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E.J. Manuel studying Bills’ playbook “like crazy”

Buffalo Bills Rookie Camp Getty Images

Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel made a good first impression on coach Doug Marrone at the opening of rookie minicamp on Friday, which may be attributable to the work Manuel put in during the two weeks between the draft and the first day of practice.

Manuel said after Friday’s on-field work that he thinks he has a good handle on the offense, or at least as good a handle as it’s possible to have with two weeks to study.

I got the playbook after I got drafted,” Manuel said. “I’ve been drilling it like crazy.”

Manuel added, however, that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is making a point of bringing the rookies along slowly, and that he scripted 15 plays that Manuel would run in practice. That’s a long way from knowing the whole offense.

So the Bills will need Manuel to keep studying the playbook like crazy, if he’s going to be their starter when the season starts in four months.

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Packers to put safety Chris Banjo on injured reserve

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 10: Cornerback Chris Banjo #32 of the Green Bay Packers scuffles with cornerback Deshazor Everett #22 of the Washington Redskins in the second quarter during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers are struggling to keep defensive backs on the field, and now another one is headed to injured reserve.

According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, Packers safety Chris Banjo is going on IR.

Banjo apparently has a short-term injury, and might have been available in three or four weeks. But with a spate of other problems in the secondary, the team apparently decided it could not wait that long.

The Packers have recently put cornerback Sam Shields on IR, and Damarious Randall will miss some time after surgery to repair a groin injury so they needed the bodies.

Banjo, 26, has been a solid backup and special teams player, and will be a restricted free agent after this season.

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Dez Bryant practices Monday, Tyron Smith doesn’t

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on before a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys returned from their week off for a practice on Monday and it appears wide receiver Dez Bryant remains on track to make his return to the lineup after missing the last three games with a hairline fracture in his knee.

Bryant was on the field working with his teammates during Monday’s session and said last week that he feels ready for game action. The Cowboys don’t have to issue an injury report for Sunday’s game against the Eagles until Wednesday, but Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News reports that Bryant, who was limited in the team’s one bye week practice by a cut on his hand, was catching passes and running routes while the practice was open to the media.

Several other Cowboys who went into the bye week dealing with injuries returned to work, including cornerback Morris Claiborne and defensive end DaMarcus Lawrence.

Left tackle Tyron Smith did not practice as he continues to deal with the back injury that kept him out of two games. Quarterback Tony Romo also has not been cleared for practice yet, leaving Dak Prescott to continue adding to the strong case he’s already made to hold onto the job.

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Jay Cutler cleared to return from thumb injury

Jay Cutler AP

The Bears just lost another quarterback to injury, but got one back Monday.

Bears coach John Fox told reporters that Jay Cutler has been cleared to return from his thumb injury, the week after they lost Brian Hoyer to a broken arm.

Cutler’s been out since Week Two, and during his absence, Fox was very careful to not promise the job back to the incumbent. But Fox was also careful to not discount the possibility. When he said “we don’t have a plan,” he wasn’t being difficult as much as he was acknowledging that until Cutler was well enough to return, it didn’t matter.

But Fox also described Cutler as “tough-minded” and “a good teammate,” during the absence, which is helpful since they don’t have much of a choice.

Hoyer’s out with a broken arm (he had surgery yesterday), the Bears at least have someone to go with Matt Barkley next week against the Vikings.

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Report: Jets believe Geno Smith tore his ACL

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) is sacked by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon (91) during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) AP

It appears Jets quarterback Geno Smith has suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the initial MRI of the knee that Smith injured on Sunday against the Ravens leaves the Jets with the belief that Smith suffered a torn ACL.

Smith exited the game in the second quarter after taking a sack from Ravens linebacker Matt Judon. He said after the game that he didn’t feel the injury was a significant one, but this is hardly the first time that we’ve seen a player get worse news than anticipated once further testing took place.

Assuming the diagnosis holds, Smith will miss the rest of the season and likely has played his final snap with the Jets with his contract expiring after the season. It’s a tough blow for Smith, who was in line to start last season before he suffered a broken jaw when then-teammate IK Enemkpali punched him in the jaw. Enemkpali also suffered a torn ACL this year, although Smith will likely look elsewhere for tips on how to rehab the injury.

Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Smith on Sunday and said he believes he should be the starter before anything was known about the severity of the injury. The Jets also have Bryce Petty and rookie Christian Hackenberg on hand, but may opt to go back to Fitzpatrick in hopes that he can show something closer to his 2015 performance than he did in the first six weeks of the year.


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Tom Brady is anti-domestic violence, but won’t compare to his suspension

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warms up prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady goes to great lengths to say nothing.

And even in as safe a space as being against domestic violence, Brady isn’t going to allow himself to be dragged into revealing any opinions he may or may not have.

