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Niners fear “slight fracture” in hand for Patrick Willis

Willis AP

The good news for the 49ers is that, per a league source, 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis feels fine after injuring his right hand during practice on Wednesday.  The bad news is that Willis nevertheless may have a “slight fracture” in his hand.

Willis will have an X-ray on Thursday, a development first reported by Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.

As Maiocco explains, Willis has suffered two fractures in his hand during his NFL career.

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman also missed a portion of Wednesday’s practice after sustaining a groin strain on Tuesday.

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Report: Browns cutting Paul Kruger

Paul Kruger ,Matt Ryan AP

The Browns will release veteran pass rusher Paul Kruger as part of their first wave of roster cuts, Cleveland.com reported Monday.

Kruger, 30, signed a five-year, $40 million deal with the Browns in 2013, not long after playing on the Ravens’ Super Bowl championship team. That was four offseasons and two administrations ago, and this move probably didn’t surprise Kruger as it makes sense for the Browns to go young and look towards the future.

Kruger didn’t miss a game in three seasons with the Browns but saw his sack total drop from 11 in 2014 to 2.5 last season. He figures to draw interest from teams at a reduced rate on the open market.

The report said the Browns are also releasing their kicker from last season, Travis Coons, as well as backup quarterback Austin Davis and tight end E.J. Bibbs.

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Blidi Wreh-Wilson, two 2015 draft picks among Titans cuts

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 18:  Richard Matthews #18 of the Miami Dolphins catches a pass in front of Blidi Wreh-Wilson #25 of the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on October 18, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Dolphins defeated the Titans 38-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Titans have dropped their roster to 77 players and three of the cuts were draft picks from the years before General Manager Jon Robinson took over the personnel side of the shop.

Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson was a 2013 third-round pick who played 34 games for the team over the last three seasons. He started 14 of those games, but the addition of two free agents and two 2016 draft picks appear to have pushed him off the roster this time around.

The Titans also waived two 2015 sixth-round picks. Linebacker Deiontrez Mount, who played four games as a rookie, was dropped outright while center Andy Gallik, who made eight starts last season, was given an injury designation after having knee surgery. If Gallik is unclaimed, he will revert to the injured reserve list.

Defensive end Ropati Pitoitua, safety Lamarcus Brutus, tackle William Campbell, wide receiver Donte Foster, linebacker Amarlo Herrera, wide receiver Reece Horn, cornerback Tyler Patmon, offensive lineman Nick Ritcher and defensive end Mike Smith were also dropped from the roster.

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Marcus Gilbert says he’ll play through “significant” elbow injury

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Steelers starting offense made its first appearance of the preseason against the Saints last Friday and things went well on the scoreboard with two touchdowns in two drives before Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and others headed back to the bench until Week One.

Not all the results were great, however. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert was forced out of the game with an elbow injury that he described as “significant” on Sunday. Gilbert said that he’s heading for a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, but that he plans on being on the field for the season opener even if he’ll be playing through pain.

“I’ll be there no matter what,” Gilbert said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “If I have to wrap my arm up, it doesn’t matter. There’s no way I’m missing that first game. It’s not going to be something that’s going to keep me off the field. I’m going to rehab the [heck] out of it. It will be good for the first game of the season.”

Defensive end Cameron Heyward also got hurt on Friday, but said his sprained ankle wouldn’t stop him from playing against the Redskins on September 12.

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Report: Veteran lineman Cullen Jenkins to work out for Washington

Cullen Jenkins, Tony Romo AP

Washington may be looking for some defensive line depth, and they’re checking to see if a familiar face has any tread left on his tires.

According to former tight end Chris Cooley of ESPN 980, Washington is working out longtime defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins.

The 35-year-old Jenkins played all 16 games for the Giants last year (after taking a pay cut to stay), but hasn’t been with anyone since hitting free agency this spring.

Jenkins has spent his last five seasons in the NFC East with the Giants and Eagles (where he was part of the 2011 Dream Team class of acquisitions), after his first seven years in the league with the Packers.

