Bryan Bulaga clears concussion protocol for Packers

AP

The Packers aren’t sure yet how long they’re going to hold a roster spot for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but the good news for replacement Brett Hundley is that he could have something more closely resembling an offensive line.

Via the team’s official website, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said they haven’t decided whether to put Rodgers on injured reserve after his surgery to repair a broken right collarbone.

“We’re actually discussing all the long-term options at this point,” McCarthy said. “The focus has been on Aaron’s health, making sure everything went well with the surgery.”

Rodgers declared the surgery a success via social media, but there has been no word on whether an at-least-eight-week stint on IR is in the cards. He missed seven games with a broken left collarbone in 2013.

The good news is that right tackle Bryan Bulaga has cleared the concussion protocol, and that left tackle David Bakhtiari has been a limited participant in practice after he didn’t finish last week’s game with a hamstring issue.

Getting better blocking will be key if they’re to hold things together in Rodgers’ absence.

No practice for Leonard Fournette, again

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After Sunday’s loss to the Rams, Jaguars running back  Leonard Fournette insisted that he’s fine, despite a lower leg injury that looked potentially significant.

Five days later, Fournette hasn’t been fine enough to practice.

Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, Fournette will be listed as not practicing on Friday, due to what turned out to be an ankle injury. At some point, the team will apply a label regarding his potential availability for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis: questionable, doubtful, or out.

Fournette has 596 yards rushing through six career regular-season games.

Giants rule out Olivier Vernon, list Sterling Shepard as questionable

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The Giants may get a wide receiver back in the lineup against the Seahawks on Sunday, but they’ll remain without one of their starting defensive ends.

Defensive end Olivier Vernon has been ruled out for the third straight week because of an ankle injury. There was some optimism about Vernon returning to open the week because he was able to practice on Wednesday, but Vernon was back on the sideline Thursday and will remain there for Sunday’s game.

Kerry Wynn and Avery Moss have been seeing time in his place with Jason Pierre-Paul on the other side of the line.

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard‘s ankle improved enough for him to practice all week on a limited basis and he’ll be listed as questionable for the Seattle game. Shepard did not play against the Broncos last Sunday and the Giants were limited to a pair of catches by their wideouts.

Center Weston Richburg will miss his third straight game with a concussion and running back Paul Perkins is out for the third week in a row with injured ribs. Linebackers Jonathan Casillas and Calvin Munson round out the group of players ruled out on Friday.

Should Jared Cook’s late touchdown have been upheld?

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Thursday night’s fantastic finish was nearly a lot less fantastic. And if the home team hadn’t scored on the second untimed down after the expiration of the clock, Raiders fans would have been shouting plenty of “F” words other than fantastic.

Before the series of three straight penalties that resulted in the game-winning touchdown, tight end Jared Cook caught what could have been the game-winning touchdown with 18 seconds on the clock. Indeed, the official who was looking right at the play called it a touchdown, meaning that the ruling would be overturned only if the league office found clear and obvious evidence to the contrary.

Yes, the various replay angles (including an excellent look from the pylon camera) showed Cook pinning the ball against his chest with one hand while his butt was on the ground. But Cook was in the process of going to the ground. After he hit the ground, the ball seemed to shifted in his possession as he rolled. He kept it from coming loose and, as we’ve learned over the years, becoming an incompletion.

Here’s the rule: “If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.”

In this case, it’s fair to interpret the visual evidence as showing Cook not having full and complete and final control of the ball (and thus not completing the catch) until he rolled into the end zone and secured the football after it moved from the spot where it was pinned against his chest. During replay review, that interpretation doesn’t matter. What matters is whether senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron sees “clear and obvious” proof that the official who was looking right at the play got it wrong.

In other words, is it clear and obvious that Cook didn’t finalize the catch via the shifting of the ball as he rolled in to the end zone? If the ball had popped in to the air and landed on the ground as Cook rolled into the end zone, the pass clearly would have been incomplete. More importantly for these circumstances, if the ball had popped in to the air and landed in Cook’s hands after he was in the end zone, the pass clearly would have been complete in the end zone.

What happened on Thursday night was much more subtle. The ball seems to shift as Cook rolls in to the end zone. The core question is whether the shifting of the ball was sufficiently minimal to make it “clear and obvious” that Cook clearly and obviously had full control when his butt landed and the ball was outside the end zone.

