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NFL morning after: Aaron Rodgers makes it look easy

Washington Redskins v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Did Aaron Rodgers even break a sweat on Sunday?

I suppose he probably did, over the course of a three-hour game that saw him throw 42 passes, completing 34 of them for a franchise record 480 yards and four touchdowns. But the remarkable thing about the way Rodgers has played the quarterback position for the Packers over the last few years is that he does things we’ve never seen before, and it doesn’t even look hard.

As Rodgers was marching the Packers down the field on three straight long touchdown drives in the first half, it looked like he and his receivers were playing a really intense game of catch. Washington’s defense might as well have not even been on the field, because Rodgers just threw everywhere he wanted to throw, and found someone open every time. Over the course of the day Rodgers engineered five touchdown drives and had a sixth that would have gone for a touchdown if not for James Jones fumbling at the 1-yard line.

Amazingly, Rodgers revealed after the game that he was less than 100 percent physically.

“I didn’t feel great before the game,” Rodgers said. “My neck was sore and stiff. I was hurting pretty bad.”

Despite playing through some pain, Rodgers didn’t have any interceptions on Sunday, which has become the norm for him. Rodgers has only had 1.7 percent of his passes intercepted in his career, the lowest interception rate in NFL history. Rodgers has had three different seasons with eight or fewer interceptions, and he’s on pace to do that again this year. Do you realize how hard it is to play a full season and throw so few interceptions? Let’s put it this way: Peyton Manning is probably the best I’ve ever seen at reading defenses, but Manning has thrown more than eight interceptions every year he’s been in the league.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that he knows he’s lucky to have Rodgers running his offense.

“Aaron spoils you. He makes it look easy,” McCarthy said.

Yes he does.

Here are my other Week Two thoughts:

Chip Kelly’s offense is fun to watch, but . . . Maybe the Eagles only looked great in Week One because they were playing a terrible Washington team. In Week Two, the Eagles lost to the Chargers and it looked like the real story in Philadelphia is that the Eagles’ defense is going to lose them a lot of games. The flip side of having a fast-paced offense like Kelly’s is that it makes life rough for your defense when your offense doesn’t sustain any long drives. The Chargers had the ball for more than 40 minutes of Sunday’s game, and the Eagles’ defense looked exhausted by the end.

Richard Sherman proved his greatness. In Week One against the Packers, 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin was unstoppable. In Week Two against the Seahawks, Boldin caught one pass, in garbage time. The difference? In Week Two, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman was covering Boldin. Sherman proved once again what a truly great cornerback he is.

Dontari Poe is a beast. Poe, the Kansas City defensive tackle, sacked Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo twice and showed off an incredible blend of strength and speed in whipping the Cowboys’ offensive line. A whole lot of people criticized the Chiefs for spending the No. 11 overall pick on Poe last year, saying Poe was just a workout warrior at the Combine who didn’t produce on the field. Poe is making those people eat their words.

Washington safety Brandon Meriweather should be suspended for the safety of his opponents — and himself. Meriweather lowered his head and launched into Packers running back Eddie Lacy, knocking Lacy out of the game with a concussion. Shortly after that, Meriweather lowered his head into Packers running back James Starks, and this time it was Meriweather who bore the brunt of the collision, and Meriweather was knocked out of the game. Meriweather has a history of helmet-to-helmet hits, and the NFL needs to say enough is enough and suspend Meriweather before he seriously hurts someone else, or himself.

Let’s appreciate history. During Sunday’s Eagles game, the official Twitter account of Monday Night Football compared Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to Barry Sanders.

I like McCoy and think he looks good in Chip Kelly’s offense, but get real: I knew Barry Sanders. Barry Sanders was a favorite player of mine. LeSean McCoy is no Barry Sanders. Barry Sanders led the league in rushing four times, was second in the NFL in rushing three times, was third once, fourth once and fifth once. That’s right: Sanders played 10 NFL seasons and was a Top 5 rusher all 10 years. McCoy is in his fifth NFL season, and in his first four years he never led the league in rushing, never was second and never was third. He was fourth in the league once, in 2011, and other than that has never been in the Top 10. I think we’re too quick sometimes to anoint every good player as a future Hall of Famer. McCoy is a fine rusher, but he’s not Barry Sanders. Not even close.

