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  • Carroll supports DE Bennett's message
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett elected to sit for the national anthem for Sunday's preseason opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.

    • Bennett picked up the cause initially championed by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick a season ago of using the gesture to protest racial inequality and social injustice in America. Bennett strongly said he's not anti-military or anti-America - his father served in the military - but that he felt it was necessary to continue to shine a light on issues in the country.

      "I love hot dogs like any other American," Bennett said. "I love football like any other American. But I don't love segregation, I don't love riots, I don't love oppression. I don't love gender slander. I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve and I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message and keep finding out how unselfish we can be in society, how we can continuously love one another and understand that people are different.

      "And just because people are different doesn't mean that you shouldn't like them. Just because they don't eat what you eat, just because they don't pray to the same God you pray to doesn't mean you should hate them. Whether it is Muslim, whether it is Buddhist, whether it is Christianity, I just want people to understand that no matter what, we need to stay together. It's more about being a human being at this point."

      When Kaepernick first sat, then kneeled, for the anthem last year, Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane joined him in the gesture by sitting for the anthem in Seattle's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. The team then jointly decided to make a show of "unity" by standing for the anthem with arms interlocked.

      Bennett and Lane both took part in that decision and participated in that stance through all of last season.

      Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said he's spoken with Bennett multiple times about his choice and supports Bennett's cause and the message he's trying to deliver. However, he said he believes people should stand for the anthem.

      "Michael has really dedicated the last few years of his life to try to understand what's going on around the world," Carroll said. "He's traveled everywhere to try and understand people's issues and concerns and it's really captured his heart and he is really turned his focus to doing good work and helping people and doing everything he can where he can help. I support the heck out of his concerns and his issues and all that.

      "I love our country and I think we should all stand for the opportunity when the flag is represented, but the fact that his heart is in a great place and he's going to do great work well after the time he's with us and it's easy for me to support him in that and his issues, but I think we should all be standing up when we play the national anthem."

      --The Seahawks signed former San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock to a one-year contract for the league minimum of $900,000 on Wednesday.

      Brock was released by the 49ers after he was arrested regarding an alleged domestic violence incident with an ex-girlfriend. The charges against Brock were dismissed last week.

      "It was just a misunderstood situation, because I wasn't even at the house at the time," Brock said. "But the process and everything is under the rug and I'm moving forward from that situation."

      Brock's agent, Ron Slavin, said the Seahawks were one of 12 teams that reached out about Brock. However, Seattle reached out quickly after Brock was released and stayed in contact throughout the process, which gave them an edge when the charges were dismissed.

      "He thought he was going to retire (with the 49ers), they were talking to us about an extension when this happened," Slavin said. "It's different, but he wanted to come here because Seattle outworked everybody else on it, they got involved right when it happened. Because of my relationship with (general manager) John (Schneider), I let him know this didn't happen and if you get in here you're going to get a good player because it's going to get dismissed."

      Added Brock: "I mean, once they released me, I was released mentally from that team. So, even though my situation was over with, I just felt like it was time to move on."

      Brock started 31 of a possible 32 games with the 49ers over the last two seasons. He tallied 112 tackles with four interceptions, a forced fumble and 25 passes defended over that span.

  • Seahawks DE Clark apologizes for punching teammate
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    Seattle Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark said he apologized to teammate Germain Ifedi and to the team for punching Ifedi during a recent practice, which led to Clark getting thrown out of that practice.

    • "It was a heat of the moment thing," Clark said, according to ESPN.com. "I let my emotions overcome the situation. For a brief moment, I thought that myself, that I was bigger than the team in all regards. I thought about myself first before I thought about my defense as a whole and my defensive line, to be more specific. Because it was a one-on-one drill. And that was basically it. It was an overheated thing. We always get heated up. It's O-Line, D-Line. It's supposed to happen. But it just got taken too far.

      "I just wanted to let them know that I was actually sorry. And I wanted to let Germain know that I was sorry, besides the team. ... I just wanted to let him know that it was my fault and that it would never get to that point again."

      The incident occurred during an Aug. 3 practice that had already been acrimonious. Ifedi, an offensive guard, was jawing with defensive players when Clark punched Ifedi, who was not wearing a helmet at the time.

      Ifedi was knocked to the ground, and coach Pete Carroll kicked Clark out of practice.

      Ifedi missed three days as a result of the injury. Clark was held out of practice the next day as discipline for his actions, and Clark missed more time because of a knee injury.

      Clark has since had a meeting with Carroll and also met with general manager John Schneider.

  • NFL notebook: Henderson appointed to hear Elliott's appeal
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appointed Harold Henderson to hear Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott's appeal, the league announced Wednesday.

    • The hearing is scheduled to take place on Aug. 29, according to NFL Network, which first reported Henderson would be the arbiter for Elliott's appeal hearing and confirmed by ESPN.

      The NFL Players Association on Tuesday officially appealed the six-game suspension handed down to Elliott, who was suspended by the league on Friday following a 13-month investigation for violating the league's personal conduct policy after multiple domestic violence incidents.

      Henderson has been an appeals officer since 2008. He was the arbiter for the appeal hearings of former Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy and then-Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Henderson reduced Hardy's suspension for alleged domestic violence from 10 games to four in 2015 and upheld Peterson's indefinite suspension for child abuse in 2014.

      Elliott's former girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson, accused him of domestic violence in Columbus, Ohio. Elliott, who was not arrested or charged in the case, has maintained his innocence all along.

      --The New Orleans Saints fired team orthopedists Deryk Jones and Misty Suri after discovering that cornerback Delvin Breaux sustained a fracture in his fibula that was originally diagnosed as a bruise.

      "I think it's not one event, it probably builds up over a period of time," coach Sean Payton said when asked about the decision to dismiss the doctors. "You're not gonna bat a thousand here, but you're just hoping that more often than not, you're getting the right information."

      Breaux will require surgery and is expected to be sidelined up to six weeks.

      Jones and Suri were longtime doctors on the Saints' staff and have also worked for the New Orleans Pelicans of the NBA.

      --The Tennessee Titans have adjusted their schedule to ensure the team will not be practicing when the total eclipse commences Monday afternoon.

      Nashville, Tenn., is the largest city in the path of the total eclipse, with just over two minutes to see the total eclipse historic event beginning around 1:27 p.m. CT. It's the first total eclipse visible from the U.S. mainland since 1979.

      Coach Mike Mularkey decided to rearrange the team's practice schedule that day in order to allow his players to see this natural phenomenon, according to Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com.

      "I actually did (change the schedule)," Mularkey said. "I adjusted the schedule so we will (not be practicing) during it. I went back, once we found out about it, and rerouted the schedule so we're out here together to see it. What a cool experience. You're on the practice field. I rearranged the practice schedule to make sure we're out there to see it."

      --The Seattle Seahawks signed cornerback Tramaine Brock to a one-year contract, the team announced.

      Brock is expected to compete with Jeremy Lane and rookie Shaquill Griffin for the open spot opposite cornerback Richard Sherman. Last year's starter DeShawn Shead resides on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from a knee injury sustained in the divisional round of the playoffs.

      The San Francisco 49ers released Brock on April 7, less than 24 hours following his arrest on charges of suspicion of felony domestic violence and child endangerment. Those charges were dismissed two days later as the Santa Clara District Attorney's office determined that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the case because the alleged victim declined to cooperate.

      Brock could still face punishment from the league under its policy on personal conduct.

      --New York Jets wide receiver and kick returner Lucky Whitehead is out indefinitely after breaking his foot in practice this week.

      Whitehead is expected to be out four to six weeks, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported. Whitehead will get a second opinion to see if surgery will speed up the recovery time.

      The Jets claimed Whitehead off waivers two days after he was cut by the Dallas Cowboys on July 24 following an initial report that the 25-year-old was accused of petty larceny. The Prince William County (Va.) Police Department later said it identified the wrong man and regretted the impact the errors had bestowed upon Whitehead and his family.

      The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Whitehead was injured Monday and the next day was seen on crutches, wearing a walking boot.

      --The Pittsburgh Steelers activated wide receiver Sammie Coates from the physically unable to perform list following minor knee surgery.

      Coates, 24, had his knee scoped two weeks before the start of training camp and the Steelers placed him on the PUP list. He is expected to practice with the team Wednesday.

      Coates, the Steelers' 2015 third-round pick, said he injured the knee while training this summer. It was his second offseason knee surgery, and he also had surgery to repair a sports hernia after the season.

      The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Coates is coming off a 2016 season that opened with an opportunity to make a mark thanks to Martavis Bryant's suspension. A finger injury slowed Coates, who saw action in 14 games but was limited to 21 catches for 435 yards and two touchdowns. But he caught an NFL-best six passes of 40 yards or longer, including a 72-yard touchdown against the New York Jets.

  • Arians losing patience with WR John Brown
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Wide receiver John Brown has been sidelined with a quadriceps injury and it's testing the patience of head coach Bruce Arians. Brown missed much of last season while dealing with tendon and muscle cramps brought on by sickle cell trait and a cyst that had formed on his spine. Arians thought Brown was over that, but apparently the sickle cell is slowing Brown's quad recovery.

    • "Some guys are slow healers, some guys are fast healers," Arians said, adding when asked how patient he will be with Brown, "I don't have any choice. Can't run, you can't play. Now, if you can't run long enough, we've got to replace you."

      Arians has spent the week berating his receivers for their recent performance in camp and it hasn't helped that up to five receivers have been out nursing various injuries. Brown is more than aware of Arians' harsh comments, but said he isn't about to rush back before his leg allows him to.

      "I'm not just about to run out there and hurt myself because I got to be out there," he said. "I understand the situation that's going on with the receivers and all that, but I'm just going to come back when I'm ready.

      "It's kind of tough but I just got to deal with it. It's my body. If it keeps happening, it just keeps happening. ... "My body is different than others," he said. "They expect me to come back fast but I can't."

      --Safety Tyrann Mathieu revealed this week that he didn't like playing predominantly in the free safety role last season and would still prefer to play more as a nickel cornerback, which allows him to blitz, cover and also help out against the run.

      "I didn't really like playing free safety," Mathieu said. "I didn't like being in the middle of the field. But I feel like I came to camp and I'm really playing free safety. So, I'm getting better each and every day."

      Asked what he didn't like about the position, the Honey Badger said, "It's just boring. It's like everything is going on in front of you and you're just like, you know, you're the safety. I just like being in the mix of things."

