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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Care to chime in, Ron Rivera?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Coleman was nagged by soft tissue injuries at Baylor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      The main issue reportedly is regarding how guarantees will be distributed. Bosa was the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year with 13.5 sacks in 2015 (26 in his career).

  • Steelers' Roethlisberger, Brown, Bell to play vs. Saints
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will play all of his healthy players in a game for the first time this preseason.

    • That means quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown and running backs Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams are expected to play when the Steelers travel to face the New Orleans Saints on Friday night (8 p.m. ET). All four were held out of the first two preseason games.

      "I feel like I could go into the regular season and do it, but I'd like to be to there because it's a different speed," Roethlisberger said. "You want to get out. I wouldn't even mind getting hit once maybe after the ball's gone, just a little tap from someone."

      Roethlisberger said it will be nice for all available offensive starters to get some quality work in during a preseason game before the regular season begins.

      "It's good for all of us," he said. "For me to understand them and for them to understand me, how I work. For the new guys, to know how I communicate and how I play. Even for the linemen, to get back out there with everybody."

      Tomlin did not specify how much he would play his stars, but he was looking forward to watching his first-team offense perform for the first time. He also said he was interested to see how his first-team defense performs against veteran quarterback Drew Brees.

      -- Cornerback Senquez Golson is eyeing a November return after undergoing surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury in his left foot three weeks ago. Golson was expected to be the starting slot corner, but he was injured in the fourth practice of training camp.

      "I'll definitely be back this year," Golson said. "I'm thinking sometime in November. For sure by the end of November, I'll be full-speed back."

      NFL teams can bring one player back from injured reserve during the season. It remains to be seen if Golson will be that player.

      In the meantime, the Steelers brought in former Saints corner Keenan Lewis for a physical. Lewis played for Pittsburgh from 2009-12 and could provide depth in a thin defensive backfield.

      NOTES: LB Vince Williams, the top reserve at inside linebacker, signed a three-year contract Tuesday. Williams, who has 13 starts in his first three seasons, could project as a starter next season if the Steelers cannot come to terms with veteran starter Lawrence Timmons, who is entering the final year of his contract. ... WR Markus Wheaton returned to practice this week from an undisclosed injury that kept him out the past two weeks. He is expected to play Friday against New Orleans and serve as the starter opposite Brown. ... CB Artie Burns, the rookie first-round pick, returned to practice Wednesday after missing a couple of weeks with a quad injury. He is expected to see his first action of the preseason Friday against the Saints. The Steelers were hoping Burns would challenge Ross Cockrell for a starting job. Now he'll look to make up for lost time and try to convince the coaches he can be part of the corner rotation.

  • Giants' Mara defends giving K Brown extension
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

      Since the news of his suspension became public, however, more details have emerged that have painted a rather unsettling picture and history of domestic violence between Brown and his ex-wife. In fact, his ex-wife detailed in a police report that Brown was physically aggressive toward her on 20 different occasions.

      Mara said that the team knew about Brown's incident which resulted in the arrest after conducting its own due diligence.

      "When we made the decision to re-sign Josh back in 2015, we were certainly aware of the arrest and the allegations of that arrest," Mara said. "Based on the facts and circumstances we were aware of at that time, we were comfortable with re-signing him."

      Despite the new information uncovered by the New York Daily News, information that has included two calls made by Molly Brown to 911, Mara said that nothing has changed.

      "Nothing has happened in the mean time to make us question that decision," Mara added. "A lot of times there's a tendency to make these cases black and white; they're very rarely black and white. You very rarely have a Ray Rice video. There are allegations made, you try to sort through the facts and that's what we tried to do here."

      Mara, who stressed that the organization takes domestic violence and sexual abuse very seriously, said that there is a "big difference between allegations and convictions or indictments" which can cloud the issue.

      "It's very difficult to sort through all that and make informed decisions," he said. "We attempted to make an informed decision here and we'll live with the results of that decision as we move forward. We've made our decision and we're comfortable with it."

      That doesn't mean it's been an easy decision to make for Mara, the father of four daughters, brother of seven sisters and employer of several dozen women.

      "I think this is an organization that always tries to do the right thing. I don't know that we always get it done, but we try. We did our homework here, we got as many of the facts and circumstances as we could in front of us as we could and we made a decision," he said.

      "It's very easy to say, 'The guy's been accused, get rid of him.' But when you're sitting at the top of an organizational and you're responsible for a lot of people, you better make more informed decisions than that."

      Mara revealed that Brown has been undergoing counselling and that he is confident that Brown will continue to work toward meet the team's expectations regarding his conduct.

      "He's been very diligent about that. He's been a good citizen since he's been here," Mara said. "He's had conversations with a number of us in management including myself and I'm confident that he's going to conduct himself in a way that's expected of him."

      As for whether this means Brown is a lock to be the team's kicker after his suspension is up, Mara said that the decision will come down to whether Brown or newly signed Randy Bullock performs better.

      "That's going to be a football decision," Mara said. "There will be a competition and that will be up to the coach."

  • Arians, Elway expected to join NFL competition committee
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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

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

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

      There are currently nine members on the committee. The other members are New York Giants owner John Mara, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Los Angeles Rams coach Jeff Fisher.

      Fisher said in February at the Scouting Combine that he wanted to step away from the committee to focus on his team's move to Los Angeles. It is not known which other member of the committee is resigning his post, according to ESPN.

      The competition committee reviews rules proposals each year and makes recommendations on changes. Owners then vote on the recommended rules changes at the annual league meetings. At least 24 of the 32 owners (75 percent) are needed to support any changes before rules are adopted or revised.

  • Steelers LB Harrison, NFL to meet Thursday
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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

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

      Harrison and Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers were among the four active players implicated in the Al-Jazeera report. Matthews and Peppers were meeting with the league Wednesday. Free agent linebacker Mike Neal will meet with NFL investigators on Thursday in Chicago.

      An NFL Players Association attorney will be present at Harrison's interview, as well as the others, to help limit the questions to the specifics of the Al-Jazeera report, a source told ESPN's Dan Graziano.

      The league set a deadline to consent to an interview with the NFL by Thursday. Adolpho Birch, the NFL's senior vice president of labor policy and league affairs, had sent a memo to the NFLPA warning that suspensions will go into effect on Aug. 26 if the players failed to cooperate.

      The NFL last month cleared retired quarterback Peyton Manning, also named in the report, after he cooperated with the league following a seven-month investigation. Manning retired after his Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers to win Super Bowl 50 in February.

      After Wednesday's practice, Harrison called the NFL's interview a "waste of time."

      "They are going to clear my name and give me the same sendoff they gave Peyton Manning," Harrison told reporters. "I'm going to be cleared. They are going to give me the same thing, flash, across the bulletin board, NFL, Instagram, Twitter, all that -- James Harrison cleared.

      "I'm not anxious, man. It's a stupid thing I gotta do to continue doing what it is I want to do and trying to get to where we want to be, and that's holding a Lombardi. Me sitting out or having to sit out a season is not it."

