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Packers win NFC North on last-minute TD pass

Aaron Rodgers AP

On a last-minute play involving a gamble by the Bears’ defense, the Packers won big — and won the NFC North title in the process.

Aaron Rodgers‘ 48-yard TD pass to Randall Cobb with 38 seconds left gave the Packers a 33-28 victory against the Bears in Chicago on Sunday evening.

The victory sends the Packers to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. The Packers will host the 49ers next weekend in the wild-card round.

Meanwhile, the loss ends Chicago’s season at the hands of an old and bitter rival.

On the decisive play, the Bears brought extra pressure on 4th-and-8 at the Chicago 48. Rodgers rolled away from the rush and threw deep for Cobb, who ran through the Bears’ coverage and came wide open. Then, it was just a matter of whether Cobb would catch the ball.

Indeed, he did, and when the Packers intercepted the Bears’ Hail Mary pass on the final play of regulation, Green Bay had secured the NFC North.

In his first game back in the Packers’ lineup after missing seven games with a broken collarbone, Rodgers completed 25-of-39 yards for 318 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Both TD passes were to Cobb, who was activated from injured reserve on Saturday.

The Bears trailed 13-7 at halftime, but their offense was sharp to begin the second half, and Jay Cutler’s five-yard TD pass to Brandon Marshall at the start of the fourth quarter gave Chicago a 28-20 lead.

However, the Packers’ offense, led by Rodgers, would take over in the final period.

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Bengals place Cedric Ogbuehi on non-football injury list

Cedric Ogbuehi AP

The Bengals drafted Cedric Ogbuehi knowing he wasn’t ready to contribute immediately.

Now it’s official, as the rookie tackle was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list as part of their moves to get to the 75-man roster limit. They also placed linebacker Sean Porter on reserve/physically unable to perform and waived-injured wide receiver Onterio McCalebb, and he’ll revert to injured reserve if he clears waivers.

Ogbuehi suffered a torn ACL in Texas A&M’s bowl game, which was going to keep him from taking the field immediately this year. But they think he can contribute at some point, so they left the window open for him to come back after the first six weeks of the season.

The Bengals chose him knowing he’d likely redshirt this season behind Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith, with second-round tackle Jake Fisher providing even more depth there now that he’s back from a shoulder injury.

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49ers coach says Dockett does not have cracked rib

Darnell-Dockett1a Getty Images

The rib injury suffered by 49ers defensive tackle Darnell Dockett in last weekend’s preseason game vs. the Broncos is not believed to be serious.

Tuesday, 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said Dockett has a cartilage issue, not a cracked rib, and Tomsula said he expects Dockett to be available for the Sept. 14 season opener.

Dockett posted a picture on Snapchat Monday while receiving treatment and called it a cracked rib.

Dockett, 34, did not play last season after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason while he was with the Cardinals. He’s expected to be a rotational player on the remade 49ers defense.

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Dennis Pitta starting year on PUP list

Keith Wenning, Dennis Pitta AP

The Ravens are down to a 75-man roster and tight end Dennis Pitta isn’t one of them.

Pitta has been placed on the regular season physically unable to perform list Tuesday as he continues to try for a comeback from last year’s dislocated and fractured hip. It’s the second time that Pitta has suffered the injury and may not play again, but the Ravens have no reason to move on at this point with $4 million in guaranteed money coming Pitta’s way this year.

The Ravens also placed safety Matt Elam, linebacker Steven Means, cornerback Chris Greenwood, offensive lineman Darryl Baldwin and tight end Allen Reisner on injured reserve.

They completed their roster cutdown by releasing wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, offensive lineman Marcel Jones, wide receiver Trent Steelman, guard Leon Brown, wide receiver DeAndre Carter, offensive lineman De’Ondre Wesley, tackle Darryl Baldwin, cornerback Tramain Jacobs, punter Justin Manton, and long snapper Patrick Scales.

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PFT Live: Seahawks talk with Bob Condotta, Patriots talk with Tom Curran

Tom Brady AP

The wait for Judge Richard Berman’s ruling in the Tom Brady case is on and we’ll fill some of the time by talking about the possible outcomes on PFT Live.

Tom Curran of CSN New England will join Mike Florio to discuss the failure of the NFL and Brady to reach a settlement that would have left Berman out of the resolution and how they think things will go when the judge does rule. They’ll check in on other Patriots news as well.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times will also join the show to talk about the team’s first wave of cuts, Fred Jackson’s visit and the offensive stumbles in the preseason.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour by clicking right here.

 

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Dolphins make a change at punter

Brandon Fields AP

The Dolphins have moved to the 75-man roster limit by parting ways with longtime punter Brandon Fields.

Fields has been released after an eight-year run with the team that featured a Pro Bowl appearance after the 2013 season. Fields took a pay cut this offseason to lessen a scheduled cap hit north of $3 million, but it wasn’t enough to allow him to keep his job with the team this season.

Matt Darr is the only punter currently on the Dolphins roster and will fill the role into the regular season if Miami doesn’t look for other options in the next week.

