Report: Patriots fear Derek Rivers has season-ending knee injury

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The Patriots may have lost a key young player, who was impressing in his early work.

According to Field Yates and Mike Reiss of ESPN, the Patriots fear that rookie defensive end Derek Rivers suffered a season-ending knee injury.

The third-rounder from Youngstown State, who was their highest draft pick this year, was injured during joint practices with the Texans Wednesday, and was sent home for more tests.

Apparently those tests were not favorable.

He had 41 sacks during his college career, and was expected to have a role on a defense looking for some contributors after Rob Ninkovich’s retirement.

C.J. Beathard will be No. 2 quarterback for 49ers on Saturday

AP

The 49ers used Matt Barkley as their No. 2 quarterback in their first preseason game, but they’ll go in a different direction against the Broncos this weekend.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Thursday that rookie C.J. Beathard will relieve Brian Hoyer after Hoyer and the first-team offense play somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 plays. The third-round pick went 7-of-11 for 101 yards and two touchdowns after entering the first preseason game in the second half.

Shanahan said earlier this month that Beathard was competing with Barkley, who was 10-of-17 for 168 yards last week, for the backup job.

Shanahan said after the draft that Beathard reminds him of Kirk Cousins, who played for Shanahan with the Redskins during his first two NFL seasons, and a performance that backs that up against Denver would be a big boost to Beathard’s chances of settling in as the next man up for the Niners.

Dirk Koetter: Nick Folk’s performance “not quite” what we’re looking for

AP

The Buccaneers cut Roberto Aguayo after last Friday’s preseason opener, but coach Dirk Koetter didn’t get a respite from questions about miscues in the kicking game after facing the Jaguars on Thursday.

Nick Folk had an extra point blocked and missed a 47-yard field goal during the game, leaving Koetter to joke about having two reporters compete for the job when he spoke to the media after the game.

“Nope, not quite what we were looking for,” Koetter said, via ESPN.com.

Folk did make two field goals, but the Bucs will probably need to see something better from the veteran to keep them from taking a long look at Zach Hocker, who signed after Aguayo was booted, or combing through options outside the organization for a more consistent performance at kicker.

DeShone Kizer agrees with Joe Thomas that he may not be ready yet

AP

DeShone Kizer‘s a rookie, but he’s already learned that Joe Thomas knows a thing or two about football.

So when the veteran left tackle said that it looked like the Browns were grooming Brock Osweiler to start at quarterback and that Kizer might not be ready for that role yet, Kizer ultimately agreed. Thomas did say the second-rounder was showing good progress, and Kizer was willing to latch onto that as well.

“He’s been in the NFL since I’ve been in seventh grade, so whatever he says is probably pretty accurate,” Kizer said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Obviously, it’s still the same message that I continue to push. The more time you have, the more comfortable you become, the more confident you are throwing the ball, and he’s just seconding that statement.”

For the moment, Kizer is behind Osweiler in the pecking order, at least for Monday night’s preseason game against the Giants. That could continue to be the case into the regular season, as the consensus seems to be that Kizer could use a bit of time. Browns coach Hue Jackson has made no secret of that, telling Kizer since he arrived that he was a work in progress, and that they weren’t in a hurry to skip a step.

“This is a process that has been preached to me from day one how this is going to go,” Kizer said. “When they’re ready and I’m ready, I can trust in the fact that the coach is going to put me out there. So as long as I can continue to trust in them, which I will, there isn’t really a timeline for myself. I’m just trying to get better every day and allow coach Jackson to make the calls.”

So far, the call is that Kizer’s their No. 2, which at least puts him ahead of Cody Kessler.

Sober for seven months, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has never felt so good

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Austin Seferian-Jenkins was arrested for drunk driving once in college at Washington, and again last year while playing for the Buccaneers. That second arrest got him cut, and suspended for the first two games of this season.

Now with the Jets, Seferian-Jenkins said he’s had a wakeup call and has been sober for seven months, and he says giving up alcohol has changed his life.

“I’ve never felt as good as I do today,” Seferian-Jenkins writes in the New York Daily News. “When I wake up, I’m excited to go play football and excited to get in the meetings. I’m excited to see my friends. I’m excited to see my teammates. I’m excited to see my coaches. I’m excited to practice. I’m excited for life.”

Seferian-Jenkins says giving up alcohol has been such a lifestyle change that he’s lost 33 pounds and now feels energized about working out and getting ready for the season.