      The 38-year-old Harrison recently said he didn't mind answering questions but wasn't thrilled with the process, ripping NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

      "Whatever evidence they think they may have or reason for questioning me, it's out of my control, I really don't know," Harrison told reporters last week. "I wouldn't have a problem with (the interview) being filmed, live. ... That way, I've been prosecuted and persecuted, publicly in the media by them for something that I didn't do, so I don't see why we can't have the media there and do a live interview and ask their questions and I can answer them and y'all can see whatever evidence it is they say they've got. ...

      "If it goes to a conduct-detrimental-(to-the-league charge), it leans to the hands of that crook, I mean Roger Goodell, and he can do whatever he wants. That's just the collective-bargaining agreement that the players signed (in 2011)."

  • Patriots trade C Stork to Redskins
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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

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

      New England will receive a conditional draft pick in return, according to multiple reports.

      Stork was second in the chase for the starting center job to 2015 undrafted free agent David Andrews.

      Stork was thrown out of a joint practice last week for losing his temper and swinging punches at the Chicago Bears. He was also tossed from a minicamp workout in June for an outburst and drew a flag for a head-butt in the AFC Championship game in January.

      To begin training camp, Stork missed five consecutive practices with a reported concussion. This is the fourth straight year dating back to college that he has dealt with a head injury.

      The Patriots also released veteran wide receiver Nate Washington, the team announced.

      Washington signed a one-year, $1.065 million contract with the Patriots this offseason but only $60,000 was guaranteed. He has 458 career receptions for 6,954 yards and 44 touchdowns over 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans.

  • NFL Showtime: Names to know in penultimate preseason games
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    This third week of preseason games is showtime in the National Football League for teams that want one last look at their first team, and players who want to be on that starting unit.

    • Indeed, this third preseason game has been a turning point for many NFL players who not only went on to start, but became stars.

      In 2012, running back Alfred Morris was the Washington Redskins' sixth-round pick, No. 173 overall, out of little Florida Atlantic. His arrival in camp was barely noted because the headlines were stolen by some quarterback with a weird moniker -- RG3.

      So it was with little fanfare that Morris was tabbed as the starting running back in the Redskins' Week 3 preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, whose rookie quarterback also had an interesting name -- Luck.

      But we digress, this is not about a battle between rookie quarterbacks known as RG3 and Luck.

      This is about Morris, a 5-foot-10, 219-pounder who was so lightly regarded that famously reliable NFLDraftScout.com ranked him as the 34th running back prospect going into the draft, No. 403 overall. In retrospect, that was a rare embarrassment for NFLDraftscout.com which was otherwise prescient enough to rank those aforementioned quarterbacks, Luck and RG3, 1-2, which sure 'nuff is where they were picked.

      So amidst the din created by a matchup between those celebrated 1-2 selections, Morris humbly hoofed his way onto the field with hopes of gaining a few yards, and perhaps some attention.

      His performance not only made NFLDraftScout.com appear a bit off key, but surpassed even what the Redskins should have expected from a sixth-round pick from one of the few Florida colleges that is seldom mentioned in football discussions.

      Morris gained attention with 14 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown. He also gained a spot on the bench the next week in preseason game four. That's what the Redskins do with players named regular-season starters.

      And, although the Redskins' season was anything but regular that year, Morris rushed for 1,613 yards, second only to a guy with Minnesota who goes by yet another unusual tag -- A.P. The "P" stands for Peterson and A. Peterson managed to gather 2,097 yards rushing, relegating Morris to No. 2. Still, not bad for a kid from Florida Atlantic who was overlooked even by the esteemed NFLDraftScout.com.

      Ironically, Morris goes into this week's third preseason game once again seeking a starting job, this time with the Dallas Cowboys after a fall from grace in Washington, where he gained a meager 751 yards last season.

      He is out to once again prove that poor season, as well as NFLDraftScout.com's old 2012 rating, are just wrong. He is one of dozens of NFL players who are trying to make a mark in this week's preseason games.

      The Sports Xchange, which bravely owns up to being the parent company of NFLDraftScout.com (hey, there's no such thing as bad publicity), has a reporter entrenched with every NFL team. These valiant evaluators bravely nominated a candidate for the Showtime Player of the Week, which means he damn well needs to impress coaches the way Morris did back on 2012.

      Here is a closer look at TSX's Showtime nominees on each team and a schedule for the games in which they will play, which includes five that will be nationally televised as the networks put their respective lineups on display for the first time this year.

      After all, it's Showtime!

      Following the Week 3 preseason schedule is a list of TSX Showtime nominees with teams listed alphabetically within their conference, starting with the NFC:

      WEEK 3 - AUGUST 25-28

      Thursday, August 25

      Game, Network (if nationally televised), Time (EDT)

      Atlanta at Miami (Orlando, FL), NBC, 8:00p

      Dallas at Seattle, 10:00p

      Friday, August 26

      Game, Network (if nationally televised), Time (EDT)

      New England at Carolina, 7:30p

      Buffalo at Washington, 7:30p

      Pittsburgh at New Orleans, 8:00p

      Cleveland at Tampa Bay, CBS, 8:00p

      Green Bay at San Francisco, 10:00p

      Saturday, August 27

      Game, Network (if nationally televised), Time (EDT)

      Kansas City at Chicago, 1:00p

      Detroit at Baltimore, 7:00p

      Philadelphia at Indianapolis, 7:00p

      New York Giants at New York Jets, 7:30p

      Tennessee at Oakland, CBS, 8:00p

      Los Angeles at Denver, 9:00p

      Sunday, August 28

      Game, Network (if nationally televised), Time (EDT)

      San Diego at Minnesota, FOX, 1:00p

      Arizona at Houston, FOX, 4:00p

      Cincinnati at Jacksonville, NBC, 8:00p

      NFC

      ARIZONA CARDINALS

      --Wide receiver Jaron Brown: No one has been more consistent in camp on the offensive side of the ball than Brown, who entered the summer as the Cardinals' No. 5 wideout.

      But he keeps making so many plays day in and day out that there is a real chance he could push for loads of extra playing time. That is especially true if John Brown is still having concussion-like symptoms despite having been cleared for practice. Either way, Jaron Brown likely will be the team's No. 3 receiver when the Cardinals meet the Texans on Sunday.

      ATLANTA FALCONS

      --Running back Brandon Wilds: He ran hard and with authority last Thursday and for the second consecutive week. He had an electric 32-yard touchdown run during which he bounced outside and ran through contact along the sideline.

      Wilds finished with 49 yards on eight carries and averaged 6.1 yards per attempt. Terron Ward was the third running back last season, but is slowed by an ankle injury. Wilds needs another strong showing to supplant Ward behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

      CAROLINA PANTHERS

      --Defensive tackle Kyle Love: The fifth-year veteran missed last Saturday's game with a concussion, but he is now out of protocol, which is NFL jargon that means he should be able to play.

