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Packers planning for Flynn to start, but Rodgers not ruled out

aaronrodgers AP

The good news for the Packers is that quarterback Aaron Rodgers has not been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Steelers. The bad news is that Rodgers hasn’t been cleared to return from his broken collarbone, either.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said today that he is currently planning for backup Matt Flynn to start his fourth consecutive game on Sunday. McCarthy added, however, that Rodgers will be evaluated by the team’s medical staff this week.

“Aaron’s situation will be evaluated Wednesday morning and then we’ll have a plan for him come Wednesday,” McCarthy said.

The Packers seem to be leaning toward playing it safe with Rodgers, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the result of the Wednesday evaluation is the same as the result of all of his previous evaluations, and the medical staff says he’s simply not ready to play. The good news for the Packers is that they’ve now won two in a row with Flynn.

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NFL to participate in England’s “Remembrance Sunday”

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In a year that will reportedly feature less pink in October and more camo in November, an NFL game played in England next month will include significant recognition of one of the most important days on the British calendar.

The NFL plans to honor the nation’s war dead on “Remembrance Sunday,” when the Jaguars face the Cowboys.

Via the Daily Mail, the teams’ helmets will include the decal of a poppy, the symbol of “Remembrance Sunday.”  The field also will include a large poppy logo, and 80,000 poppies will be dropped from the roof at Wembley Stadium when the game ends.

Also, all uniforms and equipment from the game will be auctioned, with the proceeds going to the Poppy Appeal, which supports the British Royal Legion’s work with the armed forces.

“The NFL has a tremendous respect and admiration for the service given by the military, both in the US and UK,” said NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood.

The effort is described by the Daily Mail as featuring “a lot more detail than previously shown by British sports in honouring the war dead.”

While an ulterior motive could be at work here, it’s precisely the kind of gesture that could endear the NFL to British sports fans.  Which is precisely what the NFL is trying to do.

And so what if that’s what’s happening?  The NFL wants to be part of the British culture and landscape.  The NFL is demonstrating that desire by playing three games per year in London, and now by showing a high degree of respect for those who gave their lives in defense of the nation the NFL regularly visits.  While some could call it pandering, others could call it being a good, earnest, and proper guest in a foreign land.

Maybe it’s both.  Maybe it will help the NFL move a lot closer toward gaining greater acceptance among the fans and the media in England.

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Texans release Ronnie Brown

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The Texans didn’t get much production from running back Arian Foster in last weekend’s victory over the Bills, but the team made a move on Wednesday that signals confidence in  Foster’s physical condition moving forward.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Texans have released veteran running back Ronnie Brown. Brown was one of four running backs on the 53-man roster and was clearly in the back of the pack, as evidenced by his six carries over the first four weeks of the season. Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes remain as the backups to Foster.

Injuries could open up another opportunity for him this year, but Brown, who turns 33 in December, is probably at or very close to the end of the line. Brown, who was the second overall pick of the 2005 draft by the Dolphins, has run for 5,332 yards and 38 touchdowns over the course of his career.

The Texans signed cornerback Jumal Rolle off of Green Bay’s practice squad to keep the roster at 53 players. Houston has six other corners on the roster, although A.J. Bouye missed last week’s game with a groin injury.

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Antoine Bethea named NFC defensive player of week

Antoine Bethea, Perrish Cox AP

Antoine Bethea hasn’t needed long to get used to his new surroundings. And he’s making a quick impact for the 49ers since coming over this offseason in free agency.

The league announced that Bethea was named the NFC defensive player of the week for his role in last week’s win over the Eagles.

Bethea led a defense that kept the Eagles offense out of the end zone, and held them to 213 yards, the lowest total under coach Chip Kelly.

But most dramatic were his two takeaways, an interception and a forced fumble which helped stop any flow the Eagles ever developed.

Bethea has been a solid addition, a smart veteran who has proven durable. It was his 100th consecutive start, dating back to his days with the Colts.

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Aaron Rodgers is the NFC offensive player of the week

Aaron Rodgers AP

R-E-L-A-X was the five letter message that quarterback Aaron Rodgers had for Packers fans worried about the team’s offense last week and he provided them with reason for tranquility against the Bears last Sunday.

Rodgers completed 22-of-28 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns during the team’s 38-17 victory in Chicago. That virtually flawless performance helped Green Bay even their record at 2-2 on the season and led to Rodgers being named the NFC offensive player of the week.

It’s the ninth time in Rodgers’s career that he has been so honored and we probably should have seen it coming. Rodgers throw for less than 200 yards in the Week Three loss to Detroit, the 15th time in his career that he’s failed to cross the 200-yard mark. In the games following those outings, Rodgers has now thrown 38 touchdowns and five interceptions and the team is 10-5 in those games.

