Mike Evans misses practice again

AP

The Buccaneers practiced Wednesday without wide receiver Mike Evans, leaving some doubt about the availability of Evans for Sunday’s season opener vs. the Titans.

Evans, who caught 68 passes and scored 12 touchdowns as a rookie, has a hamstring injury and was shut down following the team’s second preseason game on Aug. 24. Evans said at the time the team was just playing it safe and he would be ready to play if it was a regular season week.

Now, the team is down to two practices before its first real game. Bucs Coach Lovie Smith didn’t address the status of Evans earlier this week; the team will place him on its first in-season injury report Wednesday and Smith will address the media after practice.

Louis Murphy took first-team reps in Wednesday’s practice with Evans out.

Browns rookie RB Johnson cleared, returns to practice

AP

The Browns entered the week with one healthy running back on their active roster, but rookie Duke Johnson has cleared concussion protocol and will practice this week with the intent of playing Sunday vs. the Jets.

“He’s fully cleared,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said of Johnson. “When you come out of the concussion protocol you’re either cleared or you’re not.

“We’re not in pads. He’s not going to get hit today but he needs the work, the actual reps of playing.”

A hamstring injury kept Johnson out for three weeks of training camp, and one quarter into his preseason debut Aug. 29 Johnson suffered a concussion. Wednesday marked his first practice since then.

A third-round pick, Johnson started his lone preseason game. That’s either a sign the Browns have very high hopes for him, or that the team was down on second-year runners Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, neither of whom had a strong camp. West was traded to the Titans last Sunday, leaving Crowell as the only healthy back on the roster before Johnson was cleared.

Pettine said the plan is for Crowell to start Sunday and for Johnson to be watched closely in practices in hopes he can contribute.

“If (Johnson) had taken every rep we’d be a lot more confident about putting him out there for extended snaps,” Pettine said. “If he puts a solid couple days together here, there’s no reason to think he won’t play a significant role in the game.”

Pettine said second-year cornerback Pierre Desir also cleared concussion protocol, leaving 2014 first-round cornerback Justin Gilbert (hip flexor) as the only player in question for the season opener. Pettine said backup quarterback Johnny Manziel had “natural soreness” after returning to practice Monday but that was expected following a two-week absence. Manziel should be the No. 2 quarterback Sunday.

Ravens use IR/return designation on DE Brent Urban

AP

The Ravens have placed defensive end Brent Urban on injured-reserve/designated for return, giving the second-year defensive end a chance to return from a torn biceps in play in the second half of this season.

The IR/return designation can be used once per season. A player given the designation can return to practice after six weeks and be activated after eight weeks.

Urban suffered the injury in early August. A fourth-round pick in 2014, Urban missed his rookie season after tearing his ACL in training camp last summer.

Rookie running back Terrence Magee takes Urban’s spot on the Ravens’ 53-man roster. The Ravens needed to add a third running back because backup running back Lorenzo Taliaferro is dealing with a knee injury suffered in the preseason.

Boom Herron waived-injured by Colts

AP

The Colts designated running back Daniel ‘Boom’ Herron as waived-injured Sunday, ending his season unless he’s claimed by another team.

Herron suffered a shoulder injury in last Thursday’s preseason finale. The waived-injured designation means he will revert to injured-reserve with the Colts unless he’s claimed by another team. Herron might have been the primary backup for Frank Gore this season if he’d been healthy; instead, the Colts figure to go with either rookie Josh Robinson or Vick Ballard, who’s played in just one game in the last two years due to injuries, behind Gore.

Herron signed his exclusive-rights tender last April to stay with the Colts. He ran well down the stretch last season, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and ran 45 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts’ three playoff games.

A sixth-round pick of the Bengals in 2012, Herron played five games for the Colts in 2013 after being signed off of the Bengals’ practice squad. He played in all 16 games and made three starts for the Colts last season.

Texans will place Savage on IR, possibly go QB shopping

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The Texans are placing quarterback Tom Savage on injured-reserve, ending the second-year player’s season two days after Savage suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason finale.

NFL Network’s Rand Getlin had the news about Savage first.

