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  • DT Donald's holdout might last into Rams season
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    IRVINE, Ca. -- The holdout of Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald moved into the third week, with reports that he could be so entrenched in this contract dispute into the regular season.

    • So, what originally seemed a mild distraction is moving in a more serious direction.

      "Our approach is exactly the same, we're continuing to try and find a solution," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "He's a very important part of what we want to do. In the meantime, we've got a lot of great guys out here that are working hard and getting ready for this Oakland game, and just approaching every single day with the situations that we're throwing at them.

      "Whether that report is true or not, we're continuing to try to find a solution and we've got some time until that does come. We've got to always have contingency plans in place. But, like I said, that doesn't change our approach because we're still trying to find that solution to get Aaron here and be a part of what we're doing and if not we need to be ready to adjust."

      The addition of wide receiver Sammy Watkins made an immediate impression on the Rams, who are marveling over the much-needed athletic ability he brings.

      In fact, second-year quarterback Jared Goff had to take a step back after a pass completion to Watkins when his new teammate flew across the field upon catching the ball.

      "I did a little bit," Goff said. "You try not to, but I did kind of turn around, like, 'Everyone see that? All right.' It was a good catch and hopefully something that won't be quite a surprise anymore."

      Said head coach Sean McVay: "When the ball is in his hands you can feel his speed and his juice down the field. I thought it was good to get him out here. He was comfortable with the things we were asking him to do, so it was great to have Sammy out there and get him in the mix."

      Goff had a couple of bad days with interceptions on Monday and Tuesday. He rebounded on Wednesday and Thursday with much crisper practices. And said he'd learn from the mistakes earlier in the week.

      "I was being a little bit aggressive the last couple days," Goff said. "Some plays I can't make. I'm still learning and still growing. You should test your limits a little bit, I think, but at the same time I have to be smarter than that and take care of the ball better than that, and I will. In practice, you just try some things you might not try other times, but you still have to be smart with it."

      NOTES: Wide receiver Josh Reynolds, a rookie from Texas A&M, returned to practice Thursday after missing a few days with leg issues and made an immediate impact. ... Among others not practicing Thursday were cornerbacks Kayvon Webster, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Mike Jordan; wide receiver Tavon Austin; running back Lance Dunbar; Offensive lineman Andrew Donnal and linebackers Samson Ebukam and Nic Grigsby.

  • Chiefs like Kpassagnon's versatility
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    ST. Joseph, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs second-round draft pick Tanoh Kpassagnon found himself lining up at multiple defensive positions in the preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, including defensive tackle, end and outside linebacker.

    • "They're definitely trying to see where I can fit best," Kpassagnon said. "It was fun. I like it."

      The 6-foot-7, 280-pound Kpassagnon possesses a blend of athleticism and quickness that belies his size. Former general manager John Dorsey said following his selection that he projected Kpassagnon as a five-technique defensive end lining up outside the tackle. He also said the rookie from Villanova could add additional weight to his frame.

      Yet, the Chiefs now appear comfortable keeping Kpassagnon at his current weight and utilizing him at multiple positions. Defensive line coach Britt Reid said the rookie displays a rare versatility.

      "Especially going from nose to end all the way to outside 'backer, very rare," Reid said.

      Kpassagnon spent practice this week working on his coverage skills. He found himself racing step-for-step with veteran running back C.J. Spiller. He picked up a pass defended by breaking up the catch.

      "I knew I could do it," Kpassagnon said. "I actually got to get better at, being able to turn around and then get a pick off that. That's not enough."

      Lining up as a linebacker in coverage is new to Kpassagnon, but it's a role he relishes an opportunity to try.

      "Playing an outside linebacker position is difficult fun and difficult too," Kpassagnon said. "But I like being everywhere. You kind of get to know the whole defense."

      --Chiefs quarterbacks came out firing down field in the preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers but don't be surprised if the team focuses on the run Saturday night on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals.

      Head coach Andy Reid said the team's emphasis on the passing game short-changed his running backs. The team rushed for just 31 yards on 14 carries. Reid wants to bolster that effort through a better performance from his offensive line.

      "When it really comes down to it you still have to get a body on body, secure that level one so there's not penetration and give the back at least a chance," Reid said. "If you're not blocking a secondary defender then just give them a chance to make that guy miss."

      Incumbent starter Spencer Ware remains first in line in the backfield, but rookie Kareem Hunt now receives the plurality of second-team snaps ahead of Charcandrick West and Spiller.

      One of the more intriguing candidates in the backfield is Spiller. Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy says Spiller still has remarkable speed and can contribute in all aspects of the offense.

      "We know he can do a great job of running it," Bieniemy said. "But also he has done a great job of making plays down field in the pass game and he is doing a great job picking up blitzes."

      Spiller believes he still has the legs to play at a high level, but he also believes he's a more patient runner than in his younger days.

      "There's still a lot of stuff that I have to get better at to become a better football player, to heighten my football IQ so that's why you go through training camp to try to get better at those things before the season gets started," Spiller said.

      --Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith called it "crazy" that former teammate Colin Kaepernick remains on the sidelines without a NFL quarterback job.

      "It is crazy to think that he is not playing," Smith said. "That is a crazy thing because like I said as good as he was playing, young, strong, I felt like he had a long career ahead of him and it is crazy at this point he is out of a job."

      Kaepernick opted out of his contract with San Francisco in March, officially making him a free agent. He emerged as a polarizing figure last season after choosing not to stand during the national anthem as part of a social justice protest.

      Smith described the controversy involving Kaepernick as something he never saw coming.

      "My relationship with Kaep is we always got along really well," Smith said. "He was always extremely respectful with me so he and I got along really well."

      Kaepernick and Smith found themselves involved in quarterback controversy during San Francisco's 2012 Super Bowl season. The 49ers went 6-2-1 with Smith as starter before a concussion knocked him from the lineup for two games. Kaepernick filled in ably and finished the season as the team's starter.

      The former 49ers quarterback Smith said he hasn't spoken with Kaepernick for a long time.

      "Obviously a lot has changed since then, but it is hard to even comment on it," Smith said. "Like I said, I don't know. There is a lot going on in that landscape right now."

      Smith said he would have no problem welcoming Kaepernick as a teammate once again.

      "He was always someone who was really, really respectful," Smith said. "He was a really good teammate. He cared, so yeah, no question."

      --The Chiefs closed training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., but the future location of the team's training camp remains up in the air for now.

