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NFL says attendance is up and blackouts are down

Chiefs Buccaneers Football AP

For the third straight week, every NFL game will be shown on local television. The NFL is crowing about that.

The league put out a statement on Friday noting that attendance is up and blackouts are down compared to last season, through nine weeks of the season.

Out of 132 games this year, only four have been blacked out: Week One in Tampa Bay, Week Four in Tampa Bay, Week Five in Tampa Bay and Week Three in San Diego. Last year the NFL had 130 games in the first nine weeks, and seven of them were blacked out.

The NFL also said that paid attendance through eight weeks is up about 1,000 a game, at 65,610 this year compared to 64,609 in 2011.

There are, however, a few caveats. For starters, blackouts are down in part because the NFL changed the rules this year to make it easier for teams to get blackouts lifted in their home markets. And this early in the season, when some teams have already played five home games and other teams have only played three, it’s possible that an attendance increase could just be a statistical quirk related to teams with bigger stadiums having had more home games.

It’s also entirely possible that we’ll see an uptick in blackouts over the second half of the season. In addition to more blackouts in San Diego and Tampa, we could easily see blackouts over the second half of the season in places like Oakland, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Jacksonville.

Still, after the NFL had seen a steady decline in attendance over the last few years, the numbers released today have to be seen as good news for the league, which is continuing to do phenomenal TV ratings, and not doing too shabby at the box office.

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Gary Kubiak declines to address Mark Sanchez’s status

Denver Broncos quarterback Mark Sanchez takes part in drills during the team's NFL football practice at the Broncos' headquarters on Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) AP

With rosters cut to 75 and one preseason game left to be played, Broncos quarterback Mark Sanchez still has a job in Denver. Whether he will when the rosters move to 53 on Saturday remains to be seen.

“I’m not going to go into that,” coach Gary Kubiak said when asked about Sanchez’s status by reporters on Tuesday. “We have to put our team together by Friday, Saturday basically for us. You never know what’s going to happen. Like I’ve said, Mark has done a great job. We can count on him. He’s preparing. He’s been great as a person and a teammate. That’s all you can ask. We’ll see.”

Kubiak needs Sanchez to play in the preseason finale, since starter Trevor Siemian will be kept out of harm’s way. Kubiak said the goal is to give first-rounder Paxton Lynch 60 to 70 snaps before putting Sanchez in the game late.

The risk for the Broncos is obvious. If Sanchez suffers a serious injury, the Broncos will be on the hook for the full amount of his $4.5 million salary.

The Broncos have been shopping Sanchez. They reportedly spoke to the Cowboys, who balked at absorbing all of Sanchez’s salary. With Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater likely out for the season, the Broncos possibly will be able to trade Sanchez to Minnesota.

For his part, Sanchez doesn’t want to leave.

“I want to be here,” Sanchez told reporters. “I love being here. I’ve gotten to know these guys and embrace this community. I’ve had a great time here. Who knows about anything on the outside? I’m focused on getting ready for Carolina. All of that stuff, whether it’s contract stuff — I’ve been hit up a lot with questions about contract or trades and there is a business side to this, but I’m just focused on playing. That’s why you hire an agent. They handle all of that stuff and they’ll let me know.”

Sanchez said he is using “Jedi mind tricks” to block out the noise about his status.

“I don’t need that affecting how I prepare and affecting any kind of decisions you make on the field and affect any way that you can help this team,” Sanchez said. “I don’t need to be thinking about, ‘Well man, should I be here? Should I work out hard? Should I try? I have to be here. I have to be in the moment and I have to be focused. I think that’s fair to the other players. If things don’t work out the way that you want, you can’t just act like a crybaby and cause a problem. That’s not right. I just don’t think that’s the professional way to do it, so I’ll help Trevor [Siemian] in any way that I can. It’s a good thing he’s a likable guy. It could be a lot worse, so it’s good.”

It’s not good overall for Sanchez, who carried the No. 1 job through the offseason and into training camp and the preseason. He may have to take less money to stay, and there’s a chance the Broncos will cut him in order to avoid owing the Eagles a seventh-round pick and re-sign him after Week One.

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Bucs put Sweezy, Murphy on reserve/PUP

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 23:  Receiver Louis Murphy #18 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (L) grabs safety Chris Conte #47 of the Chicago Bears by the task mask as he runs after a catch during the NFL game on November 23, 2014 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Buccaneers 21-13. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images) Getty Images

As expected, the Buccaneers placed wide receiver Louis Murphy and offensive lineman J.R. Sweezy on the reserve/physically unable to perform list Tuesday.

Sweezy, who signed a five-year deal with the Bucs last March, is recovering from back surgery. Murphy is still recovering from a torn ACL that ended his season last October.

The earliest Sweezy and Murphy can return to game action is Week Six.