      When Love signed a one-year deal to return to Carolina this spring, it appeared he had a roster spot waiting for him. But the Panthers then used their first-round draft pick on Vernon Butler and have since been impressed by Robert Thomas and Eric Crume, who continue to push Love this preseason.

      CHICAGO BEARS

      --Tight end Khari Lee: The Bears received little for the sixth-round draft pick they gave up to Houston last year for Lee, although he saw spot time last year and essentially was in the second or third tight-end spot all of this camp.

      It was assumed Lee would step forth into the second tight-end spot when Martellus Bennett was traded, but more needs to be seen. And Rob Housler announced himself as a viable contender for a roster spot last week with a 52-yard catch-and-run. Tony Moeaki was making strides as a receiver before an injury.

      Lee needs to display better run-blocking ability in addition to getting involved in the passing game.

      DALLAS COWBOYS

      --Left tackle Chaz Green: He will get another start in place of the injured Tyron Smith (stinger). This time Green will go up against the vaunted Seattle Seahawks defensive line Thursday night.

      Green is trying to stick as the swing tackle. He had some up-and-down performances the first two weeks of the preseason and throughout training camp. Quarterback Tony Romo will likely play the entire first half and Green will be asked to protect his blind side. There is no better and more important opportunity for Green's readiness than against the Seahawks.

      And, of course, running back Alfred Morris would like to reprise his 2012 rookie performance in that third preseason game with Washington.

      DETROIT LIONS

      --Running back Dwayne Washington: Washington looked like he was destined for the practice squad after the Lions took him with their last of 10 draft picks and threw him into a crowded running back room after he missed most of spring workouts due to school commitments.

      But the University of Washington product helped his cause more than anyone this preseason. He returned a kick for a touchdown in the preseason opener, led the team in rushing in Week 2 of exhibition play and played all over the field on special teams. Washington had a handful of plays with the second-team offense last week and the Lions hope to take another extended look at him against the Ravens.

      GREEN BAY PACKERS

      --Punter Tim Masthay: The seventh-year Packer might have his work cut out for him the last two weeks of the preseason to save his job in Green Bay.

      Going into the penultimate preseason game on the road against the San Francisco 49ers on Friday night, the veteran is far down on the NFL statistical rankings that has undrafted rookie competitor Peter Mortell near the top.

      "I think that's heating up," head coach Mike McCarthy said about the punting battle. "We'll continue to split the reps and let Tim and Peter battle it out."

      Although it wasn't his fault after LaDarius Gunter missed a block, a blocked punt late in the game that resulted in an end-zone recovery by the Oakland Raiders for a touchdown further sullied Masthay's shaky stat line. He averaged 45.7 yards in three punts (long of 51), but his net was an abysmal 28.0 yards.

      Mortell was impressive in two opportunities with a gross average of 57.0 yards (long of 58) and an even better net average of 58.0 yards because of a two-yard loss on one return after a muffed catch.

      Mortell, a Green Bay native who kicked at Minnesota, ranks in the league's top 10 with a gross average of 49.2 yards and is second with a net average of 48.8. Conversely, Masthay is 33rd in gross (42.7) and 40th in net (26.7).

      LOS ANGELES RAMS

      --Wide receiver Brian Quick: The former second-round pick is losing his grip on a prominent role in the Rams' offense, and if he isn't careful he might lose his job on the team altogether.

      Quick was not mentioned by head coach Jeff Fisher's recent talk about the wide receiver competition, and Quick clearly didn't help himself when he dropped a perfectly-thrown pass against the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday.

      "Brian needs to catch the football; your receivers have to catch it, not drop it," Fisher said. "He's had too many drops, so he's going to have to focus on that."

      Still, you get the feeling the fourth-year wide receiver is running out of chances, which means he faces a big test this week against the Denver Broncos.

      MINNESOTA VIKINGS

      --Right tackle Andre Smith: After a terrible preseason opener in which he looked unsure and a step slow, Smith took a step back in his competition with second-year player T.J. Clemmings.

      Clemmings, who was all but buried in his competition with Smith, was moved back into the starting five for the first practice after the preseason opener at Cincinnati. But Smith was given a second chance when he started the second preseason game in Seattle. He and the entire line were impressive in how well they stepped it up in pass protection.

      But Clemmings could make a late surge if Smith stumbles too badly in the third preseason game at home against the Chargers on Sunday. Clemmings started every game last season after Phil Loadholt suffered a torn Achilles' tendon. But Clemmings was overmatched and never progressed, so Smith was signed away from Cincinnati via free agency.

      Smith was supposed to battle Loadholt for the starting job in training camp, but Loadholt suffered another injury and decided to retire before camp started. Another strong showing in pass protection on Sunday would go a long way toward helping calm some uneasiness about the line heading into the season.

      NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

      --Running back Daniel Lasco: The Saints' seventh-round draft pick this spring showed flashes in OTAs, training camp and the first two preseason games. He is waging a battle with second-year pro Marcus Murphy to be the fourth halfback when the final cuts come down.

      The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Lasco made some head-turning plays in training camp, especially one highlight-reel run in which he flattened free safety Vonn Bell, a second-round draft pick, after breaking loose in the secondary. Lasco is averaging just 2.5 yards on 17 carries, but he could have a leg up on Murphy, who was the fourth running back last season.

      Murphy's roster spot might be in jeopardy considering he fumbled a punt for the second week in a row in a 16-9 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday night and was chastised for it by head coach Sean Payton in his postgame comments.

      N.Y. GIANTS

      --Wide receiver Victor Cruz: He has somehow managed to keep the faith despite his latest setback with a groin strain. This week, however, Cruz could be on his way toward getting back onto the football field for the first time in nearly three years.

      Cruz was practicing Monday and head coach Ben McAdoo confirmed that the plan is to start Cruz out slowly and let him build up.

      McAdoo has said that they need to see Cruz get through an entire week of practice and get into a game before they can make a decision whether to carry him. If Cruz can't accomplish either of those tasks this week, it would be virtually impossible to justify giving him a roster spot.

      PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

      --Wide receiver Josh Huff: A 2014 third-round pick, Huff has only 35 receptions in two seasons. With the recent addition of Dorial Green-Beckham and the impressive play of undrafted rookie Paul Turner, Huff needs a solid performance Saturday against Indianapolis or he could soon find himself out of a job.

      Huff has only three catches for 13 yards on 38 snaps in the first two preseason games. Huff is the team's No. 1 kickoff returner, but that might not be enough to keep his job if he can't carry his weight as a receiver.

      SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

      --Outside linebacker Marcus Rush: After spending a season on the 49ers' practice squad last year, the former Michigan State standout appears ready to suit up on game day in 2016. In fact, he looked so good in Saturday's preseason win at Denver, he might force his way onto the field quite a bit.

      Rush recorded three sacks in the win, including one where his hit on Broncos quarterback Mark Sanchez forced a fumble.

      SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

      --Tackle Garry Gilliam: Gilliam was moved from right tackle to left tackle this offseason to replace a departed Russell Okung. With J'Marcus Webb dealing with a knee injury, Gilliam was bumped back to the right side and has not looked sharp during Seattle's two preseason games.

