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Rodgers-Cromartie will soon be hearing from the league

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie AP

During the first quarter of Thursday night’s game between the Steelers and Eagles, Philadelphia cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie launched at Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich, hitting Leftwich in the head after Leftwich had thrown the ball.

Rodgers-Cromartie correctly was flagged for unnecessary roughness.

He soon will correctly be fined.

The launching made the outcome more flagrant than the run-of-the-mill helmet-to-helmet hit on defenseless players.  In fact, it could have justified an ejection.

If the league is serious about removing such dangerous blows from the game, it arguably merits a one-game suspension.

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The Nick Foles era begins

Philadelphia Eagles Minicamp Getty Images

The contract Mike Vick signed in 2011 operates, as a practical matter, as a two-year deal with with a year-to-year team option on the remainder.  And if Vick doesn’t have a big year in 2012, the Eagles could have an intriguing option come 2013.

Rookie Nick Foles has looked great so far in his debut with the Eagles, completing six of eight passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

The first one went for 70 yards, after Foles stepped up in the pocket, rolled to his right, and threw back across his body to Demaris Johnson, who was wide open.

The second was caught by Mardy Gilyard, a 44-yarder hauled in near the goal line.  The call on the field accurately was overturned by the replacement officials, giving Foles his second touchdown pass in the third quarter.

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Patriots’ Dane Fletcher suffers torn ACL

Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots Getty Images

The season has ended as soon as it started for Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher.

Fletcher left tonight’s preseason game against the Saints with a knee injury early in the first quarter, and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the injury is a torn ACL. He suffered the injury while running down the field covering a punt and was helped off the field by the medical staff.

After signing with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2010, Fletcher has become a solid backup linebacker and special teams player. He started tonight’s game at inside linebacker in place of Brandon Spikes.

After Fletcher left, rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower moved to the inside and Bobby Carpenter replaced Hightower at strong side linebacker.

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ESPN’s explanation regarding absence of Division I officials misses the mark

Craig Ochoa, Tim Morris, Esteban Garza, Rusty Spindel AP

The replacement officials have gotten plenty of attention on Thursday night, in part because they have made more than a few mistakes.

In the first half of the nationally-televised Packers-Chargers game, ESPN’s Mike Tirico explained that officials from Division I conferences aren’t available because it’s not feasible for them to moonlight, given that they work on Saturdays, the day on which NFL officials typically are preparing for Sundays.

But that wasn’t an impediment 11 years ago, when the NFL used Division I officials during the last lockout of game officials.

The explanation from ESPN creates the impression that the NFL affirmatively chose not to use Division I officials.  The more accurate explanation is that the Division I conferences refused to allow moonlighting in 2012.

That’s why the NFL doesn’t have access to top college officials this time around.  And that’s why the replacement officials come from the third tier and lower.

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Melvin Ingram makes mark

Melvin Ingram AP

The first quarter of the Packers-Chargers game featured five turnovers.  One was an interception resulting from intense pressure applied on quarterback Aaron Rodgers by rookie linebacker Melvin Ingram.

Ingram, the 18th overall pick in the draft, also applied a fairly solid hit to Rodgers on what turned out to be the reigning league MVP’s final play of the game.

The good news (if there is any) for the Packers is that Ingram wasn’t beating the starting left tackle, Marshall Newhouse, but reserve Herb Taylor.

Rodgers completed only two of eight passes for 16 yards.  In addition to the interception, Rodgers lost a fumble.

Jets fans will be paying close attention to the early portion of Ingram’s career.  With Ingram on the board when the Jets used the 16th overall pick, New York took linebacker Quinton Coples instead.

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Peyton Manning’s arm looks fine

Peyton Manning AP

Peyton Manning has taken his first snaps as the Denver Broncos’ quarterback, and his arm looks fine.

Manning didn’t throw any deep passes in his first drive of the preseason Thursday night at Soldier Field in Chicago, but he threw well enough to drive the Broncos down the field before the drive ended when a pass over the middle was deflected and intercepted.

