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Report: Winston Justice visiting Chargers

Winston Justice AP

The Chargers’ post-draft due diligence on veteran tackles continues.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the club will host free agent Winston Justice.

Justice (6-6, 317) started 12 games at right tackle in the 2012 regular season. In San Diego, he would provide an insurance policy behind rookie D.J. Fluker, whom the club sees as a right tackle.

Considering how he has been used in the past, the 29-year-old Justice wouldn’t appear to be an option on the left side; all but one of his 43 regular-season NFL starts have been at right tackle. In his lone career start at left tackle, the Eagles surrendered 12 sacks in a loss at the Giants in 2007, and Justice had big problems stopping Osi Umenyiora.

The Chargers’ willingness to research Justice makes sense. The club could stand to continue to bolster its tackle depth, and Chargers GM Tom Telesco was a member of the Colts’ front office when Indianapolis acquired Justice from Philadelphia in March 2012.

The Chargers hosted veteran left tackle Max Starks last week, but no agreement was reached.

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Texans quarterback Tom Savage leaves game with shoulder injury

Terrell McClain, Tom Savage AP

The Texans had to wake Ryan Mallett up, and send him back into a game he wasn’t planning to play in.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Texans third-string quarterback Tom Savage left last night’s game at Dallas with a shoulder injury, and will be tested further today when they get back to Houston.

The injury happened in the fourth quarter when he was drilled by defensive tackle Davon Coleman, so Mallett had to go back in to finish last night’s game against the Cowboys.

Afterward, Savage was holding his right had against his chest to alleviate some of the pain, and needed help getting dressed before talking to reporters.

Just a hard hit,” Savage said. “I guess we’ll find out [the severity] when we get back [to Houston]. Obviously, any kind of injury, you’re always a little worried, but I’m going to go back and do whatever coach [Bill O’Brien] wants me to do.”

The Texans were expected to carry three quarterbacks anyway, as they think Savage could eventually develop into a starter. But depending on the severity of the injury, they might now have an extra roster spot to deal with this weekend.

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Tyler Lockett impresses again in preseason finale

Tyler Lockett AP

The Seahawks came into the final preseason game with no touchdowns from their starting offense this summer, but they were able to change that early in the first quarter with the help of a player who hasn’t had any trouble finding the end zone recently.

Russell Wilson’s first pass of the night went to third-round pick Tyler Lockett, who had beaten Raiders corner Keith McGill easily on the play, and Lockett jetted 63 yards into the end zone. It was Lockett’s first offensive touchdown of the preseason to go with his scores on kickoff and punt returns and it’s further reason why he’s in line for a role with the Seahawks in both those phases during his rookie season.

“Obviously, the amount of plays that [Lockett] touched the ball and what he did when he had the ball in his hands was enormous,” coach Pete Carroll said, via the team’s website. “It just added to all of the information that we’ve been gathering. He’s as hard working of a guy as we have in the program. I’ve been extraordinarily impressed with his consistency and his work ethic. Just like the guys we love that are on our team.”

The only place where the Seahawks have found lacking this summer is his dancing ability. Lockett showed off his moves after Thursday’s touchdown and teammate Doug Baldwin called them an “embarrassment” to the wideouts and Lockett’s family. If Lockett’s production continues at anything close to this rate in the regular season, he’ll get chances to polish his dancing.

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Brooks Reed had groin surgery

Atlanta Falcons v New York Jets Getty Images

Falcons linebacker Brooks Reed missed much a lot of time this summer with a groin injury suffered during spring work and his absence from the lineup is going to stretch into the regular season.

Coach Dan Quinn said earlier this week that he was concerned about Reed’s condition and that the linebacker was soliciting further medical opinions. Those opinions pointed in the direction of surgery and Quinn announced Thursday night that Reed, who signed with the Falcons this offseason, had an operation.

Quinn didn’t offer an expected return date for Reed, but it’s a good bet that he’ll miss at least the first month of the season while he recovers. If it’s expected to be a longer absence, Reed could be a candidate for injured reserve with the designation to return.

O’Brien Schofield and Kroy Biermann are candidates to fill in for Reed in the starting lineup on a defense that was hoping his arrival would help move things in a better direction than they went last season.

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Mike Pettine says Dwayne Bowe isn’t in danger of getting cut

Dwayne Bowe AP

Speculation about wide receiver Dwayne Bowe’s future with the Browns revved up on Thursday when Solomon Wilcots, who calls the team’s preseason games on television, said that Bowe needed “to show up tonight to be a part of the 53-man roster.”

