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NFL morning after: Luck has the Colts on the way to the playoffs

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Luck looks for a receiver against the Miami Dolphins during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in Indianapolis Reuters

Andrew Luck was supposed to be this good. Just not this soon.

Everyone knew long before this year’s NFL draft that Luck would be the first overall pick, and everyone figured that Luck would eventually become a good franchise quarterback and lead the Indianapolis Colts back from last year’s disastrous 2-14 season without Peyton Manning and into the playoffs again. But did anyone really think Luck could lead the Colts to the playoffs as a rookie?

That’s what Luck has a real chance of doing after the Colts’ win on Sunday against the Dolphins, when Luck completed 30 of 48 passes for an NFL rookie record 433 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, as the Colts won 23-20 and improved to 5-3 on the season. Only two teams in the AFC — the Texans and Ravens — have better records than the Colts, who are the leaders in the AFC wild card race at the halfway point of the season.

“No one cares about your record at this point of the season,” Luck said after the game. “It’s all about making it to the playoffs. Obviously, it was a step in the right direction. I am proud of that, but we haven’t accomplished the end goal by any means.”

Will the Colts accomplish their goal of making the playoffs this year? I don’t know, but I do know that there are at least four games left on their schedule in which they should be favored: Thursday night at Jacksonville, Week 12 at home against the Bills, Week 14 at home against the Titans and Week 16 at Kansas City. If the Colts do nothing more than win those four games, they’ll have a 9-7 record, which is probably going to be good enough to make the playoffs in the mediocre AFC. For the worst team in the league last season, a 9-7 record and a wild-card berth would represent an enormous step forward.

And it’s a step that they’re taking primarily because of Luck, who has complete command of the Colts’ offense and a veteran’s mastery of reading through his progressions and finding open receivers. Luck also has a beautiful NFL arm, as he showed on his 36-yard touchdown strike to T.Y. Hilton on Sunday. At age 23, Luck isn’t a good quarterback prospect. He’s a good quarterback right now. And he may be a starting quarterback in a playoff game in two months.

Luck turned in my favorite performance of this Sunday in the NFL. Here are my other thoughts:

Turn your microphone off, ref. Dolphins-Colts referee Tony Corrente got into a shouting match with one of his fellow officials and yelled an expletive — with his microphone on, for all the fans and the TV audience to hear. The NFL’s officiating department will surely remind Corrente that he needs to make sure his mic is turned off after he’s done making an announcement.

Is this pro wrestling? The most shocking moment on Sunday came when Browns linebacker Kaluka Maiava lifted Ravens left tackle Michael Oher and slammed him to the ground. Oher, who as the subject of The Blind Side is the NFL’s most famous offensive lineman, weighs 315 pounds and isn’t easy to throw around. But if there’s any NFL player who can do pull off a wrestling-style takedown of Oher, we shouldn’t be surprised that it was Maiava: He’s the nephew of pro wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Ed Reed is as good a safety as the NFL has ever seen. Reed, who recorded the 60th interception of his NFL career in the Ravens’ 25-15 win over the Browns, has been brilliant in pass coverage during his 11-year career. But my favorite thing about him is the way he turns into a playmaker when he gets the ball in his hands: Reed is the all-time leader in interception return yards, with 1,507, and his average of 25.1 yards per interception return ties him with his old teammate Deion Sanders for the best average ever for a player with at least 30 interceptions. He would have been a great two-way player.

Christian Ponder better turn things around in a hurry. Ponder had a hot start this season and the Vikings won four of their first five games. Now he’s gone into a tailspin and the Vikings have lost three of their last four. Ponder was terrible in Sunday’s loss in Seattle, completing 11 of 22 passes for 63 yards, for a pathetic 2.9 yards per pass, with an interception. After looking like playoff contenders at the start of the season, the Vikings are now a loss to the Lions this week away from being in last place in the NFC North.

Doug Martin is amazing. Have you seen what Martin, the Buccaneers’ rookie running back, has been doing lately? Martin had 25 carries for 251 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday in Oakland, just the second time in NFL history a player had 250 yards and four touchdowns in a game. Martin is a phenomenal athlete with great speed, but I also love what a smart runner Martin is. As Martin raced down the sideline on his 67-yard touchdown, he saw that Raiders safety Matt Giordano was gaining on him. Giordano is one of the fastest players in the NFL, one of the few players who could catch Martin from behind, and Martin saw that Giordano was bearing down on him. So Martin wisely put on the brakes and allowed Giordano to run right past him before cutting back inside and getting into the end zone. Martin was just named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the month for October, and he played his best game yet on the first game day of November. No one is playing the running back position better than Martin right now.

Peyton is the king of the comebacks. Manning’s Broncos trailed 20-17 in the fourth quarter against the Bengals, but on the strength of his two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, the Broncos ended up winning 31-23. Sunday’s game featured Manning’s 48th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, passing Dan Marino for the most comeback wins for any quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, which is as far back as those records are kept. Manning is continuing to show in his first season in Denver that he’s among the handful of players in the conversation about the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. It says something about how well Luck has played that the fans in Indianapolis don’t seem to miss Manning right now.