While the Packers would surely prefer that Rodgers stay above 200 passing yards for the rest of the season, they can remain relaxed if he doesn’t because the next week is likely to bring a much better result.

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Falcons bring in 10 for workouts on Tuesday

Winston Getty Images

The tradition known as Tryout Tuesday went double digits in Atlanta this week, with 10 players coming to town for a kicking of the tires.

Only one of them got hired, so far.

With multiple injuries on the offensive line, tackles Cameron Bradfield and NFLPA president Eric Winston (pictured) had workouts, along with guards Uche Nwaneri, Leroy Harris, and Adam Replogle.  Bradfield was signed.

Also getting workouts on the defensive side of the ball were linebackers Zach Diles and Moise Fokou and defensive backs Chris Clemons, M.D. Jennings, and Kimario McFadden.  None were signed.

The Falcons put a pair of starting offensive lineman on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday (center Joe Hawley and tackle Lamar Holmes); safety William Moore has been placed on IR with the one-per-club designation to return.

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Packers CEO says hope was Mueller investigation done soon

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The NFL appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller to lend some credibility and provide a thorough investigation into the handling of the Ray Rice case.

They apparently wanted a quick one, too.

During a discussion at Marquette Law School yesterday, Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy said the outcome of the investigation could help the league begin to heal some of the damage sustained by Commissioner Roger Goodell over the last few months.

“We’ll see,” Murphy said, via Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I think Roger has done some good things, particularly on the domestic violence front. . . . To me a key, key, key is going to be the investigation . . . . To see what that shows. We have an owners’ meeting coming up next week in New York. The hope was the investigation would be completed by then. Whether or not it [will be] I don’t know.”

Considering Mueller was appointed on Sept. 10, that’s a quick turnaround for an investigation that needs to be especially thorough.

And Murphy made his own case for the damage done, saying the aftermath of the Rice situation is the biggest crisis the league has faced since he played in the 1970s.

“I do think the credibility of the league has been challenged,” Murphy said. “I think we have taken a real hit in terms of credibility, respect. I don’t think it is fatal. But people have lost a little respect for the league. . . .

“The league has been so successful . . . I think when you stumble a little bit, people are eager to, are quick to criticize. Quite honestly, I have great respect for Roger. I think he has done a lot of really good things for the league. But when your compensation is $44 million, some people look at that and say they are out of touch with the rest of society. And then when you do err, when you do make a mistake, I think it is very easy for people to really turn on you.”

That’s happened, as the NFL may be slow to realize. And a rushed investigation might only add to the discontent, especially if it comes back saying the league did nothing wrong.

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Report: No change in status for Josh McCown

Josh McCown AP

Earlier this week, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith declined to say whether or not Mike Glennon would start at quarterback in Week Five if Josh McCown got the green light to return to the playing field after suffering a right thumb injury in Week Three.

He may be able to keep things close to his vest for at least another week.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that this week’s evaluations have led to no change in McCown’s status. He’s not scheduled to have surgery and is reportedly getting better, but is still considered unlikely to play against the Saints this week.

Glennon started and beat the Steelers with a fourth quarter comeback in Week Four, giving the Bucs their first win of the season and leading some to call for a more permanent change at the top of the Tampa depth chart. Smith’s not willing to go there at this point, but a second straight victory and strong performance will make it much harder to go back to McCown and couch it as a decision made to give the team their best chance to win.

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Bears defense may prefer to face Cam Newton

Newton AP

As the Bears prepare to return their sanctuary away from Soldier Field, where the home team is 0-2, they’ll be squaring off again the Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton.

There’s a good chance they prefer that to squaring off against the Panthers and quarterback Derek Anderson.

With Newton still limited by offseason ankle surgery and a preseason rib injury, Anderson could give the Panthers a better chance to win — especially since the Bears already have beaten in their own buildings this year young, mobile quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick and Geno Smith.  With the full breadth of Newton’s game restricted, the Bears could have a harder time defending a pocket passer like Anderson.

And no, that’s not funny.  There’s nothing funny about that.

This assumes that the Panthers won’t be ready to “unleash” Newton by Sunday.  They definitely weren’t ready to do that in Baltimore last Sunday, where the home team preferred defending an impaired Newton to a healthy Anderson.

Of course, Anderson isn’t exactly Johnny Unitas.  Yes, the former Browns starter has had his moments, but there’s a reason he’s currently not a starter on one of the other teams.  However, until Newton can do all the things he did last year and previously, it could be that Anderson really does give Carolina a better option.

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Josh McDaniels confident Patriots offense can get going

Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels AP

Concern about the state of the offense in New England rose steadily during the first month of the season and peaked during Monday night’s thumping at the hands of the Chiefs.

