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Julius Thomas: Broncos will use me more creatively this year

Bobby Wagner, Julius Thomas AP

Broncos tight end Julius Thomas is one of several players keeping an eye on how things play out with Jimmy Graham’s franchise tag grievance because his future contract negotiations will likely be impacted by whatever the arbitrator rules in regard to Graham being viewed as a tight end or a wide receiver.

Thomas is heading into the final year of his rookie deal, so he will be in line for a big raise regardless of Graham’s ultimate situation. Unless he reaches a deal with the Broncos before the start of the season, the question of how big a deal will be determined in part by his production in 2014. According to Thomas, an additional year of experience will lead to bigger and different things.

“What I think people will see different in me [this year] is that they will use me a lot more creatively,” Thomas said, via “I think there are a lot of things that our offense wanted to do with me, but you can only learn so much in one year. No matter how much time you have at practice, it never seems to be enough when you’re learning and trying to come into your own.”

Thomas played just one year of college football and injuries kept him off the field for most of his first two seasons, so he really hasn’t had that much time to polish his skills on the football field. The absence of Eric Decker should offer Thomas more opportunities than he had on his way to 65 catches and 12 touchdowns last season. Taking advantage of them would likely impact the look of his next contract as much or more than any arbitrator’s ruling.

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Titans shooting themselves in the (kicking) foot

Tennessee Titans v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Titans aren’t playing horribly, but their special teams are keeping them from keeping it close against the Bengals.

They just committed a holding penalty in the end zone for a safety while trying to punt, giving the Bengals a 12-0 lead.

This comes after kicker Ryan Succop missed a pair of field goals, and Blidi Wreh-Wilson committed a facemask penalty on a punt return.

Wilson was also the culprit who gave up a touchdown pass to Andy Dalton, when he looked like he was caught somewhere between trying to light up the quarterback or play a lofted pass, and ended up failing at both.

This should be a one-score game, but they’re handing it to the Bengals on a platter.

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Teddy Bridgewater era begins for Minnesota

Bridgewater Getty Images

As the current face of the franchise has gotten a stiff arm to the face from the franchise, the next face of the franchise will be getting his first crack at making an impact on the field.

Vikings quarterback Matt Cassell has left the playing area on a cart, with a toe injury.  Which means that rookie Teddy Bridgewater has entered the game.

Even without the injury, it was looking shaky for the veteran.  The Vikings fell into a quick 13-0 hole, after losing 30-7 last week.

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Bengals up 10-0 after touchdown pass to Andy Dalton

Mohamed Sanu AP

Maybe the Bengals shouldn’t have paid Andy Dalton.

Because Mohamed Sanu is becoming quite a passer.

Sanu just hit Dalton with an 18-yard touchdown pass to give the Bengals a 10-0 lead over the Titans, which required his quarterback to make a move to get the end zone. It could have easily been picked off and returned for a touchdown, but Dalton was able to climb the ladder and scamper for the score.

On the heels of last week’s 50-yard pass to Brandon Tate, Sanu now has a passer rating of 158.3 for his career. He’s 4-of-4 for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

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Colts not having much trouble with Jaguars

Andrew Luck AP

Down two games to the Texans in the AFC South, the Colts entered Sunday’s game at Jacksonville in desperate need for a victory.

Well, Indianapolis is off a good start in its quest for its first win of the season.

Led by strong defense and sharp play on offense, the Colts are out to a 17-0 second quarter lead at Jacksonville.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has starred early, completing 15-of-18 passes for 145 yards, including a six-yard first quarter TD pass to Ahmad Bradshaw and a one-yard second quarter scoring toss to tight end Dwayne Allen. Tailback Trent Richardson has also played well, racking up 35 yards on five carries.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars’ offense has done little early, going three-and-out on its first two drives.

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LeSean McCoy helped off after blow to head, cleared to return

LeSean McCoy AP

The Eagles defense hasn’t been able to stop the Redskins on either of Washington’s first two drives, leaving them in a 14-7 hole.

They may not have running back LeSean McCoy’s help in their effort to come back. McCoy took a shot to the head from Redskins cornerback David Amerson during a running play in the first quarter and was immediately met by members of the Eagles training staff on the field.

