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Christie gives measured endorsement to NFL’s decision to play Steelers-Giants game on Sunday

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The late-but-wise decision to cancel the New York City marathon serves only to put more focus on the decision to proceed with Sunday’s game between the Steelers and the Giants.

On Friday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie approved the decision, but his comments to Chris “Mad Dog” Russo contained enough nuance and equivocation to make us wonder whether Christie, if the decision were his, would have gone forward with the game at MetLife Stadium.

“I don’t think there’s going to be much of anything diverted away from us by having the game there,” Christie told Russo.  “The fact is that’s a completely privately owned piece of property now.  There are flushless toilets in the new MetLife Stadium.   This is just not a situation where I think there are going to be a lot of state resources diverted.  And ultimately, my philosophy is I don’t want the government involved in making those decisions unless it is an absolute emergency.  Now, if the East Rutherford area looked like Mantoloking?  Whole different story.  But you don’t have that kind of destruction up there.  You do have people without power but they have their own power system up there.  But the fact is I don’t think there is a lot being diverted.  If the NFL feels comfortable playing under those circumstances, that’s the NFL’s call as long as they are not impeding me from being able to help the state back to recovery.  And I don’t think those three hours are going to hurt the state’s progress towards recovery.”

Christie’s position was reinforced by the fact that East Rutherford, the location of the stadium, should have full power by Sunday.  “The fact is that if it came to a point where I felt like there was anything that was impeding our recovery, I know [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell well enough, we’ve spoken twice already this week, I would pick up the phone and call Roger and say, ‘Roger, listen, you’ve got to move it to Pittsburgh.  We just can’t do it.’  I don’t believe that’s the case and as long as it is not the case then I don’t want to get involved in Roger Goodell’s business.  He gets paid a lot more money than I do so I’m not going to get involved in his business.”

While Christie was clear that the game won’t impact the recovery effort, phrases like “that’s a completely privately owned piece of property” and “I don’t want the government involved in making those decisions” and “if the NFL feels comfortable playing under those circumstances” and “I don’t want to get involved in Roger Goodell’s business” suggests that, if it were Christie’s business, he would have moved the game or rescheduled it.

Apart from impeding the recovery efforts, the question becomes whether folks who have paid for their tickets will be able to go.  And whether they will want to go.  And whether proceeding with the game so soon after the state suffered one of the most devastating blows in its history shows the proper respect and deference to the situation.

A full 49 Novembers ago, Commissioner Pete Rozelle made a decision to proceed with NFL games in the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy.  In hindsight, it was the wrong decision.  Hindsight could lead to that same conclusion here.

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Jaguars stick to their guns, name Chad Henne starter for Week 1

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The Jacksonville Jaguars swore that Chad Henne would be their starting quarterback this season even after drafting Blake Bortles with the No.3 overall pick in the draft.

They gave no indication they were willing to deviate from that plan despite Bortles’ strong play during the preseason. After Friday night’s 13-12 loss to the Detroit Lions, they once again announced their intention to stick to the plan.

Chad Henne will start the Jaguars season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 7.

Bortles was 10-of-16 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown Friday night against the Lions. That pushes his preseason totals to 28-of-44 for 435 yards and a touchdown, or a passer rating of 103.9.

Nevertheless, head coach Gus Bradley said after the game that Henne will start the opener, per Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Henne was 9-of-14 passing for 70 yards against the Lions. For the preseason, Henne is 25-of-38 for 230 yards and one touchdown, good for a 90.9 passer rating.

The Jaguars had committed to Henne playing all season with Bortles being a spectator from the bench. But with Bortles’ performances this preseason, there will be a loud contingent wanting to turn to the rookie if Henne struggles out of the gate this year.

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Seahawks offense rolling again in building 21-0 lead over Bears

Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson AP

The Seattle Seahawks first-team offense scored on each of their first four possession in building a 24-0 lead last week against the San Diego Chargers.

The offense hasn’t slowed down at all this week against the Chicago Bears either.

