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  • Berry ready for first preseason action for Chiefs
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry expects to see his first action of the preseason Friday night against the Seattle Seahawks.

    • Berry missed the team's first two preseason games and hadn't practice since Aug. 6 until returning to workouts Monday. The team held him from practice while he nursed a heel injury that also bothered him last season. Head coach Andy Reid liked what he saw from the 28-year-old Berry during practice this week.

      "I thought he did a nice job actually and moved around pretty good," Reid said. "He's been working his tail off, so that's not the problem. It's just a matter of that thing calming down where he can function."

      The action against Seattle will be the only playing time Berry sees during the preseason. Reid expects his starters to play into the third quarter Friday night. Few if any starters expect to play in the final preseason game at home next week against the Tennessee Titans.

      Reid said Berry doesn't need many snaps in the preseason acclimating himself back to the game.

      "He's played long enough where he knows what he needs and doesn't need," Reid said.

      Defensive lineman Chris Jones and Roy Miller also expect to make their preseason debuts against Seattle. Jones started training camp on the physically unable to perform list following arthroscopic surgery on his knee last month. The newly acquired Miller continues his recovery from a season-ending torn Achilles sustained last October.

      --Running back Kareem Hunt saw action on the second play of last week's 30-12 win over Cincinnati as the Chiefs tested their third-round selection's strength and endurance. Head coach Andy Reid complimented Hunt's physical play against the Bengals.

      "He has an idea of the physical demands and the shape you need to be in to carry the ball like that," Reid said. "He did a good job at pass protection and route running."

      Hunt rushed for 40 yards on eight carries and added three catches for 23 yards. He left the game after tweaking his ankle early in the second quarter.

      "It was a good feeling being to get a lot of touches early and get into the flow of the game," Hunt said.

      Coaches throughout training camp and into the preseason praised Hunt for his commitment to blocking in the passing game. He showed off that willingness to throw his body in front of would-be tacklers, taking out two pass rushers on a fourth-down conversion from quarterback Alex Smith to fullback Anthony Sherman.

      "Honestly, I saw two guys coming and just sacrificed my body," Hunt said. "I was pretty much just trying to make a play."

      Hunt soared up the depth chart through training camp and now stands as the No. 2 back behind starter Spencer Ware. The rookie continues pressing for playing time, however, demonstrating an ability to make tacklers miss in open space as well as catch the ball out of the backfield.

      "I think I'm improving," Hunt said. "That's because I'm getting better with the playbook and I'm able to play fast. Just seeing things a lot more."

      --The Chiefs face an irregular schedule in the upcoming season with six prime-time broadcasts scattered across four different days of the week, including the season opener on a Thursday night at New England.

      That poses a challenge to NFL players conditioned to take the field every Sunday, and quarterback Alex Smith counts himself as one of those creatures of habit.

      "Come regular season you do really live by the week," Smith said. "Every Wednesday's the same and Thursdays and Fridays and obviously building up towards game day, which is usually Sundays."

      Reid does not believe the topsy-turvy schedule impacts his team that much.

      "I'm not worried about that," Reid said. "Our guys know how to handle it. I think we as a coaching staff know how to handle that. We'll be alright."

      The numbers, however, tell a different story.

      Reid's success following bye weeks is legendary enough that other NFL coaches attempt to emulate his strategy. Reid owns a 16-2 record following bye weeks in his coaching career.

      When the Chiefs play on days other than Sundays, the results are decidedly mixed.

      The Chiefs have the fourth-best record in the league since Reid's arrival in 2013, winning games at a .672 clip. He's won more than 70 percent of his Sunday afternoon games in that stretch, with a record of 37-15.

      Outside Sunday afternoon, however, the Chiefs stand just 8-9 under Reid. That's the 16th best record in the league. Prime-time games remain the struggle; the Chiefs stand just 5-6 at night during the regular season

      The Chiefs have just five days between their road win at Cincinnati on Aug. 19 before traveling to Seattle Friday night. Reid believes the short turnaround is good experience for the regular season.

      "Even though the starters played a half, they still get an idea of what it takes for a hurry-up week," Reid said.

      Smith agreed.

      "I think the good thing here is the preseason simulates that for us," Smith said. "We've got Saturday games, Friday games, Thursday games. Your game weeks get thrown off a little bit. Some weeks you get extra rest, some weeks you don't."

      The Chiefs face a quick turnaround with the season kicking off on Thursday night. Reid wants to see how his team fares against Seattle before determining how much his starters and reserves play in the preseason finale Aug. 31 against Tennessee.

      "I want to see how this one goes," Reid. "We'll just see how it goes.

      --Chiefs offensive lineman Parker Ehinger still remembers the searing pain that abruptly ended his rookie campaign last October in Indianapolis.

      "I've never felt that kind of pain in my life," Ehinger said.

      The team's fourth-round selection in the 2016 draft tore the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his right knee.

      "I knew it was going to be a journey when it first happened," Ehinger said. "I knew it was going to be a long haul back, but I was ready for it and just embraced the process and was ready to get after it."

      Ehinger returned to practice this week after starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Neither Ehinger or team coaches placed a timetable on his return to the lineup, but the 24-year-old left guard hinted that he hopes to return to the line during the first few weeks of the regular season.

      "Right now I'm just trusting what the doctors tell me and the trainers and staff and what my body's telling me," Ehinger said. "Hopefully, it's going to in the foreseeable future that I'm be back out there."

      Ehinger's rookie season started with enormous promise. The rookie from Cincinnati plugged immediately into the Chiefs' offensive line and proved invaluable in the run game. The Chiefs averaged 4.39 yards per carry with Ehinger at left guard. The team mustered just 4.01 yards per rush in his absence.

      Utility lineman Zach Fulton assumed the left-guard spot last season following Ehinger's injury. The Chiefs moved tackle Bryan Witzmann to left guard during the offseason, and the club appears ready to roll with the 27-year-old journeyman lineman bridging the gap in Ehinger's absence. Witzmann started the team's first two preseason games at left guard.

      That frees Fulton to play any other position on the line if an injury arises.

      Offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said Ehinger's return provides depth and flexibility to the team's offensive line.

      "He's done a great job at rehabbing and trying to get back to where he needs to be," offensive coordinator Nagy said. "Anytime you can get quality players back to help you with the depth it's huge."

  • NFL notebook: Browns QB Kizer to start next preseason game
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Three weeks into his first NFL preseason, DeShone Kizer emerged as the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.

    • The rookie second-round pick out of Notre Dame earned a chance to solidify his spot atop the pecking order of passers for the Browns with a start in Cleveland's preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week.

      "This morning, I informed our quarterbacks that DeShone will be our starter for the third preseason game against Tampa," head coach Hue Jackson said Wednesday. "He has made a lot of progress by investing the time necessary to learn our offense, working hard to improve on his fundamentals while also effectively moving the offense in preseason games. Development is so important for a young quarterback, this is the next step he needs to take and he deserves this opportunity. We are very excited about seeing DeShone in the role of starter for this week, as he is certainly positioning himself well to earn the starting job heading into the regular season."

      Cody Kessler entered training camp as the presumed starter. A rookie in 2016, Kessler entered the lineup after injuries to Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. Kessler is 12 of 17 in two preseason games but averaging less than 6.0 yards per completion. Brock Osweiler, acquired in a trade from the Houston Texans, is completing 54.5 percent of his passes with one interception and Kevin Hogan has only one pass attempt.

      --Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne will start Thursday's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, coach Doug Marrone announced .

      Fellow quarterback Blake Bortles will also receive reps with the first team.

      Marrone has not been pleased with what he has seen from his quarterbacks thus far in the preseason.

      Bortles, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft and the team's starter since Week 4 of his rookie season, was ineffective in his four series in the first half against the Bucs, all of which ended in punts.

      --New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo didn't shed much light on the condition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

      McAdoo didn't elaborate if Beckham sustained a high or low ankle sprain on a hit by Cleveland defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun during a 10-6 loss to the Browns in a preseason game on Monday night.

      "He's got an ankle (injury), he's in there getting treatment," McAdoo said. "We're just taking it day by day."

      McAdoo also did not confirm or deny an ESPN report, citing sources, that said Beckham may not be ready for New York's season opener at the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 10.

      --The Giants waived offensive lineman Michael Bowie following a charge of domestic assault and battery in Oklahoma.

      Bowie, 25, turned himself in to authorities on Monday after a warrant was issued last week. He was charged with one count of domestic assault and battery and two counts of malicious injury or destruction of property.

      The NFL is investigating the incident and Bowie could be subject to potential discipline by the league under the personal conduct policy.

      The team waived offensive lineman Corin Brooks, and waived/injured wide receivers Darius Powe and Andrew Turzilli with hamstring injuries. In addition, the Giants signed wide receivers Marquis Bundy and C.J. Germany, and linemen Richard Levy and Matt Rotheram.

      --If Le'Veon Bell's Tuesday night tweet is legit, the running back plans to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the beginning of next month.

      Bell has not been with the team during the preseason, working out on his own during his holdout.

      On Tuesday, a fan tweeted to James, "So like when is le'veon bell gonna show up??," @Vadarmendariz asked in regard to fantasy football.

      Bell tweeted a simple response: "9-1-17" with a wink emoji. When the fan responded that his announcement was good news, he replied, "you're welcome."

      Sept. 1 is one day after the Steelers' preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns.

      --Baseball legend Hank Aaron came to the defense of Colin Kaepernick, saying the unsigned quarterback is "getting a raw deal."

