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  • 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.

  • Decision on Browns starting quarterback to come Wednesday
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    BEREA, Ohio – After his team beat the Giants, 10-6, on Monday, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson said he would name his starting quarterback for the regular season on Wednesday, and nothing he saw on tape from the game caused him to accelerate the process.

    • Rookie DeShone Kizer and sixth-year veteran Brock Osweiler have been battling for the starting job since training camp opened on July 27. A decision will definitely decide the winner, because neither quarterback has won by knockout.

      "No, we haven't been dancing around," Jackson said. "Today is Tuesday. We said that we would have that great conversation tomorrow.

      "I think I feel pretty good about where I am. I've been feeling pretty good about what I feel and what I think for a little while now, but you have to let things, as I've always said, play out. Today, I wanted to finish the things I wanted to watch, have the conversations I wanted to have with others and just kind of move from there."

      Sifting through Jackson's words for clues about what he is thinking is futile. With one sentence, he sounds like he's leaning toward Osweiler and with the next he sounds like he's leaning toward starting Kizer when the season opens with a home game against the Steelers on Sept. 10.

      "Obviously, (Kizer) is a young man who is very talented," Jackson said. "He knows how to play the game and he has a great feel for the game, and those things will serve him well as he gets older. What we try to do here is create the right environment for him to learn a process that's going to help him be the best quarterback that he can be.

      "I think (Osweiler) has represented himself well. He's done some good things and worked hard and done a great job in this building. There's no question he's in the discussion here, but at the same time, I think all of these guys have had ample opportunities to showcase their talent and ability and what they bring to the table."

      Osweiler started in the preseason opener against the Saints on Aug. 10 and failed to lead the Browns to any points in four series. He started against the Giants and played two series. The Browns made one first down and scored zero points with him at quarterback. He played two series against the Giants without lighting up the scoreboard once.

      Kizer played the second half against the Saints and led the Browns to two touchdowns. He threw the winning touchdown pass of 45 yards to Jordan Payton with 1:58 to play.

      Kizer played four series against the Giants. He scored the only touchdown of the game on a one-yard keeper late in the first half. Rookie Zane Gonzalez kicked a 39-yard field goal in the third quarter to finish a 68-yard drive with Kizer at quarterback.

      Kizer put 23 points on the board with three touchdowns and one field goal in the two preseason games. The Browns have not scored with Osweiler at quarterback.

      "When you evaluate Brock, you might evaluate him on a little different scale as you go through than you do the others," Jackson said. "At the same time, we're going to throw it (the scoring differential) in the pot, look at it and make the best decision for the Cleveland Browns."

      The Browns, 1-15 a year ago, plan to let the defense carry the load this season. Final scores of 13-10 or 17-7 could be the norm when the Browns come out on top this season.

  • Chargers search for offense without Rivers
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Chargers are leaning on their "Fight for L.A." slogan as they try to get cozy in Los Angeles after 56 years in San Diego.

    • Maybe "Fight for Yardage" would be more appropriate.

      With two preseason games in the books, the Chargers are ready for a new chapter. The vaunted offense that was going to spin scoreboards and convert new fans with the existing brand of football it brings has been a dud.

      The Chargers scored on their first summer possession, which happened to be the only series in which quarterback Philip Rivers was under center. But since Rivers hit tight end Antonio Gates to christen the team's relocation to L.A., the Chargers' offense has been on shaky ground.

      With Rivers idle, that side of the ball is in neutral. The Chargers have gone seven straight quarters without an offensive touchdown. They did get one in Sunday's loss to the Saints, but it came via a 99-yard interception return by safety Dexter McCoil.

      Maybe the Bolts will show more of a jolt when facing the Rams on Saturday, as the first unit will see extended playing time.

      "Our starters are going to go for about a half," said head coach Anthony Lynn, after the team's final training camp practice on Tuesday. "I hope the execution is there like I see in practice."

      What he's seen in the games is the Chargers' lack of depth in some key areas.

