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Patriots score 13 points in 30 seconds, grab comeback win

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For the better part of 59 minutes, Sunday was not a good day for the New England Patriots. Things wound up brightening up a lot at the very end, however.

Julian Edelman held onto a two-yard touchdown catch from Tom Brady despite a hit by Jordan Poyer that was flagged for unnecessary roughness with 1:01 left to play, Kyle Arrington recovered an onside kick and then Leon McFadden was flagged for pass interference in the end zone with 40 seconds left to play. It was a weak call by the officials, although New Englanders may think it just penance for the flag that was picked up in their loss to Carolina.

The Pats got the ball on the one and Brady hit Danny Amendola for a touchdown on the next play. They couldn’t get a two-point conversion, making the score 27-26 in a game the Patriots once trailed 19-3. It wasn’t over yet, as the Browns drove the ball into position for a 58-yard field goal with a second to play but Billy Cundiff was short and the Pats held on.

Brady finished the day 32-of-52 for 418 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on a day that went from a horrible start to a worse middle before the happy ending.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the first six games of the season, had to be carted off the field after taking a shot to the knee from Browns safety T.J. Ward and initial reports about the severity of the injury suggest that they’ll end the season the same way they started it. Shane Vereen will likely be part of the plan for life without Gronkowski after catching 12 passes for 153 yards on Sunday afternoon, but it’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the tight end’s loss.

The comeback will overshadow another monster day for Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon caught an 80-yard touchdown and had a 19-yard catch and a 34-yard run in the fourth quarter to set up another touchdown. Gordon had seven catches for 151 yards, breaking his string of 200-yard outings but setting a new Browns franchise record for single-season receiving yards.

That wasn’t enough to overcome another Tom Brady comeback, although there will still be plenty of people lamenting a loss in Patriots country on Sunday night.

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Ryan Shazier set to join exclusive club for Steelers

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No pressure, kid.

It’s not very often a defensive rookie starts the opener for the Steelers, but linebacker Ryan Shazier is about to do just that.

According to Ron Musselman of the Beaver County Times, Shazier will be the first since Kendrell Bell 13 years ago, and he went onto win defensive rookie of the year honors.

Prior to that, the last one was Jack Lambert in 1974, so Shazier realizes the expectations.

It’s been a dream of mine my whole life, to play in the NFL, and then the first game of my career is going to be a start,” Shazier said. “Words will not even be able to describe it. It puts me in nice company.”

Yes it does.

While their defense has been traditionally good, they’ve needed a shot of youth over there for some time. Shazier’s shown the athleticism and instincts needed, and should help immediately.

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Cowboys bringing in new defensive options

Lance Moore, C.J. Spillman AP

The Cowboys defense has been the subject of nothing but pessimistic prognostications, but the team is working to find improvement over the players they kept on the initial 53-man roster.

They’re looking to the NFC West for two additions. According to multiple reports, former 49ers safety C.J. Spillman and former Seahawks linebacker Korey Toomer will be signing with the team.

Spillman is the more experienced of the two players and has played in every game for the 49ers over the last three seasons. The majority of that work has come on special teams, although the Cowboys probably won’t be looking down their noses at anyone who might be able to help the defense. If the 49ers are lax about securing their signals, Spilman could also give the Cowboys an edge come Sunday in the opener for both teams.

Toomer was on waivers, but the Cowboys did not claim him and will instead be signing him directly to the 53-man roster. Injuries have kept the 2012 fifth-round pick from contributing, but his ability has led to plenty of offseason notice and, again, the Cowboys need all the help they can find.

The Cowboys will need to open two roster spots with the move of defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to injured reserve/return one possibility.

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Chiefs claim Damion Square, sign nine to practice squad

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When you see a player move from the Eagles to the Chiefs, the impulse is to say that Chiefs coach Andy Reid made the move because of some knowledge he gleaned while he was still in Philadelphia.

That’s not the case with defensive lineman Damion Square, however. Square didn’t join the Eagles until Reid was already in Kansas City, so the Chiefs’ decision to claim him off of waivers wasn’t based on insider information.

Square played 10 games for the Eagles as a rookie and made four tackles. His addition gives them six defensive linemen and Square will likely work to earn snaps at end in the coming days. The Chiefs released tight end Richard Gordon to make room for him on the roster.

The Chiefs also announced that linebacker Nico Johnson, center Ben Gottschalk, running back Charcandrick West, guard Ricky Henry, wide receiver Darryl Surgent, wide receiver Fred Williams, fullback Jordan Campbell and defensive end Kona Schwenke have signed to the practice squad. The agent for former Bears linebacker Jerry Franklin said his client has also joined the practice squad in Kansas City, where Franklin will reunite with Chiefs (and former Bears) special teams coach Dave Toub.