      Whether at left tackle or right tackle, Gilliam is expected to be a key piece of Seattle's offensive line. He did have offseason surgery to remove a cyst in his knee. That could help explain the shakiness, but Gilliam needs to take a step forward over the remaining two weeks of the preseason.

      TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

      --Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves: He had two interceptions against the Jacksonville Jaguars during Saturday's preseason game, and has a chance to win a starting job with a good performance against the Cleveland Browns on Friday. Hargreaves is working as the nickel slot corner, but could unseat either Brent Grimes or Alterraun Verner.

      WASHINGTON REDSKINS

      --Tight end Logan Paulsen: A mainstay in Washington since 2010, Paulsen missed all of last season with torn ligaments in his right big toe. But with Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Niles Paul clearly ahead of him on the depth chart, Paulsen is at least on the roster bubble.

      He has been a key special-teams player and is probably Washington's best blocking tight end -- though Davis and Paul are good in that area, too. The Redskins also have Derek Carrier returning soon from torn right knee ligaments suffered in December. They traded a fifth-round pick for him last summer when Paulsen and Paul (dislocated/fractured left ankle) were lost for the season during training camp.

      Paulsen could use a strong third game to prove the Redskins should look elsewhere (inside linebacker, quarterback, wide receiver, running back, offensive line) to ease their roster crunch.

      AFC

      BALTIMORE RAVENS

      --Linebacker Matt Judon: The fifth-round pick from Grand Valley State led the nation with 20 sacks last year. That ability to get to the quarterback is the primary reason he was selected by Baltimore at No. 146 overall.

      So far, Judon has justified that pick. After earning a sack in the first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, Judon had two more against the Colts on Saturday. He will look to maintain that big-play ability this Saturday against the Detroit Lions.

      "He's a gamer, I guess," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "He's playing pretty good in practice, but he's playing really well in the games. I think kind of what I'd like to do next week, is put him in against some starting offensive tackles and see how he does."

      BUFFALO BILLS

      --Fullback Glenn Gronkowski: The younger brother of Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski has been considered a longshot to make the 53-man roster and seems destined for a spot on the practice squad.

      However, Jerome Felton hasn't stood out in camp and he lost a fumble against the New York Giants. Gronkowski has the versatility to line up at fullback, tight end or H-back, and he can play special teams.

      So the next two games will be important for him. If Felton is on the team, his cap hit is $2.3 million and if he's not, the dead cap hit is $1.9 million, for those who focus on numbers over production.

      CINCINNATI BENGALS

      --Safety Derron Smith: He provided the defensive highlight of Thursday night's preseason game at Detroit when he anticipated a route, picked off a pass from Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky, and sprinted 60 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.

      The second-year pro out of Fresno State is looking to secure a spot in a Bengals secondary that is deep and experienced.

      "He had an opportunity last week and didn't make the play on the ball," head coach Marvin Lewis said after the last game. "This week he converted, which was good. That's what he's got to keep doing. These young guys, we're expecting a lot out of them. They just have to keep rising up."

      CLEVELAND BROWNS

      --Wide receiver Josh Gordon: Gordon is getting one chance to make a huge impression on Browns head coach Hue Jackson. Gordon did not play in either of the first two preseason games. He is suspended for the first four regular-season games as part of the condition for being reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell.

      Jackson plans to play Gordon extensively against the Buccaneers in the third preseason game so he can get an idea of how to use him when Gordon's suspension ends. Gordon led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013, but has been his own worst enemy since.

      DENVER BRONCOS

      --Wide receiver Cody Latimer: After languishing through his first two seasons, the 2014 second-round pick is finally poised for a breakthrough. He struggled to pick up the offense in 2014 and 2015 and admitted he was "nervous" around quarterback Peyton Manning as he feared making a mistake.

      But this summer he is more relaxed and leads the Broncos in yardage and receptions through two games. Bennie Fowler's elbow injury also gave Latimer more time, and he appears to be leading in the race for the No. 3 receiving position.

      HOUSTON TEXANS

      --Running back Tyler Ervin: The fourth-round draft pick from San Jose State needs to show more explosiveness as a return specialist and out of the backfield.

      Ervin hasn't flashed the big-play capabilities he displayed in college with the exception of his work on the Texans' practice field. A lot is expected from Ervin and he needs to start making more plays on offense and special teams.

      INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

      --Kick returner-wide receiver Quan Bray: Bray has been the primary kickoff and punt returner for the Colts during the preseason. In order to have a better chance to make the team's regular season-roster, however, the former Auburn standout needs to be more consistent in his role as a backup wide receiver.

      Head coach Chuck Pagano said that he wants to see more production from Bray as an offensive player.

      "The more that you can do, the better chance you have to make the team," Pagano said.

      Indianapolis has several undrafted rookie receivers who are pushing Bray. That includes Chester Rogers and Tevaun Smith, who have both shown the ability to also return kicks if needed. Bray has two more preseason games to make his best impression on the Colts' coaching staff.

      JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

      --Tackle Kelvin Beachum: If Beachum expects to open the season as the Jaguars' starting left tackle, he must have a good week of practice and it must transfer to Sunday night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

      Since the Jaguars signed Beachum to a free-agent contract last March, the talk was that he would be the starting left tackle when the season began ... if he was healthy. Less than three weeks before the opener on Sept. 11 against Green Bay, Jaguars fans, coaches and Beachum's teammates are still waiting for his return. Beachum made progress in recovering from last year's ACL surgery, but he is limited in practice.

      Beachum didn't take part in live action in two practice sessions with Tampa Bay last week, nor was he healthy enough to dress for Friday's game against the Bucs.

      Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said the day after the game that "our hope is that everything goes smooth in practice this week, so he has a chance to play on Sunday. We will see. He has made really good progress. He got some practice reps. We hope everything falls into place this week."

      That wasn't a resounding endorsement for Beachum being in the lineup against the Bengals. If he's not, chances are he won't be there for the start of the regular season, either.

      KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

      --Wide receiver Mike Williams: The sometimes-troubled 29-year-old receiver from Syracuse appeared in only 15 games over the last three years with Tampa Bay and Buffalo. Williams sat out the entire 2015 season that began with an NFL suspension and the Bills cut him loose.

      In his first three NFL seasons, all with the Buccaneers, the fourth-round selection in the 2010 draft caught 193 balls for 2,731 yards and 23 touchdowns. Williams missed the Chiefs' offseason field work because of a hamstring pull, and he has not received a lot of playing time -- just 23 snaps in two games. He was targeted four times, catching two passes for 18 and nine yards.

      The depth chart at receiver is tight. Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, Rod Streater and rookie Tyreek Hill appear to be locks. That would leave possibly one spot open, with Williams battling De'Anthony Thomas, Frankie Hammond and rookie Demarcus Robinson.

      MIAMI DOLPHINS

      --Wide receiver Griff Whalen: The veteran had one punt return for nine yards last week against Dallas, but needs to show he can also be factor as a slot receiver.

