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Civil rights groups urge players to oppose Washington team’s name

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Over the weekend, a couple of random Washington players tweeted approval of president/G.M. Bruce Allen’s response to Senator Harry Reid regarding a 50-Senator letter opposing the team name.  Now, more than 50 Native American and civil rights groups are urging all other players to take a stand in opposition to the name.

In a letter dated Wednesday but released to the media today, more than 75 different organizations have asked NFL players to speak out against the team’s name.  The letter comes less than a week after NFLPA president Eric Winston explained on PFT Live that the players union doesn’t plan to get in the middle of the lingering controversy.

“Despite team officials claiming the name ‘honors’ Native Americans, the ‘R-word’ does exactly the opposite,” the letter states. “It was the word screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands, it is the word for the object needed to collect a bounty—literally ‘red skins’—ripped from dead Native American bodies and exchanged for money as proof of kill, and it is a term that still denigrates Native Americans today. The name does not honor people of color, instead it seeks to conceal a horrible segment of American history and the countless atrocities suffered by Native Americans.”

The list of organizations sending the letter includes the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and many Native American groups.

“Over and over again, defenders of the name demand to know why advocates for changing the name do not spend time on any of the other critical issues facing Indian Country,” the letter states. “The fact is, this is a critical issue. According to psychologists and public health experts, the NFL’s promotion of this term continues to do great psychological harm to Native Americans, and particularly Native American children. With the NFL spending billions of dollars a year promoting this slur on television and in merchandise across the globe, these children are being constantly told they are savages who should be primarily judged on the basis of their skin color.”

And so the debate will continue to rage and intensify, until the name changes. The broader question for the NFL continues to be whether it wants the debate to continue, or whether it wants to move on from an issue that the organization owned by Daniel Snyder feels destined to eventually lose.

Regardless of the team’s various self-serving arguments for keeping the name it’s had for eight decades, it’s time for Commissioner Roger Goodell and influential owners like Robert Kraft, Dan Rooney, and Jerry Jones to find a way to help Snyder find his way out of the maze into which questionable P.R. tactics over the last year have placed him.  Actually, that effort is overdue.  With each passing day, more and more people realize it.

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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.

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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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Another solid showing by Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater AP

Teddy Bridgewater’s preseason work is probably done, and it will soon be forgotten. But Bridgewater made the most of limited opportunities — and looked good doing it.

The second-year Vikings quarterback completed all seven passes he attempted Saturday night vs. the Cowboys for 76 total yards. He completed 83 percent in short work — 29 completions in 35 attempts — over four preseason games.

Bridgewater threw just one touchdown but had no interceptions in the preseason and looked very much in command of an offense that’s set to welcome Adrian Peterson back for the Sept. 13 opener.

If Bridgewater keeps ascending and Peterson returns to form, the Vikings could be a dangerous offense once the real season gets rolling.

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Randall Cobb exits with shoulder injury

Green Bay Packers v New England Patriots Getty Images

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers can’t get hurt in Saturday night’s game against the Eagles because he’s not playing. The same can’t be said for receiver Randall Cobb.

Six days after receiver Jordy Nelson was lost for the season with a torn ACL in a preseason game against the Steelers, Cobb has suffered an apparent shoulder injury at Lambeau Field.

He has gone to the locker room for evaluation. Stay tuned for updates as they become available.

Meanwhile, the Eagles continue to clobber 2014 playoff teams in the 2015 preseason. Philly leads Green Bay 18-0.

UPDATE 8:40 p.m. ET: Via Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com, the Packers have announced that Cobb indeed has a shoulder injury.

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Steve Smith, Chris Culliver ejected for fighting

Steve Smith AP

Things got heated tonight in Baltimore, with multiple personal fouls, lots of pushing and shoving, yelling and screaming and two ejections.

The two ejected players were Baltimore receiver Steve Smith and Washington cornerback Chris Culliver. They went at it in an incident that started when Washington’s Keenan Robinson tackled Baltimore’s Kamar Aiken by driving him into the ground, face-first. Several Baltimore players and coaches took issue with what they saw as a cheap shot from Robinson.