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Monday morning one-liners

Andre Holmes, Shareece Wright AP

Five things the Bills want you to know about QB Kyle Orton.

Lamenting the departure of S Jordan Kovacs from the Dolphins.

LB Steve Beauharnais accepted an injury settlement from the Patriots.

Things have broken right for Jets WR David Nelson.

Ravens RB Ray Rice and S Will Hill have to work out on their own for a while.

How long will Bengals QB A.J. McCarron be sidelined by injury?

Browns QB Brian Hoyer will face the Steelers, a team he’s played for, in Week One.

WR Markus Wheaton is looking forward to playing a big role for the Steelers.

How quickly will QB Ryan Mallett be able to help the Texans?

Colts WR Reggie Wayne is preparing to be on the opposite sideline from former teammate Peyton Manning.

The Jags are working to get better on special teams.

The Titans know the benefits of a quick start.

Broncos CB Chris Harris is excited about getting back on the field.

The Chiefs are buying into QB Alex Smith.

It isn’t easy to project the Raiders 53-man roster way in advance.

Chargers CB Shareece Wright feels like he’s matured.

Newcomers will play a big role for the Cowboys this year.

The Giants defense will be tested right out of the gate.

Injuries to others have kicked up the pressure on the healthy Eagles linebackers.

The Redskins didn’t bring RB Lache Seastrunk back to the practice squad.

Bears coach Marc Trestman says he’ll spend more time with the defense this season.

Several players felt the impact of playing the Lions in the preseason.

C Corey Linsley is set for an integral role with the Packers.

Vikings rookie LB Anthony Barr is excited about his regular season debut.

Falcons DT Ra’Shede Hageman has been miked up a lot this summer.

The Panthers went with familiar faces on their practice squad.

WR Brandon Coleman hopes to make a good impression on the Saints in practice.

Breaking down the Buccaneers roster after cutdown day.

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald is working to get back into the flow.

Revisiting 10 questions about the Rams.

49ers players were popular on the waiver wire.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson spent some time rooting for Wisconsin this weekend.

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Bills’ Eric Wood blames ESPN for lack of interest in Michael Sam

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Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL, was cut by the Rams on Saturday and passed over by all 31 other teams on waivers on Sunday, and so far he hasn’t even been able to land a spot on a practice squad. So are NFL teams avoiding Sam because he’s gay?

According to one NFL player, the answer to that question is yes — but not because teams are homophobic. Bills center Eric Wood says teams are avoiding Sam because they don’t want the ESPN hype that would come with having Sam, the only openly gay player in football, on the team. In response to a question from Ross Tucker about Sam’s lack of practice squad offers, Wood said ESPN is to blame.

Last week ESPN apologized for a report that quoted an unnamed Rams player as saying that Sam hadn’t showered with teammates in training camp. But even aside from that report, Wood’s view is the most sensible explanation for why Sam remains out of work: NFL teams just don’t like seeing one player singled out for any reason other than his play on the field.

Although there were some questions before this year’s draft about whether Sam would be a good fit in any NFL defense, Sam played well enough in the Rams’ scheme during his four preseason games that it’s surprising the Rams haven’t added him to their practice squad. It’s even more surprising that no other team has picked Sam up. It would be nice if some team had the guts to give Sam the chance he deserves, but Wood may be right that Sam is paying the price for teams being scared of distractions.

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Sixth-round pick Matt Hazel among 10 additions to Miami’s practice squad

Matt Hazel AP

The Dolphins’ initial practice squad includes one of their draft picks.

Sixth-round pick Matt Hazel, a wide receiver from Coastal Carolina, was among the 10 signees to the practice squad announced by Miami on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Hazel caught six passes for 87 yards and a touchdown in preseason play for Miami.

The Dolphins’ other practice squad additions are center Sam Brenner, offensive tackle Tony Hills, linebacker David Hinds, quarterback Seth Lobato, tight end Jacob Maxwell, defensive end D’Aundre Reed, cornerback Lowell Rose, defensive tackle Garrison Smith and wide receiver Tommy Streeter. Brenner, Lobato, Reed and Smith were waived by Miami on Saturday, then re-signed to the practice squad after clearing waivers.

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Robert Griffin III gets a statue at his alma mater

rg3statue AP

Robert Griffin III traveled from Washington to Waco this weekend to see himself immortalized at the age of 24.

