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Colts will give Trent Richardson first shot at starting RB job

Trent Richardson AP

Trent Richardson averaged just 2.9 yards a carry after arriving in Indianapolis last season, and he was even worse in the playoffs. Under ordinary circumstances, a player who performed like that would have a tough time earning any job at all.

But in Indianapolis, where the Colts gave up a first-round draft pick to acquire Richardson from Cleveland, Richardson remains the favorite to be given the starting job. Mike Wells of ESPN reports that Richardson will get the first shot at starting, ahead of Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard. Donald Brown, who was the Colts’ most effective running back last season, left for San Diego in free agency.

Richardson is coming off shoulder surgery, while Bradshaw missed most of last season with a neck injury and Ballard missed all but one game last season with a knee injury. So there are injury concerns with all three running backs.

Assuming everyone can go when training camp starts, however, Richardson will get the first shot. To keep the starting job for the whole season, he’ll surely have to average better than 2.9 yards a carry.

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Rooney says he, Mara, Mueller “understand the scrutiny” of investigation

ArtRooney AP

When the NFL opted to hire former FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate the league’s handling of the Ray Rice case and the NFL appointed Giants co-owner John Mara and Steelers owner Art Rooney II to oversee the investigation, legitimate questions were raised about the true independence of the so-called independent investigation.

While Commissioner Roger Goodell has defended the independence of the investigation, the investigation lacks the appearance of independence, which prevents it from being regarded as truly independent.

Nevertheless, the principals intend that the investigation will be independent.

Rooney told Michele Tafoya of NBC’s Sunday Night Football from tonight’s game at Charlotte that he, Mara, and Mueller “understand the scrutiny” they’ll be under, and that none of them wants to be part of a “whitewash” or a P.R. exercise.

Rooney also said that he believes Goodell still has the support of the owners, and that one mistake should not jeopardize an otherwise stellar career.  Still, it’s possible that Mueller will reach a conclusion that justifies if not requires a change in Commissioner.  By making such broad declarations before the investigation is over, Rooney potentially undermines even more the appearance of independence.

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Chiefs earn first win, knock off Miami 34-15

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

In a performance highlighted by three TD passes from quarterback Alex Smith and 132 yards rushing from Knile Davis, the Chiefs pulled away for a 34-15 victory on Sunday afternoon in Miami.

Two of Smith’s TD passes went to running back Joe McKnight, who had never scored a regular season offensive touchdown before Sunday. But McKnight, the former celebrated USC recruit and Jets tailback, was a key cog in the Chiefs’ victory, catching six passes for 64 yards, including a four-yard score that extended the Kansas City lead to 27-15 with 4:35 left.

From there, the Chiefs’ defense closed it out, forcing a pair of fourth-down stops. The final points came on tailback Cyrus Gray’s six-yard TD score with 13 seconds left and the outcome no longer in doubt.

Davis, who filled in for the injured Jamaal Charles, handled a heavy workload well, carrying 32 times. He did fumble twice, losing one, though it didn’t cost Kansas City any points.

Smith, meanwhile, was tough and sharp, completing 19-of-25 passes for 186 yards. He was sacked five times, including once on a safety, and the Chiefs’ ability to protect him over the course of the season is something to watch.

But on Sunday, Smith came up big for his team, which notched its first win of the season.

The Dolphins, on the other hand, have now lost two games in a row after a Week One win vs. New England. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was just 21-of-43 passing for 205 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and he was sacked four times. The Miami defense has had better days, too; the Chiefs converted 9-of-16 third downs in victory.

The loss drops the Dolphins one game behind the Patriots and Bills in the AFC East. Miami (1-2) plays Oakland (0-3) in London next Sunday. The Chiefs will host the Pats on Monday night.

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Seahawks beat Broncos in Super Bowl rematch

lockette AP

It was a lot more competitive than the Super Bowl, but the end result was the same: The Seahawks beat the Broncos.

In today’s rematch of February’s Super Bowl blowout, the Seahawks once again jumped out to an early lead and were up 17-3 at halftime. But this time around the Broncos were poised and collected, and they worked their way back into the game, forcing overtime with a touchdown and two-point conversion in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for the Broncos, Russell Wilson, who had a big game, engineered a 13-play, 80-yard drive in overtime, culminating with a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run, and the Seahawks won 26-20. Wilson also threw a beautiful 39-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Lockette early in the game, used his feet to make plays all day, and even caught a pass on a trick play. It was a big game on a big game for Wilson, a young quarterback who has already led a whole lot of big wins.