Smith, one of the NFL’s most fiery competitors, found himself in the middle of the ensuing melee, and he and Culliver both got kicked out of the game. Other players were flagged for offsetting personal fouls, and there will likely be multiple fines coming next week.

Both head coaches, Jay Gruden and John Harbaugh, were angrily yelling during and after the skirmish, and they appeared to be yelling across the field at each other. It may only be the preseason, but there’s some intensity in Baltimore.

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Dalton leaves game with neck injury

Andy Dalton AP

For some reason, Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson called three running plays for Andy Dalton on the opening drive of Saturday night’s preseason game vs. the Bears.

After the third, a quarterback sneak, Dalton left the game with what the team called a neck injury. He was examined on the sideline by trainers and then remained on the sideline but didn’t return to the game. At halftime, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Dalton is fine and taking him out of the game was a precautionary measure.

A.J. McCarron took over at quarterback with most of the rest of the first-team offense.

Dalton completed all six of his passes for 52 yards and totaled 16 yards on the three runs.

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Jets’ Leonard Williams limps to the locker room

Leonard Williams

Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams exited early during tonight’s preseason game with the Giants.

Williams limped to the locker room with a member of the team’s training staff. The team said Williams suffered a knee injury and was questionable to return.

The Jets felt like they got a steal when Williams was still available when they picked at No. 6 overall. Williams had an excellent college career at USC and was considered by some observers to be the best player in this year’s draft..

Williams has looked good so far in the preseason and will be extremely important early in the regular season when starting defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson is serving a suspension.

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Aaron Rodgers won’t play tonight

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently lobbied for the reduction of the preseason by a couple of games, after the season-ending knee injury suffered by receiver Jordy Nelson in a meaningless exhibition last Sunday against the Steelers. While the preseason hasn’t officially been reduced (and likely won’t be absent an increase in the regular season), Rodgers as a practical matter has made it shrink, for him.

Per multiple reports, Rodgers won’t play in Saturday night’s preseason game against the Eagles. It’s an unusual move, given that the third preseason game routinely is treated like a dress rehearsal of the start of the regular season, with starters playing into the second half.

It’s a smart move, given that Rodgers surely is ready to go for Week One. Indeed, more and more NFL starters are likely prepared for games that could without going onto the field and risking injury in games that don’t. Long gone are the days when the offseason truly was an offseason; players now stay in shape and work on their craft throughout the calendar year.

While some view exposing key players to the risk of serious injury in games that don’t matter as a cost of doing business, business can still be done without assuming that risk. Of course, that may not be good for the NFL’s business of getting people to care about preseason games. However, fans should be care only to the extent that they’re holding their breath until players like Rodgers have escaped these meaningless games without a meaningful strain, sprain, tear, or break.

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Six years, $81.426 million for Julio Jones

Julio Jones AP

Like receivers Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant, receiver Julio Jones has signed a five-year deal. Unlike Thomas and Bryant, Jones had one year remaining on his rookie contract.

The new-money average beats Thomas and Bryant; at $71.25 million over five years, Jones eclipses the five-year, $70 million contracts signed last month by $250,000 per year, for an average of $14.25 million. But Jones actually has a six-year deal, worth $81.426 million. That’s a total average of $13.571 million.

Jones could have gotten more in 2016 if he’d played out the fifth year of his first NFL contract, but Jones would have carried the risk of injury through the 2015 season. So he gets less now than he could have gotten later, but he gets more than he would have gotten if he had torn an ACL or had some other serious injury.

The Falcons, who based on Jones’ own words apparently wouldn’t have faced a holdout in 2016 if the franchise tag had been used, were happy to absorb the injury the risk in lieu of paying more later.

Many details regarding the contract aren’t yet known. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the deal has $47 million in guarantees; how much of that is fully guaranteed at signing isn’t known.

Bryant got $32 million fully-guaranteed at signing and as a practical matter he’ll make $45 million over three years. Thomas got $35 million fully-guaranteed at signing.

For Jones, those nuances may not matter; in announcing the deal, owner Arthur Blank called Julio Jones a “Falcon for life,” which means he’ll get all $81.426 million — and maybe more.

