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Calvin Johnson active for Lions vs. Browns

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Good news, Lions fans: Calvin Johnson is playing today.

Johnson, the Detroit receiver who missed last week’s game in Green Bay with a knee injury, is active today in Cleveland and will be in the Lions’ starting lineup.

Without Johnson last week, the Lions’ offense was a disaster, being held out of the end zone until garbage time. Other than quarterbacks, Johnson may be the single most important player to his team in the entire NFL.

Last week, the Lions had to show how important Johnson is by struggling without him. This week, Johnson can show how important he is with his play on the field.

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Sean Payton will “never say never” on possible Nick Fairley return, but believes condition won’t improve

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With the New Orleans Saints placing defensive tackle Nick Fairley on the reserve/non-football injury list last month, it became clear that Fairley would not being playing football this season. Whether he ever plays football again remains highly in doubt as a heart condition found this offseason is considered serious enough for doctors to tell Fairley he shouldn’t play again.

Saints head coach Sean Payton echoed that sentiment during a press conference on Wednesday. However, he also said he couldn’t rule out the possibility entirely.

I would never sit at this table and use that word never,” Payton said, via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I think as we sit here today, though, we’ve prepared ourselves for him not playing this season. Look, there’s a downside to that when you’re talking about Nick Fairley, and then there’s a good side to that. And the good side to that is fortunately this was discovered not the hard way. As successful as he was for us on the field last year, he’s wonderful to be around. And I think that the focus when I’m thinking of Nick is making sure he’s healthy and that this maybe was able to help not only himself, but maybe other members of his family or others that might have this.

“It’s a challenging thing because he came out of the draft and there were some re-checks and it cleared at that time from everyone, but I’ve got to trust in the medical experts and I do, and I know Mickey does. It’s just a difficult, unfortunate condition, and yet, fortunately we found it.”

Linebacker Zachary Orr retired earlier this year before electing to try to come back and play again despite a neck injury doctors have advised him not to play with. It’s always a possibility Fairley could buck the advice and attempt to play anyway, but NFL teams wouldn’t likely want to have that kind of liability on their roster without being cleared by doctors.

Payton followed it up by saying they don’t believe it’s a condition that would improve over time or could be corrected through other means. If that’s accurate, it certainly seems probable that Fairley has played his final NFL snaps.

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Vikings sign cornerback Sam Brown, release tackle Arturo Uzdavinis

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The Minnesota Vikings made a change to the bottom of their roster on Wednesday as veterans reported for the start of training camp.

The Vikings signed former Baltimore Ravens cornerback Sam Brown and released tackle Arturo Uzdavinis.

Brown (6-1, 175) signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent last season out of D-II Missouri Western State. He was released with an injury settlement in August and returned to the team’s practice squad late in the season.

Uzdavinis had signed with the Vikings earlier this week to bring the roster to 90 players before the start of camp. Ultimately, his stay with Minnesota was short-lived.

Uzdavinis spent time on the Lions’ roster this offseason and the Vikings were his fifth club since entering the league as an undrafted free agent last year. He initially signed with the Texans and then spent time on the practice squads in Chicago and Jacksonville without seeing any regular season action.

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Devontae Booker has wrist injury

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Broncos running back Devontae Booker entered camp feeling more prepared to contribute in his second season. The process has been delayed.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Booker has a wrist injury. He’s expected to miss up to 6-8 weeks.

The Broncos start training camp practices on Thursday. It’s unclear how he was injured. He’s currently expected to be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He would be able to exit PUP at any time before Week One.

Booker appeared in 16 games with six starts in 2016, gaining 612 yards on 174 carries, an average of 3.5 yards per attempt. He added 265 receiving yards on 31 catches, and five total touchdowns.

C.J. Anderson continues to be the No. 1 tailback on the roster, but Booker is expected to get more chances in 2017. For now, Anderson will be the guy.

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Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee placed on PUP list

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One of the Bears best pass rushers will begin training camp on the team’s physically unable to report list, according to multiple reports.

McPhee has been placed on the PUP list due to a knee issue. It’s a deja vu moment for McPhee as he began last training camp on the PUP list with a knee injury. That issue forced him to miss the first six weeks of the regular season before returning to play in the final nine games of the year.

