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Patriots release Donald Brown, E.J. Biggers, Frank Kearse

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 3:  Running back Donald Brown #34 of the San Diego Chargers reaches for and comes up with a 1-yard gain for a first down as he is tackled by inside linebacker Danny Trevathan #59 of the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots cut three players on Monday and they dispatched three more on Tuesday to drop their roster to 74 players ahead of this week’s third preseason game.

According to multiple reports, the three players sent packing are running back Donald Brown, cornerback E.J. Biggers and defensive tackle Frank Kearse. All three players were signed as free agents this offseason.

Brown underwhelmed with the Chargers over the last two seasons and wasn’t able to practice for the last few weeks due to an undisclosed injury. The Patriots running back group now features LeGarrette Blount, James White, Brandon Bolden, Tyler Gaffney, James Develin, Joey Iosefa and the injured Dion Lewis.

Biggers has been a regular for the Buccaneers, Redskins and Eagles over the last three seasons, but was behind younger corners in the battle for roster spots in the Patriots secondary. Kearse also found himself looking up at several other defensive tackles at what’s shaping up to be a deep position for the Pats in 2016.

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New Madden game is out, and Dez Bryant isn’t happy about that

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Some players are afflicted by the Madden curse. Other players simply curse Madden.

The 2017 version of the game has been released, and Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant isn’t happy with his overall rating.

“Like I told Madden, they put me at 90, I’m not worried about that,” Bryant recently said, via the Dallas Morning News.

Jon Machota of the Daily News suggests that Bryant was speaking with a joking tone. For NFL players who play Madden, however, their personal rating is rarely something to joke about.

“I play Madden, I [expletive] love Madden,” Bryant said. “They would do me like that? Oh my God. That is an insult, like why would you do that to me? How much I love y’all. Like what? Not John Madden, because I love him. It’s the developers.”

Early on, the player was stuck with his rating all year. The ability to update numbers based on performance allows players to go up, and down, based on how they perform in real life. That’s why Bryant has vowed to see his 90 improve.

“That rating going to shoot up real quick, you best believe that,” Bryant said.

In a sport where motivation comes in a bunch of different ways, Cowboys fans eventually may be thanking EA Sports for giving Bryant a reason to achieve at an even higher level.

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Roberto Aguayo nails a pressure kick (in practice)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Roberto Aguayo (19) kicks a field goal as punter Jacob Schum (5) holds during a Buccaneers NFL football training camp practice Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. Aguayo was a Buccaneers second round pick in the 2016 draft. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) AP

Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo is struggling through the preseason, admitting he’s missing kicks he shouldn’t and working with a mental coach.

But Bucs coach Dirk Koetter still thinks Aguayo can make kicks under pressure, and so he put his rookie kicker on the hot seat at Monday’s practice: Koetter gathered the whole team and told them he’d end practice immediately if Aguayo hit a 50-yard field goal, but they’d have to keep going if Aguayo missed.

According to Jenna Laine of ESPN, Aguayo nailed it and his teammates cheered some time off.

Through two preseason games, Aguayo has missed three kicks: An extra point, a 32-yard field goal and a 49-yard field goal. The longest kick he’s made was just 38 yards. Considering that the Bucs traded their third-round pick and their fourth-round pick to move up and draft Aguayo in the second round, that’s troubling.

Making a practice kick with the pressure on might do something to boost Aguayo’s confidence. But to boost the confidence of the Bucs that they didn’t botch their decision to trade up for a kicker, he’ll have to make big kicks when the games count.

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Jabaal Sheard has MCL sprain, which could put opener in doubt

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16:  Jabaal Sheard #93 of the New England Patriots warms up for the the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots are counting on Jabaal Sheard becoming more of a pass-rush threat this year, after trading away Chandler Jones.

But it doesn’t appear he’s going to be doing much of anything until the regular season opener, if then.

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Sheard is dealing with a sprained MCL, and could miss another few weeks.

He initially suffered the injury during the Aug. 11 preseason opener. If the injury is on the less serious side, a two- to four-week recovery is possible. That would put him in line to play in the regular season opener.

The Patriots also lost Rob Ninkovich to a torn triceps muscle, and Shea McClellin suffered an undisclosed injury against the Saints as well (Just taking a wild guess, he’ll be questionable).

Sheard had 8.0 sacks last year after coming over from Cleveland.

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Dez Bryant suffers concussion in practice

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys prepares to take on the New York Jets at AT&T Stadium on December 19, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant suffered a concussion in practice Monday and won’t play in Thursday night’s preseason game at Seattle.