If it wasn’t clear and obvious, the ruling on the field shouldn’t have been reversed.

While it’s academic at this point since the Raiders won, it’s important to understand how these rulings are being determined by Riveron. Based on Sunday’s controversial Patriots-Jets outcome and last night’s Cook catch, it could be that clear and obvious evidence is being found in situations where things really aren’t clear or obvious enough to overcome the “50 drunks in a bar” standard for changing the call on the field.

Seahawks practice fashion in the thigh of beholder

AP

It’s a look that may not work for everybody, but Slick Watts doubtless approves.

The Seahawks have gone old school with their practice gear, as a number of players are participating in a “movement” of wearing short shorts in practice.

Via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, Seahawks tight end Luke Willson blamed/credited undrafted rookie offensive lineman Jordan Roos with the inspiration to wear 1970s-era NBA shorts in practice, and documented the event (which has even swept up quarterback Russell Wilson).

Coach Pete Carroll even hiked up his pants during practice to get in the spirit, and perhaps its best there’s no visual evidence of that.

Roos said the idea initially came from a “big meathead gym” he works out in back home in Texas.

“Wearing the short shorts has just kind of been my thing,” Roos said. “Sky’s out, thighs out.”

But undrafted rookies rarely make fashion statements, at least on purpose.

“I kind of waited a couple of weeks when I first got here and asked if they could hem a pair of my sweat pants,” Roos said. “But I worked up the courage and said, ‘Hey, this is cool,’ and I did it. I would kind of initially wear them during a walk-through and see if anybody would say anything, and it just kind of took off.”

So far they’re up to 10 players, but Wilson thinks it’s something that will take off.

“We’ve got the core group of guys now,” Willson said. “But I bet by Week 12-14, somewhere in there, we will have, what, the 53 [on the active roster] and the 10 [practice squad] guys, all 63 guys wearing it. That’s what I think.”

We’ll see if it becomes a thing, and if it does, we’re hoping that knee-high tube socks with the stripes at the top are the next innovation.

If Marshawn had been available, would the Raiders have run from the one?

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The memorable finish to last night’s Chiefs-Raiders games could have been more memorable if running back Marshawn Lynch had been available to play.

After the touchdown catch by tight end Jared Cook became, via replay review, first and goal from just outside the goal line, the Raiders would have had a decision to make, if Marshawn hadn’t been ejected: Run or pass?

It was, after all, a fateful decision to pass and not to run that sent Lynch’s Seahawks to a loss in Super Bowl XLIX, and that permanently fractured Lynch’s relationship with the team. And it was Raiders quarterback Derek Carr who seemed to vow that, in a similar situation, the decision would be to run the ball.

“[T]here’s no pressure, there’s no, ‘We’ll be on the 1-yard line and I won’t give it to Marshawn, I’ll throw it,'” Carr said when discussing his then-new contract in June. “None of that stuff. I don’t care about the stats. That’s not my No. 1 objective. I don’t care if I throw 10 touchdowns next year.

So, yes, it would have been great to see the Raiders in that situation, to see what they would have done, and to see whether it would have worked, and to see what everyone would have said if it hadn’t.

Jed York: 49ers have angered more fans with losing than protests

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There may be fans who are turning off the NFL because of some players protesting during the national anthem.

But 49ers owner Jed York knows that there’s a more organic reason for his fans’ unrest.

During an interview on KNBR, the 49ers owner displayed a self-depricating sense of humor while pointing out their obvious issues.

“We certainly heard some of that from people,” York said, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “But I’ll say in full honesty our bottom line has been hurt much more by bad coaching hires and decisions by me than anything that has happened here [with protests].”

Well, it’s hard to argue with that.

The 49ers have lost 35 of their last 43 games, and after a clash of personalties led Jim Harbaugh out the door, the failed Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly experiments led them to restart with John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan this year.

Asked what he’s learned over the process, York pointed to their own failings.

“I think I can write a multi-volume library (on what I’ve learned),” he said. “I’m not sure how much time we have, if we have like the entire show? I think the biggest thing is you have to be on the same page with your coach and G.M. It’s not just about winning games. It’s about how you do it. How you want to build your entire franchise.

“You look at Jimmy T. He’s a great guy. He did a lot of great things for us as a defensive line coach. I think it was the opposite personality of Jim Harbaugh. And it’s easy to sort of make that jump and say ‘OK we want to hire this guy because he’s different than the last guy.’ It was difficult at times to get along with (him) and you can have tension in the building with players. With the General Manager. So let’s hire Jimmy T. And it didn’t work.

