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Spotting concussions could create a competitive disadvantage

Bears quarterback Cutler lies on the field after being hit late on a play by the Houston Texans during the first half of their NFL football game at Soldier Field in Chicago Reuters

It’s easy to wag a finger at the NFL for not requiring teams to do a better job of yanking players who may have suffered concussions from games.  But there’s a potentially significant consequence to erring on the side of safety.

What if the player doesn’t have a concussion?

In that case, a key player (like the starting quarterback) could be unavailable during key stretches of a game, while he’s screened for a concussion that he ultimately is deemed to not have.

And with the determination of who may or may not have a concussion hinging on subjective observations, the question of whether a quarterback is removed from the game to be checked for a concussion could prompt debates and suspicions that the player is being flagged for a concussion test for reasons unrelated to protecting him from harm.

So what should the NFL do?  The answer could come from an objective method for determining whether a player has absorbed the kind of blow to the head that could result in a concussion, like the HIT system developed by North Carolina professor and NFL concussion consultant Kevin Guskiewicz.

Regardless, the NFL’s current procedures aren’t removing players with concussions from games.  To ensure that all players who may have concussions are protected from suffering a second one, some who may not have concussions will have to be taken out of games to be checked.

There’s no easy solution to this problem.  But if/when a player suffers a concussion, isn’t removed from the game, suffers another concussion, and has a serious injury as a result of suffering two concussions, there could be an overreaction.

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Aaron Rodgers plays two series in his preseason debut/finale

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, right, drops back to throw as San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold, left, closes in during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) AP

Aaron Rodgers looked less rusty in his preseason debut than the Packers teammates around him.

But the Packers quarterback didn’t need long to remind us who he was.

Rodgers played a quarter in his preseason debut, and led an impressive touchdown drive during his time in there, hitting Randall Cobb for the score.

On his first drive, Rodgers had to scramble around too much, as the protection wasn’t quite to regular season standards. But he used his feet to buy some time, and made a few positive plays.

The 14-play touchdown drive was a methodical one, a good day’s work for the guy who was held out of the first three preseason contests (including the Hall of Fame Non-Game). He’s probably not going to play much if at all next week in the preseason finale, as should be the case.

Rodgers finished the night 6-of-9 passing for 60 yards and the touchdown.

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Josh Gordon gives Browns a taste of what they were missing

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 07:  Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns carries the ball during the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 7, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Friday night’s game against the Buccaneers hasn’t gone well overall for the Browns, but there’s been one big bright spot.

In his first game since Week 16 of the 2014 season, wide receiver Josh Gordon has provided the team with a pair of reminders of why they stuck with him through his suspension and why they reportedly asked for a healthy return from teams inquiring about trading for Gordon.

The first came on the first Browns possession of the game when Gordon beat Buccaneers cornerback Brent Grimes on a double move and reeled in a 44-yard catch from Robert Griffin III on one of the few dropbacks that saw the quarterback get time to throw. Gordon would then give Cleveland its first touchdown of the night in the second quarter when he used his size to beat out Grimes for a slightly underthrown ball from Griffin for a 43-yard touchdown.

They’ll have to wait out four more games to get him on the field in the regular season, but the glimpse of Gordon’s playmaking ability was a tantalizing one on Friday night.

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Bucs beating up Browns in all three phases

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston throws a pass against the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter of an NFL football game Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) AP

The Browns’ night got off to a decent enough start when they forced a field goal on the first Buccaneers possession and then kicked one of their own after a 44-yard pass to Josh Gordon offered a reminder of what the wideout can do when he’s in the lineup.

Things have gone downhill from there. Jameis Winston has two touchdown passes, Adam Humphries returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown and Robert Griffin III has been sacked four times as Tampa has built a 27-3 second quarter lead at home.

Winston has had plenty of time to throw the ball most of the night and he’s capitalized on big gains to Humphries, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, including a 34-yard touchdown to Evans in the second quarter. The run game hasn’t been quite as effective, but Winston’s 12-of-18/232-yard line makes up for any sluggishness on the ground.

The defense has kept the Browns in check and the Browns haven’t helped with errors of their own. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor has an offensive pass interference, tackle Austin Pasztor wiped out a first down with a holding penalty and center Cameron Erving hasn’t looked good in the middle of Cleveland’s line.