Griffin was back at the campus of Baylor, the school where he won the Heisman Trophy and where a new football stadium has opened that features a bronze statue of Griffin outside.

“It’s amazing. You don’t dream about that kind of stuff,” Griffin told the Waco Tribune. “There’s a Statue of Liberty and all those other statues, but you don’t ever dream of having a statue honored in your name. That’s a blessing. It comes from God, and I don’t look at it as anyone putting me on a pedestal. I look at it as I know where my blessings come from, and they’re using me in a way to help other people. Not just to say, ‘he’s a great football player.’ I hope they say, ‘he’s a great man’ as well.”

Baylor President Ken Starr talked about Griffin in glowing terms, saying he hopes people will visit Waco to see Griffin’s statue just as they visit Washington to see the Lincoln Memorial and visit New York City to see the Statue of Liberty.

Griffin’s disappointing second season in the NFL has led to many questions about whether he can ever live up to the promise he showed as a rookie. But at Baylor, he’s still an idol.

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Jets add Matt Simms, six others to practice squad

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The Jets have re-signed one of the quarterbacks they waived Saturday to their practice squad.

Matt Simms, who was among the club’s final cuts, is among the first seven players added to the Jets’ practice roster, the team said Sunday.

Another practice squad addition was ex-Rams tailback Daryl Richardson, whom the Jets also waived Saturday.

The Jets’ other practice squad signees were defensive tackle Tevita Finau, defensive lineman Kerry Hyder, safety Rontez Miles, tight end Chris Pantale and offensive tackle Brett Qvale.

The Jets have three more practice squad spots to be filled.

Among the Jets’ cuts who have yet to be added to a practice squad is rookie quarterback Tajh Boyd, who cleared waivers Sunday.

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Chiefs extend Alex Smith

Smith AP

Alex Smith was prepared to pull the plug on contract talks if they ever became a distraction.  It never got to that point.

After an intense and largely secretive day of negotiations, the Chiefs and Smith have worked out a four-year, $68 million extension.

Per a league source, Smith gets $30 million guaranteed at signing.  Another $15 million in injury-only guarantee vests in March 2015.

Smith, who is still only 30 years old, was traded to the Chiefs last year for what ultimately became two second-round picks.  He performed very well in his first season with Kansas City, leading the team to the playoffs and having one of the best days of his career, which has become overlooked via the second-half defensive collapse that blew a 38-10 lead in Indianapolis.

Coupled with his 2014 base salary of $7.5 million, Smith gets $75.5 million over five years, an average of $15.1 million.

The first overall pick in the 2005 draft, Smith was regarded as a borderline bust until Jim Harbaugh arrived as head coach.  A very strong 2011 led to an equally impressive 2012.  But a concussion gave Colin Kaepernick a chance to play, and he played well enough to send Smith to the bench — and ultimately out the door.

Now, Smith has a contract that is much, much (did I say much?) better than the team-friendly deal that Kaepernick signed earlier this year.

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Cowboys bring running back Ryan Williams back to practice squad

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As it turns out, Devon Still isn’t the only former second-rounder to make a practice squad this weekend, but at least he’s on the team that drafted him.

Among the seven practice-squaders signed by the Cowboys Sunday was running back Ryan Williams.

Williams was taken by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2011 Draft, 38th overall. He had a solid preseason for the Cowboys, but was released yesterday, as the Cowboys kept just Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle behind starter DeMarco Murray.

The Cowboys also signed wide receiver Tim Benford, defensive end Kenneth Boatright, center Ronald Patrick, safety Micah Pellerin and linebackers Keith Smith and Will Smith.

They also released tackle John Wetzel from the active roster to make room for guard Donald Hawkins, after claiming him off waivers from the Browns.

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Mike Pettine hints Rex Grossman might be back soon

Rex Grossman, Cornelius Washington AP

We should have seen this coming. The NFL simply could not be without Rex Grossman for too long.

The Browns cut Grossman earlier today during a spate of roster moves, but Browns coach Mike Pettine said that might be temporary.

I wouldn’t read too much into it right now,” Pettine said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Some guys could come back. It’s fluid.”

The Browns also waived wide receiver Charles Johnson and offensive linemen Karim Barton and Martin Wallace, after claiming four players off waivers.

But Grossman has a link none of those players have, an all-but-the-tattoo relationship with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan which has kept him employed for several years.

Whether the Browns bring him back this week, or in Week Two when his salary wouldn’t be guaranteed for the year, it appears obvious he’ll be back.