      Whalen is battling rookie Jakeem Grant, who serves as first-team punt and kickoff returner, and rookie third-round pick Leonte Carroo for a roster spot. The odds appear to be against Whalen unless Miami decides to keep six receivers. Starters Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills are on the team, and Grant and Carroo are draftees.

      NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

      --Cornerback Cyrus Jones: New England's top pick had an up and down summer. He muffed too many punts on the practice field, only to get the job done cleanly in preseason action. His coverage in the secondary is spotty at times and tight on others. He made a nice break on an interception in last week's win over the Bears.

      Jones still has a shot not only to be the primary punt returner, but also to earn the No. 3 cornerback job right out of the gates. He will face a strong test in that area in this week's battle with MVP quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers passing attack.

      N.Y. JETS

      --Tight end Jace Amaro: By declining to upgrade the worst tight-end corps in the league, the Jets all but gifted the starting job to Amaro, the unproven 2014 second-rounder with remarkable measureables.

      However, Amaro is trying to give the job back. He had two key drops in Friday night's exhibition game against the Redskins and watched from the sideline as Zach Sudfeld caught a 19-yard touchdown pass. All the Jets want from their tight end is someone who can block and catch what is thrown to him. If Amaro can't do that against the Giants on Saturday, it may be his last chance.

      OAKLAND RAIDERS

      --Running back George Atkinson III: He burst into contention for a roster spot on the strength of 53- and 35-yard touchdown runs in the preseason opener against Arizona. The son of the former Raiders safety by the same name (without the III), Atkinson had only three yards on three carries against Green Bay.

      With Latavius Murray and DeAndre Washington guaranteed spots, Atkinson may be competing with Jalen Richard, an undrafted free agent. Two things in Atkinson's favor: He can cover kickoffs, and fullback Marcel Reece will spend the first three games of the season under suspension for violating the league's PED policy last year.

      PITTSBURGH STEELERS

      --Wide receiver Eli Rogers: This former undrafted free agent out of Louisville is pushing for playing time and could be a big addition to an offense that is already stacked with talent.

      Rogers, a shifty slot receiver, had a strong training camp. Against the Eagles last Thursday night, he caught four passes for 39 yards from backup quarterback Landry Jones.

      In the third preseason game at New Orleans, Rogers will get another chance to show off his work in the slot. Rogers understands angles and how to get open from the slot, and he demonstrated the ability to get yards after the catch. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's main target will be Antonio Brown, but don't be surprised if Rogers becomes one of Big Ben's favorite targets.

      SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

      --Wide receiver/returner Travis Benjamin: Everyone raves about Benjamin's speed and how it can lengthen the field for the Chargers. But Benjamin's practice time with quarterback Philip Rivers has been spotty and he dropped some passes as well.

      Benjamin was actually brought in to give the return game a boost, but he looked tentative in the second preseason game. He needs a good game at Minnesota Sunday (on FOX) for his confidence and also to earn more faith from Rivers.

      TENNESSEE TITANS

      --Guard Quinton Spain: He held the left-guard spot throughout the offseason and into the first two preseason games for the Titans. Still, the team has not yet awarded him the starting job, noting that Spain still has some technique and hand placement issues that have to be fixed.

      Spain is now getting a challenge from former starting center Brian Schwenke and rookie sixth-round pick Sebastian Tretola for the spot. This week against the Raiders on Saturday in Oakland (on CBS), Spain needs to solidify his hold on the starting job or risk losing it.

      --Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and 26th year on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

  • Steelers LB Williams lands three-year deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    The Pittsburgh Steelers signed linebacker Vince Williams to a three-year contract that will run through the 2018 season.

    • Terms of the deal were not released. However, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Tuesday that Williams likely received a sizable raise from the $675,000 base salary he was scheduled to make this year in the final season of his rookie contract.

      Williams, 26, played in 16 games last season but did not start any of them. He is still a backup to Lawrence Timmons at an inside linebacker position heading into this season. However, Williams did start 11 games in 2013 as a rookie after being a sixth-round pick out of Florida State.

      In 47 career regular-season games, Williams has totaled 85 tackles, a half-sack and two fumble recoveries on defense. On special teams, Williams has totaled 26 tackles and one fumble recovery.

      Timmons, 30, is in the final year of five-year extension he signed in 2011. He will count more than $15 million against the salary cap this year, so the signing of Williams may be a safeguard if the Steelers decide not to re-sign Timmons.

      Timmons has said he wants to re-sign with the Steelers.

  • NFL notebook: Cowboys WR Bryant to sit with concussion
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant will not play against the Seattle Seahawks this week due to a concussion.

    • Bryant sustained a concussion in Monday's practice and will not play Thursday. He's unlikely to play in the preseason finale next week, as per team custom, meaning he would not suit up until Sept. 11 against the New York Giants.

      Bryant has four catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns in the first two preseason games in his comeback from offseason foot surgery. Bryant played only nine games last season after signing a five-year, $70 million deal on July 15.

      His poor production was in part a byproduct of a revolving door at quarterback. Bryant recorded a career-low 31 receptions for 401 yards and three touchdowns in 2015.

      -- Josh Gordon has been cleared to play for the Browns after serving a four-week suspension to start the 2016 season, but teams are hoping to pry Gordon away from Cleveland before October.

      According to ESPN and NFL Network, Gordon is drawing significant interest on the trade market.

      Gordon was back at practice with the Browns on Monday and practiced with the first-team offense. He's expected to work with the starters this week.

      Gordon has played only five regular-season games since leading the NFL in receiving yards in 2013. He has been suspended 27 games before this season for violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy, but is just 25 years old.

      -- Tom Brady returned to the New England Patriots, and the quarterback kept a tight lip for why he received an excused personal absence while also explaining his scissors mishap that prevented him from playing against the Chicago Bears last Thursday.

      Brady was reportedly excused from team the past two days but didn't shed light on the issue.

      Brady elaborated in much deeper detail when it came to the scissors incident that left him with a sliced right thumb. He called it "a silly mistake."

      -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is expected to receive his first taste of preseason action on Saturday night against the visiting Detroit Lions.

      Flacco has been sidelined from game action since tearing his ACL in November, but has been an active participant in practice throughout training camp. The 31-year-old has watched as Ryan Mallett, Josh Johnson and Jerrod Johnson have all taken snaps in the Ravens' first two preseason contests.

      Flacco said last week that while the knee "feels great," he is still not 100 percent. Mallett made his second straight start against Indianapolis last Saturday and completed 6-of-8 passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. He had a 128.6 passer rating.

      -- The Philadelphia Eagles signed veteran middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch to a one-year deal.

      Tulloch will have instant familiarity with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, under whom the 31-year-old played at both Tennessee and Detroit. He was released by the Lions last month.

      Tulloch, who is expected to compete with Jordan Hicks for the starting middle linebacker job, recorded 107 tackles and one sack in 16 games with Detroit last season. He has collected 940 tackles, 14.5 sacks and five interceptions in 10 seasons with the Titans and Lions.

      -- Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman expects to be on the field for the season opener on Sept. 11.