      "I'm looking to see my reserves step up," Lynn said. "I want to see better execution from my twos and threes."

      It's the back end of any NFL roster that determines how keen a team is going to be. Lynn, a rookie head coach, certainly understands that.

      But he will also be comforted if Rivers and Co. can continue where they left off. And not where the team left off against the Saints, battling for precious yards with an offense that looks off-kilter.

      They are hoping No. 17 (Rivers) can snap the team's 17-series streak of scoreless drives.

      While the passing game predictably took a step back without Rivers, the lack of a running game is a concern no matter who is taking the snaps. As the Bills' offensive coordinator for most of last year, Lynn's charges led the NFL in rushing.

      But the Chargers are averaging but 2.7 yards per carry.

      A season-ending injury to rookie guard Forrest Lamp (knee) and ailments compromising other significant offensive linemen might have skewed the numbers. But the No. 1 priority on Saturday night is to move the ball at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

      "No doubt about it, and that's something that we're going to address as a coaching staff," Lynn said. "We want to be more explosive and more dynamic, no matter what we're running."

  • Maualuga works to get in football shape for Dolphins
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, signed Saturday (Aug. 19), won't play against Philadelphia and didn't practice against the Eagles. According to head coach Adam Gase, Maualuga, released by Cincinnati in March for salary-cap reasons, isn't in football shape.

    • "We want to get him ready," Gase said. "Where we play, it's a little different environment for him with the heat. We just want to make sure he's in good shape and we don't want to put him in a position where he's behind all the rest of those guys."

      Maualuga, the eight-year veteran who will likely step in as the starter over Mike Hull at middle linebacker, hinted he's ready to practice.

      "My ideal playing weight is somewhere in the 250s," he said. "I'm about in the 260s right now, but I don't think that's stopping me from practicing. I'm just going off of what coach is saying and whenever he's ready for me to practice, I'll practice."

      But Maualuga didn't say he'd been working out. He said he's been in Cincinnati spending time with his daughter and "swimming, eating, relaxing." He said the heat and humidity in Miami will require an adjustment period.

      "Cincinnati is somewhat humid, but the moment I stepped off the plane I was like, 'Oh my gosh, what did I get myself into?'" he said. "I've talked to some guys here and there and it takes some time. It takes a while to get adjusted to this humidity and heat. But hopefully it won't take too long for me."

      --Guard-center Kraig Urbik, who is contending for the starting left-guard job, could miss the opener with a knee injury.

      "There's a concern there and there's probably a good chance that he could miss the opener, and it is what it is," Gase said. "I know for (you guys) the sky is falling, but it's football. This is what happens and we'll adjust."

      If he doesn't win the left-guard job, Urbik, who started six games last season, provides valuable depth. First-year guard-tackle Jesse Davis is competing with Anthony Steen, Jake Brendel and rookie Isaac Asiata for the starting guard job on the left side.

      Overall, however, it appears the offensive line is trending upward. Center Mike Pouncey, whose practice participation has been limited due to the hip injury that held him to five games last season, practiced against Philadelphia on Monday in a full-pads, full-contact practice. So did right tackle Ja'Wuan James, who has been limited due to a shoulder injury.

      For Pouncey, it was his first such practice since the middle of last season. But Pouncey isn't sure whether he'll play Thursday against Philadelphia. That decision rests with Gase.

      "He said he was going to let me know," Pouncey said of Gase. "We'll see how it goes. But practice has been good. I feel great. Yesterday was really a confidence booster for me because it was the most reps I've taken all training camp.

      "After watching the film, I was really proud of what I put on film. So, I'm excited to see how it goes. I'll see how Thursday goes when coach Gase lets me know. But if it's time to play, it's time to play. We'll see."

  • Cowboys RB Elliott may play versus Raiders on Saturday
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    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 on Tuesday 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.

      Elliott has denied the allegations and plans to appeal the ruling on Aug. 29 before league-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson.