They helped McCoy to the sideline, where he was evaluated by a couple of members of the medical team. McCoy, who was seen pleading with trainers to get his helmet back, then headed back to the locker room where there will presumably be concussion testing done to see the extent of the injury.

If McCoy is out the rest of the way, the Eagles will need Darren Sproles to repeat some of the production he gave them on Monday night against the Colts if they are going to wind up winners of this divisional battle.

UPDATE 1:56 p.m. ET: McCoy has been cleared to return to the game by the Eagles, who saw Sproles lose a fumble in the Washington red zone while he was out of the game.

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Broncos say no timetable in place for ownership transition

Pat Bowlen AP

In response to a report from the Denver Post that the Broncos may have as little two years to determine whether a member of Pat Bowlen’s family will assume ownership of the franchise or sell it, the team says that no deadlines exists.

“Owner Pat Bowlen has indicated a strong desire to keep specifics of his estate planning private, and the Denver Broncos intend to honor his wishes,” the team said in a statement.

“While Mr. Bowlen’s long-term hope is for one of his children to run the team, any speculation on the transition of his ownership to one of them is premature. No timetable has been set for that process by the organization or the National Football League.

“There are no plans for the sale of the Denver Broncos, and the Pat Bowlen Trust will continue to implement the provisions set forth by Mr. Bowlen to keep the team in the Bowlen family.”

Bowlen, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, stepped away from any activities with the organization in July.  His wife has said that the plan is to keep the team in the family.

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Lions’ Stephen Tulloch hurts himself celebrating

Detroit Lions Stephen Tulloch celebrates in the end zone his touch down against Minnesota Vikings during the first half of their NFL football game in Detroit Reuters

Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch has pulled a Gramatica.

Tulloch jumped up and down celebrating a big play today against the Packers, but he came down too hard and fell awkwardly, appearing to hurt his leg. It was reminiscent of the infamous Bill Gramatica celebration.

The Lions didn’t have much to celebrate after Tulloch left the game; the Packers marched right down the field against Detroit’s depleted defense and got a 10-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Andrew Quarless.

Late in the first quarter in Detroit it’s tied, 7-7.

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Saints rolling the inoffensive Vikings early

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

As if the Vikings didn’t have enough problems, they’re getting their doors blown off at New Orleans.

The Saints sandwiched a pair of touchdown drives around a lonely Vikings three-and-out, for a quick 13-0 lead.

The Vikings were being outgained 162-2 at that point, with Matt Cassel throwing two incomplete passes and Mat Asiata gaining all their yards on one rush.

Meanwhile, the Saints are as sharp as expected offensively.

Drew Brees is a perfect 9-of-9 passing for 108 yards, hitting Josh Hill for a touchdown to go with Pierre Thomas‘ scoring run.

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Kirk Cousins opens 7-for-7 with a touchdown

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins has gotten off to a fast start in his first start of the 2014 season.

Cousins, filling in for the injured Robert Griffin III, completed all seven passes he tried on the team’s first possession. The last of those passes was a four-yard toss to fullback Darrel Young for a touchdown that gave the Redskins a 7-0 lead a little more than six minutes into the first quarter.

Cousins spread the ball around on the drive with five different receivers catching passes as they marched down the field. Two of those passes were to DeSean Jackson, who is playing with an injured shoulder, and the Redskins got 15 extra yards at the end of one of them when safety Nate Allen got flagged for unnecessary roughness after getting involved in a shoving match with Jackson.

The Redskins’ lead was short lived, however. Chris Polk took the ensuing kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown to tie the score.

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Danny Woodhead carted off for RB-thin Chargers

Danny Woodhead, Kam Chancellor AP

The Chargers were thin at running back anyway, and they just got thinner.

Danny Woodhead was just carted off the field with what appears to be a right ankle injury, and his return was announced as questionable.

They were already without Ryan Mathews (sprained MCL), so they could ill afford any injury there.

Donald Brown and Branden Oliver are their lone remaining backs, so expect them to keep it in the air.

It’s working so far, as Philip Rivers just capped a long drive with a touchdown pass to Eddie Royal for a 7-0 lead.

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How strong is owner support of Goodell?

Goodell Getty Images

While the Commissioner in theory represents all constituents of pro football, only one set of constituents controls his ongoing employment status — 31 owners and the CEO of the Packers.  At Friday’s press conference, Peter King asked Goodell whether he still enjoys the support of the owners.