      Mathieu went on to say he never really engaged himself into learning free safety, adding, "I never really practiced it. I never really took pride in it." Now, it's a completely different story, he says.

      "I've challenged myself to really play the position, to understand the position, so I feel like I'm getting better at doing it," he said. "... I'm getting back into the groove. The confidence is coming back. Just really just trying to make football plays, the kind of plays I like making."

      --Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was given a veteran's day off by head coach Bruce Arians this week, but Fitzgerald was a full participant in practice that particular day, primarily because of Arians' harsh comments recently about being extremely unhappy with the team's younger receivers.

      "Yeah, I think he wanted to lead his group," Arians said, adding when asked what that speaks of Fitzgerald's leadership, "You can't say anything more about Larry that hasn't been said. He takes care of his room as well as anybody."

      --Quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich will call of the Cardinals' offensive plays for a second straight week. Head coach Bruce Arians will take over in another week when Arizona plays at Atlanta. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin will then call the plays during the team's final preseason game at the Broncos.

      --Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche keeps impressing every day in camp and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who doubles as the team's offensive line coach, keeps noticing the dominance.

      "I think the light has finally come on," he said of the second-year pro. "Every week you see improvement, the power, the athleticism. I wish he was an offensive lineman."

      Where would he play him if Nkemdiche was?

      "I'd put him at guard and have a bunch of 'pull' plays," Goodwin said.

      QUOTES TO NOTE: "I'm very well educated on it, for not going to PT school (physical therapy) or having my doctorate. I love helping guys. In my time, I've seen a lot of guys not do it the right way or not have the right care. And it ruined their careers. So, I'm always welcome and open to helping out." - QB Carson Palmer on the calls he receives from other athletes about coming back from severe knee injuries.

      --"Yeah in time. Around Thanksgiving probably. There are other things he can do because he's big and strong. He can play on special teams. But it's going to be very hard to get a hat on Sunday." – Head coach Bruce Arians when asked if rookie wide receiver Chad Williams, a third-round pick, will be able to contribute much on offense this season.

      Notes: Wide receiver Jaron Brown has been one of the Cardinals' brightest stars thus far in camp, returning much quicker than expected from ACL surgery in November and already having ditched his knee brace. He's running at 100 percent, according to head coach Bruce Arians, who has since tabbed Brown as his No. 2 wide receiver next to veteran All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald. "I wasn't surprised at his recovery process at all," said Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, who has undergone two ACL surgeries since turning pro in 2013. "We worked out together. Everybody's body is different, but he seemed to be running full speed at about six months." Quarterback Carson Palmer said Brown is a "70-to-80 catch" player. ... Inside linebacker Josh Bynes, who has been turning heads in camp since being signed off the street as a free agent, suffered a pulled hamstring in practice on Tuesday. Bynes is expected to be sidelined for a week and will miss Saturday night's preseason game against the Bears. He had a huge game last week against the Raiders when he led the team with seven tackles, registered half a sack, a forced fumble and one pass defensed. "It sets him back," head coach Bruce Arians said. "He flashed and like most guys you get off the street, they think they're in shape but they're not in football shape."

      --Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones has been sidelined for most of training camp because of a disk problem in his back. It could be at least another week or more before he is able to participate in practice. "Yeah, we had no luck yet on the epidural (injection) so we may have to do another one," head coach Bruce Arians said. ... Quarterback Carson Palmer spent one day this week in practice wearing a glove on his left hand. Two days later, he was sporting a glove on his right hand. "Just kind of seeing how I like it," Palmer said. "It's kind of cheating. Those things are so sticky now." Palmer isn't sure if he'll wear gloves at all this season, even when the Cardinals play at the Eagles in October and at the Redskins in December. "In below-zero temperatures and 30-40 mile an hour winds it helps you spin it a little bit," Palmer said. "Personally, I think you lose a little bit of touch."

  • Bradford likes versatility of Vikings RBs
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    MANKATO, Minn. -- For the first time since 2006, this isn't Adrian Peterson's offense. Nor is it any other running back's offense.

    • It's a pass-oriented attack with West Coast schemes.

      But that doesn't mean the corps of running backs on the Minnesota Vikings aren't up to par. In fact, quarterback Sam Bradford sounds like he would prefer the versatility offered by rookie Dalvin Cook and veterans Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon over the more one-dimensional Peterson.

      "I think we have got a lot of really talented guys in that position group," Bradford said Wednesday. "Kind of like I said all spring, I think that's a group that we really feel like is a strength. Obviously, we've got some guys that can do a lot of different things, both when they're in the dot, when we're in the gun, some different styles of running that we can use.

      "Then also just with their ability to be useful in the pass game, to be able to spread them out and empty, create some matchups with linebackers or just use them all over the backfield in some five-man protections and get them matched up with guys. We just feel like there's a lot of different things we can do with the guys we have in that room."

      --The Vikings still have not lined up with the starting offensive line that they anticipate using in the regular-season opener on Sept. 11.

      Left tackle Riley Reiff has missed most of camp and is just now starting to be worked in during team drills. And just as he returns, left guard Alex Boone has now missed practices this week.

      Asked about the need for some continuity up front, Bradford gave the pros and cons of what's been going on up front so far.

      "I think it is fairly important," he said. "I think it would be nice to kind of figure out who those five guys are going to be, just so I can work with them, so they can work with each other, and so the communication at the line can become better and become quicker.

      "But, obviously though at that position, having been in the league, it seems like every year, there's a time during the year where guys are having to move around and play different positions and you have a different group in front of you. And I think the fact we are working some different guys in right now and they're getting used to playing with everyone, I think that can be beneficial as well. Just so if something does happen, we do have to make a change or someone has got to slide over, it's not the first time we've done that."

      --Well, well, well. Look who's on the other side now.

      The Vikings head to Seattle on Friday night to face the Seahawks and a kicker who infamously missed a 27-yard field goal to lose a playoff game against the Seahawks two seasons ago.

      Former Vikings kicker Blair Walsh is now current Seahawk Blair Walsh. His 27-yard duck hook in the closing seconds of a wild-card game handed Seattle a 10-9 victory on a bitterly cold day in January of 2016.

      The Vikings tried to rebuild Walsh's confidence in 2016, but never could get him over the hump from that playoff miscue. They cut Walsh last November after he missed four field goals and four extra points in nine games, including two instrumental misses in a Nov. 5 loss to Detroit. Walsh signed with Seattle in February.

      "I was happy for him," Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said Wednesday. "I'll say hello to him (on Friday); I've got no ill will. I like Blair. He's a fine young man and we had four-and-a-half years together, so I've known him for a long time."

      In his first game with the Seahawks, Walsh went 6-for-6 on PATs and hit two field-goal attempts from 42 and 28 yards. So maybe he has moved on mentally. Priefer hopes so.

      "He did a lot of really good things here in Minnesota," Priefer said. "I know it didn't end well for him and for us a couple years ago, but at the end of the day, he's a very talented young man."

      Notes: Left guard Alex Boone missed all three practices this week and won't play Friday night at Seattle. Boone, who had his left knee wrapped but didn't appear to be seriously injured, missed an opportunity to work with left tackle Riley Reiff this week. Reiff has been working back into team drills slowly as he recovers from a back injury that had sidelined him since the first day of camp. ... Cornerback Trae Waynes, who injured his shoulder on the first play of the preseason opener at Buffalo, did not practice this week and will not play at Seattle. Waynes has been groomed to take over the starting left corner job this season. With him out, the Vikings have turned back to longtime veteran Terence Newman. Newman played well last season, but the team is trying to limit his reps as he gets set to turn 39 on Sept. 4. ... Strong safety Andrew Sendejo missed practice this week and will not play at Seattle. With Sendejo out, the team has been taking rotating looks at injury-prone Antone Exum Jr., second-year pro Jayron Kearse and third-year pro Anthony Harris. Kearse is big and powerful, but still raw. Harris, who went undrafted out of Virginia, has become a leader on special teams. Exum missed all of last season because of an injury.

      --Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell returned to practice after missing several days and the preseason opener because of a hamstring injury. He should be able to play Friday at Seattle. Last year's first-round draft pick needs to start proving he can stay healthy enough to contribute. Injuries played a big role in him having only one catch as a rookie. ... Defensive end Everson Griffen missed practice Tuesday, but returned Wednesday and participated. He could be rested Friday night. The Vikings know what they have in Griffen. The Pro Bowler is in peak condition and looks as fast as ever. He had a sack in the preseason opener at Buffalo.

  • Saints fire orthopedists after misdiagnosis of Breaux injury
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    The New Orleans Saints fired team orthopedists Deryk Jones and Misty Suri on Wednesday after discovering that cornerback Delvin Breaux sustained a fracture in his fibula that was originally diagnosed as a bruise.

    • "I think it's not one event, it probably builds up over a period of time," coach Sean Payton said when asked about the decision to dismiss the doctors. "You're not gonna bat a thousand here, but you're just hoping that more often than not, you're getting the right information."

      Breaux will require surgery and is expected to be sidelined up to six weeks.

      Jones and Suri were longtime doctors on the Saints' staff and have also worked for the New Orleans Pelicans of the NBA.

      Payton told reporters that the team will work with the Los Angeles Chargers' team orthopedists for the remainder of the week because the clubs are scheduled for joint practices.

      Breaux saw his 2016 season derailed by a broken fibula in Week 1. The 27-year-old wound up playing just six games because of leg and shoulder injuries and finished with 21 tackles.

  • Position battles entering second full preseason week
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    There are quite a variety of positions up for grabs as NFL teams get ready to compete in the second full week of preseason games.

    • There are 13 different positions discussed in the team-by-team list below with only center and safety not represented.

      Leading the way are five teams with battles at wide receiver and running back, and several are for backup jobs. That is also true at quarterback and defensive tackle where four teams have those positions highlighted.

      Following is each NFL team grouped by division.

      NFC EAST

      DALLAS COWBOYS

      --Byron Bell, Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper at left guard: Bell got the start against the Rams, but didn't make the most of his opportunity. He had two holding penalties and was knocked down a few times. Cooper was back running with the first team on Monday, but he has yet to distinguish himself. Green has missed the first two preseason games with a shoulder injury. He is back practicing and hoping to get back in the mix. The question for the Cowboys is whether they trust him to stay healthy after two injury-plagued seasons.