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Report: Snyder, McCloughan met for two hours on Thursday

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Dysfunction take all sorts of shapes and forms. In D.C., the effort to reverse more than a decade of dysfunction is creating the perception of even more of it.

Via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, CSN Mid Atlantic’s Brian Mitchell said during the team’s radio pregame broadcast that owner Daniel Snyder met for two hours with G.M. Scot McCloughan on Thursday. While it’s not known what they discussed, it’s safe to assume at least two of the items on the agenda were the short- and long-term future of quarterback Robert Griffin III with the team.

In recent days, a sense has emerged that the final days of Griffin’s time with the team have arrived, and that the only question at this point is how the relationship ends. He could, in theory, be traded. He could, in theory, be cut. He could, as a practical matter, be placed in bubble wrap so that he doesn’t suffer the kind of injury that would spill into next year, costing the franchise more than $16 million in cash and salary-cap space.

Whatever happens and however it unfolds, it feels like the franchise is looking for a way to move on from its franchise quarterback. For now, however, the process feels more like groping in the dark for a light switch. The problem for the team is that, as it continues to grope, the light switch simply may not be there.

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Falcons, Julio Jones agree to new deal

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The Falcons and wide receiver Julio Jones have agreed on a five-year contract extension, according to multiple Saturday evening reports.

The deal was first reported by SI.com’s Peter King.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported the contract is worth $71.25 million, with $47 million guaranteed. Those numbers eclipse the five-year, $70 million contracts fellow star receivers Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant signed earlier this summer.

Jones caught 104 passes for a franchise-record 1,593 yards last season. He was entering the last year of his rookie deal.

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Bills play three QBs in first half, and all three play well

EJ Manuel,Tyrod Taylor, Matt Cassel AP

The Bills continue to hold an open and public quarterback competition, and on Saturday E.J. Manuel became the third different player to start in three preseason games.

By halftime, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor had played, too. And all had played well against a Steelers defense that’s very much a work in progress.

Manuel threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to Charles Clay on the second series after the running of Fred Jackson sparked a touchdown drive on the first. He gave way to Cassel, who then gave way to Taylor.

Taylor led an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive late in the half that was highlighted by 19-yard passes to Marquise Goodwin and MarQueis Gray. The Bills had a seven-minute drive with Cassel in the game that ended in a missed field goal.

Manuel was 2-of-2 for 83 yards, Cassel was 6-of-7 for 38 yards and Taylor was 11-of-12 for 101 yards in the first half.

Taylor started the second half.

Bills Coach Rex Ryan had a little fun with the situation and made all four quarterbacks on the roster captains for the game. As for where the competition goes from here, we’ll wait for Ryan to speak after the game — and probably over at least another week.

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Terrelle Pryor not expected to play on Saturday night in Tampa

Terrelle Pryor AP

If the Browns decide to keep receiver Terrelle Pryor, it won’t happen because of anything he did on the field in a preseason game. Because he hasn’t done anything on the field in a preseason game.

The Browns have announced that Pryor is not expected to play on Saturday night in Tampa, due to a lingering hamstring injury. Pryor, who was claimed on waivers and converted to receiver during the offseason, has appeared in none of the team’s preseason games.

The goal for the Brown will be not to assess where Pryor is as of early September but where he could be at some later point in the season, or beyond. He has the physical skills to become an effective receiver, but he has spent his college and pro career playing quarterback.

Besides, it’s not as if the Browns boast an array of Randy Mosses at the receiver position.

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Steelers lose another kicker to injury

Garrett Hartley, Luke McCown AP

The Steelers lost kicker Shaun Suisham to a torn ACL in the Hall of Fame in early August, forcing them to bring in Garrett Hartley to handle the kicking duties.

Hartley was injured in the second quarter of the team’s Saturday, apparently while making a kickoff. The team announced it as a right hamstring injury that will keep him out the rest of the game.

Because he was down, the Steelers were forced to go for it on a fourth and 17 play later in the quarter.

There’s a chance the Steelers would have added another kicker following next weekend’s roster cuts anyway. Now, Hartley’s injury could force them to act sooner — and be forced to continue their search into next weekend.

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