“You look at Chip. I think Chip is a phenomenal football coach. I think it probably would have been better if we would have sat out a year before coming right back into it. But I think Chip’s going to get right back into it, whether it’s college or the NFL. And I think that’s where when you actually take a step back – I don’t look at what are we going to do this season. I’d love to win this season, but I want to get back to competing for championships. And if you’re going to compete for championships you have to start with a foundation. And I think you have to start with being on the same page.

“And I think that’s where Kyle (Shanahan) and I hit it off so well is — what I believe a football team should be about, Kyle believes the same things. He grew up that way. John Lynch is such an awesome person. Unbelievable player on the field. He’s somebody that you trust. He’s somebody that goes to work every day, but he takes input from people.

“And that’s the biggest thing. If you don’t have collaboration it doesn’t matter how much talent you have. You cannot win at the level we want to win at. You can’t win championships unless you have that collaboration.

“And you see it across the Bay with the Warriors. Those guys have collaboration. They have superstars that are willing to take less money because they are having so much fun playing together. You have a coach that embraces everything. You have an entire management that embraces it. I think they are the gold standard in sports right now. That’s where we want to get. And I think the only way you get there is understanding collaboration and knowing that you might have to do some things that make you feel uncomfortable. But if you’re not willing to do those things — and you’re not willing to put in that hard work — you will never have a chance to get to the level that we want to get to.”

Giving Lynch and Shanahan six-year contracts is a sign he’s willing to take the effort seriously, as they raze the remains of previous mistakes and try to start over.

Jaylon Smith taking a seat with Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens back in lineup

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The Cowboys planned to bring linebacker Jaylon Smith along slowly this season after he missed his entire rookie year with a major knee injury, but that approach shifted when Anthony Hitchens hurt his knee this summer.

Smith moved into a starting role and remained there after Hitchens finally returned to action in Week Five because Sean Lee was out with a hamstring injury. Lee is back on the weak side this week and Hitchens will be at middle linebacker, which means Smith will be in a reserve role.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said that Smith may have suffered for having to take on too much responsibility for defensive calls without having a veteran “to emulate a little bit.”

“I don’t see a lot of physical limitations,” Marinelli said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s just a lot for a young guy, a rookie, coming in at that position. It’s a lot and the communication and all the things you have — close calls, adjustments — it can wear you out as you go. It’s a lot to it.”

Smith had 54 tackles in the first five games, but the Cowboys have been gashed by the run in their last two losses. They hope to change that against the 49ers this weekend while getting Smith on a “pitch count” that better suits his learning curve.

Kyle Rudolph says Vikings can win with any of their three quarterbacks

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No team in the NFL has more uncertainty at the quarterback position than the Vikings, who are starting Case Keenum now but could go back to either Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater when their respective knee injuries are fully healed. But Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph says that uncertainty is not a problem.

Rudolph said on PFT Live that he and the Vikings’ other receivers have confidence in all three of their quarterbacks.

“These are all guys that can help us win football games,” Rudolph said. “Unfortunately in this business you deal with injuries. We seem to deal with more than everyone else in the last couple years but it happens. I think all these guys have handled it extremely well and have been ready for their opportunities.”

It’s unclear what the Vikings’ quarterback depth chart will look like when and if all three quarterbacks are healthy and ready to play, but Rudolph says that won’t matter to the rest of the team.

“I think the biggest thing is just for us as pass catchers, keeping a consistent routine and a consistent work habit throughout the course of the week,” Rudolph said. “We can’t worry about eight weeks from now, we can’t worry about next week, all we can focus on is taking each and every game and making sure we maximize those reps in practice.”

With the Vikings in first place in the NFC North, they have every reason to feel confident they can get to the playoffs, despite having no idea who their starting quarterback will be if they get there.

Art Rooney II: Martavis Bryant making progress, we’re not looking to trade him

AP

A report that Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant requested a trade made the rounds last weekend and led to a quick message from Bryant saying that he’s happy to be in Pittsburgh.

Coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger also chimed in to say that they’ve seen no sign of unhappiness from the wideout, who returned to action this year after being suspended for the entire 2016 season. Neither Tomlin nor Roethlisberger would be the final say on a decision to trade Bryant, although it doesn’t sound like there’s any chance of it happening.