      NEW YORK GIANTS

      --Aldrick Rosas vs. Mike Nugent at kicker: The Giants' two kickers, Rosas and Nugent, got some great work in during the team's first preseason game, prompting head coach Ben McAdoo to say after the game, "I've never been so excited to kick a field goal." Both Rosas and Nugent attempted and made two field goals apiece. Rosas converted from 27 and 52 yards, while Nugent converted from 30 and 45 yards. In the kickoff department, all three of Nugent's kickoffs were returned with his coverage team helping him to an 18.3 average. Rosas attempted two kickoffs, nailing one touchback while having one returned for 29 yards. With the battle so close, this will likely play out until the final preseason game, and could come down to whether the Giants decide to go with experience (Nugent) or the younger, stronger leg (Rosas).

      PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

      --The fifth wide-receiver spot: The Eagles only kept five wide receivers last year and may only keep five again this year. The Friday trade of Jordan Matthews opens up the fifth spot behind Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and rookie Mack Hollins. Bryce Treggs, rookie Shelton Gibson and Marcus Johnson all could end up as the fifth wideout. Treggs had seven catches for 91 yards in Thursday's preseason game against Green Bay.

      WASHINGTON REDSKINS

      --Phil Taylor vs. Matt Ioannidis at nose tackle: The Redskins have had a hole at nose tackle for years in their base 3-4 defense and there are multiple options in training camp, including journeyman A.J. Francis. But Taylor, a 2011 first-round pick by Cleveland, is the favorite early in camp. He started in Thursday's preseason opener against Baltimore and had a tackle while playing into the third quarter. Washington defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has no stars and a host of players he's trying to get playing time. Taylor has been practicing with the starters. Ioannidis has added strength since last summer when the 2016 fifth-round pick didn't even make the 53-man roster. He was added to the practice squad and eventually appeared in 10 games. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden singled out Ioannidis for a strong performance against the Ravens.

      NFC NORTH

      CHICAGO BEARS

      --Running back: Ka'Deem Carey vs. Benny Cunningham and Jeremy Langford. It would seem likely one of the three backs will be launched with rookie Tarik Cohen possessing third-down value and Jordan Howard the obvious starter. Langford has been plagued by an ankle issue and hasn't practiced, although on Saturday he was running full speed with trainers as he continued rehabbing. Langford was the starter before his ankle injury, and Carey has special-teams value, so the onus seems to be on Cunningham to prove he can have value. In Saturday's game, Cunningham caught two passes for 25 yards and gained 41 yards rushing on seven carries. He also provided pass blocking for Mitchell Trubisky at a higher level than the younger backs. Cutting Langford would seem a risky venture considering how high up the depth chart he'd been before his injury problems. In the end, it seems Carey and Cunningham would be the battle. Like with anything else, special teams could decide the roster spot.

      DETROIT LIONS

      --Jamal Agnew vs. Jace Billingsley vs. Keshawn Martin at punt returner: None of the Lions' top options for the punt-return job did anything to distinguish themselves against the Colts, and the job remains up in the air with less than a month to go before the start of the regular season. Agnew is a good bet for a roster spot as a fifth-round pick, though he's down the depth chart at nickel cornerback and no lock for playing time outside of special teams. Billingsley and Martin might need to win the return job to make the 53-man roster. Martin is the more experienced option of the two, having played for the Houston Texans, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. But Billingsley followed Agnew in the return rotation last week.

      GREEN BAY PACKERS

      --Derek Hart vs. Brett Goode at long snapper: Hart, an undrafted free agent in 2016 who's never played in an NFL game, had been the only long snapper in Green Bay's camp. Hart struggled mightily in the Packers' Family Night practice on Aug. 5 when his snapping played a role in kicker Mason Crosby making just 5-of-11 field-goal attempts (45.5 percent).

      "It's just one of those things where it's like, shoot, OK, not sure maybe what happened on that one," said Hart, who played collegiately at James Madison. "But, all right, we've got to go again. You've got to just wipe it out and just do the next play. There's not much to it other than that."

      Hart was much better in Green Bay's 24-9 preseason win over Philadelphia Thursday. Hart's snaps were clean for punter Justin Vogel, and Crosby, who made his only field-goal attempt and all three extra points.

      "The pregame this time just felt so much smoother," Hart said. "Can't really say it was one thing or another this week. I don't know man, it just worked for us."

      Despite the improvement, the Packers signed Goode Saturday. The 32 year old has been Green Bay's long snapper from 2008-16, but the Packers were trying to get younger at the position with the 24-year-old Hart.

      MINNESOTA VIKINGS

      --Case Keenum vs. Taylor Heinicke at No. 2 quarterback: Keenum, the veteran with starting experience, used the preseason opener at Buffalo to take a big step toward securing the backup job behind Sam Bradford. He looked quick, decisive and mobile. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 121 yards. He also ducked under a couple defenders who came free and took off for a 7-yard run and a first down on third down. Heinicke, who hadn't played since his rookie preseason in 2015, was his usual scrappy self. He showed the ability to run on a 14-yard escape. But he also looked rusty and inexperienced. He missed seeing some open receivers and threw an ill-advised ball while on the run toward the sideline. The ball was intercepted in Vikings territory. Keenum was the first quarterback off the bench at Buffalo. Look for Heinicke to be the first quarterback to play after Bradford when the Vikings play their second preseason game on Friday night at Seattle.

      NFC SOUTH

      ATLANTA FALCONS

      --Backup running back: Fifth-round pick Brian Hill, who declared that the Falcons picked the best running back in the draft, made an uninspiring pro debut with 10 yards on nine carries. Terron Ward, who had a 26-yard run and 3-yard touchdown run, isn't just going to give up his roster spot. He led the Falcons in rushing with 48 yards on 11 carries.

      CAROLINA PANTHERS

      --There's a need for depth to be built among wide receivers and that might have become more interesting after the first preseason game. WRs Damiere Byrd, Brenton Bersin and Austin Duke are among those aiming for roles. Byrd caught a pair of touchdown passes and certainly looked to be in line for a closer look for one of the backup spots. "We were excited about this opportunity to see his quickness," head coach Ron Rivera said of Byrd. Meanwhile, Bersin, who has often been a fringe player (on and off the active list in recent seasons) suffered an injury in the first preseason game.

      NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

      --DTs Daniel Onyemata and Tyeler Davison have taken turns on the No. 1 defensive line since the departure of Nick Fairley, who will miss the season and whose career likely is over because of a heart ailment. Davison moved over from the tackle spot being manned by 2016 No. 1 draft choice Sheldon Rankins to battle Onyemata. Davison could move back behind Rankins if the Saints are satisfied that Onyemata is ready to start. With joint practices and a preseason game against the Chargers looming this week, both tackles have an opportunity to make a big impression.

      TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

      --Josh Huff vs. Bernard Reedy at wide receiver: Both players are trying to make the team as a fifth receiver and kick returner. Huff had a 37-yard kickoff return against the Bengals while Reedy returned a punt 22 yards. This one is too close to call, but they both made splash plays on special teams.

      NFC WEST

      ARIZONA CARDINALS

      --The Cardinals aren't expected to keep more than four inside linebackers on their 53-man active roster and three of the spots are set with Karlos Dansby, rookie first-round pick Haason Reddick and Deone Bucannon, who presently is on the PUP list recovering from offseason ankle surgery. At the moment, the fourth spot is boiling down to a dual between veteran free-agent pickup Josh Bynes and second-year pro Scooby Wright. Wright's main value is on special teams, something Bynes doesn't play, which could give Wright the edge, Bynes, however, had a fantastic effort Saturday night against the Raiders with a team-high seven tackles, half a sack, a forced fumble and one pass defensed.

      LOS ANGELES RAMS

      --Malcolm Brown vs. Justin Davis at running back: Davis, an undrafted rookie from USC, has opened eyes in camp with his natural running instincts and speed. All of which were on display with the 70 yards he ran for on nine carries Saturday against the Cowboys. There is no doubt he opened eyes, and with Lance Dunbar still out with an injury, there is an opportunity for Davis to nudge Brown out of the way to earn a prominent spot on the roster.

      SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

      --Rashard Robinson and Keith Reiser vs. the field for starting cornerback spots: Both 49ers starters alarmingly got burned for deep completions in the early going of Friday's preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs appeared to be picking on Robinson, considered to be the 49ers' top cover corner, before he brushed aside an embarrassing start with an interception. Dontae Johnson, who sat out the opener with a concussion, and rookie third-round pick Ahkello Witherspoon, the most impressive 49ers corner in the opener, remain very much in the mix for starting spots.

      SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

      --With the expected absence of Malik McDowell into the regular season after an ATV accident in July, the battle for the final spots along the defensive line has become quite competitive. Defensive end David Bass and defensive tackles Rodney Coe, Tylor Harris, Jeremy Liggins and Garrison Smith all made positive impressions in Seattle's preseason opener against the Chargers. Harris had an interception off a tipped pass, Coe, Liggins and Smith were effective in creating push and willing in pursuit, and Bass had a half sack and a quarterback hit. There may only be one spot potentially at stake for the group to seize hold of, which will make for a fierce battle during the remaining three weeks of camp.

      AFC EAST

      BUFFALO BILLS

      --Defensive end: The starting spots are locked up with Shaq Lawson and Jerry Hughes, but the backup jobs are wide open and the player making the most noise is unheralded Eddie Yarbrough. Undrafted in 2016, he was out of football after failing to hook on with the Broncos and the CFL's Calgary Stampeders. The Bills signed him in April, and he has been impressive throughout camp. He made three tackles, a sack, and broke up a pass as he started in place of the injured Lawson against Minnesota Thursday. There's a long way to go, but Yarbrough is in a good spot to earn a roster spot over the likes of Jake Metz, Ryan Davis, Max Valles and Marquavius Lewis.

      MIAMI DOLPHINS

      --Mike Hull vs. Lawrence Timmons at middle linebacker: With rookie Raekwon McMillan (knee) sidelined, the Dolphins will look at options. Hull (6-foot, 232) will get the first shot, but he's a bit undersized. He's quick, but might not have the bulk or tackling skills to anchor a defense that was 30th against the run last year. Timmons was a sturdy 3-4 inside linebacker for Pittsburgh for years and has five consecutive 100-tackle seasons. He could shift from the strong side. Weak-side linebacker Kiko Alonso, last year's middle linebacker, is also an option.

      NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

      --Matt Lengel vs. James O'Shaughnessy vs. Jacob Hollister for No. 3 tight-end role: When camp opened, it seemed the battle to be the third tight end behind Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen - though keeping a No. 3 is never a guarantee - would be between the returning Lengel and trade addition O'Shaughnessy. The latter was a spring trade addition from Kansas City who's been primarily a special teamer to this point, but offers athletic upside. But with both veterans sitting out the preseason opener, Hollister, the undrafted rookie out of Wyoming, injected his name into the conversation with a game-high seven catches for 116 yards against Jacksonville. The youngster, whose twin brother Jacob is an undrafted wide receiver in camp with New England, has heated up of late showing nice route-running ability and solid hands. It's not a sexy position, but the Patriots may have an interesting decision to make at the cuts to 53 in regards to depth at the tight-end spot.

      NEW YORK JETS

      --Kicker: Whomever wins the gig between veteran Chandler Catanzaro and second-year undrafted free agent Ross Martin is likely to get plenty of opportunities in an offense likely to stall out in field-goal range. Catanzaro entered camp as the obvious favorite, but Martin has been the more impressive performer in practice and Catanzaro further hurt his cause Saturday, when he was wide left on a 55-yard attempt against the Titans, and Monday, when he missed a 25-yarder and a 40-yarder in practice. Martin, who was 6-for-6 with a 55-yard boot on Monday, should get a chance to take the lead in Saturday's game against the Lions.

      AFC NORTH

      BALTIMORE RAVENS

      --Right tackle: It appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Austin Howard would take over the starting job at right tackle after signing a three-year, $16 million deal on Aug. 4. However, James Hurst has been playing well at that spot since taking over for Rick Wagner, who left as a free agent to the Detroit Lions. Howard, who had shoulder surgery this offseason, wasn't cleared to practice until Saturday. As a result, the 6-foot-5, 317-pound Hurst got the start in the preseason opener against the Washington Redskins and performed well again. Hurst said earlier in camp that he has every intention of fighting for the starting spot. With Howard back at practice this week, an intense battle with Hurst will officially begin. Hurst has the experience. He has appeared in 48 games, including 16 starts at both left and right tackle since he was signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2014.

      CINCINNATI BENGALS

      --The Bengals' kicking competition heated up during Friday's preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Randy Bullock kicked field goals of 49 and 54 yards. Fifth-round draft choice Jake Elliott kicked a 45-yarder late in the first half. "It was a good opportunity to get a deep look at the kickers," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. "It's been fairly tight. It was exposure with them out here in the real deal."

      CLEVELAND BROWNS

      --The Browns are likely to keep three running backs plus fullback Dan Vitale. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are locks to make the team, but the battle for the third spot between seventh-round draft pick Matthew Dayes and Terrance Magee is shaping up to be a good one. Magee, originally signed by the Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2015, spent most of the last two years on various practice squads. Both players scored on one-yard touchdown runs against the Saints in the preseason opener. Both players have shown power on inside runs in practice.

      PITTSBURGH STEELERS

      --Swing tackle: The Steelers don't have any battles for starting positions along the offensive line, but there is a competition brewing between Chris Hubbard and Jerald Hawkins for the top backup tackle. With Alejanrdo Villanueva missing the first preseason game against the Giants, it was Hubbard who got the start. A former undrafted free agent entering his fourth NFL season, Hubbard received the assignment over Hawkins, a fourth-round pick in 2016. The Steelers believe Hawkins has a higher ceiling than Hubbard, but Hubbard isn't letting Hawkins move ahead of him without a fight.

      AFC SOUTH

      HOUSTON TEXANS

      --Quarterback: Tom Savage has been installed as the Texans' starter and rookie Deshaun Watson is his backup ahead of Brandon Weeden. Both Savage and Watson had some strong moments in the Texans' preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers. Savage has done nothing to lose the job and Watson has shown flashes of talent. Savage is expected to enter the season as the starter, but the unofficial countdown to Watson being elevated is ongoing.

      INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

      --Quarterback: Specifically, who is going to be Indianapolis' No. 2 quarterback behind Scott Tolzien and possibly the team's No. 3 quarterback when Andrew Luck is finally cleared to play. Undrafted rookie Phillip Walker supplanted the more experienced Stephen Morris during practices last week. Walker got the majority of the work behind Tolzien, which was something of a surprise since Morris had impressed the Colts' coaching staff as a backup during his stint with the team last season.

      The former Temple quarterback replaced Tolzien in the Detroit game and played into the fourth quarter before finally giving way to Morris. Walker completed 9-of-20 passes for 86 yards. While his stats weren't overly impressive, the rookie did show a few of the things - such as his mobility in the pocket - that led to his addition to the roster. Morris, though, led Indianapolis to its only touchdown despite playing the final nine minutes of the game. He connected on 13-of-20 passes for 94 yards. He remains very much in the hunt to eventually be Indianapolis' third quarterback.

      JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

      --Keelan Cole vs. Rashad Greene at wide receiver: This isn't a battle for a starting job, but rather it's likely a battle for a roster spot. The Jaguars seem set at the receiver spot with starters Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee. Add in backups Dede Westbrook and Arrelious Benn (big contributor on special teams) and that will probably only leave one other spot as the Jaguars will probably carry just six receivers. The battle between Cole and Greene could come down to who can contribute more on special teams. Greene may have the edge there as he could be in line to be the team's top punt returner. Dropping an easy pass across the middle that cost the Jaguars a first down in the New England game didn't help Greene's cause. Cole enhanced his chances when he broke free from a Patriots defender and caught a Chad Henne pass in stride and then raced to the end zone to complete a 97-yard scoring play.

      TENNESSEE TITANS

      --Alex Tanney vs. Matt Cassel. Much has been made of whether Tanney can either play well enough to unseat Cassel as the backup quarterback or at least play well enough to make the Titans keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Tanney got an extended look Saturday night and was disappointing, completing just 11 of 27 throws for 132 yards. He was sacked seven times and had a fumble and interception. Tanney, out of practice-squad eligibility with the Titans, will get more chances in camp, but Cassel probably strengthened his hold on the No. 2 job and he didn't even play.

      AFC WEST

      DENVER BRONCOS

      --At left guard, the dynamic changed Saturday. After taking two weeks to get up to speed and learn the offense, Allen Barbre began splitting first-team repetitions with third-year veteran Max Garcia, who started there last year. Barbre was acquired in a pre-camp trade with the Eagles and spent Saturday's practice alternating first-team repetitions with Garcia, with each working a period before giving way to the other. Garcia was moved from right guard back to the left side during OTAs after struggling; he had been moved to right guard in the spring after the Broncos signed Ron Leary in free agency.

      KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

      --Running back Spencer Ware's grip on the starting job appears firm, but rookie Kareem Hunt continues making a charge. Hunt seemed to secure the No. 2 role in Sunday's practice, taking snaps with the first-team offense behind Ware and running with the second team before giving way to Charcandrick West. Veteran C.J. Spiller also remains in the battle. The Chiefs ran the ball just 14 times in the preseason opener against San Francisco, giving the running backs very little opportunity to separate themselves. Hunt's elusiveness, pass-catching skills and kick-return ability all put him in the mix for significant playing time as a rookie. Spiller can also return kicks, giving him a slight special teams edge over West. The Chiefs also have fullback Anthony Sherman, and continue testing tight end Orson Charles as a reserve fullback. The club will likely keep just three halfbacks, putting West and Spiller in a race for the final spot.

      LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

      --Tyrell Williams vs Travis Benjamin at wide receiver: What's certain is Keenan Allen is looking good as he comes back from his knee injury and will start at wide receiver. But opposite him is an interesting competition as Benjamin looks to re-establish himself at the expense of Williams. It was Williams, and not Benjamin, that produced a 1,000-yard season last year when Allen went down. Benjamin had four touchdown catches in 2016, but his 47 receptions were 21 fewer than his previous year in Cleveland. Benjamin displayed his speed when catching a 74-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Clemens against the Seahawks on Sunday. Williams is still listed as the starter, but Benjamin is coming fast.

      OAKLAND RAIDERS

      --Eddie Vanderdoes vs. Treyvon Hester at defensive tackle. Vanderdoes, a third-round pick out of UCLA, has held the starting spot at the three technique and will likely hold it through training camp He had one assisted tackle against Arizona in 31 snaps. Hester, a seventh-round pick out of Toledo, had a pair of sacks in 33 snaps against Arizona's backup linemen to at least put himself in the running for being in the rotation.

  • Titans alter practice schedule in light of eclipse
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    The Tennessee Titans have adjusted their schedule to ensure the team will not be practicing when the total eclipse commences Monday afternoon.

    • Nashville, Tenn., is the largest city in the path of the total eclipse, with just over two minutes to see the total eclipse historic event beginning around 1:27 p.m. CT. It's the first total eclipse visible from the U.S. mainland since 1979.

      Coach Mike Mularkey decided to rearrange the team's practice schedule that day in order to allow his players to see this natural phenomenon, according to Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com.

      "I actually did (change the schedule)," Mularkey said. "I adjusted the schedule so we will (not be practicing) during it. I went back, once we found out about it, and rerouted the schedule so we're out here together to see it.

      "What a cool experience. You're on the practice field. I rearranged the practice schedule to make sure we're out there to see it."

      The players are excited about seeing the eclipse on Monday.

      "We just talked about it today in the quarterback room, believe it or not," backup quarterback Matt Cassel said earlier this week. "We've talked a little bit about it, but it's kind of hard when you're engulfed in (training camp) right now and there's no light at the end of the tunnel. But usually once or twice a day, we get off topic and talk about what's going on in the world, and we talked about it.

      "We were all like, 'I think it's coming up.' We all guessed the date and we were all wrong. But it's a big event and I know my kids are going to get a chance to see it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

  • Seahawks sign CB Brock
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    The Seattle Seahawks signed cornerback Tramaine Brock to a one-year contract, the team announced Wednesday.

    • Brock is expected to compete with Jeremy Lane and rookie Shaquill Griffin for the open spot opposite cornerback Richard Sherman. Last year's starter DeShawn Shead resides on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from a knee injury sustained in the divisional round of the playoffs.

      The San Francisco 49ers released Brock on April 7, less than 24 hours following his arrest on charges of suspicion of felony domestic violence and child endangerment. Those charges were dismissed two days later as the Santa Clara District Attorney's office determined that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the case because the alleged victim declined to cooperate.

      Brock could still face punishment from the league under its policy on personal conduct.