Mario Williams had a monster game. Williams was in Cam Newton’s face all day and was a huge part of Buffalo’s 24-23 win over Carolina. His 4.5 sacks were a career high and broke a Bills franchise record that was previously shared by two great pass rushers, Bruce Smith and Cornelius Bennett. Williams hasn’t always lived up to the massive contract Buffalo gave him last year, but he earned his play on Sunday.

Give credit to Philip Rivers. Rivers, quarterbacking a Chargers offense that’s depleted at every position and became even more depleted when receiver Malcom Floyd went down, played a fantastic game against the Eagles. Rivers completed 36 of 47 passes for 419 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and he led the drive that got San Diego into position for a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds. Unlike Aaron Rodgers, Rivers doesn’t make it look particularly easy — it felt like an epic struggle as Rivers willed the Chargers to victory. But after Rodgers, Rivers was the next-best quarterback in the NFL on Sunday.

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Torrey Smith not frustrated by usage in first two weeks

Torrey Smith AP

The first two weeks of the season weren’t particularly busy ones for wide receiver Torrey Smith.

Smith has been targeted 10 times by quarterback Joe Flacco through the first two weeks of the season, a drop of more than three targets from last year’s per game average and a total that leaves him behind Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta. The wideout has served as a decoy downfield much of the rest of the time, but he says he’s not disturbed because he’s confident things will balance out over the course of the season.

“I’m playing my part, and I know the ball is going to come more than it has been,” Smith said, via the Baltimore Sun. “So, I’m not frustrated at all.”

While Smith likely will have weeks where he’s seeing more balls in his direction, the shift in targets illustrates what the arrival of Steve Smith and a healthy Pitta has meant to an offense that didn’t have a reliable No. 2 receiver for most of last season. Flacco has more places to go with the ball and it is only natural to see that impact the guy who saw an outsize number of looks last season.

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Cowboys trying to find a routine that helps Tony Romo’s back

Tony Romo, Jurrell Casey AP

The Cowboys are trying to figure out a routine to help Tony Romo’s problematic back not be a problem on Sundays.

So after taking Wednesday off, he practiced fully on Thursday and felt much better.

Romo said he felt tightness in his surgically repaired back, but the rest helped.

It was just to try something new,” passing game coordinator Scott Linehan said, via Todd Archer of “I don’t think we felt as good as we wanted to feel last Thursday. So, that’s why we’re trying something different. I think it was a little bit of tightness or something like that. But he looked really good today.”

Prior to Wednesday, Romo hadn’t skipped any regular season practices, though he didn’t go more than two days in a row in camp.

“People aren’t going to feel great every week, being able to take every snap,” Linehan said. “It’s a long season that way. It’s just a matter of being smart and managing it and moving forward. I thought we made good progress from Week 1 to Week 2 and our goal is to continue to be able to do that.”

Statistically, he’s off, with just two touchdowns against three interceptions this year. And anecdotally, he doesn’t look like the game guy. But part of that might have to do with being sacked seven times and hit nine more.

Either way, they’re still trying to get him back to health, and he’s clearly not there yet.

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Julio Jones “a special talent”

julio AP

Just about everyone on the Falcons had a big night in Thursday’s 56-14 destruction of the Buccaneers, but Atlanta receiver Julio Jones may have been the best player on the field.

Jones had nine catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns, and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was in awe of Jones’s 40-yard catch on a deep ball into the end zone.