Seattle scored touchdowns on each of their first two possessions in the first quarter of Friday night’s preseason game against the Bears.

Marshawn Lynch carries three times for 16 yards on the opening drive and scored a 7-yard touchdown to give Seattle a 7-0 lead. The one drive was all Seattle needed to see from their starting workhorse back as he took to the bench after the opening series.

Russell Wilson then led Seattle on a 14-play, 89-yard scoring drive with Wilson scrambling for a 7-yard score to give the Seahawks a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.

The Seahawks scored again on their third possession of the game. Wilson connected with Jermaine Kearse for a 12-yard touchdown to cap an 11-play, 83-yard drive to give the Seahawks a 21-0 lead.

Seattle has now scored on seven straight possessions with their first-team offense dating back to last week’s game against the Chargers. Six of those possessions have ended with touchdowns.

The Seahawks defense is still expected to be one of the league’s top units. If Seattle’s offense can play like this during the regular season too, they could be a nightmare for the rest of the league.

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Bucs’ position on Evans “unchanged” in light of TMZ video

Evans AP

In the wake of a video that surfaced Friday on TMZ involving Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans, the team that made him the seventh overall pick in the draft has reiterated its faith in and commitment to Evans.

“During his time here since we drafted him in May, Mike has met all of our expectations both on and off the football field,” coach Lovie Smith said in a statement issued Friday night.  “After speaking with Mike, our feelings about him remain unchanged.  We expect him to be an important member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for many years to come and we consider this matter closed.”

While TMZ contends the events occurred last Saturday night, Evans claims it happened several months earlier.

“The incident in question happened during spring break in March while I was vacationing with friends in Miami,” Evans said in a statement.  “The issue occurred at the end of the night when someone in my party was approached by a member of the security staff.  The situation escalated very quickly from there, but fortunately no one was injured.  I regret that this incident that happened nearly six months ago has become a distraction to my team and I look forward to continuing to prepare for the start of my rookie season with the Buccaneers.”

No arrests were made or charges filed.  Given that the incident, which included Evans eventually taking a swing at a bouncer, happened before Evans became an NFL employee, it’s less likely that he’ll face scrutiny under the personal-conduct policy.

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Blake Bortles is making it very difficult for Jaguars to sit him

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The Jaguars have said, affirmed, insisted that Blake Bortles was going to sit and watch Chad Henne play this year.

Bortles keeps making it more and more difficult to justify that decision.

The No. 3 overall pick continued to put up solid numbers in the preseason, and looking more and more like the guy the Jaguars can build around now instead of later.

Bortles was 10-of-16 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown Friday night against the Lions. That pushes his preseason totals to 28-of-44 for 435 yards and a touchdown, or a passer rating of 103.9.

Granted, some of those numbers were inflated by playing against deep reserves. But Bortles has looked composed and calm in all three appearances.

As the Jaguars build to the future, they were hoping to use this year to develop Bortles as a passer, and let him take over when the team as a whole was better able to contend.

But with every passing week, it looks like he’s the guy to help them take that step.

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Sio Moore gives thumbs-up as he’s stretchered off field

Nick Roach, Sio Moore AP

The most frightening-looking injury of the night happened in Green Bay, with Raiders linebacker Sio Moore taken off the field on a stretcher.

According to Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com, Moore gave a thumbs-up as he left the field after a scary few moments.

Moore won’t return to the game, but there has been no further word on his condition.

He was hit in the back of the neck by Packers fullback John Kuhn, and was face-down on the turf for several minutes.

Trainers took his facemask off his helmet and strapped him to a backboard before he was taken off.

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Maybe it’s the preseason, but see how they run

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Perhaps coaches just want to keep the clocks rolling in the preseason.

But there have been a number of outstanding rushing performances tonight, or at least enough to make you think the art of handing off to the guy behind the quarterback isn’t dead.

The best of the bunch was an 86-yarder by Lions veteran Reggie Bush. He took one good block from Eric Ebron and took it to the house against the Jaguars, showing the kind of burst that will get him plenty of looks in a high-powered passing game as well.

