TD pass wraps up Aaron Rodgers’ short night of good work

AP

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked just fine in his first preseason appearance this summer.

The Packers announced before the game that Rodgers would play one possession and he made the most of it. Rodgers went 6-of-8 for 37 yards, including a three-yard touchdown to his new tight end Martellus Bennett to wrap up the drive. Rodgers also scrambled 13 yards for a first down and showed off his knack for catching a defense in a penalty.

Green Bay’s drive looked like it would end after three plays, but they challenged and asked for a review on whether the Redskins had 12 men on the field when the ball was snapped. The review showed that was the case and the Packers drove down the field from there.

Rookie Jamaal Williams started at running back with Ty Montgomery injured and ran five times for 15 yards in support of Rodgers.

Bengals lose Shawn Williams to elbow injury

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The Bengals may need a new starting safety for at least a little while.

Shawn Williams was taken off the field on a cart after a run by Chiefs rookie Kareem Hunt in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game. The Bengals ruled Williams out for the rest of the night with what they called a right elbow injury a short time later.

The television shot of Williams going down showed his arm bending awkwardly as he hit the ground and it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Williams suffered a severe injury.

Williams started 15 games for the Bengals last season and finished the year with 81 tackles, a sack and three interceptions.

UPDATE 10:09 p.m. ET: Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Bengals fear Williams dislocated his elbow. He will undergo further tests before a final diagnosis is reached.

Dak Prescott almost perfect in two series

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Dak Prescott played only two series, but he was so good the Cowboys didn’t need to see anymore.

The second-year quarterback completed 7-of-8 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Although he wasn’t perfect — his one incompletion was intended for Cole Beasley — Prescott finished with a perfect passer rating (158.3).

It was Prescott’s first action since the divisional-round playoff loss to the Packers ended his rookie season.

“It felt great,” Prescott said in halftime quotes distributed by the team. “I was ready to play a lot more than I did. I think what we’re getting at is getting the routes locked in ready to go. It was good to get back out there.”

Prescott spent the offseason working on throwing a better deep ball after completing only 38 passes that traveled over 20 yards through the air last season. He showed the progress with a 32-yard, back-shoulder throw to Dez Bryant for a touchdown, completing a six-play, 95-yard drive to start the night for the Cowboys.

Bryant finished with two catches for 55 yards as he tries to regain his 2014 All-Pro form after two injury-plagued seasons.

“I don’t know if I can honestly put it into words just how much better of a player he is, and we were just talking about how good his body feels,” Prescott said. “He’s just a much better player right now than what he was last year at this time. Our chemistry is growing, so it’s fun.”

On the Cowboys’ second series, Prescott drove them from the Colts 17 to the Dallas 15 before a Darren McFadden fumble.

Prescott said he is a better quarterback now than he was a year ago when he won offensive rookie of the year honors and threw 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

“A lot more confidence; a lot more knowledge in what I’m doing,” Prescott said. “I’m just going out there and trying to give all these guys on offense a chance with the ball.”

Giants T Michael Bowie charged with domestic violence

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Tackle Michael Bowie will not be traveling with the Giants to Cleveland for Monday night’s game against the Browns due to a domestic violence charge in Oklahoma.

The Tulsa World reports that court records show that Bowie faces one count of domestic assault and battery and two counts of malicious injury to property under $1,000. He has a warrant out for his arrest as of Saturday.

Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Elmore said that reports on the matter indicate that Bowie and his girlfriend argued about financial issues and things escalated to the physical realm when the woman made a comment about Bowie’s mother. Bowie is accused of grabbing his girlfriend by the neck and throwing her to the ground before breaking two televisions. He’s also accused of punching a hole in her wall.

The Giants announced that they found out about Bowie’s situation on Saturday and that Bowie will not make the trip. The team also said they notified NFL security. These are just charges at this point, but that alone may be enough to cost Bowie his spot on the roster given Bowie’s low status on the depth chart at this point.