The Bucs also brought back linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Kimario McFadden two days after waiving them.

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Rodney Harrison apologizes for Colin Kaepernick comment

2717219 Getty Images

Plenty of people have been saying plenty of things about 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in recent days. Some of those things have been smart, and some of them haven’t been smart.

NBC’s Rodney Harrison has become one of the few who said something not smart about Kaepernick to admit it.

Harrison appeared on SportsTalk 790 in Houston on Tuesday. In addressing the Kaepernick situation, Harrison suggested that Kaepernick isn’t black.

“I tell you this, I’m a black man,” Harrison said, via Deadspin. “And Colin Kaepernick, he’s not black. He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on a every single [day] basis. When you walk in a grocery store . . . and you might have $2,000 or $3,000 in your pocket and you go up into a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you about to steal something. . . . I’m not saying that he has to be black. I said his heart is in the right place, but even with what he’s doing, he still doesn’t understand the injustices that we face as a black man or people of color, that’s what I’m saying.”

Harrison later addressed the situation on Twitter, with an apology to Kaepernick.

“I should not have called Colin Kaepernick’s race into question during this morning’s radio interview,” Harrison said. “It was a mistake and I apologize. . . . I never even knew he was mixed [race]. . . . I never intended to offend anyone, I was trying to speak about my experiences as a African-American.”

Kudos to Rodney for admitting his mistake and apologizing for it. It’s a good example of how to handle the situations that inevitably arise for people who talk on a regular basis for a living, and who are committed to sharing their beliefs on any topic about which they are asked.

Sometimes, those beliefs are based on an inaccurate understanding of the facts. When that happens, quickly acknowledging the error and owning it is the best way to go.

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Texans announce several cuts, roster designations

HOUSTON - JULY 22:  Detail of the helmet of the Houston Texans on the practice field during training camp on July 22, 2002 at Reliant Park in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans announced a number of roster moves Tuesday afternoon as they trimmed their roster to the NFL-mandated size of 75.

Safety Lonnie Ballentine was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, meaning he’ll miss at least the first six games of the season.

Three players were placed on the team’s injured-reserve list: Rookie center Nick Martin, safety Kurtis Drummond and rookie kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn. That leaves Nick Novak as the only kicker on the roster.

The Texans also waived defensive tackle Ra’Zahn Howard; wide receivers Tevin Jones and Josh Lenz; linebackers Ryan Langford and Carlos Thompson and offensive tackles Matt Pierson and Arturo Uzdavinis. Cornerback Duke Thomas and linebacker Gerald Rivers were waived-injured.

The Texans also waived defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan with an injury settlement.

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Bowles says Jets may keep four quarterbacks

File - In this May 6, 2016, file photo, New York Jets second-round draft pick Christian Hackenberg throws a pass during NFL football rookie minicamp in Florham Park, N.J. Hackenberg currently sits fourth on the Jets' depth chart, behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File) AP

Who will be the odd man out in the Jets’ quarterback competition? Maybe no one.

Jets coach Todd Bowles said today that there’s still a chance that Ryan Fitzpatrick, Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty and Geno Smith will all make the 53-man roster.

“All four are good football players. We can keep all four. It’s just a matter of battling with the other positions, so that’s still up for grabs and we’ll have to wait until after this game to see how that plays out,” Bowles said.

Fitzpatrick and Smith will both be inactive for Thursday night’s preseason finale. Bowles said Hackenberg and Petty will get approximately equal playing time.

With Fitzpatrick set as the starter and Hackenberg guaranteed a roster spot by virtue of being a second-round draft pick, the only question is whether Smith or Petty will be sent packing before the season starts. The Jets are open to a trade, but they’re also open to using four of their 53 roster spots on quarterbacks.

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Dion Lewis, Sebastian Vollmer to start year on PUP list

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 8: Dion Lewis #33 of the New England Patriots leaves the field after an injury during a game with the Washington Redskins in the second half at Gillette Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

A report earlier this month raised the possibility that Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer would be placed on injured reserve because of hip and shoulder issues, which would rule him out for the season if the move came before the cut to 53 players.

Vollmer didn’t make it to the 53-man roster, but he’s not on injured reserve either. The Patriots have placed Vollmer on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which means he’s ineligible to play or practice for the first six weeks of the year. He may not return at that point or at any other juncture in the season, but Tuesday’s move leaves the door open for a return should Vollmer’s prognosis improve.

He’ll be joined on the PUP list by running back Dion Lewis. Lewis recently had a second knee surgery after tearing his ACL last November, so the move is not a surprising one. He’ll also be eligible to return in Week Seven and the Patriots have a bye in Week Nine that could work as a moment to work Lewis back into the backfield mix.