But the Broncos’ defense played well, and new additions including Demarcus Ware and T.J. Ward — who weren’t with the Broncos in the Super Bowl — have made Denver better. That’s a positive step for the Broncos.

And it’s also positive that Peyton Manning, even when it appeared he was beaten, found a way to hit Jacob Tamme on a beautiful touchdown pass to send the game into overtime. Manning found holes in the Seahawks’ secondary, it just took him until the fourth quarter to find them.

The Broncos can feel good about the fact that they went to the toughest place to play in the NFL and stood toe-to-toe with the Seahawks, rather than wilting as they did in the Super Bowl. But the Broncos aren’t yet in the Seahawks’ class.

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Peterson hopes to resolve charges in 2014, return to action

Peterson AP

Last week, lawyer Rusty Hardin said that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will stand trial on Texas child-abuse charges in 2015.  That plan could be changing.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, an effort will be made to accelerated the trial date, with the goal of getting it set for 2014.  The broader goal will be to resolve the charges in time for Peterson to return to action for the Vikings this year.

Of course, Peterson would need to resolve the charges in a way that doesn’t expose him to a potential suspension without pay under the personal-conduct policy.  Currently, he’s suspended as a practical matter with pay, until the legal process is resolved.

More information is expected this week regarding the anticipated trial date.  If exonerated, it would suddenly becomes easier for the Vikings to keep Peterson beyond the 2014 season.

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Broncos storm back to force overtime in Seattle

peyton AP

In a game that appeared to be lost, Peyton Manning and the Broncos have stormed back to force overtime in Seattle.

The Super Bowl rematch has lived up to the billing, with the Seahawks jumping out to a big early lead, the Broncos hanging around, the Seahawks appearing to take the game over with an interception on what looked like it could be the Broncos’ final chance, and then Peyton Manning leading his team back with a sensational touchdown pass to Jacob Tamme.

The Broncos have scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to make the score 20-20.

Overtime is going to be fun.

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Jason Peters: I didn’t think, I just reacted

Jason Peters, Chris Baker AP

Eagles tackle Jason Peters was ejected from Sunday’s victory over the Redskins for throwing punches at Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker and other members of the Washington team during a scrum in the fourth quarter.

Peters went after Baker after Baker laid out Eagles quarterback Nick Foles with a block during an interception return that ultimately never happened because the pick was overturned on a replay. Peters said standing up for his quarterback was the only thing going through his mind as things escalated near the sideline.

“I wasn’t having it,” Peters said, via CSNPhilly.com. “That’s just a cheap shot. You’re taking on the smallest guy on the field and you’re cheap-shotting him, and he’s not even trying to make the play. I just reacted. I shouldn’t have did what I did, but I was just trying to protect my quarterback. I really wasn’t thinking. I seen him hit him, and I just reacted.”

Baker said he thought he made a “legal football move,” which wasn’t the ruling by the officials who ejected him for the hit.

“I was doing what I was taught,” Baker said. “And that’s to go get a block. I didn’t look to see if it was the quarterback. All I saw was someone going toward the ball, and I got my head in front and lowered my shoulder, which is a legal football move. Doing what I was taught to do, and I get punched in my face on the sideline, and the next thing you know I’m ejected for a block.”

Both Peters and Baker are expected to be fined by the league this week along with several other combatants in Sunday’s melee.

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No DeAngelo Williams for Panthers tonight

Carolina Panthers v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

The Panthers are trying to get their running game fixed — against a Steelers defense which is amenable — but they have their own problems.

Starting running back DeAngelo Williams is inactive again with a hamstring injury.

That leaves the Panthers in the hands of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert tonight, but the Steelers have been soft up the middle against the run so far this year.

The Panthers will also be without veteran wideout Jerricho Cotchery, which will test their scant depth at that position.

Also inactive for the Panthers are quarterback Joe Webb, running back Fozzy Whittaker, offensive linemen David Foucault and Andrew Norwell and safety Tre Boston.

