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Josh Freeman has a concussion, Vikings may turn back to Ponder

Cleveland Browns v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The news at quarterback for the Vikings isn’t getting any better.

Josh Freeman, who had a bad outing in starting his first game with the Vikings on Monday night, has suffered a concussion and may not be able to play this week against Green Bay, the team announced.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier confirmed today that Freeman’s status is in doubt, and that if Freeman can’t go, Christian Ponder would return to the starting lineup when the Packers come to town on Sunday night.

Although the Vikings won’t have any official word on Freeman’s status until he goes through the league-mandated concussion protocol, Frazier said the Vikings are currently preparing as if Ponder is going to be the starter.

It’s not clear when Freeman suffered the concussion, but Frazier said he didn’t see anything on Monday night to make him think Freeman was showing any symptoms of a head injury.

Assuming Freeman isn’t cleared to return, Ponder will get his first start since Week Three, and Matt Cassel will be Ponder’s backup.

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Lovie Smith: We’re not shopping any of our players

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The trade deadline is a week away and the Percy Harvin deal has led to some wondering about what other deals might be struck between NFL teams this week.

One name that’s been brought up as a possibility is Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported over the weekend that the Bucs are getting “a ton” of calls about trading Jackson and that the team is “open to anything” although they are fond of Jackson as a player.

Bucs coach Lovie Smith was asked about that report during his Monday press conference and didn’t rule anything out. He did say the team wasn’t actively trying to move Jackson or anyone else on the team, however, and told reporters that the team’s roster now was likely to be their roster next week as well.

“We like our football team that we’re going with, that we have here right now,” Smith said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “We’re not trying to shop any of our players, to answer any questions out there. And it’s people — if they call about some of their players, we take all calls. We don’t (say), ‘Oh, this area code? We’re not going to take this call.’ We listen to what everybody has to say, and we go from there. You see who’s on our roster today. I would just kind of go with that.”

Jackson has played well for the Bucs, but he’s pricey and older than 2014 first-round pick Mike Evans on a team that appears to need more remodeling before they’re going to be a contender. Closing the door to someone offering you a return that can help in that process would make little sense, even if you feel it is unlikely anyone is going to hit the price you’ve set as an acceptable offer.

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Lions apparently in the mix for Australian rugby star

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The Lions are in England today, but it seems they’re looking to Australia for the future.

Via the Detroit Free Press, Lions coach Jim Caldwell didn’t dispel a link between his team and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne.

I can’t tell you much about that,” Caldwell said. “I mean, I know who he is, obviously, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to tell you. I have no knowledge of it in that regard.

“To be honest with you, it could be. It could be a personnel issue, but I’m not aware of it. Besides that, our focus is pretty narrow this time of the year, so getting out of that realm, it’s hard to do. But it could happen.

“Obviously, there are a lot of good athletes around this country, and there are a bunch of them playing other sports, you know, basketball, baseball, rugby, which is similar to our sport, and there is a lot of carryover. So, we’ll see.”

Hayne is one of the top players in Australian rugby, and Lions running back Reggie Bush told a television interviewer there he could play in the NFL. Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reported the Lions are one of six teams interested in him.

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Report: Pierre Thomas out 2-3 weeks with shoulder injury

pierrethomas AP

Saints running back Pierre Thomas suffered a shoulder injury Sunday that may sideline him.

Thomas is expected to miss two or three weeks, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

The shoulder injury took place during Sunday’s loss to the Lions, a loss that was costly for New Orleans on the injury front: center Jonathan Goodwin suffered a leg injury, defensive end Glenn Foster had a knee injury and nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley had a head injury.

The versatile Thomas is third on the team in rushing with 133 yards and third on the team in receiving with 26 catches. The 2-3 week timeframe would put Thomas out for Sunday night’s game against the Packers and next Thursday’s game against the Panthers, as well as possibly the following week’s game against the 49ers.

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Brian Hoyer’s still “firmly” the starter, at least for now

Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer AP

Even during one of his worst performances, against a previously winless team, the Browns never considered replacing quarterback Brian Hoyer with Johnny Manziel.

But this week, against a winless team, that might change.

Even as he admitted there’s a chance to see Manziel this week, Browns coach Mike Pettine backed Hoyer.

