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Donte Whitner not changing his name to Hitner after all

Hitner AP

Last month 49ers safety Donte Whitner scheduled a court a date in his home state of Ohio to legally change his last name to “Hitner.” That hearing was set for today, but now the name change is not going forward.

Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group reports that Whitner withdrew his application with the Ohio probate court and so the application has been dismissed.

Whitner initially said he wanted to drop the ‘W’ from his name after he was fined for two hits early this season. Whitner felt that a name starting with “Hit” would be a good way to celebrate what he was becoming known for in the NFL.

But now Whitner has changed his mind. It’s not clear why Whitner decided not to go through with the name change, but it might have been a simple financial calculation: Under NFL rules, a player who changes his name has to buy any jerseys that have been printed with his old name on them before the league will let him put his new name on his jersey. Whitner might have decided that the name change isn’t worth the cost of purchasing a bunch of jerseys with his original last name on them.

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Dolphins cut 11

Minnesota Vikings v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Dolphins have cut 11 players as they move toward the 75-man roster limit.

The biggest name of the bunch is cornerback Brandon Harris, a 2011 second-round pick of the Texans who has had a disappointing NFL career and still has never started a regular-season game.

Players placed on waivers were linebacker Akil Blount, center/guard Ruben Carter, wide receiver A.J. Cruz, long snapper Ryan DiSalvo, wide receiver Matt Hazel, tight end Gabe Hughes, kicker Marshall Koehn, cornerback Al Louis-Jean, guard Vinston Painter and wide receiver Brandon Shippen.

All 32 teams have until Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET to trim their rosters to 75 players.

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Bears’ offense continues a disappointing preseason

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Derrick Johnson (56) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn) AP

If Week Three of the preseason is the week that most resembles the regular season, the Bears’ offense is not in good shape. Then again, the Bears’ offense didn’t look good in the first two weeks of the preseason either.

In today’s game against the Chiefs, Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler completed just six of his 15 passes, for 45 yards, and was sacked twice for a loss of 20 yards. The Bears didn’t score a point until third-string quarterback Conor Shaw threw a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.

Today isn’t the first disappointing preseason performance for the Bears’ offense, which was shut out in a 22-0 loss to the Broncos in the first week of the preseason. The Bears looked a little better in the second preseason game, a 23-22 loss to the Patriots.

Cutler and the starters won’t play next week, so their preseason is over. They’ll have to look a lot better in the regular season or else the Bears are headed for a third consecutive last-place finish.

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Cowboys will quickly find out what Dak Prescott can do

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) looks to pass as Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett (72) blocks Cowboys guard Zack Martin during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

Through three preseason games, Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has passed the eyeball test. The real test comes when opposing defenses have enough evidence to eyeball him.

If starting quarterback Tony Romo will indeed miss 6-10 weeks with a broken bone in his back, Prescott will play enough preseason games to result in the generation of sufficient film to properly break down his game. What does he do well? What does he not do well? What are his tendencies, his tells?

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has mastered the most obvious principle of defensive football: Take away what the other team does well. When opposing defenses figure out what Prescott does well, will he be able to still do those things when the defense is trying to stop him? Will he be able to do things well that he doesn’t like to do?

Usually, it takes 4-6 weeks of games that count to generate enough film to permit astute defensive coordinators to crack the code. The challenge for the Cowboys will be to work diligently to crack the code on their own, anticipating how defenses will adapt to Dak and taking advantage of any ensuing holes in the defense.

Regardless, the injury gives the Cowboys a chance to find out whether Prescott can be the week-in, week-out answer after Romo leaves. If Prescott does well enough, Romo may be leaving before he wants to.

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Eddie Lacy “debating” a haircut after being tackled by dreadlocks

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy carries the ball as San Francisco 49ers tackle Mike Purcell, right, defends during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar) AP

Packers running back Eddie Lacy might be about to drop even more weight.

After being tackled by his dreadlocks last night, Lacy said he’s strongly considering a haircut to keep future defenders from employing the same move.

I’m debating after that,” Lacy said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I don’t know how many more of those I’d like to experience. We’re in camp. So I’ve got to wait until I get out of camp, and then I’ll assess it.”

While horse-collar tackles from behind have been banned, grabbing ball-carriers by the hair is totally legal. Maybe not kosher, but legal.

Lacy said he hasn’t cut his hair in a year, and hasn’t been tackled by his hair since he was a junior in high school, which was eight seasons ago. So cutting his signature style isn’t something he’d consider lightly, but 49ers linebacker Gerald Hodges yanking him down from behind on a breakaway run was an eye-opener. He said he’d consider getting a haircut during the bye week next month.

“It definitely hurts,” Lacy said. “The first thought in my mind was a word I can’t really say.”