      The 5-foot-10, 197-pound Brock, who started all 31 games he played for the 49ers over the past two seasons, recorded 59 tackles, an interception and 14 passes defensed in 2016. He played his entire seven-year NFL career in San Francisco after joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2010.

  • Henderson appointed to hear Elliott's appeal
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appointed Harold Henderson to hear Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott's appeal, the league announced Wednesday.

    • The hearing is scheduled to take place on Aug. 29, according to NFL Network, which first reported Henderson would be the arbiter for Elliott's appeal hearing and confirmed by ESPN.

      The NFL Players Association on Tuesday officially appealed the six-game suspension handed down to Elliott, who was suspended by the league on Friday following a 13-month investigation for violating the league's personal conduct policy after multiple domestic violence incidents.

      Henderson has been an appeals officer since 2008. He was the arbiter for the appeal hearings of former Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy and then-Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Henderson reduced Hardy's suspension for alleged domestic violence from 10 games to four in 2015 and upheld Peterson's indefinite suspension for child abuse in 2014.

      Elliott's former girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson, accused him of domestic violence in Columbus, Ohio. Elliott, who was not arrested or charged in the case, has maintained his innocence all along.

      The 22-year-old Elliott's appeal will focus on testimony given by Thompson to the NFL, according to documents obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is not required to be in attendance at the hearing, and can be involved through a conference call or teleconference.

      According to the documents, Elliott will argue that Thompson made multiple threats to "ruin his career" and that text messages from Thompson encouraged a friend to lie to police about an alleged domestic assault in July 2016.

      The NFL said in a statement Wednesday that it would be a "shameful" tactic to try to prove a defendant's innocence by discrediting an accuser.

      "Over the past few days we've received multiple reports of the NFLPA spreading derogatory information to the media about the victim in Ezekiel Elliott discipline case," Joe Lockhart, the NFL's executive vice president of communications, said in a statement. "It's a common tactic to attempt to prove the innocence of the accused by discrediting the victim -- in this case Ms. Thompson -- when coming forward to report such abuse.

      "Common or not, these tactics are shameful. Efforts to shame and blame victims are often what prevent people from coming forward to report violence and/or seek help in the first place."

      The NFLPA responded with a statement of its own, calling the league's allegations that the union was spreading information about the case a "lie."

      "The public statement issued on behalf of every NFL owner is a lie. The NFLPA categorically denies the accusations made in this statement," the NFLPA statement read. "We know the League office has a history of being exposed for its lack of credibility. This is another example of the NFL's hypocrisy on display and an attempt to create a sideshow to distract from their own failings in dealing with such serious issues. They should be ashamed for stooping to new lows."

      The Columbus (Ohio) City Attorney's Office announced last September it would not pursue charges against Elliott because of "conflicting and inconsistent information."

      Reporters asked Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about Elliott's suspension pending appeal following Tuesday's practice.

      "I don't have anything to say about the appeal or anything about that issue today," Jones said, meeting with the media for the first time since the NFL's announcement. "But certainly I'll be visiting with you guys in the future, but right now today is just not the time for me to talk about it. I just really want to have my feet on the ground about it and just have it extremely well planned and thought out."

      Jones, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 5, refused to comment on his emotions about Elliott's suspension.

      "Certainly we have the interest in our team and the interest in Zeke in it's right place," Jones told reporters Tuesday. "That's all I've got to say, but I'm best (not) to comment on this thing when I have all of our thoughts and plans in place."

      The suspension is scheduled to begin Sept. 2 and Elliott is eligible to return to the Cowboys' roster on Oct. 23, one day after the team's Week 7 road game against the San Francisco 49ers.

      As a result of the suspension, the guarantees in the four-year, $24.956 million deal Elliott signed with Dallas in 2016 will be voided, according to ESPN. He reportedly will forfeit $559,192 in 2017 salary.

      The second-year running is coming off a sensational rookie season in which he rushed for a Cowboys rookie-record 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns.

  • Jets' Whitehead may miss 4-6 weeks with broken foot
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    New York Jets wide receiver and kick returner Lucky Whitehead is out indefinitely after breaking his foot in practice this week.

    • Whitehead is expected to be out four to six weeks, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday. Whitehead will get a second opinion to see if surgery will speed up the recovery time.

      The Jets claimed Whitehead off waivers two days after he was cut by the Dallas Cowboys on July 24 following an initial report that the 25-year-old was accused of petty larceny. The Prince William County (Va.) Police Department later said it identified the wrong man and regretted the impact the errors had bestowed upon Whitehead and his family.

      The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Whitehead was injured Monday and the next day was seen on crutches, wearing a walking boot.

      Jets coach Todd Bowles said Tuesday it was unclear whether Whitehead will require surgery.

      "I don't know if he's out for the year, but I know he's out for a little while," Bowles said.

      In the Jets' 7-3 win over the Tennessee Titans in the preseason opener on Saturday night, Whitehead returned two punts for 10 yards and one kickoff for 23 yards. He did not catch a pass.

      Whitehead recorded nine receptions for 64 yards over 30 games in two seasons with the Cowboys, and returned 44 punts for 305 yards and 33 kickoffs for 846 yards.

  • Steelers activate WR Coates from PUP list
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    The Pittsburgh Steelers activated wide receiver Sammie Coates from the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday following minor knee surgery.

    • Coates, 24, had his knee scoped two weeks before the start of training camp and the Steelers placed him on the PUP list. He is expected to practice with the team Wednesday.

      Coates, the Steelers' 2015 third-round pick, said he injured the knee while training this summer. It was his second offseason knee surgery, and he also had surgery to repair a sports hernia after the season.

      The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Coates is coming off a 2016 season that opened with an opportunity to make a mark thanks to Martavis Bryant's suspension. A finger injury slowed Coates, who saw action in 14 games but was limited to 21 catches for 435 yards and two touchdowns. But he caught an NFL-best six passes of 40 yards or longer, including a 72-yard touchdown against the New York Jets.

      "You always got to prove yourself, I don't care how good a season you had or how bad a season you had," Coates told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "You always got to prove to them and show them you're capable of doing the same things you did before. You always want to show them you worked on this or I got better at that. There's always something to prove, no matter who you are.

      "It's just a fact -- I missed a lot, with injuries, with the offense. That catches up with people. You don't get them reps, you can't get them back. You missed them. You fall behind all through the season."

  • Williams battles at deep receiver position for Seahawks
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    RENTON, Wash. -- When it comes time for the Seattle Seahawks to make cuts at the end of the month, trimming the roster down at the wide receiver position will be among the most difficult areas the team will face.

    • Kasen Williams' four catches for 119 yards against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night was a clear example of the depth Seattle has in its pass catchers. Williams repeatedly won jump-ball battles against Chargers' rookie cornerback Michael Davis as the Seahawks compiled 458 yards of total offense in a 48-17 victory.

      "What a great night," head coach Pete Carroll said. "That was really fun to watch. He had three great plays and then he had a better play with taking the ball away from the defender. He showed what he was all about. That was really impressive."

      And yet, Williams could easily still be on the outside looking in when it comes to determining which players will make the final 53-man roster.

      "I don't have to worry about that right now," Carroll said. "It's a really good group, we're excited about them, and we'll just see what happens. Just today on the practice field to see Doug (Baldwin) and (Amara) Darboh and (Tyler) Lockett back out there and get flying around just makes you realize how competitive a group it is and how fast we are and how quick we are."

      Baldwin and Lockett return as the top two options for quarterback Russell Wilson. Paul Richardson, who was limited in practice after spraining a shoulder on Sunday, proved he could handle an increased workload after Lockett's season-ending leg injury last December. Jermaine Kearse returns as one of Wilson's most trusted targets and rookies Darboh and David Moore each seem more than capable of earning a roster spot.

      That doesn't even account for Tanner McEvoy, who had nine catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie last season, or jack-of-all-trades J.D. McKissic who has been a receiver, running back and kick returner in training camp.

      Last year's seventh-round pick Kenny Lawler, Williams, former LSU track star Cyril Grayson Jr. and undrafted rookie Darreus Rogers all are trying to show they are worthy of likely 6-7 spots on the regular-season roster.

      Williams has spent two years on the practice squad with Seattle after going undrafted in 2015 out of the University of Washington. A devastating broken leg in college lingered through his senior season and dropped him out of the draft. Now healthy he's able to show the skills that made him the top prep athlete in the state of Washington.

      "Extremely happy for Kasen Williams and all his efforts, all his work," Baldwin said. "He's worked tirelessly to come back from injuries to get his opportunities and he got to display that two days ago. I couldn't be happier for him just because of the man he is. He's had an uphill climb and he's done it with grace. He's just been patient and waited for his opportunity and I was so excited for him to be able to see him get his opportunity finally and do extremely well with it."

      Luckily for Carroll, they don't have to make those decisions just yet.

  • Off-field issues again steal Raiders' headlines
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    NAPA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders were back at practice Tuesday, hoping to hold off a wave of non-football related publicity as running back Marshawn Lynch did not stand for the national anthem in the preseason opener.

    • Lynch, as is his custom, said nothing. Other than a few minutes with the NFL Network during which Lynch mostly joked with the hosts, he hasn't given an interview since training camp began.

      So, Lynch's motives aren't clear. It is the latest story in a training camp that has to do with things that aren't taking place on the field, including a continuing holdout by left tackle Donald Penn and a mysterious "shin splints" injury to first-round draft pick Gareon Conley that has kept the cornerback off the field.

      Del Rio met the Lynch story head-on in his postgame press conference.

      "He said, 'This is something I've been doing for 11 years. It's not a form of me being anything but myself,'" Del Rio said. "I said, 'Just so you understand how I feel, I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem, but I'm going to respect you as a man. You do your thing, OK?' So that's a non-issue for me."

      Del Rio would not elaborate Tuesday, saying he would rely on a "leadership council" of veteran players and wouldn't feel the need to address the team as a whole.

      Del Rio did, however, go a little further with USA Today moments after staying buttoned up on the podium.

      "We want to have a collection of individuals that come together as a team to play football," Del Rio said. "We don't need anybody in the organization to think the same way I think or have the same feelings I have on different topics.

      "I mean, we're in America. That's one of the things we have. We have the freedom to be ourselves."

      While the Raiders didn't make team leaders such as quarterback Derek Carr or defensive end Khalil Mack available, tight end Jared Cook lent his support.