“It was just a heck of a catch,” Ryan said. “He’s a special talent. We talk about it all the time. When we get him in that situation we feel like we can just put the ball up and he’s going to come down with it. He kind of inside released on the corner on his route. Then we talk about trying to stack and get back outside and he did a great job of that. The ball slightly went over his head and his ability to track that is as good as anybody’s. It was a great catch and a huge explosive play for us.”

Through three games this season, Jones has 23 catches for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Jones played only five games last year, but he had 41 catches for 580 yards and two touchdowns before he broke his foot. Throw in the 11 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns that Jones had in the Falcons’ playoff loss after the 2012 season and in Jones’s last nine games he has 75 catches for 1,127 yards and seven touchdowns in his last nine games. That’s 125 yards a game, or a 2,000-yard season pace, something that’s never been done before in the NFL.

Julio Jones is, indeed, a special talent.

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Friday morning one-liners

DeMarco Murray, Michael Griffin AP

The Bills will be trying to stop a Chargers offense coordinated by one of their playoff heroes.

The Dolphins are looking for more from their special teams.

WR Danny Amendola hasn’t seen too many passes in the first two Patriots games.

Coach Rex Ryan says the Jets won’t wilt on national television.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco will try to solve a Mike Pettine defense after failing to do so last year.

The Bengals offensive linemen have kept QB Andy Dalton well protected through two weeks.

Browns T Joe Thomas isn’t sure HGH testing will work as hoped.

LB Lawrence Timmons wants to lead a turnaround for the Steelers defense.

Texans LB Brian Cushing doesn’t expect to catch Giants QB Eli Manning off guard.

RB Trent Richardson reflects on the trade that brought him to the Colts.

Facing the Jaguars usually goes well for opposing tight ends.

Titans QB Jake Locker has a chicken coop in his back yard.

Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio wants to see less bending from his unit.

The Chiefs need QB Alex Smith to be more than a game manager.

The Raiders could be getting more from FB Marcel Reece.

How much will injuries impact the Chargers this week?

Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray has done well against the Rams in the past.

The Giants are holding out hope for LB Jon Beason.

Marcus Smith is working at inside linebacker for the Eagles.

S Ryan Grant is looking for more opportunities after a good outing for the Redskins last week.

Moving to nickel corner is “second nature” for Bears CB Isaiah Frey.

The Lions are pleased with DT Nick Fairley’s response to being benched.

Packers CB Davon House made the most of his Week Two playing time.

Vikings QB Matt Cassel hasn’t had any success throwing the ball down the field.

A foot injury for WR Harry Douglas was about the only thing that went wrong for the Falcons on Thursday night.

Panthers fans are looking forward to the Sunday night spotlight.

RB Khiry Robinson is ready to take on a bigger role in the Saints offense.

Said Buccaneers C Evan Dietrich-Smith, “You can’t win when you do the things we did tonight.”

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington will see his cousin Bruce when the 49ers visit this weekend.

The Rams need more from their running game.

49ers DL Justin Smith looks like he’s turned back the clock.

RB Robert Turbin is enjoying his expanded role for the Seahawks.

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Cam Newton says Greg Hardy case not a distraction

Cam Newton AP

The Panthers are off to a 2-0 start, and have a chance to improve on it in prime time against the Steelers Sunday night.

And they hope, by then, we’re talking about the guys on the field.

With the Greg Hardy situation settled for now with his double-secret-probation with pay placement on the commissioner’s exempt list, the Panthers can get about the business of playing without their franchise-tagged defensive end.

“Distraction? I wouldn’t say it’s much of a distraction,” quarterback Cam Newton said, via David Newton of “You kind of, you [hurt] for a person [like] Greg who has done, in my opinion, every single thing that was asked of him to do.

“There’s a lot of guys that feel for Greg, including myself. But we still have a job to do, and that’s to put the best performance that we have had this whole season for Sunday night.”

Hardy will be allowed back at the facility to work out, but won’t practice or play until his legal matter is resolved.