With Savage done for the year and Ryan Mallett possibly still in the doghouse, the Texans could look to add a quarterback this weekend via trade or the waiver wire. The pool of available quarterbacks is shallow; this is the risk the Texans took in bringing just three quarterbacks to camp.

Whether the Texans would want to add a veteran as the emergency quarterback or a developmental prospect to the practice squad in order to run the scout team is unknown and probably is dependent upon the team’s options once general manager Rick Smith and coach Bill O’Brien scan the waiver wire. Many teams are keeping just two quarterbacks on their initial 53-man rosters.

Brian Hoyer will start for the Texans after he won a camp competition with Mallett.

Tevin Coleman makes his case for playing time

AP

The preseason finale is generally the most meaningless of the meaningless preseason games, but Falcons rookie running back Tevin Coleman used his chance Thursday night to put himself at least in the conversation and probably in the rotation when the regular season begins.

Coleman missed much of August with a hamstring issue and carried four times for two yards last weekend in his preseason debut. But he carried eight times for 56 yards Thursday vs. the Ravens, sparked by a 26-yard run in the first quarter.

A third-round pick, Coleman missed much of August with a hamstring issue but was drafted to be an immediate contributor and push projected starter Devonta Freeman.

Freeman sat out the entire preseason but returned to practice this week for the first time since Aug 6.

It was awesome to see him,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.

The Falcons open the season Sept. 14 vs. the Eagles.

Report: Chris Johnson will start for Cardinals Thursday

AP

Chris Johnson is set to debut with the Arizona Cardinals Thursday night, and per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Johnson will be the team’s starting running back in the preseason finale.

Johnson signed with the Cardinals Aug. 17, before the second preseason game, but has been slowed by a hamstring injury. The Cardinals know that Johnson, who’s three weeks from turning 30, isn’t the same player who had six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Tennessee to start his career but they hope he can still provide some big-play pop and catch up to a new offense.

Johnson’s contract option wasn’t picked up by the Jets after he rushed 155 times for 663 yards last year. He was shot in the shoulder last March in an incident during which his friend was killed in Florida.

The plan, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters Wednesday, is for Johnson to get 10-12 carries as the Cardinals evaluate him. Arians has said he believes Johnson can help the Cardinals but is guaranteed nothing.

The Cardinals won’t play their starters Thursday, so it will be Chris Johnson and rookie David Johnson getting the carries early. They’re competing for touches behind the team’s current starter, Andre Ellington.

Manziel says elbow issue just tendinitis, nothing to worry about

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It’s always something with Johnny Manziel, and the latest is an arm/elbow soreness issue that Browns coach Mike Pettine said last week was minor — and the next day Pettine announced the Browns were shutting Manziel down for the preseason.

Manziel hasn’t thrown in more than a week, but Tuesday he told reporters he is only battling tendinitis in his throwing elbow and said, “I’m not worried about it all.”

The issue will end up keeping Manziel from two valuable preseason games, and Pettine said last week that Manziel would have played with the No. 1 offense for the first time this summer in last Saturday’s preseason game had he been healthy. Pettine has been firm that Josh McCown is the team’s starting quarterback.

Manziel said the elbow soreness is something he’s dealt with every year since he got to Texas A&M in 2011 and that it generally gets better past training camp because quarterbacks are asked to make fewer throws once the regular season begins. He said he’s sought multiple opinions on his tendinitis, including having the team’s medical staff reach out to Dr. James Andrews, and that surgery was never recommended.

The Browns have to be as certain as Manziel is that he will be available for next week and the Sept. 13 season opener. Thad Lewis will start Thursday’s preseason finale and try to make a strong enough impression to win a roster spot in the process; if there’s concern about Manziel being able to serve as McCown’s backup, the Browns almost have to keep Lewis when the team trims the roster to the regular-season size of 53 this weekend.

Unless McCown can lead the Browns to a bunch of wins, Manziel will eventually get a shot to play this season and try to give the team a better showing than he did in basically seven quarters last season. But he has to be healthy first, and then he’ll have to prove he can be worth the wait.

Andy Reid: Kelce could play if he had to

AP

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce went down in Monday’s practice with what looked to be a leg or ankle injury, giving the team a scare.

Before Tuesday’s practice, though, Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters that Kelce just suffered a sprained ankle, not the dreaded high ankle sprain, and would be ready to play this week if the team had a regular-season game.