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Eric Berry signs tender with Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 29: Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs overlooks the offense at Arrowhead Stadium during the first quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills on November 29, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs said goodbye to eight players on Sunday, but it was the one arrival that made for the biggest news of the day.

Safety Eric Berry reported to the team and signed his franchise tender, ending an absence from the team that started when they used the franchise tag on him this offseason. Berry and the Chiefs couldn’t agree on a long-term contract before the July 15 deadline, leaving Berry to play out this year on the $10.8 million tender.

Coach Andy Reid said it is good to have Berry back in the fold and that the safety will spend the next two weeks getting into game shape.

“I’d probably lean against playing him on Thursday,” Reid said, via the team. “Just give him time within practice to get himself ready for the opener, but he’s in great shape. It’s just a matter of getting him into football shape.”

The Chiefs open their season at home against the Chargers on September 11 and Berry should be back in his customary place in the secondary come kickoff.

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Monday morning one-liners

Houston Texans outside linebacker John Simon (51) returns an interception for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith) AP

The Bills got T Cordy Glenn back at practice.

Dolphins K Andrew Franks doesn’t think that a missed field goal last Thursday is reason for panic.

A good performance Friday hasn’t gone to Patriots rookie QB Jacoby Brissett’s head.

On Jets QB Geno Smith and booing.

How will injuries impact the makeup of the Ravens’ 53-man roster?

Injuries were a negative on an otherwise good night for the Bengals starters.

The Browns offensive linemen remain supportive of struggling members of the unit.

Steelers players aren’t in the abolish preseason camp.

Texans LB John Simon scored his second touchdown of preseason.

Rookie S T.J. Green has looked good in the Colts defense.

Sunday night’s effort wasn’t a strong one for the Jaguars defense.

The Titans expect TE Delanie Walker to practice on Monday.

Can the Broncos offensive line get the job done this season?

Projecting the way the Chiefs will look after cutting to 53 players.

WR Michael Crabtree says increased practice time is helping the Raiders passing game.

An audible by Chargers QB Philip Rivers opened the door to an easy Melvin Gordon touchdown run.

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant has no doubts about QB Tony Romo’s toughness.

Coach Ben McAdoo isn’t happy with the Giants offensive line.

The Eagles are finding more ways to get the ball into WR Josh Huff’s hands.

A call for the Redskins to kick the ball as deep as possible on kickoffs.

How worried should people be about the Bears’ preseason performances?

The Lions may have settled on a long snapper.

Will the Packers try to make a trade involving their wide receiver depth?

Vikings rookie CB Mackensie Alexander’s post-interception celebrating earned both a flag and the ire of coach Mike Zimmer.

Who will be the Falcons kicker after cutdown day?

The Panthers are starting to turn their attention to opening night.

Correcting mistakes is a big part of the Saints’ agenda this week.

WR Bernard Reedy isn’t letting any opportunity to improve his chances of making the Buccaneers pass by.

Sunday didn’t go well for the Cardinals’ cornerbacks.

Dropped passes worked for and against Rams QB Jared Goff against the Broncos.

The 49ers used last Friday’s game as a chance to look at their defensive depth.

Seahawks DE Cliff Avril has gotten “a lot of crazy tweets” since his hit left Cowboys QB Tony Romo with a broken bone in his back.

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Jerry Rice hates Chip Kelly’s offense

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Former San Francisco 49ers player Jerry Rice is seen during a ceremony honoring the 1981-82 team at halftime of the NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals at Levi's Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The greatest player in franchise history is not a fan of 49ers coach Chip Kelly’s offense.

Jerry Rice was watching as the 49ers lost 21-10 to the Packers on Friday night, and Rice didn’t like what he saw. It’s hard to blame him, as the 49ers’ four quarterbacks combined for just 61 passing yards.

So Rice went on Twitter and wrote, “I’m watching Niners vs Packers and hate the Read Option Offense. Can we bring back old football?

“I’m not bashing the Niners,” Rice continued. “It throws the timing off. No rhythm. Great players need chemistry and timing!”

