play threat such as Gordon could bring some better balance.

Still, during a radio interview, Brady said that he hates to “make projections and expectations” about how Gordon can help.

“That’s not fair. I’ve never met Josh, personally — just like I hadn’t met some of the guys who have come in the last couple of weeks. We’ll see how it goes this week,” Brady said.

“Hopefully, he can work hard, put the team first and end up helping us in a role that he can find for himself on the team.”

Notes: Starting DE Trey Flowers and S Patrick Chung both missed practice with concussions. Chung appeared in all 16 regular-season games each of the past two seasons. He hasn’t missed a regular-season game with the Patriots since Week 16 of the 2015 season… RB Sony Michel (knee) and DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (finger) were both full participants in practice.

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Payton says Saints’ last-ranked run game not in ‘crisis’

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints coach Sean Payton said it's too early to judge New Orleans' last-ranked running game.

New Orleans managed only 43 yards rushing on 13 attempts in a Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay, but Payton said that was more about the nature of a game because the Saints had

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints coach Sean Payton said it’s too early to judge New Orleans’ last-ranked running game.

New Orleans managed only 43 yards rushing on 13 attempts in a Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay, but Payton said that was more about the nature of a game because the Saints had to lean on the pass after falling behind. And though the coach was more critical of the running game following the Saints 21-18 victory over Cleveland, he stressed: “We’re talking about one game here. We’re not talking about a crisis.”

The Saints’ surge to the NFC South title last season was fueled to a large degree by a rejuvenated running game that ranked fifth in the NFL.

The addition of Alvin Kamara, who became the 2017 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, to Mark Ingram, who had his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season, gave New Orleans an elite tandem.

Heading into Sunday’s game against Atlanta, the Saints are averaging an NFL-worst 52.5 yards rushing during a 1-1 start.

Ingram is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Falling behind early also has compounded matters for New Orleans. Payton has had to lean heavily on Drew Brees and wide receiver Michael Thomas, who has an NFL-record 28 catches through two games.

“We definitely miss Mark,” Thomas said. “He adds value to this offense.”

New Orleans’ 36 rushing attempts are third-fewest in the NFL, but the Saints also have struggled when they have run the ball, averaging only 2.9 yards per rush. That ranks second-to-last, ahead of only Tampa Bay.

When Ingram’s suspension was announced in the spring, Payton said the solution would not be to just give his carries to Kamara. Yet, Kamara’s workload has increased. He has averaged 10.5 carries and 7.5 pass receptions after averaging 7.5 rushes and five receptions per game last season.

The Saints spent much of the offseason, training camp and preseason looking for a complementary running back to Kamara.

The turnstile of rushers hasn’t worked out.

New Orleans signed veterans Terrance West and Shane Vereen and drafted Boston Scott in the sixth round to join holdovers Jonathan Williams, Trey Edmunds and Daniel Lasco.

West and Edmunds were released, Vereen and Lasco wound up on injured reserve and Scott was released and later signed to the practice squad.

The Saints wound up signing Mike Gillislee after he was released by the Patriots at the end of the preseason and bringing up Williams after briefly placing him on the practice squad.

After two games, Gillislee has 11 rushes for 27 yards and he lost a fumble that Tampa Bay returned for a pivotal touchdown in the Saints’ 48-41 loss in the season opener. Williams has rushed just twice minus-1 yard.

Payton said communication and blocking were the main issues against the Browns, who held the Saints to 62 yards on 23 rushing attempts.

“We just didn’t run as effectively against (Cleveland) as we would have liked,” Payton said. “It’s one of those teams that’s going to give you some tough run looks. There’s just a number of things that we have to get cleaned up.”

Brees cited two important runs that helped the Saints rally from a 12-3 deficit in the fourth quarter.

Kamara had an 18-yard run that started a touchdown drive which pulled them within two points. He also gained five yards on a third-and-2 to extend another touchdown drive that gave New Orleans its first lead.

“When we rushed better in the latter part help of the game it helped,” Payton added. “When we review with our players where we stand in terms of what’s important to winning and losing, (running effectively) certainly sits at the top.”

Notes: Defensive tackle Tyeler Davison (foot), receiver Tommylee Lewis (knee) and linebacker Manti Te’o (knee) did not practice on Wednesday. … The Saints listed three players as limited in practice: left tackle Terron Armstead (knee), receiver Ted Ginn (knee) and left guard Andrus Peat (ankle).

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NFL fines Ravens $200,000 for rules violation

 

 

The NFL fined the Baltimore Ravens $200,000 on Wednesday for preseason violations of the league's coach-to-player communications policy.

 

The team was fined because several Ravens wore helmets with coach-to-player communications while on the field at the same time, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said.

