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Bengals announce sell-out, keeping all Wild Card games on TV

Bengals Grim Again Football AP

The NFL’s effort to maximize the in-stadium experience/extort the ticket-buying public now has a clean sweep.

The Bengals announced that Sunday’s playoff game against the Chargers was sold out, via Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Along with the Colts and Packers, the NFL will now have all its playoff games on in local markets, after last-minute land-rushes by desperate fans, and corporate “partners” picking up the slack at the last minute.

It will be interesting to see how fans react the next time such dire proclamations about potential blackouts come up, given the fact that sponsors bought up many of the last tickets to guarantee the games would be broadcast locally.

There’s more than a little “boy who cried wolf” at work, and many fans who bought this week to sit in some ridiculous conditions (especially in Green Bay) ought to feel like they’ve been more than a little suckered.

It’ll be interesting to see how many decide to eat the cost of the ticket, figuring it’s less than the cost of a deductible for hypothermia.

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Colin Kaepernick: There’s “not any concern” about offense

Colin Kaepernick, Shaquil Barrett, T.J. Ward, Danny Trevathan AP

It took a long time for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to complete a pass on Saturday.

Kaepernick’s first completion came with less than a minute to play in the second quarter after a half that saw him sacked twice while leading the 49ers to one first down and no points on their first four possessions. Kaepernick followed that first completion with one to Torrey Smith, the first time that’s happened all postseason, and the 49ers kicked a field goal to close the first half.

Kaepernick, who was 2-of-5 for the game, was forced to scramble a couple of times on that drive and ran for big gains after getting flushed from the pocket and was asked after the game if he was concerned about the play of an offensive line that’s still unsettled outside of left tackle Joe Staley and left guard Alex Boone.

“No, there’s not any concern on this team,” Kaepernick said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s what the preseason’s for — to work those things out and see who we have at different positions. That’s what we’re doing, and we’re working to make sure we’re ready for the regular season.”

Coach Jim Tomsula didn’t share that exact opinion, saying that the offensive line had a “little bit of a struggle” with the Denver defense and, acknowledging that others are concerned about the unit’s play, that they’ll get it “cleared up” this week.

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The apathy phase arrives for many in St. Louis

Nick Foles AP

With notable exceptions, like Joe Buck, it seems that many in St. Louis don’t have strong opinions regarding whether the Rams stay or go.

On Saturday night, in what was both the preseason home opener for the Rams and the most important of the three meaningless exhibition games, the fans showed their current feelings — by not showing up.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted at Twitter that he’s been to every preseason game since the Rams moved from L.A. in 1995, and that Saturday night’s crowd for the game against the Colts was “easily the smallest crowd I’ve seen.” Thomas estimates that 25,000 people were present for the game; he also says that only 37,460 tickets were distributed for the contest.

The local nonchalance comes at a time when politicians are trying to finagle a new stadium for the Rams, presumably in order to avoid being blamed if the Rams return to L.A. If blame is going to come, it may not be from local business leaders; Tim Bryant of the Post-Dispatch reports that plenty of corporate executives declined to comment or failed to respond when asked about their support or lack thereof for the proposed stadium.

Joe Buck hasn’t declined to comment. He recently launched a Twitter tirade against the circumstances, saying the situation would have been “100 percent better” if Shad Khan had been able to purchase the Rams in lieu of Stan Kroenke, who exercised a right of first refusal to make his minority share a majority interest after the passing of Georgia Frontiere — and after Khan had cobbled together a bid that her estate had accepted.

“Kroenke not only has the chance to cash in on L.A., but punch a great city that at one point he seemed to enjoy,” Buck said via Twitter.

Buck’s theory seems to be that the current level of local apathy wasn’t accidental: “Suck the life out of a team, run it down, raise prices, then say it isn’t supported and leave. Great example for the NFL to celebrate  JOKE!”

Buck has elaborated, with more than 140-character chunks.

We’re about to lose the NFL for a second time,” Buck told Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch. “I don’t know how the story is going to turn out. There are myriad possibilities. It’s been really quiet from St. Louis’ standpoint, but this ball has been rolling for a long time . . . longer than people realize, longer than I initially realized.”

Buck fears that tires eventually will be rolling, too.

“The way this is going, at some point we’re going to wake up and there are going to be moving vans outside Rams Park,” Buck said.

He believes, via Strauss, that the “fix was already in” when Kroenke bought the team; “I would be hard-pressed to believe that this L.A. plan was dreamed up only when St. Louis wasn’t ready to play ball,” Buck said.

But Buck won’t blame the fans for not currently being willing to watch the team play ball.

“I have a tough time with the notion that fans here don’t support the NFL,” he said. “The team has not performed for a long time now.”