Kelly would be quick to point out that calling his system “the Read Option Offense” is a misnomer. But Rice’s eyes were not deceiving him on Friday night. Whatever you call it, Kelly’s offense looked awful.

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Alex Boone on Colin Kaepernick: “It’s shameful”

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with guard Alex Boone #75 after a 21-yard touchdown pass against the Baltimore Ravens during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on October 18, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick and his current teammates with the 49ers had a meeting on Sunday that gave Kaepernick the chance to talk to them about his decision to sit during the national anthem.

Some of those teammates don’t agree with Kaepernick’s position, but none gave the sense that there will be a problem within the team because of the stance he’s taking. The same might not be true if Alex Boone was still on the team.

Boone jumped to the Vikings as a free agent this offseason and the guard said after Sunday’s game that he thinks there would have been a problem if he’d been on the same sideline as Kaepernick when Kaepernick kept his seat while the anthem played before a game.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Boone said in the locker room. “I was upset and disappointed. Like I said earlier, that flag gives you the right to do whatever you want and I understand that. Anquan [Boldin] said that and I agree with that. But at the same time, you have to show some respect, especially in this position we’re in where we’re playing a game for a living. It’s almost like disrespectful when you see all these pictures of these veterans that have no legs and they’re standing up in a wheelchair. I had a brother that served and he lost friends and I know how much it means to him. It’s shameful. I’m a very emotional person. So, I think if I had known that, my emotions would’ve been rolling — I think we would’ve had a problem on the sideline.”

We’ve seen a wide range of reactions to Kaepernick since Friday night, which illustrates that Americans have the same right to think or say whatever they want about his choice as he had to make it in the first place.

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Ron Rivera on Colin Kaepernick: “We have to do what we think is right”

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers stands on the sideline during the National Anthem prior to playing the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers coach Ron Rivera grew up in a military family, with a father who spent 32 years in the Army including two tours in Vietnam.

And perhaps because he understands everything the flag represents — including the First Amendment — Rivera said he understood 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s position to not stand during the National Anthem.

“To each his own. Everybody’s going to do it their way,” Rivera told Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “To me, it’s a very personal thing because of my dad, his military background, knowing that his family and my mom’s family served in the military.

“My view is [the anthem] is about honoring the people that served and made the commitment to our country, some who even made the ultimate sacrifice. When I stand, that’s what I’m standing for. I’m standing for the people that came before my father and the people that came after him. . . .

“This is America and people are given freedoms and rights. Whatever he chooses he chooses. So be it. We have to do what we think is right. I think that’s the most important thing. Let’s not forget what this country’s built on, and that’s freedoms.”

It’s not a view every coach would espouse, and already Bills coach Rex Ryan has made it clear he wants his players to stand for the National Anthem. And for many coaches, it’s going to be about the team-building as much as the patriotism, as the guys who make a living in the “ultimate team sport” want all 53 players pulling in the same direction.

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Stephen Jones doesn’t slam the door on Romo getting Bledsoe’d

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys looks to hand off against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

A decade ago, the Cowboys benched quarterback Drew Bledsoe for a guy who had arrived three years earlier as an undrafted rookie out of Eastern Illinois. Moving forward, there’s a chance that Bledsoe and Tony Romo will have something else in common: Both could end up losing a starting franchise-quarterback gig due to injury.

In comments to Peter King of TheMMQB.com, Cowboys executive V.P. Stephen Jones didn’t dismiss the possibility of Dak Prescott playing so well that Romo can’t get back on the field after the broken bone in his back heals.

“I can’t imagine a scenario where Tony’s not our quarterback when he’s ready,” Jones said, seemingly closing the door on Prescott taking the job before jamming it open. “But things happen. You know that. You know what happened to Bledsoe and [Tom] Brady. I’m sure Tony’s aware of that. But the reality is Tony’s going to come back for us and play great, we believe.”

Compare Jones mentioning (without prompting) the possibility of Prescott seizing the job to Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s taking-the-Lord’s-name-in-vain reaction to efforts by one of the various reporters assembled for an audience with the Great and Powerful Oz to dare suggest that Jimmy Garoppolo could hold the starting job for even one game beyond Brady’s looming four-game exile. Belichick has completely and totaled ruled out any sort of Brady-Bledsoe dynamic. Jones, while still expressing faith in Romo, surprisingly went there.