Lacy has responded to the Packers’ fat-shaming him by losing at least 10 pounds and returning to the form he had shown his first two seasons in the league. In the preseason, he has 20 carries for 114 yards, a strong 5.7-yard average.

And that average would have been longer if not for Hodges yanking him down by his hair.

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Jason Garrett doesn’t rule out Tony Romo for Week One

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett stands on the sideline during the first half of the team's preseason NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear) AP

Notwithstanding a report from PFT (those bastards) that quarterback Tony Romo will miss 6-10 weeks with a broken bone in his back, coach Jason Garrett said Saturday that he won’t rule out Romo for Week One.

Regardless of whether Romo could play that soon (and there’s a very, very, very strong chance he won’t be able to), there’s no reason to rule him out now. The injury-reporting rules, as revised, don’t mandate the attachment of any label to Romo until Friday, September 9. Why should Garrett officially declare before then that Romo won’t play?

Four years ago, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten was listed as doubtful for Week One at home against the Giants, and Witten played. In Romo’s case, he technically could be listed as doubtful under the new rules (or even questionable, theoretically), which would keep the Giants guessing up until 90 minutes before kickoff.

The injury creates a separate issue for the Cowboys: Who plays in the preseason finale is rookie Dak Prescott will be in line to start Week One? Jameill Showers could handle the entire game, in theory. The better move could be to acquire another quarterback now, in order to get him ready to serve as the No. 2 to Prescott in Week One, if as expected Romo isn’t ready.

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Source: Tony Romo to miss 6-10 weeks with broken bone in back

A fan expresses her support for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo as Cowboys backup quarterback Dak Prescott (4) prepares to take a snap during the first half against the Seattle Seahawks in a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

If that hit on quarterback Tony Romo’s back looked bad, there’s a good reason for it. It was bad.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Romo is expected to miss 6-10 weeks with a broken bone in his back. The team will be announcing the injury; it’s unclear whether the team will put a duration on the absence.

It means that those Cowboys fans who had been clamoring for the Dak Prescott era to begin sooner than later will be getting their wish. For better or worse.

For Romo, the best-case scenario based on the initial estimate means he’d be back by Week Five at the earliest, for a game against the Bengals. Under the worst case, he’d be back in for Week Nine, versus the Browns. Dallas has a Week Seven bye.

Meanwhile, it may be time to reconsider your vote from Friday’s PFT Planet poll question.

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Bears’ Tracy Porter leaves game with apparent head injury

ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 15: Tracy Porter #21 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after breaking up a pass in the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on November 15, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bears cornerback Tracy Porter exited today’s game against the Chiefs with what appeared to be a head injury.

Porter, the Bears’ most experienced defensive back, was attempting to tackle Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris when he was accidentally kneed in the back of the head by Bears safety Harold Jones-Quartey. Porter stayed on the ground for a few minutes and was attended to by the medical personnel before eventually getting up and slowly walking to the sideline under his own power. He was then escorted to the locker room. The Bears confirmed that he is being evaluated for a possible concussion.

The head injury will likely put Porter in the NFL’s concussion protocol. His preseason was probably over anyway, as starters rarely play in the fourth preseason game, but the Bears will now have to hope he’s cleared in time for the start of the regular season, two weeks from tomorrow.

The 30-year-old Porter is in his second season in Chicago. He started 13 games for the Bears last year.

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NFL: Players are encouraged but not required to stand for national anthem

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 22:  An American flag covers the field during the National Anthem before the NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Twenty years ago, the NBA suspended a player who refused to stand for the national anthem. The NFL will not be doing the same thing.

“Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem,” the NFL said in a statement issued Saturday, in response to the controversy that emerged when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted not to stand during the playing of the national anthem on Friday night in Santa Clara, prior to a game against the Packers.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick has since said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The NBA based its suspension of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf on a rule that requires players to stand during the playing of the national anthem. The NFL has no such rule, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement is silent on the subject.

And so Kaepernick and any other player has the right to not stand during the national anthem. Whether other players will follow Kaepernick’s lead remains to be seen.

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Browns want now what they could have gotten for Josh Gordon in 2013

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) celebrates with teammate Andrew Hawkins (16) after catching a 43=yard touchdown pass in front of Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Brent Grimes (24) during the second quarter of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) AP

The Browns may have “no intent” to trade receiver Josh Gordon, but they reportedly will do so in exchange for a second-round draft pick. That’s precisely what they rejected for him in 2013.

As Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer explained two years ago, the Browns turned down during the 2013 season the chance to deal Gordon for a second-round pick. The team (believed at the time to be the 49ers) essentially would have been giving back to the Browns the second-round pick that they used in the 2012 supplemental draft.

Via Cabot, former Browns CEO Joe Banner and former Browns G.M. Mike Lombardi wanted to do the deal, but others (including coach Rob Chudzinski) wanted to keep Gordon.