McPhee recorded four sacks and a forced fumble in those nine games for the Bears last season.

A player must be on the PUP from the start of training camp to be eligible for the in-season reserve/PUP list. McPhee still counts against Chicago’s 90-man roster limit and can be activated at any time prior to the start of the regular season upon passing a physical.

McPhee had taken part in the Bears offseason program and had dropped 25 pounds from his playing weight of a season ago. Whether this knee injury is anything substantial or more procedural remains to be seen.

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Report: Cowboys QB Zac Dysert to miss season, requires surgery for herniated disc

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Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Zac Dysert’s season has apparently already reached its conclusion.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Dysert is expected to miss the entire season after having surgery to address a herniated disc in his back. The need for surgery was first reported by the team’s website.

Dallas claimed Dysert off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals in June. He was one of four quarterbacks on the Cowboys’ roster as training camp got underway, along with Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore and Cooper Rush. Moore missed all of last season after breaking a leg in practice in August.

Former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo also had a disc issue as one of the various ailments that forced him to miss time in recent seasons.

Dysert has played for seven teams since entering the league as a seventh-round pick in 2013. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos and spent two seasons there. Dysert spent short stints with the Chicago Bears, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills in 2015, and the Miami Dolphins and Cardinals in 2016 before moving onto Dallas last month.

He has not appeared in a regular season game.

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Lucky Whitehead takes one final shot at Cowboys

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Lucky Whitehead took one final shot at the Cowboys on Wednesday.

The former Cowboys receiver, claimed off waivers by the Jets, tweeted a simple message: 17″. It was something of an inside joke.

The Cowboys’ wore the 17-inches motto on T-shirts last season. It is in reference to a story made famous by late college baseball coach John Scolinos, who won three Division II national championships at Cal Poly Pomona.

Home plate is 17 inches wide in Little League, high school, college and Major League Baseball. The moral of the story: The size of the plate never changes, so expectations shouldn’t either.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett frequently retells Scolinos’ story, most recently last week at a coaching clinic at the team training facility, and then explains what accountability means.

“If you follow our football team, you see guys walking around our building, going out to practice, they’ve got T-shirts that have 17 inches on them,” Garrett told the youth coaches. “It’s a reminder to me as the coach of the football team; it’s a reminder to our coaching staff; it’s a reminder to each and every one of those guys what the standards are. The standards ain’t changing; they ain’t changing. They are what they are. Home plate is 17 inches wide, and it’s our job to hold everybody accountable to them — the best player you’ve got, the best kid you’ve got. We have to hold ourselves and each other accountable to them.

“But here’s the issue: Accountability isn’t infallibility. . . .There was one guy who went through this life making no mistakes. That was a long, long time ago. The rest of us will make mistakes. . . . Accountability means OK, this is what the standard is. We fell short of it. Own it. No excuses. No explanations. This is where I am. This is what I need to do to live up to what those standards are. That’s what accountability is, and that’s our job. That’s my job. That’s my most important job.”

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Joe Flacco reportedly out up to 3-6 weeks

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The injury bug already is biting the Baltimore Ravens right in the butt.

With running back Kenneth Dixon already gone for the year due to a knee injury, NFL Media reports that quarterback Joe Flacco is preparing to missed 3-6 weeks due to a disc issue in his back. At a minimum, he’ll miss a week or two.

Even the best-case scenario makes this an ominous situation for the Ravens and the 32-year-old Flacco, given that back injuries once they develop tend to not suddenly disappear for good.

The other quarterbacks on the roster are Ryan Mallett and Dustin Vaughn. So the Ravens may need to add someone.

If only there were an available free-agent quarterback who has been coached by Senior Offensive Assistant Greg Roman and/or the brother of head coach John Harbaugh.

UPDATE 9:14 p.m. ET: A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the team expects Flacco to miss “a week or so,” and that they will let him rest while it heals.

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Congress asks NFL pointed questions about unpaid $18 million to NIH

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Congress has essentially sent a collection letter to the NFL.