A leaky offensive line, an unimpressive group of wide receivers and a poor four games by quarterback Tom Brady are some of the flash points for that concern and there are plenty of people wondering if the Patriots can come up with solutions to those problems. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels knows things are in a bad place right now, but he believes they can turn things around.

“I have a lot of confidence in our guys,” McDaniels said, via CSNNE.com. “We didn’t play well [Monday] night. We didn’t coach well offensively. We obviously have to do a lot better, starting with me. There is no shortcut to that, but we’ve got a lot of players that have played a lot of good football here before. We know it’s a long season. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We know that it’s going to be critical for us to get better and improve each week.”

McDaniels’s message of patience was mixed with one for more urgency, especially when it comes to getting off to a fast start offensively. The Patriots have not scored first in any of their games this season and playing with a lead could help with the offensive line’s issues by slowing down some of the pass rush that comes when you’re playing from behind. He didn’t add any specifics about how the team will do that, but there will be a lot less stress about the means if victory is the end result.

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Owners want to discuss how to handle exempt-list players

Greg Hardy AP

Right now, the Panthers run defense has turned porous, they’re not getting enough pressure on quarterbacks, and the team is making a $770,000 a week donation to the wrong side of domestic violence awareness.

Naturally, owner Jerry Richardson would seem unhappy with that.

According to Ed Werder of ESPN, owners want to discuss how to handle the financial obligations to players such as Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson at next week’s owners meetings.

Those two are on the dusted-off-because-we’re-flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants commissioner’s exempt list, and are still getting paid while they await trial.

For Peterson, that’s $11.75 million. For Hardy, it’s $13.1 million.

Each played one game before being parked safely outside public view, and they’re creating financial anchors for the teams in question.

So it’s only natural for the guys writing the checks to want to prevent throwing money down a hole, but the answer to doing it without violating the spirit of “due process” might be trickier to pull off.

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NFL, NFLPA cooperating in the face of “difficult” circumstances

GoodellSmith Getty Images

The NFLPA has the NFL over a barrel.  Instead of behaving the way the league possibly/probably/definitely would if the tables were turned and the NFLPA were on the ropes and seemingly trying to punch itself through, the players’ union seems to be taking the high road.

Or maybe the NFLPA is simply trying to preserve its considerable piece of the financial pie under the current labor deal.

PFT has obtained a copy of the email sent late Monday afternoon by executive director DeMaurice Smith to union leadership.  The biggest development comes from the decision of the NFL to use truly neutral arbitration for the selection of an appeal officer in the Ray Rice case.  And like a truly neutral arbitration process, the two sides have exchanged names of potential hearing officers, and the parties will confer in making a selection.

Once the selection is made, and if the hearing officer accepts the assignment, the process will move toward a hearing date.  It’s unclear when that will happen.

It is clear that the NFLPA has decided not to push for a hearing in accordance with the strict terms of the labor deal.  Under the language of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the hearing should have occurred by September 30.  This more deliberate process could result in the appeal hearing happening after the Robert Mueller investigation has concluded, which will give both sides more fodder for questions to be posed to the witnesses who will testify during the Rice appeal hearing.

It’s a significant development that comes on the heels of the union securing neutral arbitration for most violations of the substance-abuse and PED policies.  The dramatic reduction in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s power over these issues, and his willingness to submit the Rice appeal (during which Goodell will likely testify) to neutral arbitration, could be a sign that, in time, Goodell will yield much of his authority under the Personal Conduct Policy.  Or perhaps all of it.

Smith’s email also points out that the NFLPA has been working with the league of identify experts “from a variety of backgrounds” to assist joint efforts to improve eduction, prevention, counseling, and the disciplinary process regarding domestic violence and sexual assault issues.  Likewise, Smith explained that the NFLPA is communicating with league sponsors who may be concerned about recent events to make the case that the “far majority of players are exactly the type of representatives they want.”

Smith is right.  Nearly all NFL players comply with the law and all relevant league policies.  But the current profile of the sport results in significant attention for the small handful whose conduct besmirches the reputation of the NFL and the NFLPA.  Which makes it even more important that the league have fair, consistent, and transparent practices when it comes to investigating and addressing such incidents — and that the league never bungle a case nearly as badly as the Ray Rice case was bungled.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

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The Bills have proven better at forcing turnovers than at taking advantage of them.

Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill is feeling better after a big win — and after sleeping off his jet lag.

Who deserves the blame for the Patriots’ struggling offense?

Joe Namath doesn’t like what he sees when he watches the Jets’ offense.

Ravens practice squad WR Deonte Thompson’s job this week is to imitate Colts WR T.Y. Hilton.

The Bengals are hoping for their first 4-0 start since 2005.

The Browns are entering an easier stretch of their schedule, but coach Mike Pettine doesn’t want his players to think about that.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is bringing officials to practice to address his team’s penalty problem.

