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Alan Branch talks up Tarvaris Jackson

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The newest member of the Buffalo Bills has plenty of praise for the quarterback who spent all of the 2012 season at No. 3 on the depth chart.

Defensive tackle Alan Branch believes in Tarvaris Jackson.

The two men played together in Seattle, and Branch recently raved about Jackson after signing with the Bills.

“I’ll say this,” Branch told James Walker of  “Tarvaris Jackson is one of the toughest competitors I’ve seen out there.  When he played when I was in Seattle, the guy was hurt in more than half the games and he kept playing.  He had us winning games, too.  We were in every single game.  It’s not like we ever got blew out.

“It was a rebuilding process for Seattle.  So Jackson didn’t have quite the tools Seattle had last year.  But the guy is tough as nails, smart and has a cannon for an arm.  Buffalo fans should definitely realize that they got some stature back there.”

The question is whether the front office realizes it.  The Bills have added Kevin Kolb, and the team has made no secret of its interest in a rookie quarterback.

If the Bills add another quarterback via one of the first two or three rounds, it’s believed that Jackson and Kolb will be battling for the same spot on the depth chart.  It’s obvious who Branch thinks deserves to win the job.

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Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys runs for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has finally gotten that MRI on his right knee, apparently.

Coach Jason Garrett told reporters on Wednesday that Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee. Garrett called it a day-to-day, week-to-week situation. The coach holds out hope Bryant will play on Sunday at San Francisco.

Bryant twisted the knee while being tackled on Sunday night against the Bears, leaving temporarily before returning to the game. On Tuesday, owner Jerry Jones said that, to his knowledge, Bryant hadn’t undergone an MRI on his knee.

Bryant is the third key player in less than two weeks to injure a knee while being tackled. The other two, Brandon Marshall of the Jets and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks, continued to play. Marshall returned to action the week after suffering his MCL sprain. Wilson, also with a sprained MCL, apparently intends to play on Sunday against the Jets.

Bryant’s injury is different, and the question becomes whether and to what extent he’ll risk further injury by playing. Plenty will applaud his toughness if he finds a way onto the field without missing time, but if he re-injures the knee and misses significant time, many of those who would applaud him for continuing to play would chide him for coming back too early, in the way that some are now questioning J.J. Watt’s quick return from back surgery.

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Jay Cutler back at practice, John Fox out sick

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears watches play against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bears coach John Fox said earlier this week that he doesn’t “think there are any givens” about Jay Cutler returning to the starting quarterback job once he’s recovered from the thumb injury that sidelined him in the team’s Week Three loss to the Cowboys.

Cutler took a step toward that recovery on Wednesday when he was a limited participant in the team’s first practice session of the week. Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Cutler was not wearing a brace on his thumb during the portion of the practice open to the media.

Cutler did some “light throwing” during that portion of the practice, but there won’t be any updates from Fox on Wednesday about the quarterback outlook for this weekend’s date with the Lions.

That’s not because Fox is being circumspect about such matters, although he usually is, but because Fox isn’t at the team’s facility because he’s home dealing with a case of the stomach flu. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is filling in and said that there wouldn’t be any word on whether it will be Cutler or Brian Hoyer.

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Aaron Donald having a better year than his numbers show

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts after being sacked by Aaron Donald #99 of the Los Angeles Rams during the second quarter of the home opening NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Coliseum on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald hasn’t recorded a sack and has only seven total tackles this season, but that doesn’t tell the story of how Donald has played in the first three games of the year.

That’s the word from Los Angeles coach Jeff Fisher, who thinks Donald deserves a lot of the credit for the Rams winning the last two games, even if Donald’s contributions aren’t measured in the box score.

“He’s getting double-teamed and he’s getting all those scheme things that you get offensively,” Fisher said. “It creates other opportunities for someone else. We have to keep moving him around a little bit and create the one-on-ones. Even though his numbers aren’t reflecting it, he’s very productive.”

Donald had 11 sacks last season and will surely have plenty before this year is done as well, but his contribution to the Rams’ defense goes far beyond the number of sacks he records. Donald is a disruptive presence who commands double teams and impacts every play, every time he’s on the field. With J.J. Watt sidelined, Donald may now be the best defensive player in the NFL.