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

      As for Saturday's game, Garrett harkened back to Elliott's workload in Week 3 of the 2016 preseason.

      "I do think Zeke playing in the game last year against Seattle was good for him and good for our team," Garrett said. "I think he played eight, 10, 12 plays in the game. If he plays, he'll play in a similar fashion."

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

  • 49ers assistant Sowers is first openly LGBT coach in men's pro sports
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers came out in a story published in Outsports on Tuesday, 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 most fulfilling aspect is having the ability to impact the lives of these young men chasing their dream of playing in the NFL, as well as serve as a role model for young girls who might happen to see me following my passion," Sowers said. "I am a strong believer that the more we can expose children to a variety of different opportunities in life, the better chance they have of finding their true calling.

      "I would have loved to see women in this role when I was growing up because I think it would have allowed me to follow my passion even earlier. If you can't see something happen, sometimes it's hard to believe it can. We don't know what we don't know, and I didn't know football was even a possibility for women."

      Sowers played pro football in the Women's Football Alliance and helped the United States win the women's world title and gold medal in 2013.

  • Newton expected to make preseason debut Thursday
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is at least raising the expectations that he'll be ready for the start of the season by taking part in practices in a regular capacity this week.

    • You can bet that he's being monitored and evaluated extensively as he comes off offseason shoulder surgery. But for two days he has been as active in workouts as at any time during the preseason.

      "Then we'll re-evaluate him as coaches," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We're feeling good about it."

      For now, the plan is for Newton to play in Thursday night's preseason game at Jacksonville.

      With the third preseason game often considered the key opportunity for assessment going into the season, getting Newton game work could be crucial.

      "You can't simulate the game speed," Rivera said. "The biggest thing is getting them all out there. ... With him, it will be the quality reps."

      --The Panthers have split their first two preseason games.

      Upon reflecting on the loss at Tennessee, there were more encouraging signs that Rivera expected to uncover when studying the footage.

      "There really was a lot more good than I initially thought," Rivera said. "Some of the things that happened to us were self-inflicted."

      Those are the areas that need to be cleaned up going into Thursday night's matchup at Jacksonville.

      With a short turnaround, there has been an emphasis on making sure the players have recovered from Saturday's game. There's also a level of importance placed on this week's outing.

      "We're trying to be smart with our guys," Rivera said. "We want to make sure our guys are fresh going into what is really your most important preseason game.”

      Look for one of the priorities on offense to be ball security. Turnovers have negated much of the good work the offense has come up with in the preseason.

      "We have pretty good balance, but we just can't turn the ball over," Rivera said.

      --The Panthers are interested in establishing depth across the roster, perhaps a concept that takes extra meaning for a team that has played without its most high-profile defender at times.

      All indications are that linebacker Luke Kuechly is in good shape as the season approaches. But while he dealt with some rib soreness, it gave David Mayo a chance for a more extensive role in the second preseason game.

      Mayo needs the work in game situations because he hasn't had a lot in the past. The last few seasons, the Panthers seemed comfortable with A.J. Klein in a primary backup role, but he chose to sign with the New Orleans Saints and that left a void in depth.

      "One thing we have to really evaluate is what is our depth," Rivera said, primarily pointing to the linebacker position.

      There have been encouraging signs from Jeremy Cash, a second-year pro, but he's tagged more for a role on special teams despite some good preseason work. Plus, Cash arrived as a strong safety so his experience level at linebacker doesn't compare to others in camp.

  • Te'o shines on improving Saints defense
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints brought in three new linebackers during the offseason as part of an effort to try and improve one of the NFL's worst defenses.

    • So far, so good.

      The defense has been much improved during the first two preseason games and the linebackers have been a primary reason for that.

      The starting defense did not allow a first down as it played the first quarter of a 20-14 loss at Cleveland in the preseason opener. All of the defensive units excelled in a 13-7 victory at the Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday.

