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Smith happy for Kaepernick, leaving decision to coach

Injured San Francisco 49ers quarterback Smith walks out onto the playing field prior to game against the Chicago Bears in their NFL football game San Francisco Reuters

Even though 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh opened the door for speculation about his quarterback situation, that doesn’t mean Alex Smith is upset about it.

Harbaugh has stopped short of declaring a starter since Colin Kaepernick’s precocious starting debut Monday, when starter Alex Smith was out with a concussion.

But in his first appearance with the media in a week, Smith said there were no hard feelings.

“In my opinion, if you can’t be happy for your teammate’s success, you’re playing the wrong sport,” Smith said, via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “Go play tennis or golf or something. It’s ridiculous, I think. That doesn’t belong in team sports, in my opinion.”

Smith has always been able to maintain good locker room relationships amid questions about who was starting, whether it was Tim Rattay or Troy Smith or Shaun HIll. But Smith and Hill were groomsmen in each other’s weddings, evidence that it’s possible to be a mature adult and a competitor at the same time.

As to his health, Smith said he still wasn’t cleared for contact, and again practiced in a black no-contact jersey.

“I feel good. I feel really good,” Smith said. “So I’m kind of expecting things to go well, . . .

“I tried to push it {last week] and went out and practice and I just wasn’t right and the doctors didn’t end up clearing me. I’m not going to get into the symptoms that were going on. Tried to push it earlier in the week and there were still some lingering things.

“Ultimately the decision came down to me and my health and was I OK. And I didn’t feel like it was something to tough through and can’t really tough out something like that. Hopefully, the doctor is going to clear me.”

Asked if he thought the starting job would remain his if he was healthy, Smith replied: “I guess you don’t expect anything. This is the nature of the game. The next guy steps up and plays well. That’s part of the deal in this game. Competition is part of it as well. Don’t know what’s going to happen.”

After what he’s been through in his career to get to this point, the fact he handles uncertainty so well speaks to his character.

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Lions release six, place T.J. Jones on reserve/PUP

Notre Dame v Pittsburgh Getty Images

The Lions have started paring their roster to the 75-player limit.

The club has placed rookie wide receiver T.J. Jones on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, Tim Twentyman of reported Saturday.

A sixth-round pick from Notre Dame, Jones had offseason shoulder surgery. He will miss at least the first six regular season games.

In other roster moves Saturday, the Lions released offensive guard Alex Bullard, offensive guard A.J. Dalton, defensive tackle Greg Hickman, tailback Steven Miller, defensive end Kris Redding and wide receiver Conner Vernon, according to Twentyman.

This leaves the Lions with 82 players. Detroit has until Tuesday afternoon to get its roster down to 75 players.

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Seahawks seem to be serious about letting Earl Thomas return punts

Thomas AP

Seahawks safety Earl Thomas may be earning that new contract in an unusual way.  One of the key players on the team’s defense could also be the team’s top punt returner for 2014.

Few took the possibility seriously in May, when coach Pete Carroll called Thomas the top option given the departure of receiver Golden Tate in free agency.  In Friday night’s unofficial dress rehearsal for Week One, Thomas ripped off a 59-yard return.  (He was caught from behind.  By the punter.)

It felt like normal,” Thomas said, via the Seattle Times. “It felt like anytime I get the ball I can make something happen. People are just so blind to the fact and stuck in their ways, but I love it because I’ve got a chance to shut everybody up.”

Only two other Seahawks players have returned punts in the preseason — cornerback Phillip Adams and receiver Bryan Walters.  The officially unofficial depth chart shows Thomas as the top punt returner, with cornerback Richard Sherman at No. 2 and receiver Paul Richardson as the third option.

Receiver Percy Harvin, perhaps the most explosive and dynamic player on the team, remains the primary kickoff returner.  In the past, he has struggled to comfortably field a punted ball.

While Thomas surely has the skill, the duty puts him at an enhanced risk of injury.  The Seahawks seem to be willing to assume that risk.

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Sammy Watkins won’t play today for Bills against Bucs

Buffalo Bills v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins returned to practice this week, but he’s not ready for game action.