 

The Ravens issued a statement on social media:

 

 

The NFL fined the Baltimore Ravens $200,000 on Wednesday for preseason violations of the league’s coach-to-player communications policy.

 

The team was fined because several Ravens wore helmets with coach-to-player communications while on the field at the same time, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said.

 

The Ravens issued a statement on social media:

 

“The Ravens’ equipment staff misunderstood that this league rule applied in the preseason. Ravens coaches were unaware that multiple players had communication devices in their helmets while on the field at the same time.”

 

 

 

Baltimore already was fined earlier this year for an infraction of the collective bargaining agreement. In June, an undisclosed infraction forced the team to forfeit two organized team activities. Owner Steve Bisciotti and coach John Harbaugh were fined $100,000 and $50,000, respectively.

 

In 2016, the Ravens and Harbaugh were fined $343,057 and $137,223, respectively, for an infraction in OTAs. The team also had to cancel some workouts in 2010 for another violation.

 

–Field Level Media

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Minkah Fitzpatrick claims ‘FitzMagic’ moniker

Minkah Fitzpatrick claims 'FitzMagic' moniker

Buffalo Bills: NBC Sports' Peter King has been covering football a long time and has seen really bad player debuts and really good ones. He marked the first career start of Bills quarterback Josh Allen in the not-too-bad category. "Well, I thought it was better than I expected,"

Minkah Fitzpatrick claims ‘FitzMagic’ moniker

Buffalo Bills: NBC Sports’ Peter King has been covering football a long time and has seen really bad player debuts and really good ones. He marked the first career start of Bills quarterback Josh Allen in the not-too-bad category. “Well, I thought it was better than I expected,” King said. “He is obviously going to have difficultly with protection issues, the Bills are. And so you’re probably not going to be able to use everything. You wonder how many seven-step drops he has, when he does take snaps from under center, when that happens, but overall you know, I’d give him a good mark.”

Miami Dolphins: Will the real “FitzMagic” please stand up? That’s a nickname that has been associated with Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the past, and with his hot start in 2018, it’s gotten a lot of use. But one player is officially laying claim to it. Representatives of Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick last week filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on his behalf. Fitzpatrick — Minkah, that is — wants to sell merchandise and apparel using the moniker. His mother said the Alabama product, whom the Dolphins took 11th overall in April’s draft, has used the nickname since high school.

New England Patriots: Down 14-0 to Jacksonville after the first quarter Sunday, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels huddled together the offense — and yelled. He explained why on a conference call. “Our overall performance, I feel like that’s what my job is and so I didn’t do a good enough job obviously on Sunday,” he said. “We didn’t score enough points, didn’t produce enough first downs, didn’t control the game at all, and we weren’t playing as well as any of us would like at that point in the day. I think part of coaching is understanding there’s times where you do things quietly and pull somebody aside, and there’s other times where you either just want to try to create a spark or what have you and just refocus on the things that are really important, and that’s really all I was doing.”

New York Jets: Football fans lauded the most recent season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” which featured the Cleveland Browns. The Jets meet the Browns on Thursday night, and coach Todd Bowles was asked this week if he learned anything about the opponent from the show. He said he hadn’t watched it. “I watch ‘Power’ and ‘Queen of the South’ and that is about it,” he said. “That’s my leisure time.” The 2010 Jets, coached by the animated Rex Ryan, were the subject of “Hard Knocks” that season. Would Bowles ever want his team on the show? “If I had to do it, we’d do it,” he said. “But, I’d probably be the most boring person on the show. I don’t think they want to come this way.”

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Too many receivers in Dallas? Beasley says no

Too many receivers in Dallas? Beasley says no

Dallas Cowboys: With the addition of Brice Butler, the Cowboys now have seven wide receivers. One of them, Cole Beasley, doesn't seem worried about how quarterback Dak Prescott will distribute the ball. "Like I've been saying, the strength is in the group," Beasley said, via

Too many receivers in Dallas? Beasley says no

Dallas Cowboys: With the addition of Brice Butler, the Cowboys now have seven wide receivers. One of them, Cole Beasley, doesn’t seem worried about how quarterback Dak Prescott will distribute the ball. “Like I’ve been saying, the strength is in the group,” Beasley said, via The Dallas Morning News. “We don’t need a No. 1, superstar-type guy. When you spread the ball around and each guy just makes their plays when their number is called upon, it’s like the same thing. I think it just makes us that much harder to defend, not knowing where the ball is going to go.”

New York Giants: Coach Pat Shurmur has named veteran John Greco as the starting center, replacing Jon Halapio. Halapio was lost for the season with a broken leg and broken ankle that he suffered during the 20-13 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night. “We’ll start with John and then obviously get Spencer [Pulley] ready to go,” Shurmur said during a conference call. “We have guys on the roster who have played center. John Greco went in there and played and then we brought in Spencer Pulley on the roster who played all last season at center [with the Chargers], so we’ve got guys that have done it and they’ll just slide up and get ready to go.”