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Belichick unfazed by Rex Ryan’s antics

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Patriots defeated the Cardinals 23-21.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s Belichick week for Bills coach Rex Ryan. The occasion, which comes while Tom Brady remains suspended, was marked by Ryan trying (key word: “trying”) to impersonate Belichick.

Ryan also pretended to be a reporter (Walt Patulski of the Buffalo News) during a conference call with receiver Julian Edelman, asking Edelman if he would be playing quarterback on Sunday.

So what does Belichick think of Rex being Rex?

“I’m just focused on getting ready for the Bills,” Belichick said. “I’m not really in tune to all of that. I’m sure it’s important to you guys but it’s not really anything I spend much time with.”

It’s no surprise, given Belichick’s overall style and demeanor. And while it’s easy to presume that, quietly, Belichick derives extra motivation from Ryan’s words and demeanor, Belichick’s record has proven, time and again, that he’s already sufficiently motivated, each and every week.

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Bill O’Brien: You can never replace the best defensive player in the NFL

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 22:  J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans warms up before the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Next man up is a popular answer for coaches to give when asked about losing players to injuries and there will be a need to find people to plug into the Texans defensive line now that J.J. Watt has been placed on injured reserve, but coach Bill O’Brien didn’t bother saying that it would be as simple as just moving someone up a rung on the depth chart.

O’Brien said Wednesday that filling the hole that Watt’s absence leaves in the offense will be a task for all of the players on the defense.

“You can never replace the best defensive player in the NFL, but this is a team,” O’Brien said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

O’Brien said that Watt did everything he could do to get back from his offseason back surgery and “followed doctors’ orders” when it came to returning to the field. He added that he doesn’t know if Watt will need more surgery, something that will be sorted out while the Texans sort out how to deploy their defense without the player that’s led it for most of his time in Houston.

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DeSean Jackson not practicing Wednesday

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Rashad Ross #19 of the Washington Redskins celebrates with DeSean Jackson #11 after a touchdown in the first half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 25, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Redskins emerged from last Sunday’s victory over the Giants with a slew of injured players and they’ve placed a couple of them on injured reserve this week.

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson wasn’t one of those two players, but he did go down at one point against the Giants. Jackson aggravated an ankle injury that kept him out of practice last Wednesday and left briefly before returning to action.

Jackson is not practicing again this Wednesday while the rest of the Redskins work on a rainy day. There’s a fair chance that’s precautionary after Jackson ramped his way up to a full practice on Friday last week, something that worked out well as Jackson caught a 44-yard touchdown pass as part of a five-catch/96-yard day overall.

Wide receiver Josh Doctson, cornerback Bashaud Breeland and guard Shawn Lauvao are also out of practice as the team starts working toward Sunday’s game against the Browns.

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J.J. Watt vows to return in social media statement

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans runs out with the American flag before playing against the New York Jets on November 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt didn’t shed much light on his injury or his timetable, but he made one thing clear Wednesday — going on injured reserve will not prevent him from being J.J. Watt.

Watt posted a statement to social media, vowing to return and saying the kind of stuff he says a lot.

Adversity sucks, your attitude toward it doesn’t have to. I will be back,” he wrote on Twitter, followed by a lengthier statement.

“I haven’t missed a game since my sophomore year of high school,” it read. “This won’t be fun, but it is necessary in order for me to return to 100 percent and play at the level that I am capable of playing at. Everybody deals with adversity in their lives, many much worse than what I’m going through.

“I have great people around me and I appreciate the thoughts and well wishes from all of you. I am looking forward to the fight back to the top and to the next time that I can step back on that field with my brothers to play the game that I love. You are the best fans in the world and I promise to continue to do everything in in my power to make you proud.”

Watt had played every game since entering the league, but that streak will end this week now that he’s been placed on I.R. It’s unclear at the moment whether he’ll be able to return this year, after the recurrence of back problems which precipitated surgery late in the offseason.

And while corny, his statement also speaks to the kind of work he’s put in to become one of the league’s top defensive players, with 76.0 sacks in 83 games (0.916 per game). To put his rate into context, all-time sack leader Bruce Smith averaged a sack every 0.716 games. Watt is already 69th on the all-time sack list.