Aaron Rodgers will start on Saturday night

AP

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers saw his only action of last year’s preseason in the team’s third game, but they won’t wait as long to put him on the field this summer.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy announced on WTMJ before the start of the game against the Redskins that Rodgers would get his first action of the preseason and then make a quick trip to the bench.

“Aaron is going to start the game, looking for a good drive, and then we’ll work some guys in,” McCarthy said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

Rodgers said earlier this month that he didn’t feel playing in one preseason game was a factor in the team’s slow offensive start in 2016. Whether or not others felt differently or Rodgers had a change of heart, it looks like he’ll be making at least one more appearance this time around.

Wide receiver Jordy Nelson is also in uniform on Saturday after sitting last week. Running back Ty Montgomery remains out with a leg injury, which should put rookie Jamaal Williams in position for first team work.

Ezekiel Elliott not playing tonight

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The Cowboys got to see what life is like without Ezekiel Elliott again Saturday night.

The star running back, whom the league suspended for the first six games, stayed on the sideline without his helmet as the Cowboys starters ran onto the field after the opening kickoff. Darren McFadden started in his place.

Dallas didn’t miss him on its first series, taking only six plays to go 95 yards with Dak Prescott hitting Dez Bryant for a 32-yard touchdown against Vontae Davis. But McFadden lost a fumble on the team’s second series. He has lost 15 fumbles in his career, including three in 2015 when he took over as the Cowboys’ feature back midway through the season.

The Cowboys are playing their third preseason game, and Elliott has yet to make an appearance. McFadden and Alfred Morris both saw action in the team’s first two preseason games.

McFadden entered with nine carries for 22 yards, and Morris 12 carries for 53 yards. McFadden had three carries for 16 yards on the first series against the Colts.

The Cowboys will rely on McFadden and Morris in Elliott’s absence. The two veteran backs have combined for five 1,000-yard seasons, 10,379 career yards and 59 rushing touchdowns.

Blake Bortles tuning out criticism as he tries to keep his job

AP

Even though most people are openly wondering if Blake Bortles should remain the starting quarterback in Jacksonville (including, apparently, the Jaguars), Bortles isn’t worrying about it.

Mostly, because he’s not aware of it.

Via John Reid of the Florida Times-Union, Bortles said he’s gone into radio silence as he tries to focus on keeping the job that’s been his the last three years.

“Whether you think you are mentally strong as you possible can, if you read negative stuff about yourself long enough there’s no way to not believe it,” Bortles said before Saturday’s practice. “I don’t watch cable sports news channels and I got to stay off social media and all that stuff because it does nothing for you. Anything you guys say, I have no idea. I think it’s all I can do is go out there and go earn, prove and show them with each play I can do it and I can consistently do it.”

To do so, he’s found himself in a competition for the job. He and backup Chad Henne split reps with the starters Saturday, and coach Doug Marrone said he’s going to continue to evaluate whether it’s time to make a change prior to Thursday’s third preseason game.

“I’m looking for the best person to lead our offense,” Marrone said. “I’m not saying that Chad [Henne] has it or not. It’s right up there for grabs, and either person can take it. I’m just looking to see who can lead from that position.”

Going into last week, it was hard to imagine that was anyone but Bortles, but the former No. 3 overall pick has made it a question with his own play.

Elliott witnesses weren’t placed under oath

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As the Ezekiel Elliott case heads toward an appeal hearing with unclear parameters or procedures, one specific procedure regarding the pre-disciplinary process is becoming more clear: Witnesses weren’t placed under oath.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the league didn’t administer the oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth under penalty of perjury to Elliott at the June 26 hearing. This likely means that Tiffany Thompson wasn’t placed under oath, either, when she was questioned. (The NFL has not responded to a Friday email asking whether Thompson was interviewed under oath.)

The oath gets violated all the time, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be administered. For some, the gravity and potential consequences of lying while under oath makes a difference while telling a story — especially when it comes to spotting stress when someone is telling a story that isn’t true. For many, it’s hard enough to lie without lying under oath; it becomes even harder when the oath comes into play.