Via, an item of correspondence dated July 26, 2017 from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce to Commissioner Roger Goodell primarily has one purpose: To ask the league to cough up $18 million in money previously committed to the National Institutes of Health for the Sports Health and Research Program.

The letter from four members of the committee also asks the NFL whether it plans to renew the agreement that established the Sports Health and Research Program, and whether the NFL plans to provide additional funding beyond its original $30 million commitment, $12 million of which has been paid. The committee seeks a response no later than August 11.

Last year, a Congressional report accused the NFL of rescinding $16 million of that same $30 million NIH gift, allegedly due to the league’s disagreement with the NIH’s selection of a researcher to oversee testing aimed at detecting Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living patients. Days later, Goodell wrote a letter to all owners and team presidents explaining that the $30 million gift would be honored.

It may still be honored, but with only one month left in the original five-year agreement establishing the Sports Health and Research Program, the NFL still hasn’t kicked in the $18 million. Unless the agreement is going to be extended, there may be no way to use the money, if it’s ever paid.

The NFL has told the Washington Post that the league is “currently engaged in constructive discussions” with the NIH regarding the issue. Which sort of sounds something like “the check is in the mail.”

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Anthony Lynn on Cardale Jones: He’s type of QB you want waiting on runway

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The Chargers worked out Robert Griffin III and then traded for Cardale Jones. It reunites Jones with Anthony Lynn, who coached the quarterback last season in Buffalo.

“Cardale is a good young talent, and he’s going to add competition behind Philip Rivers,” Lynn said, via the team website. “He’s the type of quarterback you want waiting on the runway. He’s going to have the opportunity to come on the field and compete. Cardale is someone we think can be developed.”

Jones had a limited college career, completing only 166 of 269 passes for 2,322 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. But he improbably led Ohio State to a national championship in 2014, passing for 742 yards with six total touchdowns in the Big Ten championship, Allstate Sugar Bowl and College Football Playoff National Championship.

The Bills made him a fourth-round pick last year based on that potential.

“When he started, the team didn’t lose,” Lynn said. “You’re talking about 11 starts, and he went undefeated in all of them. He never lost a game. Now, he did get benched but that’s because he didn’t fit the style of system their coach wanted. But I think that benefited him because he learned from it. He was able to learn from the system they wanted, and he’s able to do certain things that mobile quarterbacks can do because he did them throughout college. So he’s coming in here, and he’ll have a chance to compete for a spot.”

Rivers has never missed a start since he became the starter in 2006, but the Chargers still sought help at the position behind him. Kellen Clemens has served as the Chargers’ backup at quarterback the past two seasons, and Los Angeles has two developmental prospects on the roster in Mike Bercovici and Eli Jenkins.

Jones saw action in only one game last season, completing 6 of 11 passes for 96 yards with an interception in the Bills’ season finale.

“He only played a quarter,” Lynn said. “He didn’t play a whole lot, and that was a tough situation for everybody. The team had just fired the head coach three days before, so it was hard on everybody. He wasn’t even supposed to play in the game, but I thought we might as well put him in for a quarter.”

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Broncos remain without new naming-rights deal for stadium

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The Broncos remain without a naming-rights deal for their stadium.

They prepare for another season at Sports Authority Field at Mile High despite taking over control of the naming rights last August after the sports equipment company filed for bankruptcy. The Broncos had expressed optimism at getting a new deal for 2017, but absent one, they will keep the Sports Authority signage at the stadium until they find a new partner.

“I’m a little disappointed in that,” Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis told Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post. “On the other hand, there’s a lot that goes into these deals, and some of them take longer periods of time than others. Some are quicker than the timetable we’ve been on. I’m looking forward to getting a deal done, but it has to be the right deal, and we’ve had discussions and we have a few more coming up. I’m not going to reveal who they’re with. It has to be the right partner, and there’s a lot of different components to it.”

Ellis knows the Broncos will have to modernize the 16-year-old stadium in attempts to keep up with new buildings in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Las Vegas as well as the game-day experience offered by the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

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Kurt Warner gets the last word in the Hall of Fame speeches

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame has released the order in which new inductees will be enshrined and, in turn, their speeches will be delivered. Somewhat surprisingly, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn’t going last.