Bowe then played into the third quarter against the Bears, which is usually a time when the field is filled with players angling for spots on practice squads and not those who signed two-year contracts with $9 million in guaranteed money. Bowe had one catch for eight yards in the game, which coach Mike Pettine said wouldn’t be Bowe’s last with the Browns when asked by reporters after the game.

“Dwayne? No,” Pettine said, via Cleveland.com. “He just needed to work, so that’s why he was out there.”

Bowe missed time this summer with a hamstring injury and said he wasn’t surprised by his playing time because he wanted to shake off some rust. He also shrugged off speculation about his roster spot, saying that everyone needs to deliver to make the team.

The Browns showed with defensive tackle Phil Taylor that they are willing to cut players owed a chunk of money. When you add the overall makeup of the receiver position with the Browns to the money, however, it would be surprising to learn that Pettine was being anything but honest about Bowe’s standing in Cleveland.

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Josh Freeman to “exhaust every option” before giving up NFL dream

Josh Freeman, Da'Quan Bowers AP

It’s possible that former first-rounder Josh Freeman played his last NFL game last night.

And while it wasn’t necessarily one to remember, he said afterward he’s not giving up his dream of making it back to the NFL.

Freeman threw a pair of late interceptions last night, which ought to seal any doubt about his chances with the Dolphins.

It was a shame to see it end the way it did,” Freeman said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “But I thought all the guys at the end were really battling. I want to keep playing, no question. I love playing football. At the end of the day, I’m going to give it all I can until I exhaust every option.”

The Dolphins might only keep two quarterbacks anyway, and if they keep a third, McLeod Bethel-Thompson will probably be the guy.

Freeman finished the preseason 23-of-48 passing for 331 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions (43.0 passer rating), looking unlike the former Buccaneers starter who played competently at times before meltdowns that didn’t seem to be football-based.

“It’s definitely been a very humbling experience in a lot of ways,” Freeman said. “A learning experience. Talking with older guys and guys out of the league [about] what they miss most, it’s the camaraderie. It’s being with the guys in the locker room.”

It’s expected that he’ll have to look again soon, and with former Bucs exec Dennis Hickey being the one to bring him in this time, he may have run out of lifelines.

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Tim Tebow getting more comfortable “had a blast” last night

Tim Tebow AP

The difference in their post-game quotes was nearly as vast as the game’s they turned in last night.

And if you read between the lines, it’s almost as if Tim Tebow and Matt Barkley sense how this is going.

The two alternated quarters last night for the Eagles as they competed for the third quarterback job there, and Tebow had a decidedly better night on the stat sheet.

“I think I’m getting more and more comfortable,” Tebow said, via Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com. “More and more comfortable with the offense. Getting into more of a rhythm, especially on first down, kind of getting things going, getting the first first down, which is big in this offense, and trying to get it rolling a little bit.”

And asked about the possibility of returning to the league after two years out of it, Tebow shrugged it off.

“That’s not up to me,” he said. “I just try to go out there and do what I’m coached and try to improve every day and compete.

“I’ve said this a lot of times to you guys and I really genuinely mean it: I’m not going to worry about what I can’t control. It’s a blessing being able to come out here and play the game I love. It was a lot of fun out there tonight. I had a blast.”

For Barkley, not so much. He played well in the opener, but hasn’t matched that as the preseason wore on, going 15-of-32 for 159 yards and an interception the last three games. He also grumbled a bit about alternating quarters (“I never liked it”), but said that wasn’t the reason for his only putting up three points to Tebow’s 17.

“I don’t know if tonight was the deciding factor,” Barkley said. “We’ll see if that’s what it comes down to, but over the course of this camp I’ve shown that I can play quarterback for this team.

“Over the course of this whole camp, through training camp, practices and preseason, I think it’s hard to really say [we’ll make a decision] out of those preseason games because it’s really a small sampling and what I have shown through practices I think I’ve done a good job and improved in a lot of areas. I’m happy with how I’ve played throughout camp.”

If cut, Barkley will likely get a chance elsewhere. But after watching him play better as the preseason wore on, it’s looking more and more like the Eagles want to give Tebow a chance there and now.

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Marcus Mariota delivers early, so the Titans get him out of there

Marcus Mariota, Scott Crichton AP

The Titans needed to see something in a hurry out of their offense in general, and Marcus Mariota in particular.