The Chiefs open the season Sept. 13, and there’s no reason for the team to rush its talented young tight end back for Thursday’s preseason finale. So, as long as Kelce can get back on the field Saturday or Sunday when the Chiefs really begin preparing for their opener vs. the Texans, Monday’s injury will quickly be forgotten.

49ers coach says Dockett does not have cracked rib

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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.

Browns rookie Duke Johnson debuts, leaves with concussion

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.

Steelers lose another kicker to injury

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.

Bradford will play Saturday, but Kelly won’t say how much

AP

Even with the starting quarterback on the other side unlikely to play and last week’s big hit by Terrell Suggs still a topic of discussion, Eagles coach Chip Kelly plans to play Sam Bradford in Saturday night’s preseason game at Green Bay.

Kelly isn’t saying how much Bradford will play, though, and it may depend on the weather. If it rains, Kelly might play it extra careful with his oft-injured new quarterback.

Bradford did not play in the first preseason game. He played 14 plays last week, all in one series, on what was essentially the one-year anniversary of the ACL tear that ended his 2014 season and was his second torn ACL in nine months.

Kelly has said he doesn’t need to exercise caution with Bradford but has said Bradford is making “daily progress” towards getting up to full speed physically and with the Eagles offense.

The Packers, still stinging from last week’s torn ACL that will cost star wide Jordy Nelson the season, are unlikely to play Aaron Rodgers in Saturday’s game. But Bradford is anxious to play more than one series as the Eagles prepare for their Sept. 14 season opener.

“It’s nice to go onto the field multiple times, establish that rhythm, come over, work on that communication with the line, the receivers [and] talk about what we’re seeing on the field, so when it gets to the regular season, that’s not something we’re working through,” Bradford said.

Pettine: Manziel likely done for preseason

AP

The mystery surrounding the elbow and arm soreness plaguing Browns second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel continues to grow with Thursday’s announcement by Browns coach Mike Pettine that Manziel is definitely going to miss Saturday’s preseason game at Tampa Bay and probably won’t be able to play in the Sept. 3 preseason finale at Chicago, either.

Pettine said Wednesday that an MRI on Manziel had shown no structural damage and that he was dealing with “a little bit of soreness.”

A day before announcing Manziel was likely done for the preseason, Pettine said Manziel “could play [if he had to]” in Saturday’s preseason game, but the team saw no reason to risk it. Thursday, Pettine said basically said the same, which adds to the mystery.

Earlier this week, new Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo told reporters Manziel’s injury was a function of his delivery.

Is it just soreness? Or is it something more — and potentially more serious — that’s likely to keep a player trying to rebound from a lost rookie season to miss basically two weeks of practice and two preseason games?

Pettine said Thursday the Browns had planned to give Manziel his first reps of the preseason with the starting offense at Tampa Bay. He led one touchdown drive in each of the first two preseason games with the No. 2 offense.

Manziel’s injury all but assures that Josh McCown will be the team’s starting quarterback for the Sept. 13 preseason opener at the Jets. Pettine had been firm that McCown was the No. 1 quarterback, but unless McCown can win a bunch of games the Browns need to see Manziel at some point to get a further evaluation on whether he can end the team’s ongoing quest for a franchise quarterback, and having arm problems makes things even more difficult on Manziel.

Browns add Devlin with Manziel out

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With Johnny Manziel unable to throw at least for now and Connor Shaw out possibly for the year with a thumb injury, the Browns signed journeyman quarterback Pat Devlin on Thursday after bringing him in for an emergency workout.

The Browns insist they’re just playing it safe with Manziel, but he’s twice been forced out of practice due to a sore elbow and now missing an important evaluation opportunity in Saturday night’s preseason game at Tampa Bay.

Devlin spent three years with the Dolphins, last year with the Vikings and part of the offseason with the Bears. The Browns need him to serve as the team’s third quarterback Saturday at Tampa Bay and possibly to play in next week’s preseason finale at Chicago if Manziel isn’t ready to return.

To make room for Devlin the team waived Ryan Seymour, a backup interior lineman who was recently suspended for the season’s first four games for a violation of the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy. Seymour started three games at center late last season.