      Aaron told BlackAmericaWeb.com in an online video published Wednesday that Kaepernick is being blackballed by NFL owners who disagree with his politics.

      "I think he's getting a raw deal," Aaron said. "If you look at all the quarterbacks in the league right now, I think you have to say he is 1, 2, 3, 4. I don't think anybody can do the things he could do. I wish somebody would open up and give him a chance to do his thing."

      Aaron endured racism throughout his legendary baseball career. The Hall of Famer was the target of racist taunts, death threats and hate mail throughout his historic chase of Babe Ruth's home run record in 1974.

      --The Chicago Bears signed left tackle Charles Leno to a four-year, $38 million contract extension.

      The deal through the 2021 season includes $21.5 million in guarantees, according to multiple reports. Leno was scheduled to earn $1.797 million in the final year of his rookie deal.

      The 25-year-old Leno, the Bears' seventh-round draft choice in 2014 out of Boise State, played in 38 games over three seasons with 30 career starts.

      The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Leno took over left tackle on a permanent basis in Week 4 of the 2015 season and started all 16 games in 2016.

      --Oakland Raiders left tackle Donald Penn ended his 26-day holdout and returned to practice on Wednesday.

      Penn is entering the final season of his two-year, $11.9 million contract he signed in March 2016. By comparison, at least 14 offensive tackles in the NFL make $10 million per season.

      The 2016 Pro Bowl selection has yet to miss a regular-season game since entering the league as an undrafted free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2007. The 34-year-old sat out the Raiders' wild-card playoff loss to the Houston Texans last season with a left knee injury.

      --Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman has been ruled out of Saturday's preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, the team announced.

      The contest will be the second straight missed by Freeman, who reportedly is navigating his way through the final stages of the concussion protocol. The two-time Pro Bowl selection is not practicing, but has been running sprints on the side of the field.

      --The San Francisco 49ers signed free agent defensive lineman Sen'Derrick Marks to a one-year deal to add depth at the position.

      The 49ers have been hit with injuries on the defensive line, including defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (ankle) and defensive end Ronald Blair (groin).

      --The 49ers activated free safety Jimmie Ward off the physically unable to perform list, the team announced Wednesday.

      Ward has been sidelined since sustaining a hamstring injury during the team's conditioning test on the first day of training camp.

      --The Indianapolis Colts activated center/guard Brian Schwenke from the physically unable to perform list.

      Schwenke, who signed as a free agent with the Colts in March to play guard, had been battling a foot injury that kept him out of offseason workouts and training camp. The veteran offensive lineman can practice with the team immediately.

  • Camp Surprises: Undrafted free agents are king
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    If you entered the NFL as an undrafted free, there is a good chance you will find your way onto this list of players that have opened eyes during the preseason.

    • In this team-by-team analysis of training camp surprises by correspondents for The Sports Xchange, there are 17 undrafted rookies from this year and another seven from 2016.

      Overall, there are also 12 wide receivers.

      So, jot these names down and see how many manage to be on opening-day rosters or at least survive on a practice squad.

      NFC EAST

      DALLAS COWBOYS

      --QB Cooper Rush: The undrafted rookie is making a bid for a roster spot, if not forcing himself into the conversation for the No. 2 job because of the disappointing play of Kellen Moore. In three preseason games, Rush has completed 26 of 38 passes for 283 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. "I'm just glad to see Rush taking advantage of his opportunities out there," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. "We wouldn't want to get ahead of ourselves, in any way here. We have a lot of confidence in Moore."

      NEW YORK GIANTS

      --FB Shane Smith: Smith, an undrafted rookie free agent out of San Jose State, is looking to bring back some of the old-school style fullback play to the Giants offense. In his early opportunities, he's done just that, squaring up on his blocks and driving open holes for the running backs. In the preseason opener against the Steelers, Smith was the lead blocker on starting running back Paul Perkins' longest run of the night, a seven-yard gain over the left guard. In addition to getting his opportunities on offense, Smith has earned first-team snaps on special teams as a core special teamer, and has looked solid in those roles. With all that said, the Giants did sign fullback/tight end Rhett Ellison to presumably be their lead blocker this year, so there is no guarantee that Smith is going to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. However, he's done everything possible to make the decision a hard one for the coaches.

      PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

      --RB Corey Clement: An undrafted free agent from Wisconsin, Clement has taken advantage of the absence of Wendell Smallwood, who has a hamstring injury. Clement had a 6-yard touchdown run and a 24-yard run Thursday night against Buffalo. The most likely scenario is Smallwood makes the team and Clement is put on the practice squad. But given the way he's played in the preseason, if the Eagles release Clement, there's a good chance someone else will sign him.

      WASHINGTON REDSKINS

      --DL Anthony Lanier: He put in a solid, if workmanlike, effort against Green Bay on Saturday and that has him in the mix for a 53-man roster spot. That's not a total surprise. He had a strong training camp in 2016 and made the roster last season, appearing in four games before a late-season leg injury led to injured reserve and an early end to his rookie campaign. But the Redskins brought in two free agents on the defensive line (Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee) and drafted Jonathan Allen in the first round so a roster spot is far from guaranteed. Lanier, an undrafted college free agent from Alabama A&M, has primarily been on the field in nickel packages. He's been more consistent in practices this summer, but hasn't flashed like he did a year ago. Lanier might need a splashier performance in Saturday's game against Cincinnati to push him over the top.

      NFC NORTH

      CHICAGO BEARS

      --WR Tanner Gentry: He is an undrafted free agent from Wyoming who has made a habit of beating the reserve Bears secondary for passes all over the field. He has shown a special knack for getting behind the secondary deep on passes from Mitchell Trubisky. His production in two preseason games has been solid, with three catches. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound receiver faces a crowded battle for a roster spot, and will need to prove he can play special teams to make it. He has so far outplayed 2016 seventh-round pick Daniel Braverman and a handful of other holdover receivers.

      DETROIT LIONS

      --S Charles Washington: A year after he made the practice squad as an undrafted rookie, Washington has a chance to make the Lions' 53-man roster as the fourth or fifth safety. Washington missed the start of training camp for personal reasons, but has worked primarily with the second-team defense (and occasionally with the No. 1 unit) in recent weeks. Glover Quin and Tavon Wilson are locked into starting jobs, Miles Killebrew has played in dime packages and Don Carey is expected to man a special-teams role, but Washington is the top backup option at free safety and insurance in case Wilson faces NFL discipline for a legal matter. Ultimately, Washington will have to earn his roster spot on special teams, and the Lions are giving him a long look on both the punt- and kick-cover units.

      GREEN BAY PACKERS

      QB Taysom Hill: The Packers' No. 4 quarterback was expected to be just a camp body, but the former BYU standout has become a real contender to make the 53-man roster. In Green Bay's first preseason game, Hill had a perfect passer rating of 158.3. In the Packers' win over Washington, Hill had a 23-yard touchdown run with 6:16 left that provided the winning points in Green Bay's 21-17 victory. "Taysom played very well," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I feel like I've said that seven times already, but he played very well. We had to go to a four-wide-receiver personnel there at the end just because we were short in the tight-end position, so I give those young guys a lot of credit because we ran base concepts and they were able to handle it, and the most responsibility falls on the quarterback and he did a very good job managing that particular drive and obviously versus the pressure defense there, the five-man pressure, he came out and made the big run for a touchdown."

      Hill took a two-year church mission coming out of high school, and redshirted in 2015 after suffering a Lisfranc fracture. Therefore, Hill will turn 27 later this week. Hill's age -- and inability to throw with accuracy downfield -- turned off many scouts and were major reasons he went undrafted in April. But Hill is a terrific athlete with 4.44 speed in the 40-yard dash and has thrown the ball better than expected this summer.

      "I think playing quarterback here just allowed me a great opportunity to develop under Aaron (Rodgers) and learn from him and it's a great system," Hill said. "These guys know what they're doing, they know how to develop quarterbacks. I think coach McCarthy has been deemed that -- a guy who develops quarterbacks -- so I was really excited about that opportunity."

      Green Bay has rarely kept three quarterbacks under McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson. And even if the Packers keep three this season, Joe Callahan remains ahead of Hill for the time being. But if Hill continues to shine, he's optimistic things will work out just fine.

      "I've been in quarterback competitions before and I would say at the end of the day, whether this sounds cliche or not, the competition is with yourself," Hill said. "You go out and try to be as good as you possibly can and if it doesn't work out in Green Bay the hope is that you get good tape out there that other teams see and you have an opportunity to play other places as well. But that being said, I've loved my experience here and I want to do everything I can to stick around this organization."

      MINNESOTA VIKINGS

      --LB Ben Gedeon: The rookie fourth-round draft pick has forced himself into the competition at weak-side linebacker in the base defense. That's where Chad Greenway played before retiring after 11 seasons. Because the Vikings play so many nickel packages, the winner of this battle will play only about 40 percent of the snaps. But it's still an important role. The assumption was the competition would come down to Emmanuel Lamur, a veteran who came over from Cincinnati before last season, and Edmond Robinson, who had been a backup on the strong side. But Gedeon is a feisty, active competitor who plays fast and makes tackles.

      NFC SOUTH

      ATLANTA FALCONS

      --S Quincy Mauger: He made a spectacular interception in the fourth quarter against the Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field. "What a great play by Jack Lynn going after him," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. "It was a really good stop and then Mauger getting his hands right underneath it." Lynn, an undrafted linebacker from Minnesota, flushed Pittsburgh quarterback Joshua Dobbs out of the pocket on one play. Dobbs tried to flip a pass outside to a receiver. But Mauger swooped in and got both of his hands under the ball for the catch, which was upheld after a review.