“You start changing your lifestyle and you don’t want to drink,” he writes. “You want to get healthy. I didn’t know what to do with all this free time. I’ll do hot Pilates. I’ll run. I’ll do an extra workout. I’ll go hiking. I’ll go walking around the mall. You got a lot of time in the day. I’d get two or three workouts done by 3 p.m. So, what do I now? I might as well work out again.”

After he serves his suspension, Seferian-Jenkins says he’ll be more ready to go than ever before.

Jay Cutler: DeVante Parker is a faster Alshon Jeffery

AP

One of the frequent talking points around the Dolphins this offseason has been predictions of a breakout year for wide receiver DeVante Parker.

Quarterback Jay Cutler hasn’t been a Dolphin for all that long, but he’s on message when it comes to discussing Parker. Cutler targeted Parker four times and connected twice, although one of the completions was wiped out by a penalty, and then compared him favorably to one of his favorite receivers from Chicago.

“I think he’s kind of a faster Alshon [Jeffery], a little bit,” Cutler said, via the Miami Herald. “He’s got a lot of range. Back-shoulder, over the top. He’s got great hands. And he can burn you up if you get [stuck] flat-footed.”

The Dolphins play the Eagles in their next preseason game and they’ll practice together for a couple of days, so perhaps we’ll get a match race.

Jeffery missed 11 games for the Bears over the last two years with injury, but caught 174 passes for 2,554 yards and 17 touchdowns with Cutler doing most of the quarterbacking in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Production like that would make all of the Parker talk this offseason look prescient and help Cutler’s chances of a successful year in South Florida.

McDermott is evaluating the quarterback position, unless he isn’t

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Most of the attention regarding a possible quarterback change has landed on Jacksonville, given comments from coach Doug Marrone that clearly throw the gig up for grabs. But the Bills may have a slightly tenuous situation at best, after performances in Philly from starter Tyrod Taylor and No. 3-turned-No. 2 rookie Nathan Peterman.

Unless they don’t.

“I was disappointed in the rhythm of the offense really,” coach Sean McDermott said when asked to evaluate Taylor’s performance. “I didn’t think we got into a rhythm overall. Tyrod obviously had some plays that he’d like back. We all do. So there’s a lot of hands that go into that cookie jar as far as that’s concerned. We have to do a better job of getting off to a faster start on offense and at times taking advantage of field position when we have it.”

Here’s what McDermott said about Peterman:  “Nate’s done a nice job. He’s had a good camp. He’s very poised and does a good job with being decisive in the pocket. I did like how he moved the offense when he came in. He’s doing a nice job and he’ll continue to develop. I’m going to [need to] look at the tape to say anymore at this point.”

Then came the money question. Would McDermott consider a quarterback change at this point?

“We’re always going to evaluate everything and that goes for everything including the quarterback position,” McDermott said. “I thought Tyrod has done some good things. Last week he moved the offense and we had some penalties. So we’re going to evaluate the film. I’m going to evaluate the job that I did tonight and then we each need to evaluate the job that each of us did and then continue to get better as a unit.”

That sounds ominous. And McDermott apparently realized it. So he told Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News that the Bills are not considering a quarterback change.

So even though everything is being evaluated, the most important position on the field isn’t part of that everything.

Byron Leftwich appreciates the chance to grow as a play-caller

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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was willing to let quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich call plays in a couple of preseason games, primarily because he thinks Leftwich has the makings of an NFL head coach.

But his praise after Leftwich’s debut was more muted.

Leftwich got a “good job,” after his night on the headset against the Raiders. He’ll also call plays Saturday night against the Bears, as Arians gives his former Steelers quarterback a chance to grow in his role.

“It’s great to have B.A. have so much confidence and belief in me,” Leftwich said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “He doesn’t hold me back. He turns me loose and lets me go. It’s ‘do what you see fit,’ and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Arians will call the offensive plays next week against the Falcons and throughout the regular season. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin will call them in the preseason finale after his shot at the helm in the Hall of Fame Game.

There was one technical glitch getting calls down from the press box last week, and Leftwich said there was one call he’d like to have back, though he was generally pleased with the results. But Leftwich said he’s more interested in the personal aspect of coaching than the Xs and Os anyway.

“The key to calling plays for a player is to know the player,” Leftwich said. “I always tell the guys, there is no right or wrong answers, you just need honesty. I need to know what you like, what you don’t like, what you do well. From there I can call plays.

“It’s not always about learning the football plays, it’s about learning the human being. The more you get to know guys, the better you can call plays for them.”