      "I'm proud of him. I think it's awesome that he did it," Cook told a group of reporters. "Everybody has a voice, especially with what happened in Charlottesville the night before. I think it's important in our profession to step up and speak on unnecessary situations we find ourselves in as young minorities a lot of times."

      In 2014 as a member of the St. Louis Rams, Cook took part in a "hands up, don't shoot" protest as part of the aftermath of a Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of an unarmed black man by a white officer. Cook wasn't sure if he would join in the protest based on what happened in Charlottesville.

      He said, "I have in the past. As far as the future I don't know. I feel uneasy about the situation that's going on in this country and have been for a while, so as far as it determines my future moves, I'm not sure."

  • NFL notebook: NFLPA appeals Elliott's suspension
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    The NFL Players Association on Tuesday officially appealed the six-game suspension handed to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

    • Elliott was suspended six games by the NFL on Friday for violating the league's personal conduct policy after multiple domestic violence incidents.

      "Our union has appealed the NFL's six-game suspension of Ezekiel Elliott," the NFLPA said in a statement. "We will represent Ezekiel, as we do all players, to ensure that the NFL is held to its obligation of adhering to principles of industrial due process under the collective bargaining agreement."

      Elliott, 22, who was not arrested or charged in the case, has maintained his innocence all along. He was not arrested nor charged in the case. Elliott was accused by former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson of five domestic assault incidents in July 2016 in Columbus, Ohio, and has been under NFL investigation, although the city attorney's office already announced he will not face criminal charges.

      NFL officials said in a statement that it investigated Elliott's case thoroughly and determined that he violated the personal conduct policy. The league examined text messages, interviewed more than a dozen witnesses -- including Elliott and the accuser -- and retained medical and legal experts to help (commissioner Roger) Goodell reach his decision.

      --Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi is no longer in the NFL's concussion protocol, coach Adam Gase announced.

      Ajayi sustained the concussion on July 31 and returned to practice on Sunday. The 24-year-old is eligible for full-contact work and could be ready to play in Thursday's preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens.

      After failing to accompany the team for its season opener, Ajayi led Miami with 1,272 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games last season to earn his first Pro Bowl selection. The 6-foot, 223-pound Ajayi also caught 27 passes for 151 yards.

      A 2015 fifth-round pick from Boise State, Ajayi ranked ninth in carries last season with 260. Only Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott (322) had more than 300 carries, but three others were close to that total -- then-New England star LeGarrette Blount (299), Tennessee's DeMarco Murray (293) and Arizona's David Johnson (293).

      --Running back Ryan Mathews was released by the Philadelphia Eagles, shortly after being medically cleared to practice.

      Mathews has missed the entire offseason while recovering from neck surgery. He sustained a herniated disk in his neck during a 24-19 win over the New York Giants on Dec. 22.

      Mathews was entering the final season of a three-year contract he signed with the Eagles. The 29-year-old was scheduled to make a base salary of $4 million in 2017.

      He rushed 155 times for 661 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games in 2016 for the Eagles, who signed LeGarrette Blount in the offseason. Blount set career highs in carries (299), rushing yards (1,161) and rushing touchdowns (18) last season with the New England Patriots.

      --The Carolina Panthers signed veteran linebacker Thomas Davis to a one-year contract extension, the team announced.

      The deal for Davis, a first-round draft pick of the Panthers in 2006, runs through the 2018 season. The Charlotte Observer, citing a source, said the one-year deal is worth $6.75 million, with $3 million of it guaranteed over the next two seasons.

      Davis, 34, registered a team-high 132 tackles in 2016 and became the franchise's all-time leader in that category with 1,086 tackles while earning his second straight Pro Bowl appearance.

      After he was limited to nine games over a three-year span (2009-11), Davis returned from a third torn ACL in the same knee to register more than 100 tackles in each of the past five seasons. He's also had 10 interceptions in that span.

      --Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase inched closer to declaring that quarterback Jay Cutler will make his debut in the team's upcoming preseason game.

      "Right now, everything looks like Jay is going to go," Gase said, two days ahead of the Dolphins' preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday.

      Signed to a reported one-year, $10 million contract plus incentives, the 34-year-old Cutler was talked out of retirement by Gase shortly after Ryan Tannehill sustained a left knee injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season.

      Gase served as Cutler's offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears in 2015. Cutler had 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a career-best 92.3 passer rating in his only season under his now head coach.

      --Miami Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett tore his Achilles and will have season-ending surgery, coach Adam Gase said.

      Lippett, who sustained the injury during Monday's practice, made 13 starts last season and collected 67 tackles and a team-high four interceptions.

      The 25-year-old played in 75 percent of Miami's defensive snaps in 2016 and was expected to be a backup this season behind starters Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard.

      The Dolphins selected rookie Cordrea Tankersley in the third round of the 2017 draft and also signed fellow cornerback Alterraun Verner.

      --Buffalo Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn is considered week-to-week after receiving an injection to treat his sore left foot, the team announced.

      Sean McDermott said that Glenn traveled to Wisconsin to visit specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, but the coach did not disclose the nature of the injury or the injection.

      Glenn has missed five of Buffalo's last eight practices as well as the preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings last Thursday. The 27-year-old is not expected to play in Thursday's preseason contest versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

      Glenn, has started 72 games since his rookie season in 2012, during which he was selected by Buffalo with a second-round pick. He signed a five-year, $65 million extension in May 2016.

      --Washington Redskins safety Su'a Cravens is expected to be ready for the season opener despite being slated to undergo a meniscus trim, multiple outlets reported.

      Cravens injured his knee during the preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday.

      The 22-year-old has worked as a starter throughout training camp, although he spent his first NFL season at linebacker in 2016. Cravens, a second-round selection, recorded 33 tackles and one interception last season.

      Deshazor Everett, who switched from cornerback to safety during the 2016 offseason, is expected to see additional time in the absence of Cravens.

      --Jacksonville Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Marqise Lee have been ruled out of the team's upcoming preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coach Doug Marrone said Tuesday.

      Fournette, who is the fourth overall pick of the 2017 draft, is nursing a nagging foot while Lee sustained an ankle injury on Sunday. The Jaguars face the Buccaneers on Thursday.

      "We're just being smart on it," Marrone said of Fournette's injury, per ESPN. "Obviously we're going to be smart with him and Marqise, so we'll probably hold those guys out for at least until after the game."

      Fournette made an impact both with his play and words in Jacksonville's preseason game against the New England Patriots on Thursday. The 22-year-old rushed nine times for 31 yards and a touchdown before telling reporters that he thought the NFL was "easy."

      --The second day of joint workouts between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars resulted in a number of scuffles.

      Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith and Jags defensive end Yannick Ngakoue got into a heated discussion during a pass-rush drill. Smith shoved Ngakoue, who countered by hitting him in the facemask. Then, centers Joe Hawley and Ali Marpet joined in, with Hawley losing his helmet.

      "We talked (expletive) to everybody," said Bucs defensive end Noah Spence. "We talk to each other. Maybe a little fighting, but it's all love for the game."

      In another team period, former Bucs receiver Arrelious Benn and rookie cornerback Maurice Fleming engaged in an altercation, with Fleming ending up holding Benn's helmet.

  • Marrone unclear, but Jags QB Bortles says arm is fine
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    JACKSONVILLE -- Head coach Doug Marrone was back-tracking on his comment Sunday as why Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was pulled early in practice after throwing two interceptions.

    • Backup quarterback Chad Henne saw most of the action with the No. 1 offense after that. Bortles took only 10 snaps in 11-on-11 work and just six snaps in 7-on-7 drills.

      "Actually, we were looking at the pitch count after yesterday and we went in and said, 'Let's just rest him,'" Marrone said about replacing Bortles. "It was basically for rest."

      But on Monday, following the Jaguars' first of two practices against the Tampa Bay Bucs, Marrone clarified his comments.

      "I probably misspoke when I said 'pitch count,'" Marrone said. "We do monitor it. (On Sunday), his arm looked tired and rather than push him knowing he was going to get all the reps he needed to (on Monday and Tuesday against the Bucs), it was my decision to rest him."

      A day later, following the second day of practicing against the Buccaneers' defense, Bortles said his arm was fine.

      "My arm is fine," he said. "It feels good. I'll be alright."

      Jacksonville's two practice days with the New England Patriots last week and the Buccaneers this week received favorable reviews from both Marrone and Bortles.

      "I think you get better work in these situations," the Jaguars' coach said. "I thought we got some good work against each other. I think at the end of the day, this is our second time, and it will be our last time in this preseason, so I think from the amount of work we've gotten out of it, the amount of situations, the different types of looks and things, I think all that stuff is going to help us as we move forward trying to get to where we want to be."

      Bortles was equally positive about the workouts against the two teams.

      "I think it's all positive," he said. "You get a chance to go against different people, go against different systems, different teams and it's always fun to compete against other people. It kind of heightens the environment and allows people to kind of step up their game a little bit."

      Marrone said that while the practices before the team's first two preseason games were positive, he wouldn't support the notion of a third such practice against the Carolina Panthers whom the Jaguars will play next week.

      "For me personally, with our football team, I think that we've got to get ready and start tightening some things down and start getting ready to get our focus more toward what the roster is going to be like and what we want to do," Marrone said. "We still have quite a bit, probably more positions open than at least what I'm used to at this time of year. There is still a lot on the line for a lot of these players, so I think to kind of get away from this and see how we go back and perform against each other. I think we can put people in situations where we want to see exactly how they perform."

      Looking around the roster:

      --Running back T.J. Yeldon could see increased action in Thursday's game with Tampa Bay following injuries to Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory. Fournette won't dress for the game and Ivory may see limited action, giving Yeldon a chance to show his value. Yeldon could be battling Corey Grant for the No. 3 spot at running back behind Fournette and Ivory.

      --Cornerback Jalen Ramsey's return to practice this week was slowed as a matter of caution by the coaching staff. Ramsey did not participate in team or 1-on-1 drills against Tampa Bay's offensive players. The Jaguars are hopeful he'll be ready to go next week in their third preseason game against Carolina.

      --Offensive tackle Cam Robinson has all but won the starting job at left tackle. With the departure of Branden Albert (released), Robinson was the odds-on-favorite to win the job. He held up well in the team's preseason opener at New England, getting 39 snaps, second highest total of any Jaguars offensive player.