The surprise might have been Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew’s 40-yard touchdown, as he showed a bit of popped he lacked in Jacksonville last year. He looks to be in condition, which didn’t always seem to be the case last year.

The Jets also showed the ability to pound the ball, with Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory each popping long runs (18 and 17 yards), combining for 62 yards on 11 carries.

On the other sideline, Giants running back Rashad Jennings had 67 yards on 13 carries in the first half.

So while all the attention this preseason has been on the emphasis on certain rules to free up the passing game, old man football can still work from time to time.

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Giants guard Geoff Schwartz carted off with dislocated toe

Geoff Schwartz AP

The Giants made an early push in free agency to land guard Geoff Schwartz from Kansas City, but he wasn’t able to make it through the preseason without being carted off the field.

Schwartz left the game in the first half, and Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reports that he suffered a dislocated toe. Trainers were working on his right foot, and he couldn’t put any weight on it before he was loaded onto the cart.

A powerful run blocker, Schwartz would be a tough loss if he’s out a significant amount of time.

And the way the Giants are playing on offense (despite a touchdown just before halftime), it’s a loss they can ill afford.

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Ndamukong Suh seems to be in midseason form

Ndamukong Suh AP

It looks like Ndamukong Suh will be making a preseason donation to The Human Fund.

The Lions defensive tackle was already flagged for a late hit on Chad Henne, which was fairly egregious.

SB Nation has a good look at it, as Suh takes a good two steps after Henne has thrown the ball before drilling him in the chest.

So perhaps Troy Vincent’s talk with him might not have been as productive as Vincent thought.

Suh is one of the league’s best players, but too often, finds the spotlight for unnecessary hits like this one that take the spotlight away from his talent.

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Jason Pierre-Paul, Sheldon Richardson dodge injury bullets

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The second big-name defensive player has already left the Giants-Jets game, and it appears both sides can breathe a sigh of relief.

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul left the game, and though he walked off the field under his own power, was having his right knee checked by a fleet of trainers and doctors.

Injuries have kept Pierre-Paul from following up on the 16.5 sacks he posted in 2011, and he has vowed to come back better than ever.

He was able to return to the game, though it’s worth monitoring.

The Jets were at least able to breathe a sigh of relief, as defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson returned to the game after leaving the field with trainers earlier.

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Short night for Tom Brady, as Ryan Mallett works with ones

Ryan Mallett AP

Maybe the Patriots are still trying to polish him up for a trade, or maybe they want to see how he reacts against a good defense.

But the Patriots put quarterback Ryan Mallett in with the starters in the middle of the first quarter, replacing Tom Brady. He led them to a field goal drive and an early 3-0 lead over the Panthers.

Mallett’s currently competing with Jimmy Garropolo for the backup job, and as the Patriots have carried two quarterbacks in recent seasons, it’s natural to wonder whether they’re willing to keep both.

Brady worked a couple of series and completed 4-of-6 passes, but he also went down after being stepped on by his center, so the Patriots might just be seeing how Mallett reacts to a possible relief situation.

UPDATE 8:30 p.m. ET: Brady returned to the game on the next series, and hit Shane Vereen for a 40-yard touchdown pass, so he’s OK.

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Sheldon Richardson heads to locker room with trainers

Jets Falcons Football AP

The early stages of the Snoopy Bowl hasn’t featured much offense, but one of the better defensive players in the league has already left the field.

Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson left the field immediately after a play, holding his face.

It’s unclear if he was poked in the eye or otherwise injured, but he was quickly taken to the locker room with trainers. He returned to the sidelines moments later, however.

Otherwise, there hasn’t been much to see in this one, as the two offenses continue to do what they’ve been doing lately.

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High school games at Levi’s Stadium scrapped over grass issues

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A high school doubleheader originally scheduled for next Friday night at Levi’s Stadium has been scrapped because of problems with the grass at the 49ers’ new stadium.