According to Mike Rodak of, Watkins won’t play against the Buccaneers tonight.

The Bills have been tight-lipped about his condition since he left last week’s game with a rib injury.

So while he did some individual drills this week, the idea of going against someone from another team is clearly too much of a risk at this point.

There’s been no indication he’s going to miss regular season time, so this is likely just a precautionary night off.

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Coughlin: Geoff Schwartz to miss a “long while” with toe injury

New York Giants v New York Jets Getty Images

The Giants reportedly expect starting left guard Geoff Schwartz to potentially miss an extended stretch of time with a dislocated toe.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Schwartz and reserve wide receiver Marcus Harris “are going to be a long while, probably” with injuries suffered in Friday’s night’s exhibition vs. the Jets, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reported.

The Giants added the 28-year-old Schwartz in free agency in their efforts to revamp their offensive line. He graded out as the NFL’s ninth-best guard in Pro Football Focus‘ ratings last season with Kansas City.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported Schwartz would see a specialist regarding his injury.

Rookie Weston Richburg filled in for Schwartz vs. the Jets.

The Giants’ interior line took a hit earlier this summer when long-time right guard Chris Snee retired because of injuries. And losing Schwartz would be a major loss.

The 25-year-old Harris sustained a shoulder injury against the Jets. He is a first-year pro from Murray State.

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“Slap Ya Mama” ads pulled from Saints-Ravens game


Two weeks ago when the Saints’ local preseason broadcast featured a garish red ad for “Slap Ya Mama” spices superimposed over the field, some smart aleck suggested it was a good thing they weren’t playing the Ravens.

As it turns out, that smart aleck was a prophet (he gets lucky sometimes).

According to Christopher Dabe of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Slap Ya Mama Red Zone will not be part of the Saints’ final preseason contest — against the Ravens.

The Cajun seasoning company said in a release that it agreed to pull the sponsorship “in light of the domestic violence issues facing the NFL.”

The league has circled back on its initial blind eye toward similar ads on other local broadcasts (which are controlled by the teams during the preseason), saying such virtual signage should not appear.

With the games being replayed on the NFL Network, the local ads were getting national play. And not just the ones for delicious Cajun spices, which Ray Rice has now ruined for all of us.

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Saturday one-liners

Pryor Getty Images

After an impressive showing against Cincinnati, Jets rookie S Calvin Pryor looked tentative against the Giants; “I told him just to fire his gun a little bit,” coach Rex Ryan said.

Now that he’s healthy, RB Knowshon Moreno may quickly climb the depth chart for the Dolphins.

In three preseason games, the Bills’ starting offense has been to the red zone five times — and scored zero touchdowns in it.

Patriots LB Jerod Mayo and LB Dont’a Hightower sat out Friday night’s preseason game against the Panthers.

The Factory of Sadness has added a few distractions to the on-field product; the Browns’ stadium has two new video boards over each end zone, three times the size of the old ones.

Re-signed Steelers DE Brett Keisel doesn’t know much about his role with the team; he’s just thrilled to be back.

Injuries in the secondary have created opportunities for the healthy Ravens defensive backs.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis succinctly summarized the status of DT Geno Atkins: “Geno looks like Geno.”

As the Texans prepare to face QB Peyton Manning in a preseason game, Houston fans probably hope to forget that he supposedly wanted to sign with the team in 2012 — and that the team wasn’t interested.

WR Allen Hurns is moving up the depth chart for the Jaguars.

The Titans are still trying to figure out precisely what their defense is going to be.  [Editor's note:  Crappy?]

Will Colts QB Andrew Luck have a monster season?

Broncos G.M. John Elway knows football is about hard work and preparation and whatnot, but there’s more to winning; “I also believe you make your own luck and believe in luck,” Elway said.  “And I do believe in luck.”

The Chiefs and LB Justin Houston remain far apart on a new contract.

The Raiders saw injuries to three projected defensive starters at Green Bay on Friday.

Chargers C Nick Hardwick isn’t worried about the condition of the field at Levi’s Stadium for the team’s preseason game against San Francisco; “[Screw] it,” Hardwick said. “They could pour asphalt, we’ll play.”