      "Jack Lynn did a great job of getting the quarterback out of the pocket," Mauger said. "Everybody on the back end did their job of plastering their man and being able to affect the quarterback by just sticking to their man. He just threw the ball up there."

      CAROLINA PANTHERS

      --FB Alex Armah: A sixth-round draft pick out of West Georgia, Armah has turned some heads during training camp and in the preseason matchups. His touchdown in the second preseason game should provide a dose of confidence. Armah appears to be continuing to adjust to the professional level, so early indications suggest that he could be ready to help the team. It would be a welcome addition because of the departure of FB Mile Tolbert.

      NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

      --DE Al-Quadin Muhammad: He entered training camp as an intriguing prospect, but a long shot to make the roster. Halfway through the preseason he has been impressive, including having 1.5 sacks in a 13-7 victory at the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night. Muhammad, 6-foor-4, 250 pounds, was considered a talented player coming out of Miami, but he had a very limited career, missing two of his last three seasons because of being suspended and later dismissed. The Saints thought enough of Muhammad's skills and their pass-rushing shortcomings to use a sixth-round draft choice on him. Suddenly, it would not be surprising if Muhammad earns a spot on the opening-day roster.

      TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

      --WR Bernard Reedy is making a real run at the fifth receiver spot and as a kick returner after another solid performance Thursday. Reedy is battling for the position with veteran Josh Huff. On Thursday, Reedy had two punt returns for 19 yards and returned a kickoff 29 yards.

      NFC WEST

      ARIZONA CARDINALS

      CAMP SURPRISE

      --WR Chris Hubert: He was among those singled out by head coach Bruce Arians as a player who has improved his stock in training camp. That's important for Hubert because Arians has largely been disappointed with the majority of his receivers for the last two weeks. Called "Little Smoke" not because he reminds anyone of teammate John "Smoke" Brown, but because his father, Wayne, goes by the nickname "Smoke," Hubert has flashed a handful of times in preseason games and certainly in practices. "He's quick. He's quick and he's fast," Arians said. "A lot of times (on Saturday vs. the Bears), we had some running plays called and they stacked it up, so we threw it out to him and he made the first guy miss. Those are cheap yards, but they're good yards."

      LOS ANGELES RAMS

      --WR Josh Reynolds: A rookie from Texas A&M, Reynolds has made an immediate impact upon returning to practice last week, including catching the game-winning touchdown pass from Sean Mannion Saturday against the Oakland Raiders. The 6-foot-4 rookie has a basketball-type build with deceptive speed and great hands. The Rams receiver population is deep, but Reynolds is making noise.

      SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

      --FS Lorenzo Jerome: The undrafted player from St. Francis (Pa.) began camp as a longshot to make the team as a cornerback. Saturday, he was the starting free safety, having taken advantage of injuries suffered by projected starter Jimmie Ward and his chief backup, Jaquiski Tartt. Jerome has been so good, some have speculated Ward will return from his hamstring injury as a cornerback, a possible replacement for struggling Rashard Robinson. As camp ends, Jerome's versatility is seen as an asset the club would love to have at its disposal this season.

      SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

      WR Kasen Williams: The former University of Washington star seemed to be the forgotten man in the wide-receiver battle early in training camp. The third-year pro appeared to be at the bottom end of the depth chart with several returning contributors and draft picks seemingly in better position to make the roster. However, after four catches and 119 yards against the Los Angeles Chargers and two catches for 28 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota, Williams is firmly in the thick of the fight for a 53-man roster spot. Williams also made a tackle on special teams against the Vikings, which is critical for back-end roster spots.

      AFC EAST

      BUFFALO BILLS

      --DE Eddie Yarbrough: He couldn't even make his way onto the field for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL during a six-week stint in 2016. But the 260-pounder signed with the Bills in April, he made a little noise in the spring work, but then really hit his stride once camp began and it now seems likely that he'll earn a backup job in head coach Sean McDermott's defense. In the preseason opener against the Vikings, he had three tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits, and then in the second game against the Eagles, his lone tackle was for a loss, he broke up a pass, and he had a quarterback hit.

      MIAMI DOLPHINS

      --DT Davon Godchaux: Godchaux, the rookie fifth-round pick from LSU, has turned heads by beating out incumbent DT Jordan Phillips for the starting job, and playing an aggressive, physical style. He takes on double teams, is barely moved, and seems to have decent athleticism. It remains to be seen whether Godchaux can truly help improve a run defense that was 30th in the NFL last season, but it appears coaches think he's a better solution than Phillips.

      NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

      --LB Harvey Langi: An undrafted rookie linebacker out of BYU, Langi has taken advantage of the Patriots' serious lack of depth on the defensive edge with an abundance of reps with the first-unit defense. Though Langi is very much a work in progress as a pass rusher, it appears he's going to be given every chance to earn a key role on the defense to begin his career in New England. The Patriots have a history of undrafted rookies evolving into key contributors and Langi could be well on his way to adding his name to that list.

      NEW YORK JETS

      --WR Chris Harper: Only the Jets could have as their surprise a player who didn't record a catch and wasn't even targeted in the second exhibition game. But all the Jets receivers get a pass, pardon the pun, given the poor performance of quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Harper has shown some big-play ability and a decent set of hands during training camp, and that's a pretty good combination to possess when vying for a job with the leanest receiver corps in football. Add into the equation his modicum of NFL experience - he has 14 catches in two NFL seasons with the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers - and Harper has a legitimate shot at grabbing a starting job for Week 1.

      AFC NORTH

      BALTIMORE RAVENS

      --CB Jaylen Hill: The undrafted free agent from Jacksonville State continues to make plays and has helped soften the blow of the loss of fellow cornerback Tavon Young, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Hill had a nifty interception in the preseason opener against the Redskins. Then, he was targeted five times against the Dolphins, but he allowed just one, 2-yard reception. Hill has certainly made a strong case for a spot on the final 53-man roster.

      CINCINNATI BENGALS

      --DE Chris Smith: A fourth-year player who spent the past three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Smith hasn't played in more than seven games in any of his first three seasons. But, he's earning a chance to play with the Bengals. He had five quarterback hits and a sack in Saturday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and applied consistent pressure.

      CLEVELAND BROWNS

      --DT Trevon Coley: He caught the eye of Browns head coach Hue Jackson early in training camp and he hasn't slowed. He doesn't get pushed off the line of scrimmage and has a nose for the football as he demonstrated in the preseason opener when he forced a fumble. Coley was signed by the Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2016. After spending some time on Washington's practice squad last year he was signed to the Browns' practice squad on Dec. 16. Coley, 6-foot-1, 310, won't start but is expected to be part of the rotation.

      PITTSBURGH STEELERS

      --CB Mike Hilton: The undrafted free agent was cut by the Jaguars and Patriots last year, but it's looking like he might have found a home with the Steelers. Hilton, a 5-foot-9 slot corner out of Ole Miss, has taken advantage of an unexpected opportunity. After rookie third-round pick Cameron Sutton and Senquez Golson, the Steelers' 2015 second-round pick, were injured, Hilton became the top backup behind William Gay in the nickel package. Hilton has showed an ability to play tight man coverage and play well in run support. Most important, he's played well on special teams, something a reserve defensive back must do in order to make the 53-man roster.

      AFC SOUTH

      HOUSTON TEXANS

      --WR Riley McCarron: Nicknamed "The Iowa Flash" by head coach Bill O'Brien, the undrafted free agent is a shifty slot receiver and kick returner. McCarron has to stay healthy, though, to make the team. He keeps getting banged up. McCarron has good speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds, but is undersized (5-foot-9).

      INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

      --Rookie WR JoJo Natson: He may only be 5-foot-7, but the Akron alum plays a lot bigger. He has opened a lot of eyes since the start of training camp. Natson is making a strong push to be the Colts' primary kickoff returner. Small and tough to tackle in the open field, he has also impressed as a receiver. Natson is one of several good rookie receivers on the roster.

      JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

      --WR Keelan Cole: An undrafted free agent, Cole started training camp well down on the team's list of wide receivers, but has gradually worked his way up the depth chart through his solid play the first couple weeks of training camp. With injuries to normal starters Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee, Cole was inserted into the starting lineup for the Tampa Bay game. He continued to look strong as a punt returner with a 31-yard return in the second quarter that gave the Jaguars possession on the Buccaneers' 23-yard line. In the preseason opener, Cole came up big when he caught Chad Henne's throw from the 3-yard line in stride and outraced all Patriots defenders to complete a 97-yard scoring play. Cole now appears to be a lock to make the team's 53-man roster as both a receiver and returner.

      TENNESSEE TITANS

      --S Denzel Johnson: With Curtis Riley out, Johnson, an undrafted rookie from Texas Christian, got lots of snaps with the second unit on Saturday against Carolina and acquitted himself pretty well. He could be a practice-squad candidate.

      AFC WEST

      DENVER BRONCOS

      --RB De'Angelo Henderson: He has been more than just a potential back-of-the-roster running back; the sixth-round pick looks like he could start at some point. The Coastal Carolina product leads the Broncos in yardage from scrimmage through two games and has averaged 6.5 yards per carry, racking up 84 yards on 13 carries. His emergence could leave the Broncos with some tough choices at running back.

      KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

      --TE Demetrius Harris: The Chiefs entered camp unsure of their depth at tight end behind starter Travis Kelce, but Harris shows signs of finally fulfilling his potential. The club signed Harris as an undrafted free agent in 2013 from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee basketball team. Harris owns just 27 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns, but now lines up as the team's primary run blocker at tight end and has solidified his role as a pass catcher. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound tight is an easy target to find for quarterback Alex Smith. Harris dropped six passes a year ago on just 31 targets, but head coach Andy Reid said he's shown improved skills at catching the ball in tight spaces. Harris caught two touchdowns against Cincinnati in the team's 30-12 preseason win Friday.

      LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

      --WR Jamaal Jones: The Chargers couldn't wait for their young pass-catcher to hit camp and form a connection with QB Philip Rivers. They just thought it would be top pick Michael Williams. Instead Jones, an undrafted first-year pro out of Montana, continues to flash in practice and games with his acrobatic catches - no matter the quarterback. Jones, who did have a fumble in Sunday's loss to the Saints, leads the Chargers with six catches for 59 yards. While Williams waits for his back to heal, Jones has stepped up.

      OAKLAND RAIDERS

      --LB Nicholas Morrow: He is a 6-foot, 216-pound linebacker from Division III Greenville who started against the Rams, got considerable time, and broke up a pass late in the game that he nearly intercepted. With rookie second-round pick Obi Melifonwu injured, Morrow has a chance to stick as a hybrid lineabacker safety in sub-packages. A defensive back in college, Morrow could be of service on special teams and passing downs.

  • Bears QB Trubisky continues to press issue
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky received snaps with the Chicago Bears' first team on Wednesday and head coach John Fox said the second pick of the 2017 draft will take snaps with the first team in the second half against Tennessee in Sunday's third preseason game.

    • "Just to get a true evaluation; that's what we're trying to do and trying to do it at all positions, not just the quarterback position," Fox said. "That'd be the biggest reason."

      Starter Mike Glennon will play the first half against Tennessee. In the past, the Bears have usually played the starter for a series or two in the third quarter of preseason game No. 3, the dress rehearsal for the regular season.

      "I would say I've shown them what I can do," Trubisky said. "I think I've progressed faster than they expected I would, but I've still got a long ways to go and I know that. "

      Mark Sanchez remains the backup to Glennon on the depth chart.

      "Right now, Mark Sanchez is still the backup but we've seen nine (NFL) years of Mark," Fox said. "We've not been able to see that with Mitch, and he needs that experience.

      "And so, we've kind of felt this all along, and we won't do it in the fourth game because our starters don't play much - if at all - in that game."

      On draft day after Trubisky's selection, Glennon faced a familiar situation. He had been the starter in Tampa until Jameis Winston was drafted. Then the Bears signed him in free agency and a month and a half later he had a highly touted rookie challenger.

      "Deja vu," Glennon said. "Again, it's situations that I've been through before that I handled myself well in the past, and I'll continue to do that in this situation."

      In two preseason games, Trubisky is 24 of 33 for 226 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 111.4. Glennon has two interceptions and a touchdown pass to go with 109 yards on 15-for-26 passing.

      "It was clear to me that nothing has changed as far as the depth chart," Glennon said. "Mitch is getting one rep (series) with the starters."

      The Bears also announced tackle Charles Leno Jr. received a four-year contract extension. Leno Jr. Leno was a seventh-round pick in 2014 and became a starter in 2015.

      "I never was handed anything in life," Leno said. "I worked for everything I got. And have now and I'm going to continue to work. Never going to stop."

      Leno came into the league in a humble manner., He was sleeping on guard Kyle Long's floor.

      "I was literally at Kyle Long's place as a rookie, seventh-round draft pick - not even knowing if I'm going to make the roster, sleeping on an inflatable mattress that I bought from Wal-Mart," Leno said. "And now look where I'm at.

      "Maybe I'll move next to him or something like that. Who knows?"

  • Jaguars to start QB Henne on Thursday
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne will start Thursday's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, coach Doug Marrone announced on Wednesday.

    • Fellow quarterback Blake Bortles will also receive reps with the first team.

      Marrone has not been pleased with what he has seen from his quarterbacks thus far in the preseason.

      Case in point was last week's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

      Bortles, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft and the team's starter since Week 4 of his rookie season, was ineffective in his four series in the first half against the Bucs, all of which ended in punts. The 25-year-old completed 8 of 13 passes for 65 yards against Tampa Bay and is 11 of 18 for 81 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in two preseason games.

      Henne was not much better versus the Buccaneers, connecting on 6 of 10 for 44 yards.

      Yet each quarterback had two incompletions that have stirred much of the quarterback controversy.

      Bortles twice missed a wide-open Allen Robinson downfield, once throwing well behind his receiver and the second one a couple yards short of an open Robinson.

      Henne was on target to both Keelan Cole and Robinson in the end zone, but neither receiver could hang onto the ball that was momentarily in his hands.

  • 49ers activate S Ward from PUP list
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    The San Francisco 49ers activated free safety Jimmie Ward off the physically unable to perform list, the team announced Wednesday.

    • Ward has been sidelined since sustaining a hamstring injury during the team's conditioning test on the first day of training camp.

      "Jimmie's a good player. He did a real good job for us in OTAs ... I was really excited to get him to camp here," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I know it hasn't gone the way he's wanted with his unfortunate injury. I know I'm excited. I think everyone's excited. I know he is. So, I look forward to getting him out there today."

      Ward recorded 53 tackles, two forced fumbles and 1.0 sack in 11 games last season. The 26-year-old has collected 130 tackles, two interceptions and 2.0 sacks in 35 career contests since being selected with the 30th overall pick by San Francisco in the 2014 draft.

  • Raiders OT Penn ends holdout, returns to practice
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Oakland Raiders left tackle Donald Penn ended his 26-day holdout and returned to practice on Wednesday.

    • Penn is entering the final season of his two-year, $11.9 million contract he signed in March 2016. By comparison, at least 14 offensive tackles in the NFL make $10 million per season.

      The 2016 Pro Bowl selection has yet to miss a regular-season game since entering the league as an undrafted free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2007. The 34-year-old sat out the Raiders' wild-card playoff loss to the Houston Texans last season with a left knee injury.

      Penn allowed just one sack in 2016, albeit a costly one as quarterback Derek Carr sustained a broken leg on the play against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16.

  • Ebron still dealing with missed time in training camp
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Of the 17 practices the Detroit Lions have had this training camp, tight end Eric Ebron has been on the field for just two.

    • Ebron left the first practice of camp after individual drills because of a pulled hamstring, and he apparently reaggravated the injury when he returned for individual drills only during a joint practice against the Indianapolis Colts earlier this month.

      Just 24 years old and entering his fourth NFL season, Ebron has now missed significant chunks of two straight camps. Lions head coach Jim Caldwell insisted the missed time hasn't hampered Ebron's development too much, and is most concerning from a "refinement" standpoint.

      "You always end up starting just a little bit later in terms of where you are from a sharpness standpoint when you do miss chunks of time during the preseason," Caldwell said. "So that's what he's missed more so than anything else. But his production, when you look at the numbers, look at the end of the year, possibly could they be better than that? We'll see. But I do think that he gets in the swing of things pretty quickly and is able to adjust. But just the fine-tuning, just like anybody that would miss. You miss that fine-tuning which is key. Particularly in the passing game; it's timing and accuracy. And he's a big part of that."

      --Jace Billingsley led the Lions in receptions and receiving yards last preseason, and the second-year wide receiver has had another solid start to camp this fall.

      Through two exhibition games, Billingsley has five catches for 59 yards. Last year, he had 12 catches for 146 yards and two scores in the preseason.

      The Lions have one or two open spots at receiver (though TJ Jones is the favorite for the No. 4 job behind Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay), and Billingsley said he's tried not to let the uncertainty about his future impact his play.

      "That's definitely one of the tougher things about camp, but for me, especially this year, I just try not to think about it," Billingsley said. "It gets stressful, but at the same time there's people going through a lot more stressful things than trying to make an NFL team. You just got to kind of put it in perspective."

      --The Lions have more depth in their secondary than at any point in recent memory, and that caused defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to say only two players are locked into starting jobs in the defensive backfield right now: cornerback Darius Slay and safety Glover Quin.

      "I think the competition is really thick at most spots," Austin said. "I mean, we have competition obviously at corner. We have competition at the nickel. We know who our entrenched starter at free safety is, it's Glover. But there's good competition behind him in the safety position. So, it's really good and I think it helps. The overall depth obviously helps you when somebody gets injured, when they do get injured because it's going to happen. But it also helps push the guys that are fighting for positions to play their best football and that makes you a better team."

      Tavon Wilson started 14 games at strong safety last year, but spent the early part of training camp in a red no-contact jersey after injuring his shoulder in practice. Second-year players Miles Killebrew and Charles Washington shared first-team reps in Wilson's absence.

      At cornerback, Nevin Lawson is expected to start opposite Slay, while Quandre Diggs and D.J. Hayden are the front-runners for the nickel spot. The Lions also have two rookie cornerbacks expected to make the 53-man roster in Teez Tabor and Jamal Agnew.

  • Giants remain vague on condition of WR Beckham's ankle
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo didn't shed much light on the condition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on Wednesday.

    • McAdoo didn't elaborate if Beckham sustained a high or low ankle sprain on a hit by Cleveland defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun during a 10-6 loss to the Browns in a preseason game on Monday night.

      "He's got an ankle (injury), he's in there getting treatment," McAdoo said. "We're just taking it day by day."

      McAdoo also did not confirm or deny an ESPN report, citing sources, that said Beckham may not be ready for New York's season opener at the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 10.