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Cowboys place Charles Tapper on IR, add a tackle

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 21:  A helmet of the Dallas Cowboys during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys need some help on the offensive line this week, which means they ran out of time to wait for defensive end Charles Tapper to get healthy.

Tapper, a fourth-round pick this year, suffered a back injury this summer and made a brief return to practice last week before suffering a setback. He’ll now have at least eight weeks to continue healing after being placed on injured reserve.

The Cowboys signed tackle Emmett Cleary to take his spot on the active roster. Cleary has spent time with the Colts, Buccaneers, Raiders, Bengals and Giants without ever seeing action in a regular season game.

Cleary will provide some depth with left guard La’El Collins waiting to see if he’ll need surgery on his injured toe and left tackle Tyron Smith missing last Sunday’s game with back issues.

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Brissett says thumb feels fine, Garoppolo taking it day-by-day

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Jacoby Brissett #7 of the New England Patriots reacts after defeating the Houston Texans 27-0 at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Starting quarterbacks playing on Sunday usually speak to the media on Wednesday, although that setup requires teams to have a starting quarterback in place on Wednesday.

The Patriots don’t, which led to word on Wednesday morning that neither Jacoby Brissett nor Jimmy Garoppolo would be available to chat. That changed at some point, however, because both of the quarterbacks who have started for the Patriots this season met with reporters.

Brissett said, via Ryan Hannable of WEEI, that his right thumb feels fine and that he threw in Tuesday’s practice without any issues. Garoppolo said he’s taking it day-by-day with the shoulder injury he suffered in Week Two and doesn’t know if he’ll be able to play against the Bills.

“We’ll see on Sunday,” Garoppolo said.

None of that does much to clear up who will be quarterback for the Patriots this week, but there should be a lot less uncertainty next Wednesday with Tom Brady back in the building.

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Tim Tebow hits a home run in first professional at-bat, of course

Tim Tebow signs autographs for fans at the New York Mets' complex, Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback got to the complex early Monday, and started his first workout as part of their instructional league team. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) AP

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Tim Tebow’s attempt to play professional baseball.

But one thing that can’t be denied is the guy has an incredible amount of athletic talent.

The former Broncos first-rounder started his baseball career in just about the Tebow-est way possible today, hitting a home run to the opposite field in his first at-bat, via ESPN.

Tebow was signed by the Mets, and sent to their instructional league team in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Today’s game was against a bunch of Cardinals prospects, and from the video, it looks like the smallest crowd he’s ever played in front of.

It’s going to take more than one home run to forge a career, just as one playoff run with the Broncos wasn’t enough to cement his status as an NFL quarterback.

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Gronk: You have to take it slow with hamstring injuries

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13:  Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots waits near the bench during their game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been severely limited by a hamstring injury this season, with no catches through three games. So when will we see the old Gronk back?

He says he’s getting better, but he’s also being smart about it, as a hamstring injury could easily be aggravated if he tries to do too much, too soon.

“You’ve got to be careful with any injury, but if you research hamstrings, if you know about hamstrings, you definitely have got to be careful,” Gronkowski said. “You have to progress. You can’t just hop right back in and be full-go, 100 percent. I wish it was like that. I can’t wait until I’m freakin’ going crazy out there again. I’m just progressing in it and just feeling better every single day.”

Few people would have guessed the Patriots could start 3-0 without Gronkowski or Tom Brady, but that’s exactly what they’ve done. It has to be scary for the rest of the league to think what the Patriots will look like with a reinstated Brady and a healthy Gronk.

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Ha Ha Clinton-Dix finishing criminal justice degree so he can make a difference

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 18:  Julius Peppers #56 and  Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after defeating the San Diego Chargers 27 - 20 at Lambeau Field on October 18, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

A lot of people are talking about inequality and peace and healing.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intends to do something about it.

Via Jason Wilde of, the Packers safety said he’s finishing his degree in criminal justice, in part so he can be part of the solution to our country’s ongoing divide between law enforcement and the African-American community.

“I understand what’s going on in this world,” Clinton-Dix said. “But cops have to go home at the end of the day. They have a family. They have to go home, too.

“Growing up where I’m from, some people are afraid of cops. They don’t really like cops. And what a lot of people don’t realize is, they’re really not the bad guys. They’re really on our side, they’re really trying to help us out. And sometimes, we don’t understand that.”