Brian is still firmly our starter,” Pettine said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Nothing’s changed. Each week we make the decision as to if we want to include Johnny in the plan.”

“It was discussed briefly [pulling him], but it was a situation where we still wanted to…at least try to end the game with Brian on a positive note.”

That note was never struck, which is why Pettine left the door open for the rookie to play a part this week.

“Each week when the offensive staff gets together — and I’ll jump in with them too — is that they put the plan together, and it’s what gives us the best chance to win,” said Pettine. “So if the situation this week maybe calls for him to play some then that will be the case. But we’re not going to hit the panic button after one loss. While we know that the quarterback position needed to be more productive, it was more symptomatic of the entire offense.”

Hoyer completed just 16-of-41 passes against the Jaguars, with a career-low 46.3 rating. He wasn’t sharp the previous week against the Steelers, but a win may have bought him some time.

With Manziel waiting in the wings, that time might not last however.

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A.J. Green has “made a lot of progress” from toe injury

A.J. Green AP

The Bengals could have certainly used A.J. Green last week, as they were shut out by the Colts.

But they may be closer to getting him back.

According to Coley Harvey of ESPN.com, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Green has “made a lot of progress.”

It was a more optimistic note than last week, when Lewis said his star receiver’s return was still “up in the air.”

“He’s made significant progress and feels good about everything that he’s being told,” Lewis said. “What the prognosis is is, I guess, the most important thing. It’s been a consistent message he’s gotten. As we said earlier, the time [off] will allow things to progress and so forth that way.”

Green has been dealing with the toe injury all season, playing through it at times, but he’s missed the last two complete games. But he’s continued to work, with the team sending out a video of him jogging along the sideline.

Without him, the Bengals were held to 135 yards of total offense against the Colts.

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Bill O’Brien frustrated by Texans performance

Bill O'Brien AP

The Houston Texans have lost three straight games and four out of their last five after falling 30-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.

And Texans head coach Bill O’Brien is none too happy about it.

O’Brien was noticeably heated in his post-game press conference after watching his team allow 21 points in less than 90 seconds at the end of the first half. The Texans never recovered and were unable to rally against Pittsburgh.

“You can’t turn the ball over. You can’t field a kick, bobble the kick. We can’t give up shot plays. You can’t have 12 men on the field on third down to give them a first down. We just can’t do those things,” O’Brien said. “And with all that being said, we’re one onside kick away and these questions are like we lost 50-0. We lost by a touchdown. With all of that stuff that we did. We have to improve it. We gotta coach it better and we gotta play better.”

Houston turned the ball over twice backed up inside their own 20-yard line that led to two quick touchdowns for the Steelers.

“It’s very frustrating when you turn the ball over on your own 2-yard line,” O’Brien said. “The whole thing’s frustrating. Players are frustrated, coaches are frustrated, but again, it’s not like, again, we’re an onside kick away, which, we almost recovered. Almost only counts in horseshoes, but we’re an onside kick away from having a chance to tie the game with all of that being said that we did wrong.”

It’s the second straight week the Texans had allowed 24 points in a quarter. They fell behind Indianapolis 24-0 last week in a 33-28 loss to the Colts.

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Steelers overcome early deficit to earn 30-23 victory over Texans

Houston Texans v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers scored 21 points in the final three minutes of the second quarter to help dig out of an early 13-0 hole en route to a 30-23 victory over the Houston Texans on Monday night.

The Texans took the early lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Alfred Blue and a pair of field goals by Randy Bullock to take a 13-0 lead.

But it went all downhill after that for Houston.

After a 44-yard Shaun Suisham field goal put Pittsburgh on the board, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sparked the Steelers offense on their next possession.

It took just two plays for the Steelers to march 63 yards for a touchdown. Roethlisberger connected with LeVeon Bell for 28 yards and then hit rookie Martavis Bryant for a 35-yard touchdown to pull Pittsburgh within three. It was the first career catch of Bryant’s career.

Backed up inside their own 10-yard line, Arian Foster coughed up the ball as he was stripped by Jason Worilds and the fumble was recovered by Sean Spence.