      The 40-year-old McAdoo was adamant, however, with how the Giants handled the aftermath of the injury to Beckham, who exited the game early in the second quarter. The wideout walked off the field and jogged into the locker room before crumpling in the hallway of FirstEnergy Stadium.

      Beckham returned to the sideline out of his uniform and in a hoodie for the second half and jogged into the locker room after the contest.

      "No regrets. no," McAdoo said of Beckham returning to the field.

      Fellow wideout Brandon Marshall attended Wednesday's practice but did not participate after injuring his shoulder on a hit from Browns rookie Jabrill Peppers during Monday's game.

      "We just had him in here for a treatment session, and we'll take it day to day," McAdoo said of Marshall.

  • Hank Aaron on Kaepernick: 'He's getting a raw deal'
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Baseball legend Hank Aaron came to the defense of Colin Kaepernick, saying the unsigned quarterback is "getting a raw deal."

    • Aaron told BlackAmericaWeb.com in an online video published Wednesday that Kaepernick is being blackballed by NFL owners who disagree with his politics.

      "I think he's getting a raw deal," Aaron said. "If you look at all the quarterbacks in the league right now, I think you have to say he is 1, 2, 3, 4. I don't think anybody can do the things he could do. I wish somebody would open up and give him a chance to do his thing."

      Aaron endured racism throughout his legendary baseball career. The Hall of Famer was the target of racist taunts, death threats and hate mail throughout his historic chase of Babe Ruth's home run record in 1974.

      Kaepernick, 29, made headlines last season with the San Francisco 49ers when he kneeled during the national anthem to protest injustices against African Americans and minorities in America. He opted out of his contract in March and became free agent, but no team has signed him for the 2017 season.

      In the past couple of weeks before preseason games, a number of NFL players have continued Kaepernick's national anthem protest.

      Aaron would like to see more players participating in the protests to support Kaepernick.

      "I'd love to see some other players stand up," Aaron told interviewer Roland Martin Aaron after the Braves held a weekend in honor of the baseball great and one-time home run king. "I would love that. I think it would give him some incentive, I think it would help him. The thing that bothers me about this whole situation is he's going to all these camps, I suppose, and nobody seems to think he stands a chance of being No. 1.

      "Here is a man, a young player, who almost carried a team to a championship, to a Super Bowl. I remember that. I was a Ravens fan, and he was playing against my team, the Ravens. Be that as it may, somebody needs to give this young man a chance."

      Later Wednesday, the NAACP said the organization is seeking a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss Kaepernick.

      Derrick Johnson, the NAACP's interim president and CEO, said "no player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech."

      The Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks were two teams who considered signing Kaepernick this offseason.

  • Falcons RB Freeman (concussion) ruled out for Saturday
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman has been ruled out of Saturday's preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, the team announced Wednesday.

    • The contest will be the second straight missed by Freeman, who reportedly is navigating his way through the final stages of the concussion protocol. The two-time Pro Bowl selection is not practicing, but has been running sprints on the side of the field.

      "He's doing well," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said, per ESPN. "He's going to visit with the independent part of the protocol come up here soon. He won't play in this ball game. He won't practice today. He's back to full-speed running. But it's soon that he'll be back participating full speed in practice. But you won't see him suited up for this weekend."

      Running back Tevin Coleman is expected to draw the start on Saturday with Terron Ward and rookie fifth-round draft pick Brian Hill also seeing significant action.

      Freeman signed to a five-year, $41.25 million contract extension in the offseason after helping the Falcons in their run to the Super Bowl. The 25-year-old started all 16 regular-season games and led the team with 1,079 rushing yards to go with 462 receiving yards on 54 receptions. Freeman had 13 total touchdowns.

      Freeman has amassed 2,383 rushing yards in his three seasons since being selected with a fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State in 2014.

      Freeman rolled up 3,175 yards from scrimmage over the past two seasons, second in the league to teammate Julio Jones. He has rushed for 11 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons and has 29 total TDs in 47 regular-season games.

  • 49ers sign DL Marks to one-year contract
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    The San Francisco 49ers signed free agent defensive lineman Sen'Derrick Marks to a one-year deal on Wednesday to add depth at the position.

    • The 49ers have been hit with injuries on the defensive line, including defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (ankle) and defensive end Ronald Blair (groin).

      "We just wanted more competition inside," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said of the move. "I've played against Sen'Derrick a number of times over the years. He's been a good player for a while. We wanted to see where he was at now, along with those other guys. We thought he had the lead in the workout. He's got 10 days to show us he deserves to be on this 53-man roster."

      The 6-foot-2, 305-pound Marks was originally selected by the Tennessee Titans in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft. In four seasons with the Titans (2009-12), he appeared in 51 games (26 starts) and registered 180 tackles, eight passes defensed, three sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception.

      Prior to the 2013 season, Marks signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars where he spent the last four seasons (2013-16). With the Jaguars, he appeared in 52 games (35 starts) and recorded 104 tackles, 16 sacks, 13 passes defensed, five fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. In 2014, he led the team with a career-high 8.5 sacks.

      Last season, the 30-year-old Marks appeared in all 16 games (one start) and finished with 22 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one fumble recovery and one pass defensed. He was released by the Jaguars on March 9.

  • LB Hightower back with Patriots in more ways than one
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Linebacker Dont'a Hightower tested the free-agent waters this spring before the Pro Bowler returned to the New England Patriots on a four-year, $43 million contract. Until this week, though, Hightower had not been on the practice field with his teammates, missing training camp and the first two preseason games while on PUP.

    • After being removed from PUP and returning to the practice field Aug. 22, the team captain talked about his return to the New England team he first joined as a first-round pick out of Alabama in 2012.

      "It's good. Glad I didn't have to relocate," Hightower said. "Stressful, but glad it's over with. Glad I'm here, that I'm back and I'm glad I'm back on the field."

      After a college career under head coach Bill Belichick pal Nick Saban, Hightower's versatility and style have always fit well in New England's defense.

      "It's meant a lot (to be a Patriot)," Hightower said. "I've been here my whole career. It wasn't a hard a change from what I had in college. I was definitely used to it, so it wasn't a big change. I feel like I've had a lot of success in programs like this. Alabama and New England are not too far different. So just the culture around here, the teammates, the coaches around here is just second to none anywhere. So, when it came down to making my decision, it wasn't too hard a choice."

      And despite the late start, Hightower is focused on getting back to work for a Patriots team that begins its title defense in a mere two weeks.

      "Now it's more about me getting acclimated back to football," Hightower said of being ready to play. "I've got all the little rehab stuff out of the way. Now it's time to focus on football."

      --Tight end Rob Gronkowski saw somewhat unexpected preseason action last Saturday night in Houston. Prior to his snaps against the Texans, the All-Pro tight end hadn't played in the preseason since 2012.

      At times, like last summer when Gronkowski dealt with a hamstring issue, the absence was due to injury. Other times, it seemed more like a precaution for the oft-injured big man.

      This summer, though, with Gronkowski coming off last December's back surgery that was the third of his football career, he's embracing his preseason work.

      "I'm glad I was out there," Gronkowski said of a little more than a dozen reps in Houston. "It felt good just to get the game speed. You can never get enough reps. You can never get enough practice reps. So, it felt great to go out there and get my feet wet and see what it's all about again.

      "I just felt the benefit when I was out there; the speed of the game, live game speed. It's been a while for me. I felt the benefit of getting in sync blocking-wise, the cadence and everything like that. I'm taking all positives out of it."

      Another change this offseason has seen Gronkowski take part in some of quarterback Tom Brady's now-famous diet and workout program - aka the TB12 Method. That's included, apparently, the frat-boy tight end giving up both coffee and alcohol.

      "I don't do that stuff right now. It's football time. I never really have done that stuff during football time," Gronkowski said as he prepared for New England's trip to Detroit for the third preseason game of the summer.

      --Brady should see his most extended action Aug. 25 in Detroit against the Lions in the Patriots' third preseason game. Historically, Brady and the bulk of the offense have played at least half the third preseason game, often even going into the third quarter.

      Brady acknowledged there is a balance going on between normal preparations for preseason action and beginning to think about the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the Chiefs that's just around the corner. Still, his work against the Lions is a key part of the overall process.

      "For me, it's just feeling the rhythm of the game, and it's different than practice," Brady said. "The rhythm of practice is very different, and the only way to simulate the game is to play. I can draw on a lot of experience, but it's nice to get out there and actually do it. I mean, it was fun being out there last week. It will be, obviously, fun being out there this week, but you're just trying to build up for one game, the start of the season in September. Everything is building toward that. Those snaps that you're taking with new players are really important. It was nice to get (running back) Rex (Burkhead) a touchdown pass (last week against Houston), and just for him to feel what it's like for all us to look at another guy's eyes in the huddle during the course of a game and saying, 'Look, this is where we're at. This is football. This is exactly what we're going to be doing when the season kicks off on Thursday night.'"

      --While guys like Brady, Gronkowski and the rest of the Patriots' stars will be getting their final significant preseason reps Friday night in Detroit, the bottom of the New England roster will also be battling it out for roster spots and roles. There is only one cutdown date in the NFL this year, coming on Sept. 2.

      That's less than two weeks for guys to prove their worth to Belichick.

      "This is the National Football League and there is pressure every week," Belichick declared in his usual matter-of-fact manner. "There is pressure this week. There is going to be pressure in October. There is going to be pressure in November. We're going to be under stress all year every week. We're going to be under stress out on the field every week against every opponent. Playing in the National Football League, that's what you sign up for. If you're looking for vacation weeks and weeks off where we play some Division 4 team and all of that, that doesn't happen in this league. There is stress every week. So, is there stress in training camp? Yeah, there is plenty of it.