Of course, the impact of the oath on the perceived credibility of a witness has less meaning when the person making the decision doesn’t personally scrutinize the witness while testifying. But for the same reason Commissioner Roger Goodell should have been present to see and hear what Elliott and Thompson had to say, the NFL should have put all witnesses under oath as part of the process of gathering facts.

These deficiencies suggest that arbitrator Harold Henderson should: (1) hear testimony from all key witnesses; and (2) ensure that those witnesses are under oath in resolving Elliott’s appeal. If the league intends through its in-house justice system to apply the label of domestic abuser to one of its players, how can protections like these not be implemented?

Without Newton, Panthers offense still struggling

AP

If Ron Rivera was upset at his “terrible” offense earlier this week, his reaction today ought to be special.

Playing without quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers offense has flatlined in Tennessee, allowing the Titans to take a 17-0 lead in the first quarter.

The Panthers’ offense turned the ball over twice on the first play of a series (with the three-and-out between them looking like tremendous progress).

Wide receiver Devin Funchess fumbled on their first possession, and quarterback Derek Anderson was picked off on the third try, and the Panthers gained a total of eight (8?!?) yards on their first three drives.

Their hope remains that Newton will be fine for the start of the regular season, but there are some real questions about what their offense will be able to do early. Newton’s work has been limited in training camp as he recovers from shoulder surgery in March, and at a time when the Panthers are trying to “evolve” their offense, that creates a few layers of concern.

Things picked up in the second quarter, with rookie running back Christian McCaffrey getting to the end zone, but in the absence of Newton, it’s hard to know exactly what they’re going to look like early in the season.

Bucs-Jags becomes lowest rated ESPN preseason game since 2005

AP

While it’s too early to start wringing hands and/or gnashing teeth about TV ratings for 2017, ESPN’s debut broadcast did not fare well. At all.

Via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, Thursday’s games between the Buccaneers and the Jaguars generated  a 1.6 rating. Based on numbers from Sports Media Watch, that’s the lowest rating for a preseason game since 2005.

Twelve years ago, a tape-delayed showing of a Falcons-Colts game produced a 1.5 rating.

Yes, Thursday’s game featured a pair of teams who haven’t been to the postseason in a decade. But the Jaguars have their annual “maybe they wont’ stink this year” buzz, and the Bucs are the 2017 Hard Knocks darlings.

So it should be a little alarming that so few tuned in to watch the game — even if the ongoing hemorrhaging of subscribers probably has something to do with the dip in the ESPN audience.

Bengals waive Cedric Thompson with injury settlement

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The Bengals announced they waived safety Cedric Thompson with an injury settlement on Saturday. He had signed with the Bengals on July 31 after safeties Derron Smith and George Iloka were injured.

Smith and Iloka have returned to practice since.

During his four seasons at the University of Minnesota, Thompson made 205 tackles, five interceptions and three forced fumbles. The Dolphins made Thompson a fifth-round choice in 2015.

He spent nine games on the Vikings’ practice squad last season. They waived him May 4.

Thompson spent the 2015 season on the Dolphins’ practice squad.

Saturday one-liners

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When it comes to the anthem protests, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has opted to say nothing.

Ravens TE Maxx Williams has been dubbed a “sneaky athlete” by coach John Harbaugh.

Bengals LB Hardy Nickerson Jr. participated in 34 total snaps in the preseason opener.

One specific moment from Browns QB DeShone Kizer in the preseason opener caught the attention, and drew the praise, of quarterbacks coach David Lee.

The Bills have not yet considered moving rookie second-rounder Dion Dawkins to LT.

Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi had no issue with an illegal hit he absorbed while out of bounds on Thursday night; “It’s football,” he said.”

DT Lawrence Guy hopes to be more than just another guy (couldn’t resist) with the Patriots.

Jets special-teams coach Brant Boyer calls the kicking competition a “dog fight.” (Hopefully the loser won’t be electrocuted or drowned.)

The Texans have bid adieu to West Virginia.

Lost in the concern about the Jaguars’ quarterbacks is the concern about the players who block for them.