“I believe I have the support of the owners,” Goodell said.  “That has been clear to me.  They obviously expect us to do a better job.  As I said to several, I don’t like to let down anybody, Peter.  I hold myself to the highest possible standards.”

Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that the support may not be as strong as Goodell believes. Some owners, per Mortensen, have adopted a wait-and-see posture, given the not-so-independent investigation from Robert Mueller and the pending Ray Rice appeal.  Adam Schefter of ESPN points out that, when Goodell was elected in 2006, 15 owners voted for Gregg Levy, a lawyer at Covington & Burling. Per Schefter, there were certain characteristics of Goodell that troubled those 15 owners at the time.

“The characteristics that bothered those 15 then have been on abundant display the last few weeks,” Schefter said.

Those characteristics (whatever they may be) could result in more troubling findings and conclusions from the Mueller investigation and the Rice appeal.

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Report: Ray Rice appeal will argue NFL made decision based on edited video

Ray Rice AP

The NFL has not said who will hear Ravens running back Ray Rice’s appeal of his indefinite suspension, but we may have some idea about what Rice will be arguing when the time comes.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that one of the central arguments that Rice will make is that the NFL handed down additional punishment based on an edited video of what happened in the elevator rather than on the complete tape of what happened in Atlantic City that night. PFT has confirmed that this is a major part of Rice’s strategy and the Associated Press has previously reported about the existence of a longer video from the elevator.

On the video, first shown by TMZ, Rice is seen hitting Janay Palmer Rice with a left hand that sends her headfirst into an elevator railing before falling unconscious to the floor. Per Schefter, sources have told him that the TMZ video was “a cleaned-up, whittled down and condensed version” of what actually happened. No further details about what Rice contends went down on the night in question have been revealed.

Schefter adds that Robert Mueller is expected to have access to the full video as part of his investigation into the handling of the Rice case.

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Browns TE Jordan Cameron returns to lineup Sunday

Jordan Cameron AP

After a week out of action because of a shoulder injury, Browns tight end Jordan Cameron will suit up for the club on Sunday vs. Baltimore, the team said on its Twitter feed this morning.

Cameron made the Pro Bowl for Cleveland a season ago, hauling in 80 passes for 917 yards and seven TDs. He had a 47-yard reception in the 2014 season opener at Pittsburgh before departing with his injury.

While Cameron is back for 1-1 Cleveland, the Browns are again without tailback Ben Tate, who is officially inactive with a knee injury. Tate was ruled out earlier in the week. Terrance West will get the start at tailback for Cleveland.

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Robert Woods, Keenan Allen will play in Bills-Chargers clash

Keenan Allen AP

The Bills and Chargers each came into Sunday’s matchup with a key wide receiver listed on the injury report and both teams announced good news regarding them on Sunday morning.

Robert Woods is good to go for the Bills after missing practice one day and being limited the other two because of an ankle injury. Woods has five catches for 83 yards in the first two weeks of the season and should join Sammy Watkins at the forefront of the team’s passing attack against San Diego.

Keenan Allen landed on the injury report as the week progressed because of a groin injury and was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday, but he’ll be active as well. He’ll be joined by linebacker Jerry Attaochu and safety Jahleel Addae, both of whom were also listed as questionable on Friday’s final injury report of the week.

Allen and others in the passing attack may be called on more often this Sunday as the Chargers will be playing without running back Ryan Mathews, who was ruled out during the week because of a knee injury.

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Bernard Pierce inactive for Sunday’s game at Cleveland

Bernard Pierce AP

One of the Ravens’ primary tailbacks has been ruled out of Sunday’s game at Cleveland.

Running back Bernard Pierce (thigh) is among Baltimore’s inactives for today’s matchup vs. the Browns, the team announced.

With Pierce out, Justin Forsett could see the majority of the work on Sunday, with rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro the second option in the backfield.

Pierce leads the Ravens in carries (28) and is second in rushing yards (113) through two games.

Safety Terrence Brooks, inside linebacker Arthur Brown, wide receiver Michael Campanaro, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, offensive tackle Jah Reid and offensive guard/center John Urschel are also inactive for Baltimore (1-1) on Sunday.

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