So when they delivered quickly Thursday night, the second overall pick in the draft was able to escape to the safety of the bench.

Via Jason Wolf of the Tennesseean, Mariota played a single series in Thursday’s preseason finale, but it was a good one.

His first touchdown pass as a Titan was a 59-yarder to Harry Douglas, allowing him to leave the game and the exhibition season on a positive note.

It’s really exciting to be a part of this offense,” Mariota said. “Guys are continuing to get better, and I feel that we built a solid foundation throughout the preseason. Now it’s time to go.”

Now he has nine days to get ready to face No. 1 pick Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers, after a solid enough showing in four games.

Mariota was 21-of-30 passing for 326 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 102.9 passer rating. It was solid enough showing, though it lacked a signature moment until last night.

“We accomplished what we wanted to do,” Whisenhunt said. “We got our guys in there, we eliminated that bad taste in our mouth from last week, and we did some things we really like doing. It was a good start for us.”

Most other starting quarterbacks didn’t take part last night, but Mariota still needed the reps. And by closing on a positive note, sends the Titans into the season feeling more hope than they’ve had in years.

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Lions’ Zach Zenner is the preseason’s leading rusher

Bacarri Rambo, Zach Zenner AP

When Lions running back Zach Zenner arrived in Detroit as an undrafted rookie in May, he appeared to be a long shot to make the roster. Zenner was an excellent college player, with three 2,000-yard seasons, but that was at South Dakota State, which isn’t exactly known for producing NFL talent.

But the way Zenner has played in the preseason, it would be tough for the Lions to justify cutting him — and he probably wouldn’t clear waivers if they tried to stash him on the practice squad. Zenner finished the preseason as the NFL’s leading rusher, with 183 yards on 35 carries.

In last night’s preseason finale, Zenner scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, and he said afterward that he sees his preseason performance as proof that he can make it in the NFL.

“Every preseason game is very important, especially for a guy like me as an undrafted free agent,” Zenner said, via the Associated Press. “Those opportunities, not everyone gets them.”

One person who isn’t surprised by the way Zenner played in the preseason is his fellow Lions rookie running back, Ameer Abdullah. South Dakota State played Abdullah’s Nebraska team in 2013, and Zenner finished that game with 21 carries for 202 yards and two touchdowns, plus a 21-yard reception. Although Abdullah ran for 139 yards in that game and Nebraska won in a blowout, he said he and his teammates left that game with a lot of respect for Zenner, and when Abdullah found out they were going to be NFL teammates, he figured Zenner was going to prove himself on the next level, too.

“I expected it,” Abdullah said. “We played South Dakota State in 2013 and his first run was like a 50-yard touchdown. I think he ran for like 220 on us. At that point, I knew what kind of player he was going to be.”

Abdullah was ahead of the curve: Most people didn’t know what kind of player Zenner was until this preseason. Now everyone who’s been paying attention knows that Zenner is for real.

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Ex-quarterback Pryor debuts as receiver, plays quarterback

Terrelle Pryor AP

The Terrelle Pryor Experiment finally made the game stage Thursday night as the Browns closed the preseason in Chicago.

After missing the first three preseason games and much of camp due to a hamstring issue Pryor, who’s trying to convert from quarterback to receiver and make the 53-man roster, played quarterback.

Really. He played wide receiver, too, in the second half, but he got in the box score only on read-option plays as a quarterback. He ran for five yards on the first and four on the second. He didn’t have an opportunity to catch a pass, was flagged for an illegal formation penalty when he covered up a tight end while lining up out wide and played on the punt team.

Pryor might make the Browns because he’s big (6’5) and fast and is worth some patience and lots of work in making him a receiver. Given the lack of explosive playmakers the Browns have, his ability to come in at quarterback and other positions, too, can challenge defenses. He’s probably not ready to play wide receiver right away, but the Browns might keep him this weekend when they trim the roster to 53.

“We had a list of things we wanted to take a look at with Terrelle,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said after the game. “There were a couple times that we had some routes called for him and whether it was protection or the quarterback came off too fast, we didn’t get a chance to see him make a play.”

Now, he’ll play the waiting game before knowing if the experiment will continue with the Browns.