While team president Art Rooney II admits that the season hasn’t gone as hoped for Bryant, he made it clear that the team isn’t planning to make a change.

“We’re not looking to trade Martavis,” Rooney said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He was out of football for a year. Maybe some of us had higher expectations how quickly he could get back up to full speed, but he’s making progress.”

Bryant has 17 catches for 231 yards on the year and will try to pick up the pace when the Steelers meet the Bengals this Sunday.

Steve Bisciotti happy with direction of Ravens

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The Ravens are 3-3. Could be better. Could be worse.

And while many fans might be unhappy with the team’s leadership on and off the field, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti seems pretty content.

Via Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti appeared on the “Ravens Rap” show at a bar, and expressed nothing but confidence in quarterback Joe Flacco, coach John Harbaugh and General Manager Ozzie Newsome.

Bisciotti said “a bunch of people would be happy” if he “fired” a bunch of people, but that would betray his “confidence in their competence.”

“I look at them, and then I look at us as a team, and I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” Bisciotti said. “I think a lot of this comes down to, . . . I hate to tell you that all our planning comes down a lot to a bounce of the ball.”

Last week, it bounced off receivers hands for interceptions, which he doesn’t seem willing to pin on Flacco. He mentioned that fans were often “short-term thinkers,” and he tries to not let temporary incidents affect his plans.

“So all I can tell you is that if we had won in overtime [against Chicago], then we all would be on cloud nine,” he said. “We’d be 4-2. We’d be one of the best four teams in the AFC, and everybody would be happy. Instead, we’re in the middle of the pack, one game back.

“If we make the playoffs this year, John Harbaugh will have made the playoffs in seven of 10 years. When I fired Brian Billick, if John walked up there and said, ‘I will be in the playoffs seven of the next 10 years,’ you would’ve said, ‘Hallelujah, God bless you.’ But now because they all came at the same time, then you can say he hasn’t been to the playoffs. So if he doesn’t get to the playoffs in four of the last five years, then the immediate reaction is, ‘Off with his head.’ And yet that would still be 60 percent playoff success.”

He also compared things he’s seeing now to the 2012 Ravens, who won a Super Bowl.

“Go back in your own notes and your own criticisms — they were all the same, and somehow we won a Super Bowl. ‘Ray Lewis is done,’ ‘Ed Reed won’t tackle,’ on and on and on, and then you win a Super Bowl,” Bisciotti said. “Go back and look at every team that finally wins the Super Bowl and go back and read all the prognostications and all the criticisms through the year, and it’s the same every year. So I have a hard time saying that this is a unique year. I don’t see it that way.”

If the Ravens end up winning it all again, the criticism will abate for a moment. But if they don’t make the playoffs, that will be three years in a row, so fans who don’t take the same long view as Bisciotti will remain frustrated.

Jamal Adams wants to change the way safety is played

AP

The Jets began rebuilding the back end of their defense in this year’s draft by taking safety Jamal Adams with the sixth overall pick of the draft and Adams has designs on doing more than just changing the Jets secondary.

Adams told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that he has set his sights on doing things that will affect the game across the league, pointing to Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham when describing the kind of impact he wants to make.

“I’m going to change the position,” Adams said. “When you go out there on the field, you don’t try to stay the same. You try to make something happen. You try to do something different. When Odell made the one-handed catch, he changed the culture, right? He changed what receivers do now. Everybody’s catching with one hand, right? Because of him. Even though people were making one-handed catches, he did something that people had never seen before. So just give it time, brother. That’s all.”

Adams didn’t specify exactly what he has in mind for reshaping the safety position, but coming up with the answer to guarding Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski wouldn’t be a bad place to start. Adams had the roughest outing of what’s been an otherwise strong start to his career against the Patriots last week and joined a long list of safeties who have found Gronkowski to be more than they could handle.

Solving that conundrum in a way that others could emulate would make for the kind of change Adams is talking about, although it certainly falls into the easier said than done category given Gronkowski’s accomplishments over the years.

LeSean McCoy: I have to get going

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The Bills return from their bye week to face the Buccaneers this weekend and one change they’d surely like to change is how often running back LeSean McCoy is finding his way into the end zone.

Just getting there once would be a good start. McCoy has not scored a touchdown yet this season, which is indicative of a rough start all around. His 3.2 average yards per carry is the lowest of his NFL career and McCoy said on Thursday that it is time for that to change.