During his weekly appearance on WEEI, Brady expressed the requisite anger with Giants kicker Josh Brown, who admitted to years of abuse of his then-wife and has been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, after an initial one-game suspension.

“I grew up with three sisters, I was very fortunate to learn from a loving father and a loving mother how to treat and respect women,” Brady said. “I have a daughter of my own and domestic violence is a horrible issue. It’s a tragedy when it happens. Any type of abuse or bullying of people who can’t defend or fight for themselves, I have no respect for that.

“Like I said, the NFL, they claim to take tough stances and this is their situation. This is their situation to deal with. I’ll let them deal with it. Like I said, I was very fortunate to grow up with sisters, a mother — I condone no part of that. That is absolutely something I would never be a part of or do. It’s a terrible tragedy.”

Of course, Brady was also punished by the NFL for something far less loathsome, and he was asked if it was frustrating that Brown could be suspended for one game while he was banished for four. And that’s when he grabbed the wheel tightly with both hands and steered straight for the middle of the road.

“I think it is the league’s issue,” Brady said. “Obviously, there is a lot of controversy with that. I’m trying to stay out of all that. I will let them handle it. I think that is their responsibility. I certainly don’t condone any part of domestic violence. I think it is a terrible, terrible thing. I think the league, they have to handle those types of things.”

“I’m just going to stay in my lane. Like I said, it’s up to them to decide whatever they want to do. I’m just going to try and stay out of any kind of my opinion. I certainly have opinions, I just don’t really care to share them.”

Say this for Brady, even though he has some preferences some may not care for, he’s non-expressing his non-opinions consistently.

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Report: Trent Williams avoided structural damage to knee

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 26: Trent Williams #71 of the Washington Redskins walks off the field at the end of the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 26, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Redskins lost a couple of key players to injuries during Sunday’s loss to the Lions with cornerback Josh Norman leaving due to a concussion and left tackle Trent Williams hurting his left knee.

Williams said after the game that he was in pain and had an MRI scheduled for Monday to determine the extent of the injury. It sounds like the results of that test brought some good news.

Mike Jones of the Washington Post reports that the test showed no structural damage to Williams’ knee. As a result, there’s hope that he will be able to play against the Bengals in London in Week Eight as the Redskins try to get back on track after their four-game winning streak came to an end.

The likelihood of that won’t be known until we’re a bit deeper into the week, something that will also be true of Norman’s progress through the concussion protocol.

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Report: Josh Brown won’t appeal placement on Commissioner’s-Exempt list

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 22: Josh Brown #3 of the New York Giants watches his overtime game winning filed goal to beat the Detroit Lions 23-20 with Steve Weatherford #5 while playing the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 22, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Legal battles still may come in the case of Giants kicker Josh Brown. Whether the league properly placed Brown on the Commisioner’s-Exempt list won’t be one of the fights.

Brown won’t be appealing the designation, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

It’s a smart move, given that the league’s ability to use the Commissioner’s-Exempt list in Personal Conduct Policy cases has been previously upheld via arbitration. Also, Brown is still getting paid; if he fights his current status and forces his way to the active roster, he invites a possible termination of his contract by the Giants.

The Giants could still cut him, in theory. The NFL recently confirmed to PFT that placement on the Commissioner’s-Exempt list does not insulate a player from being released. But the Giants could face a grievance if they impose what would amount to a second punishment for his off-field misconduct, in the same way the Ravens did two years ago after cutting Ray Rice.

Although the NFL is currently investigating separate allegations of wrongdoing about which the league didn’t actually know, Brown can argue that the NFL and/or the Giants should have known, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, all information about his off-field behavior before imposing a one-game suspension, if/when other action against him is taken.

Regardless, Brown realizes that he can’t force his way onto the field, and that at this point the only real question is whether and to what extent he’ll be paid. With the Giants still paying him while he’s on the Commissioner’s-Exempt list, there was no reason to upset the proverbial applecart by filing an appeal.

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Panthers getting healthier at cornerback

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 26:  James Bradberry #24 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on August 26, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers hoped to get healthier over their bye week and things appear to have played out that way in the secondary.

The team returned to work on Monday and Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that cornerbacks James Bradberry and Robert McClain were both back on the field with the team. Bradberry started the first four games of the season, but the 2016 second-round pick missed the last two games with a toe injury. McClain missed Week Six with a hamstring injury, leaving the team with a shortage of healthy cornerbacks.

That number got even lower when Daryl Worley suffered a concussion against the Saints. The play of the cornerback group has been an issue for the Panthers all season so the return to health for Bradberry and McClain doesn’t guarantee improvement, but it should at least improve the chances that progress can take place in the coming weeks.