      "It is something that we'll sit down and talk about as an organization," team chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said when asked about returning in 2018, "but personally I hope we'll be able to come back."

      The club and Missouri Western State University, the host of the team's training camp the past eight seasons, hold mutual options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. University officials indicate they are ready to execute their option.

      The state of Missouri helped recruit the Chiefs to move their training camp to St. Joe after 19 seasons in River Falls, Wis. The agreement provided the Chiefs with $25 million in tax incentives contingent upon the team remaining in Missouri for 10 years. The organization needs two more years to complete the arrangement without facing partial repayment of the incentives.

      Team president Mark Donovan said the club continues exploring its options. He believes it difficult the Chiefs would move their camp to another off-site location in Missouri.

      "We like it here," Donovan said. "We like the relationship, we like the efficiency, we like the familiarity and consistency. So, I think it would be tough for somebody to come in and wow us and take it away from here."

      The team could, however, move to the University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex, the team's headquarters and practice facility located near Arrowhead Stadium.

      Relocating to the training complex means addressing obstacles such as housing for the team's players and coaches, logistical support such as meals and security and accommodating fans.

      Hunt said he plans to consult with head coach Andy Reid and general manger Brett Veach before making a final decision.

      "I know Andy feels very positive about having training camp here, Brett feels very positive about having training camp here," Hunt said. "I think it's a good experience for our fans who are able to drive up from Kansas City."

      Reid said he supports whatever decision Hunt makes, but spoke positively about the experience in St. Joseph.

      The people here have been phenomenal," Reid said. "They have done a nice job for us and we appreciate that."

  • Chiefs make bid for NFL draft
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City officially threw its hat in the ring this week to land the NFL draft.

    • "We always have 'what's that next big event?' on our radar as a sports commission and a city," said Kathy Nelson, president & CEO of the Greater Kansas City Sports Commission & Foundation. "We're always working in tandem with everyone with the Chiefs about what would it take."

      Local officials began visiting the draft in 2015 in anticipation of making a play for the annual event. Chicago hosted the draft in 2015 and 2016 before the move to Philadelphia this season. New York City hosted the event from 1965 to 2014.

      NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, during a visit to Kansas City in June, said 14 cities sent representatives to this year's draft in Philadelphia. The bidding process covers drafts for 2019 through 2023.

      "The game and the standards keep going up," Goodell said during his Kansas City visit. "But I think this community, in fact I met with some of them when we were in Philadelphia, I think they could do a great job with the draft."

      Kansas City's bid leans heavily on assets such as the Sprint Center, Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium as potential sites. Nelson also noted the location of 23 military bases within a 300-mile radius of Kansas City, including Whiteman Air Force Base, Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley. The commission's pitch to the NFL proposes an aggressive strategy for engaging military personnel with the event.

      "I think that will stand out," Nelson said.

      She added that Kansas City's easy access for football fans makes the city an appealing destination for the NFL. Kansas City is located within a day's drive for 55 million people. The city's location also places it within a three-hour flight from anywhere in the continental United States.

      "That makes it pretty easy to get to, come enjoy something, spend the night and get back the next day or spend the weekend here," Nelson said.

      Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley in June called landing the NFL draft an "awesome" opportunity for the team, fans and the city.

      "I think getting a Super Bowl here or a draft here, just the more events and the more people that can come through here, the more eyes that are on the city, I think it will just be a huge benefit to the people who are here," Conley said. "I think everyone will fall in love with it the way I have."

      Rabid football fans in Kansas City also provide a compelling attraction to the NFL, Goodell said.

      "To me it's about passion," the commissioner said. "It's about passion and having your own experience for a draft that's going to reflect well on this community and football."

  • Mutual admiration sociey for Belichick
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Jimmy Johnson knows a little something about building a powerhouse NFL franchise, as he did in Dallas in the early 1990s. Through his longtime friendship with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Johnson has probably had some influence on the dynasty that shows little sign of slowing down these days in New England.

    • When the two met decades ago at the Kentucky Derby, no one could have predicted where Belichick would ascend to in the world of football. But his spot, according to Johnson, is quite clear.

      "He's the best ever, and I made that statement before the (Super Bowl), but I also made that statement a year ago and two years ago," Johnson told recently. "It's not something I just recently decided. Having watched Bill over the years, it goes all the way back to Cleveland, when we first met and built a relationship.

      "He covers all the bases. He's very thorough. He approaches the job in a way that every coach should envy. And one thing about his teams, they're always better prepared than their opponents. And that's because of him."

      Like Belichick, Johnson oversaw both coaching and personnel in his time in Dallas and later with the Dolphins. It's an almost infinitely demanding responsibility that generally is too much for those who are even given the chance to wear both hats.

      "The job is almost overwhelming, and obviously you've got to have the right kind of people assisting you and helping you do it the right way," Johnson said. "And Bill does. But there's very few in the NFL, and very few that's been in the NFL who can do all the jobs that he does.

      "I'll just say one more thing about Bill Belichick: He's the best."

      Belichick had a couple of his coaching friends from other sports on hand as guests during the joint practice action with the Texans. That included former Major League Baseball manager Tony La Russa and former Indiana University men's basketball coach Tom Crean.

      "When we're together, I'm asking the questions, he's talking, and I'm taking notes. He's not taking my notes," LaRussa said with a chuckle before highlighting what he sees as the strength of his pal's coaching style.

      "I believe his ability and his staff's ability, and his team's ability to start at zero every year - refuse to think about last year - is an important part of why they are so consistent. It's easy to celebrate the next year. The ability to turn the clock to zero is really impressive and very hard."

      "My relationship with Tony has been great," Belichick said. "I've learned a lot from somebody as accomplished as he is in another sport. I'll never forget the time he let me get in the dugout with him for an exhibition game. Baseball - it seems like just throw it and hit it, but there's a lot more to it than that. I saw just how much there is on every single pitch and the focus, concentration, all of that."

      Crean offered up his observations about Belichick, the coach and the person.

      "Everything matters every day," Crean said. "As simple as that sounds, it's very complex and hard because there are so many things that can distract, that can interrupt that, can get in the way of it. When I think of fundamentals, and preaching the fundamentals and details on a day-to-day basis - and then watching it come out in his team - that's one place you're going to look. He leaves nothing to chance. It would be hard to imagine something missing his radar or the people that are around him.