Philadelphia Eagles: Quarterback Carson Wentz will reclaim his starting spot Sunday, more than nine months after suffering a serious knee injury. And one of the men charged with protecting him, right tackle Lane Johnson, doesn’t want him to try to do too much. “All he has to do is just be Carson Wentz,” Johnson said, via the team’s website. “You don’t have to be Superman. You don’t have to go out of the way to make plays, just do what you do. Don’t overcomplicate it. He just needs to be him. He’s super-talented, super-humble, and works hard man, so he’ll be fine.”

Washington Redskins: Safety D.J. Swearinger said his team might have gotten too self-satisfied after a Week 1 win when it came time to the following game — a 21-9 home loss to Indianapolis. “We can’t relax,” he told the Washington Post. “Last week … for whatever reason, there was complacency in the building. But we haven’t done anything, so we should never get complacent around here. I feel like we just gotta work as hard as we can this week to be focused on the little things and the little details, because they’re going to be huge going against [Week 3 opponent] Green Bay.”

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Steelers worry about wobbly O-line

Steelers worry about wobbly O-line

Baltimore Ravens: Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is expected to be a game-time decision Sunday when Von Miller and the Denver Broncos are in town. When Stanley was hurt last Thursday at Cincinnati, he was replaced by right tackle James Hurst, and Orlando Brown Jr. entered the game at

Steelers worry about wobbly O-line

Baltimore Ravens: Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is expected to be a game-time decision Sunday when Von Miller and the Denver Broncos are in town. When Stanley was hurt last Thursday at Cincinnati, he was replaced by right tackle James Hurst, and Orlando Brown Jr. entered the game at right tackle. Neither matchup is ideal for the Ravens against Miller, who has 4.0 sacks in two games to lead the NFL. Stanley would not confirm reports that he injured his right arm, and said he wouldn’t have final say in whether he plays this week. “It is coach Harbaugh’s decision,” Stanley said.

Cincinnati Bengals: With kicker issues aplenty around the league, the Bengals this week moved to lock up placekicker Randy Bullock with a two-year extension through the 2020 season. Bullock has made all 12 of his kicks this season (four field goals) and 27 of 30 field goals with the Bengals. Head coach Marvin Lewis said his confidence in Bullock was high, but it wasn’t always that way. Bullock missed two extra points and a potential game-winning field goal last season. At that time, Lewis said the misses “affect our patience level.”

Cleveland Browns: When you have one victory in a span of 37 games, progress is measured any way possible. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is expecting the Browns to realize a major breakthrough this season, and the fourth quarter of the last week’s game at New Orleans is a big reason why. “For us to take the ball down and score in a critical moment and then to get the ball back down the field for a chance to tie the game was definitely some growth,” said Taylor, who completed a pair of passes to set up the potential game-tying field goal in the final 21 seconds of the loss. “It is our job to keep getting better.”

Pittsburgh Steelers: While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers voice optimism first-round pick Vita Vea could be in the lineup on “Monday Night Football,” the Steelers are still gauging the availability of both of their offensive guards, David DeCastro and Ramon Foster. DeCastro didn’t play Week 2 with a fractured hand, and Foster is “managing a knee injury,” according to coach Mike Tomlin. Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) is also on the injury report. DeCastro said he hopes his injury would be a one-game issue. Tomlin would only say DeCastro “has a chance” to go against the Buccaneers. Vea, a 347-pound nose tackle, has been mostly idle since being carted off the field with a calf injury on July 29. His return would give Tampa Bay a likely jolt alongside Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

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A ‘little sore,’ Packers’ Rodgers gets ready for Redskins

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers channeled a fictional prize fighter to describe how he felt after playing the Minnesota Vikings.

"If you've seen (the movie) 'Rocky III,' you know Clubber Lang has a prediction before the fight: 'Pain,'" Rodgers said with a smile on Wednesday. "That's kind of what it felt

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers channeled a fictional prize fighter to describe how he felt after playing the Minnesota Vikings.

“If you’ve seen (the movie) ‘Rocky III,’ you know Clubber Lang has a prediction before the fight: ‘Pain,'” Rodgers said with a smile on Wednesday. “That’s kind of what it felt like.”

Rodgers said that he remained a “little sore” following the 29-29 tie against Minnesota last week when he played with a brace to protect his injured left knee.

It’s not the only pain that he felt.

With limited mobility, Rodgers was knocked around by the Vikings’ top defense for four sacks and nine quarterback hits.