Just weeks after the new stadium opened, the sod already has to be replaced on the 49ers’ home field, and as a result of that replacement the field won’t be available for the two previously scheduled high school games next week.

Jesuit High School of Sacramento was supposed to square off against Concord De La Salle in one of the two games, but now those two schools are scrambling to determine where else they can play.

Yeah, we’re disappointed,” Jesuit athletic director Chris Fahey told the Sacramento Bee. “The kids are really disappointed, but it happens and we’ll deal with it. And we need to get over it quickly because we’re still playing a great team. It’s no one’s fault what happened. It’s like a natural disaster – sod.”

The 49ers have announced that the four schools that were expected to play next Friday will all get to use Levi’s Stadium for their home games the weekend of October 10-11 instead.

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Report: M.I.A., NFL settle middle finger dispute

Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show Getty Images

On a day in which we learned Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel was reportedly fined $12,000 for showing his middle finger toward the Washington bench on Monday night, we also learned the NFL and rapper M.I.A. have settled their dispute over the performer’s middle finger display in Super Bowl XLVI.

The Associated Press reported Friday that the two sides have struck a confidential settlement in arbitration over the matter. The NFL had been seeking as much as $16.6 million for the incident, which occurred during the annual Super Bowl halftime show in 2012.

The NFL first filed a claim for breach of contract against M.I.A., whose given name is Mathangi Arulpragasam, in 2012, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

But since it’s a confidential settlement . . . well, we may never know if, indeed, everyone’s a winner in this case.

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Harbaugh doesn’t know whether Smith ruling will come before Week One

Harbaugh AP

As the Browns wait for a decision the appeal of receiver Josh Gordon’s suspension, the 49ers wait for an initial decision regarding the suspension of linebacker Aldon Smith.  Which would then be followed by a possible appeal.

The NFL has a habit of getting these things wrapped up before the start of the regular season.  But that doesn’t mean 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh expects it.  Here’s the excerpt from a Friday press conference, with the rarely-loquacious Harbaugh talking reluctantly about Smith’s status.

Q: Have you gotten any indication that Aldon Smith’s decision would come down very soon? I mean, you’re coming up on regular season now. Has the NFL indicated to you guys that there will be a decision imminently on what his suspension may or may not be?

A: “I have not gotten any indication.”

Q: Are you sure?

A: “I’m sure I haven’t gotten any indication, yes.”

Q: No, that was another question, I’m sorry. I’ve got a follow up.

A: “Follow up.”

Q: Is it going to happen before the regular season starts?

A: “I don’t know.”

Q: Wow. Shouldn’t you?

A: “I haven’t had any indication, so, I don’t know. . . . My crystal ball, I don’t have it.”

It should be safe to assume that a decision of some sort will be made soon. But with the NFL seemingly dragging its feet on multiple fronts and with only two Fridays left for bad-news dumping, maybe Harbaugh has a point.

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Blaine Gabbert will relieve Colin Kaepernick on Sunday

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When starter Colin Kaepernick departs Sunday’s preseason game vs. San Diego, Blaine Gabbert will have another chance to prove he’s got what it takes to hold the 49ers’ backup QB job this season.

Coach Jim Harbaugh indicated Friday that Gabbert, the Jaguars’ former starting quarterback, would be first up in relief of Kaepernick in Sunday’s exhibition vs. San Diego, according to a team-issued transcript of his remarks to reporters.

Gabbert has had a tough preseason, completing 11-of-25 passes for 60 yards with two picks and compiling a 17.9 percent QB rating.

However, he’s still the club’s top backup, Harbaugh indicated.

“I think Blaine is that guy right now,” Harbaugh said.

Josh Johnson and McLeod Bethel-Thompson are the 49ers’ other reserves at quarterback. With Kaepernick expected to get more reps than at any other point of the preseason, it’s unclear how much work there will be for Gabbert, Johnson and Bethel-Thompson.

This is much is certain: improved play from Gabbert would be a nice way for him to enter the preseason finale at Houston on Thursday.

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