Whether that’s at a Nov. 17 court date or whether he tries to strike a plea deal to get back on the field sooner (which would result in a six-game suspension without pay), no one knows at the moment.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he’d welcome Hardy back, but gave him a few days to let the dust settle, after his status had clouded the start of the Panthers season.

“All the controversy, we’re not going to let that affect us on the field,” Newton said. “And it’s kind of hard to do that, especially in this type of situation. But, in the end, it’s not about Greg Hardy. It’s about the Carolina Panthers trying to put the best product that they can [on the field].”

And for now, that’s without the guy who’s taking up around 10 percent of their salary cap to go away.

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Brandon Marshall responds to shakedown attempt

Brandon Marshall AP

When celebrity attorney Gloria Allred called a press conference this week to blast the NFL for its handling of domestic violence issues, Brandon Marshall was dragged back into the fray.

And he responded in a big way, with a 40-minute press conference in which he said some were exploiting his past issues for personal economic gain, and he defended the league’s new tougher penalties for domestic violence.

“It’s not the NFL’s job to raise men,” Marshall said, via the Associated Press. “We’re kidding ourselves if we think it’s the NFL’s job to take boys from college and raise them to men. It is a problem in our marriages, a problem in our communities, a problem in the way we coach children and parenting – that’s where it starts. It doesn’t start with the NFL, it doesn’t start with the government, it starts at home.”

Marshall provided reporters with testimony which said the woman in question, Rasheedah Watley, was not attacked by him, as well as letters asking him for payments between $100,000 and $1 million.

“There is a letter from the Watleys, from Ms. Rasheedah Watley to the commissioner in 2008, where she states, I was pressured to do this for money,” Marshall said. “My family pressured me, this stuff didn’t happen. Which isn’t all true because it was a very volatile relationship. We argued every single day. We treated each other bad. We had no business being in a relationship.”

Marshall was suspended for three games in 2008, but that was reduced to one. He was never convicted of anything regarding that case.

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So there’s one: Michael Vick says Roger Goodell “doing a great job”

goodell_vick AP

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has come under fire for the last two weeks, from his initial bungling of the Ray Rice case to his disappearing act at a time when the league needs leadership.

But he’s now got more than a few influential owners in his corner.

I think he’s doing a great job,” Jets quarterback Michael Vick said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “I think some situations are more complicated than others. You’re not going to get it right all the time the first time. These situations that [have arisen] are situations that we never dealt with before. I feel from a PR standpoint, just from a situational standpoint, it’s kind of new to everybody.”

That opinion puts Vick at odds with many, who think the commissioner has screwed things up at every turn lately.

But Vick’s view is colored by his personal experience, as Goodell was helpful to his comeback from federal dogfighting charges.

“Nobody’s perfect,” Vick said. “Nobody can make the correct decisions right then and there on the spot when faced with all forms of adversity. So, you got to give the man a chance. You got to give him a chance. You got to give everybody a chance to get it right. And you see that the other teams that are dealing with it now are making the right decisions based on what’s happened in weeks prior. So you got to give people a chance, man. You’re not going to get it right on the first time.”

That much is evident. And Goodell can only hope he handles his next chance as well as Vick has his.

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Devin Hester says he wasn’t happy the last few years in Chicago

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Devin Hester took sole possession of the NFL record for most return touchdowns in a career when he took back a Michael Koenen punt for a 26-yard touchdown in the second quarter of the Atlanta Falcons 56-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Hester made the majority of the progress toward that record while a member of the Chicago Bears over the previous eight seasons.

However, Hester said after the game Thursday night in a postgame interview on the NFL Network that he hadn’t been happy with the last few years he spent with the Bears. He even seemingly took a veiled shot at his former quarterback, Jay Cutler.

I’m happy man,” Hester said, via Adam Hoge of WGN Radio. “You know what, I’m going to say it, man. I wasn’t happy the last 3-4 years in Chicago because things wasn’t going the way I expect. I would always have a great camp, have all the receivers saying and coaches saying I had the best camp of all the receivers. And once the season start off, I’m not there.