Manning’s first pass was a short one to tight end Jacob Tamme, his old Colts teammate, and it was a good pass right on the money — but Bears linebacker Lance Briggs did a great job in coverage of sticking his hand in and knocking the ball away. Manning’s second pass was a bad one that should have been intercepted — it bounced off the hands of Bears defensive end Geno Hayes — but on the deflection it went into the hands of Tamme for a first down.

After that, Manning threw some solid passes to Eric Decker. One came after the Broncos’ line gave Manning plenty of time to go through his progressions, eventually allowing him to find Decker along the sideline for a first down. Another went over the middle to Decker for 19 yards on third-and-17.

The drive-ending interception was a little behind the intended receiver, Brandon Stokley, although Stokley did get a hand on it before it was tipped into the air by Chicago’s D.J. Moore and picked off by Major Wright.

Manning’s one and only drive of the night doesn’t tell us a whole lot — he never really aired it out on a deep ball, and he didn’t take any hard hits — but the Broncos have to be satisfied with the way his arm looks.

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Vick exits with hand injury

Michael Vick AP

During 30 minutes or so when the switch on the Pittsburgh CBS affiliate had been flipped by the good folks at Time Warner from Steelers-Eagles to infomercials, I missed a fairly important play.

Eagles quarterback Mike Vick, who has vowed to do everything he can to stay healthy this season, banged his throwing hand off a helmet after throwing a pass early in the second quarter.

Vick left the game at that point, capping a pair of three-and-out drives.

UPDATE 9:26 p.m. ET:  The Eagles have announced that X-rays on Vick’s left thumb were negative.

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More injuries for Steelers

Mike Adams AP

It’s been a rough night for far for the new-look Steelers offense.

Along with fullback/tight end David Johnson, the Steelers also have lost rookie tackle Mike Adams and rookie running back Chris Rainey to injury.

Adams (pictured) quietly exited during the middle of a drive with a knee injury.  Rainey was laying on the ground but seems to be fine as he walks on the sideline.

The Steelers lead 13-0.

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Packers lose Desmond Bishop to knee injury

Packers Camp Football AP

The top priority for any team in the preseason is to keep as many players as possible healthy.

For the Packers, the preseason has begun with linebacker Desmond Bishop being helped off the field with a right leg injury.

It appears that Chargers running back Ronnie Brown landed on the top of Bishop’s lower leg as it was extended.  ESPN’s Lisa Salters reports that trainers were working on Bishop’s right knee.

Bishop joins a long list of Packers who have been wounded since camp opened.

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Brian Urlacher out, Bears say he “needs some rest right now”

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher will not play in tonight’s preseason opener against the Broncos, and the team isn’t explaining exactly why.

Urlacher sat out practice last week because of soreness in his knee, and then didn’t attend practice at all early this week because, Bears coach Lovie Smith said, he had “personal reasons.” Then the Bears revealed tonight that Urlacher will miss the preseason game, but General Manager Phil Emery didn’t clarify things very much in an interview on the Chicago radio station that carries the Bears’ games.

Brian is doing well,” Emery said, via “We treat each and every injury on an individual basis. He’s a guy who needs some rest right now. We’re going to provide him with that. Practice right now is not in his best interest or the best interest of the Chicago Bears.”

Urlacher suffered a sprained MCL and PCL in the Bears’ last regular-season game, and if he’s experiencing soreness in the knee it’s easy to see why the Bears would hold him out. But there’s no word on what his “personal reasons” are for not being with the team at all. The specifics of Urlacher’s situation remain a mystery.

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Nick Perry draws 15-yard penalty for flexing

Terrell Manning AP

On Sunday night, the NFL’s replacement officials were criticized for pushing their flags deep in their pockets.  On Thursday night, referee Donovan Briggans started things off in San Diego with an itchy trigger finger.

Briggans threw a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on Packers linebacker Nick Perry, who simply flexed his muscles briefly after a sack.  He didn’t do it in the face of a Chargers player or with, say, the middle fingers of his hands extended.