      "There is pressure every week in this league. If there's too much pressure in August, it's probably going to be too much pressure in November. This is the world we live in. You tell me a week in this National Football League when there is not pressure, I don't know when that is. Every week is a tough week. Every week is a good team, good players, good coaches, work hard that have a lot of things that you've got to deal with, and if you don't deal with them then you're not going to win that week. That's the NFL."

  • Seahawks K Walsh returns volley at former teammates
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    RENTON, Wash. – Seattle Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh wasn't going to let his former teammates shout at him from the opposing sideline without a response on his own Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings.

    • After each of Walsh's 52-yard field goals, Walsh gestured toward Minnesota's sideline. He first pointed in the direction of the Vikings' sideline, then pointed toward the side of his head after the second field goal.

      Walsh said it was a response to comments coming his way from his former colleagues.

      "It was far from smack talk," Walsh said. "I just felt like I was getting a little jeer and getting taunted a little bit by my ex-teammates and I think they were in jest. I hope it was because my response was in jest. I just wanted to let them know that it wasn't going to kind of go down that way."

      Walsh spent his first five seasons in Minnesota and was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. However, a missed 27-yard game-winning field-goal attempt against Seattle in the playoffs two years ago and continued struggles into last season led to his release after nine games.

      He's been strong in the preseason for Seattle so far. He's converted all eight extra-point attempts and is 4 of 5 on field-goal tries with the only miss being a 53-yard try that bounced off the crossbar against the Vikings.

      Walsh said the taunts coming his way from the Vikings' sideline weren't able to be repeated in front of microphones.

      "I didn't say anything," Walsh said. "When you've got guys who were your teammates for five years yelling at you when you're trying to kick, it's odd. I hope they were in jest and hope they didn't mean it because I didn't mean anything with mine. But it definitely wasn't out of nowhere.

      "You want to let your actions speak at that point and it was nice we won the game. Let's put it that way."

      Nevertheless, Walsh was greeted enthusiastically by cornerback Richard Sherman and others after his made kicks.

      "I'm not here to be heard," Walsh said. "I'm here to just do my job and produce for this team and make kicks and I think these guys see that I'm here to do that. They understand that I'm not being boastful, I was simply just responding to getting taunted. So, there you go."

      --Newly acquired tackle Matt Tobin rushed onto the practice field as his new teammates were already going through stretching drills on Tuesday.

      Tobin went on the field after getting just three hours of sleep following his trade from the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday afternoon. Seattle's new addition will be thrown into the battle at left tackle with Rees Odhiambo as the team searches for a replacement for George Fant, who was lost for the season due to a knee injury last Friday night.

      "It's a good task," Tobin said. "It's tough, but it's exciting. It is a good opportunity. It is fun to come out here and compete and meet the new guys and meet the guys on the team. You get to know the guys and have fun with them."

      While Tobin primarily played at guard when the Eagles called upon him to start, he feels his best position is left tackle.

      "When I was at Philly I played mostly tackle, but all my starts in the games were at guard, so I'm pretty comfortable playing tackle and I'm pretty comfortable playing guard," he said.

      Tobin started 21 games in four seasons with the Eagles. While Odhiambo will get the first crack at replacing Fant moving forward, Tobin will give the Seahawks a veteran option to turn to if necessary.

      "I've studied him quite a bit," offensive line coach Tom Cable said. "You know, his background coming out of Iowa with Kirk Ferentz and Brian Ferentz, his line coach. There's some really good stuff there. A kid who walked on and earned it, has earned everything so you know he's got work ethic. You know he's probably pretty tough, very smart, reliable, all the that things we look for. What has he done on film? He's been consistent, he's been in the league awhile. When he's been asked and called on to go play, he's done a nice job."

  • Bears sign LT Leno to 4-year, $38M extension
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    The Chicago Bears signed left tackle Charles Leno to a four-year, $38 million contract extension on Wednesday.

    • The deal through the 2021 season includes $21.5 million in guarantees, according to multiple reports. Leno was scheduled to earn $1.797 million in the final year of his rookie deal.

      The 25-year-old Leno, the Bears' seventh-round draft choice in 2014 out of Boise State, played in 38 games over three seasons with 30 career starts.

      The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Leno took over left tackle on a permanent basis in Week 4 of the 2015 season and started all 16 games in 2016.

      Leno said earlier this month, "I'm trying to be the Bears' left tackle for a long time. At the end of the day, I'm trying to be the best tackle in the game -- period -- so I can help this team win championships."

  • Giants waive OL Bowie after domestic assault charge
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    The New York Giants waived offensive lineman Michael Bowie on Wednesday following a charge of domestic assault and battery in Oklahoma.

    • Bowie, 25, turned himself in to authorities on Monday after a warrant was issued last week. He was charged with one count of domestic assault and battery and two counts of malicious injury or destruction of property.

      Bowie was booked at 11:23 a.m. and released at 12:07 p.m. after posting $17,000 bond, according to Tulsa County jail records. Bowie, a native of Tulsa, has denied making any physical contact with his girlfriend.

      The NFL is investigating the incident and Bowie could be subject to potential discipline by the league under the personal conduct policy.

      The Giants left open the possibility of Bowie returning pending the outcome of the situation. He was working as the Giants' third-string offensive tackle this summer

      "We have waived Michael Bowie," general manager Jerry Reese said in a statement. "As we have already stated, we were made aware of this situation on Saturday. The league has started to gather more information. That process will continue. The outcome of that process will determine whether there is another opportunity here for Michael."

      Bowie did not travel with the team for Monday night's game against the Cleveland Browns.

      According to the Tulsa World, Bowie and his girlfriend had an argument over finances and it turned physical after the woman made a remark about Bowie's mother.

      Tulsa County assistant district attorney Kenneth Elmore told the newspaper that Bowie grabbed the woman by her neck and tossed her to the ground. He then broke two televisions and punched a hole in the wall.

      The Giants made other roster moves Monday, three days before hosting the New York Jets in the annual MetLife Bowl on Saturday night.

      The team waived offensive lineman Corin Brooks, and waived/injured wide receivers Darius Powe and Andrew Turzilli with hamstring injuries.

      In addition, the Giants signed wide receivers Marquis Bundy and C.J. Germany, and linemen Richard Levy and Matt Rotheram.

      The 6-4, 215-pound Bundy entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Arizona Cardinals in 2016. He was on the team's practice squad and active roster for the final six weeks last season but did not play in a game. Bundy was waived by the Cardinals on Aug. 18.

      The 5-11, 180-pound Germany, an undrafted rookie, was signed by the Los Angeles Rams on Aug. 4 and waived on Aug. 18.

      The 6-5, 325-pound Rotheram was originally signed as a rookie free agent by the Green Bay Packers on May 8, 2015. He spent the entire 2015 season on the Packers' practice squad. Rotheram was on the practice squads of the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions in 2016. The Lions signed him to a reserve/future contract on Jan. 9 and released him on Aug. 15.

      The 6-6, 315-pound Levy, an undrafted rookie, was signed by the San Francisco 49ers on May 8 and released on Aug. 13.

  • Colts activate OL Schwenke from PUP list
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    The Indianapolis Colts activated center/guard Brian Schwenke from the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday.

    • Schwenke, who signed as a free agent with the Colts in March to play guard, had been battling a foot injury that kept him out of offseason workouts and training camp. The veteran offensive lineman can practice with the team immediately.

      Schwenke, 26, will compete with undrafted rookie Deyshawn Bond at center while starter Ryan Kelly recovers from foot surgery.

      The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Schwenke made 28 starts in four seasons with the Tennessee Titans after being drafted in the fourth round in 2013.

      The Colts also announced they signed free agent inside linebacker Darnell Sankey and waived/injured cornerback Tevin Mitchel. If Mitchel clears waivers, he will revert to the Colts' injured reserve list.

      The 6-2, 250-pound Sankey most recently spent time with the Minnesota Vikings in training camp before being waived on Sunday. He spent time on the practice squads of the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders as a rookie in 2016.

      Sankey originally signed with the Denver Broncos last month as an undrafted free agent out of Sacramento State on July 26, 2016. He participated in the Broncos' 2016 offseason program and training camp before being waived the following month. Sankey played in 43 games at Sacramento State and compiled with 330 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception and nine passes defensed.

      The 6-0, 192-pound Mitchel signed a reserve/future contract with the Colts on Jan. 2. He spent time on the team's practice squad last season. In 2015, Mitchel spent the entire season on the Colts' injured reserve List. He was originally selected by the Washington Redskins in the sixth round of the 2015 draft out of Arkansas.

  • Browns to start QB Kizer in third preseason game
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Three weeks into his first NFL preseason, DeShone Kizer emerged as the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.

    • The rookie second-round pick out of Notre Dame earned a chance to solidify his spot atop the pecking order of passers for the Browns with a start in Cleveland's preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week.

      "This morning, I informed our quarterbacks that DeShone will be our starter for the third preseason game against Tampa," head coach Hue Jackson said Wednesday. "He has made a lot of progress by investing the time necessary to learn our offense, working hard to improve on his fundamentals while also effectively moving the offense in preseason games. Development is so important for a young quarterback, this is the next step he needs to take and he deserves this opportunity. We are very excited about seeing DeShone in the role of starter for this week, as he is certainly positioning himself well to earn the starting job heading into the regular season."