      The defense did not allow a point as the Chargers' lone score came via a 99-yard interception return. Overall, New Orleans had eight sacks, two takeaways, 12 quarterback hits, 13 tackles for loss, six passes defensed and allowed just 2.3 yards per play.

      It's the preseason, the Browns offense isn't very good and Los Angeles didn't play starting quarterback Philip Rivers. Nonetheless, this defense appears capable of outperforming the one that was last or nearly last in every major statistical category last season.

      "I was pleased with how we played defensively," head coach Sean Payton said. "It was encouraging because it was kind of a challenge for us heading into this game. I thought we were opportunistic; I thought we played with energy."

      Former Chargers linebacker Manti Te'o, who signed with the Saints as a free agent during the offseason, led the way. He had eight tackles (seven solo), a sack and a fumble recovery.

      "There's that little extra meaning to the game," said Teo, who was named a captain for the game against his former team, "but I was really happy with myself and how I handled it. I kind of let the game come to me, and when I had an opportunity to make a play for my team, I didn't step out of my comfort zone. I didn't try to do too much.

      "It's always fun when you're winning. I didn't play a perfect game, but I was very happy with how I played, how the team played and overall happy to get a win."

      Fellow linebacker A.J. Klein, signed as a free agent from Carolina in the offseason, had five tackles, one for loss and half a sack. The other new linebacker, third-round draft choice Alex Anzalone, got his first start and holdovers Craig Robertson and Nate Stupar also made big plays.

      New Orleans, winning for the first time in 11 preseason games, plays its first home game when it meets Houston on Saturday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

  • Patriots activate LB Hightower from PUP list
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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

    • 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.

      Hightower had 65 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season. He has 372 tackles and 17 sacks in his career since being selected by New England with the 25th overall pick of the 2012 draft.

  • Watson growing in Texans offense
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    HOUSTON -- Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson kept looking to his right for an opening in the red zone. However, that area of the field was effectively cut off by New England Patriots defensive end Kony Ealy.

    • So, the Texans' rookie changed his plan on the fly. He cut sharply up the middle and scampered into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown run, his second rushing score through two preseason games.

      It was the best moment for the first-round draft pick from Clemson during an up-and-down game against the Patriots.

      "It was a play call, an OB (head coach Bill O'Brien) call," Watson said. "Everyone did their job. I was in a one-on-one situation. I did what I had to do to make it work."

      Watson celebrated in the end zone by doing "The Millie Rock" dance.

      "They enjoyed it," Watson said of his teammates' reaction. "They thought it was a pretty good thing to do."

      Watson missed a few open reads, including not locating wide receiver Dres Anderson on third down when he was open in the end zone as the Texans were forced to settle for a field goal.

      Watson completed just 3 of 10 passes for 102 yards for a 69.6 passer rating. Sixty-three of those yards came on an impressive catch-and-run by rookie running back D'Onta Foreman. Watson rushed for 10 yards on four carries.

      Although Watson made some good plays while dealing with some chaos on the field with the Texans' reserve players, it wasn't the kind of performance that would make a convincing argument for him to unseat starter Tom Savage.

      "I did a decent job," Watson said. "I did what I needed to do to try to move the ball. There's always things I can get better at."

      The former consensus All-America, national championship winner and Heisman Trophy award finalist remained patient when things broke down around him. He has yet to commit a turnover midway through the preseason.

      Watson has drawn strong reviews from the coaching staff with his intangibles, poise, decision-making and athleticism. The Texans love his work ethic and how coachable Watson has been.

      Through two preseason games, Watson has completed 18 of 35 passes for 281 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He has rushed for two touchdowns, gaining 34 yards on seven carries.

      Watson has shown plenty of potential and eye-catching skills as a scrambler.

      Barring an unforeseen development such as an injury suffered by Savage, who has a history of durability issues, or Savage faltering badly against the New Orleans Saints in the third preseason game, Watson figures to enter the regular season as the backup.