Jadeveon Clowney says he’s a few weeks away from being healthy enough to play for the Texans.

The Colts think their offense is getting better as their players get more comfortable playing together.

Said Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, “We’ll get this thing right, there’s not a doubt in my mind. For some reason, we’re going through some of these struggles right now, but it’s only going to make us stronger.”

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt says his team is “having growing pains.”

Broncos DT Terrance Knighton is drawing praise for his play.

Said Chiefs CB Sean Smith of Monday night’s game, “I got some praise from Tom Brady, so I guess I’m doing all right. He said I’m doing a good job, man.”

Raiders coach Tony Sparano is concerned that his players have forgotten how to win.

Chargers fans still have to worry about blackouts, despite Tuesday’s FCC ruling.

Cowboys V.P. Stephen Jones joked about his father giving Tony Romo a back massage.

The Giants may need to give RB Andre Williams more playing time.

Eagles QB Nick Foles is throwing deep often and not hitting his receivers frequently enough.

What if neither Robert Griffin III nor Kirk Cousins is good enough to be Washington’s quarterback of the future?

The Bears are still struggling to fill the kick returner spot vacated when they let Devin Hester walk in free agency.

Lions RB Montell Owens is on injured reserve for the second straight years.

Are the Packers’ struggles in the running game related to their up-tempo offense?

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has done pretty well against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.

There’s a strong argument that Falcons RB Antone Smith deserves more touches.

Panthers CB Josh Norman has been promoted to the starting lineup.

The Saints were out-played by the Cowboys in all phases of the game.

Bucs CB Brandon Dixon is looking forward to playing against his identical twin brother, Saints CB Brian Dixon.

The 3-0 Cardinals say they’re a better team than the 2012 Cardinals, who started 4-0.

St. Louis is preparing to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Greatest Show on Turf.

The 49ers’ defense is playing well despite being at less than 100 percent.

Seahawks TE Luke Wilson is ready for his chance to start.

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Lions promote George Winn from practice squad

George Winn AP

The Lions lost three running backs to injuries during last Sunday’s victory over the Jets and they made a move on Tuesday to shore up the position ahead of this week’s home date with the Bills.

The team has signed running back George Winn off the practice squad. Winn has bounced around the league on practice squads and offseason rosters since 2013, but this will be his first shot at a job in the regular season. He could see work pretty quickly.

Detroit placed Montell Owens on injured reserve to make room for Winn, Joique Bell has a concussion and Theo Riddick is battling a hamstring issue of his own, so Reggie Bush and fullback Jed Collins are the only healthy backs on the roster right now. Bush should see the most work, but the Lions have been adamant about not overloading him so Winn could find himself in the mix.

ESPN.com reports that the Lions also worked out running backs Tashard Choice and Alex Green on Tuesday and signed former Cardinals running back William Powell to the practice squad.

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Davis on Gruden: I may call him, he may call me

Jon Gruden Getty Images

Raiders owner Mark Davis thinks his team’s head coaching job will be “enticing” to candidates because they’ll have loads of cap space at their disposal come next offseason.

There’s a belief that the candidate that Davis would most like to entice into the position is former Raiders coach and current ESPN commentator Jon Gruden, whose tenure in Oakland came to an end when Davis’s father traded him to Tampa more than a decade ago. On Tuesday, Davis was asked about whether Gruden would be on the team’s list of candidates.

“He may reach out to me. I may reach out to him,” Davis said, via Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News. “I may reach out to anybody. That’s the future, and I’m not going to talk about future coaches.”

There are a lot of questions attached to a pursuit of Gruden, starting with how much money it would take to get him out of the Monday Night Football booth and whether the departure of General Manager Reggie McKenzie would be a prerequisite for a return to Oakland. If Kawakami is correct that Davis is “more willing to spend” than ever and that Gruden is his “dream candidate,” the answers could put the ball firmly in Gruden’s court when it comes to resuming his coaching career.

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Greg Jennings doesn’t really miss Green Bay at all

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Packers fans booed Greg Jennings when he came back to Lambeau Field last year.

But that’s not the reason the Vikings wide receiver has moved on, and spoke freely when asked if he missed Green Bay.

Honestly, to be honest, no,” Jennings said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “It doesn’t because — and this is sincerity right here — it really has nothing to do with football. From a football standpoint, I would have loved to have finished my career out in Green Bay, but from where I am spiritually and where I am with my family and the growth that we’ve had because of what we have around us educationally — and there was some great educational systems there, as well — but this is a step up for us.

“We’re just embracing it. We’re excited to be here, and not just because of what football affords and presents but because of everything else that comes with it.”

Not every player falls in love with the pastoral scene of rural Wisconsin, and there was no turning down the $45 million contract the Vikings gave him. But it might not make him any more popular there, considered the reception he got last season.
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