      "He's been very, very good to me, very helpful," added Crean. "I think that's one of the reasons he's such a great leader, great developer of teams, programs, players. He's always inquisitive. You can get an idea of how great he is with his team because of the way he helps his friends."

      "Again, different sport," Belichick said of his kinship with Crean, "but I learned a lot from his organization ... Different motivations, teachings, he is a very progressive guy ... We speak pretty frequently."

  • Lynch comically addresses 'elephant in the room'
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    NAPA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders Running back Marshawn Lynch talked for the first and only time on the final day of training camp, but did not elaborate on his decision to remain seated on a cooler, eating a banana, during the national anthem.

    • Asked about addressing the "elephant in the room" with regard to his actions, Lynch said, "I think the elephant left the room because a little mouse ran in here. Didn't they say elephants are scared of mice or something? That (expletive) left the room."

      Later, Lynch was asked about fans wearing his jersey and if he had any thoughts on whether they should sit or stand during the anthem.

      His response was to answer a question that wasn't asked.

      "When we run 74 or something like that, where I have to scan and read on both sides, that is pretty difficult," Lynch said. "For the most part, I'm a veteran so I can make it work."

      --With left tackle Donald Penn a no-show because of a contract holdout, offensive line coach Mike Tice was taking the pragmatic approach to being without the blind-side protector of quarterback Derek Carr.

      "Where I'm at right now is I have to get us ready to go out and beat Tennessee (on Sept. 10)," Tice said. "Right now, I have Marshall Newhouse on the left and Vadal Alexander on the right and David Sharpe doing a little bit more each day, playing both sides.

      "I can't sit here and wonder when DP is going to come back ... that's reality right now. I can't think that there's going to be something else there until it's there."

      --Shalom Luani, a seventh-round draft pick out of Washington State, appears to be a core special teams player and could figure in the defensive secondary plans before long given his nose for the ball.

      "I think there is something called instinct," Luani said. "Preparation is something, but add instincts to it and you become a better player ... just got to find the ball. See ball, get ball, that's all it is."

      Assistant head coach John Pagano, who does most of his work with communication on the back end, is coaching Luani up as much as he can without taking away his natural ability.

      "You never, ever want to over-coach a guy that has great instincts," Pagano said. "You want to let him see ball, go get ball and have the ability to do that. He has a great knack right now for getting around the football and it's been going on since OTAs and rookie camp."

      --For the third straight year, head coach Jack Del Rio opted to keep all training camp workouts in-house rather than work with another team.

      While the 49ers were scrimmaging the Denver Broncos nearby, the Raiders stayed among themselves.

      "I think it just depends on where you are in your development," Del Rio said. "I made a decision the last three years to do it this way and not seek an opponent."

      The Raiders last scrimmaged with an opponent in 2014 with the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, a one-day practice that included fights both on the field and in the stands.

      The 49ers were visitors to Napa in 2008 and 2009.

      --The homecoming of Marshawn Lynch may not include even a cameo appearance from the Oakland native son when the Raiders host the Rams in Week 2 of the preseason.

      "We're going to get our squad ready to go for the first game," Del Rio said. "We've got work to do and we'll have a plan deciding how long and who and when and all that kind of stuff. The idea is to be strong and healthy and fit and conditioned as possible for the regular season."

  • Seahawks C Britt gets three-year extension
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    Seattle Seahawks center Justin Britt agreed to terms on a three-year contract extension, multiple outlets reported on Thursday.

    • The deal is worth $27 million with Britt collecting $13.25 million in the first year, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

      Britt started 16 games as a rookie at right tackle after being selected with a second-round pick in the 2014 draft. The 26-year-old was later shuffled to guard and then center, where he started 15 games a season ago.

  • Seahawks RB Rawls to miss Friday's game
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    Seattle Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls will sit out Friday's preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings with an ankle injury.

    • Coach Pete Carroll made the announcement on Thursday and named Eddie Lacy as the team's starter for that contest.

      Rawls was given the nod ahead of Lacy for last week's preseason opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. He rushed two times for five yards.

      The 24-year-old had 109 carries for 349 yards and three touchdowns last season. He missed seven games with a fractured fibula.

      Lacy, who was signed as a free agent this offseason, carried the ball four times for 10 yards last week versus the Chargers.

  • Josh Gordon reinstatement not under consideration
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    The reinstatement of suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon is not on the immediate agenda of Roger Goodell, the commissioner announced Thursday.

    • Goodell offered his stance on Thursday when asked about Gordon at a fan forum in Cleveland.

      "(It's) not under active consideration to my knowledge, at least it hasn't gotten to my desk yet," Goodell said, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

      The league denied Gordon's reinstatement petition on May 11, two months after the embattled 26-year-old wideout filed papers to have his indefinite suspension lifted.

      Goodell reinstated Gordon on a conditional basis last season but the Pro Bowl receiver checked into the rehab facility in September and put his career on hold. Gordon spent 30 days in a New Hampshire facility.

      Browns head coach Hue Jackson said then that Gordon's tenure was over in Cleveland and wished him well even though the team still holds his rights for at least one more season. Gordon was scheduled to rejoin the team at practice last Oct. 3 and play Oct. 9 against the New England Patriots before deciding to check into the rehab facility.

      The NFL has suspended Gordon four times for violating its substance-abuse policy.

      Gordon has been suspended for 43 of his last 48 games and hasn't played in an NFL game since Dec. 21, 2014.

      The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon had 87 catches for a league-leading 1,646 yards in 2013, his second year in the league.

  • QB Newton still limited in practice
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    NASHVILLE -- Quarterback Cam Newton didn't take part in the scrimmage situations during the first day of joint workouts with the Tennessee Titans, but he was involved in some 7-and-7 drills when the teams gathered for the second of those workouts Thursday.

    • So, while there has been progress shown as he comes back following offseason shoulder surgery, there continues to be an incomplete sample.

      Newton has been praised by head coach Ron Rivera for bringing energy and enthusiasm to workouts, though his role needs to be much more than a cheerleader for the Panthers to be comfortable entering the season.

      The Panthers play their second preseason game Saturday when they take on the Titans in Nashville.

      The status of Newton, who didn't play in the first preseason game, remains unclear. Rivera said that situation will be evaluated after Thursday and Friday, but the odds of Newton playing in that preseason matchup appear slim.