      That falls in line with the Texans' original plan for how to bring along Watson, whom they traded up to the Cleveland Browns' selection to land him with the 12th overall pick of the draft.

      "It's good," Watson said. "I'm building trust every day."

  • Cardinals activate LB Bucannon
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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

    • 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.

      Haason Reddick, who is the team's first-round pick, has taken first-team reps in Bucannon's absence.

  • Giants S Collins upset over Browns' hit on Beckham
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    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. He had about 30 seconds to make a play on the ball in the air. He could've made a play on the ball, could've hit him high, but he chose a different route. I can't respect him."

      Beckham clearly wasn't happy about the hit. He tossed his helmet aside before leaving the field and glared at Boddy-Calhoun.

  • Panthers QB Newton in line to start Thursday
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    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.

      "You could see the timing coming back," Rivera said, per ESPN.

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

      The 28-year-old Newton's injury occurred in the Panthers' Week 14 game against the then-San Diego Chargers last season. He played in each of the team's remaining three games and underwent offseason MRI exams to monitor his progress before deciding on surgery.

      Newton passed for 3,509 yards with 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 15 games last season for the Panthers, who missed the playoffs after finishing last in the NFC South with a 6-10 record.

  • Browns' DeValve takes knee in support of teammates
    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.

      DeValve's inclusion in the Browns' protest comes in the same week that Philadelphia's Chris Long and Seattle's Justin Britt symbolically joined protests by holding on to the shoulder of their teammates. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr wrapped his arm around teammate Khalil Mack during the anthem.

      Those joining DeValve by taking a knee on Monday were running backs Duke Johnson Jr. and Terrence Magee, safeties Peppers and Calvin Pryor, cornerback Jamar Taylor, receivers Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis, linebackers Kirksey and Jamie Collins, and running backs Isaiah Crowell and Brandon Wilds (who both were not in uniform).

      Those who stood nearby included punter Britton Colquitt (who also had his hand on his heart), cornerback Jason McCourty, rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, defensive tackle Trevon Coley and offensive tackle Shon Coleman.

      "The United States is the greatest country in the world," DeValve said. "It is because it provides opportunities to its citizens that no other country does. The issue is that it doesn't provide equal opportunity to everybody. And I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee. We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there's things in this country that still need to change."

      Coach Hue Jackson was on record last week as supporting his players' right to make a statement, as long as it was peaceful and that he had advance notice.

      "We respect our players; we respect the flag," Jackson said Monday night. "Those guys came to me and talked to me about it before they ever made a decision to do it."

      The Browns released a statement during halftime of the team's game against the Giants.

      "As an organization, we have a profound respect for our country's National Anthem, flag and the servicemen and servicewomen in the United States and abroad," the statement read. "We feel it's important for our team to join in this great tradition and special moment of recognition, at the same time we also respect the great liberties afforded by our country, including the freedom of personal expression."

  • Bucs sign LS DePaola, waive CB Adjei-Barimah
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    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.

      "Well, it's his first day. It's his first day here. DePo played really well for us last year, had a very unfortunate (ACL) injury at the end of the season. He played so well for us," Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter said.

      "Jason (Licht, general manager) kind of had it in the back of his mind all along that if DePo made it back before the season we'd like to bring him in here and take a look at him and see where he's at. Today is just the first day of that, and I just saw maybe two plays, so we'll see what it looks like."

      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.

  • WRs Beckham, Marshall injured in Giants loss to Browns
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    Odell Beckham Jr.'s night ended prematurely when he suffered a sprained ankle after taking a hit in the second quarter of Monday's preseason game between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland.

    • Beckham also was checked for a concussion and was cleared. X-rays came back negative for more serious injuries. He will undergo further testing upon his return to New York.

      The wide receiver walked to the locker room without assistance. He later returned to the sideline and was walking without a limp.

      Beckham was injured after he grabbed an 18-yard pass from Giants quarterback Eli Manning and was hit low on his left leg by Browns defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun.