On that point, he’s absolutely right. Since the Greatest Show on Turf went to the Super Bowl for a second time (a loss to the Patriots), the Rams have had one winning season — in 2003. From 2004 through 2014, the Rams went 8-8, 6-10, 8-8, 5-11, 2-14, 1-15, 2-14, 7-8-1, 7-9, and 6-10.

Still, there should be greater engagement in 2015, especially since the Rams are perceived to be ready to make a run at the postseason, with a stellar defense, an improving passing game led by new quarterback Nick Foles, and the possibility of a strong running game led by rookie Todd Gurley. But potential can only do so much when the performance hasn’t been there, and it’s even harder for fans to not emotionally detach when it appears that the franchise already views the fan base as fungible.

At a certain point, not giving a crap anymore becomes a mechanism for avoiding the ultimate disappointment of seeing the relationship end. There’s a good chance that’s one of the main reasons why only 25,000 people showed up last night.

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Eagles get Sam Bradford out quickly after perfect passing night

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There’s a good reason the Eagles have kept Sam Bradford in bubble wrap, pulling him after one series and some hard hits against the Ravens, and limiting his work last night against the Packers.

When he’s been on the field, he’s been practically perfect.

Via Reuben Frank of CSN Philadelphia, Bradford has played four series in the preseason, and each ended with an Eagles touchdown. Last night, he was was 10-of-10 passing for 121 yards and three touchdowns, and 13-of-15 for 156 yards for the preseason, without a turnover.

“I’m sure I missed a lot of things tonight, but just continue to work timing and rhythm in the passing game,” Bradford said, being modest. “I felt like it was better than last week, but it’s by no means perfect. We have two weeks before we play Atlanta, and just continue to work with the guys on that chemistry.

“But I think tonight was a big step. I think we played well, but we’re going to look to build on this.”

Mostly, he got out of there healthy, and coach Chip Kelly admitted he didn’t want to push it with his quarterback coming off a pair of torn ACLs.

“Sam played well,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “He really located the football. I thought he played very well. He had the three touchdown drives and we didn’t see a reason to keep him out there any longer.”

Now, it’s a matter of him holding up for 16 games, when he’s going to have to stay out there.

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Randall Cobb thought he broke his collarbone Saturday night

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The Packers didn’t play quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Saturday night and it didn’t take them long to wonder if they should have made the same call with wide receiver Randall Cobb.

A week after losing Jordy Nelson for the season with a torn ACL on the first drive of a game, Cobb left Saturday’s game against the Eagles after three plays with an injury that he thought would knock him out for an extended period of time. Cobb said after the game that he thought he broke his collarbone, but tests revealed that the injury wasn’t that serious.

“I just caught the ball and was going down to the ground, and I had a guy land on top of me,” Cobb said, via “I was just jogging off the field at the end of the series, and I could feel the pain. I didn’t know exactly what it was. It was discomfort, and I let Doc check it out and we went back and got X-rays. It’s not what we think it could’ve been.”

While that was a “silver lining,” Cobb’s not sure about whether he will be well enough to play in Week One against the Bears. There will be more tests on his shoulder on Sunday and their results will give the team a better idea about who Rodgers will be able to throw to when the regular season gets underway.

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Arthur Blank appreciated Julio Jones keeping team first in talks

Julio Jones AP

Julio Jones got paid like the other top receivers in the market, more in fact.

But the fact he said so much less than the others might have been a factor in that.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank said he appreciated the decidedly polite tone Jones kept through the process — including vowing to not hold out — prior to giving him a six-year, $81.426 million deal yesterday.

Agent Jimmy Sexton even told Jones to take his cell phone on the field with him during warmups (Joe Horn approves) because the deal was close to being finished last night.

“I figured out and knew for sure that it was done was when Mr. Blank got here,” Jones said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He came on the field and gave me a big hug. He was like ‘congratulations.’ He said he was very proud of the way I handled this. … by keeping the team first.”

While we heard plenty about the possibilities of no deals and the repercussions thereof before Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas eventually got theirs, Jones made no threats.

“He came to work and worked hard,” Blank said. “It was never an issue. There was never a question. He knew that we’d eventually be able to pull something together that would be acceptable to us and to him. We were able to do that. It’s a credit to him personally. It’s a credit to our organization, guys like Nick Polk, Thomas [Dimitroff] and others who have worked on this deal.”

“From Atlanta’s standpoint, he’s a major anchor for us in our offense going forward.”

Now they just have to hope he stays healthy, and continues to provide the level of play they anticipate, and have paid for, so he’s not just an anchor to their salary cap.

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Jay Gruden: “People want to make it out that we’re incompetent”

Jay Gruden AP

Washington coach Jay Gruden is not ready to name a starter, and he sounds like he’s getting worn down by the criticism about his ongoing quarterback saga.