Rodgers played well, though, and completed 30 of 42 passes for 281 yards and one touchdown. He even rushed three times for 8 yards, including a 7-yard scramble to convert a third-and-7 on the Packers’ first touchdown drive.

“The heat and the adrenaline definitely helped, but it’s just going to be something you’ve got to deal with for a while,” Rodgers said. “Take it week by week. It doesn’t seem like there’s a major setback at this point, so just being smart about it and trying to get ready to play Sunday.”

Rodgers didn’t practice on Wednesday.

Coming off a Sunday night victory over Chicago in Week 1 and playing 10 additional minutes against Minnesota in Week 2, coach Mike McCarthy scrapped practice in favor of a walk-through as his team began prep for the road game Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

“We’re pretty beat up coming off a night and then 4 2/3 quarters on Sunday. Just trying to be smart about it,” Rodgers said.

McCarthy wouldn’t commit to Rodgers practicing on Thursday, which is typically the Packers’ heaviest practice day of the week.

“We’re still in a day-by-day mode,” McCarthy said.

Rodgers, who acknowledged the injury could get worse before it gets better, practiced on Saturday before facing Minnesota. He would like to practice at least once this week to get ready for Washington.

“I’m going to need to see certain looks in the walkthroughs to replace those reps I may or not get in practice and try and get out there at least one day this week and feel good about the stuff we have moving on into Sunday,” Rodgers said.

MATTHEWS PENALTY

The NFL announced this week that it would use linebacker Clay Matthews’ roughing-the-passer penalty on Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins as part of its weekly teaching video provided to teams. A similar hit on Rodgers by Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks would also be part of the video.

The flag on Matthews overturned an interception by cornerback Jaire Alexander that could have allowed the Packers to run out the clock for a win.

“We haven’t changed anything with the way we’re coaching our players,” McCarthy said.

Rodgers, who suffered a broken collarbone following a hit by Minnesota’s Anthony Barr last season, said the league has gone too far in protecting quarterbacks.

“I think we enjoy the protection below the knee and above the shoulders, but I don’t know many quarterbacks who want those calls,” he said. “The one on me, I don’t think that’s roughing the passer, either.

Added Rodgers: “There’s a goal to limit these hits but they’re pretty obvious when you see them — you know, a guy picking somebody up and full weight on them. What do you say to Clay? His head is out of it. His hand is on the ground. That’s not roughing the passer. Same thing with Kendricks. What do you say to him on that?”

Rodgers said he did not get up from the turf after the hit from Kendricks looking for a penalty. He called himself a traditionalist.

“I’ve watched the game and loved the game for a long time, and some of the rules I think help,” Rodgers said, “but some of the rules maybe are going the wrong direction.”

Notes: RB Aaron Jones is back following a two-game suspension, but his “role will be secondary” to that of Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery, McCarthy said. … The team released CB Deate Burton to make room on the roster to activate Jones. … McCarthy did not expect CB Kevin King (groin) to play this week, though he did not think it would be a long-term issue.

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Carr showing progress for Raiders under Gruden’s coaching

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr took a big step from his first game under coach Jon Gruden to game No. 2.

Instead of throwing the ball too often to the opposing team, Carr completed passes at a record-setting pace in last week's loss at Denver that gave the Oakland Raiders hope that

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr took a big step from his first game under coach Jon Gruden to game No. 2.

Instead of throwing the ball too often to the opposing team, Carr completed passes at a record-setting pace in last week’s loss at Denver that gave the Oakland Raiders hope that the offense under Gruden is progressing in a way that should pay dividends soon.

Carr completed 29 of 32 passes against the Broncos after throwing three interceptions in a season-opening loss to the Rams. He became the first player in NFL history to complete at least 90 percent of passes on 30 or more attempts, even though the Raiders (0-2) lost 20-19.

While many of those throws may have been short and come out quickly, Gruden is happy with the production.

“Throwing the ball on time and accurate is a big part of winning football,” he said Wednesday. “We hope to get some big chunk plays. We’re making an attempt to do that. I think you’ll see some more of that hopefully as the year unfolds.”

Through two games under Gruden, Carr’s average pass is traveling only 5.3 yards down field, according to NextGen stats from the NFL. That’s the second-lowest mark in the league and comes in part because he is getting rid of the ball faster than every starter other than Ryan Tannehill and Drew Brees.

Carr said he’s not avoiding deep passes by design and pointed to the eight play-action attempts called against Denver that could have led to big plays.

“You do have shot plays, but sometimes you have to check them down and get 6 yards,” he said. “Third-and-4 is a lot better than third-and-10 with a missed shot. The coverages change, the pressures change, the schemes change, the personnel changes.”

While the propensity to get rid of the ball quickly may make it harder to get big plays it does come with the benefit of avoiding the bad ones.