Troymaine Pope has gone from working at a Honda plant for $9 an hour to playing RB for the Colts.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey calls WR Harry Douglasinvaluable,” adding that he’s a “coach in the locker room and on the field.”

Perhaps the final audition for the Broncos’ starting QB job is coming against San Francisco.

New Chiefs G.M. Brett Veach put QB Patrick Mahomes on the team’s radar before Veach had that job.

The Raiders have plenty of issues that could impact their ability to be as good as everyone expects them to be.

The Chargers’ joint practices with New Orleans were far less violent than the joint practices with their new neighbors.

The Madden game has given one Bears QB a three-point edge over the other.

Could Greg Robinson be the answer for the Lions at left tackle?

The Packers want to see LB Kyler Fackrell translate thought into action.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer expects LT Riley Reiff to play in the third preseason game.

12,000 fans per day are expected to watch the Cowboys practice at The Star.

Some think Davis Webb is starting to look like the Giants’ eventual successor to Eli Manning.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson has no concerns about K Caleb Sturgis.

Is Washington practicing hard enough?

Wes Schweitzer will start at RG for the Falcons in Pittsburgh.

Here are five things to watch in the Panthers’ second preseason game.

Saints coach Sean Payton has yet to decide whether his veteran stars will play on Sunday.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter on Jameis Winston‘s wing-and-a-prayer toss to the end zone while falling down backward: “Elite quarterbacks don’t make that play.” (Doug Williams begs to differ.)

QB Drew Stanton has earned the trust of Carson Palmer.

New Rams WR Sammy Watkins continues to study the “ins and outs” of the playbook.

Here are 10 winners and 10 losers from the first 49ers training camp under Kyle Shanahan.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is “ready to role” and “excited about the season.”

Dolphins add Rey Maualuga

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The Dolphins are adding some depth at linebacker.

Rey Maualuga has agreed to terms with Miami, according to multiple reports.

The Dolphins became interested in Maualuga after losing rookie Raekwon McMillan for the season to a torn ACL. Maualuga and Mike Hull will compete for the starting middle linebacker spot.

Maualuga previously played for Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke in Cincinnati, so he likely won’t need much time to get up to speed.

The 30-year-old Mauluga has spent his entire career with the Bengals. He started six games last season.

Calls for NFL boycott emerging from Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment

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The crowdsourcing effort by teams like the Ravens to determine whether Colin Kaepernick should have a job now has another factor to consider: Fans who believe Kaepernick is being unfairly shunned may shun pro football.

In addition to online petitions that have lingered for the past few weeks, the Atlanta NAACP announced on Friday a boycott of the NFL.

“There will be no football in the state of Georgia if Colin Kaepernick is not on a training camp roster and given an opportunity to pursue his career,” said Gerald Griggs of the Atlanta NAACP at a Friday press conference, via fox5atlanta.com. “This is not a simple request. This is a statement. This is a demand.”

The owner of the local NFL team in Atlanta has issued a statement that states, essentially, “Don’t blame me for this.”

“I have a long record of active opposition to any symbol or behavior that represents exclusion or discrimination, both personally and in keeping with the core values of our businesses,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a statement provided to fox5atlanta.com. “I, along with our Family Foundation, the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United have never and will never waver from that stance.”

Another group has launched a #blackout in response to the situation with a video posted at YouTube.

“Kaepernick engaged in a silent, non-violent protest,” says Senior Pastor Deblaire Snell of the First SDA Church in Huntsville, Alabama. “He did this to raise awareness to the number of brown and black individuals that have been beaten and killed at the hands of law enforcement across this country. Since the end of last season, as a result of this protest, Colin Kaepernick has been unable to find employment in the NFL. I find that strange, seeing that the NFL has employed individuals that have been convicted of sexual assault, domestic violence, cruelty to animals, along with driving while under the influence. A number of NFL owners have come out and stated the reason they cannot employ him is because of a fear of a backlash from sponsors or a certain segment of their fan base. And it’s interesting that they’ve capitulated thus far to a certain segment of the fan base while fearing no backlash from the African-American community. . . .