      --The Panthers haven't participated in combined workouts with other NFL teams often, but there were positive reviews coming from the sessions this week with the Tennessee Titans. The teams meet in a game setting for a preseason matchup Saturday afternoon in Nashville.

      "Just to change it up," veteran tight end Greg Olsen said of the scrimmaging, noting it's only the second time in his career when he has been involved in this type of setting. "Get some different looks. It's nice to get some reps against different styles. ... Guys played hard and competed."

      Rivera said he liked the different looks that his team was confronting. He said the sessions were valuable.

      "I really appreciated the tempo," he said. "I feel very good about what we got done."

      Any feistiness between the teams was kept to a minimum.

      "We came from both sides and kept it professional," linebacker Thomas Davis said.

      --Meanwhile, Davis has a contract extension, so that puts to rest at least one of the potential uneasy feelings for a veteran player entering the season.

      Davis, who has been one of the franchise's most popular players, received a one-year extension that goes through the 2018 season. Terms weren't released by the team, though reports have listed the deal being worth $6.76 million.

      It came through negotiations that involved interim general manager Marty Hurney, who returned to the organization to replace fired Dave Gettleman about a week before the opening of training camp.

      Davis, 34, praised Hurney's role, and he dismissed any notion of frustration.

      "I was confident this was going to get done," Davis said. "It's a negotiation for a reason. ... It's all about moving forward."

      That leaves Olsen's request for a contract extension still unresolved.

  • 49ers sign LB Skov to one-year deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    The San Francisco 49ers signed linebacker Shayne Skov to a one-year contract, the team announced Thursday.

    • Skov recorded two defensive tackles in 24 games over three seasons with the 49ers and 12 more on special teams.

      The 27-year-old San Francisco native was waived by the club on May 2.

      Skov collected 355 tackles, 17 sacks and five forced fumbles during his college career with Stanford.

  • Former Patriots NT Williams dies
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    Former New England Patriots nose tackle Lester Williams died on Wednesday at his home in Birmingham, Ala., the team announced.

    • The Patriots did not divulge the cause of death for Williams, who was 58.

      Williams started for New England in Super Bowl XX and recorded 99 tackles, five sacks and three fumble recoveries during his four-year stint with the Patriots (1982-85).

      Williams was selected with one of New England's two first-round picks in the 1982 draft. He was selected 27th overall out of the University of Miami.

      "I am very proud to be part of the 1982 draft class, and having Lester Williams as a part of that class made playing defense a lot more fun," said linebacker Andre Tippett, who was selected with a second-round pick.

      "As a nose tackle, Lester was a key to our success in the 3-4 defense. I remember how frustrated opposing centers became playing against him. He anchored the line for us and was a great teammate to play alongside. On behalf of the entire organization, our thoughts and prayers are with Lester's family, friends and former teammates who are mourning his loss today."

      Williams also played one season with the then-San Diego Chargers (1986) and Seattle Seahawks (1987).

  • WR Green shining in preseason
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    CINCINNATI -- Some observers, including Cincinnati bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, believe wide receiver A.J. Green is having the best training camp of his career. That's a scary proposition for opponents. Green missed the final six games last season with a hamstring injury, but he's back to 100 percent and looking especially sharp in camp.

    • "He's looked as good as he's ever looked to me," receivers coach James Urban told "He's in great shape physically. He's in a great spot mentally. He's lean, fast, strong. He works his tail off."

      The injury left Green 36 yards shy of joining Randy Moss as the only NFL players with 1,000 or more receiving yards in each of their first six seasons.

      "It was a little disappointing," Green said. "I wasn't happy (with the decision) at the time. But now I look back. Is 30 yards really going to matter if I pull it again and need surgery and don't get back 100 percent in time? I don't think so."

      --The Bengals are looking for more playmakers on defense. They might have found one in third-rounder Jordan Willis who had three tackles and a sack in a 23-12 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. Willis, a rookie out of Kansas State, dominated at the line of scrimmage but also showed his athleticism assisting on downfield tackles.

      "We are trying to get him to smile every once in a while," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "He's so doggone serious (laughs). He just wants to work to get better. He has that standard answer. 'Yes sir, coach.' However, he continues to grow, that's big. Having some success is what you want for a young player, so they can continue to build upon it."

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "Geno has one speed, which is great. That's what he showed back in 2010 as a rookie, and it's never changed. And that's been great and huge for him to always be at that same speed. It helps him be such a dominant player on Sundays." - Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis on Geno Atkins' effort during training camp.

      A look at the roster:

      --S George Iloka returned to practice on a limited basis this week and likely won't play in Saturday's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Iloka suffered a sprained knee on July 30 and there is no timetable for his return to full contact. Iloka would like to get some snaps in a preseason game.

      --WR John Ross made his Bengals training camp debut earlier this week, but he's not participating in full contact and is not expected to play Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. Still, it was a huge step forward for the Bengals' first-round draft choice, after rehabbing a shoulder injury that occurred in college. He got a chance to showcase his storied speed this week but isn't blocking yet.

      --QB Jeff Driskel could be the heir apparent to AJ McCarron's backup role, and more performances like last week's against Tampa Bay could convince the Bengals to carry three quarterbacks despite some roster constraints. Driskel was 8 of 9 passing for 97 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 34 yards on five carries including a touchdown. Of course, that was against a Bucs' defense comprised largely of backups. Driskel who was claimed off waivers last September is making the most of an opportunity.

  • Colts C Kelly out indefinitely
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts center Ryan Kelly will be sidelined indefinitely after he undergoes a medical procedure on his foot. Kelly was initially sidelined during the Colts' joint practices with Detroit last week and was held out of the Lions' preseason game last week. The injury was not thought to be serious at the time and he had been wearing a walking boot since incurring the injury. There is no timetable for his return although Kelly is expected to miss the start of the regular season.

    • ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the surgery is scheduled for Friday and will be to repair a bone defect in his foot.

      "We put him in a boot roughly six, seven days ago and we wanted to give it a week. You always err on the side of caution and hope that if you immobilize that thing, it's going to get better. But that's not the case," head coach Chuck Pagano said after Thursday's practice.

      "So, Ryan, unfortunately, is going to have to have surgery. We're hoping for a complete recovery on it, but he's going to have to miss some time. How much time, I don't know. I don't have a timetable yet. So, he'll go through that procedure and we'll see what happens."

      Schefter also reported that Kelly could be sidelined from six to eight weeks.