Mike Fisher of 105.3 the Fan in Dallas was first to report that Bryant and Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford both recently suffered concussions.

Starters rarely play in the preseason finale, so the team will focus on having Bryant available for the Sept. 11 season opener, which is 19 days away. Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones told 105.3 The Fan that both Bryant and Crawford are being monitored and said their concussions “shouldn’t impact them over the long haul.”

Bryant tweeted Tuesday morning that he’s OK.

I promise,” he wrote.

Bryant played in the team’s first two preseason games. Two foot surgeries limited Bryant to nine games last season, but he’s been one of the league’s best receivers when healthy.

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Man in Tom Brady jersey swipes Super Bowl XLIX signed helmet

tom-brady-free-jim-rogash-getty-images-e1464548024252 Getty Images

This looks like a job for Ted Wells.

According to the Associated Press, police in Massachusetts are trying to find a man who stole a Super Bowl XLIX helmet signed by members of the Patriots from a bar near Gillette Stadium earlier this month.

At Skipjack’s on August 11, a man wearing a Tom Brady jersey climbed over the bar, took the helmet, wrapped it in the jersey, and walked out the door.

The culprit also allegedly didn’t pay his bill.

The thief (presumably not Tom Brady) apparently has a conscience. He reportedly called the bar to confess to the crime, and he said that he would ship the helmet back to the bar. So far, it hasn’t arrived.

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Dak Prescott’s cool with vanilla, or rocky road if that’s what’s served up

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) runs past Miami Dolphins' Terrence Fede (78) and Spencer Paysinger (42) into the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) AP

Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has been the star of the NFL preseason.

And while it’s easy for the Cowboys to get excited — their bar for backup quarterbacks has been sufficiently lowered — most are taking Prescott’s gaudy preseason numbers with a grain of salt.

But Prescott said even if opponents weren’t game-planning against him or running the kinds of defenses he’d see in the regular season, he’s still confident in his ability.

“That’s on them if they want to throw vanilla or rocky road or whatever they want to throw at me,” Prescott said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “It really has no [bearing] on what I do. I just go out there and try to concentrate on our game plan and play my best.”

So far, that’s been pretty good, and enough to convince the Cowboys they might not have to go find a veteran backup.

Through two preseason games, Prescott has a perfect passer rating (158.3), completing 22-of-27 passes for 338 yards and four touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns for good measure.

“My mindset is I want to be a starter for this organization one day, and a starter in this league for a long time,” Prescott said. “I’m going to continue to push myself and make myself the best as I can each and every day.”

And while it’s good that he’s confident, things could get much harder for the fourth-round rookie if he’s ever in a position of seeing more complicated defenses.

Then again, the Cowboys are holding their breath he doesn’t have to this season.

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Tom Brady back at Patriots practice Tuesday

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) gets set to throw a pass as Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) watches during football training camp, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) AP

Quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t been at Patriots practice for the last two days after being excused from the team’s workouts for personal reasons.

Those absences continued a run of unexpected absences for Brady this summer that also include missing the first preseason game to attend a memorial service and missing the second game after he reportedly cut his thumb with scissors while working on his cleats. Coach Bill Belichick declined to elaborate on the reason for this absence and he shouldn’t have to answer any other questions about it on Tuesday.

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports that Brady is back with the team for one of their last practices before Thursday’s game against the Panthers.

Belichick said Monday that he doesn’t view that game as a dress rehearsal for the start of the regular season, so we’ll see how they handle things in terms of getting Brady playing time or if Jimmy Garoppolo continues to do all of the work with the starters ahead of his four-game stint as the team’s starter in the regular season.

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Dolphins want “a long look” at Arian Foster this week

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) hands off the ball to running back Arian Foster (34) during warmups before an NFL football game Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth) AP

The Dolphins gave running back Arian Foster his first playing time of the preseason against the Cowboys last week, but it was a limited appearance.

Foster was in for nine snaps and got the ball on two of them without finding much running room. Foster lost five yards while getting little help from the blocking on his two carries, leaving coach Adam Gase to make plans to extend Foster’s time on the field against the Falcons on Thursday.

“We didn’t have much to evaluate,” Gase said, via the Miami Herald. “Whatever carries he had, there wasn’t much there to try to create. He did a couple of things on his own. Hopefully we can take a long look at him this week. I don’t want to overdo it with him. Obviously, his resume speaks for itself.”