Carr has been sacked just twice all season despite facing fierce pass rushes against the Rams and Denver and having a rookie at left tackle in Kolton Miller and right tackle Donald Penn playing a new position after spending his entire career on the left side.

Gruden said his new tackles have fared well but Carr gets some of the credit too for his ability to change plays and protections at the line of scrimmage.

“The great quarterbacks protect themselves as much as some of the protection protects them,” Gruden said. “They don’t hold the ball a significant amount of time. They have a feel for pressure. They avoid the catastrophic plays. He has a good feel for pressure and when to let it go and when to hold onto it.”

The Raiders have started strong the first two weeks, scoring a touchdown on the opening drive against the Rams and a field goal last week in Denver. But Oakland has been held to four field goals and one touchdown in its other 19 drives.

That’s why Carr sees plenty of room for improvement despite throwing just three incompletions last week.

As pleased as Gruden was with the progress from game 1 to 2 that was helped by a breakout game from Amari Cooper, who caught all 10 of his targets for 116 yards, there is still plenty to work on.

“As soon as I come into the building he says, ‘Good job, but let’s talk about the three you messed up,'” Carr said. “Let’s talk about those. That’s how it will always be. He always pushes me.”

Carr is enjoying the process of learning the offense with Gruden after spending his first four years with defensive-minded head coaches.

Carr said he’s getting better each week anticipating Gruden’s play calls before they happen, which puts him in better position to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage when needed.

“I’m thinking the same way he is,” Carr said. “That has a lot to do with the way he trains the quarterback, he wants us to think the same way he does. If he calls a play, I know why he wants it and if they give us a different look I know what play he wants me to go to.”

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Browns WR Landry questionable to face Jets with knee issue

CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns top receiver Jarvis Landry is questionable to play in Thursday night's game against the New York Jets because of a knee issue.

Landry, who has 12 catches for 175 yards in his first two games for Cleveland, has been limited during workouts this week and the team listed him as questionable

CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns top receiver Jarvis Landry is questionable to play in Thursday night’s game against the New York Jets because of a knee issue.

Landry, who has 12 catches for 175 yards in his first two games for Cleveland, has been limited during workouts this week and the team listed him as questionable on Wednesday’s injury report.

Landry said he was confident he would play when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday.

Linebacker Christian Kirksey is doubtful as he continues to recover from an ankle and shoulder problem. Kirksey sat out Sunday’s loss in New Orleans, and with a short week, it’s possible the Browns (0-1-1) will rest him again.

Starting defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah will sit out his second consecutive game with a left ankle injury sustained Week 1 against Pittsburgh, and tight end Seth DeValve with a hamstring injury.

Also, starting safety Damarious Randall is questionable with a heel injury.

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Titans’ Mariota still dealing with weakness in throwing hand

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Marcus Mariota wakes up every morning hoping his injured right hand feels better.

Unfortunately for the Tennessee Titans quarterback, the weakness is still there, along with numbness and tingling in two fingers.

That's why Mariota was limited Wednesday at practice for the Titans, even as he cut up a

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Marcus Mariota wakes up every morning hoping his injured right hand feels better.

Unfortunately for the Tennessee Titans quarterback, the weakness is still there, along with numbness and tingling in two fingers.

That’s why Mariota was limited Wednesday at practice for the Titans, even as he cut up a glove to cover those two fingers hoping to give himself a better grip of the football.

“I think it’s close, but again we’re going to just take it one day at a time,” Mariota said.

Mariota hurt the elbow on his throwing arm in the season opener, a 27-20 loss in Miami. He was intercepted twice after the injury, and Mariota still finds himself dealing with the expected injury that affects both the velocity with which he throws and the spin he can put on the ball.

“Honestly, it is hard,” Mariota said. “The way that they explained it to me is like when you strum like a guitar string. When that string settles down, that’s kind of similar to how my nerve is. My nerve’s kind of been strummed, and it’s going to take its time to settle down.”

A week ago, both Vrabel and Mariota said they thought the quarterback would be able to play in the Titans’ home opener against Houston last weekend. But the numbness and tingling in Mariota’s right, throwing hand didn’t ease enough late in the week.

So coaches added some wildcat to the offense with Derrick Henry, and backup Blaine Gabbert got the 46th start of his NFL career with his fourth different team. Gabbert earned a game ball throwing for 117 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers in a 20-17 win over Houston.

Mariota hasn’t missed consecutive games since his rookie season when separate knee sprains cost him two games apiece. With Mariota limited Wednesday, the Titans (1-1) split the work Wednesday at practice as they prepare to visit AFC South rival Jacksonville (2-0).

“That’s all you can do, is make sure to get guys ready that could play in the game for anything that may come up,” Vrabel said. “Then, have to make a decision that you know is in the best interest of the team later in the week.”

Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone said the Jaguars are preparing to see both Mariota and Gabbert. Mariota beat the Jaguars twice last season , and Gabbert also notched a win against the team that drafted him at No. 10 overall in the 2011 draft. Gabbert’s second start for Arizona came Nov. 26, and he led the Cardinals to a win over the Jaguars throwing for 241 yards with two touchdowns and only one interception.

“We just make sure that we work on both quarterbacks,” Marrone said. “Both quarterbacks have done well versus us. We know it’s going to be a challenge. Gabbert beat us last year when he was in Arizona, so they have a lot of respect for both of those guys.”

Whoever starts at quarterback should be helped by the return of two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan and possibly even right tackle Jack Conklin.

Lewan suffered a concussion in the season opener in Miami, and Conklin tore his left ACL in January. Both were limited Wednesday, and Vrabel said Lewan still has to be cleared by an outside doctor, which they hope happens Thursday. Backup tackle Dennis Kelly, who replaced Conklin during the opener, was not at the facility after being released from the hospital.

“That would be great to get as many guys back as we possibly could,” Vrabel said.

Notes: RB Derrick Henry (back) was limited in practice Wednesday as well, along with TE Luke Stocker (calf). S Kendrick Lewis (foot), who missed the first two games, was limited in his return.

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Wide Open: Redskins hoping to get more out of receivers

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Alex Smith met his new receivers for the first time shortly before throwing to them in practice.

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden hopes his quarterback will have other targets this weekend.

The Redskins signed veterans Michael Floyd and Breshad Perriman this week with rookies Cam Sims and Trey Quinn

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Alex Smith met his new receivers for the first time shortly before throwing to them in practice.

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden hopes his quarterback will have other targets this weekend.

The Redskins signed veterans Michael Floyd and Breshad Perriman this week with rookies Cam Sims and Trey Quinn already on injured reserve, Paul Richardson is nursing a sore shoulder and Maurice Harris is coming back from a concussion. Gruden would love for Richardson and Harris to be ready to face the Packers on Sunday, but either way, Washington’s receivers have to be better than they were in a lackluster loss to Indianapolis.

“We’ve got to catch the ball,” Richardson said Wednesday. “A lot of it is playmaking with getting the ball in our hands. I think if we do that, especially the earlier we get the ball in our hands — the earlier the better — we can make somebody miss and go extend plays.”

Smith has no shortage of weapons on offense, from running backs Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson to tight end Jordan Reed and wideouts Richardson, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson. But when the Colts made the Redskins one-dimensional by taking the lead and limiting Peterson to 20 yards on 11 carries, the passing game wasn’t able to compensate.

Throws that were just off or dropped cost Washington critical first downs, and it’s clear the chemistry between Smith and his receivers is a work in progress.

“It’s a process that never ends,” Smith said. “You’re constantly working at that.”

Everything worked during a Week 1 victory at Arizona, but the Redskins could barely move the ball down the field against Indianapolis. The Colts took away Reed more often than not, a blueprint the Packers and future opponents could follow if the rest of the offense doesn’t get in better sync.

“Guys just got to win their matchups, show that they can win and give (Smith) confidence,” Reed said. “We’ve got a lot of playmakers on this team, a lot of guys that can win their matchups one-on-one. We’ve just got to keep getting better and get in that rhythm.”

It would be difficult for Floyd and Perriman to get into that rhythm right away, though it might be necessary. Richardson did not practice Wednesday despite an MRI exam showing no damage to his shoulder, and his status is questionable.

Harris, on the other hand, could make his season debut after missing roughly a month with a concussion. Gruden said Harris was cleared to practice and could give Washington the kind of jump-and-catch ability Doctson was supposed to as a 2016 first-round pick.

Richardson was signed during the offseason to give the Redskins downfield speed they’ve lacked since the departure of DeSean Jackson. Perriman has the same profile, and whether he or Richardson is active against Green Bay, the deep ball is something that needs to develop for the offense to have success.

“It’s rare that you want your quarterbacks to be forcing those throws, especially over the top of coverage if coverage is there,” Richardson said. “You’ve got to hit (defenses) intermediate and then you catch them trying to jump those low routes or intermediate routes and you make them pay over the top.”

NOTES: LG Shaun Lauvao did not practice because of a calf injury and could miss some time. Gruden said if Lauvao can’t play against the Packers, C Chase Roullier would slide over and Tony Bergstrom would start in the middle. … LB Zach Brown did not practice because of an oblique injuries, and RG Brandon Scherff and LT Trent Williams were limited with knee injuries.

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Addition by subtraction? Dolphins aren’t missing Suh

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Ndamukong Suh's not laughing at the Miami Dolphins' front four anymore.