      --The Colts wrapped up the training camp portion of the preseason Thursday. After a light workout Friday, Indianapolis will play its second preseason game Saturday night in Dallas. The Colts lost 24-10 to Detroit in their preseason opener last Sunday.

      --Injuries have hit the Colts hard during training camp and the preseason. The news came Thursday that second-year center Ryan Kelly will be sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury, joining wide receiver Donte' Moncrief, tight end Eric Swoope (knee), rookie safety Malik Hooker (first-round pick, shoulder) and wide receiver Chester Rogers (hamstring).

      --Center Brian Schwenke, signed as a veteran free agent during the offseason, remains on the team's PUP list with a foot injury as does safety Clayton Geathers (neck) and quarterback Andrew Luck (shoulder). Schwenke is reportedly getting closer to returning to the practice field, according to head coach Chuck Pagano, but there is no timetable at the present time.

      --The Indianapolis offense looked sloppy and inconsistent in the team's preseason opening loss to Detroit. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski knows time is running short to get things worked out before the start of the regular season.

      "I'd like to see us clean up," Chudzinski said. "We had a very simple, basic game plan (for the Lions game) that was really just base stuff that we were running. We had a number of guys who were in here for two or three days going into that game and playing.

      "I'd like to see growth from that perspective, of guys knowing what to do. It's not just knowing what to do, it's the how to do it. So being more efficient in that way and obviously cutting out some of the penalties and seeing the production show at the end of the day."

      --Chudzinski was asked about the thinking going into the regular-season opener if Luck is not available to play. Will the Colts have to change things up in the playbook?

      "We'll make those adjustments if that's the case down the road," he explained. "Every week we tailor (the offense) to the opponent, some to who may be playing, skill-wise, O-line wise, quarterback wise and all those type of things all go into it."

      --Head coach Chuck Pagano likes what he's seen so far from veteran punter Jeff Locke and undrafted rookie long snapper Thomas Hennessy.

      "Jeff punted the ball really well (against Detroit). He's done a great job. Pleased with where he's at," Pagano said.

      "Thomas Hennessy did a great job snapping the football. For a rookie, it wasn't too big for him. Accuracy was great. Laces were great on the field goal and PAT try. So, we're happy with all those guys right now."

      --The Colts reached injury settlements with wide receivers Chris Briggs and Tevaun Smith. Both players had been placed on the team's injured reserve list.

      In other roster updates, Indianapolis signed free-agent wide receiver Justice Liggins and waived-injured running back Dalton Crossan. Liggins had been in camp with the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

      --Quarterback Scott Tolzien knows the Indianapolis offense struggled against Detroit in the preseason opener. The pressure is on Tolzien, who is currently the team's No. 1 quarterback with Andrew Luck still rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery. He was only in for 11 plays against the Lions, completing two of five passes for 24 yards.

      "I think first and foremost, we didn't move the sticks," Tolzien reviewed. "Our job is to move the chains on offense and we didn't do that. So, we've got to get back to work and we've got to get better.

      "All together, I think (there were) more negatives than positives. But you've got to use that as motivation. We've got a lot of strides to make on offense and we will do that. That's our job."

      --Safety T.J. Green has been getting work at cornerback the last few days of training camp. The move comes as the Colts have been hit by injuries to several players in the secondary.

      "We're missing some guys on the back end," head coach Chuck Pagano explained. "We've got a couple corners out and we've got a tall, fast guy (Green). He's a good football player. And at the end of the day, we're going to find the best four guys.

      "T.J. is coming on. He's a big, physical guy. The game is starting to slow down for him. Again, the more that you can do, the better off we're going to be."

      --Rookie safety Malik Hooker played fairly well in his NFL debut against Detroit last Sunday. The bad news, however, is that Hooker suffered an unspecified shoulder injury in the game and was held out of practice all week. His status for Saturday's night's second preseason game at Dallas is questionable. Hooker says that he hopes to return to practice next week.

      "I'll be fine," he said after Thursday's workout.

      --Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett returned to practice this week after missing work due to a hamstring issue. Dorsett is battling to be the Colts' No.3 or No. 4 receiver. He is expected to be available to play against Dallas on Saturday night. Dorsett sat out the Detroit game last Sunday.

      --Wide receiver Chester Rogers incurred a hamstring injury in practice last Monday and missed the entire week of practice. While the injury is not considered to be serious, Rogers is not expected to play against the Cowboys Saturday night. He may be cleared to return to practice next week.

      --Rookie running back Marlon Mack returned to practice this week after missing the Detroit game with a shoulder injury. Mack, who has gotten a lot of positive reviews during training camp, is slated to get his first NFL game time Saturday night at Dallas.

      "Yeah, it's great to have him back out there," Pagano said. "We're excited to get him on the football field."

      --Undrafted rookie wide receiver JoJo Natson has become a popular player in the Colts' training camp. Natson handled kickoff return duties in the team's preseason opener with Detroit. The reviews were mostly on the positive side.

      "JoJo is fearless and he's a home-run hitter," head coach Chuck Pagano said of the 5-foot-7, 153-pound Akron product. "Our guys did a nice job blocking for him up front. We were an eyelash away from springing him on a couple (kickoffs). He's an explosive guy.

      "He's a really good receiver and (has) made plays as a receiver. If he continues to progress and pick things up mentally and learn the playbook, he can be a multi-positional guy. Whether we just play him in the slot or he can do something outside and then the special teams value. It's going to give him a heck of a chance to make this football team. He's tougher than damn nails and they can't get a clean hit on him. His nickname is 'The Flea.' You can't touch 'The Flea.'"

  • Texans take care with WR Hopkins
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    HOUSTON -- As star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins continues to watch from the sidelines, the Houston Texans are maintaining a cautious approach with the one-time Pro-Bowl selection as he recovers from a hand injury.

    • Hopkins hasn't practiced since getting dinged up during the Texans' preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers. It's not regarded as serious, but the Texans don't want to take any chances with arguably their most dangerous offensive weapon as they prepare for the season opener Sept. 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

      "I think he's fine," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. "Look, the biggest thing with him is making sure that he feels 100 percent when he practices, making sure that when the season starts he's ready to go.

      "He's proven a lot to this organization over the last few years. He's fine. There's nothing really wrong with him. It's just more 'Hey, let's make sure this guy's ready to go on September 10.'"

      --Tyler Ervin is capable of performing many tasks on a football field, displaying rare versatility. Ervin is listed on the Texans' roster as a running back, but he's much more than that.