After Saturday night’s game, in which Kirk Cousins started after Robert Griffin III was denied medical clearance just hours after Gruden claimed he’d already been given medical clearance, Gruden said it’s not fair to the team to suggest that they don’t know what they’re doing.

“We’re all as confused as you are, and people have to understand this has nothing to do with the Redskins. I know people want to make it out that we’re incompetent but we’re not. This has nothing to do with us. It was totally independent doctor, a verbal thing he said with our doctor, and then all of a sudden the written statement was different, the written report was different so we followed proper course and did what we thought was right for Robert,” Gruden said.

Asked if there’s a quarterback controversy on his team, Gruden said there isn’t.

“I’m not going to announce anything. There’s no controversy,” Gruden said. “As far as who’s starting at every position, we’re going to evaluate that as a staff. I’m not going to make any announcements right now, that’s for sure.”

But the mere fact that Gruden won’t announce his starter is why there is, in fact, a quarterback controversy. And the fact that there’s a quarterback controversy after a long offseason in which Gruden insisted there wouldn’t be a quarterback controversy is why the team looks incompetent.

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X-rays negative for Leonard Williams

Leonard Williams AP

Leonard Williams left Saturday night’s preseason game against the New York Giants after suffering a knee injury in the first half.

However, it appears as though the injury isn’t all that serious for the New York Jets’ first-round pick.

According to Adam Schefter of, X-rays came back negative on Williams knee. The thought is Williams suffered only a bone bruise but he will still have an MRI on Sunday.

Williams was considered by some as the best overall player in the 2015 draft class. With Sheldon Richardson set to miss the start of the season to suspension, Williams will be a pivotal piece in the Jets defensive line rotation.

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After first-half shouting match, Jay Gruden, John Harbaugh shake hands to end game

John Harbaugh AP

Lost in the ejection of Ravens receiver Steve Smith and Washington cornerback Chris Culliver for fighting was the fact that Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Washington coach Jay Gruden exchanged verbal pleasantries in the first half of Saturday’s game.

The exchange appeared to include Harbaugh angrily directing a four-letter, F-driven profanity at Gruden as the two yelled at each other on the field.

By the time the game ended, there was no reprise of the notorious Jim Harbaugh/Jim Schwartz moment from 2011, and neither coach asked the other, “What’s your deal?

The two coaches simply shook hands and moved on, with no further fireworks or F-bombs. Unfortunately, the two teams won’t play each other again this season unless they meet in the Super Bowl.

Yeah, I was giggling as I typed that, and not because of the quality of the team Harbaugh coaches.

Meanwhile, we’d pay a lot of money to see a tag-team match between Jay and Jon Gruden and John and Jim Harbaugh. Hopefully with everyone keeping his shirt on.

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Seahawks starting offense still without a TD drive in preseason

Russell Wilson AP

The Seattle Seahawks acquired Jimmy Graham this offseason with the hopes that he would open up their offensive attack.

But through three preseason games, the Seahawks starting offense has been unable to find the end zone.

Seattle played their starters into the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers on Saturday night. However, Russell Wilson and the offense managed just two field goals and 137 yards of offense in six possessions against the Chargers.

Wilson has led 12 drives for the Seahawks with just four field goals to show for it. They are averaging just 20.5 yards gained per possession.

The only touchdowns Seattle has scored in the preseason have come on a pick-six by Bobby Wagner, two return touchdowns by Tyler Lockett and a touchdown pass from R.J. Archer to running back Thomas Rawls.

The offensive line has been a major reason for the struggles. They haven’t started the same five linemen in any of their three preseason games and Wilson has lacked time to throw. Also, Marshawn Lynch played just three plays so far this preseason. His presence significantly changes Seattle’s offensive dynamic.

Nevertheless, Wilson has not been sharp. He’s completed 17 of 31 passes for just 146 yards in three games and been more inaccurate than normal.

It’s the preseason. It’s not something to get bent out of shape about at this stage. However, in the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, Seattle’s offense is still searching for production and consistency.

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Philip Rivers bangs throwing hand, says “it’s good”

Philip Rivers, Mike Morgan AP

During the first half of a Week Three preseason game against a blitz-happy Seahawks defense, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers banged his throwing hand.

In the third quarter, Rivers told Tracy Wolfson of CBS that the hand recently used to sign a gigantic contract is fine.

“It’s good,” he said of the right hand, adding that he’d still be playing if it were a regular-season game.

Rivers has a habit of playing through injuries — injuries that sometimes haven’t been disclosed. As former Chargers center Nick Hardwick told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio earlier this year, Rivers probably has had more injuries that we don’t know about than injuries that we do know about.

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MRI coming on Mike Pouncey’s knee

Minnesota Vikings v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

The aftermath of Saturday night’s preseason game in Miami includes another injury to one of the Pouncey twins.