He re-enrolled at Alabama in January, and took classes online beginning in the playoffs and throughout the offseason, finishing up one class while the Packers were in training camp. He’s taking the fall semester off from school to concentrate on his day job, but plans to graduate in 2017.

Clinton-Dix grew up in Eatonville, Florida (a small town near Orlando), and wasn’t singularly focused on football. He dreamed of a career in law enforcement, so he could help communities like his own.

“I went into criminal justice because I want to learn more about the law, about what’s going on in this world, and be a mentor to kids from where I’m from,” Clinton-Dix said. “To [help them] understand that the law isn’t against you, it’s actually for you.

“You have to put yourself in people’s shoes in certain situations because you don’t know what people really think or what they’re really going through. I feel for the cops, I feel for us as a society as a whole, period. I just hope we can find peace and justice and get back to getting better in this world. That’s how it was going. We were getting better. And I just hope it goes back to that way.”

For that to happen, it’s going to take work from both sides to come together. And Clinton-Dix deserves credit for trying to do what he can to find a solution.

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No practice for Dez Bryant, knee still being evaluated

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys is assisted by team personel after taking a hit from the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

There are several things we don’t know about Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant’s knee injury, but we do know that it is bothering him enough that he won’t be taking part in Wednesday’s practice.

That was the word from Cowboys coach Jason Garrett at his press conference as he said the wideout doesn’t feel “good enough” to take part in the first session of the week. Bryant briefly left last Sunday night’s victory over the Bears because of the injury, but was well enough to return and catch a touchdown pass later in the proceedings.

It was thought Bryant would have an MRI on the knee on Monday, but that didn’t happen and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that the test might get done on Tuesday. Bryant seemed to indicate that it was done, tweeting that the results would come on Wednesday, but Garrett said only that the receiver’s injury was still being evaluated.

There will surely be more on Bryant as the week unfolds, but, for now, there’s not much more to say about his chances of playing this week than there was after the Bears game.

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Texans place J.J. Watt on injured reserve

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans looks on before playing against the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

J.J. Watt is done for at least half the season.

The Texans announced today that Watt, their superstar defensive lineman, has been placed on injured reserve. Under NFL rules, the Texans could either put him back on the active roster in eight weeks or shut him down for the entire season.

Watt had offseason back surgery and injured his back again on Thursday against the Patriots. The Texans have not said how severe his latest injury is, but the fact that he’s on injured reserve indicates that it’s serious.

The three-time winner of the NFL’s defensive player of the year award, Watt has never missed a game in his NFL career, but will miss his first game on Sunday.

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Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright bide their time

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 12:  Laquon Treadwell #11 of the Minnesota Vikings runs the football upfield during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on August 12, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Vikings defeated Bengals 17-16.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Receiver Laquon Treadwell, a first-round pick of the Vikings, hasn’t played very much as a rookie. Veteran Jarius Wright, the former No. 1 slot receiver, isn’t playing very much in his fifth NFL season. Both hope things will change.

“It’s just motivation to keep working harder, to keep getting better,” Treadwell said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’m taking it a day at a time and continuing to learn. I’m still waiting for my time, that’s the biggest thing. Guys put in their time, and the coaches have a feel for what they can do to help the team. I think that relationship will grow.”

Treadwell was active in Week One at Tennessee, but he didn’t play. In Week Two, Treadwell dressed against the Packers, and he made it onto the field for two plays. In Week Three, Treadwell was a healthy scratch.

Coach Mike Zimmer compared Treadwell’s situation to the delayed emergence of Stefon Diggs as a rookie in 2015. Diggs did not play in the Vikings’ first three games of his rookie year.

Zimmer explained that Treadwell needs to work on running pass routes, and that he’s thinking too much when he does.

Wright has been relegated to a single snap through three games, thanks in part to the team’s decision to go with five receivers instead of six.

“My mindset, I’m not going to change who I am just because of the situation,” Wright said, via Tomasson. “I’m going to be Jarius Wright, continue to lead the receivers whether it’s on the field or off the field. I’m a team player first.”

Adam Thielen is the player the team has been using in the slot. Wright’s status sparked speculation that he could be traded or cut before the season began. It likely will take an injury to Thielen or another receiver to get Wright back on the field in Minnesota.

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