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Cardinals claim outside linebacker Thomas Keiser off waivers

Thomas Keiser AP

The Cardinals and Chargers will play twice in 11 days, since the rematch of the preseason finale will be played next Monday night.

Thomas Keiser will have the rare ability to play for both teams.

The Cardinals claimed the outside linebacker, who was waived by the Chargers yesterday, according to the league’s transaction notice. They waived wide receiver Walter Powell to make room on the roster.

Keiser’s a reasonably talented pass-rusher, who had 4.5 sacks last year, but the Chargers used a second-round pick on Jeremiah Attaochu and brought in CFL pass-rusher Cordarro Law.

Keiser also had an arrest for misdemeanor battery from a fight outside a San Diego bar last year. He pleaded guilty, and has to attend anger management classes.

But he’s also a competent pass-rusher, and the Cardinals are looking for all the help they can get after losing piece after piece this offseason.

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Report: Packers work out three quarterbacks Sunday

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The Packers, who kept two backup quarterbacks on their 53-player roster, reportedly took a look at three other quarterbacks on Sunday.

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Packers put Pat Devlin, Jeff Mathews and Jon Jennings through workouts on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Devlin has the most NFL experience of the trio. He spent the previous three seasons with the Dolphins. Miami released Devlin (6-3, 220) with an injury settlement on August 19. Devlin played collegiately at Delaware.

A Cornell product, Mathews spent time with the Falcons this summer before being waived August 24. He signed as undrafted free agent with Atlanta in May. Mathews (6-4, 229) agreed to join the Colts’ practice squad on Sunday.

Jennings (6-2, 205) is a rookie from Saginaw Valley State. He was collegiate teammates with Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis.

It’s possible the Packers were working out the three quarterbacks with an eye on being prepared in case a passer needed to be added at a moment’s notice. Such workouts are not uncommon.

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Irsay’s plea deal puts him in line for suspension

Jim Irsay AP

After Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested for driving while impaired, some thought the NFL would hold him to a higher standard by suspending him before his case was finalized.  Irsay’s plea deal, which apparently will be finalized on Tuesday, means that any discipline will be imposed after the case has ended.

The question now becomes whether the NFL will hold Irsay to a higher standard by suspending him for a first-offense DUI.  Players typically are fined two game checks for a first offense, absent serious injury or other discipline under the substance-abuse policy.

Adam Schefter of ESPN previously has reported that league insiders expect a six-to-eight game suspension for Irsay.  Don’t be surprised if the suspension comes this week, before the Colts travel to Denver for the first Sunday night of the season.

The financial component of the penalty remains unknown.  In Irsay’s case, he could be fined an amount that raises eyebrows, in isolation.  But he likely won’t face an apples-to-apples penalty, with 1/17th of his total income taken away for each week of the suspension.  That’s what happens when a player is suspended.  To simulate the penalty, the league would have to take a drastic step, such as blocking the Colts’ share of league revenue for each week of the suspension.

Perhaps the biggest question is whether Irsay will be subjected to the same frequency and type of drug testing routinely imposed on a player in the program — and whether Irsay would ever face the ultimate consequence of a one-year banishment.

This much is clear and undeniable.  Irsay’s alleged operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of prescription medication posed a much greater threat than Josh Gordon smoking marijuana ever did.  Whatever the penalty imposed on Irsay, it’ll be difficult if not impossible to reconcile the punishment meted out to player and to owner.

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Pats get only a conditional 2016 seventh-round pick for Mallett

Ryan Mallett AP

There apparently wasn’t much of a trade market for quarterback Ryan Mallett.

Despite talk that the Patriots might get a mid-round draft pick in trading Mallett, they gave him up today for only a conditional 2016 seventh-round pick. That’s what the Texans gave up to acquire Mallett, according to ESPN.

It’s unknown what the conditions are, but the deal likely includes provisions based on Mallett’s playing time or how long he remains on the Texans’ roster, so that the Texans could end up sending New England a sixth-round pick if Mallett becomes Houston’s starter.

Bottom line, teams just weren’t interested in giving up anything of real value to acquire Mallett, whom the Patriots drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft. A late pick a year and a half from now isn’t nothing, but it’s next to nothing. And that’s what the Patriots settled for.

In Houston, Mallett will be reunited with head coach Bill O’Brien, who coached Mallett as an assistant in New England. O’Brien may see something in Mallett, but Bill Belichick didn’t see enough in Mallett to make him worth keeping, as long as the Patriots could get anything of even moderate value in return.

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