      Cody Kessler entered training camp as the presumed starter. A rookie in 2016, Kessler entered the lineup after injuries to Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. Kessler is 12 of 17 in two preseason games but averaging less than 6.0 yards per completion. Brock Osweiler, acquired in a trade from the Houston Texans, is completing 54.5 percent of his passes with one interception and Kevin Hogan has only one pass attempt.

      "Much like DeShone, Brock, Cody and Kevin have worked extremely hard throughout training camp and have helped create a very supportive environment in our quarterback room. They've pushed each other, worked well together and we expect that to continue," Jackson said.

      Kizer leads the Browns in rushing -- 47 yards on eight carries -- and has a 98.6 passer rating in the first two preseason games. A late TD pass helped the Browns win the preseason opener and he scored the only touchdown in Cleveland's win last week.

      Kizer entered the 2017 NFL Draft even as Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly publicly pushed for him to return to South Bend, Ind., to further his development.

      It was very early in camp when Jackson said Kizer was well ahead of where the Browns thought he would be, a possible explanation for Wednesday's decision, which counters the plan laid out by team president Sashi Brown on draft day.

      "He's understanding the offense. I could take you back to his days at OTAs -- he struggled calling the plays," Jackson said in July. "The words were a lot simpler. The language was a different. I did not see as much of that today. That is improvement. Obviously, he made some good throws and did not turn the ball over. Those things are good."

      The Browns took Kizer 52nd overall after passing on quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in the first round and selecting three other players -- defensive end Myles Garrett (1), safety Jabrill Peppers (25) and tight end David Njoku (29) -- in Round 1. Jackson began helping Kizer with his footwork and delivery before the draft.

      Kessler started eight games last season for the Browns, passing for 1,380 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions as a rookie.

  • Bell hints at Sept. 1 return to Steelers
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    If Le'Veon Bell's Tuesday night tweet is legit, the running back plans to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the beginning of next month.

    • Bell has not been with the team during the preseason, working out on his own during his holdout.

      On Tuesday, a fan tweeted to James, "So like when is le'veon bell gonna show up??," @Vadarmendariz asked in regard to fantasy football.

      Bell tweeted a simple response: "9-1-17" with a wink emoji. When the fan responded that his announcement was good news, he replied, "you're welcome."

      Sept. 1 is one day after the Steelers' preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns.

      Last season, Bell totaled 1,884 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns in just 12 games because of suspensions and injuries.

      Bell, 25, was designated by the Steelers as their franchise player for 2017. Because the deadline passed for teams and franchise players to sign a long-term contract, Bell is restricted to a one-year, $12.1 million deal for 2017.

      The Steelers can tag the Bell for the second straight season in 2018 at $14.54 million or re-sign him. The franchise tag still leaves Bell as the league's highest-paid tailback in 2017.

      Bell, who is recovering from groin surgery, aggravated the injury that kept him on the sideline for the majority of last season's AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots.

      The Steelers rode Bell to the playoffs in 2016. He rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 75 passes for another 616 yards and two scores during the regular season, becoming the first player in NFL history to average 100 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards per game.

  • NFLPA president Winston: I don't care if NFL is around in 20 years
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    NFL Players Association president Eric Winston is not really concerned for himself that a strike in 2021 might be harmful to the future of the league.

    • In an interview with WCPO in Cincinnati, the Bengals offensive tackle stunningly said, "Honestly, I don't care and I don't think the guys in this locker room care whether (the NFL) is going to be around in 20 years because none of us are going to be playing. So if these guys (the owners) want to own for a long time, then they can own for a long time. But another work stoppage might kill the golden goose."

      Winston made his comments while agreeing with DeMaurice Smith, the union's executive director, that a work stopping is likely after the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2021.

      "The likelihood of either a strike or a lockout is almost a virtual certainty," Smith said last week.

      NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is more optimistic.

      "I think projections of whether there's going to be a work stoppage are really not the point," Goodell said at a fan forum hosted by the Detroit Lions. "The point should be let's sit down and figure out our differences and get it solved and do what's right for our fans and the game and try to make this an even more popular game collectively. And that's what I hope will happen."

      Winston, who at age 33 is on the back end of his 12-year career, is helping to prepare the players for a potential lockout but appeared more concerned about the immediate future than several years down the road.

      "I'm certainly not worried about it," he said. "I'm not going to be around that long. I don't care if even if there are rookies in here -- they're not going to be playing that long.

      "So if this thing dies out in 20 years, it dies out in 20 years. That's not really my concern, and I don't think it's any of these players' concern in here either."

      But Winston is helping prepare the players, particularly rookies, for what might be in store down the road.

      "We try to educate those guys as soon as we get them," Winston said. "DeMaurice Smith and myself, we'll have meetings with them this year. We introduce those topics and continue to educate. ... It's not something that we can spring on them in 2020 and say, 'You guys got to get ready for this.'"

      Smith, asked by ESPN's Outside the Lines about Winston's remarks, said, "The owners locked us out the last time. They took the decision to make sure that people didn't have a place to work. They cut off the insurance to our families. They wanted to force an 18-game schedule. What are you supposed to do? Fight back, right?"

      The current CBA was finalized in 2011 after the 132-day lockout.

      "We believe that we have a labor agreement that is working well for the players, is working well for the NFL and I think as a result is working well for our fans," Goodell said. "We think we should continue that. Now, does that mean we think it's perfect? No. Does that mean the players think it's perfect? No. But this should be a basis for us to work together and get it solved."

      Winston also said he thinks he understands why the fans usually side with the owners when there's a labor dispute. In 2011, no games were lost except the preseason Hall of Fame game before the lockout ended.

      "My personal theory is (fans) think they have a stake in the team," he said. "I was as blindsided by it probably as anybody (in 2011).

      "They don't look at the issues the way we look at issues -- wages, hours, working conditions, and health and safety. You could talk about the same thing in a coal miners' union meeting as we do in our meetings.

      "I think fans look at the team and say that that's their team -- they have an ownership in that. That's why you always hear fans say 'Oh, the salary cap,' and they think they're kinda the general managers. Obviously fantasy football and things like that play into it."

  • Raiders back home, LT Penn still away
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders held their first full practice Tuesday at the team facility since breaking training camp in Napa, and any hopes that the change of locale would get Donald Penn back in the fold were put on hold.

    • For now, anyway.

      Penn remained in a contract stalemate with general manager Reggie McKenzie, hoping for a considerable bump in his $5.8 million salary, the second year of a two-year deal he signed before the 2015 season.

      Speculation remained that Penn would arrive at some point this week -- the San Francisco Chronicle reported that was the case -- with the Raiders beginning preparations to visit the Dallas Cowboys Saturday night.

      Head coach Jack Del Rio has steadfastly held to his policy of not discussing players who aren't with the team, and held to that standard when asked if the length of Penn's absence could affect his availability for the regular-season opener Sept. 10 in Tennessee.

      "I'll just coach the guys that are here," Del Rio said. "I'm not really going to go further on the subject."

      Quarterback Derek Carr was a little more expansive when asked what it would mean to have Penn back this week.

      "It would mean a lot," Carr said. "He's our teammate. We want all of our teammates here. We want to work hard together, we want to be together, we want to joke together. It's more than just football. We want to be there in his life with him, those kinds of things. I would love it."

      With Penn absent, the Raiders have played veteran Marshall Newhouse at left tackle with second-year player Vadal Alexander on the right side. Originally, Newhouse was signed to be the right tackle, replacing the departed Menelik Watson and Austin Howard.

      The Raiders protection held up well against the Rams' first unit, with Carr getting all the time he needed to pass. Even on an interception by Trumaine Johnson, Carr had ample time to throw.

      To prepare for the worst-case scenario and no Penn, fourth-round draft pick David Sharpe and seventh-rounder Jylan Ware got 38 and 35 snaps respectively against the Rams.

      "He did a good job. He did a really good job," Carr said. "At one point, they switched and put Sharpe in and I didn't know it until like two plays into the series. But that means they're doing good things, which means when Donald gets back, we have a lot of good offensive linemen. That's something that as long as Mr. McKenzie is involved here is going to continue to happen. We're always going to have good offensive linemen."

      Carr, mindful that his brother David was sacked 76 times as a rookie (Derek has 71 sacks in 45 games), is thankful for a unified front.

      "From past family experience, I know that if an injury happens or anything like that or of someone breaks a shoelace, we're OK," Carr said. "It's a good thing."

  • Pederson says Blount roster spot is safe
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount has rushed for just 17 yards on nine preseason carries. There have been reports that he is not a lock to make the Eagles' roster. Asked about that Tuesday, head coach Doug Pederson quickly doused that flame.

    • "The guy is a beast of a runner. I don't know what else to tell you. We're not game-planning these games. We're just trying to execute our plays. As coaches, we might be doing our players an injustice by putting them in bad situations. I'm just going to be honest with you. I'm excited that he's here, and he's going to be a big part of our offense."

      --Pederson said he "hasn't decided" yet how long his starters will play in Thursday night's third preseason game against Miami.

      "We got a lot of good work in the last couple of days (in joint practices with the Dolphins)," he said. "I want to see where they're at health-wise. Typically, in this game, (we play them) the first half and a little bit into the third (quarter). But I haven't made that decision yet. I'm going to wait and see how the guys are after these couple of days."

      --Cornerback Patrick Robinson has been taking most of his reps inside at nickel since the Eagles acquired Ronald Darby in a trade with Buffalo. Darby and Jalen Mills will be the Eagles' season-opening starting corners. If Robinson can't convince defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz that he can play inside, he could get released. "It's been a smooth transition," Robinson said. "Things happen a little faster in there, so your eyes have to be right. But so far, it's been a huge transition."