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey broke an ankle last week against the Packers; Dolphins center Mike Pouncey emerged from a contest against the Falcons with his left knee in a brace.

Via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Pouncey will have an MRI in the morning. However, he says he’s “not too worried about it.”

Here’s a big reason for him to not be worried: In April, the team extended his contract, giving him plenty of financial security in the event of a potentially serious injury. Absent the extension, he would have been in a contract year.

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Rex Ryan “probably” will pick his Week One starter on Sunday

Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The time has come for Bills coach Rex Ryan to pick a starting quarterback. The time to disclose that decision, however, has yet to arrive.

Following Saturday’s preseason game against the Steelers, Ryan said he will “probably” decide on a starting quarterback on Sunday.

‘We’ll make the decision, but we’ll not announce it,” Ryan told reporters.

The decision between Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel, and Tyrod Taylor apparently won’t be easy.

“I talked about the problem I wanted, I think I got it,” Ryan said. “But to me it’s not a problem it’s a — you know, all three guys had a tremendous preseason and that’s all you can ask. I think we’ll address it at the appropriate time, but obviously I feel really good about all the quarterbacks.”

The decision won’t be simply Ryan’s; it will be an organizational assessment.

“The team, the team, and the team,” Ryan said. “Those three things and that’s what it’s gonna be based on. Have I had discussions with [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman? Absolutely. Have I had discussions with [G.M.] Doug Whaley, with [owner] Terry Pegula, with whoever? Absolutely. Has there been a collaborative deal? We are meeting tomorrow to discuss our roster, we’ve got to make cuts getting down to the 75 and there’s gonna be some tough cuts to make there, let alone getting to the 53. So that’s when we’ll have the, but the decision will be made and then we’ll move forward.

The only thing we know for now is that Matt Simms won’t be the Week One starter. But Simms will be starting in Week Four of the preseason. Ryan said he hopes to have Simms play the entire game.

After that, Ryan will hope to keep his decision for the next game, against the Colts, quiet for as long as possible.

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Micah Hyde carted off at Lambeau Field

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The decision to keep Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of Saturday night’s preseason game is looking better and better.

Green Bay cornerback Micah Hyde has been carted off at Lambeau Field during the second quarter of the preseason game against the Eagles.

The nature of the injury isn’t clear. Hyde was sitting upright as TV cameras spotted him being taken to the locker room.

Earlier in the game, receiver Randall Cobb exited with a shoulder injury.

A fifth-round pick in 2013, Hyde has appeared in all 32 career regular-season games. He started 12 games in 2014.

UPDATE 9:35 p.m. ET: The Packers say that Hyde has suffered a neck injury.

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Tyler Lockett gives Seattle special teams a boost

Tyler Lockett, Steven Nelson AP

Last year at this time, the Seahawks didn’t have a punt-return specialist. So they let starting safety Earl Thomas give it a try to start the season.

It didn’t go to well.

This year, the Seahawks have invested a third-round pick in receiver Tyler Lockett, who instantly has become the return man for punts and kickoffs. And it’s going very well.

Moments ago, Lockett returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown against the Chargers, showing agility and acceleration as he changed directions and eventually found a lane to the outside that allowed him to rocket to the end zone.

Fifteen days ago, Lockett returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown against the Broncos, on a play that included coach Pete Carroll being wiped out by an official as both ran along the sideline.

“He looks like we hoped he would look,” Carroll said after the August 14 game. “We drafted him with the thought that he might give us a real spark in an area that we wanted to find a way to improve and be more dynamic.”

For a team with plenty of strengths, Lockett could be giving them another one, for both kickoffs and punts.

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Browns rookie Duke Johnson debuts, leaves with concussion

Duke Johnson AP

After missing nearly three weeks of camp due to a sore hamstring, Browns rookie running back Duke Johnson was in the starting lineup for his preseason debut Saturday night at Tampa Bay.

After one carry for four yards and one catch for one yard, Johnson’s preseason is over. Johnson took a big hit from Bucs cornerback Mike Jenkins while trying to catch a second-quarter pass from Josh McCown. He jogged off the field and met with team medical staff on the sideline before being taken to the locker room.

Early in the second half, the Browns confirmed that both Johnson and second-year cornerback Pierre Desir had suffered concussions.

Johnson got the start in his first preseason action, but Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West also played on the first series. Neither West nor Crowell has had an especially strong camp, leaving the starting job up for grabs as the Browns shift into regular-season mode. Both West and Crowell carried seven times Saturday night; West got 26 yards and Crowell had 25.

Desir has had a solid preseason and probably played his way into the rotation at cornerback, but the Browns have secondary depth issues due to injury. Struggling 2014 first-round pick Justin Gilbert hasn’t practiced in two weeks due a hip flexor, and nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams also missed Saturday’s game.

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