      Ervin regularly played wide receiver flexed out as a slot against the Carolina Panthers.

      He's one of the Texans' primary kickoff and punt returners. And the former fourth-round draft pick from San Jose State even lined up as a defensive back in scout-team duties as a rookie.

      "He's doing a good job," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's a smart guy, very versatile guy - special teams, offense. I think he could even play DB in a pinch. Just one of those guys that you really need to have on a pro football team, and he's had a good camp. Big key with him is we just have to continue to keep him healthy."

      As a rookie, Ervin averaged 9.7 yards per punt return and 18.8 yards per kickoff return. He had a long punt return of 57 yards that set up a touchdown during a road win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the highlight of a difficult season. He also forced a fumble against the New England Patriots that led to a touchdown during a playoff loss.

      Any aspirations to play defensive back?

      "That was cool," Ervin said. "I used to play DB in high school. I did that a little bit my freshman year and the scout team last year.

      "It was interesting. I got to put more into my craft if I want to be serious about that. Whatever it is, I try to do it to the best of my ability."

      Ervin dealt with ball security issues as a rookie. He gets plenty of advice from offensive and special teams assistant Wes Welker, a former Pro-Bowl slot receiver and kick returner.

      "Me and Wes, we talk so much," Ervin said. "I'm trying to get every tidbit I can from a guy like that, literally every little facet from him, kick returns, punt returns, wide receiver."

      --Texans tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is heading into the final year of a four-year, $4.172 million rookie contract. Due a $1.797 million base salary this year after triggering an escalator clause in his current deal, Fiedorowicz is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

      A new contract with the Texans or another franchise likely awaits Fiedorowicz after this season. That's not his current focus, though.

      The Texans rewarded tight end Ryan Griffin with a three-year, $9 million contract in March that includes $3.225 million guaranteed.

      "If it comes, it comes," Fiedorowicz said. "I'm going to play out this year. Hopefully based on my play, I get something good."

      --Between the multitude of vowels in his name and his appearance, Texans tackle Breno Giacomini says he's frequently mistaken for being Italian. That happened a ton when Giacomini was plying his trade for the New York Jets. He's even listed in a Sons of Italy blog on NFL players of Italian descent.

      Giacomini, which is pronounced (GEE-ah-co-MEE-knee), is the son of two Brazilian expatriates. His great grandfather was Italian.

      "Everybody else comes from Brazil," Giacomini said. "It's alright. I guess with the name and the looks, that's what people think. It's a good thing.

      "My parents were born and raised in Brazil. I was definitely raised Brazilian. There's a little Italian in me as well."

      Giacomini grew up in the suburbs of Boston in Malden, Mass. He was born in Cambridge and worked at a hot dog and fried dough stand at Fenway Park in high school.

      A basketball player who averaged 21 points per game as a prep senior, Giacomini got more interested in football after he met New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe at the hotel where his father worked.

      Giacomini enjoyed practicing against his hometown team the past two days.

      "Growing up watching the Patriots, it's pretty cool when they come to town," Giacomini said. "It gives you some extra juice to want to beat them. It's definitely fun, but you got to come out and compete."

      --The eye-catching quickness, speed and hands of Texans undrafted rookie wide receiver Riley McCarron has earned him respect from the coaching staff and players.

      It's also notched a nickname for the honorable-mention All-Big Ten Conference selection from Texans head coach Bill O'Brien: "The Iowa Flash."

      A state champion in the 100 meters in high school, McCarron ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds and registered a 40½-inch vertical leap at the Iowa Pro Day after not being invited to the NFL Scouting Ccombine.

      McCarron caught one pass for 18 yards against the Carolina Panthers.

      "He's a good kid," O'Brien said. "He works hard. He's a spitting image of (assistant coach and former NFL wide receiver Wes) Welker, wearing No. 83. He's done a good job. He's a smart kid. He's tough.

      "He's played through injury already, had a bad thumb for a while and played through it. I like a lot of what he does."

  • Miller: Tap the brakes on anointing rookie quarterbacks
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    They couldn't contain themselves in Chicago this week, where the front-page headline following the debut of rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky screamed in capital letters more than an inch high, "THE FUTURE IS WOW!"

    • This followed just a tad more than a half of work by Trubisky in the exhibition opener against a bunch of people wearing Denver Broncos uniforms who will mostly be looking for work in another month.

      Call it premature excitement.

      And it makes you wonder: Why are we always looking for instant saviors in a line of work where history tells us, with few exceptions, it takes time to learn the job?

      Bill Walsh tried to force Joe Montana into the lineup in his second year with the 49ers and had to bench him. John Elway was benched twice as a rookie. Jim Plunkett eventually won two Super Bowls, but did not have a winning record as a starter until his 10th season.

      Brett Favre so exasperated with his first coach that he was traded away. Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions as a rookie. It took five years for Terry Bradshaw to establish himself as a starter. A San Francisco newspaper welcomed Steve Young as a starting quarterback by running a reader poll to ask whether Young or Steve Bono should be the 49ers' QB.

      Kurt Warner, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this month, had a job stocking grocery shelves for $5.50 an hour and might never have played in the NFL if the Rams hadn't become desperate due to an injury to their presumed starter in 1999.

      And on, and on, and on.

      Bradshaw's on-again, off-again early career is a good example of how developing a NFL quarterback takes time. A couple of decades later, Young struggled so mightily with Tampa Bay that executives and coaches around the NFL could hardly stifle a chuckle when Walsh, the 49ers' quarterback guru, traded for him. Young later led the NFL in passer efficiency six years in a row on the way to the Hall of Fame.

      Finding a quarterback, clearly, takes patience.

      Teams are always searching and frequently overpay. Last spring, three teams (Chicago, Houston, Kansas City) traded up in the first round to select a QB. But four of the last eight Super Bowls were won by quarterbacks who were not first-round draft choices.

      In fact, of the four Super Bowls in this recent stretch won by first-rounders, only two - Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers in 2011 and Baltimore with Joe Flacco in 2013 - were won by quarterbacks playing for the team that drafted them.

      And furthermore, only three quarterbacks (Warner, Favre and Ken Stabler) have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the last decade, and none of them was a first-round draft choice.

      Patience, however, is not a virtue for NFL fans nor, in many cases, for NFL journalists. But for every Manning, who started every game beginning with his rookie season and eventually, you may recall, developed into a pretty good quarterback, there is a Phil Simms, whose career foundered for several years, in part due to injuries that set back the learning curve, before he eventually played well enough to set a record for passing accuracy in the Super Bowl.