And for good reason. As explained on Sunday, the Cowboys eventually have a decision to make about Romo. How well Prescott plays will be a factor. How much Romo makes in comparison will be, too. Whether he ultimately can be relied upon to remain healthy once he gets healthy could be the biggest factor of all.

Speaking of Garoppolo, here’s another chance to provide an answer to Monday’s PFT Live question of the day.

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David Harris expected to be ready for Week One

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 18:  Chris Thompson #25 of the Washington Redskins is tackled by David Harris #52 of the New York Jets after completeing a first down reception during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 18, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets linebacker David Harris had to leave Saturday’s game against the Giants with a shoulder injury and he departed in a sling, creating some worry that the Jets would be without a key defensive piece when they face the Bengals in Week One.

Sunday brought better news on that front. According to multiple reports, an MRI performed on Sunday showed that Harris suffered a bruise that is expected to clear up in time for the regular season opener. Harris isn’t expected to play in this week’s preseason finale, although that would likely be the case even without an injury worry.

Harris has not missed a game since the 2008 season and is coming off a strong 2015 that saw him pick up 108 tackles and 4.5 sacks. The linebacking corps around him has changed significantly this year with Jordan Jenkins, Lorenzo Mauldin, Darron Lee and Erin Henderson likely to fill roles around a constant for the Jets over the last decade.

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall sat out Saturday night with a hip issue and is also expected to be good to go when the bell rings on September 11.

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Cedric Peerman’s arm is broken, likely out for the season

Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Peerman (30) is brought down by Detroit Lions line backer Chi Chi Ariguzo in the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Detroit, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) AP

At least one of the Bengals’ injuries last night is severe, and could end a season.

According to Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com, Bengals running back Cedric Peerman suffered a broken left forearm in last night’s preseason game against the Jaguars, and his season is likely over.

Athletic trainers immediately put an air cast on Peerman on the field, which is usually a sign something has gone terribly wrong.

Peerman has been the Bengals special team captain, and went to the Pro Bowl last season.

The good news for the Bengals is that the injuries by cornerback Adam Jones (calf strain) and wide receiver A.J. Green (knee) were not as severe. Jones didn’t make it through pregame, and Green came up limping in the first quarter.

“I think I just came down on it, banged knees, but I’m fine. It sucks because I wanted to play a little bit longer,” Green told NBC’s Michelle Tafoya at halftime of last night’s broadcast.

That allows the Bengals to breathe a sigh of relief, as they could ill afford to lose any more offensive players to injury this preseason.

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49ers teammates standing with Colin Kaepernick, even if they disagree

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 and center Daniel Kilgore #67 of the San Francisco 49ers run off the field during a game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Before he addressed the media for 18 minutes yesterday to explain his controversial decision to not stand for the National Anthem, Colin Kaepernick addressed his teammates.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, a players-only meeting was held to give Kaepernick a chance to tell his side of the story, and to give anyone who disagreed with him a chance to tell theirs.

Center Daniel Kilgore, who is white and from Tennessee, said he initially took offense to Kaepernick’s action, but gained a new understanding after listening to him explain why he felt the flag was a symbol of ongoing racism in this country.

“I can see where people would think it’s bad with the national anthem and the military,” Kilgore said. “For me, I’m going to stand there every time. I’m going to think about and honor those who are fighting and those who have fought, my family members, my friends. If Kap decides not to, that’s his decision. . . .

“In seeing his point of view, it does help. It clears the air. It was a good meeting. It was a productive meeting. We’re all under the same understanding that he has that right. And for me, personally, I see where Colin was coming from. I don’t agree with him not standing up for the national anthem, but I do respect and acknowledge the fact that he has the right to decide what he wants to do.”

Wide receiver Torrey Smith has been outspoken on such issues in the past, and said he understands that Kaepernick has no beef with the military. He also understands the wrath his teammate is now subject to.