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Belichick mum on Brady ruling

Bill Belichick AP

The last time Patriots coach Bill Belichick faced the media on a day of significance in the Tom Brady case, Belichick was able to rattle off “it’s already been addressed” several times, because he spoke after Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued a blistering statement expressing frustration with the league’s decision to uphold the four-game suspension. On the day that a federal judge scrapped the suspension, Belichick had no opening act.

But that still didn’t mean he’d say anything.

Asked after the preseason finale against the Giants to address his level of relief to the absence of uncertainty regarding the team’s quarterback for the season opener, Belichick said, “I’ll just talk about the game – any questions about the game?”

And the rest of the questions were about the game, and not about Brady’s situation.

Still, Belichick and the rest of the organization have to be privately thrilled with the outcome, as Rodney Harrison explained on Thursday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN.

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Rams say sign policy not a response to potential move

Jared Cook, Stan Kroenke AP

The Rams’ policy of banning fans from displaying signs that the team deems inappropriate is not aimed at those who protest a potential move to Los Angeles.

That’s what a team official told Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Rams say the policy was enacted late last season in response to fans waving signs related to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.

Still, the team reserves the right to remove any signs for reasons including “message content.” It will be interesting to see if the Rams remove signs that criticize owner Stan Kroenke for his efforts to remove the team from St. Louis.

If the Rams begin the process of moving to Los Angeles this year, while they still have games to play in St. Louis, expect those games to be filled with fans who have plenty to say about Kroenke.

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Three injured after roof bolt falls at Lucas Oil Stadium

460x AP

At a time when the NFL hopes to give fans more reasons to show up at games, the NFL has given fans more reasons to stay home.

According to the Associated Press, three people suffered injuries when a bolt from the roof at Lucas Oil Stadium struck them during Thursday night’s preseason game between the Bengals and Colts.

The AP report calls the injuries both “minor” and “non-life threatening”; the latter description makes the injuries sound something more than minor. The fact that two of the three people were taken to a hospital for further evaluation suggests something more than minor, too. (The third victim was treated and released.)

“A bolt from the fixed structure sheared and dropped into seating section 248,” a stadium official said in a statement. “The movement of the roof was stopped immediately and stadium authorities were notified.”

Whatever the reason, objects shouldn’t be falling on people who paid to watch a football game. And fewer people may now be willing to pay to watch a football game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

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Tim Tebow out-plays Matt Barkley in battle for Eagles roster spot

Tim Tebow AP

If the fourth and final preseason game was the deciding factor in the Eagles’ third-string quarterback competition, then Tim Tebow won. And it wasn’t even close.

Tebow played very well tonight against the Jets, completing 11 of 17 passes for 189 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception, plus 32 yards rushing on four carries. Matt Barkley, who started tonight’s game, did not play nearly as well, going just 4-for-9 for 45 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception. Barkley did not run the ball.

However, it’s unclear whether tonight’s preseason game will be the difference. Barkley has been ahead of Tebow on the depth chart to date, and Tebow still has flaws as a passer. Chip Kelly might decide that Tebow just doesn’t throw the ball well enough to make the 53-player roster.

Kelly didn’t show his hand after the game, saying that both quarterbacks showed some strengths and some weaknesses tonight. But there’s little doubt that Tebow showed more than Barkley.

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Tevin Coleman makes his case for playing time

Tevin Coleman AP

The preseason finale is generally the most meaningless of the meaningless preseason games, but Falcons rookie running back Tevin Coleman used his chance Thursday night to put himself at least in the conversation and probably in the rotation when the regular season begins.

Coleman missed much of August with a hamstring issue and carried four times for two yards last weekend in his preseason debut. But he carried eight times for 56 yards Thursday vs. the Ravens, sparked by a 26-yard run in the first quarter.

A third-round pick, Coleman missed much of August with a hamstring issue but was drafted to be an immediate contributor and push projected starter Devonta Freeman.

Freeman sat out the entire preseason but returned to practice this week for the first time since Aug 6.

It was awesome to see him,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.

The Falcons open the season Sept. 14 vs. the Eagles.

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Buccaneers sign Tim Jennings

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears Getty Images

We noted this week that it was likely, and now it has happened: Tim Jennings is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

Jennings, the veteran cornerback who was cut by the Bears, signed with the Bucs today.

The signing reunites Jennings with Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith, who previously coached him in Chicago. During their last season together, in 2012, Jennings was a Pro Bowler.

In Tampa Bay, Jennings will likely be the third cornerback on the depth chart, behind starters Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks.

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