      Which brings us back to Chicago.

      John Fox, the Bears' head coach, tried to defuse the Trubisky mania by pointing out, "First time we threw Tim Tebow out in Denver was pretty similar." You remember Tebow actually helped the Broncos win a playoff game in 2011. Lasted three seasons in the NFL.

      Several years before that, when the Broncos were coached by a legitimate quarterback guru, Mike Shanahan, they drafted a quarterback named Jay Cutler. Cutler is a modern-day incarnation of a former San Francisco quarterback named Steve DeBerg, of whom Walsh once solemnly intoned, "He plays just good enough to get you beat."

      Early on, one Denver columnist called Cutler "the greatest thing since raspberry jam."

      As it turned out, Cutler played just good enough in Denver to get Shanahan fired, and the next coach traded him to Chicago, which greeted him as a combination of Johnny Unitas and Otto Graham. On his arrival in the Windy City, one columnist wrote, "The Bears now have the best quarterback in the NFC."

      Fast forward to today. Cutler is now expected to be the savior in Miami, he has a .500 record for his NFL career and one playoff appearance in 11 seasons. The irony is that he had the best year of his career when Adam Gase, the current Dolphins' head coach, was his offensive coordinator in Chicago, and, well, connect the dots. A career-long record of mediocrity suggests Cutler is, well, mediocre, but perhaps Gase is a miracle worker who can get to him.

      In any event, Cutler's career, and inversely, the roads traveled by Bradshaw, Young and Simms provide compelling evidence that it's idiotic to fall head over heels for a quarterback after one exhibition game or even one season. But it's a clear sign of how challenged some teams in the league are to find a decent quarterback that it takes so little to get them and their fans excited.

      There have been quarterbacks who were great from the get-go, but you can pretty well count them on one hand. Dan Marino led the AFC in passer rating as a rookie in 1983. More recently, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger led their teams to the playoffs as rookies.

      But if you really want to know why it's stupid to make a rush to judgement on a quarterback, consider the case of Robert Griffin III, the second player chosen in the 2012 draft. He led the Redskins to the playoffs as a rookie, has never has been able to recreate his first-year success and, at age 27, is looking for work after flunking out in that NFL graveyard in Cleveland.

      So, let's contain the first-week excitement, even the first-year excitement, please. Quarterback is the hardest job in professional sports, and you'll usually be disappointed looking for instant success.

      Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than five decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

  • Browns, Canton partner for bid to host NFL draft in 2019 or 2020
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    The Cleveland Browns have partnered with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission to submit a bid to host the NFL draft in either 2019 or 2020.

    • The contingent delivered its application to league headquarters in New York last week.

      The 2019 draft would celebrate the league's 100th season, or its centennial in 2020. The league was formed in Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, on Aug. 20, 1920.

      "Since even before the establishment of the NFL nearly 100 years ago and the legacies of household names like Jim Brown, Paul Brown, Otto Graham and Lou Groza, Northeast Ohio has been rooted in football and NFL history and has been dedicated to developing the sport we love at all levels of competition," Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a release.

      "With the support of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, Cleveland and Canton are the ideal sites for the NFL draft due to our region's unmatched passion and respect for football, as well as our commitment to its future and the next generation of Hall of Fame players."

      Cleveland's competition for the 2019 or 2020 draft includes the Green Bay Packers, who have submitted proposals to host the event in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

      Philadelphia, New York, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Jacksonville and Los Angeles have also reportedly expressed interest in hosting the 2019 NFL draft.

  • Trubisky still has work to do
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky spoke tongue in cheek during his first press conference since the postgame press conference after last week's preseason, opener against Denver.

    • "I don't know what you're talking about," Trubisky said when asked about last week's hype over an 18-for-25 effort for 166 yards and a touchdown.

      Trubisky put more weight on what he heard from family and friends.

      "A couple more people texted me after the game - family congratulating me," Trubisky said. "I think it's just a small step in the right direction. I've still got a lot of work to do.

      "I was pleased with how I played, but plenty more mistakes are going on during practice for me that I need to work on and continue to improve in my game and make sure when I go out there that I'm doing my job to help other people do their job."

      On Saturday, he might show more of what he can do against a blitz in the game against the Cardinals. The Broncos did blitz Trubisky a handful of times and he made them pay twice. However, Arizona lives by the blitz on defense.

      "It's tougher in practice than it was in the last game just because I don't think in the preseason they wanted to throw a lot at us or show a lot per se," Trubisky said. "But in practice, I'm seeing a lot of different blitzes and I think game-planning on a week-to-week basis will help picking up the blitzes and everything.

      "But I'm doing a lot better job with the protection and getting it set, helping out my backs, making sure they're either in protection or I'm getting them out in a route to help in the progression of the play. It's all about getting set and getting the protection. So, I feel like I'm doing a lot better job of that."

      While Trubisky's efforts made for some hysteria in Chicago, as if a long-awaited quarterback savior had finally arrived, it did something else for the Bears' first-round draft pick.

      "I think it just showed me that I'm making progress, that I could go out there and lead and do my job like I wanted to show," Trubisky said. "But it was just a small sample; it was the first game; and you just gotta continue to be consistent in reproducing it. that's why we're out here working and practicing."

      --It's been a long road back for running back Jeremy Langford, and now the Bears' running back situation looks like more of a real roster battle.

      Langford left with an ankle injury after three games last year as the starting running back, returned less than 100 percent, failed to finish, and hadn't been seen on the field for any extent of time again until Wednesday's first practice back at Halas Hall.

      "It's good to be back out there," Langford said. "I count the blessings and it's good to be back out there on the field with my pads on, with my teammates again."

      Langford had appeared ready to play, but suffered his ankle sprain during a walk-through. He had ankle surgery at the end of last season and has been out ever since, leaving it for Jordan Howard to not only become the starter but one of the more highly rated running backs in the league.

      "I guess I kind of was just worried about it too much and slipped and it got caught underneath me and sprained it," Langford said.

      Now he'll compete with Ka'Deem Carey, Benny Cunningham and Tarik Cohen for what likely will be two or three roster spots.

      "It's very competitive," Langford said. "It's no worse than last year, no better than last year, but all of us in there are competing. We got some good players in there, good running backs."