The Steelers deactivated quarterback Landry Jones, running back Dri Archer, wide receiver Martavis Bryant, nose tackle Daniel McCullers, offensive linemen Wesley Johnson and Ramon Foster and cornerback B.W. Webb.

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Cardinals improve to 3-0 with comeback win over 49ers

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals have lost a slew of defenders from last year’s unit and played the last two games without their starting quarterback, so they’d have plenty of excuses to point to if they got off to a slow start this season.

There’s no need to pull them out, though. The Cardinals scored 17 points in the second half as the 49ers short-circuited in the final 30 minutes for the second straight week in a 23-14 Arizona victory. That win leaves Arizona at 3-0 on the season and 13-6 since Bruce Arians took over as the team’s head coach before last season, a mark that leaves the Cardinals right next to any teams outside Seattle and Denver in terms of performance since the start of the 2013 season.

The Cardinals haven’t shied away from letting it rip with Drew Stanton playing instead of Carson Palmer and Stanton made Arians look smart for doing so by completing 18-of-33 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Stanton hit on several big plays in the second half and the team looked like they were driving for another touchdown when Larry Fitzgerald fumbled inside the 49ers’ five-yard line.

San Francisco had the ball after that fumble with a chance to drive and win the game, but their offense continued to sputter in the back end of games. The 49ers have not scored a touchdown in the second half yet this season and their one scoring chance on Sunday ended when Phil Dawson’s field goal was blocked. San Francisco had to settle for that kick because Anquan Boldin was flagged for head butting Tony Jefferson (Carolina fans are free to wonder why that’s a penalty all of sudden) and pushed the Niners too far back to get six points.

Boldin’s penalty was one of several personal foul and pass interference calls in the second half that helped seal the 49ers’ fate. Not all of them were good calls and a couple were worse than that, but the Niners did plenty to shoot themselves in the foot all by themselves over the course of the second half. The lack of discipline and the second half fades need to be sorted out if the Niners are going to make another trip to the playoffs.

There are fewer pressing matters in Arizona, where Arians has put together an opportunistic, aggressive team that turns almost every mistake by the opposition into a positive for themselves. Unlike San Francisco, they also finish well as evidenced by their 30-0 edge in the fourth quarter. Those are the kinds of traits that serve you well when you’ve been dealt a tough hand by injuries and they’ve been played perfectly by Arians so far this season.

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Brian Hartline’s putt draws a penalty

Brian Hartline AP

Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline capped his one-yard third quarter TD catch vs. Kansas City on Sunday by imitating a golfer attempting a successful putt as the gallery — a group comprising several of his teammates, including Mike Wallace — looked on.

As post-TD celebrations go, it was a creative one.

However, it was a costly one, as it drew a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, for it was an orchestrated group celebration.

The Dolphins then had to kick off from their 20, and the Chiefs capitalized with a 25-yard return to the Kansas City 34, earning good field position. And the Chiefs’ offense would go on to a 10-play, 66-yard drive ending in Joe McKnight’s 11-yard TD catch.

That, of course, can’t be pinned on Hartline. But the celebration did turn a kickoff that would have landed in the endzone into one that landed on the nine-yard line.

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Bell still has time to resolve DUI charge and avoid two-game suspension

Bell AP

Last week, Browns receiver Josh Gordon pleaded guilty to pending DUI charges in order to avoid the mandatory two-game suspension under the new substance-abuse policy.  (Gordon may still be suspended, based on his history of substance-abuse policy violations.)

But Gordon apparently didn’t need to move so quickly.  Per multiple league sources, the new substance-abuse policy contains a grace period that allows players with pending DUI charges to resolve them under the terms of the old policy.

Bell has until November 1 to resolve the charge.

Most prominently, that includes Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who was cited both for marijuana possession and DUI in August.  While the marijuana possession charge could result in a one-game suspension, the mandatory two-game suspension for the DUI charge could be avoided — if Bell gets the case resolved ASAP.

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Dolphins cut into Chiefs’ lead

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Big plays on defense and special teams have helped the Dolphins narrow the Chiefs’ lead to 21-15 after three quarters.