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Kevin Smith among Seahawks cuts to get to 75-man limit

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 17:  Kevin Smith #17 of the Seattle Seahawks stretches for more yardage against  Robert McClain #27 of the Carolina Panthers in the 4th quarter during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks waived/injured wide receiver Kevin Smith among their final roster moves to get under the 75-man roster limit on Tuesday.

Smith appeared in seven games for Seattle in 2015 and caught three passes for 43 yards. He suffered a hamstring injury in training camp and never managed to get back to full speed.

Smith was one of four players waived/injured by Seattle on Tuesday. Running back George Farmer, cornerback Trovon Reed and defensive end Josh Shirley were also waived/injured by the team.

Additionally, linebackers Quayshawn Nealy and Pete Robertson were waived.

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Report: Vikings plan to re-sign Brad Sorensen

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 28: Quarterback Brad Sorensen #4 of the San Diego Chargers throws a pass against the Arizona Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium on August 28, 2014 in San Diego, California.  The Chargers won 12-9.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the wake of Teddy Bridgewater’s devastating knee injury suffered in practice on Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings are in need of help at quarterback.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Vikings first step is to re-sign Brad Sorensen.

Minnesota had released Sorensen on Tuesday as part of their roster cuts down to 75 players. Bridgewater’s season-ending injury changed the course of events and necessitated Sorensen’s return to the Vikings.

Shaun Hill and Joel Stave remain the only two other quarterbacks on Minnesota’s roster. More additions may be needed to attempt to fill the massive hole created by the loss of a starting quarterback in practice. But for now, Sorensen gives them the extra arm they need to get through the remainder of the preseason.

Sorensen did not appear in any of the team’s first three preseason games. He was initially signed earlier this month when Bridgewater and Hill were missing practices with minor injuries.

In his last action during the 2015 preseason with San Diego, Sorensen completed 38 of 69 passes for 336 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in four games.

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“Mixed reviews” for Tebow’s baseball workout

Former NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow hits during batting practice for baseball scouts and the media during a showcase on the campus of the University of Southern California, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016 in Los Angeles. The Heisman Trophy winner works out for a big gathering of scouts on USC's campus in an attempt to start a career in a sport he hasn't played regularly since high school. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) AP

The headline at ESPN.com says Tim Tebow “shows off power” at his baseball workout (i.e., one-man fantasy camp). The article paints a more sobering view of his prospects.

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com writes that Tebow drew “mixed reviews” at the workout, which scouts from 28 teams attended.

He showed significant hitting ability, but he was “repeatedly fooled him with off-speed pitches,” according to Crasnick.

“There is 100 percent nerves, no question about it,” Tebow said. “When you’re at the [Scouting] Combine or a Pro Day [workout], you have your body of work for four years, everything that you did, so it’s not just that one day. Here, you might have seen me when I was 17, but you haven’t seen me since. A lot goes into it, so you’d better show something. A lot of nerves, a lot of pressure, for sure.”

So why is he doing it, more than a decade after last playing baseball?

“This isn’t about publicity,” Tebow said. “It’s definitely not about money. I took a pay cut to do this. For me, you pursue what you love regardless of what else happens. If you fail or fall flat on your face, and that’s the worst thing that can happen, it’s OK. When did pursuing what you love become such a bad thing? I’ll make all the sacrifices to be the best I can.”

It’s one thing to say it, it’s another to do it. Will he accept anything other than a Major League lifestyle? Tebow wasn’t willing to try the CFL when it was clear that the NFL wasn’t interested and when guys like former Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Tebow needs game reps.

At 29, Tebow has limited time to make the climb to the top of the baseball ladder. Will he do all the things he would have been doing if he’d picked baseball over football as a high school senior? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, the guy who says it’s not about money can continue to finance his frolic and detour into baseball by selling signed baseballs and bats at $125 and $175 a pop, respectively.

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Wednesday’s PFT Live has Justin Forsett, Demaryius Thomas, more

PFTLive

Another day, another need for a bigger show.

But we’ll somehow find a way to cram three hours of news, analysis, discussion, and debate into Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio (from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET) and on NBCSN (from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET).

Topics include the injury to Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, including a discussion regarding the predicted finish of the teams in the NFC North. You can pick your projected winner of the division below and discuss it in the comments.

Guests include Ravens running back Justin Forsett and Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas. Paul Allen of the Vikings Radio Network also will join us to talk about Bridgewater’s injury and the team’s prospects without him.

So tune in for any, some, or all of the show. If you miss any of it, all three hours become a podcast, available at iTunes, audioboom.com, and Google Play.

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Bills season-ticket sales still strong

tickets Getty Images

In 2015, the Bills set a single-season record for season-ticket sales, amid a high degree of optimism about the team. In 2016, with a more measured and realistic view of a team that failed to come close to meeting expectations a year ago, the ticket sales remain strong.