It was also believed at the time, as PFT consistently has heard, that owner Jimmy Haslam didn’t want to trade Gordon so soon in time after trading running back Trent Richardson to the Colts. Although getting an extra 2014 first-round pick (which eventually was squandered on Johnny Manziel after a trade up to No. 22) ended up being a great move, Browns fans weren’t thrilled with the perception that the team was tanking by trading Richardson. Trading Gordon so soon after that would have only exacerbated the impression that the Browns were giving up on 2013.

In hindsight, they should have taken the second-round pick for Gordon, who missed 11 games in 2014 due to suspensions and then all of 2015. Although his performance on Friday night could increase Gordon’s trade value, it won’t be easy to get a second-round pick now. The real question becomes whether Gordon will do enough when he debuts as of Week Five to finagle a second-round offer for the Browns before the Tuesday after Week Eight.

There’s a chance the price will go up, and it’s clear that the Browns (despite what they say) would like nothing more than to turn current assets into future draft picks, since they surely realize that it makes more sense to build for a brighter future than to tilt at windmills in the present.

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How will other players react to Kaepernick’s gesture?

gettyimages-460735354 Getty Images

Now that everyone knows: (1) that Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been standing for the national anthem; and (2) that he’s doing it because he refuses to “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” the next question is how other NFL players will react to the gesture.

Plenty of people are reacting to Kaepernick’s First Amendment right to protest the flag by exercising their First Amendment right to protest him. For now, no teammates or peers have spoken up.

When they do — and, inevitably, they’ll be asked about it, what will they say?

Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who spoke out last month against prominent NFL players who “are just sitting back, taking the dollars, whether it’s Cam Newton, all these guys. They’re not really on the forefront of trying to change what’s going on.” Although Bennett later walked back his remarks, Bennett may embrace Kaepernick’s gesture, since he’s the first guy who is both “taking the dollars” and taking a stand.

What will others do or say? The fact that Kaepernick currently is on track to be sitting for a lot of regular-season games than the pregame flag ritual will dilute the message. The possibility that the 49ers will decide to move on from Kaepernick based ostensibly on football reasons (which already were pointing to a divorce) will undermine his message even more.

For now, it’s unlikely that other players will stand with Kaepernick by sitting during the national anthem. But until other players chime in — and until more NFL games happen — it’s impossible to know whether Kaepernick’s peers will view the incident as an inspiration or an aberration.

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Kaepernick refuses “to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people”

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 08:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers watches Blaine Gabbert #2 play quarterback during their game against the Atlanta Falcons at Levi's Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

So why didn’t Colin Kaepernick stand during Friday night’s playing of the national anthem? If there was any ambiguity following his Thursday retweet linking the American and Confederate flags, there should be none now.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

As others have noted (and as PFT was informed when first becoming aware of the issue of Friday), Kaepernick hasn’t stood for the playing of the national anthem at any of his team’s three preseason games. Last night the gesture was noticed because, for the first time this year, he was wearing a uniform bearing his name and number.

“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” Kaepernick said. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. . . . If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

Because Kaepernick currently seems to be in the process of having his football taken away for football-related reasons, his decision will create less drama than if he had made it, say, three years ago, when people like Ron Jaworski were providing the ESPN washing machine days of content by declaring that Kaepernick could be one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Currently, he’s a starter who already was in an awkward posture as a member of an organization that seemed to be looking for a way to unload him via trade without hurting its leverage by sharing its true feelings about him.

The broader question becomes whether other players will become inspired by Kaepernick’s gesture and follow suit. It’s one thing for Kaepernick not to stand. It’s quite another if other players who actually will be, you know, playing this year do it.

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How will NFL respond to Kaepernick’s anthem gesture?

landscape-1446821043-nflflag

For many people, the letter N-F-L and U-S-A are synonymous. And for good reason. Pro football and America have become fully intertwined, with the league constantly embracing patriotism, the military, and all of the basis tenets and ideals of being an American. Week One typically entails the display of gigantic, full-field flags held up by hundreds of people. The flag decal appears on the back of every helmet.

Heck, The Shield looks like it was cut straight from the cloth of the handiwork of Betsy Ross, with stars on a blue field and letters fashioned by rearranging the red stripes.

And so the same First Amendment right that allows Kaepernick to sit during the national anthem and to retweet a message claiming that there is no difference between the American and Confederate flags empowers anyone and everyone to criticize Kaepernick for his position. It also allows the NFL to say something, if it chooses to.

For now, only the 49ers have spoken, providing a measured statement respecting Kaepernick’s ability to not participate in the pregame ritual of honoring America and the flag to which every school kid pledges allegiance, every day. The NFL hasn’t spoken yet, but surely will.

So the question becomes what will the NFL say? Twenty years ago, the NBA suspended Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf indefinitely for refusing to stand during the playing of the national anthem.