      "I have no doubt in my mind that I won't be ready. I'm attacking it right now like I will be ready," said Perriman, who missed all of last season with a knee injury after being drafted in the first round by the Ravens.

      Perriman suffered a small tear of his ACL in June but passed his physical last week, returning to the active roster days after the Ravens welcomed 37-year-old veteran Steve Smith back from a torn Achilles.

      -- The Patriots released running back Donald Brown, cornerback E.J. Biggers and defensive lineman Frank Kearse.

      Brown was nursing an undisclosed injury for the past few weeks and was unable to work his way into a crowded backfield after signing with New England on March 17.

      The 29-year-old Brown has rushed for 2,829 yards and 18 touchdowns and reeled in 120 receptions for 1,066 yards and two scores in 89 games since being selected by Indianapolis with the 27th overall pick of the 2009 draft.

      -- The San Francisco 49ers signed wide receiver Ryan Whalen to a one-year deal.

      Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed by the team, which also waived/injured rookie safety Jered Bell.

      A former Stanford standout, Whalen was a sixth-round selection in the 2011 draft by Cincinnati and reeled in 11 receptions for 80 yards while appearing in 17 games over three seasons with the Bengals.

      -- Cornerback Brandon McGee signed with the Detroit Lions, who waived cornerback Keith Lewis.

      McGee was a fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft and played for 17 games for the Rams in 2013-14.

      McGee also spent time on the practice squads of the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. He appeared in one game for the Giants last season (Oct. 19 vs. Philadelphia).

      -- The Minnesota Vikings removed tight end Rhett Ellison from the Physically Unable to Perform List after he passed his physical.

      Ellison was sidelined due to a torn patellar tendon in his right knee. He suffered the injury last January in the regular-season finale against the Green Bay Packers.

      Ellison, 27, was re-signed for $1.75 million in the offseason. He has a base salary of $760,000 that would drop to $428,000 if he is placed on injured reserve.

  • Cowboys G Leary wants trade prior to season
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    FRISCO, Texas -- Guard Ronald Leary remains hopeful that he will traded before the start of the season.

    • As of now, he is still the odd man out of the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line unit after being supplanted by La'el Collins last year.

      Leary started 31 of 32 games at left guard in 2013-2014 and believes he is a legit NFL starter. He will miss Thursday's preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks (10 p.m. ET). But he says that shouldn't affect his trade value.

      "I think every team knows what I can do by now," Leary said. "I've been playing for a while now, so not playing in a preseason game isn't going to have teams wondering what I can do."

      Leary, who sat out voluntary team activities in the off-season after demanding a trade, has kept a positive attitude for the most part in training camp and the preseason. He is under contract for $2.553 million after signing his restricted free agent tender before the draft.

      "I've been cool. I just focus on me," Leary said. "It's only so much you can control and I just control what I can control and that's playing football. All the trade talks that have been going on for a while now. We'll see if something happens. But I'm always going to stay positive. I'm not going to get down because I'm a real confident guy in my game and everything. I want to start. I know I'm a starter in the league, I've said it plenty of times and other people have said it, so it's true. It's not just me talking.

      "I hope so. I just pray about it and let it go. I can't sit there and wrack my mind about it every day, it'll drive you crazy. You end up being miserable, and I'm not going to let that happen."

      --Suspended defensive end Randy Gregory has a locker at the Cowboys new Ford Center home in Frisco, Texas.

      Suspended linebacker Rolando McClain does not.

      Owner Jerry Jones said nothing should be read into the locker situation because both players remain in limbo as far their status' with the team and the league are concerned.

      "There is still a lot of ambiguity involved in both their situations for this year," Jones said on his radio show on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday morning. "There is a legal aspect to this thing that we don't have our hands around. I don't want to dismiss that either could be on the field this year. They haven't been involved (in camp). That speaks for itself. But it's a long season. We will see how this thing plays out."

      Both players have been suspended for the first 10 games of the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Gregory did not report to training camp because he entered a drug treatment facility. Sources have maintained that he will likely miss the entire 2016 season.

      McClain was a no-show for training camp and was subjected to fines of $40,000 per day. Because he didn't report for the first preseason game, he will be fined a game check of roughly $73,529 based on his $1.25 million salary for 2016. He was already going to miss the first 10 games. Adding in the additional game fine plus the training camp fines, McClain stands to play for free in 2016 if and when he ever shows up.

      --Quarterback Dak Prescott's impressive play has halted the hunt for a veteran backup, said owner Jerry Jones.

      "Yes. Unquestionably," Jones said on his radio show.

      Jones credits part of Prescott 's fast start and early development to the lack of a veteran backup on the roster following Kellen Moore's fractured leg. Not only has it allowed him to get more snaps than normal but Jones said Prescott has already received more snaps in camp and the preseason than Romo had his first three years combined before being named the starter in 2006.

      NOTES: Wide Receiver Dez Bryant will miss the Seattle game after suffering a concussion in practice on Monday. He will not play again until the season opener. Bryant was having what he called the best training camp and preseason of his career. ... Defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford will not play against Seattle after suffering a concussion in practice on Sunday. He will sit out the preseason final like the rest of the starters but should be ready for the season opener. ... Cornerback Orlando Scandrick will not play against Seattle after complaining of tightness in his groin. He will sit out the preseason final like the rest of the starters but should be ready for the season opener. Scandrick missed all of last season with a torn ACL and MCL. The right knee is fine. The groin is the problem now. ... Offensive tackle Tyron Smith should play against the Seahawks after missing the first two preseason games with a stinger. ... Defensive end Benson Mayowa will make his Cowboys' debut against the Seahawks after missing the first two preseason games recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.

  • Gase having trouble getting WR Grant on the field
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Wide receiver Jakeem Grant only played one offensive snap last week against Dallas.

    • Perhaps that changes on Thursday against visiting Atlanta (8 p.m. ET), but don't be certain. Coach Adam Gase said it's tough to work in the 5-foot-6, rookie sixth-round pick among the wide receiver rotation.

      "It's hard when you have those three guys (Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker)," Gase said. "It's hard to pull them off the field."

      Grant, the likely kickoff and punt returner, only plays the slot receiver position, which limits his possibilities.

      "I know, just in the past, any time I've had a returner that was kind of a specialist, which he's different than most of the guys I've been around in the past, you want to try to find ways to get him on the field," Gase said. "But you don't want to overdo it, especially with the three we got right now."

      Grant is likely battling veteran Griff Whalen and rookie Leonte Carroo for spots on the 53-man roster. Ideally, the Dolphins won't want to use a one-dimensional player on the gameday 46-man active roster.

      -- Rookie cornerback Xavien Howard, the second-round pick from Baylor who was activated last week after June knee surgery, is participating in team drills on a limited basis. Howard said he doesn't expect to play Thursday against Atlanta but thinks he'll compete next week against Tennessee in the preseason finale.

      The Dolphins want to work him in slowly so there are no setbacks. There's still a good chance Howard could be the starter for the Sept. 11 opener at Seattle.