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Rough half for starting QBs, but that Tom Brady kid on the bench is OK

New England Patriots' Jimmy Garoppolo (10) is hit by Carolina Panthers' Thomas Davis (58) as he throws a pass during the first half of a preseason NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) AP

It’s a good thing the Patriots had that Tom Brady kid coming off the bench.

Because otherwise, the starting quarterbacks in Charlotte had a pretty rough night.

Cam Newton threw two interceptions on a listless night for the Panthers offense, and Jimmy Garoppolo made sure people would miss Brady when his four-game suspension was over.

Garoppolo was 5-of-9 for 37 yards passing, doing nothing to inspire confidence with what he had with the starting offense (minus tight end Rob Gronkowski, because it’s the preseason).

Brady came in late in the first quarter and gave the Patriots a brief spark, leading a touchdown drive. But on the whole, he wasn’t great either, 3-of-9 for 76 yards in the first half.

Newton’s side was even worse. In his first six series, the Panthers had three three-and-outs, two picks and a dropped fourth-down conversion attempt. He was 8-of-20 passing for 62 yards in the first half, a forgettable night for the MVP.

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Terron Armstead, Cam Heyward, Marcus Gilbert all leave early with injuries

New Orleans Saints tackle Terron Armstead (72) shows off his dance moves during the NFL football teams training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley) AP

The Steelers and Saints have both seen some key members of their lineups depart with injuries in the first half of their game at the Superdome.

Saints left tackle Terron Armstead left the game shortly after picking up a holding penalty and went back to the locker room. There’s been no announcement from the team about his status and Tony Hills has been manning the left side of the line since his departure.

The Saints also saw tight end Michael Hoomanawanui carted off with what looked like a left leg injury.

On the Steelers side, defensive end Cam Heyward was carted off with a bag of ice on his right ankle and right tackle Marcus Gilbert has departed with an elbow injury. Safety Shamarko Thomas was also ruled out for the rest of the night after suffering a groin injury.

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Steelers starting offense looks just fine in first preseason action

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) works against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) AP

The Steelers rested many of their key offensive players in the first two weeks of the preseason, but there’s no sign of rust in Week Three.

The Steelers have scored touchdowns on both of their possessions in the first half and they’ve looked quite good doing it. Ben Roethlisberger used no huddle for most of the opening 15-play, 74-yard march to the end zone and capped the drive by evading the rush and tossing a four-yard score to tight end Jesse James.

The Saints forced the Steelers into a third down quickly on the next Steelers possession, but Antonio Brown beat Saints corner De’Vante Harris for a 57-yard score that extended Pittsburgh’s lead to 14-0.

Roethlisberger is 12-of-17 for 148 yards, Le’Veon Bell has run twice for 15 yards and caught a pass for 13 more and six different players have caught passes already in a performance that should leave the Steelers feeling full of confidence about their offense heading into the regular season.

UPDATE 8:44 p.m. ET: And that’s all the Steelers needed to see from Roethlisberger. Landry Jones is in the game for the third Steelers possession.

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Washington loses Ryan Kerrigan, Keith Marshall to injuries

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 12:  Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan #91 of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 12, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 30-20.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Injuries are always a problem in the preseason. But when they come at the same position, teams have to worry.

As such, Washington’s may have to start looking for running backs and pass-rushers.

The team announced that rookie running back Keith Marshall would not return tonight, after suffering a sprained elbow in their preseason game against the Bills.

Coupled with outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan leaving with a groin injury, it’s a rough night for Washington. The team announced that Kerrigan would not return.

Starting running back Matt Jones isn’t going to play again in the preseason because of a shoulder sprain, leaving them short on numbers.

Rookie Robert Kelly’s going to get plenty of work now, and he seems to be doing his part to earn the backup job, and potentially more.

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Buccaneers make a field goal, lose a wideout to injury

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 26:  Kicker Roberto Aguayo #19 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up before the start of an NFL game against the Cleveland Browns on August 26, 2016 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) Getty Images

Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo’s night got off to a good start.