That punishment came from a clause in the NBA rule book requiring players to stand for the anthem. The NFL, per a source with knowledge of the situation, believes there is no similar mandate that applies to its players.

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Cam Newton after rough night for offense: “It’s preseason”

Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (1) tries to escape the grasp of New England Patriots' Markus Kuhn (94) during the second half of a preseason NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) AP

Cam Newton took to the podium for his postgame press conference wearing a Sergio Leone-inspired hat, which was good.

It was his play, however, that covered the bad and the ugly.

After a pretty nightmarish night against the Patriots, the reigning MVP summed it up in the two most appropriate words: “It’s preseason.”

Newton was 13-of-29 passing for 100 yards and two interceptions, missing high when he missed (as he does when he hurries) but it was hardly all on him. The Panthers receivers took their turns dropping catchable balls, tipped balls became interceptions, and there were numerous mistakes that stood out because they had been so polished previously.

“Well, we took our turns making mistakes and any time that happens, you know you’re going to get those kind of results,” Newton said in comments distributed by the team. “There’s no need to panic. It just comes down to having a good week of practice and the truth of the matter is that we played a great team. You know, great players who are coached extremely well and they are very stingy. That’s all it comes down to.

“We will be better from this. I’m glad it happened. I’m not glad we lost but I’m just glad that we had an understanding that we’re not that good yet. We will be better.”

It was bad enough Ron Rivera alluded to the possibility of having starters play in Thursday’s preseason finale, though that might be an extreme reaction to what was simply an off night for the league’s highest-scoring offense. But even when asked about the absence of veteran tight end Greg Olsen Friday night, Newton said the responsibility fell to him.

“We know we’re going to have a great week of practice and it’s just eye-opening,” Newton said. “Like I said, there is no need to panic or press the panic button. But for us, we do need better production from everybody including myself. There were times in the game where I forced certain things where I shouldn’t have and I just have to be more mature and have more understanding of the offensive just to check it down, and let guys do what they do.”

Whether they play in the meaningless fourth preseason game or not, the Panthers have another significant test in two weeks at Denver. And if they want to avoid a repeat of their last meeting with the Broncos, they have a lot of issues to fix.

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Falcons working out veteran safety Dashon Goldson

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 10: Wide receiver James Jones #89 of the Green Bay Packers is tackled by cornerback Will Blackmon #41 of the Washington Redskins while free safety Dashon Goldson #38 of the Washington Redskins jumps in the second quarter during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons might have avoided the worst-case scenario news with safety Keanu Neal’s knee injury.

But they’re making backup plans as well.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Falcons are working out veteran safety Dashon Goldson today.

Goldson was released in March by Washington, and has had a few sniffs here and there. The 31-year-old former 49er and Buccaneers safety may be past his prime, but the Falcons might not be able to afford to be picky at the moment.

Neal’s having knee surgery after being injured Thursday night, and is expected to miss three or four weeks. The rookie from Florida was heading up a pretty thin depth chart at the position anyway, so bringing in reinforcements is reasonable.

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NFL may consider a game in Australia

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors' players Marcus Kemp, left, Steven Lakalaka and Makan Kema-Kaleiwahia, right, take advantage of the sites around Sydney to take photos at the Opera House, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, ahead of their opening college football game of the season against the California Golden Bears on Saturday. The game, with Cal designated as the home team, will be the first college football game played in Sydney and the first significant American football game played in Australia since 1999. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft) AP

The 2016 college football season kicked off in Australia with Cal facing Hawaii, and the game drew enough interest that the NFL may consider a game Down Under as well.

Hawaii Athletic Director David Matlin told the Sydney Morning Herald that the NFL has been monitoring fan interest.

“Obviously [the NFL] are paying attention to this,” he said. “I think it’s a possibility. I think you have the facilities and the sports enthusiasts, so it’s a real good place for sporting events.”

With 61,247 fans attending the game in Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, the NFL is surely confident that it could sell out a game in Sydney. And the fans in Sydney showed they were willing to spend money at an American football game, with the stadium issuing an apology for not being able to meet the fans’ “unprecedented demand for food and beverage offerings, resulting in unfortunate queues,” a spokesman for ANZ Stadium said.

“We had more than 61,000 people walk into the venue just before lunchtime all wanting to eat and drink,” he said. “This created long queues that took an extended period to service. The specific demand for American-style food products that took longer to prepare – such as the 2-foot hot dogs – added to the challenges.”

The NFL’s primary market for building its fan base overseas is London, which hosts three games a year. This year a game will also be played in Mexico City, future games are planned for China, and Germany and Brazil have both been mentioned as potential hosts for NFL games. So Australia, with its population of only 24 million, is likely a lower priority, especially considering the greater logistical challenges of getting two teams there.

But Australia has shown it can host a football game, and sell a lot of tickets, a lot of beer and a lot of 2-foot hot dogs. The NFL will notice that.

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