“I like to talk about these things because we all come from different types of backgrounds,” Smith said. “A lot of people like to act like racism and things like that don’t exist in society. If you believe that, go look at Kap’s Instagram comments or his Twitter comments. He’s being called the N-word and ‘Go back to your country,’ and ‘You don’t like this, go here.’ If you say things people don’t agree with, that’s just the way it goes, especially in the social media era. . . .

“The bad thing about what Kap did, it might offend some people. The positive is, it has people talking about something.”

There’s no doubt it has achieved that goal. The interesting part will be seeing whether enough people will listen to the substance of his message, or simply allow the emotional talking points to wash over them, as the conversation steers beyond football.

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Cam Heyward: Illegal chop blocks are still happening

FILE - In this July 29, 2016, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward (97) participates in a practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Latrobe, Pa. Suddenly, Cam Heyward finds himself the oldest player on the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line. Entering his sixth season, Heyward has grown into the role of mentor for Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave and others. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File) AP

Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward said the cut block that left him with a high ankle sprain was fine. But he saw plenty of other blocks Friday night against the Saints which he thought were supposed to be illegal now.

The league banned all chop blocks in March, eliminating the plays where a second offensive lineman goes for the legs of a player who is engaged with another blocker up high.

In particular, Heyward said rookie defensive tackle Javon Hargrave was chopped down while engaged with another Saints lineman.

“The ones where guys are holding someone else up and then another guy comes low, that’s uncalled for,” Heyward said, via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I thought we were trying to get that out of our league. There were some instances, like one with Hargrave where he was held up and this guy still went down. Those are the ones where I’m like ‘Didn’t you just say this was a big point of emphasis?’

“There has to be changes and there has to be accountability on that level.”

Any time a rule changes, there’s going to be a period of adjustment, and it’s unrealistic to think officials are going to see them all. But Heyward’s comments will also bring attention to the rule, which will add emphasis to the point of emphasis.

As to his own injury, Heyward insisted he’d be ready for the regular-season opener on Sept. 12, as he said team doctors told him his high ankle sprain was on the mild end of the scale.

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Jeff Fisher: Tavon Austin was paid based on “anticipation of what he’s going to do”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 13:  Head coach Jeff Fisher of the Los Angeles Rams shakes hands with wide receiver Tavon Austin #11 during warmups for the game against the Dallas Cowboys at the Los Angeles Coliseum during preseason on August 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams on Saturday gave receiver Tavon Austin a four-year extension with a new-money average of $10.5 million. The move has prompted some to question the decision, based on Austin’s performance during the first three years of his career.

On Sunday, coach Jeff Fisher explained that Austin’s compensation is aimed at not the past but the future.

“It’s our anticipation of what he’s going to do,” Fisher told reporters. “We’ve seen what he’s capable of and we’re hoping we’re going to get a lot more than what we’ve seen in the past. I know people are putting out numbers and things like that, but they forget three or four punt returns that were returned for touchdowns that were called back. He’s very, very talented with the ball in his hands. He is a problem to defend against and we hear that week after week after week. I was speaking with [Broncos defensive coorindator] Wade [Phillips] before the game and [he was saying], ‘This guy is really good.’ It was obvious, the way they defended us, they knew we weren’t going to give him the ball, so they just kind of disregarded where he was, but things change here in a couple weeks. I’m just really happy for Tavon. He’s a great team guy, full of energy and he’s got a God-given talent that’s going to carry us a long way.”

Regardless of any punt returns that were called back due to penalties, Austin’s numbers on offense have been limited by a lack of talent around him, specifically at the quarterback position. If the team had a true downfield passing threat, it would be easier to create opportunities to get Austin the ball in space at or near the line of scrimmage, allowing him to make people miss and gain lots of yards.

And so the ability to get a full return on the team’s investment in Austin won’t depend solely on how Austin plays, but how others play around him — starting with the quarterback position but also taking into consideration the offensive line, running back Todd Gurley, and a collection of fellow receivers whom Terrell Owens regards as no-names.

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