Guard Tre Jackson was also placed on reserve/PUP this week, leaving wide receiver Danny Amendola as the only player on the preseason version of the list. If he’s going to be in the lineup in the first six weeks, the Pats will have to activate him before Saturday’s deadline to reach 53 players.

Linebacker Ramon Humber, tackle Keavon Milton and tight end Steven Scheu were all cut in other moves that brought the roster to 75 players.

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Bears claim K’Waun Williams, await results of his physical

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 13: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert #2 of the San Francisco 49ers is sacked by outside linebacker Armonty Bryant #95 and free safety K'Waun Williams #36 of the Cleveland Browns during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the 49ers 24-10. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears claimed cornerback K’Waun Williams Tuesday, a day after Williams was waived by the Browns.

Williams had been suspended by the Browns for violating team rules in a spat over his health and availability to play. The Bears acquiring Williams is contingent on Williams passing a physical, which BearReport.com reported is set for Wednesday.

The report said Williams got a cortisone shot last week and wants to hold off on surgery to remove bone spurs in his ankle until after the season. Williams and his agent disagreed with the Browns about his injury, and an outside medical opinion recommended surgery.

Williams made the Browns as an undrafted rookie in 2014 and has played in 13 games, mostly as a nickel cornerback, in each of his first two seasons.

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Jaylon Smith to NFI, Kellen Moore to IR in Dallas

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03: Kellen Moore #17 of the Dallas Cowboys callas a play against the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The two biggest names included on the list of Cowboys roster moves on Tuesday probably didn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has followed the team through the offseason.

Linebacker Jaylon Smith has been placed on the reserve/non-football injury list as a result of the serious knee injury he suffered in his final game at Notre Dame. The Cowboys took Smith in the second round despite that injury and resulting nerve damage that has clouded the outlook for when he’ll be able to play again. It won’t be in the first six weeks of the season as a result of this move, but there never seemed to be an expectation that returning at that point was a possibility.

Quarterback Kellen Moore won’t be back at all this year after being placed on injured reserve. Moore broke his leg earlier this month, bumping Dak Prescott into the No. 2 job and then into the starting role when Tony Romo broke a bone in his back.

The Cowboys also placed tight end James Hanna on the reserve/physically unable to perform list and waived wide receiver Rodney Smith, guard Mike McQueen, guard Dan Buchholz, wide receiver Richard Mullaney, cornerback Arjen Coquhoun and linebacker Henoc Muamba.

 

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Mike Zimmer vows to “find a way”

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 28: Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings looks on from the sidelines in the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at US Bank stadium on August 28, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a “significant knee injury” in practice on Tuesday, coach Mike Zimmer told reporters earlier this hour.

“I doesn’t look good right now,” Zimmer said regarding the possibility that it’s a season-ending knee injury.

“They sedated him,” Zimmer said, explaining that he’s having an MRI performed at a local hospital.  “I love this kid. Our fans love this kid.”

Zimmer said more information will be coming later tonight or Wednesday regarding the specific nature of the injury.

“We’re not going to stick our heads in the sand,” Zimmer said. “We’re not looking for excuses. We have some great football players on this team, figure out how to win football games. . . . This is about the team. This isn’t about a one-man deal. This is about the team. We have a good team. We have a good defensive team. Our defensive line is much better. We have good receivers. We have maybe the best running back in the NFL.”

Zimmer said he has spoken to his mentor, Bill Parcells, a couple of times after the injury happened. Zimmer also said he has spoken in spirit to his late father, Bill Zimmer, a longtime high school football coach.

“He always found a way to do it,” Zimmer said, “and we’re gonna figure out a way. Everybody can count us out if they want, but I think that would be the wrong thing to do.”

It’s unclear whether figuring out a way forward will feature Shaun Hill at quarterback or someone else. Zimmer said he has confidence in Hill, but that the team is discussing options. At this point, there aren’t many.

Still, Zimmer is committed to making the best out of a bad situation.

“That’s our job,” Zimmer said. “Find a way.”

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Giants down to 74 players with Will Beatty coming

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 20:  Cooper Taylor #30 of the New York Giants intercepts a pass thrown by Cardale Jones #7 of the Buffalo Bills during the third quarter on August 20, 2016 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo defeats New York 21-0.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants haven’t made anything official, but multiple reports have them bringing tackle Will Beatty back and their list of cuts on Tuesday suggest someone’s joining the club.

The Giants are down to 74 players after removing 16 players from the active roster over the last two days. Four of those moves came on Monday and 12 more followed on Tuesday.

Two players with regular season experience were dropped in safety Cooper Taylor and tackle Byron Stingily. Taylor was a fifth-round pick in 2013 and saw action in 16 games over his three years with the club. Taylor was waived while Stingily, who signed with the Giants this offseason, heads to injured reserve after suffering a concussion.