The Dolphins also cut running back Demetrius Bronson to get to Tuesday’s limit. There will be 22 more moves to come before the team sets its initial 53-man roster.

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Saints trade wideout Jalen Saunders to the Patriots

Indianapolis Colts v New York Jets Getty Images

The Patriots continue to look under every rock for healthy receiver options, and just traded for a guy they got an up-close look at recently.

According to Evan Woodbery of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Saints have traded receiver-return man Jalen Saunders to the Patriots for a conditional draft pick.

As with most such deals this time of year, this gives a guy who might not have otherwise made a roster a chance with a team that has a greater need for his services. Generally, the condition is “make the 53-man roster,” which makes it a free week’s tryout.

The Patriots and Saints practiced together in West Virginia before breaking camp, so Bill Belichick had a chance to scout Saunders in person.

The Saints appear intent on keeping rookie running back Marcus Murphy as their return man, which left Saunders on the bubble.

The former Jets fourth-rounder now gets to return to the AFC East, where the Patriots have been looking for upgrades and healthy wideouts. They just signed veteran Reggie Wayne, after injuries left them thin through the preseason.

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P.R. chief Paul Hicks leaves the NFL

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The NFL has had a rough year when it comes to public relations. And now a major change is coming to the NFL’s public relations department.

Via Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, executive V.P. of communications and public affairs Paul Hicks is leaving the NFL. He’ll join the Glover Park Group, a firm that provides P.R. advice to the NFL. It’s not known whether Hicks will be working directly with the league.

It’s also unclear whether Hicks chose to leave, was nudged, or feared that a nudge was coming. Some believe that the ultimate fallout of #DeflateGate won’t be a new Commissioner but a new structure beneath him — a process that apparently commenced with the hiring of Tod Leiweke to serve as the NFL’s Chief Operating Officer, a position that had been vacant since Roger Goodell had been promoted from COO to Commissioner.

As one source explained it after Leiweke arrived, the goal will be to cut down on the number of people who directly report to Goodell. Also, Leiweke will assist with day-to-day management and coordination between departments while serving as the conduit between Goodell and those departments.

In many respects, Hicks and general counsel Jeff Pash served previously as the conduit between Commissioner and the various departments he supervised. With another layer added between Hicks and Goodell, it’s not surprising that Hicks would decide to move on voluntarily — especially if he sensed that an involuntary parting was inevitable.

UPDATE 11:20 a.m. ET: Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Hicks will continue to contribute to NFL projects as part of Glover Park Group’s New York office. Leiweke will lead the search for an internal replacement.

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A Tim Jennings-Lovie Smith reunion looks likely in Tampa

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Tim Jennings played three seasons for Lovie Smith in Chicago, and now may be ready to play for Smith again.

Jennings, the veteran cornerback who was cut by the Bears on Monday, is in Tampa Bay visiting the Buccaneers. The Bucs have announced the visit, a move teams usually only make when they’re confident a contract will get signed.

The 31-year-old Jennings has been a starter in Chicago for the last five seasons, and made two Pro Bowls, but the Bears decided to move on.

Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks are currently slated to be the starting cornerbacks in Tampa, but Jennings knows Smith’s system well enough that he could come in and get significant playing time immediately. It’s a signing that would make a lot of sense, for both the team and the player.

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Report: Panthers cutting WR Jarrett Boykin

New England Patriots v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

In a move that’s considered at least somewhat of a surprise given the lack of proven and available players in the Panthers receiving corps, the Black and Blue Review is reporting that the team is waiving Jarrett Boykin.

The move indicates the Panthers will rely on veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie Devin Funchess as the lead receivers. Top receiver Kelvin Benjamin is out for the season after tearing his ACL in an August practice.

The Panthers traded a conditional draft pick to Seattle for second-year wide receiver Kevin Norwood on Monday and could be in the market for additional help at the position through this week and weekend as other teams trim their rosters.

Boykin had nine catches in three preseason games for the Panthers but didn’t catch any passes from starting quarterback Cam Newton. Boykin caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns for the Packers in 2013 but caught just three passes last year. He signed with the Panthers in March.

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Vikings get to roster limit by cutting Mike Kafka

Mike Kafka AP

The Vikings took care of their first wave of business, getting down to the 75-man roster limit by cutting quarterback Mike Kafka.

Assuming they won’t use Teddy Bridgewater much if at all in the preseason finale, that leaves Shaun Hill and undrafted rookie Taylor Heinicke to finish up, so Kafka wasn’t necessary.

The Vikings had signed Kafka in April, to replace Pat Devlin.

I think this move should also officially qualify Kafka for journeyman status, as he’s done stints with the Eagles, Patriots, Jaguars, Buccaneers and Vikings.

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Relationship with Marshawn Lynch drives Fred Jackson to Seattle visit

nfl_a_jackson_lynch1x_300 AP

Yes, free-agent running back Fred Jackson is on his way to Seattle for a visit with the Seahawks. Although a league source tells PFT that there have been no contract discussions yet, both sides are indeed motivated to get something done.

As the source explained it to PFT, the primary factor in the mutual interest between the Seahawks and Jackson is the pre-existing relationship between Jackson and starting tailback Marshawn Lynch, based on their time together with the Bills.