The five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle poked fun at his former team's run defense on Instagram during the exhibition season. But after two games — both wins — the run defense appears better without Suh.

Miami is allowing

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Ndamukong Suh’s not laughing at the Miami Dolphins’ front four anymore.

The five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle poked fun at his former team’s run defense on Instagram during the exhibition season. But after two games — both wins — the run defense appears better without Suh.

Miami is allowing 3.3 yards per rush, which ranks third in the NFL. That’s a big improvement over last year’s average of 4.1, which ranked 16th.

And while the pass rush has totaled only three sacks, Miami has mustered enough pressure to force five interceptions, which is tied for the league lead entering Sunday’s game against Oakland.

It has been a collective effort to replace Suh, with all nine defensive linemen on the roster seeing significant playing time.

“Those guys have done a good job,” coach Adam Gase said Wednesday. “They’re doing well as a unit. I love the fact that they’re all contributing.”

In last week’s win at the Jets , eight defensive linemen had at least one tackle. The ninth — Charles Harris — had a sack negated by penalty.

The front four totaled 21 tackles, including nine for losses.

“We’re just trying to be great,” said tackle Davon Godchaux, who had six tackles. That’s a total Suh reached only once last year.

When asked if the Dolphins miss Suh, Godchaux responded with laughter.

“Y’all are going to give me a trick question,” he chortled as he walked away.

Following the offseason departure of Suh and several other star players, Gase said the locker room culture had improved. And he said the rotation system with the front four is working better than in his first two seasons.

Godchaux shares time with tackles Jordan Phillips, Vincent Taylor and Akeem Spence.

“We’re definitely buying into it,” Godchaux said. “Everybody is a starter. We don’t look at it as if a guy is a backup. We label all nine guys as starters.”

Better depth and shared snaps could help the Dolphins avoid a repeat of last year’s collapse in the run defense. Over the final 10 weeks they allowed 127 yards per game rushing — and won only twice.

There’s already a difference in how fresh the front four looks. Gase notes a particular improvement in passing situations.

“That’s the thing I love about when we get to third down,” he said. “We’ve got four guys going out there that are ready to rush the passer.”

The top pass rushers are Cameron Wake, who is 36 but seems ageless, and veteran newcomer Robert Quinn. Between them they have seven Pro Bowl berths.

“The addition of Quinn is huge,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He has given them supreme effort opposite Cameron Wake. And they have a very good unit inside that can generate pressure as well. It’s a combination of new players, new energy and the scheme. It’s fun to watch them. Unfortunately we’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready.”

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Cam Newton learning to become more efficient passer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton appears on his way to becoming a smarter, more efficient passer.

It's only been two games, but the Panthers' eighth-year quarterback is completing a career-best 69 percent of his passes — well above his career completion mark of 58.3 percent — entering Sunday's game against the unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton appears on his way to becoming a smarter, more efficient passer.

It’s only been two games, but the Panthers’ eighth-year quarterback is completing a career-best 69 percent of his passes — well above his career completion mark of 58.3 percent — entering Sunday’s game against the unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals.

Those numbers may not turn a lot of heads, but the Panthers (1-1) believe it’s a sign that Newton is gaining a solid grasp on new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s scheme and developing as a passer. He’s being more patient, often working through his progressions and finding his second, third and sometimes fourth options on pass plays.

That was evident last Sunday when Newton completed 14 passes to running back Christian McCaffrey resulting in 102 yards — most of those on “check downs,” where Newton was forced to read the defense and wait until the play developed before releasing the football.

“He’s made a lot of good decisions these first two games,” coach Ron Rivera said. “I’m real excited about the progress Cam has shown in terms of understanding and getting a feel for what coach Turner wants.”

The 2015 league MVP completed 32 of 45 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-24 loss to the Falcons on Sunday — although those numbers would have been higher had his receivers not dropped five passes, including one bobbled ball that resulted in Newton’s only interception of the season.

Despite the loss, Rivera praised Newton’s performance.

“He was patient, he went through his reads and he didn’t force balls in,” Rivera said. “And he threw check downs when he needed to. And that was huge. … Not always do you have to force the ball in or take off running.”

Rivera expects Newton’s completion percentage will increase the more time he spends in Turner’s offense.

Newton said it’s just a matter of learning to take what the defense gives him.

One of the biggest keys, he said, is trusting teammates around him to do their jobs — the offensive line giving him time to work through his progressions and receivers making plays with the ball in their hands.

That happened against Atlanta when Newton found D.J. Moore — his second option — with a pass over the middle that the speedy rookie wide receiver caught and turned into a 51-yard touchdown.

“Wherever the read takes (me) I have to get the ball out of my hands and allow those guys to” make plays, said Newton, whose completion percentage ranks 15th in the league.