Understanding that might be why Arians is willing to give Leftwich so much latitude, and set the stage for future responsibility.

Ronald Darby “very impressive” in first Eagles outing

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Cornerback Ronald Darby spent a lot of time this summer guarding Bills wide receivers in practice and he was back in that position on Thursday night.

The big difference was that Darby was now wearing an Eagles uniform after last week’s trade that sent him to Philly in exchange for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick and that Bills coach Sean McDermott couldn’t just blow a play dead if Darby stifled the offense. That meant Darby got to weave through the Bills for 48 yards after picking off a pass Tyrod Taylor threw under pressure from his new teammates.

After the game, Eagles coach Doug Pederson expressed his happiness with how Darby played after less than a week after he joined the team.

“Yeah, it’s very impressive,” Pederson said in comments distributed by the team. “Very exciting. Encouraging, obviously. He’s definitely going to help us there in the back end. You kind of credit some of the throws, too, to our defensive line. The pass rush was there tonight and disrupting some of the timing offensively.”

Darby got a game ball from his new teammates after the game and there will likely be more in his future if he continues to turn around what was shaping up to be a major trouble spot for the Eagles before last week’s trade.

John Harbaugh: Ryan Mallett “doing OK given the circumstances”

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After a mediocre outing for Ravens quarterback Ryan Mallett in the team’s first preseason game, coach John Harbaugh said that Mallett played “winning football” because the Ravens were up 13-0 when he left the game.

Mallett threw two interceptions on Thursday night against the Dolphins and could have had a couple of other passes picked off before he exited for the night. Mallett was 13-of-22 for 113 yards and a touchdown aside from the turnovers and said he thought he played better than he had in the first game.

Harbaugh didn’t seem to disagree and pointed to three missing starters on the offensive line as a big contributing factor to any offensive struggles.

“I thought he did good. He got out of trouble a few times, he made a few throws. I think we’ll just keep working to build off that,” Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “He was under pressure more than we’d like early on and I thought he handled it well, didn’t make mistakes. He played good, solid football. We’re not totally together up front right now and I think he’s doing OK given the circumstances.”

The Ravens have already announced that Joe Flacco won’t play until the regular season and Harbaugh announced after the game that Flacco isn’t ready to get back on the field yet. That leaves plenty of work for Mallett and the Ravens appear to remain comfortable with him being the man to step in should their plan to have Flacco for Week One fail to come to fruition.

John Elway is fine with protests, within reason and with action

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Broncos executive John Elway doesn’t mind his players exercising their right to protest, as long as they satisfy a few conditions.

First, he wants to make sure their primary focus is on football. But he also wants anyone who does to make their protests meaningful by following up with action, the way Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall did last year.

Via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post, Elway said he hasn’t talked to the players as a team about the situation, but hoped they’d concentrate on how their personal beliefs impact the greater good (in both society and sport).

“My stance is, . . . everybody has the right to do what they wish to do and their beliefs are their beliefs. That’s why we live in this country,” Elway said. “They have the right to display whatever they wish to display. I think one thing that where we stand and I kind of stand with the Broncos is that, ‘You know what? That’s OK. We’ll respect that and whatever you want to do is fine with us. But the bottom line is that can’t get in the way of our main goal, and that is to compete for world championships.’

“So I just don’t want that pulling away from our team, and sometimes that can pull away because obviously it gets a lot of attention and so, therefore, the only thing I would so to our players is make sure it’s not hurting your teammates. If the questions and everything, if the tenor changes everything that’s going on in these interviews and now you’re not talking about our next opponent but you’re talking about what’s going on in the world, that’s not the best thing for our football team. So I only advise and would tell our players, ‘I respect where you stand. But when you’re doing anything, just understand what it’s doing to the football team,’ because I want all these guys to understand that we’re football-first and we want to win football games. And if we do that, everything’s going to be fine.”

Marshall was one of the players last year who joined then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling for the national anthem to protest discrimination by law enforcement. Marshall then later met with Denver Police Chief Robert White to discuss the department’s use-of-force policy, as well as work in elementary schools in the Denver area.

“And I think obviously Brandon made a point last year, but he carried it forward,” Elway said. “He didn’t just make a stand on the field before the games. He actually went out in the community and did something and talked to different people and went and talked to law enforcement. I was proud of Brandon and the fact that not only did he show his support for what it was last year, but also he went out and did something in the community about it.”

It’s refreshing and interesting to hear Elway take that stance, since it gives players the freedom to express their beliefs. But considering the fact the Broncos had interest in trading for Kaepernick before his protests, but then not afterward, the actions speak as well. Letting a player express himself is apparently fine, so long as the individual doesn’t believe that stance is bigger than the goal of winning a ball game.