      Notes: Quarterback Nick Foles didn't practice Tuesday. He already missed two weeks of practice with a sore elbow, but returned last week. Head coach Doug Pederson said he was "just giving him another rest. Nothing serious, nothing major." ... Linebacker Jordan Hicks won't play Thursday night and probably won't practice again until the week before the season opener against Washington. He suffered a quad injury on Monday in joint practices with Miami. ... Defensive end Brandon Graham will miss Thursday's game against Miami with a triceps injury he suffered Monday in joint workouts with the Dolphins. ... Running back Darren Sproles, who hasn't played in the first two preseason games, won't play Thursday either. Sproles is healthy and hasn't missed a single practice. The Eagles just don't want to risk getting the 34 year old injured. Sproles played just 18 snaps in the preseason last year. ... Cornerback Patrick Robinson, who has been taking snaps in the slot for the last week-and-a-half, will play inside Thursday against Miami.

  • NFL notebook: Browns TE DeValve kneels during anthem
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    Seth DeValve is believed to be the first white NFL player to kneel during the national anthem when the Cleveland Browns tight end joined his teammates in what he referred to as a prayer group prior to Monday's preseason game against the New York Giants.

    • DeValve said recent events in Charlottesville, Va., had a lot to do with his decision. The 24-year-old went a step further by saying the situation hits close to home as his wife, Erica, is African-American.

      "I myself will be raising children that don't look like me, and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now," DeValve said. "So I wanted to take the opportunity with my teammates during the anthem to pray for our country and also to draw attention to the fact that we have work to do."

      The display by the Browns on Monday, in which a dozen players kneeled, is the NFL's largest protest since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling in August 2016.

      --Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is on track to start the team's upcoming preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, coach Ron Rivera told reporters on Tuesday.

      Rivera plans to make a final decision for Thursday's game on Wednesday, per multiple reports. Newton has yet to dress for a preseason game as he works his way back from a surgically repaired shoulder. The 2015 NFL MVP has participated in team drills on both Monday and Tuesday.

      Newton had surgery on March 30 to repair a partially torn rotator cuff that was expected to require a four-month rehab process.

      --The New England Patriots activated linebacker Dont'a Hightower from the physically unable to perform list.

      A defensive captain, Hightower had been nursing an undisclosed physical ailment that kept him off the field in voluntary spring practices. He had been wearing a brace over his right knee during the start of training camp.

      Hightower signed a four-year contract extension this offseason with a base value of $35.5 million and more than $17 million in guaranteed money. The 27-year-old Hightower's fourth-quarter strip sack of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was one of the key plays in Super Bowl LI, helping the Patriots complete their rally from a 25-point deficit to win the contest.

      --Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is weighing his options in regard to running back Ezekiel Elliott's participation in Saturday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

      Garrett told reporters that Elliott could either sit out or see as many as eight to 12 snaps in the contest, which amounts to what is a dress rehearsal for the regular season.

      "I haven't made that decision. I just haven't had those discussions with him," Garrett said of the 22-year-old Elliott, who faces a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. The ban stems from the league's 13 month-long investigation into domestic violence accusations made against Elliott by former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson.

      --New York Giants safety Landon Collins criticized Cleveland Browns defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun for his hit that injured wideout Odell Beckham Jr. during Monday's preseason game.

      Collins' primary issue was Boddy-Calhoun's decision to go low on a high throw to Beckham, who exited the Giants' 10-6 loss with a sprained ankle. Beckham is undergoing additional tests on Tuesday.

      "I cannot have a teammate next to me playing that way," Collins said, per the New York Daily News. "I cannot condone it. It's not something I seek. He had all the opportunity in the world to make a different play. The play wasn't a penalty, but it's something everyone knows ... you don't do."

      --San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers came out in a story published in Outsports, becoming the first openly LGBT coach in all of men's professional sports.

      Sowers became just the second female coach in the league earlier this month when she was hired full-time with the 49ers for the 2017 season.

      "No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are," the 31-year-old Sowers told Outsports. "There are so many people who identify as LGBT in the NFL, as in any business, that do not feel comfortable being public about their sexual orientation. The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day."

      Sowers, who came out to her family in college, was hired as a 49ers offensive assistant working with the wide receivers.

      --The Arizona Cardinals activated linebacker Deone Bucannon from the physically unable to perform list.

      Bucannon underwent surgery on his right ankle in May on the heels of missing the final three games of the regular season.

      The 24-year-old Bucannon had 91 tackles in 13 games last season. He has posted more than 80 tackles in each of his three NFL seasons and has five sacks, four fumble recoveries and one interception.

      --The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed long snapper Andrew DePaola and waived injured cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah, the team announced Tuesday.

      DePaola has registered eight special teams tackles while playing in all 48 games over the last three seasons with the Buccaneers. He will compete with fellow long snapper Garrison Sanborn, who had spent the last nine campaigns with the Buffalo Bills.

      Adjei-Barimah recorded 62 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble over 23 contests over the last two seasons with Tampa Bay. He had been plagued by a knee injury that he sustained late in the 2016 campaign.

  • Marrone won’t commit to Jaguars starting QB
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    JACKSONVILLE -- Two days before the Jacksonville Jaguars play their all-important third preseason game against the Carolina Panthers Thursday, no one knows who the team's starting quarterback will be. Nobody except head coach Doug Marrone and he's not telling anyone, not even the two contenders - Blake Bortles and Chad Henne.

    • "I feel good about one of them," Marrone said after Monday's practice. "I have a lot of good reasoning for it so I'm going to see where it goes. I have a plan in my mind. I haven't talked to the quarterbacks about that plan yet. I'm just going to see how the practices go. We've got another big day tomorrow, a good day. Both of them are doing fine. Like I said, I feel like I have a very good plan for myself and then I'll make the quarterbacks aware of it when we get closer to the game."

      The Jaguars have had four practices since last Thursday's game against Tampa Bay when Bortles was a pedestrian-like 8-of-13 for 65 yards with no points in four possessions. Henne followed and wasn't a lot better, connecting on 6-of-10 for 44 yards. Yet both quarterbacks had two incompletions each that have stirred much of the quarterback controversy. Bortles twice missed a wide-open Allen Robinson downfield, once throwing well behind Robinson and the second one a couple yards short of an open Robinson.

      On Henne's first two pass attempts when the Jaguars started at Tampa Bay's 23-yard line following a long punt return, he was on target to both Keelan Cole and Robinson in the end zone, but neither receiver could hang onto the ball that was momentarily in their hands.

      Marrone reaffirmed that he still likes the plan he has formulated in his mind about the quarterback situation. He wouldn't reveal it however, saying that he wanted to talk to both quarterbacks first before breaking the news to the media.

      "I'm just trying to find the best time," he said. "I'm just going to go back, watch today's film, think about it, make sure it's the right plan for our team and then I'll come to a point where I'll talk to them about it. We're not going to play any games (about the announcement as to the starter), that we'll get it out to our local people."

      Marrone confirmed that both quarterbacks practiced well this week and that he was now anxious to see how they do in the game against the Panthers. He indicated both would likely get some time to play with the first team.

  • Giants still struggle to run
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In their second preseason game of 2017, the New York Giants were hoping to take a leap on the offensive side of the ball regarding scoring and being able to run the ball.

    • Such was not the case, however, as for the second week in a row, the Giants failed to score a touchdown and once again struggled to move the ball on the ground.

      Despite those struggles, head coach Ben McAdoo doesn't sound as though he's ready to push the panic button nor was he ready to assign blame to everyone's favorite culprit, the offensive line.

      "I think we had some opportunities to have some runs come out. Again, whether we run the ball well or not, it's not only the offensive line. Everybody's included. It takes all 11 to be successful there," he said during a conference call Tuesday with the team's reporters.

      McAdoo went on to explain there were a variety of circumstances that led to negative runs, such as a missed block against a cornerback, Giants tight ends losing their footing when making the block, and a running back going too wide on his path.

      Despite his attempt to deflect 100 percent of the blame from the offensive line, it was plain as day that there was struggles by the unit to run block, particularly by right guard John Jerry, who had a particularly rough night.

      Unlike last year, when the Giants didn't really have options to replace their starting five offensive linemen, this year they do. And at right guard, they have two guys, Brett Jones and D.J. Fluker, whom McAdoo said had "solid outings" that could potentially start to see snaps if Jerry continues to struggle.

      "We're going to look at those options and talk through them as the week goes on and see how it shakes out," McAdoo said when asked if there was a chance of him making a change on the starting offensive line. "But we have not lost confidence in John Jerry or anybody on the offensive line, for that matter."

      Notes: Wide receiver Brandon Marshall (shoulder) is sore, but is expected to be fine, according to a NFL Network report. Marshall was injured in the first quarter of the 10-6 loss to the Browns Monday night. ... Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) underwent an MRI Monday to determine the extent of his injury. Head coach Ben McAdoo refused to provide any details on the extent of Beckham's injury other than to confirm that the receiver did suffer an ankle sprain. ... Wide receiver Tavarres King reinjured his right ankle, an injury that forced him out of practice for several days a couple week ago. ... Cornerback Michael Hunter is in the concussion protocol after suffering a head injury in Monday night's game. ... Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who spent some of the training camp practices at safety, carried out that assignment in Monday's loos to the Browns. Rodgers-Cromartie lined up at free safety for the Giants on a handful of plays.