      "We're just bringing him along," Gase said. "We're just communicating with him and see how he feels. He's saying that he feels good, but it's such a different animal when you go through an actual practice and contact and running against wide receivers compared to just running by yourself getting in condition."

      -- There are no problems on the offensive line for now. Guards Laremy Tunsil and Jermon Bushrod have taken over as starters for Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner, and that's likely how things will stay for Thursday's game against Atlanta. Thomas and Turner entered last week's game at Dallas for the first-team offense's second touchdown drive, but it seems Tunsil and Bushrod are the starters, and Gase likes it.

      "As a group, I thought those guys did well," Gase said. "I know we made a change there on that last drive and those guys did well. We had good protection for the most part. We had the one hit that Ryan (Tannehill) took - the defensive end jumped offside and (Ryan) stood in there and threw that thing. It was a pretty vicious hit and he popped right up. I think I learned something there about that guy."

      Gase said there's still no timetable on establishing a firm starting lineup.

      "I think we're still competing right now," he said. "It looks like it's going to be Seattle when we're going to be able to say this is where we're at, at this game, and then if it changes within the season, it does."

      NOTES: DE Cameron Wake will be a pregame decision on playing Thursday at Atlanta. Wake, who is recovering from a season-ending Achilles injury, hasn't played yet in preseason. ... CB Chris Culliver, who is recovering from an ACL injury he sustained last year with Washington, appears to be at least a couple of weeks from returning to practice judging by the pace of the rehab exercises he is currently doing. Culliver, who could contend for the starting job on the left side, still isn't running at three-quarters speed. ... QB Brandon Doughty likely will be elevated the second team with Matt Moore (concussion) not expected to play. Doughty said he's been "OK" during preseason and he'd give himself a letter grade of 'C' for his performance.

  • Falcons focused on improving play in red zone
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons will head to Orlando to play the Miami Dolphins in a preseason game on Thursday (8 p.m. ET) looking for both the offense and defense to perform better in the red zone.

    • "We've had six red-zone trips and scored (touchdowns) on half of them," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "We want that number to be up. Defensively, we've let them down there three times and they've scored twice. That's an area of emphasis for us heading into the game. Can we play better red-zone ball?"

      In 2015, Quinn's first as a head coach, the Falcons ranked 17th in offensive red-zone percentage (54.7) and tied for 26th in defensive red-zone percentage (62.2).

      The red zone is the area of the field inside the 20-yard lines but, more specifically, Quinn said he wants to see better execution in what the Falcons call the "deep red zone," inside the 12-yard line.

      "Some of the (receiver) routes change because of the field position," Quinn said Tuesday. "That's the biggest thing is the awareness of how to play based on how long the field is now. It was a good session for us this week."

      -- The interior of the Falcons' offensive line is taking a new shape this season.

      Ben Garland and rookie Wes Schweizter have come on strong and may push Mike Person, last season's starting center, off the roster.

      The starting spots appear set with Andy Levitre at left guard, Alex Mack at center and Chris Chester at right guard.

      Schweitzer played 61 snaps against Cleveland, more than any player on the team. He's expected to receive extensive action against Miami's first and second teams.

      The Falcons have to make sure he's solid if he's going to land the backup swing guard spot. Garland is a center and can also play guard.

      "We want to see that matchup inside," Quinn said. "We're pumped to head down to Orlando and play Miami. It's a good challenge for us. These preseason games are all different and the matchups are different so we're ready to get this thing kicked off again."

      On the defensive side of the ball, Quinn wants to see some other players match up against NFL talent.

      "I want to see the linebackers and safeties," Quinn said. "I want to see (nickel back Brian) Poole matched up. C.J. Goodwin is another one that we're trying to anxiously await to see what kind of role he can play. I wish there were more quarters to play because we want to take a look at a number of guys."

      -- Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins will receive extensive action over the final two exhibition games before he has to serve his four-game suspension for using performing enhancing drugs.

      "He played a lot and got extended time last week and we'll do that again tomorrow and into the next one knowing that will be his action for the next month," Quinn said.

      Collins played 23 snaps against Cleveland, the most of any defensive player on the team and finished with two tackles.

      Collins, who was drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft, struggled as a rookie. He was trying to come back from foot surgery and never really got comfortable playing the position.

      The Falcons had hoped Collins would land the right cornerback job and then they could move Robert Alford to nickel back to shut down speedy slot receivers. That's plan is on hold for now.

      However, Collins, a big corner at 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds, is still an important figure for the Falcons.

      NFC South rival Carolina can present big receivers in Devin Funchess (6-foot-4, 225) and Kelvin Benjamin (6-foot-5, 245), while Tampa Bay has Vincent Jackson (6-foot-5, 230) and Mike Evans (6-foot-5, 231). That's four games against massive receivers and if Collins can get ready, he can help in the Falcons' defensive scheme.

      The Falcons must also find out if C.J. Goodwin, who's 6-3, 190 pounds, can successfully finish his conversion to cornerback from wide receiver.

      Quinn has been pleased with how Collins has handled his suspension.

      "He really came in with the right mindset knowing that was one of the first things we did when we talked to him right from the start, saying these are the guidelines and this is what we're looking for you in this camp," Quinn said.

      Collins is still developing.

      "I've seen a real increase from the spring even into training camp on his play," Quinn said. "He was one of the guys that got his hands on one and made two interceptions (Monday). Good day by Jalen."

      NOTES: RB Terron Ward (ankle) and SS Kemal Ishmael (shoulder) will not play Thursday against Miami, but are expected to return for the final exhibition game against Jacksonville. ... SLB/DE Vic Beasley is slated to play extensively against the Dolphins on Saturday after being a late scratch against Cleveland last week with a shoulder injury. ... CB C.J. Goodwin, who's coming back from a hamstring injury, will play extensively against Miami on Saturday. He's a converted wide receiver. "C.J. Goodwin is another one that we're trying to anxiously await to see what kind of role he can play," Quinn said. "I wish there were more quarters to play because we want to take a look at a number of guys."

  • Patriots release RB Brown, two others
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    The New England Patriots released running back Donald Brown, cornerback E.J. Biggers and defensive lineman Frank Kearse on Tuesday.

    • Brown was nursing an undisclosed injury for the past few weeks and was unable to work his way into a crowded backfield after signing with New England on March 17.

      "He hasn't been available for a while," coach Bill Belichick said. "Yeah, it's unfortunate. He worked hard; he's a really good kid. We just never really got the chance to see him."

      The 29-year-old Brown has rushed for 2,829 yards and 18 touchdowns and reeled in 120 receptions for 1,066 yards and two scores in 89 games since being selected by Indianapolis with the 27th overall pick of the 2009 draft.

      Brown finished with just 229 yards rushing and one touchdown in 10 games with San Diego last season.

      Biggers, who was signed as an unrestricted free agent from Philadelphia on March 30, recorded 44 tackles and seven passes defensed in 16 games with the Eagles last season. The 29-year-old has played for Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in his career since being selected with a seventh-round pick in the 2009 draft.

      Kearse, 27, has also played for three teams during his career, recording 43 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks and one pass defensed in 35 games with Carolina, Dallas and Washington.

  • 49ers sign WR Whalen, waive S Bell
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    The San Francisco 49ers signed wide receiver Ryan Whalen to a one-year deal on Tuesday.

    • Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed by the team, which also waived/injured rookie safety Jered Bell.

      A former Stanford standout, Whalen was a sixth-round selection in the 2011 draft by Cincinnati and reeled in 11 receptions for 80 yards while appearing in 17 games over three seasons with the Bengals.

      The 27-year-old Whalen was released by Cincinnati in the summer of 2014 and spent approximately one month with Minnesota before being waived on Sept. 5, 2015.

      Bell signed with San Francisco as an undrafted free agent from the University of Colorado in May. He recorded 134 tackles, eight interceptions and six passes defensed in 49 games with the Buffaloes.

  • Ravens QB Flacco slated to make return from knee injury
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is expected to receive his first taste of preseason action on Saturday night against the visiting Detroit Lions.

    • Flacco has been sidelined from game action since tearing his ACL in November, but has been an active participant in practice throughout training camp. The 31-year-old has watched as Ryan Mallett, Josh Johnson and Jerrod Johnson have all taken snaps in the Ravens' first two preseason contests.

      A team's third preseason game is traditionally considered a dress rehearsal of sorts for the regular season.

      Flacco said last week that while the knee "feels great," he is still not 100 percent. Mallett made his second straight start against Indianapolis last Saturday and completed 6-of-8 passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. He had a 128.6 passer rating.

      Flacco completed 266-of-413 passes for 2,791 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 10 games last season.

  • Brady returns, talks scissors, suspension
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    Tom Brady returned to the New England Patriots on Tuesday, and the quarterback kept a tight lip for why he received an excused personal absence while also explaining his scissors mishap that prevented him from playing against the Chicago Bears last Thursday.

    • Brady was reportedly excused from team the past two days but didn't shed light on the issue.

      "I just had to take care of something, so it's good to be back with the team," Brady said. "I missed everybody, so just getting caught up on everything."

      Brady elaborated in much deeper detail when it came to the scissors incident that left him with a sliced right thumb. He called it "a silly mistake."

      "I was ready to go, had everything on, and I was just trying to get something out of my shoe," Brady said. "The scissors slipped. Just a silly accident."

      The injury caused Brady to be scratched shortly before kickoff against the Bears.

      Asked his reaction when he noticed the severity, Brady said he uttered a word he shouldn't repeat.

      "Yeah, I let out probably a pretty loud word I wouldn't repeat in front of my kids," Brady said. "I couldn't believe it; I just went and got checked out. It was just a silly accident.

      Brady said he hopes to play in Friday's exhibition game against the Carolina Panthers. Coach Bill Belichick hasn't yet made a decision on that front.

      Brady has begun lobbying in hopes of persuading Belichick to play him against the Panthers.

      "Absolutely. I like to be out there every time I get a chance to play," Brady said. "You only get so many opportunities a year. I'm getting [only] so many opportunities left in my life, so I'd like to take advantage of any and all of them if possible."

      Still looming is the four-game suspension Brady faces as part of the Deflategate situation in which the Patriots were found to be tinkering with the air level in footballs.

      Jimmy Garoppolo will serve as the starter while Brady sits out but Brady said he is not swaying from his normal routine in terms of getting ready for the regular season.

      "I try to approach it the same way. I think that has been successful for me," Brady said. "I don't try to change a whole bunch of things up, I try to work hard every day and I try to do what I need to do on the practice field to prepare myself.

      "That's just kind of what the routine is, so we'll deal with those four weeks when they come. In the meantime, I'm just trying to prepare this week like I would have last year and the year before, and try to just prepare the best I can so I can be the best quarterback that I can for this team."

      Of course, the scissors' caper wasn't part of the script. And Brady feels like he dodged a bullet with his silly mistake.

      "I'm glad it wasn't the regular season and I learned from it," said Brady, "and hopefully I won't be operating any more scissors for a while."

  • Vikings activate TE Ellison
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    The Minnesota Vikings removed tight end Rhett Ellison from the Physically Unable to Perform List on Tuesday after he passed his physical.

    • Ellison was sidelined due to a torn patellar tendon in his right knee. He suffered the injury last January in the regular-season finale against the Green Bay Packers.

      Ellison, 27, was re-signed for $1.75 million in the offseason. He has a base salary of $760,000 that would drop to $428,000 if he is placed on injured reserve.

      Ellison caught 11 passes for 124 yards and one touchdown last season. He has 42 receptions for 458 yards and three touchdowns in 58 games (35 starts) in four seasons with Minnesota.

  • Lions sign CB McGee
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    Cornerback Brandon McGee signed with the Detroit Lions, who waived cornerback Keith Lewis on Tuesday.

    • McGee was a fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft and played for 17 games for the Rams in 2013-14.

      McGee also spent time on the practice squads of the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. He appeared in one game for the Giants last season (Oct. 19 vs. Philadelphia).

  • Ravens WR Perriman vows to play in opener
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman expects to be on the field for the season opener on Sept. 11.

    • "I have no doubt in my mind that I won't be ready. I'm attacking it right now like I will be ready," said Perriman, who missed all of last season with a knee injury after being drafted in the first round by the Ravens.

      Perriman suffered a small tear of his ACL in June but passed his physical last week, returning to the active roster days after the Ravens welcomed 37-year-old veteran Steve Smith back from a torn Achilles.

      Perriman will play Saturday, coach John Harbaugh said, if he receives medical approval from team trainers. Harbaugh said he will be "holding his breath a little" until he sees Perriman suit up for a game.

      "He is in great spirits. He has worked extremely hard. I think he's really grown through all of this and he's learned how to really work with the rehab," Perriman said. "He's been forced to do that. I'm looking forward to seeing how he looks when he comes back."

  • Eagles LB Tulloch signs $3 million deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    The Philadelphia Eagles signed veteran middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch to a one-year deal.

    • Tulloch will have instant familiarity with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, under whom the 31-year-old played at both Tennessee and Detroit. He was released by the Lions last month.

      Tulloch, who is expected to compete with Jordan Hicks for the starting middle linebacker job, recorded 107 tackles and one sack in 16 games with Detroit last season. He has collected 940 tackles, 14.5 sacks and five interceptions in 10 seasons with the Titans and Lions.

      "He's competing, he's competing for the spot," coach Doug Pederson said of how Tulloch will be used. "Right now, Jordan (Hicks) is the starter. It goes without saying at every position. And with the loss of Joe (Walker) right now, we needed a linebacker and he was the best available for us. I look forward to working with him."

      The Eagles' linebacking corps took a hit last week when Walker, a promising rookie, sustained an ACL tear in his left knee against Pittsburgh.

      Walker, a seventh-round pick out of Oregon who had been playing well and was expected to back up starter Hicks, will miss the entire season.