Per the source, having Jackson in the locker room will provide the private, reclusive Lynch with another confidant, along with the comfort of knowing Jackson has Lynch’s back. Also, unlike Christine Michael and Robert Turbin, Jackson isn’t someone who would be viewed as a potential successor to Lynch.

So while the potential to get a ring is a factor, the more important factor is the chance for Jackson to finish the career the way his relationship with Lynch started, when they both were in Buffalo.

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Scouting legend C.O. Brocato dies at 85

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Most NFL players have probably never heard of C.O. Brocato. But Brocato knew thousands of NFL players.

And Brocato didn’t just know their names. He knew their heights and weights, their 40-times and bench-press numbers, whether they were flexible enough in the hips to get low and explode out of their stances, or tight and stiff with a slow first step.

Brocato, who died this morning at the age of 85, was one of the greatest scouts in the history of the game of football. This year the Titans unveiled the C.O. Brocato Draft Room at their facility in recognition of his 41 years of service to the Titans and Houston Oilers franchise.

Asked this year about Brocato’s continuing contributions to the Titans, General Manager Ruston Webster said no one could match Brocato’s institutional knowledge.

He’s sort of a walking history book,” Webster said. “He tells the story of working out Earl Campbell, and those things are priceless. I think we all enjoy hearing them. It’s helpful for people coming into the organization to know a lot of that history, as well as for everyone in the organization to know about him.”

Brocato was credited with inventing the three-cone drill, now a Scouting Combine staple, and was well known in the scouting community for setting his alarm clock for 5 a.m. but waking up even earlier so he could be the first to attend a workout.

A linebacker and kicker at Baylor in the 1950s, Brocato was the head football coach at Jesuit High School in Louisiana from 1958 to 1967, then became defensive coordinator at Northern Arizona in 1968, and defensive coordinator at Texas-Arlington in 1971. He began scouting for the Oilers in 1974. His name has been considered for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he deserves further consideration — even though he was probably more proud of the players he scouted who made it to Canton.

Photo via Tennessee Titans.

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Browns cut NT Kitchen, place QB Shaw on IR

Ish Kitchen Getty Images

The Browns are releasing defensive lineman Ishmaa’ily Kitchen as part of trimming the roster to 75 by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Kitchen, a true nose tackle, was caught up in a numbers game. The Browns took Danny Shelton in the first round last spring and have Phil Taylor coming off injury and entering the final year of his contract. Second-year player Jamie Meder is having a strong camp, too.

Though it’s rarely been healthy and intact in recent years, the Browns have a deep and talented defensive line. Shelton figures to be an immediate starter in a group that also includes veterans Desmond Bryant, Randy Starks and John Hughes and third-round rookie Xavier Cooper. Like Kitchen, Billy Winn is a fourth-year defensive end who figures to have to find work elsewhere by this weekend.

The Browns claimed Kitchen from the Ravens at the conclusion of the 2012 preseason. He played in 40 games over the past three seasons.

Kitchen figures to get at least a look from another team soon, possibly as soon as Wednesday via the league’s waiver claim system.

The Browns also placed backup quarterback Connor Shaw and backup offensive lineman Michael Bowie on injured-reserve and placed three players on the reserve-non football injury list: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Randall Telfer and Glenn Winston. Ekpre-Olomu and Telfer are 2015 draft picks the team knew would likely not be ready to contribute this season.

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Josh Robinson starting season on PUP list

Minnesota Vikings v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson hasn’t practiced since tearing his pectoral muscle in spring work and it will be a while before he gets back on the field.

The Vikings put Robinson on the regular season version of the physically unable to perform list on Monday. The move means that Robinson will be ineligible to practice or play for the team during the first six weeks of the regular season. Once activated from the PUP list, Robinson will have three weeks to practice before he must be added to the 53-man roster or placed on injured reserve.

Tackle Carter Bykowski is also dealing with a torn pectoral, but the team won’t wait around for his return. He was placed on injured reserve, which ends his season with the team.

The Vikings are at 76 players, leaving them with one move to make before Tuesday’s deadline.

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Lawrence Okoye cut by 49ers as they drop to 75 players

Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers

When Lawrence Okoye signed with the 49ers in 2013, the hope was that they could turn the British discus thrower into an NFL defensive lineman.

He spent a year on injured reserve and a year on the practice squad, but his breakthrough won’t be coming with the 49ers in 2015. Okoye was one of the players cut by the team on Monday as they worked their way down to the 75-man limit.

In addition to placing center Daniel Kilgore on the regular season PUP list, the 49ers also placed linebacker Desmond Bishop and wide receiver Dres Anderson on injured reserve. Fourth-round wide receiver DeAndre Smelter is on the non-football injury list.

Kicker Corey Acosta, linebacker Steve Beauharnais, cornerback Mylan Hicks, tackle Sean Hooey, wide receiver Mario Hull, wide receiver Chuck Jacobs, wide receiver Nigel King, linebacker Shawn Lemon and fullback Trey Millard were the other cuts.

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