      Beckham clearly wasn't happy about the hit. He tossed his helmet aside before leaving the field and glared at Boddy-Calhoun.

      At the time of the injury, Beckham had three receptions for 37 yards.

      Giants wide receiver Brandon Marshall also left the Giants' 10-6 loss to the Browns with an injury. He underwent X-rays on his shoulder.

  • Savage gains confidence each week as Texans QB
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, August 21, 2017

    HOUSTON -- Operating out of the shotgun formation, Houston Texans starting quarterback Tom Savage made a fast decision Saturday night when he saw wide receiver Jaelen Strong break across the middle against the New England Patriots secondary.

    • Savage lobbed a perfect spiral in the back of the end zone to connect with Strong, a fellow Philadelphia native, for a leaping 2-yard touchdown catch against the reigning Super Bowl champions. Strong beat Patriots Pro-Bowl cornerback Malcolm Butler for the score.

      It was an extremely sharp performance by Savage, the Texans' new starter, as he continues to hold off the challenge of gifted first-round draft pick Deshaun Watson.

      Savage completed 8 of 9 passes for 98 yards, one score and no interceptions for a pristine 149.1 passer rating in nearly one quarter of action before being replaced by Watson.

      "Yeah, I'm really, really comfortable with this offense," Savage said. "We have a lot of talent out there and a lot of the guys are making some big plays for me and it's been awesome."

      At this stage of the preseason, Savage has done nothing to relinquish his grip on the starting job. He has yet to commit a turnover.

      "From a personal standpoint, just protecting the ball that's been good," Savage said. "It's tough to get a good gauge of it. This is a good foundation we're building, but we got to keep improving.

      "Obviously, it's preseason. So, you got to do this in the regular season and go out there and consistently score points and then move the ball like we did. It's a good foundation that we're in."

      Savage was sacked once as he continues to deal with some recurring pass-protection issues from his offensive line.

      The former fourth-round draft pick from Pitt was hit hard by Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy in an earlier drive, with Van Noy flagged for roughing the passer.

      Savage shook it off, got up and completed a 37-yard sideline throw to a leaping Bruce Ellington. Savage rolled out to his right and put some serious air under the football to give Ellington a shot in a jump-ball situation on a fly route.

      "The hit felt good," Savage said. "It felt good to get out there and take a shot. I think all the guys made some big plays for me, and it really helped me out."

      Midway through the preseason, Savage has completed 17 of 20 passes for 167 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 120.95 passer rating.

      "He threw the ball accurately," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's got good command of what we're doing. He's able to get us into the right play at the line of scrimmage, which is important for our offense."

      Savage got off to a rocky start to the preseason the week before when he went three-and-out on his initial two drives against the Carolina Panthers primarily due to a lack of pass protection with three-time Pro-Bowl left tackle Duane Brown's self-imposed absence due to a contract dispute.

      Against the Patriots, Savage got into a rhythm much sooner despite some breakdowns in the pocket. He showed some ability to improvise along with his toughness as he got up quickly after absorbing a big hit from Van Noy.

      Savage displayed good chemistry with Ellington, a former San Francisco 49ers fourth-round draft pick who recently joined the team. He completed three passes to him for 60 yards.

      "I thought it was good," Savage said. "Offensively, we want to get out there that first drive and score a touchdown, but we got the ball back down there and we punched it in and that's all we can ask for."

      --When the Texans signed wide receiver Bruce Ellington, his arrival marked his third NFL employer over the past year.

      It also involved engaging in a crash course in the Texans' intricate playbook. There was some overlap from similar plays Ellington had run in the past with the San Francisco 49ers, but there was plenty of new terminology.

      Ellington is capitalizing on his opportunity so far, catching four passes for 93 yards on five targets during a preseason win Saturday night over the New England Patriots.

      "Give Bruce a lot of credit," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. "Bruce just showed up here and he's picked it up pretty well. I think we do a lot of things that are similar to what he did in San Francisco, but maybe they called it something different. He made the most of his opportunity. He did a nice job. It's good to have him around."