The Cowboys keep talking about QB Tony Romo as if no questions exist regarding his back; “I know Tony and I know he only gets better with age in terms of what kind of quarterback he’s going to be,” COO Stephen Jones said.  “He had one of his best years ever last year.  And I expect him to improve upon that.”

Giants WR Marcus Harris seemed to be on track to earn a roster spot until he injured a shoulder Friday night.

The arrival of RB Kenjon Barner will make it even harder for the Eagles to figure out their final depth chart when the roster moves to 53 in seven days.

Washington coach Jay Gruden says owner Daniel Snyder “wants a winner bad.”

In his first game back from shoulder surgery, Bears S Chris Conte suffered a concussion.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell wasn’t happy with the team’s 15 penalties on Friday night against Jacksonville.

Can the Packers afford to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster?

Vikings LT Matt Kalil predicts a return to dominance for the team’s offensive line.

Here are five things to watch as the Falcons play Tennessee.

Panthers LT Byron Bell struggled on Friday night against New England DE Chandler Jones.

Saints TE Jimmy Graham successfully dodged reporters who wanted to ask about his $30,000 goalpost dunk fines.

The Buccaneers could be implementing the no-huddle offense in 2014.

Cardinals DE Calais Campbell is thrilled that camp is over; “I’m so glad to be going home. I can’t lie to you.  When it ends, it’s the best thing ever.”

The Rams hope to see a lot of QB Johnny Manziel against Cleveland.

49ers RB LaMichael James jokes that he’ll use the brace protecting his elbow as a weapon.

Seahawks WR Percy Harvin could be fully unveiled as an offensive threat on Septemer 4.

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Report: B.J. Raji has torn bicep

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Packers’ defensive line has suffered a setback.

Nose tackle B.J. Raji suffered a torn bicep in Friday’s exhibition vs. Oakland, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.  The injury is thought to be potentially “season-ending,” Silverstein reported Saturday.

The Packers’ first-round pick in 2009, the 28-year-old Raji has been a starter along the Green Bay defensive line the last five seasons. Veteran Letroy Guion and rookie Mike Pennel are listed as the top backups at nose tackle.

Earlier Saturday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported it was suspected Raji had suffered a biceps tear. And now, it appears those concerns were well-placed. The focus now turns to the severity of Raji’s injury. If there’s a chance he could again play this season, placing him on injured reserve with a designation to return would be a possibility.

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Eagles release 14 players

Jacksonville Jaguars v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The first major roster cuts for NFL teams will occur in the coming days, with clubs needing to be down to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon.

The Eagles started the roster reduction process Saturday, announcing the release of 14 players, including second-year linebacker Jake Knott. This leaves Philadelphia with 76 players.

The 23-year-old Knott appeared in 12 games for Philadelphia in 2013, recording eight tackles. However, he will serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances to begin this season.

The Eagles also parted ways with rookie kicker Carey Spear, leaving Alex Henery and Cody Parkey as the competitors for the job.

In addition to Knott and Spear, the club released tight end Blake Annen, offensive lineman Michael Bamiro, offensive lineman Karim Barton, wide receiver Kadron Boone, wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, offensive lineman Donald Hawkins, tight end Emil Igwenagu, defensive end Joe Kruger, safety Daytawion Lowe, defensive end Frances Mays, safety Davon Morgan and defensive end Alejandro Villanueva.

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Vick calls report regarding his effort “very fictitious”

Vick AP

On Friday, reported that unnamed Jets coaches were disappointed that quarterback Mike Vick wasn’t more “hell-bent” on winning the starting job.  A source close to Vick blasted the idea that Vick even had a chance to win the job, no matter what he did.

After Friday night’s game against the Giants, Vick said that his coaches had no issues with his effort.

That’s not true; that’s not true at all,” Vick said, via Dom Cosentino of  “Me and my coaches, we have great conversations, we have a different dialogue, and that was far from the case.  So whoever wrote that story, it was on the side of being very fictitious.  You’ve got to come up with better stories that that. There’s better things to talk about.”