“You know, and I got a quarterback now that man, he loves even the walk-ons, man. And the coaches know how to get the ball to me, you know, make plays for me. And I’m excited for this season, man. This is only the beginning for our team.”

The experiment of using Hester’s ability as a receiver in Chicago never seemed to fully take off. After posting a strong campaign in 2009 with 57 catches for 757 yards and three touchdowns, he never approached those numbers again. His catch total dripped to 40, 26 and then 23 over the next three seasons before being taken out of the role under Marc Trestman last year.

In three games for Atlanta, Hester already has seven catches for 126 yards and appears to be revitalized in all facets of the game.

Every team in the league had a chance to sign Hester when he was a free agent this summer. With Hester happy with his surroundings, the Falcons may have found a potential difference maker off the scrap heap.

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Earl Thomas says his “championship spirit” is back after loss to Chargers

Seahawks Chargers Football AP

Earl Thomas can’t quite put his finger on why he felt a little off during Sunday’s 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers. However, Thomas believes the loss has helped reinvigorate him ahead of this week’s Super Bowl rematch with the Denver Broncos.

“I think I definitely got my championship spirit back after that loss; my crave, my hunger, and my desire to be unstoppable back,” Thomas said. “I don’t think I lost it but after that game I was like, ‘dang, something just hit me,’ and I just been focused ever since and it feel so good just to be feeling like this.”

Seattle’s defense was on the field for over 42 minutes with temperatures on the field nearing 120 degrees. Thomas even had to leave the game in the second half to get an IV to replenish fluids after suffering from cramps. The Chargers put up 377 yards of offense and converted 10 of 19 third opportunities to keep Seattle’s defense on the field. Thomas and the rest of the Seahawks defense just couldn’t get the stops they are typically able to get.

While San Diego didn’t hit any massively big play against the Seahawks – their longest play being a 21-yard touchdown from Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates – Seattle just couldn’t find ways to get off the field consistently.

Thomas just didn’t feel like he was playing like himself last week in San Diego. It’s an experience he says he hasn’t encountered before.

“It never happened like that,” Thomas said. “That game was so weird. It was different. It just felt funny out there. Even in my body language when I watch myself on film. I have no regrets from the game but one thing I can say, just that my technique and just as my posture wasn’t as aggressive and I think that’s a part of my mindset that I need to turn on.”

Thomas is itching for the opportunity to get back on track this week against the Broncos.

“We’re ready to play right now,” Thomas said. “I love when we have something to prove and a lot of times when we’re on top like this, we’ve got to protect what we have. This is not a one person game, this is a team sport and we have to capture every moment. We have a lot of young players that are trying to understand their role in this defense, but we had a lot of great coachable moments from that film and I got onto some guys and I took criticism myself and we move on.”

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Lovie Smith “embarrassed” by Bucs’ showing in 56-14 loss

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

In the aftermath of the worst loss of his NFL head coaching career, Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith said he was “embarrassed” by his team’s performance in a 56-14 loss at Atlanta on Thursday night.

“Obviously, you know, we weren’t ready to play,” Smith said, taking the blame for his team’s poor showing at the outset of his postgame remarks.

Smith said the team’s injury list, which grew longer with the loss of quarterback Josh McCown to a thumb injury Thursday, was not an excuse for a defeat in which the Bucs surrendered the first eight touchdowns before finally getting on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.

“The guys we had out there, we should’ve played better than that,” Smith said.

In relief of McCown, second-year backup Mike Glennon completed 17-of-24 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Glennon also didn’t commit a turnover.

“If there was something bright to come out of this game, it was probably his play,” Smith said.

Never before had a Smith-coached team surrendered more than 45 points in a game, and never had one of his teams lost by more than five touchdowns, according to the Spreadapedia database.

The Buccaneers’ head coach called the loss a “scar” that would stay with Tampa Bay.

“Scars don’t go away. This will be on us,” Smith said. “Rest of our lives, we’re going to remember this game.”