For those of you who will be quick to point out that the locked-out officials make plenty of mistakes, too, the point is that with the NFL using third-tier officials (at best) during the work stoppage, it’s important to be shining a light on mistakes that could alter the outcome of games once the regular season begins.

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Brady’s limited preseason action includes a hard hit from Will Smith

Tom+Brady+Tom+Brady+Football+Challenge+Best+OBA5-NTi0_ol Getty Images

The Patriots generally don’t play Tom Brady much in the preseason, and they were reminded why that’s probably a good idea on Thursday night.

Brady was blindsided and took a hard hit from Saints defensive end Will Smith, jarring the ball loose for a fumble the Saints recovered, and making every Patriots fan watching hold his breath for an instant. Fortunately, Brady popped up, jogged off the field and returned for the Patriots’ next offensive series.

The Patriots’ offense didn’t do much in a couple of series with Brady at the helm. The first drive ended with Brady’s fumble and the second drive ended with a punt, after a holding penalty negated a nice pass from Brady to Brandon Lloyd. (The Patriots’ sideline wasn’t happy with the replacement officials who called the hold on Nate Solder.)

Saints quarterback Drew Brees also played two series and didn’t do much, either, completing one of four passes for four yards. The Saints kicked a field goal after getting good field position from Brady’s fumble, and that was the only score with the starters in the game.

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Steelers lose David Johnson to leg injury

David Johnson AP

The injury bug already has bitten the Steelers, on the first drive of their first preseason game.

Tight end/fullback David Johnson, who was the star of the team’s intra-squad scrimmage, was helped off the field after tackle Marcus Gilbert fell backward and landed on Jonson’s lower leg.  He exited the playing area via a cart.

The injury came at the end of a 16-play, 52-yard effort in which quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed seven of eight passes for 49 yard.  A 46-yard Shaun Suisham field goal gave the Steelers a 3-0 lead over the Eagles.

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Julio Jones takes charge in Atlanta

Falcons Training Camp Football AP

The Atlanta Falcons got their preseason off to a solid start with a touchdown drive against the Ravens’ first-team defense.

And Julio Jones made it happen, almost single-handedly.

Four of quarterback Matt Ryan’s fives passes (all completions) went to Jones, who generated 58 yards and a seven-yard score on an underthrown fade route.  Jones reached around his defender and hauled in the ball.

The touchdown capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive.

Yeah, it’s the preseason.  But so far Julio Jones is delivering — in a big way — on his huge expectations for 2012.

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Robert Griffin III leads a touchdown drive in Buffalo

Washington Redskins' Griffin III talks to reporters after a rookie minicamp in Ashburn Reuters

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III took the field for his preseason debut in Buffalo on Thursday night and looked like a poised and polished passer, to the extent that such things can be determined based on limited action in an exhibition game.

On an eight-play, 80-yard drive in the first quarter, Griffin seemed to be in control of the Redskins’ offense, and that drive concluded the way the Redskins are hoping a lot of drives will conclude this season: With Griffin hitting receiver Pierre Garcon on a touchdown pass. The Bills brought pressure on the play, and Griffin dumped off a screen pass to Garcon, who raced toward the end zone and did a flip across the goal line.

The touchdown came on the Redskins’ third offensive drive, after two previous drives stalled. Griffin handed off on the Redskins’ first two offensive plays, then was faced with a third-and-long on which he took a shotgun snap and threw a pass right into Garcon’s hands. Garcon appeared to catch it for a first down, but the official ruled that Garcon failed to get both feet down inbounds, and the Redskins had to punt. The Redskins’ second offensive drive ended when Griffin and Evan Royster had a fumbled exchange on a handoff.

Griffin threw a couple of solid passes to Garcon over the middle on that touchdown drive, and he also connected with Leonard Hankerson for a 12-yard gain. Those three drives were all we’ll see of Griffin tonight; Rex Grossman replaced him after the touchdown drive. Griffin finished the night 4-of-6 for 70 yards and a touchdown. Early on, Griffin looks good.

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