After their opening drive stalled inside Cleveland territory, the Buccaneers sent Aguayo into the game to try a 48-yard field goal that was watched a bit more closely than many other preseason field goal attempts. Aguayo has missed two field goals and an extra point already this offseason, but he nailed the kick to put the Bucs up 3-0 on Friday night.

Jameis Winston moved the team with nice throws to Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans before things slowed down as they neared the red zone.

The news hasn’t been all good for the Bucs thus far, however. Wide receiver/kick returner Donteea Dye is out for the rest of the game after hurting his hamstring, which will provide more opportunities for Kenny Bell and other wideouts trying for spots at the back end of the depth chart.

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Mike Scifres hurt, Panthers could be in punter market (if they weren’t)

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 11: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers looks on in the first quarter of a preseason NFL game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

At a time when other teams are looking for things like quarterbacks, the Panthers have what can fairly be considered a first-world problem.

But it looks like they’re going to need to find a punter.

Their competition for the job has been less-than-inspired to begin with, and now they may have an injured one.

Veteran Mike Scifres is out for the rest of the game after he took a shot to the knee, though he stayed in the game to hit a stirring 21-yarder. Scifres has been dealing with injury throughout the preseason, so it’s hard to tell if he’s winning or not, or whether they were just banking on a known commodity.

The only other punter on the roster is Kasey Redfern, whose primary qualification seems to be that he went to Wofford, where the Panthers have training camp. He recently replaced Swayze Waters, whose primary qualification seemed to be that he was named Swayze.

It was possible (likely even) that the Panthers were going to be looking for punters prior to the regular season anyway, but Scifres’ condition may have forced the issue.

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Sam Bradford urges everyone not to overreact to the preseason

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford warms up prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright) AP

In last year’s third preseason game, Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford went 10-for-10 for 121 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles blew out the Packers to improve to 3-0.

“Last year after the third preseason game, everybody thought we were going to the Super Bowl,” Bradford said today.

The Eagles did not, in fact, go to the Super Bowl. Or the playoffs. Bradford said people need to understand that the preseason — even the third game of the preseason, when starters usually play the longest — doesn’t mean much.

“But there’s very little game-planning that goes into preseason — I’m sure Green Bay didn’t game plan to stop us last year; they probably hadn’t even practiced our offense,” Bradford said. “Obviously it was nice to go out there and execute the way we did in that third preseason game, but I don’t think anyone in our locker room really bought into the fact that because we looked great in a preseason game, it was going to be easy during the regular season.”

So as the Eagles prepare for tomorrow night’s third preseason game, Bradford knows that an impressive win doesn’t mean they’re heading for the Super Bowl. Everyone else should know that, too.

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Bosa, Chargers need to commit to compromising, now

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Defensive lineman Joey Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts as he walks off the field after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 44-28 in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s been two days since the Chargers opted to take the gurgling impasse with Joey Bosa public, backing the player and his agents into a corner and making it much harder for a reasonable deal to be finalized. NFL Media, partially owned by the Chargers and entirely owned by franchises that could find themselves in similar situations in the future, seems to be slanting coverage in a subtle (or not-so-subtle) effort to pressure Bosa and, ideally, to drive a wedge between Bosa and his agents, with the goal of having Bosa roll out of bed one day with a decision to take the offer that’s on the table.

Making matters worse is the reality that plenty of current and former players are doing the bidding of The Boss, adding to the pressure on Bosa by suggesting that his reluctance to take the pending offer amounts to a reluctance to play football.

But every argument directed at Bosa (e.g., he’s not haggling over much money at this point) can be directed at the team, and the idea that “Bosa must not want to play for the Chargers” easily can be phrased as “the Chargers must not want Bosa to play for them.”

The divide continues to spring from the team adhering to franchise precedent and Bosa adhering to top-three-in-the-draft precedent. Without much separating the two sides (at least until the Chargers vowed to shrink their offer), each side is sitting back, folding its arms, and saying, “What’s the big deal?”

Here’s what needs to happen. The two sides need to get in a room and commit to negotiating until a deal is done.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because we consistently took the same position about the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick. When two sides who disagree commit to engaging in good-faith negotiations, a spirit of compromise and practicality takes over, and a middle ground is reached.