“It’s been long enough. This is Week 7,” McCoy said, via ESPN.com. “I’ve got to get it back. We got to get this rolling. I think this is the game for us. They’re a talented group up front. They play well together. They got a McCoy [Gerald McCoy] on the other side, so of course he’s probably good. They’re a fast group. But teams have been running on them and I think it’s time for us to get it going. Simple as that.”

Adrian Peterson ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns against Tamps last weekend, so it wouldn’t be the first time that a running back got going against the Buccaneers after a slow start to the season.

Friday morning one-liners

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Will the Bills passing game get going this week?

Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke doesn’t want to talk about whether his unit is championship caliber.

WR Brandin Cooks believes he has room to grow in the Patriots offense.

Jets RT Brandon Shell will have to tangle with Cameron Wake this weekend.

Don’t come to Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees with criticism of the Ravens defense.

Looking for the passion that usually rises when the Bengals face the Steelers.

Is this the week when the Browns win a game?

Is there still bad blood between the Steelers and Bengals?

WR Bruce Ellington has been a good fit with the Texans.

A call for the Colts to use RB Marlon Mack more often.

The Jaguars saw QB Jacoby Brissett in the preseason, but he was on a different team at that point.

Said Titans coach Mike Mularkey of facing former Titans CB Jason McCourty, “He knows the scheme, but to go in there and try to go in there and decipher everything and know your own defense, it’s difficult. I’ve been on different teams, it’s difficult. You can drill them all you want, there isn’t a whole lot that comes out of it.”

How concerned should the Broncos be about their run defense?

The Chiefs defense couldn’t make a stop when needed.

CB Trevor Williams has stepped into a starting role for the Chargers.

WR Michael Crabtree made the biggest catch of the night for the Raiders.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli addressed the team’s turnover drought.

The change in offensive playcalling was a smooth one for the Giants.

Strong starts for WR Nelson Agholor and TE Zach Ertz make the Eagles’ decision to trade Jordan Matthews look good.

Andreas Knappe went from rooting for the Redskins in Denmark to a spot on their practice squad.

What went wrong for the Bears on special teams last week?

T Taylor Decker is antsy to get back into the lineup for the Lions.

Packers G Jahri Evans will face his former Saints teammates this weekend.

The Vikings get a chance to see WR Mike Wallace for the first time since he was on the team.

Said Falcons WR Julio Jones of the Patriots defense, “At the end of the day it’s about us. We’re not looking at them as far as what they have over there. At the end of the day, we’ve got to go out there and play and be fundamentally sound, communicate and be on the same page.”

LB David Mayo is ready to go for the Panthers if Luke Kuechly can’t play.

Saints RB Mark Ingram would like a big day at Lambeau Field.

Buccaneers LS Garrison Sanborn will face his former team this weekend.

S Tyrann Mathieu believes splash plays are coming for the Cardinals.

The Rams had an extended stay in Jacksonville.

The 49ers like the way CB Ahkello Witherspoon is developing.

The Seahawks hope to give up fewer big plays coming out of their bye.

Donald Penn: Marshawn was trying to protect cousin Marcus Peters

AP

When Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sprinted off the sideline to join a scuffle that started after Raiders offensive linemen Donald Penn and Kelechi Osemele took offense to Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters hit Derek Carr late, the immediate thought was that Lynch was also upset about the hit.

Lynch wound up being ejected for grabbing an official during the scuffle, but his intent may not have been to get at Peters. Lynch and Peters are both from Oakland and Lynch was a mentor to Peters, including letting Peters live with him while Peters was at the University of Washington and Lynch was playing for the Seahawks. After the game, Penn said that relationship was what led Lynch to storm the field.

“I saw Marshawn come out there; that’s his cousin,” Penn said, via ESPN.com. “Chris Long did that thing to his brother a couple years ago. Marshawn wasn’t doing anything. He was just trying to protect his cousin, get his cousin to the sideline. They’re real close, they’re more like brothers than cousins, they’re real close. He’s going to learn. Marshawn’s smart, he’s going to learn from that moving forward.”

Peters seemed to agree about Lynch’s intent, saying, via the San Jose Mercury News, that “family comes first” after the game and all appeared to be quite well between the two players when they met up on a BART train after the game.

Lynch didn’t share any of his thoughts after the game and history says he’s unlikely to do it at any point in the future either.