      --Wide receiver Allen Hurns suffered an undisclosed injury in the first day of practice against New England and missed several days of practice and the game with the Patriots last Thursday. He returned to full practice this Monday against the Bucs and looked good.

      --WR Keelan Cole's stock went up with the injury to wide receiver Marqise Lee (leg). Cole is the biggest surprise of training camp and got some time with the team's No. 1 offensive unit during the two days of practice with the Bucs.

      --Cornerback Tyler Patmon had two interceptions in Monday's practice and followed that with another pick on Tuesday. Patmon continues to make a strong bid to make the final roster after the Jaguars signed him as a free agent on May 22.

      --DE Calais Campbell, RT Jermey Parnell and CB A.J. Bouye all returned to practice this week after missing the New England game with an injury. All three are expected to be in the starting lineup if they're healthy.

      --Tight end David Grinnage was signed to the active roster on Monday. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound rookie has yet to appear in a NFL game after originally signing as a rookie free agent with Green Bay in April of 2016.

      --Cornerback Dwayne Thomas was signed Monday. He was originally signed as an undrafted rookie by New England in May. He attended LSU with Fournette. Rookie cornerback Ezra Robinson, beaten several times in the New England game, was waived.

  • NFLPA appeals Elliott's suspension
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    The NFL Players Association on Tuesday officially appealed the six-game suspension handed to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

    • Elliott was suspended six games by the NFL on Friday for violating the league's personal conduct policy after multiple domestic violence incidents.

      "Our union has appealed the NFL's six-game suspension of Ezekiel Elliott," the NFLPA said in a statement. "We will represent Ezekiel, as we do all players, to ensure that the NFL is held to its obligation of adhering to principles of industrial due process under the collective bargaining agreement."

      Elliott, 22, who was not arrested or charged in the case, has maintained his innocence all along. He was not arrested nor charged in the case.

      Elliott was accused by former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson of five domestic assault incidents in July 2016 in Columbus, Ohio, and has been under NFL investigation, although the city attorney's office already announced he will not face criminal charges.

      NFL officials said in a statement that it investigated Elliott's case thoroughly and determined that he violated the personal conduct policy. The league examined text messages, interviewed more than a dozen witnesses -- including Elliott and the accuser -- and retained medical and legal experts to help (commissioner Roger) Goodell reach his decision.

      Elliott will try to discredit Thompson in the appeal process by highlighting her threats to "ruin his career," including one that was racially based, according to sources.

      The appeal game plan of Elliott includes highlighting Thompson's already chronicled text messages encouraging a friend to lie to police about an alleged domestic assault on July 22, misleading testimony to NFL lead investigator Lisa Friel, and repeated threats to ruin his career after breaking off the relationship.

      Elliott's representatives also blasted the NFL in a statement Friday for their "factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions" and promised "a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light" during the appeal.

      The suspension is scheduled to begin Sept. 2 and Elliott is eligible to return to the Cowboys' roster on Oct. 23, one day after the team's Week 7 road game against the San Francisco 49ers.

      As a result of the suspension, the guarantees in the four-year, $24.956 million deal Elliott signed with Dallas in 2016 will be voided, per ESPN. Elliott will forfeit $559,192 in 2017 salary, according to salary cap website Spotrac.

      The second-year running is coming off a sensational rookie season in which he rushed for a Cowboys-rookie-record 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to his first career Pro Bowl selection.

  • Chargers lose LB Perryman for two months
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Chargers march on and can the Saints get here soon enough?

    • Another preseason test awaits on Sunday against New Orleans. In the days leading up to it, they'll be combined practices between the teams.

      So, after a day to absorb their 48-17 pasting by the Seattle Seahawks, the Chargers got busy.

      But it wasn't just the loss and a crowd of 21,054 that derailed the team's opening night at the StubHub Center after 56 seasons in San Diego.

      The Chargers suffered an injury to a significant player. Middle linebacker Denzel Perryman is undergoing ankle surgery and is expected to miss about two months. The Chargers will cross their fingers that their best tackler can return at his usual level.

      Perryman not only piled up the numbers on the stat sheet -- 126 tackles in two years - but played with an energy that fueled his teammates.

      "It's a blow," head coach Anthony Lynn said.

      Perryman was having a good camp while digesting new coordinator Gus Bradley's 4-3 alignment. But Perryman's summer is toast and the Chargers raise a glass to the next guy.

      "These young guys will have to step up and play a little bit," Lynn said.

      Korey Toomer is up next and he gained some starting experience last year after the Chargers rescued him off the Raiders’ practice squad. He can play, just not as well as Perryman.

      Nick Dzubnar has made his mark as a special-teams player, but his playing time will increase and he could vie for a starting job with Toomer.

      The depth thins from there and welcome to those dog days of camp when the bite comes from the injury bug.

      The Chargers had already absorbed two in potential starting right guard Forrest Lamp being lost for the year with a wrecked knee. Wide receiver Mike Williams, a first-round selection, has yet to practice because of a balky back.

      Williams could return in possibly three weeks. In two months, maybe the same could be said for Perryman.

      What Lynn was preaching after the Chargers were tossed around in their opener was an old sermon: turnovers are game-killers.

      "We turned the ball over three times and we stopped playing Chargers football," he said.

      Lynn is new, but he had a point.

      Before the first team exited, it gave the Seahawks more than they could handle. Quarterback Philip Rivers marched the team 75 yards in 13 plays and capped his only drive with a sweet pass over the middle to tight end Antonio Gates for a 5-yard touchdown.

      No matter the city, the connection between Rivers to Gates remains the same.

      No matter the NFL team, injuries are part of training camp.

      The Chargers learned that again with Perryman, who's now getting around on crutches.

  • Wentz set for one and done against Bills
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    PHILADELPHIA -- Head coach Doug Pederson said Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz will play about the same number of snaps Thursday against the Buffalo Bills as he did last week against the Green Bay Packers.

    • "One drive, maybe two at the most," Pederson said.

      Asked why he is limiting Wentz's playing time so much, Pederson said, "We have four of these games. If you can get the quarterback and all of the starters in game mode (that's sufficient). The bullets don't really fly for real for another couple of weeks. The other thing you guard against (is) a hit or something in the game that might take him out. I guard against that a little bit. But at the same time, I want to make sure he's mentally in the right frame of mind to go in and start."

      --The Eagles attempted 54 passes in last week's preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers and ran the ball just 19 times. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said the run-pass imbalance had to do with the fact that the Packers blitzed on almost every play.

      "That's a little bit unusual for a preseason game," he said. "It was good for us to see. There are things that you normally do to attack that personnel-wise, game plan-wise, that quite honestly, we didn't do or want to show."

      The Eagles rushed for only 47 yards on those 19 carries.

      "It's unfortunate the way the game kind of took off," said Pederson. "I really feel like we've got a good offensive line that can handle that with the backs we have. Hopefully, (the run game) is something we can focus on Thursday night (against Buffalo)."

      --Versatile running back Darren Sproles gave serious thought to retiring after last season. He was 33 going on 34 (he turned 34 in June), which is well past the sell-by date for a NFL running back.

      He had a career-high 94 rushing attempts and 146 total touches from scrimmage, which was the second most of his career. Had a late-season concussion that sidelined him for a game.

      He handled the heavy workload fine, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, 8.2 yards per catch and a career-high 13.2 yards per attempt on punt returns.

      But his two daughters, Devyn and Rhyan, were going to be eight and three, and he had had a good, long run, and he wondered whether it might be time to get on with the rest of his life.

      "I sat down and talked it over with my wife," Sproles said Monday. "She was fine either way. But I decided I wasn't ready yet. We haven't been to the playoffs since I got here (in 2014). I didn't want to leave like that, you know what I'm saying?"

      Looking around the roster:

      --Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is expected to see his first action of the preseason against Buffalo.

      "I'm leaning towards him playing," Pederson said.

      Jeffery injured his shoulder early in the training camp, but is fine now.

      --Left tackle Jason Peters was excused from practice Tuesday to attend to a personal matter. Pederson said he doesn't know yet whether Peters will be back in time for Thursday night's game. The 35-year-old Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowler, is going to play only a few snaps against the Bills anyway.

      --Running back Ryan Mathews was released Tuesday after passing his physical. Mathews injured his neck last December and needed major surgery. It's uncertain if he will play again.

      --Cornerback Ronald Darby, who the Eagles acquired in a trade with Buffalo last week, was immediately installed as a starter. He is expected to play Thursday, but probably not a lot.

      --Quarterback Nick Foles returned to practice Monday after missing two weeks with a sore elbow. He is not expected to play Thursday against Buffalo. Foles will back up starter Carson Wentz this season.

      "Nick is a veteran guy," Pederson said. "I don't need to see a bunch out of him. He's on track. He understands our scheme. So, I'm not overly concerned (if he doesn't play a lot in the preseason)."

  • Panthers LB Davis gets extension
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    The Carolina Panthers signed veteran linebacker Thomas Davis to a one-year contract extension, the team announced Tuesday.

    • The deal for Davis, a first-round draft pick of the Panthers in 2006, runs through the 2018 season. The Charlotte Observer, citing a source, said the one-year is worth $6.75 million, with $3 million of it guaranteed over the next two seasons.

      "I'm extremely excited. Everybody knows how I feel about being a Carolina Panther," Davis said. "This extension solidifies me being here for the rest of my career, and I'm excited about that. Now it's totally focused on winning a Super Bowl."

      Davis, 34, registered a team-high 132 tackles in 2016 and became the franchise's all-time leader in that category with 1,086 tackles while earning his second straight Pro Bowl appearance.

      After he was limited to nine games over a three-year span (2009-11), Davis returned from a third torn ACL in the same knee to register more than 100 tackles in each of the past five seasons. He's also had 10 interceptions in that span.

      "Thomas is still playing fast and at a high-level, and the intensity and passion that he brings to the game is unmatched," linebackers coach Al Holcomb said. "He is the ultimate leader, and to continue to have a player and a man of his magnitude on our team is extremely important. I'm excited for Thomas, his family and our organization."

      Davis was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2014, presented to the player in recognition of his off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.

  • Deep D-line a good problem for Ravens
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have a deep defensive line with several players engaged in a fierce battle to earn one of the final spots on the 53-man roster.

    • Brandon Williams, who signed a five-year, $54 million deal in the offseason, is clearly the leader of this group. Second-year player Michael Pierce is also evolving into a top playmaker. With those two clogging the middle, the Ravens could have one of the best run defenses in the NFL.