“That has been a bigger part of what they doing, no doubt,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said of the check downs.

McCaffrey was drafted last year with the purpose of giving Newton an option when things begin to break down, instead of having to tuck and run as often.

The running back from Stanford set a franchise rookie record with 80 receptions. This year, he’s on pace to double that output.

McCaffrey is unlikely to get to 160 receptions because at some point teams are going to adjust and take him away. But the Panthers are counting on that, figuring it will open things up downfield for other receivers.

“Eventually teams will have to start to play that,” McCaffrey said, “and that’s when it all opens up.”

While Newton’s intended target may change as the season unfolds, Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith said Newton has a good chance of maintaining that 69 percent completion rate — or even improving on it.

“Cam has been working his tail off and he has been making great decisions,” Smith said.

Newton said he couldn’t care less about his completion percentage, as long as the team wins.

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Veteran John Greco starting at center for injured Halapio

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — After joining the New York Giants as a late-season addition, veteran offensive lineman John Greco came to training camp as somewhat of a bubble guy on the roster.

Both a guard and center, the 33-year-old seemed to be the odd guy out at both spots.

Jon Halapio and

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — After joining the New York Giants as a late-season addition, veteran offensive lineman John Greco came to training camp as somewhat of a bubble guy on the roster.

Both a guard and center, the 33-year-old seemed to be the odd guy out at both spots.

Jon Halapio and Brett Jones were the top centers, and rookie Will Hernandez and free-agent signee Patrick Omaneh were the top two guards. Greco and long-time starter John Jerry were fighting for a roster spot.

Funny thing happened. New York traded Jones to Minnesota in training camp and Greco beat out Jerry because of his ability to play center and guard.

Two-plus weeks into the season, Greco is now a starter. The 11-year veteran is getting an unexpected chance because Halapio broke his right leg and ankle in the third quarter of the 20-13 loss to the Cowboys.

“Any time you lose your partner in crime, one of your buddies in your room, you feel for him,” Greco said Wednesday as the Giants (0-2) practiced for Sunday’s game in Houston against the Texans (0-2).

“We know that he’s going to come back stronger than ever, but at the same time we just have to do everything we can this week to try to get a win. It’s going to be a tough road game, awesome atmosphere down in Houston, so we are excited about the challenge and opportunity.”

Greco is on his third tour with coach Pat Shurmur. The two also worked for the Rams, and Greco also was in Cleveland when Shurmur coached the Browns.

Greco joins an offensive line that has struggled. New York is ranked in the bottom five on offense in yards per game, total yards passing, total yards running, first downs, points and passing average. The line has allowed eight sacks, including six by the Cowboys on Sunday night.

“We just have to focus everything on in-house,” Greco said. “We don’t really listen to the talk outside, we know we have to play better and that’s the focus every week. When we get some wins it’s going to be the same thing. There’s going to be no let-up, and that’s how you’ve got to approach it.

“You can’t be complacent and when you know things aren’t going your way you just have to do everything extra, and do everything in your power to be the cause of the wins and not the cause of losses.”

Quarterback Eli Manning spoke with Greco this week and does not expect a problem making the transition.

“He’s been here all training camp,” Manning said. “We’ve worked together, we’ve gotten snaps throughout training camp and everything so that shouldn’t be a problem. He knows what’s going on. We’ve met this week, we’ve talked a bunch on some calls, making sure we’re saying the same thing and hearing things the same way.”

The bigger problem will be getting the offense in gear. Manning did not have enough time to throw and there were not many holes for rookie running back Saquon Barkley against Dallas.

“I think we’re close on things,” Manning said. “You’re going against good players and they’re going to make plays sometimes and that’s fine, but when there are opportunities and when things should be picked up or guys should be going certain ways, you got to do those things and give yourself an opportunity to make those plays when they can be there.”

Greco is looking forward to helping the offense. A year ago, he was sitting home waiting for someone to sign him.

“I knew I still had enough gas in the tank that I could’ve been playing and I was just happy I got the opportunity here last year and then again this offseason, and here we are,” he said. “So, that really hasn’t entered my mind. It’s more of a laugh thing I can do at myself but yeah, I’m excited about the opportunity.”

NOTES: LB Olivier Vernon (ankle), CB Eli Apple (hamstring) and LB Connor Barwin (knee) did not practice. Vernon has not played in a game this season. Apple was hurt Sunday. Barwin has been bothered by a nagging injury in recent weeks although he has not missed games. … Starting tight end Evan Engram (ankle) and punter returner Kaelin Clay (ankle) were limited. … New York signed FB Elijhaa Penny off Arizona’s practice squad. Halapio, who had surgery Monday, was placed on injured reserve to make room for him.

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