He added: “Luckily, we have 13 more games to go.”

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Falcons hammer hapless Buccaneers in 56-14 victory

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons completely dominated the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the tune of a massive 56-14 blowout victory on Thursday night.

It was the second highest point total in Atlanta franchise history. The Falcons improved to 2-1 on the year while Tampa Bay fell to 0-3.

Devin Hester scored the 20th return touchdown of his career to take sole possession of the NFL record for most kick returns for scores in a career. Hester also had a 20-yard touchdown run on an endaround in the second quarter.

Matt Ryan set a franchise record for completion percentage (87.5 percent) in a game going 21 of 24 for 286 yards and three touchdowns before being replaced by T.J. Yates in the third quarter. Harry Douglas caught one touchdown pass from Ryan with Julio Jones added two scores. Steven Jackson scored. Antone Smith scored. Safety Kemal Ishmael scored on an interception return.

The Buccaneers couldn’t do anything right. Tampa Bay fumbled five times, losing four to Atlanta. Josh McCown was intercepted once before leaving the game in the second quarter with a thumb injury. Add in snap issues as well and it was a total cluster for the Bucs.

Despite having 56 points through three quarters, the Falcons were unable to become the 23rd team to score 60 points in an NFL game. The New Orleans Saints were the most recent team to do so with a 62-7 victory over Indianapolis in October 2011.

The Buccaneers were outgained by a 344-153 margin with five turnovers. Bobby Rainey – playing for an injured Doug Martin – had just 41 yards on 11 carries and two of their five fumbles.

Tampa Bay recorded their only offensive score of the game with 8:46 left to go when Mike Glennon hit Vincent Jackson for a 3-yard touchdown. Linebacker Danny Lansanah intercepted Yates on Atlanta’s next possession and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to bring the score to 56-14.

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Week Three skill position injury report — Thursday

Seattle Seahawks v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

The following is a compilation of skill position players listed on Thursday’s injury report, along with their practice activity levels as declared by their clubs.

The final status for players whose teams play on Sunday will be announced on Friday.

Did not practice

Rams WR Tavon Austin (knee).

Panthers WR Jason Avant (thigh).

Giants WR Odell Beckham (hamstring).

Bengals RB Rex Burkhead (knee).

49ers TE Vernon Davis (ankle, knee).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Rams TE Cory Harkey (knee).

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (illness).

Jaguars WR Allen Hurns (ankle).

Washington WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder).

Saints RB Mark Ingram (hand).

Jaguars WR Marqise Lee (hamstring).

Bears WR Brandon Marshall (ankle).

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee).

49ers TE Vance McDonald (knee).

Steelers TE Heath Miller (not injury related).

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle).

Dolphins RB Knowshon Moreno (elbow).

Colts WR Hakeem Nicks (illness).

Cowboys RB Joseph Randle (concussion).

Washington TE Jordan Reed (hamstring).

Raiders WR Rod Streater (hip).

Browns RB Ben Tate (knee).

Chiefs RB De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (thigh).

Bills WR Robert Woods (ankle).


Chargers WR Keenan Allen (groin).

Steelers RB Dri Archer (ankle).

Lions RB Joique Bell (knee).

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (shoulder).

Browns TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder).

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (ankle).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

Panthers WR Jerricho Cotchery (thigh).

Patriots WR Julian Edelman (back).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Cowboys TE Gavin Escobar (knee).

Washington PK Kai Forbath (right groin).

Texans RB Arian Foster (hamstring).

Chargers TE Antonio Gates (hamstring).

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart (foot).

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe).

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (knee).

Jaguars TE Clay Harbor (calf).

Rams QB Shaun Hill (thigh).

Eagles WR Josh Huff (shoulder).

Bears WR Alshon Jeffery (hamstring).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Jaguars RB Storm Johnson (ankle).

Raiders RB Maurice Jones-Drew (hand).

Seahawks RB Christine Michael (hamstring).