On the next play, Antonio Brown came in motion and took a handoff from Roethlisberger, pivoted and rolled to the left and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore to give the Steelers their first lead.

The deluge continued for Houston as Fitzpatrick was intercepted by Brett Kiesel on the first play of their next possession to give possession back to the Steelers. Two plays later, Roethlisberger hit Bell for a 2-yard score to take a 24-13 lead into halftime.

The Steelers scored 21 points in less than 90 seconds to completely flip the game into their hands. It was the first time since 2002 that a team scored 21 points in that short a time span. The Seattle Seahawks scored 21 points in the span of 90 seconds against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 29, 2002.

Two Suisham field goals extended the lead to 30-16 with three minutes to play. Fitzgerald’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Arian Foster pulled Houston within a score with 1:31 left but the ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Steelers to seal the victory.

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Saints re-sign TE Tom Crabtree

Tom Crabtree AP

Two days after releasing tight end Tom Crabtree, the Saints have brought him back.

The club re-signed Crabtree, the ex-Buccaneer and ex-Packer, on Monday, according to the NFL’s transactions.

The 28-year-old Crabtree gives the Saints a fourth tight end behind Jimmy Graham, Josh Hill and Ben Watson. Graham, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, played just 30 offensive snaps in Sunday’s loss at Detroit, catching no passes on two targets.

In another roster move Monday, the Saints waived rookie linebacker Todd Davis, whom they signed on Saturday, which necessitated Crabtree’s release. Davis played 18 snaps on special teams and two snaps on defense at Detroit.

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Pete Carroll believes there won’t be fallout from locker room on Harvin trade

Percy Harvin, Russell Wilson AP

Percy Harvin’s former teammates with the Seattle Seahawks were just as surprised as anyone when they learned the mercurial receiver had been dealt to the New York Jets for a conditional draft pick on Friday.

The players found out about the trade as the team was boarding buses to head to the airport for their flight to St. Louis on Friday afternoon. A Seahawks player said Friday night he found out about the trade on Twitter and wasn’t the only one.

While Harvin had altercations with Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin during his tenure in Seattle, he certainly wasn’t a universally disliked member of their locker room. Finding out one of the focal point pieces of the team’s offense through the first five games of the season had been traded as the end of a week of preparation had certainly stunned the rest of the team as well.

Head coach Pete Carroll said Monday he spent much of the flight to St. Louis Friday evening conversing with players and discussing the decision with the team so they understood what had happened.

“We had a really good talk about it and talked with guys from across the board on our team. I think it was pretty clear that it was accepted as the next thing that we had to do and we did the right thing and on we go,” Carroll said.

“They took it in stride. I think they trust our decision-making and they’ve stood by us throughout. I don’t think there is any fallout at all,” he added.

Receiver Doug Baldwin said after the game Sunday that the trade of Harvin had an effect on the players as they learned of the decision. Carroll said he understands that reaction but also believes the players didn’t let it affect them during their game against the Rams.

“Obviously, like (Baldwin) said, you’re human, you react and you have a response to it but I don’t think anybody had any problem and everybody was concerned about getting to business of playing football. So I think it was fine.” Carroll said.

Seattle’s offense in the second half looked the most productive its been in weeks. The Seahawks scored touchdowns on their final three possessions with each drive covering at least 80 yards. Maybe getting rid of a piece that clearly didn’t fit will jump-start the Seahawks offense. Or maybe they’ll miss one of the more dynamic athletes in the league. Only time will tell.

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Steelers ORT Marcus Gilbert out with concussion

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert has been ruled out of Monday night’s game vs. Houston with a concussion, the team announced.

Mike Adams replaced Gilbert at right tackle for Pittsburgh, which holds a 24-13 lead at halftime.

The 26-year-old Gilbert has started all six games for the Steelers this season. He signed a contract extension with the club in August.

Gilbert will have to be cleared via the NFL’s concussion protocols to return to practice and game action.

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Watt, Mercilus punish Ben, but Steelers storm back

texanssteelers AP

The Texans’ defense got off to a stellar start on Monday night in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers aren’t going away without a fight.

As expected, J.J. Watt is having a big game, with a sack and a recovery of a Ben Roethlisberger fumble. That fumble was forced by Whitney Mercilus, who’s also having a big game, with two sacks in the first half. Mercilus has also knocked down a pass, and Watt has hit Roethlisberger twice.