The Jets pushed the idea after Vick signed that he’d compete with Geno Smith for the starting job, in the same way that Vick and Nick Foles competed for the starting job in Philly a year ago.  Vick, however, was told from the outset that Smith would be the starter.

Vick may have ruffled some feathers by opting for honesty, since it disrupted the intended charade that:  (1) Vick and Smith were going toe-to-toe; and (2) Smith would beat out the veteran.

At a time when pretty much every team is pretty much always lying about something, it’s admirable that Vick told the truth.  Then again, it’s also understandable.  Why would Vick want the world to think he couldn’t beat out Smith?  In a truly open competition, chances are that Vick would win the job easily.

Which leads to a bigger question.  Why would the Jets not allow a true competition at the position?  What, if anything, did Smith do as a rookie to merit not having to actually earn the job in 2014?

Moving forward, the real question is what will he do to actually keep the job?  And at what point will coach Rex Ryan opt to see what Vick can do?

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Burfict ailing with stomach virus, hasn’t signed contract yet

Vontaze Burfict, Terence Newman AP

Despite reports of a new $20 million contract, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict isn’t feeling good this week.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says a stomach virus has kept Burfict from practicing for three straight days and may keep him off the field for Sunday’s preseason game. Lewis also said that as far as the team is concerned, the contract isn’t done until it’s signed — and it isn’t signed.

“I don’t know if they tried to give him the signing bonus in nickels or what, weighing him down,” Lewis said, via “As you know how we believe it here until the club and the player have signed off it’s not signed off.”

Lewis did acknowledge that the Bengals and Burfict’s camp both expect the deal to get done.

“I would guess we expect him to sign,” said Lewis. “Obviously the agent believes he has a deal. We didn’t release it.”

There’s no indication that contract talks have hit a snag, but there’s also no done deal. If something goes wrong and the sides can’t come to terms, Burfict won’t be the only one feeling queasy.

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Schaub struggles but expresses confidence in Raiders’ offense

schaub AP

Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub has had a rough preseason, and it didn’t get much better on Friday night in Green Bay.

Schaub threw for just 110 yards, completing 13 of 27 passes, and he acknowledged afterward that the Raiders’ offense still has work to do.

“We better be close to getting ready for the regular season, obviously,” Schaub said. “We got off to a good start, which is what we wanted to do — that was our plan. Then we sort of stubbed our toe.”

That “good start” Schaub references was a 40-yard touchdown run by Maurice Jones-Drew on Oakland’s first drive. That was a good play by Jones-Drew, and it was about the only good play the Raiders’ first-string offense made: Oakland went three-and-out on its next five drives, and Schaub lost a fumble on the drive after that.

Still, Schaub expressed some confidence.

“We just didn’t execute — we need to be better than that,” Schaub said. “We had a good plan, we were in position to make plays, we just didn’t finish.”

Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr, who suffered both a concussion and a rib injury in the Raiders’ last preseason game, sat out last night. But backup Matt McGloin came in late in the game and gave the Raiders’ offense a spark, throwing two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. So far in the preseason, McGloin has looked better than Schaub, who may need to worry about losing his starting job to one of the young quarterbacks behind him on the depth chart.

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Cam Newton has a rough night, needs more work

Cam Newton, Rob Ninkovich AP

There’s a temptation for the Panthers to wrap quarterback Cam Newton in bubble wrap and keep him safe until the regular season after offseason ankle surgery.

Then again, that plan didn’t work out so well for Washington and Robert Griffin III last year, so they know they have to play him.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, the Panthers are going to play Newton next week in the preseason finale for the simple reason that he needs the work.

“It was very evident that we’ve got to get [Newton] out there,” Rivera said. “We’ve got to get our quarterback out on the field, and he’s got to get some timing with those guys.”

Of course, he’ll be sore when he does go back out there, as he took a shot to the back and ribs. He returned to the game after missing a play, and didn’t talk to reporters afterward.

“He’s sore. There’s nothing there. They took X-rays just to make sure, and those are negative,” Rivera said.

Of course, “nothing there,” is a good summation of the Panthers starting offense, which didn’t scratch against the Patriots last night.