It happens all the time in civil litigation, where parties that despise each other submit to efforts to settle their claims in good faith with the intent of working out their differences and, despite the animosity, they routinely do. Even with apparent anger between Bosa and the Chargers, a genuine effort to get together and strike a deal will most likely get a deal done.

At this point, one side needs to be big enough to make the call, and the other side needs to be big enough agree to give it a try. Once that happens, the deal will be 95 percent complete.

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Report: Jimmy Garoppolo to start Friday night

New England Patriots quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo, left, and Tom Brady, right, walk on the field following an NFL football training camp practice with the Chicago Bears Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) AP

It will reportedly feel like 2001 all over again in Charlotte on Friday night.

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports that, barring a last-second change or scissor accident, Jimmy Garoppolo will get the start against the Panthers in the Patriots’ third exhibition game of the summer. Tom Brady is also expected to play, so he will be coming off the bench to get his first playing time of the preseason.

It’s been a long time since Brady has been in that role, but the circumstances for the Patriots make it a sensible way to go about their business.

Garoppolo has a chance to start a game on the road against a good defense, just as he will in Week One against the Cardinals, and he gets to prepare for the game as the starter. That’s not insignificant for a player who will be making his first NFL start in that game and coach Bill Belichick has called getting Garoppolo ready the No. 1 priority for the offense.

Brady has plenty of experience on that front and whatever time he sees on Friday will be to get him on the field before he serves his four-game suspension to start the season. One bit of worry could be Brady seeing time alongside backups, but there’s no word on when Brady will be in the game and what kind of playing time the rest of the first team is expected to see against Carolina.

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Teams begin preparing for glut of cut players

73101766202155_Fuse_Getty-Images_crop Getty Images

Currently, NFL rosters have up to 90 players. On Tuesday, the maximum drops to 75. Four days later, the limit reduces to 53.

My calculator tells me (assuming I entered the information correctly) that up to 1,184 roster moves will be made over the next eight days. Most of those will come from the termination of contracts or the placement of players on waivers. Teams are preparing for the coming glut of cuts by, for example, contacting agents to find out which of their clients are on the bubble.

It’s a common practice, and as a practical matter it’s happening now. Because very soon plenty of guys will be looking for jobs, and plenty of teams will be looking to upgrade their 53-man rosters by grabbing guys cut by other teams.

Regardless of how it all works out, more than 1,000 guys who currently are playing in the NFL and very much want to do so will soon be told they can’t. Plenty more would currently love to be on a 90-man roster but still can’t get a shot (thank heavens I read this one more time before hitting “publish,” because I had a word other than “shot” in there).

Hopefully, the media will keep this dynamic in mind before making a big deal about a handful of guys who choose to leave football before football chooses to tell them to leave. Far more will be leaving football before they want to.

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Falcons announce five roster cuts

Atlanta-Falcons-helmet-Al-Messerschmidt-Getty-Images-jpg Getty Images

The Falcons announced five roster cuts Friday as they began the process of trimming their roster to 75 players by next week’s deadline.

Waived by the team were wide receiver David Glidden, defensive end Efe Obada, fullback Will Ratelle, cornerback Jordan Sefon and guard Jordan Walsh. All but Obada were undrafted rookies signed by the Falcons last spring. Obada spent some time with the Cowboys last season.

The moves put the Falcons’ roster at 84 players.

All teams must trim their rosters to 75 by Aug. 30, then to the regular season size of 53 by Sept. 3.

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Jeremy Maclin, Lamarcus Joyner fined $9,115 after ejections

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, left, and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, right, scuffle during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. Both players were ejected. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang) AP

Preseason ejections aren’t the most common thing in the world, but there were a pair of them in last week’s game between the Chiefs and Rams.

Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner were both ejected from the game after getting into a scuffle late in the first half of last weekend’s game in Los Angeles. In another reminder that it is still the preseason, referee Tony Corrente announced Joyner as No. 20 of St. Louis, eliciting a round of boos from the Rams’ new home crowd.

It may have been a practice game, but the league issued real fines in response to the pushing and shoving.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that both players have been fined $9,115 for striking an opponent. That fine is this year’s minimum penalty on the fine schedule used by the league while offenses judged to be more serious, like Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed roughing Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill last week, will cost $18,231 or more.

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