      --Head coach John Fox labeled Kyle Long remorseful after the Pro-Bowl guard was involved in two fights at the final Bourbonnais camp practice Monday (Aug. 14).

      "It was obvious there was some remorse there," Fox said. "He was embarrassed for himself and for the team. Those things happen. Our guys, we've got a bond and he's one of our family and he'll be treated as such, like any kind of thing that happens in a family.

      "Guys adapt and respond and I think everything's fine."

      Long had expressed frustration over being unable to practice at camp due to his recovery from extensive ankle surgery.

      "I think any time a player's injured, they get something that they love taken away from them," Fox said. "There's some pain and suffering that goes along with it and I'm sure those are things. But we have a lot of resources here. Kyle knows he's loved here by his teammates and by everyone in the building.

      "He'll get through it and we talked about that and I think he feels confident in that."

      Long on Wednesday was sent to a doctor for examination of the ankle. At times, the Bears have given him one or two straight days off during camp because of the injury.

      On Monday (Aug. 14), Long had expressed his frustration with watching while he was trying to learn a new guard spot on the left side.

      "Well, I'll tell you, it sucks," Long said. "It sucks when you can't be out there every team rep when you're used to running off the field after a team period with the rest of the (first team) and I'm sitting over there in a hat watching. It sucks.

      "I'm not going to sit here and lie to you. I love the game of football and when it's taken away from you and when you're limited to just practicing against other O-linemen during individual (work), it's tough.

      "So, the more I can get on the field the better off I'll be and I think that will be the way it is until I'm done playing the game."

      --Rookie running back Tarik Cohen is unique with his hands and ability to stop and start in the open field. But he isn't one of a kind. Cohen has a twin brother, Tyrell, who used to play football.

      Tyrell and his young family came to see Tarik at North Carolina A&T after the Bears drafted him and Tyrell issued a challenge after Tarik did an interview.

      "He was like, 'Man, I still think I'm faster than you,'" Cohen recalled.

      Tyrell challenged Tarik to a race.

      "And we just got on the field and took our shoes off, barefoot, just racing down the field," Tarik said. "Oh yeah, I won."

      --The Bears' kicking battle is being billed as Connor Barth-Roberto Aguayo, the fight that should have been. Barth was cut by the Bucs last year three days after they drafted Aguayo in the second round without a camp battle.

      But Aguayo missed 7-of-11 from 40 yards or longer last year and when he struggled in the first preseason game, the Bucs were willing to admit they'd made a mistake by trading up to take a kicker in Round 2.

      Barth has been extremely sharp in practice since Aguayo signed and became his competition for a job.

      "There's two ways you can take it," Barth said. "You can either have a mental breakdown and go into a hole and it's over, or you can step up and, like I've said, my parents have always said, 'Bring on the competition.' And that's what I've always done."

      Barth insisted he had pressure anyway.

      "It doesn't matter if he's here or not," Barth said. "If he wasn't here today, I still need to go out and make my kicks. At the end of the day, you've got to be 85 or 90 percent or better to stay in this league. So, you just have to go out there and make kicks."

  • Colts C Kelly to have foot surgery
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    Center Ryan Kelly is expected to have surgery on his foot and will be sidelined into the regular season, coach Chuck Pagano announced Thursday.

    • Pagano didn't establish a specific time for the return of Kelly, who hasn't practiced since sustaining the injury last week.

      The 24-year-old Kelly started all 16 games during his rookie season after being selected with the 18th overall pick of the 2016 draft.

      Complicating matters for the Colts is the health of backup center Brian Schwenke, who is on the physically unable to perform list with his own foot injury.

      The Colts met with former San Francisco 49ers center Jeremy Zuttah after he was released by the club last week.

  • 49ers' Lynch: Anthem protests 'divisive', but respects players' rights
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch told reporters that while he respects the decisions of NFL players that refuse to stand for the national anthem, he believes it also causes potential disagreements between players.

    • Lynch recalled a recent get-together involving Steve Young and Jerry Rice and how the legends talked about 'The 49er Way' as a means of player unity.

      "I always thought that's one of the great things about this league," Lynch said. "As a matter of fact, I think it's a great beacon for the rest of culture, in terms of the way it should be. You strive for a common goal, and you have unity.

      "And I think this game brings people together. So I think personally when I see that (protests), I think that's divisive. And I understand guys see things and they're not happy. They have that right. And I think we'll always respect people's rights. That doesn't mean I believe that. I believe this game should be celebrated for what it is. I think (it's) a tremendous unifier for our country and for the way things should be."

      The protests came to the forefront last season after then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began sitting during the national anthem prior to preseason games. He later switched to taking a knee before the team's final preseason game and for the rest of the season.

  • Steelers' Harrison on role: 'Whatever they want, I'm good'
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, August 17, 2017

    Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison told reporters that he has no issue playing in what amounts to a relief role this season.

    • Harrison's comment came on the heels of outside linebackers coach Joey Porter telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Steelers Nation Radio this week that the team plans to use rookie T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree as primary pass rushers.

      "I'll be fine, whatever they want me to do," Harrison said on Wednesday. "Whatever they want, I'm good."

      Harrison recorded 5.0 sacks in each of the past two seasons before signing a two-year, $3.5 million contract in March. The new pact is Harrison's second with the Steelers since he held an official retirement press conference in August 2014.

      The 39-year-old Harrison will enter his 15th season in the NFL, all but one with Pittsburgh. The Steelers released him in 2013 when he refused to take a pay cut, and he played that season with the Cincinnati Bengals.

      Harrison started seven of 15 regular-season games played in 2016, accumulating 53 tackles and two forced fumbles. His five regular-season sacks paved the way for him to become the Steelers' all-time sacks leader during the regular season with 79.5. Sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

      Harrison is also tied for the most sacks (11.0), along with LaMarr Woodley, in Steelers' postseason history.

      Harrison originally signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent on April 22, 2002. He has started 117 of 187 games played for Pittsburgh and recorded 81.5 sacks during his time in the NFL.

      Harrison was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 after recording a Steelers-record 16.0 sacks. Harrison earned five consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl (2007-11) and was named All-Pro following three seasons (2007, 2008 and 2010).

      Harrison has played in 19 postseason games (12 starts). He helped the Steelers win three AFC championships and two Super Bowls. Harrison registered the longest interception return in Super Bowl history, a 100-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Where would he play him if Nkemdiche was?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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