A makeshift line which was dealing with injuries to boot couldn’t protect him. They didn’t run much, and the backs didn’t pass-protect very well. Receivers didn’t get open, and Newton didn’t see some of the ones who did.

It’s the kind of thing you almost expect out of a group which wasn’t able to practice together while Newton recovered.

“I knew they had to play (against the Steelers), but just how much was really dependent on how well they played tonight,” Rivera said. “And obviously we didn’t play well enough.”

And obviously, it’s not a good sign for a team many expect to regress this season, for exactly the reasons they showed.

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Sio Moore leaves hospital, flies home with Raiders

Oakland Raiders v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Despite last night’s loss at Green Bay, there was significant good news for the Raiders.

Linebacker Sio Moore, who was taken off the field on a stretcher after being hit in the neck, was released from a nearby hospital and flew home with the team this morning.

According to Scott Bair of, Moore walked into the locker room wearing a large neck brace, which was encouraging to those around him.

“That’s a positive sign,” head coach Dennis Allen said. “I don’t know what kind of timeline that entails, but the most encouraging thing is that Sio is fine.”

Any time a player is taken off the field on a stretcher, it has an impact on those around him, so seeing Moore walking was a relief.

“It’s always a scary situation, especially when you hear a player say their neck is hurt on the field,” veteran safety Charles Woodson said. “I’ve seen it a couple times, and it never gets any easier. I don’t think anyone wants to play right away after something like that. Hopefully he’ll be fine and that he’ll be able to get back soon.”

In situations like this one, game timeframes become secondary, but he’ll obviously miss some time.

The Raiders also lost middle linebacker Nick Roach and cornerback Tarell Brown to concussions, and running back Kory Sheets suffered an Achilles injury.

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Rex Ryan: We can win with Vick, but Geno is the starter

genosmith AP

Jets coach Rex Ryan made official after Friday night’s preseason game what has been expected all along: Geno Smith will open the regular-season as the starting quarterback.

Ryan said that the Jets have been pleased with Michael Vick, but Smith has earned the starting job.

“He’ll be our starter,” Ryan said of Smith. “He’s done everything that we’ve asked him. This is no slight to Mike Vick because, believe me, I wanted to come out of this with two really good quarterbacks that we think we can win games with, and in my heart, I feel that we have two that we can win with. I’m really happy with the way Mike played as well, but we’re going to go with Geno. I feel very comfortable with that.”

Ryan was asked if Smith is “a week-to-week starter,” and he didn’t seem to like that question.

“Oh man. It’s week-to-week. We don’t name starters all the dang time. We don’t have to do the song-and-dance,” Ryan said. “We’re happy with both the quarterbacks, period. We think we can win with both quarterbacks. Just refer to any other coach who has a similar situation and what he would say. I know we have two really good quarterbacks. A lot of things happen. That’s why I never wanted to do this. Last year, we thought the competition was still wide open, but Geno had three interceptions in one game. It wasn’t great. You leave it there and let guys compete. The thing that I love about what Mike and Geno are doing is that they push each other. They support each other more than anybody. It’s a great situation to have and one that I feel blessed to have. We have two outstanding quarterbacks.”

Now Smith has to play like an outstanding quarterback when the season starts, so Ryan can stop getting questions about Vick.

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Greg Gumbel stopped using Washington’s team name years ago

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Add Greg Gumbel to the list of NFL broadcasters who won’t say the name of the team in Washington.

Gumbel, the No. 2 play-by-play announcer on CBS and the host of Showtime’s Inside the NFL, told that he doesn’t say the team’s name. Although the long-simmering controversy over the team’s name has boiled over in the last year, Gumbel said he stopped using the controversial team name years ago.

“I told our PR department this summer: I haven’t used that nickname on the air in three years,” Gumbel said. “It’s just a personal choice; I just didn’t feel like I needed to call a news conference and announce it to everybody.”

Gumbel added, however, that he does not believe Daniel Snyder is prepared to change his team’s name, and Gumbel will be surprised if a change is made.

Snyder has insisted that he won’t change the name. But as more and more people in and around the NFL disassociate themselves with Snyder’s team’s name, Snyder is going to find himself more and more alone.

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