The Giants also waived safety Bennett Jackson, a 2014 sixth-round pick who couldn’t stay healthy during his time with the club.

Tight end Ryan Malleck was waived/injured while defensive end Mike Rose, wide receiver Kadron Boone, cornerback Joe Powell, running back Marshaun Coprich, offensive lineman Shane McDermott, defensive tackle Davon Coleman, defensive tackle Greg Milhouse and wide receiver K.J. Maye were all placed on waivers.

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Broncos hold onto Mark Sanchez through cut to 75 players

Denver Broncos quarterback Mark Sanchez looks on during the team's NFL football practice at the Broncos' headquarters on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) AP

Mark Sanchez won’t be the Broncos starting quarterback to open the 2016 season, but he still remains a Broncos quarterback after the cut to 75 players on Tuesday.

The biggest departure in Denver is punter Britton Colquitt, who was cut in favor of rookie Riley Dixon after passing on the chance to take a pay cut. There’s been some talk in Denver about Sanchez being asked to take a pay cut, but it seems likely that the Broncos will continue trying to trade him even if that’s something they’d also be willing to discuss.

While we haven’t heard the full extent of the injury at this point, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down in what sounds like a scary scene at practice Wednesday so that may be another possible landing spot in a deal.

The other Bronco moves on Tuesday involved placing tight end Garrett Graham on injured reserve and waiving wide receiver Bralon Addison and tackle Kyle Roberts.

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Seahawks waive Patrick Lewis

Russell Wilson AP

The Seahawks have waived center Patrick Lewis.

Lewis lost his starting job in camp, and the Seahawks cut him after unsuccessfully trying to find a trade partner. Justin Britt will start for the Seahawks at center.

Lewis had joined the Seahawks in 2014 via the Browns practice squad. He played in six games, starting four, at center in 2014 and started nine games last season. Lewis is just 25, and like recently released ex-Vikings center John Sullivan, should soon draw some interest from other teams.

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Broncos cut Britton Colquitt

New Orleans Saints v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Broncos are changing punters.

Britton Colquitt, who has punted in Denver since 2009 and was the team’s longest-tenured player, was released today. The Broncos are going with rookie seventh-round draft pick Riley Dixon as their punter this season.

The Broncos tried to trade Colquitt, but his salary made that unlikely. He’ll now be free to shop himself to 31 other teams.

Colquitt is unlikely to remain unemployed long, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him punting somewhere else in Week One.

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Titans bounce another 2015 draft pick

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 03:  David Cobb #23 of the Tennessee Titans celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Titans General Manager Jon Robinson hasn’t wasted much time clearing out members of his predecessor Ruston Webster’s draft class.

The Titans announced that 2015 fifth-round pick David Cobb has been placed on waivers as part of the moves the team made to reach Tuesday’s 75-man limit. The Titans traded for running back DeMarco Murray and drafted Derrick Henry this season, leaving little room for Cobb in the backfield.

Cobb joins second-round wideout Dorial Green-Beckham, sixth-round linebacker Deiontrez Mount and sixth-round center Andy Gallik as 2015 picks sent packing. First-round pick Marcus Mariota isn’t going anywhere, but reports from Tennessee this summer suggest that third-round offensive lineman Jeremiah Poutasi may not make the club.

The Titans also dropped wide receiver Jarrod West in order to get down to 75 players. With the first spot in the waiver order, more changes will likely be coming over the next week as the Titans pick through the discards from other teams.

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Shaq Lawson to PUP, Reggie Ragland to IR as Bills make first cuts

Buffalo Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson (90) takes part in drills during their NFL football rookie minicamp in Orchard Park, N.Y., Friday, May 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) AP

The Bills drafted linebackers with each of their first two picks in April’s draft, but they won’t be getting immediate contributions from either one.

First-round pick Shaq Lawson will remain on the physically unable to perform list, leaving him ineligible to play for at least the first six weeks of the season. Lawson has a shoulder injury and it’s not definite that he’ll be playing at all this season. Second-round pick Reggie Ragland definitely won’t as he’s been placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL.

The Bills also placed sixth-round wideout Kolby Listenbee on the reserve/non-football injury list as he continues to recover from sports hernia surgeries. Listenbee will also be out for at least six weeks. Wide receiver Marcus Easley joins Lawson on the PUP list.

Cornerback Jonathan Dowling, tight end Chris Gragg and tackle Justin Renfrow were all waived with injury designations. Long snapper Reid Ferguson, linebacker David Hawthorne, offensive lineman Robert Kugler, wide receiver Greg Little, tight end Jimmay Mundine, linebacker Eric Striker, defensive lineman Alameda Ta’amu, quarterback Austin Trainor and defensive tackle Justin Zimmer were all cut from the roster outright.

The Bills acquired linebacker Lerentee McCray in a trade with the Packers earlier in the day.

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