      Ellington's ability to run after the catch and leaping ability were both on display against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots.

      The former fourth-round draft pick from South Carolina made an acrobatic sideline catch for a 37-yard pass from starting quarterback Tom Savage.

      "Go get it," Ellington said of his mindset. "It's my ball as much as it is his."

      That mentality is serving Ellington well as he makes a bid for a roster spot. With DeAndre Hopkins, Braxton Miller and Will Fuller sidelined, Ellington got an extended look with the first-team offense.

      "Very big, you have to make plays to make the team," Ellington said. "So, it's huge. It's just been a blessing to come out here and be a part of this team.

      --The occasion called for celebration. Finding the end zone even in a preseason game is a big deal.

      So, Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson and running back D'Onta Foreman both broke out touchdown dances Saturday night against the New England Patriots.

      Following his run up the middle for a score, Watson did the Milly Rock. The first-round draft pick from Clemson said he borrowed the dance from running back Lamar Miller.

      "It's just a dance everyone (does), just joking around when you're hanging out," Watson said. "(Teammates) thought it was pretty swaggy and pretty fun to do, just having fun on the sideline. That's what football is about."

      A native of Texas City and a third-round pick from Texas, Foreman did the Southside dance following his touchdown run.

      "Spur of the moment," Foreman sad. "Just stuff I grew up on, listening to when I was a kid. I had to do it, I'm in Houston."

      Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt was impressed with Watson's dancing skills.

      "He's a lot better dancer," Watt said. "I was talking with a couple of guys on the sidelines and said, 'You may have to teach me some moves, because I'm like the least rhythmic guy in the entire world.' Maybe I'll pull out that dance someday."

  • 11 Browns take a knee during anthem
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, August 21, 2017

    Eleven Cleveland Browns players knelt during the national anthem prior to the Monday night preseason game against the New York Giants in Cleveland.

    • The 11 players knelt in a circle behind the Browns bench, and five other Browns players stood nearby with a hand on a kneeling teammate's shoulder in an apparent sign of support.

      The 11 players who knelt were tight end Seth DeValve, running back Duke Johnson Jr., running back Terrence Magee, safety Jabrill Peppers, safety Calvin Pryor, cornerback Jamar Taylor, receiver Kenny Britt, receiver Ricardo Louis, linebacker Chris Kirksey, linebacker Jamie Collins, and running back Isaiah Crowell. Crowell was not in uniform.

      The five who stood alongside the circle were punter Britton Colquitt, cornerback Jason McCourty, quarterback DeShone Kizer, defensive tackle Trevon Coley and offensive tackle Shon Coleman.

      The Browns issued a statement that read, "As an organization, we have a profound respect for our country's National Anthem, flag and the servicemen and servicewomen in the United States and abroad. We feel it's important for our team to join in this great tradition and special moment of recognition, at the same time we also respect the great liberties afforded by our country, including the freedom of personal expression."

      None of the Giants players knelt during the national anthem.

  • Lions' defense looks improved -- vs. inferior foes
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, August 21, 2017

    ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Statistically, the Detroit Lions had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year.

    • They set a league record for highest completion percentage allowed, and they ranked near the bottom of the league in takeaways and sacks.

      So while no one is going overboard about Detroit's 2-0 start to the preseason, especially since the wins came against the lowly New York Jets and the Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts, there still are plenty of good vibes going around about what the Lions have accomplished so far.

      "In my terms, I think we've done what we should do," safety Glover Quin said. "Play against an Indianapolis team that a lot of their receivers were hurt, Frank Gore didn't play, Andrew Luck doesn't play, I feel like we should be able to dominate that game.

      "You play against the Jets and Matt Forte doesn't play, they're trying to figure out who's going to be their starting quarterback, I guess. I would feel like we should be able to go in there and not let Christian Hackenberg beat us or we shouldn't let their running game get going against us. So I think we've done what we should do."