On the third offensive play of the quarter, Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick forced Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith to fumble, with defensive end Derrick Shelby recovering for Miami, setting up a one-yard TD reception by Brian Hartline. Later, Jarvis Landry’s 74-yard kickoff return set up a 51-yard Caleb Sturgis field goal for Miami. And then, near the end of the third, Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks sacked Smith in the endzone for a safety.

The Chiefs did put together a scoring drive of their own in the third, with Smith hitting Joe McKnight for an 11-yard TD. But now, the Chiefs must hold off Miami’s second-half charge.

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HGH testing could start in early October

BloodTest Getty Images

But for a variety of other big stories, the biggest story in the NFL would be the efforts to keep players from getting artificially bigger.

After more than three years of negotiation, impasse, and other delays, the NFL and NFL Players Association have struck an agreement on HGH testing.

The Friday release from the NFL and NFLPA said that HGH testing, which will entail the drawing of blood from players, will commence by the end of September.  Per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, the more realistic target is early October, at the earliest.

Currently, there’s nothing further to negotiate.  The deals are done and signed.  Players will be subject to random testing, with the exception that no testing may occur on game days.

Positive tests will be appealed to an independent arbitrator jointly hired and compensated by the NFL and NFLPA.  For a first offense, players will be suspended six games without pay.

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Antonio Cromartie to locker room, Cardinals to lead

Frank Gore, Antonio Cromartie AP

The injuries just keep coming for the Cardinals.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie has gone to the locker room for Arizona after suffering an injury to his left leg in the third quarter of the team’s game against the 49ers. Trainers examined Cromartie on the sideline after he exited the game and he was able to walk back to the locker room on his own power, but it’s a big loss for a team that’s already missing Darnell Dockett, Carson Palmer and John Abraham on Sunday afternoon.

The injury came shortly after the Cardinals had drawn within one point of the visitors. After forcing a three-and-out to open the half, Drew Stanton hit Michael Floyd for a 45-yard gain into 49ers territory and followed it up with a pass to John Brown for a touchdown that cut San Francisco’s lead to 14-13.

The defense was able to stop the 49ers without Cromartie, however, and the Cardinals were able to drive for another Brown touchdown. They got there with the help of two questionable personal foul calls for hits on Stanton by Dan Skuta and Patrick Willis that appeared to be far less egregious than the officials throwing the flags believed.

The second half was a problem for San Francisco last week as well and the team’s now been outscored 49-3 in the final 30 minutes of games so far this season. That has to change if the Niners want to avoid a 1-2 start to the season.

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Report: Dislocated hip for Dennis Pitta

Dennis Pitta AP

The Ravens lost tight end Dennis Pitta during Sunday’s victory over the Browns and they’ll likely be without him in the coming weeks as well.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that Pitta has been diagnosed with a dislocated right hip. That’s the same hip he had surgery on last year to repair a dislocation and fracture. Per Wilson, another fracture hasn’t been ruled out and Pitta’s status for the rest of the season will be up in the air until the doctors have come to a conclusion about the extent of the damage.

“When you’re in the middle of a game you don’t think too much about that stuff, but, yeah, it’s not easy,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “Dennis is a good friend. He’s a good teammate and he’s a hell of a player. No matter who it is, it’s tough to see that happen especially when it looks like it might be what it is or it might be serious.”

Owen Daniels would take on a more important role with Pitta out of the lineup, but, as the Ravens learned last season, replacing Pitta isn’t all that easy given Flacco’s comfort level with the tight end.

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Seahawks take halftime lead

sherman AP

The Seahawks are picking up where they left off in the Super Bowl and outplaying the Broncos, but they may have suffered a significant loss in the process.

Seattle, which took a lead into the locker room at halftime, also had to finish the half without starting left tackle Russell Okung, who walked off the field after what appeared to be an injury to his shoulder. The team later said he was questionable to return.

Okung was blocking Broncos defensive end Demarcus Ware and went down appearing to be in a lot of pain. He got up holding his left arm gingerly. Okung is the player most responsible for protecting Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and losing Okung for any period of time would hurt.

But the Seahawks appear to be rolling today against the Broncos. Wilson has completed 11 of 13 passes for 145 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and although Peyton Manning has completed 11 of 16 passes and avoided any turnovers, he has just 87 yards through the air. The Seahawks may just have the Broncos’ number.

UPDATE 6:35 p.m. ET: Okung has returned.

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