The Panthers also had Leonard Johnson on the field. Johnson has been on the non-football injury list due to a torn Achilles and could provide more help for the struggling group if he gets the green light for game action.

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Cardinals fear Jaron Brown suffered torn ACL

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 17:  Wide receiver Jaron Brown #13 of the Arizona Cardinals is helped off the field during the fourth quarter of the NFL game against the New York Jets at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 17, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals came out of last night’s game without a win or a loss, at least on the score sheet.

But they’re now down another receiver.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, initial tests showed that wide receiver Jaron Brown suffered a torn ACL last night.

He’s having more tests to confirm the severity today (presumably an MRI).

Brown left last night’s game in the first half, and didn’t return. They were already playing without John Brown (hamstrings, sickle cell trait), leaving them thin at receiver.

Now they’ll need J.J. Nelson to step into a more prominent role, as they prepare for a game against the Panthers (who are actually getting healthier in the secondary at the moment).

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Damarious Randall to miss more time after surgery over the weekend

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Allen Robinson #15 of the Jacksonville Jaguars attempts to catch a pass against  Damarious Randall #23 of the Green Bay Packers during a game  at EverBank Field on September 11, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers placed cornerback Sam Shields on injured reserve last week, which leaves him unavailable through at least Week 14, and another member of the position group will be out for multiple weeks as well.

Rob Demovsky of reports that Damarious Randall had surgery over the weekend after missing most of the last three games. Demovsky reports that Randall, who was listed with a groin injury, went to see core muscle specialist Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia for the surgery.

Randall is expected back this season, but it will be a few weeks before it will be time to start thinking about his return to the lineup.

Quinten Rollins has also missed the last two games with a groin injury, so the Packers have been short on cornerbacks for a while. Ladarius Gunter and Demetri Goodson started in last week’s victory over the Bears and should continue to see plenty of playing time as the team waits for the healthy return of their other cornerbacks.

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Eagles lose starting cornerback Ron Brooks for season

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Ron Brooks #33 of the Philadelphia Eagles is carted off the field with a leg injury during the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings during a NFL game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 23, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Vikings 21-10. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles’ defense suffered a big blow in Sunday’s win over the Vikings.

Ron Brooks, a starting cornerback, is done for the season after he ruptured his right quadriceps tendon during the game. Eagles coach Doug Pederson confirmed that Brooks is out for the year today.

Brooks arrived as a free agent this year from Buffalo, where he had also played for Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Brooks has started five games this year on defense and also plays on special teams.

The Eagles will likely have safety Malcolm Jenkins play more slot cornerback to fill in for Brooks, while Jaylen Watkins will get more playing time at safety.

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Eli Apple on mom’s outspokenness: “I was like godd–n”

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 11:  Eli Apple #24 and Romeo Okwara #78 of the New York Giants take the field prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Eli Apple loves his mother and understands she’s outspoken.

But he also wanted to make it clear he’s just over here doing his job.

After his mother Annie Apple blasted Giants owner John Mara for comments regarding kicker Josh Brown’s admission of abuse, and then doubled down with a column about her history of being abused, the rookie cornerback had the same reaction many others did.

“How are you a so-called champion of domestic violence but lack basic compassion for a victim?” Annie Apple wrote. “Yes, this man signs my son’s checks as I’ve been reminded on Twitter. Mr. Mara owns the New York Giants. He doesn’t own Annie Apple. Wrong is wrong. And Mr. Mara’s comments were unapologetically wrong and hit at a raw place.”

I was like, ‘godd–n,’” Apple said, via Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “But she’s her own person. She’s gonna do whatever she wants to do. She’s gonna talk about this. I’ve just got to understand that. It’s cool.

“My mom’s very vocal and that topic is very important to her, so I can understand where she was coming from. But at the same time in my position I just have to do my part and play football and do what I can do.”

Apple said he’s had conversations with the Giants organization about the topic.

“I’ll be good on that front,” Eli Apple said. “I talked to them, let them know my mom, her reactions like that sometimes are like that, she’s her own person, she’s gonna do that, so I’ve just got to do my job. I just made sure I talked to everybody, man, just let them know, whoever is concerned. . . .

“She has a voice, she has a voice and she’s gonna use it no matter. I love her for that. She’s a unique woman and she’s always gonna speak up no matter what and I can’t really control that. I’ve just got to play football, . . . I tried to (talk to her). She’s a little upset at everybody right now, so I’m probably gonna give her her space a little bit.”

It’s an unusual position for the son to have to be in, to be discussing the words of his mother. But from the moment she agreed to step into the spotlight, it was also a little inevitable.