Lions RB Montell Owens (hamstring).

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer (right shoulder).

Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (chest).

Ravens RB Bernard Pierce (thigh).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen).

Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts (hamstring).

Jaguars TE Mickey Shuler (heel).

Panthers RB Mike Tolbert (chest).

Patriots RB Shane Vereen (shoulder).

Washington RB Darrel Young (neck).


Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee).

Browns WR Travis Benjamin (knee).

Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (quadricep).

Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw (other).

Panthers WR Philly Brown (ankle).

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (shoulder).

Eagles TE Zach Ertz (knee).

Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (foot).

Ravens QB Joe Flacco (illness).

Texans TE Garrett Graham (ankle).

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (foot).

Chiefs WR Frankie Hammond (shoulder).

Dolphins WR Brian Hartline (back).

Seahawks TE Cooper Helfet (knee).

Washington RB Roy Helu (quadricep).

Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway (hip).

Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (groin).

49ers RB Carlos Hyde (calf).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (back).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (back).

Titans RB Dexter McCluster (foot).

Broncos PK Brandon McManus (right groin).

Steelers WR Lance Moore (groin).

Bears WR Josh Morgan (groin).

Panthers TE Greg Olsen (calf).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Vikings WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (other).

Titans QB Charlie Whitehurst (right finger).

Chiefs WR Albert Wilson (ankle).

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Josh McCown heads to locker room with thumb injury


The Buccaneers’ quarterback of the past/future is about to become the quarterback of the present.

Mike Glennon will enter Thursday night’s game against the Falcons in place of Josh McCown.  The starter has left for the locker room after striking his hand on a helmet after throwing a pass.  Officially, he’s questionable to return with a thumb injury, according to Tracy Wolfson of CBS.

Glennon can’t do much worse than McCown, who completed five of 12 passes for 58 yards and an interception before leaving the game.

The Buccaneers continue to trail, 35-0.

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Devin Hester passes Deion Sanders for all-time TD return mark

Hester Getty Images

During his first season with the Falcons, Devin Hester has shown that he can do a thing or two on offense.  But he also still has the skills that could eventually put him in Canton.

With a 62-yard punt return that hit paydirt, Hester broke a tie with Deion Sanders at 19 career touchdown returns.  Hester now has the record all to himself with 20.  He paid tribute to Sanders with an extended high step into the end zone, drawing a flag for taunting in the process.

Hester also has added a 20-yard touchdown run as part of Atlanta’s 35-0 first-half lead.

And while it’s easier to criticize the Bears both for letting Hester go and for never finding a way to unleash his broken-field skills on offense, keep in mind that every team has a crack at Hester on the open market.  The Falcons made the move to get him, and he could end up being a major difference maker as Atlanta tries to get back to the postseason.

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Gonzalez says he won’t be returning to Falcons

Gonzalez Getty Images

After the 2012 season, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez was 95-percent retired.  And he returned.

After the 2013 season, Gonzalez’s moved his estimate to 100 percent.  And he has said he won’t be returning.

Now with CBS, which televises Thursday Night Football, Gonzalez explained that he won’t be returning to the Week Three TNF host team.

“No,” Gonzalez said about a possible reunion with the Falcons. “I know I can still play. But at the same time, I got 17 years in the league. I really do feel content and happy to be up here because I win every week.”

Gonzalez’s options aren’t limited to the Falcons. He signed a two-year deal in 2013, which as a practical matter gave the Falcons his rights for 2014, if he decided to give it another go. By not retiring before the start of the league year in March, Gonzalez forced the Falcons to cut him before a balloon payment came due. As a result, Gonzalez can now sign with any team, at any time.

Literally, at any time. Even during the playoffs.

If, for example, one of the Super Bowl teams has a tight end suffer an injury in the conference title game (it happened three years ago, when Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski badly sprained an ankle), Gonzalez can sign a contract and suit up for a one-game shot at the Super Bowl ring he never won.

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