“My belief is simply this. If Colin Kaepernick was willing to take a stand for those of us who are non-celebrities that would have to interact with law enforcement on a day-to-day basis, if he’s willing to take a knee for us, certainly we ought to take a stand, and stand with him.”

Over the balance of the video, various others explain that there will be a refusal to watch the NFL, a refusal to purchase NFL merchandise, and a refusal to participate in fantasy football.

“We want you to know this protest is not anti-flag, because people of color love the Stars and Stripes,” says Dr. Leslie N. Pollard, president of Oakwood University. “This protest is not anti-American, because people of color have loved this country, even when this country has not loved us back. And this protest is not anti-veteran, because we support those who have made sacrifices so that our liberties have been secured. This protest is to ensure the rights of all Americans regardless of color and creed to be heard.”

It’s one thing to launch the effort. It’s another thing for the effort to have an impact.

Regardless, the effort officially has been launched. And now the NFL and its teams will have to decide whether to risk angering one side over potentially alienating the other side.

Ideally, the NFL and its teams would forget about who it’s going to upset and instead make a decision based on the core question of right vs. wrong.

De Smith on Roger Goodell’s handling of changes to conduct policy: “He lied”

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With still four years to go until potential labor strife, the relationship between the NFL and the NFL Players Association seems as strained as ever.

In an interview with Bryant Gumbel that debuts Tuesday night on HBO, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith addresses among other things the changes to the Personal Conduct Policy that happened after various high-profile off-field incidents in 2014.

Asks Gumbel, “When Roger Goodell can stand up there as he did and say, ‘We’re drafting a new NFL Personal Conduct Policy. We’re gonna do so in conjunction with the union,’ and then doesn’t consult the union, comes up with a new policy, that says what?”

Responds Smith, “That says he lied.”

(NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told HBO: “We repeatedly tried to engage the union but they had no interest in developing a tough and enhanced personal conduct policy.”)

Smith’s beliefs on that point suggest that the relationship between the two men isn’t good.

“He has a job,” Smith said. “And I have a job. My relationship with Roger I would argue is irrelevant.”

But does Smith trust Goodell?

“I don’t have the luxury of trust, now do I?”

Ideally, there would be mutual trust between management and labor, in any industry. Folks can disagree on fundamental issues regarding the business but ultimately be willing and able to believe what the other side says. Without that, every single thing about managing the relationship becomes harder.

Here’s how it creates real problems within the context of negotiations. If, in theory, Goodell and Smith were to talk through issues informally and Goodell or Smith were to tell the other that a proposed deal or term is acceptable and then, for whatever reason, fails to deliver a binding agreement on that point, it becomes impossible for agreements to be reached in expedient fashion between two men who: (1) should know what’s best for their constituencies; (2) should be able to make tentative commitments on behalf of their constituencies; and (3) should be able to deliver on finalizing those terms.

As more broadly applied to labor negotiations, a lack of trust forces each side to constantly read each and every letter of each and every page of each and every written document that reflects agreement made at the table, not simply to confirm that the deal says what it says but to scan for any intentional additions or omissions that alter the deal in a non-obvious way. Those tactics aren’t uncommon in business relationships, but when those things happen, it’s hard to trust.

Making it even harder for the NFLPA to trust the NFL is the skirmish that emerged in early 2016, when the league was caught with its hand in the revenue-sharing cookie jar.

“The players have seen examples over and over and over now of them skirting the rules, of them trying to go around something that was clearly intended, clearly written in a certain way,” NFLPA president Eric Winston told PFT Live at the time. “Whether it’s in personal conduct, whether it’s financial matters. I mean those things ring very loudly to players, and I field a lot of calls about this. I field calls from former players, from current players about this, and they’re upset. I mean, one of those things that go right to the core of our business is money and you can’t take from somebody and expect not to be some hard feelings, expect to be upset. It hurts everything going forward and it’s unfortunate.”

From conduct to money, these specific examples underscores the NFLPA’s belief that “trust but verify” has been replaced with “don’t trust and verify, verify, verify.” And that attitude definitely complicates things as the next round of CBA talks approaches.