According to James Fink of Buffalo Business First, via SportsBusiness Daily, the team has sold 58,500 season tickets.

Yes, it’s a 2.6-percent reduction from last year. But it’s still the most season tickets the franchise has sold in any season but 2015.

In 2014, the team sold only 47,182 season tickets.

So that’s good news for the Bills in an offseason and preseason that has entailed plenty of not-so-good news.

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Source: Peyton Manning staying retired

KNOXVILLE, TN - JULY 14: Former NFL and University of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning speaks during a ceremony to celebrate the life of former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, on July 14, 2016 at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee.. Summitt died June 28 at the age of 64, five years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. (Photo by Mark Humphrey - Pool/Getty Images) Getty Images

Peyton Manning is going to stay on the speaking circuit.

A source with knowledge of Manning’s plans told PFT that Manning will not consider returning to the NFL and therefore is not an option for the Vikings as they go about addressing their quarterback situation following the injury suffered Tuesday by Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee and complete tear of his ACL during Tuesday’s practice.

Veteran Shaun Hill takes over as the team’s starting quarterback. For now, undrafted rookie Joel Stave is the only other healthy quarterback on the Vikings’ roster, though that could change as soon as Wednesday and will almost certainly change by the weekend when teams across the league finalize their initial regular season rosters.

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Bridgewater has torn ACL and dislocated knee, but no nerve damage

151216 bridgewater Getty Images

As expected, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has suffered a significant knee injury that will end his 2016 season before it began. But there’s some reason for optimism.

The Vikings released a statement this evening saying that Bridgewater does not appear to have any damage to nerves or arteries and should be able to make a full recovery.

“Teddy Bridgewater suffered a non-contact injury today at practice,” Vikings head trainer Eric Sugarman said in a statement. “The injury was quickly identified as a dislocated knee. The injury was stabilized, and he was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment and evaluation. After undergoing an MRI, it was determined that Teddy suffered a complete tear to his ACL and other structural damage. Fortunately, there appears to be no nerve or arterial damage. Surgical repair will be scheduled within the next few days. Although the recovery time will be significant, we expect Teddy to make a full recovery. I would like to thank all of the medical professionals and our athletic training staff for all of their help today. Teddy has already displayed the attitude needed to overcome this injury and attack his rehab.”

Although the statement didn’t specifically call Bridgewater’s season over, it’s impossible to imagine that he could play this year with a complete tear to his ACL, a dislocated knee and other structural damage. The lack of nerve damage, however, indicates that Bridgewater will play in 2017.

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First call described Bridgewater’s injury as a dislocated knee

Teddy Bridgewater

The initial call made Tuesday afternoon from the Vikings’ training facility requesting help from paramedics described Teddy Bridgewater’s injury as a dislocated knee, per multiple reports.

The Vikings still haven’t announced the extent of the injury. Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer told reporters later Tuesday afternoon that Bridgewater had been sedated and was at a local hospital undergoing an MRI, and that the team expected that Bridgewater would miss the entire 2016 season.

A further update on his status is expected later Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

The Vikings ended practice when Bridgewater suffered what was described as a “gruesome” injury, and other players were visibly upset as the team’s medical staff tended to Bridgewater.

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Teammates disturbed by “gruesome” Bridgewater injury

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2016, file photo, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater throws a pass during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers, in Minneapolis. Fittingly, the Green Bay Packers will be the opponent on Sept. 18 for their regular season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium in front of a crowd of 66,000 and a Sunday night national television audience.(AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King, File) AP

The Vikings’ medical staff hasn’t yet offered an official prognosis on the injury suffered by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater today, but from all accounts it was instantly obvious to everyone there that Bridgewater badly hurt his knee.

“Gruesome, according to some people there, is absolutely what it was. Players were disturbed, throwing up, not wanting to see, looking away as quickly as possible,” Ian Rapoport said on NFL Network, although Rapoport later said on Twitter that players were not actually throwing up.

After the practice, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer seemed to be fighting back tears as he talked about how Bridgewater had to be sedated after the injury. Zimmer also said he called Bridgewater’s mother, something coaches generally only do when there are serious concerns about a player’s health.

Although Zimmer said he doesn’t yet know the extent of Bridgewater’s injury, there’s little doubt that it’s very, very bad.

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Panthers make some moves, reach settlement with Scifres

Scifres Getty Images

The Panthers made a handful of roster moves Tuesday as they trimmed their roster to 75.

Wide receiver LaRon Byrd and defensive end Rakim Cox were placed on the team’s injured-reserve list, and cornerback Leonard Johnson was placed on the non-football injury list.

The team also reached injury settlements with safety Trenton Robinson and punter Mike Scifres, who had signed with the Panthers in May as part of their search for a new punter. Scifres was hurt last weekend and placed on injured reserve.

On Monday, the Panthers traded for veteran punter Andy Lee.

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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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