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Adam Gase credits Jay Ajayi’s comeback from “10 bad days”

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 23:  Jay Ajayi #23 of the Miami Dolphins rushes during a game against the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

At the start of the season, Dolphins coach Adam Gase was so down on running back Jay Ajayi that Gase left Ajayi home for the team’s Week One trip to Seattle. A whole lot has changed since then.

On Sunday, Ajayi became just the fourth player in NFL history to rush for more than 200 yards in back-to-back games, and Gase said today on PFT Live that Ajayi’s success has been all about improving his work ethic. Gase said that the team had some issues with Ajayi between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season, but those issues are all in the past.

“He had 10 bad days there from the fourth preseason game to the first game, but he’s been great every day besides having that little rough spot,” Gase said. “He’s done a great job grabbing this thing and taking advantage of it, and he’s done everything we needed him to do.”

Gase said he could tell as soon as the Dolphins returned from Seattle that Ajayi was committed to having a positive impact on the team this year.

“When we got back for that next week, he was great in the meetings, he practiced hard, he did everything we asked him to do,” Gase said. “And that’s why he’s in this position.”

It was less than two months ago that the Dolphins didn’t even think Ajayi was one of the 46 players they wanted on the field for Week One. Now Ajayi looks like one of the best running backs in the NFL.

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Drew Brees: We got what we deserved in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 23: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium during the fourth quarter of the game on October 23, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jason Hanna/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Saints had a chance to improve their record to 3-3 in Kansas City on Sunday, which would have left them right in the thick of an NFC South race that’s tightened up over the last two weeks thanks to a pair of Falcons losses.

A series of errors, both physical and mental, undermined that effort, however. Drew Brees had an interception returned for a touchdown, running back Mark Ingram lost a fumble inside the Chiefs’ 10-yard-line in the fourth quarter and the Saints committed 10 penalties in a 27-21 loss that saw them gain 137 more yards than Kansas City.

Among those penalties was an unnecessary roughness call on defensive tackle Nick Fairley that gave the Chiefs a first down and allowed them to run two more minutes off the clock before hitting a field goal that extended their lead to six points. It was the kind of sloppy play that left Brees saying the Saints “got what we deserved” and coach Sean Payton didn’t dispute that notion.

“We’re not a good enough team to overcome some of those type of mistakes,” Payton said, via “We didn’t do enough smart things in the end to give ourselves a chance.”

Regardless of the environment, there aren’t many teams that can overcome the types of errors that the Saints made on Sunday and the loss increases the need for the team to go on a winning run if the second half is going to offer the hope for more than playing out the string.

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Patriots have no gray area regarding domestic violence

nfl-shield-london-110614-getty-ftr_1salvtv5vu0w31172kwui717qw Getty Images

At a time when the league and the Giants are spending plenty of time trying to rationalize and justify their approach to kicker Josh Brown, who in May 2015 committed an act of domestic violence that the league didn’t deem to be sufficiently serious to suspend him for the baseline of six games (and that the team didn’t deem to be sufficiently serious to disqualify him from a new two-year contract), at least one franchise is making it clear that there is no gray area on this subject.

“I’m going to speak for the New England Patriots, and I think going back to the days of Christian Peter, we’ve been pretty stringent about it and I think ahead of the curve when it comes to the seriousness of this issue,” Patriots president Jonathan Kraft said on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Sunday, via the Boston Herald. “I don’t think there’s an issue that you could say . . . there might be some that are as serious, but there’s nothing more serious than what’s going on in the domestic violence and the sexual abuse area. It’s something that we have felt strongly about since we’ve owned the franchise.”

It’s more than the Patriots making it clear that their own employees should not engage in domestic violence or sexual abuse — or, as in the case of Christian Peter, relinquishing the rights to a draft pick after ownership became aware of his history.

“[W]e’re using the power of professional sports and our players and our brand to make sure, at the teenage level that . . . we help prevent teenage assault and abuse and hopefully start to teach young men when they’re still in their formative years that it’s something that’s totally unacceptable and it’s not something that we’re ever going to tolerate here at the New England Patriots,” Kraft said. “[W]e have taken it seriously for the 24 years we’ve owned the team. And [it] is something, for us, there literally is no gray area. It’s a very definitive and clear situation.”

True zero tolerance is a tough standard to enforce, because it means that serious consequences will apply to anyone who violates it — from coach to quarterback to any other stat player or valued employee. The Patriots apparently are willing to walk the talk; the true test will come if/when a key member of the organization faces domestic violence allegations.

The most befuddling aspect of the Josh Brown case continues to be the reality that he hardly is a key employee. While New England’s approach is the right one, it will be a challenge at times to apply it across the board. When a lax, clumsy approach is applied to a player who hardly is central to the team’s effort, the perception is reinforced that the NFL doesn’t care as much about domestic violence as it claims.

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