Instead, the final man to take the podium will be quarterback Kurt Warner. Jones will be the next-to-last man standing. And speaking.

The full order will be Kenny Easley, Jason Taylor, Morten Andersen, Terrell Davis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jones, and Warner.

It will be interesting to see whether the new Hall of Famers comply with guidelines aimed at keeping the speeches manageable in length. Sometimes, however, a long speech isn’t necessarily a bad speech. Last year, Brett Favre filibustered at the microphone (shocker), but he was really, really good.

The enshrinement ceremony will happen on Saturday, August 5, two days after the Hall of Fame Game between the Cowboys and Cardinals. The game has been moved to Thursday night in order to avoid a repeat of last year’s cancellation of the game, which happened during failed efforts to prepare the field for a Sunday game following the Saturday ceremony.

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Bills trade Cardale Jones to Chargers for conditional draft choice

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The Bills traded quarterback Cardale Jones to the Chargers for a conditional draft choice. The conditional pick is a seventh-rounder, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Jones was unlikely to make the Bills roster after falling to fourth on the depth chart behind Tyrod Taylor, T.J. Yates and fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman. Taylor and Yates both previously played under new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison.

The Bills selected Jones in the fourth round of the 2016 draft under a different front office and different coaching staff.

The former Ohio State star played only one game last season, going 6-for-11 for 96 yards and an interception in the season finale.

The trade reunites him with Anthony Lynn, now the Chargers head coach after being the running backs coach, then the offensive coordinator and then the interim head coach in Buffalo last season.

The Chargers worked out Robert Griffin III this week as they sought a backup to Philip Rivers. They have veteran Kellen Clemens and undrafted free agents Mike Bercovici and Eli Jenkins on the roster behind Rivers before Wednesday’s trade.

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Teddy Bridgewater on PUP, will speak to reporters Thursday

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The Vikings placed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on the physically unable to perform list after his physical, the team announced Wednesday. The move allows for the possibility of moving Bridgewater to the reserve PUP list for the start of the regular season.

Bridgewater has not practiced in 11 months since a left knee injury during training camp. The severe knee injury included a dislocation and several torn ligaments.

Bridgewater threw without a knee brace in July after posting an Instagram video in March of him working in a brace.

He will speak to reporters for the first time since the injury on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. CT.

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Saints make several moves, including waiving Marcus Murphy

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The Saints made several moves Wednesday, a day before training camp begins.

Coach Sean Payton announced they placed receiver Dan Arnold on injured reserve along with Dannell Ellerbe. Arnold, whom the Saints signed June 5, was injured during OTAs.

The Saints waived running back/kick returner Marcus Murphy.

Murphy joined the Saints as a seventh-round pick in 2015. He contributed mostly on special teams the past two seasons but ball security issues prompted the Saints to make Murphy inactive on game day for the final 13 games. The offseason additions of running backs Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara and receiver/returner Ted Ginn Jr. made Murphy expendable.

The Saints also placed center Chris Watt on the reserve/retired list. Watt joined the Saints shortly after the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp in June.

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Ezekiel Elliott practicing as if he has no worry

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Ezekiel Elliott’s moves so far have impressed. He’s looked good on the field in three days of practices and has dodged reporters afterward.

While Elliott isn’t talking, teammates are. They say the Cowboys running back hasn’t let an NFL investigation distract him.

“That’s something we always talk about when we always come out here — all your personal problems, you have to leave them at the door,” veteran running back Darren McFadden said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I feel like he does a great job with that. Once you come out here playing football, you’re playing football and everything else going on off the field, you have to worry about that later.”

The NFL’s investigation into a domestic abuse allegation against Elliott has lasted more than a year. ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently reported the league could give Elliott a short suspension to start the season despite the fact that the incident lacked enough evidence for the Columbus (Ohio) city prosecutor’s office to pursue charges.

“We don’t even talk about it,” veteran running back Alfred Morris said. “It’s not that it’s not happening or not pending or whatever, it’s just that we have a job to do. You have to leave the off the field off the field.”

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