      The Lions have allowed just 16 points in their two preseason games, second fewest in the league, and their first-team defense has held the Colts and Jets scoreless through about four series.

      The Colts, who started Scott Tolzien at quarterback in place of Luck, scored their only touchdown on the final play of regulation, while the Jets had minus-3 yards passing in the first half.

      The Lions lost starting left end Kerry Hyder to a season-ending torn Achilles tendon, and starting right end Ziggy Ansah remains on the physically unable to perform list with a leg injury. However, the team has gotten good play from free agent additions Akeem Spence and Cornelius Washington on the defensive line, and rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis looks at home calling plays.

      Quin said he believes the Lions are doing what is necessary to extend their success to the regular season, and he said this week's third preseason game against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will give everyone a good idea of how far they still have to go.

      "I'm all for playing good teams in the preseason," Quin said. "I like it."

      --Offensive guard TJ Lang played 18 snaps in his preseason debut last week against the Jets.

      Lang has missed about half of the Lions' practices in training camp as he recovers from January hip surgery. Coach Jim Caldwell said Lang's rehab will "progressively" move forward to keep him on pace for the season opener Sept. 10 against the Arizona Cardinals.

      "He's been around long enough," Caldwell said. "Some of the younger guys you got to tailor every singly detail of every single rep. Some of the older guys, you have to be able to certainly have a little flexibility there and work with them. And right now, he's progressing like we had planned, and we'll see where it goes from here."

  • Broncos going with Siemian at quarterback
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, August 21, 2017

    In the end, starting Trevor Siemian was the only choice the Denver Broncos could make.

    • A team at the embryonic stage of its rebuilding process could afford to start Paxton Lynch at quarterback and take its lumps as he learns to run an NFL offense that is light years beyond the spread system he executed at the University of Memphis.

      But the Broncos are 18 months removed from a Super Bowl 50 win. The defense that fueled that victory is still together for the most part, featuring three All-Pros who started in that game. They believe they're still in a championship window if they can get an efficient offense that is consistent and doesn't beat itself like last year's attack did.

      That's why Siemian is the starter, a decision that Broncos coach Vance Joseph announced to the team Monday morning.

      Lynch has potential. But it didn't translate into any consistently effective work during practice and games during the course of training camp.

      "It's a performance-based business, not potential," Joseph said.

      "I was pleased with both guys, but overall, the operation of the entire offense -- decision-making and ball placement -- were more consistent with Trevor. That's why he won the job."

      The task for Siemian now is clear: capitalize off the opportunity that he claimed for a second consecutive season -- a chance to be a starter and show he can be a viable long-term quarterback.

      "I hope so. I think I can," he said. "I have a long way to go. I know where I can get better. I also know some of the things I can do well. For me, even going back to when I came in the league, I try to do a good job of taking it one day and rep at a time. At the end of the season, I'll go back and figure out where I'm at and go from there."

      For Lynch, the ensuing question is obvious -- now what?

      He was regarded as a project heading into the 2016 draft process, to the point where his development before he could be ready to start was likely to be measured in years, not months. But now he faces another year of warming the bench unless Siemian is injured or falters to the point where Joseph's hand is forced.

      "What's holding him back is probably experience," Joseph said. "It's tough to play quarterback in this league. A lot goes into it. And it's not simply about how tall you are or your arm strength (or) how fast you run. It's different factors that go into being an NFL quarterback.

      "As far as the system, Mike built the system for both guys, so it wasn't built for Paxton, it was built for the quarterback. So what's holding him back is probably experience."

      But how does Lynch get that experience without playing?

      "That's on the coaches. That's during practice. That's during the shape of the week," Joseph said. "It's tough when you're a backup to gain game experience. You can't because you're the backup player. But as far as how we coach him, that won't change. As far as his reps in practice, that won't change."

      That may not be enough. But it will have to do for now as the Broncos cast their lot with Siemian.