The Dolphins are expected to keep the first team in the game into the second half on Thursday, so there will be more snaps for Foster as the team works on setting up the look of their backfield for the start of the regular season. With rookie Kenyan Drake still sidelined by a hamstring injury, that look will likely come down to how they balance playing time for Foster and Jay Ajayi.

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Sheldon Richardson: I “got my head right” this year

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 03:  Mike Gillislee #35 of the Buffalo Bills is tackled from behond by Sheldon Richardson #91 of the New York Jets during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson will serve a one-game suspension to start the regular season, which makes it two years in a row that Richardson will miss the opening of the season because of league discipline.

Other than injury, those off-field issues represent the biggest obstacle to Richardson’s continued success on the field. Richardson seems to recognize that, telling reporters that he “got my head right” this offseason when asked about his maturity.

Words are one thing, but actions will tell the tale. One way that Richardson has tried to show a better approach has come in his dealings with defensive line coach Pepper Johnson. Richardson has been more open to Johnson’s coaching in their second season together.

“I’m a little more compliant this year,” Richardson said, via Newsday. “Last year, I was a little more hardheaded. I felt my way worked. I felt like I knew the system. We were trying new stuff, so I just was being hardheaded. That’s all.”

Richardson is signed through next season after the Jets exercised their fifth-year option on his contract and the size of the deal that will follow his rookie one will be determined in large part by how things play out over those two years. Buying in on the field while keeping things quiet off of it sounds like the best formula to making that deal a big one.

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Falcons expect Vic Beasley to play this week

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 29:  Vic Beasley Jr. #44 of the Atlanta Falcons runs out on the field prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Georgia Dome on November 29, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons pulled linebacker Vic Beasley from the lineup for last week’s game against the Browns because of a shoulder injury, which brought back some bad memories from his rookie season.

Beasley was bothered by a torn labrum while picking up four sacks in 2015 and another similar injury would be a bad way to kick off his move to a new position that the Falcons hope leads to a boost in pass rush production. Coach Dan Quinn said that the two issues are unrelated, however, and Beasley is on track to play against the Dolphins this week.

“Vic looked healthy today and played in all of the nickel reps today,” Quinn said, via the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “We anticipate him being back for the game.”

Beasley played two snaps in the Falcons’ first preseason game, so he hasn’t had much game action in his revised role this summer. Thursday brings an opportunity to change that and lay groundwork for the changes Atlanta wants to see in their pass rush.

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Randy Gregory gets a Cowboys locker, but Rolando McClain doesn’t

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 14:  Rolando McClain #55 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 14, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys seemingly have one of everything at their new practice facility.

But they don’t have a locker for Rolando McClain, which could be a good sign about his future with the team.

According to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys have left a spot in the locker room for suspended defensive end Randy Gregory, but not for McClain, who has been suspended the first 10 games of the regular season for his latest substance-abuse policy violation.

Of course, Gregory had made some degree of effort to be part of the team, before checking himself into a rehab facility. McClain skipped most of the offseason work, and didn’t make the team plane to California for training camp.

Both are on the reserve/did not report list, but giving one of them a spot in the locker room and not the other should give some indication of how they view the two players. The Cowboys are well-known chance-givers, but McClain might have used all of his up.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley, top, is dragged down Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang) AP

Three reasons why the sky isn’t falling on the Bills.

WR Jakeem Grant played one snap on offense for the Dolphins last week.

Patriots LB Donta’ Hightower is taking on more of a leadership role.

Rookie LB Darron Lee’s potential is starting to show during Jets practices.

The play of the offensive line will do much to determine how successful the Ravens are this year.

How will the Bengals divvy up playing time at wide receiver?

The Browns are looking forward to getting a look at their top receiving trio for the first time.

Having DeAngelo Williams helps make losing RB Le’Veon Bell to suspension less daunting for the Steelers.

Texans DT D.J. Reader looks to Vince Wilfork as a mentor.

S Clayton Geathers is stepping up his workload at Colts practice.

The Jaguars have some decisions to make down the depth chart at running back.

G Sebastian Tretola is seeing time with the Titans’ starting offensive line.

Some facts about potential Broncos starting QB Trevor Siemian.

The Chiefs expect more from WR Chris Conley this season.

Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman caught the eye of Raiders TE Colton Underwood.

Rookie LB Jatavis Brown is trying to get back on the field for the Chargers.

Said Cowboys QB Dak Prescott of facing “vanilla” defenses in preseason, “That’s on them if they want to throw vanilla or rocky road or whatever they want to throw at me. It really has no [bearing] on what I do. I just go out there and try to concentrate on our game plan and play my best.”

G Justin Pugh wants to see more consistency on the Giants offensive line.

WR Paul Turner is getting positive reviews from Eagles QB Sam Bradford.

TE Jordan Reed expects to play in the Redskins’ third preseason game.

Looking for signs of progress from the Bears.

The Lions released WR Andre Caldwell from injured reserve.

The Packers are doing something different with their punters this week.

Vikings CB Trae Waynes hopes to take advantage of increased opportunity with the starters.

RB Brandon Wilds is contending for a roster spot with the Falcons.

DE Wes Horton is trying to work his way back for the Panthers after injuries and a suspension.

Saints rookie S Vonn Bell thinks he can be an effective blitzer.

Former Buccaners K Martin Gramatica says everyone should be patient with rookie K Roberto Aguayo.

Cardinals starters might not play as much this week as peers with other teams.

CB E.J. Gaines is making a push for playing time in the Rams secondary.

49ers LB Marcus Rush lived up to his name with three sacks against the Broncos.

Seahawks QB and former minor leaguer Russell Wilson has some baseball advice for Tim Tebow.

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Bill Belichick: Third preseason game not in “same universe” as regular season

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 18: Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watches the action during a preseason game with the Chicago Bears in the second half of a preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 18, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

NFL teams are playing their third preseason game of the summer this week and that usually means they’ll be giving more playing time to the players set to play sizable roles during the regular season before essentially giving them the day off in the final exhibition contest.

That has led to many people referring to the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn’t one of those people.

During an appearance on “Dale & Holley” on WEEI on Monday, Belichick explained that playing time and “1-on-1 matchups” may bear some resemblance to what happens down the road but that little else about the games can compare.

“I don’t. I don’t know what that means,” Belichick said. “In terms of playing time it might be a little different, but in terms of game-planning and strategy, what we see in the regular season compared to what we see the in third preseason game I don’t even think you’re in the same universe. We’re still running our basic plays and we’d expect our opponents would run their basic plays. You get to the opener and start to get to game-planning and scheme, I mean you’re in a totally different ballpark, in my opinion. I don’t see any comparison at all. It’s too far away, I don’t see how you could compare them, from that standpoint.”

With their offensive line in flux and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo preparing for his first regular season starts, the Patriots have given plenty of playing time to players who will be on the field in September. This week’s game with the Panthers will give those players an idea of things that need to be cleaned up before Week One, which may be akin to a dress rehearsal but the lack of full stage directions does make it less of a simulation of what’s to come.

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Unmuzzled in D.C., Josh Norman plans to talk up a storm

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 11:  Josh Norman #24 of the Washington Redskins works out during pregame warmups prior to facing the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on August 11, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cornerback Josh Norman burst onto the scene last year both as one of the best defensive backs in the NFL and one of the most brash. Whether he plays better in Washington remains to be seen; it’s already clear he’ll be even more brash.

In an interview with Kevin Van Walkenberg of ESPN The Magazine, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, Norman explained that the Panthers wanted him to tone down the trash talk, and that his new team has applied no such restrictions. That will make for interesting periodic appearances on FOX’s pregame show this season, and it apparently made for a compelling interview of Norman in print.

Steinberg has some excerpts from the item, which has yet to appear, as best I can tell, in the alphabet junkyard that is the front page of ESPN.com.

Here are three strong comments that appear in one single paragraph of the story: (1) Norman calls Commissioner Roger Goodell “horrible” and “straight horrible”; (2) Norman blames the league’s six-year-old crackdown on big hits, a move that predated his entry to the NFL, as evidence that “[s]ociety is so soft”; and (3) Norman defends his current team’s name, justifying his position by claiming that he’s part Native American on both sides of his family. (The fact that the franchise using the name pays him $15 million per year may have had a role in shaping Norman’s views.)

The full interview apparently will be released on Friday, when the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine is available at newsstands. Now, all I need to do is go find a newsstand. Maybe there’s one next to the drive-in movie theater.

Moving forward, the question becomes how quickly Norman’s shtick will go the way of newsstands and drive-ins. If he becomes a factory of over-the-top quotes, many will eventually become numb to anything he says, regarding it all not as an authentic, unfiltered viewpoint but as a device for getting more and more (and more) attention.

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