But Brian Cushing, the linebacker once viewed as one of the best young defensive players in the league, looks like injuries have severely limited him. Cushing just can’t keep up in coverage on Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who already has 89 receiving yards, and as a result the Texans took Cushing off the field and went into a dime package late in the second quarter. That didn’t help, however, as Roethlisberger hit Martavis Bryant for a 35-yard touchdown pass.

That touchdown narrowed the score to 13-10, after the Texans had taken an early 13-0 lead. The Steelers are right back in it.

UPDATE: Then the Steelers scored two quick touchdowns to make it 24-13, Pittsburgh. Wow.

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Arian Foster powers Texans’ fast start

Derek Newton, Arian Foster, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin AP

The Texans rode Arian Foster to a fast start in Pittsburgh.

Foster had five carries for 59 yards on Houston’s first drive as the Texans marched 94 yards in 10 plays to take an early 7-0 lead. The touchdown was scored by Foster’s backup, Alfred Blue, who took a short pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick and ran it in for an 11-yard score.

Foster and Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell are dueling for second place on the NFL rushing list, behind DeMarco Murray of the Cowboys. Bell entered the game leading Foster, 542 yards to 513. But after the Texans’ first drive, Foster had moved ahead of Bell. (Neither is close to Murray’s league-leading total of 913 yards.)

Now the Steelers need Bell to get going, as their defense is struggling to contain Foster.

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Report: Austin Pettis late for meeting on Saturday

Austin Pettis AP

The Rams made a somewhat surprising move Monday, waiving wide receiver Austin Pettis, who had caught 107 passes over the last four seasons for St. Louis.

Well, pieces of this puzzle might be starting to emerge.

According to Fox’s Mike Garafolo, Pettis was tardy to a Saturday night team meeting. The next day, Pettis was a healthy scratch for the Rams’ upset of Seattle.

The day after that, he was on waivers.

Garafolo, it should be noted, also opined that Pettis’ tardiness was certainly a contributing factor in his departure, though he didn’t believe it was the only one.

In any event, the reasoning for the release doesn’t matter. Players at Rams Park and points beyond understand being late can come at a big cost, with those outside the starting lineup most vulnerable.

We’ll know by Tuesday afternoon whether the 26-year-old Pettis has been picked up, which is quite possible. He’s making $570,000 this season, per Rotoworld data, and he is in the final year of his contract.

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Jadeveon Clowney inactive vs. Steelers

Jadeveon Clowney AP

The Texans are still waiting for No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to get healthy.

Clowney, the pass rusher who has been sidelined since a Week One knee injury, is inactive for tonight’s game against the Steelers. The Texans had listed Clowney as questionable, and he went onto the field for pregame warmups, but he apparently still isn’t at full speed.

That’s disappointing news: When Clowney had arthroscopic knee surgery, the Texans said he’d be out 4-6 weeks. That surgery was exactly six weeks ago, and he’s still out. So the injury appears to be more serious than the Texans originally believed.

The Texans’ other inactives are OT Jeff Adams, S Josh Aubrey, CB Darryl Morris, CB Jumal Rolle, WR DeVier Posey and QB Tom Savage.

The Steelers’ inactives are QB Landry Jones, WR Justin Brown, CB Ike Taylor, SS Shamarko Thomas, ILB Ryan Shazier, G Chris Hubbard and NT Steve McLendon.

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Rams waive Austin Pettis

Bryan Mattison,  Austin Pettis,  Lionel Smith AP

Austin Pettis’s days in St. Louis are done.

The Rams waived Pettis, a wide receiver and 2011 third-round draft pick, today. Pettis was surprisingly left inactive on Sunday after having played in all five previous games this season.

The 6-foot-3, 203-pound Pettis is a good athlete who showed promise at times but never quite lived up to what the Rams thought they were getting when they drafted him. This year Pettis has 12 catches for 118 yards and one touchdown.

Pettis has contributed enough, both on offense and on special teams as a punt and kickoff returner, that it wouldn’t be surprising to see some other team claim him on waivers tomorrow. But in St. Louis, he’s finished.

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