      Defensive tackle Carl Davis has also shown much improvement after struggling last season. He is being pushed by undrafted rookie Patrick Ricard, who has been one of the biggest surprises.

      Willie Henry, a second-year player from Michigan, has made plays in the backfield when given opportunities. Chris Wormley, a rookie third-round pick from Michigan, already appears ready to make an impact.

      "We are really deep," Pierce said. "Even down to our undrafted guys, again. Guys like Patrick Ricard can play. He can flat-out play, and he is going to get more comfortable, and he is going to be awesome. You see what Willie and Carl can do - of course Brandon. I am proving myself every day. We have a ton of guys, and it is going to be a great preseason. We will see how it works out, but we are extremely deep and we are happy - especially our five-techniques, too. It is awesome."

      Defensive line coach Joe Cullen has been impressed with the effectiveness of the unit. He said there has been little drop-off from the starters and the second team.

      He acknowledged that Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh will have difficult decisions to make with the final roster.

      "I think it keeps everyone pushing each other," Cullen said. "What we don't ever want to have is 'one' and then the next guy that comes into the game is a huge drop-off. We want it to be right there. I think our guys are pushing to get to that level. Those are great problems for coach 'Harbs' and Ozzie to have."

      --A hush came over M&T Bank Stadium when Justin Tucker missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt in the preseason opener against the Washington Redskins.

      The gaffe was quickly forgotten when Washington was flagged for illegal formation, which provided the Ravens with a first down. Three plays later, Terrance West scored from the 2.

      Still, it was a rare miss for Tucker, who is the most accurate kicker in NFL history. He has even missed a few chances in training camp.

      Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg is not the least bit concerned. Rosburg said punter/holder Sam Koch, long snapper Morgan Cox and Tucker spent the offseason training in different places, so they are still getting in sync.

      "They've been working really hard together to try to get back in the same tempo and the same kind of productivity that we had in 2016," Rosburg said. "I have a lot of confidence in all three of those guys, particularly in Justin. He has an excellent track record. We're happy we have him, and we trust him."

  • Giants WR Marshall trying to shut door on Jets' tenure
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    New York Giants wide receiver Brandon Marshall wants to leave his feud with former Jets teammate Sheldon Richardson in his rear-view mirror.

    • When asked to respond to Richardson's most recent comments about how Marshall's actions were "drama queen-ish," the 33-year-old wide receiver did his best to take the high road on Tuesday.

      "I wasn't surprised," Marshall said of Richardson's latest round of comments. "But, you know, there is so much good energy here and the environment is amazing. I don't really have time ... I don't have time to go back to that. That's dead."

      Richardson has a different opinion on the life of the feud, as he dredged up old family business last week by saying that Marshall quit on the Jets last season during an appearance on ESPN Radio in New York City.

      "That man knows what he did," Richardson said of Marshall, with whom he nearly got into a fistfight following a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last season. "I was the one who addressed it and I would still address it to this day."

      Earlier in the spring, Richardson said there were "15 reasons" why the Jets had a better locker room this season -- Marshall wears No. 15.

      Marshall signed a two-year deal with the Giants shortly after being released by the Jets in March. He's entering his 12th NFL season after stops in Denver, Miami, Chicago and the past two campaigns with the Jets.

  • Bad back, front keep Ravens QB Flacco sidelined
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- With the current state of their offensive line, the Baltimore Ravens are not taking chances with quarterback Joe Flacco.

    • He will be on the bench for all four preseason games.

      Baltimore is ravaged with injuries and there is still a month before the regular-season opener Sept. 10 against Cincinnati. Flacco has yet to practice because of a back injury, but is expected to return in the short term. In the meantime, backup Ryan Mallett will handle the majority of snaps.

      Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is not overly concerned about the lack of reps for the veteran Flacco, who is entering his 10th season in the NFL.

      "It looks like we'll have just enough time there to get him ready as long as he keeps progressing," Mornhinweg said. "By all accounts, he's progressing pretty well."

      The Ravens have shuffled their offensive line throughout training camp because of injuries and the unexpected retirement of John Urschel, who was expected to compete for the starting job at center.

      Both left guard Alex Lewis and guard Nico Siragusa have already been lost with season-ending injuries. Six-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda is being brought along slowly after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

      Left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed practice this week for undisclosed reasons and will likely miss the second preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night. Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said Stanley has been dealing with "camp stuff."

      However, veteran Austin Howard, who was signed on Aug. 4, could make his Ravens' debut in Miami.

      Baltimore has struggled to have the same five offensive linemen working together on the first team for consecutive days. That challenge has been an area of concern for Mornhinweg.

      "If you look around football, the line plays together," Mornhinweg said. "Five or six guys play together pretty much throughout the year, and that way you can stay pretty consistent that way. So, yes, it is important."

      Harbaugh expressed confidence Wednesday the offensive line will fully come together by the regular season.

      "We'll make it work," Harbaugh said.

      A look around the roster:

      --Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis was signed Monday and quarterback Dustin Vaughan was waived. The Ravens are Lewis' eighth team in eight seasons. Lewis signed a one-year, $760,000 deal with the 49ers in March 2016, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has not appeared in a NFL game since 2013 with the Bills.

      --Wide receiver Breshad Perriman has not practiced since Aug. 1 because of a hamstring injury. However, Harbaugh has not ruled him out for the preseason.

      "He's a long-term hamstring guy in terms of when he did it," Harbaugh said. "It's a pretty good hamstring that he had. He's making progress. Everything is on schedule. They're happy with the way he's progressing. That's what I know."

      Perriman, the team's first-round pick in 2015, missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury.

      --Safety Eric Weddle returned to practice Monday after leaving early Sunday for an undisclosed reason. Weddle played in the first preseason game against the Redskins and will likely see more reps Thursday against Miami. He and fellow safety Tony Jefferson are hoping to be one of the top playmaking duos in the league.

      --Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, the team's first-round pick in the 2017 draft, will make his Ravens' debut Thursday.

      "It will be fun to see," Harbaugh said. "Seeing game reps will be a big step for him." He did not play in the preseason opener against the Washington Redskins for undisclosed reasons but was back at practice this week. Humphrey has been impressive throughout camp and is competing for a starting role opposite Jimmy Smith.

      --Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was held out of practice Sunday, but returned to workouts the following two days. Maclin could make his Ravens debut Thursday against the Miami Dolphins. He was not active for the preseason opener against the Redskins. Maclin signed a two-year deal in June after being cut by Kansas City.

      --Linebacker Tyus Bowser was able to practice this week after missing a workout Sunday. Bowser, a second-round pick from Houston in this year's draft, has been impressive throughout training camp. He has earned accolades from coaches for his ability to drop back in coverage.

      --Left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed three practices this week for undisclosed reasons and is likely out against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night. Harbaugh said Stanley has been dealing with "camp stuff." Stanley also missed four games last season with a foot injury. He recovered and finished the year as one of the top rookie offensive linemen in the league.

  • Bucs and Jaguars have fight-filled practice
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    TAMPA -- The second day of joint workouts between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars resulted in a number of scuffles.

    • Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith and Jags defensive end Yannick Ngakoue got into a heated discussion during a pass-rush drill. Smith shoved Ngakoue, who countered by hitting him in the facemask. Then, centers Joe Hawley and Ali Marpet joined in, with Hawley losing his helmet.

      "We talked (expletive) to everybody," said Bucs defensive end Noah Spence. "We talk to each other. Maybe a little fighting, but it's all love for the game."

      In another team period, former Bucs receiver Arrelious Benn and rookie cornerback Maurice Fleming engaged in an altercation, with Fleming ending up holding Benn's helmet.

      At first, Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said he was unaware of any fights.

      "No drills that I was in. We didn't have any," Koetter said. "Who won?"

      Then, Koetter seemed to acknowledge the fights.

      "There was talk going on, on both sides," Koetter said. "That's part of it. I thought the coaches on both sides, the field I was on, handled it fine. You keep playing. Both teams knew if it kept going on they would get kicked out. I wasn't on those fields."

      Defensive coordinator Mike Smith said such fights would result in penalties during a game.

      "There's two sides to every story," Smith said. "It's really something we can't allow to happen. We're going to get a 15-yard penalty in a real game so we've got to make sure we keep our composure. We came in here saying we didn't want to fight."

      --With starting cornerback Brent Grimes out with a right leg laceration, it's a great time for the Bucs to take a look at some developing talent at that position.

      Second-year pro Ryan Smith, who is a converted safety, has benefitted by Grimes' injury and is getting many reps with the first-team defense.

      "I think Ryan is very talented," Smith said. "He needs reps. He's getting a lot with Grimes not practicing, it's giving him an opportunity to get a lot of reps and they're going to be great learning moments for him in very competitive situations. This isn't a situation like when we practice against ourselves. You have to reroute receivers and there are different situations and he's learning. It's a learning curve for him. He hasn't really played a (regular-season) snap (at cornerback). Last week was his first time (in preseason), and he's going to get extended time this week."

  • Broncos RB Charles will miss Saturday's contest
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    Running back Jamaal Charles will have to wait a bit longer to make his preseason debut with the Denver Broncos.

    • Charles has been ruled out of Saturday's preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers as he works his way back from knee surgery. He will make his Broncos' debut against the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 26, coach Vance Joseph said Tuesday.

      "That's been the plan for the entire time, to kind of get Jamaal as strong as he can be before we put him on the field," Joseph said. "He is ready to go, it's me holding Jamaal back but he wants to go. He wanted to go last week but the plan was Green Bay, so we're going to stick with that plan. He will practice this week though in San Fran. He's traveling, he will practice, but he won't play Saturday."

      Charles signed a one-year contract in May, just three months after being released by Kansas City. The 30-year-old spent nine seasons with the Chiefs and became the club's career rushing leader.

      He is a four-time Pro Bowl selection with impressive statistics, but he has played only eight games in the past two seasons combined because of injuries.

      Charles tore his right ACL in 2015, costing him all but five games that season. Another knee surgery to repair a meniscus ended his 2016 season after just 12 carries and 40 yards.

      Charles has rushed for 7,260 yards, and his career yards-per-carry average of 5.5 ranks first among NFL running backs all-time.

      He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards five times, most recently in 2014, when he gained 1,033.

      Charles has 285 career receptions for 2,457 yards and 20 touchdowns. In 2013, he caught 70 passes for 693 yards, and seven touchdowns.