Jay Cutler was glad to get first big hit out of the way

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New Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler didn’t do much last night, but he was glad to get out there.

Primarily, there was a sense of relief after he took his first big hit on his surgically repaired right shoulder.

On his last play of his two-series debut with the Dolphins, Cutler was drilled by Ravens defensive end Za'Darius Smith, and landed hard on his right arm.

I’m glad to get that one out of the way,” Cutler said,” via James Walker of ESPN.com. “I landed right on my right shoulder and didn’t feel anything. So [to my] doctor in Chicago, nice job.”

And to Cutler, nice job, I guess, as he didn’t make any huge mistakes in his short time in the game. He completed 3-of-6 passes for 24 yards, before yielding to backup Matt Moore late in the first quarter.

“It was [tough] just waiting, getting out there and just waiting for the anticipation of getting going,” Cutler said. “Once we got out there and [coach] Adam [Gase] was in my ear and we started rolling around. It was fun.”

Obviously the Dolphins are going to want to get a longer look at him next week, but it would be nice if they could put a better line in front of him. With center Mike Pouncey and right tackle Ju’Wuan James out last night, it was hard for Cutler to get a true look between the pass rush and the penalties.

But there was some evidence of a chemistry with wide receiver DeVante Parker.

“He’s a really good player,” Cutler said. “The sky is the limit for him. He’s fast and can do a lot of different things.”

The hope is that Cutler can do something different for them, after he was brought in to replace Ryan Tannehill following his latest ACL injury.

Who should be Jacksonville’s Week One starter?

AP

Jaguars coach Doug Marrone made it clear last night that he’s looking for a starter, and he didn’t rule out someone not currently on the roster being the guy.

So who should be the guy? It’s the PFT Live question of the day.

We’ve put several options below in a poll question. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments. (As if you wouldn’t anyway if I didn’t say that.)

Show starts at 6:00 a.m. ET. Guests include Scot McCloughan, Chris Simms, and Josh Norris. NBC Sports Radio for hour one, NBCSR and NBCSN for hours two and three.

Chris Long on show of support for Malcolm Jenkins: “I just told Malcolm, ‘I’m here for you.'”

AP

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has been raising a fist in the air during the national anthem since last season as a symbol of protest. Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills, Jenkins was joined in a show of unity as defensive end Chris Long stood adjacent with his arm draped on Jenkins’ shoulders.

The events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, Va. led Long – a University of Virginia alum – to feel an obligation to join Jenkins in a show of support.

It’s been a hard week for everybody,” Long said postgame, via Andrew Kulp of CSNPhilly.com. “It’s not just a hard week for someone being from Charlottesville. It’s a tough week for America.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘Why do athletes get involved in the national anthem protests?’ I’ve said before that I’ll never kneel for an anthem because the flag means something different for everybody in this country, but I support my peers. If you don’t see why you need allies for people that are fighting for equality right now, I don’t think you’ll ever see it.

“Malcolm is a leader and I’m here to show support as a white athlete.”

Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett wished a white athlete would show support toward the cause he, Jenkins, Colin Kaepernick and others have been protesting since last season. While the manner of protests have varied, Long’s support of Jenkins could go a long way toward shifting the protest from racial lines into a broader societal discussion.

“I was inspired by a lot of the allies that were there to stand up against hate in my hometown and I wasn’t able to be there to protest or to stand up against hate,” Long said. “People like Heather Heyer gave their life for that and I was inspired by that.

“I just told Malcolm, ‘I’m here for you.’ I think it’s a good time for people that look like me to be there for people that are fighting for equality.”

Bills receiver Rod Streater left game on cart with apparent foot injury

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Bills head coach Sean McDermott had called Rod Streater one of the highlights of training camp this year in Buffalo. That made the abrupt conclusion to his night in Philadelphia that much more difficult to handle.

Streater left Thursday night’s game against the Eagles on the back of a cart after being injured on the second play of the fourth quarter. Streater caught a 12-yard pass from quarterback Nathan Peterman and was dragged to the turf by Eagles cornerback Jomal Wiltz.

Streater remained on the field for several minutes as trainers attended to his left foot. He was then carted off the field.

Streater has dealt with foot injuries before, which helped limit him to just four games played in two seasons. He stayed healthy all of last season, appearing in 16 games with the San Francisco 49ers. He caught 18 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns.