Cardinals activate Deone Bucannon from PUP list

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Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon isn’t quite ready to practice yet, but he is no longer on the physically unable to perform list.

Bucannon went on the list at the start of camp after having ankle surgery and the team announced on Tuesday that he’s been activated. The move will allow him to go through morning walkthroughs with the team and the hope is that he’ll be practicing in some fashion before the Cardinals play their final preseason game next week.

If that’s the case, Bucannon could have a shot at playing in the first week of the regular season but it’s not something the team is banking on.

“We haven’t been counting on Deone,” coach Bruce Arians said, via the team’s website. “That’s going to be a blessing [if he can play].”

First-round pick Haason Reddick has been starting next to Karlos Dansby in Bucannon’s absence and will presumably remain there into the regular season if Bucannon isn’t deemed ready to play.

Cowboys haven’t decided if Ezekiel Elliott plays this week

AP

This week’s set of preseason games are frequently referred to as dress rehearsals for the regular season because starters generally log their most playing time of the summer, but the Cowboys aren’t sure if one of their starters will play against the Raiders on Saturday.

Coach Jason Garrett said Tuesday that there hasn’t yet been a decision made about running back Ezekiel Elliott making his first appearance of the preseason. If he does play, it won’t be for long. Garrett said, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, that Elliott would see 8-10 snaps before leaving the game.

Elliott is, of course, appealing a six-game suspension levied by the league this month, so the team has to weigh getting him ready to play against the need to have running backs Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris set to open the season in prominent roles. While that need exists, Garrett said that Elliott’s suspension won’t be a factor in his ultimate decision about Saturday’s lineup.

One player who won’t play is tight end Rico Gathers, who remains in the concussion protocol after getting hurt a week ago.

Trent Richardson resurfaces . . . in Canada

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The long, strange trip that has been the pro football career of running back Trent Richardson has taken another turn.

Via 3DownNation.com, Richardson is in the process of joining the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. The move comes after Richardson’s agent spent a month selling him to the team that claimed his negotiating rights on July 28.

The Browns traded up from No. 4 to make Richardson the third overall pick in the 2012 draft. After he gained 950 yards as a rookie, the Browns then traded him to the Colts for a first-round pick.

Richardson hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2014. He spent time in the offseason and preseason with the Raiders in 2015 and the Ravens in 2016.

Last year, Richardson also returned to Tuscaloosa to practice with the Crimson Tide. In the CFL, Richardson possibly will be facing lesser competition.

Mike Pouncey will start Thursday night

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The Dolphins got their first look at quarterback Jay Cutler against the Ravens last Thursday and they’ll see him take his first game snaps from their starting center this Thursday.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said at his Tuesday press conference that Mike Pouncey will start at center against the Eagles. It will be Pouncey’s first game of the preseason and his first game of any kind since Week 10 of last season.

Pouncey was shut down after that game due to a hip injury and had a stem cell procedure designed to help with the healing process this offseason. Pouncey has had issues with his hip throughout his NFL career, but got cleared to resume football work at the start of camp and has not had any problems during camp.

A healthy Pouncey is always a good thing for the Dolphins offense and the need may be even greater this season with the team dealing with injuries at left guard that may leave them with the inexperienced Jesse Davis manning the spot to open the year.

Doug Pederson: LeGarrette Blount “a big part of our offense”

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If Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount is on the bubble in Philadelphia, somebody should probably tell coach Doug Pederson.

Becuase Pederson praised the veteran back’s work, and suggested that he’s not really on the bubble at all.

Via Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, Pederson was asked about Blount’s possible roster status, the Eagles coach said: “The guy’s a beast of a runner.”

Pederson also said he expects Blount to be “a big part of our offense.”

After getting rid of Ryan Mathews, Blount is the one known commodity for the Eagles in the backfield, at least in terms of being a power back. He carried it 299 times for the Patriots last year, and ran for 18 touchdowns. But they let the 30-year-old walk in free agency, which made plenty of people wonder if Bill Belichick had sold at the right time again.

Colts are not nearly worried enough about absence of Andrew Luck

AP

There’s a line in the first Lord of the Rings movie (NERD) where Aragorn tells Frodo he’s not nearly frightened enough. I think of that line (NERD) whenever I think of the Colts’ current quarterback situation.

Andrew Luck has done nothing since the end of the 2016 season, and there’s still no clear indication as to when he’ll be back. And there’s also no reason to think that, after missing all of the offseason program, training camp, the preseason, and however many regular-season games he won’t be ready to play, Luck will suddenly flip a switch and be as prepared as he would have been.

Meanwhile, the Plan B is Mr. T. As in Scott Tolzien. As in Scott Three-Career-Starts-in-Six-Seasons Tolzien. As in Scott Two-Career-Touchdown-Passes-Against-Seven-Interceptions Tolzien.

For a team that has tremendous urgency from ownership to win multiple Super Bowls with Andrew Luck, there’s no urgency whatsoever regarding the prospects of Tolzien being responsible for one, two, three or more starts in a wide-open division that may be decided by the one or two or three of the games that Tolzien starts and loses.

On one hand, it’s good that the Colts aren’t freaking out. On the other hand, they seem to not care at all about the fact that the 2017 season could be derailed before it even begins, thanks to a conscious decision not to have a better option locked and loaded for the games that Luck will miss before he’s healthy — and the games he could miss if/when he gets injured again.

All due respect to Tolzien, of course.

Report: Failure to trade up for Alvin Kamara rankles some with Jets

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Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara has gotten off to a good start in the preseason with nine carries for 96 yards and one catch for 22 yards in his first two games.

That’s surely pleased his new team after they dealt a 2018 second-round pick to the 49ers in order to select Kamara in the third round of this year’s draft, but it has also reportedly left a sour puss on some faces around the Jets.

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that there were some in the organization who wanted General Manager Mike Maccagnan to make “an aggressive play” for Kamara before the deal that landed him in New Orleans. Those people are reportedly “still miffed” that the Jets didn’t make a move to add a playmaker to an offense devoid of them.

The fact that the Jets don’t have those kinds of players on offense this season is one quick reason why Maccagnan didn’t trade future assets for Kamara this year. Good as he might be, a rookie running back on this Jets offense isn’t likely to move the needle enough for the team to avoid having a very high pick in the second round next season — assuming the trade package would have been the same — that can be put toward a rebuilding process that’s got miles to go before anyone sleeps.

There’s no certainty that such a process is going to bear fruit, but if the Jets are committed to a course of action they have to remain committed to it even if someone they like comes along in the third round of the draft. That may not make it any easier to watch Kamara thrive in New Orleans, but it does a lot to explain why Maccagnan went the other way.

Shaquil Barrett cleared to resume football activities

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The Broncos have been down a pair of outside linebackers this summer, but one of them is getting closer to a return to action.

Mike Klis of KUSA reports that Shaquil Barrett has been cleared to resume some football activities. Barrett was placed on the non-football injury list at the start of camp after injuring his hip while working out on his own in May. There was some initial fear that he would miss a large portion of the season, but he avoided surgery and looks like he’s on track to play earlier in the year if not in Week One.

The Broncos have also been without Shane Ray since late July due to torn ligaments in his wrist, leaving them thin at the position outside of Von Miller. Ray has been doing conditioning work and is also expected to be ready to play in the first few weeks of the regular season.

The Broncos are also waiting to get safety T.J. Ward and defensive linemen Derek Wolfe and Jared Crick back from injuries they suffered this summer before they’ll have their full complement of defensive players on hand.

Eric Winston: We need to be prepared for 2021

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Whatever happens after the expiration of the current labor deal, the NFL Players Association has a clear message for its members: Be prepared.

“It’s not something that we can spring on them in 2020 and say, ‘You guys got to get ready for this,'” NFLPA president Eric Winston recently told Keenan Singleton of WCPO at his Bengals locker.

“We try to educate those guys as soon as we get them,” Winston added. “DeMaurice Smith and myself, we’ll have meetings with them this year.  We introduce those topics and continue to educate. Obviously it falls on the leaders in the locker room. Clint Boling, Vinnie Rey, those guys that are [union] reps — it falls on them to  answer a lot of questions.”

The last time the CBA expired, the NFLPA was still reeling from the sudden passing of long-time executive director Gene Upshaw — and the owners were determined to undo a 2006 deal that had caused them both to opt-out early and to constantly complain about the agreement. The owners currently aren’t complaining, which means they possibly won’t stage another lockout. Still, if the players want better terms, they may need to strike.

There’s a fundamental difference between the two potential outcomes. Ultimately, the question becomes whether the players are willing to lose game checks. They haven’t been in the past, at least not for long. If they choose to in 2021, they need to be prepared to be painted as the bad guys by the NFL’s politics-infused P.R. machine, which will be working overtime to win the hearts and minds of fans.

“They don’t look like it like, ‘We’re workers and they’re workers,'” Winston said. “They look at it like, ‘Oh, that’s my team. Whether it’s that player or another player, it’s still going to be my team and I want them to win and I don’t really care who’s doing the winning.'”

If the players strike, that theory will get tested by the use of replacement players, again. The real test will involve the players’ resolve, whether they’re locked out by management or choose to walk away.

Texans coach says Tom Savage is his starting quarterback

AP

This is the week for people with questions at quarterback to try to clear them up.

And even though the Texans have insisted all preseason they didn’t have a question, they answered it anyway.

Via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Texans coach Bill O’Brien made it clear he was sticking with Tom Savage over rookie Deshaun Watson.

Tom is our starter. He’s had a good camp.” O’Brien said.

Establishing Watson as the backup won’t make the questions go away, after they made the bold move to trade up for him in the first round this year. But as long as Savage maintains a consistent level (even if that level is consistently average), the Texans appear willing to let Watson develop on the bench.

Cam Newton on track to play Thursday night

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After quarterback Cam Newton stepped up his work in Monday’s practice, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said that he wanted to see how Newton felt on Tuesday before deciding if the quarterback will play against the Jaguars on Thursday night.

Rivera wanted to make sure there was no soreness or tightness in Newton’s surgically repaired shoulder and it sounds like Newton avoided both. Rivera said on Tuesday, via David Newton of ESPN.com, that Newton is on track to play and that he’s seen signs of the quarterback getting more comfortable after a summer of limited work.

“You could see the timing coming back,” Rivera said.

Given the cautious approach the Panthers have taken with Newton all summer, any game action he sees on Thursday will likely be on the limited side as the team tries to keep him healthy while also making sure he’s not starting from scratch come Week One.

Report: Little urgency from owners to reduce preseason

AP

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s talking about shortening the preseason again, but the question may be whether his bosses are interested in it.

According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, “there does not seem to be great urgency among the owners to shorten the preseason,” regardless of Goodell’s recent remarks.

Part of the reason some owners seem to hesitant to push for it may be that there’s less pushback from fans about the reduced quality of the games, because they’re not (necessarily) paying as much for them. With more teams adopting variable pricing — in which preseason games cost less and the difference is inevitably made up elsewhere — the pressure is less.

Cowboys executive Stephen Jones said earlier in training camp that he thinks the sport can live with the current length of the preseason, given that shell game of ticket costs.

“I don’t know that we need any more games in terms of the overall package, the fact that you play 20 games in a season,” Cowboys executive Stephen Jones said. “The way I look at preseason is, because we’ve changed the way we price tickets now . . . I don’t think it’s as big a deal.”

Jones pointed to the expanded reps they were able to give young players this year with a fifth preseason game, and said that was important for a guy such as Jaylon Smith coming off injuries.

“We’ll be the first to tell you our coaching staff, our young players, us as ownership, our scouting department are thrilled we have five games. . . . All these young players need reps and we need to see who can contribute,” Jones said. “You’re not gonna be seeing a whole lot of Jason Witten in these early preseason games. And then everybody says, ‘Oh, that’s not good for the product because they’re not seeing the best.’ Part of getting to the best product when you hit the regular season is developing these young guys so that when you do start Day 1 that you have the very best product you can put out on the field.

“And if you don’t give these rookies and these young players like Jaylon Smith the opportunity to really get . . . his feet wet, get out there and play, then you’re not gonna have the best product on the field when we play the Giants in Week 1 [of the regular season]. . . . To me, there’s some excitement there and if you variable-price and figure that out, then I don’t see the issue.”

Charging a little less might pacify the paying customers, but players likely still hate it. But until they’re ready to trade fewer preseason games for more games in the regular season or postseason, the 16-4 arrangement may not change anytime soon.

Jamaal Charles will play a lot on Saturday night

AP

Broncos coach Vance Joseph said last week that veteran running back Jamaal Charles would suit up for the first time in the preseason when the Broncos face the Packers on Saturday night and it sounds like the team plans to make up for the first two games by putting Charles to work.

Joseph said on Monday that Charles will play “a lot” against Green Bay in his first game action since Week Seven of last season. Charles missed the rest of the year with a knee injury and has played in just eight games over the last two seasons, leaving him with a need to show the Broncos that there’s still something left in the tank.

“It’s going to be Jamaal’s shot to go do his thing. He knows that; he’s ready,” Joseph said, via ESPN.com.

C.J. Anderson is the No. 1 back in Denver, Devontae Booker is expected back from a wrist injury for the start of the regular season and the team has seen good things from rookie De'Angelo Henderson this summer, so Charles will need to make the most of his shot if he’s going to play a role come the fall.

Mike Martz tees off on Jared Goff, Sean McVay

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Former Rams coach Mike Martz has no warm or fuzzy feelings for the franchise’s current coach or possible franchise quarterback.

In an excerpt from Thomas George’s Blitzed: Why NFL Teams Gamble on Starting Rookie Quarterbacks, Martz unloads on both Jared Goff and Sean McVay.

“I don’t know if he can play or not, but I do know he couldn’t have gone to a worse place,” Martz said of Goff, via SBNation.com. “If you took him and switched him with Dak Prescott in Dallas, who knows what would have happened for Goff there? Goff at Cal came from an offense where they ran as many plays as they could — fast. Jared in college did an amazing job of throwing a true ball off balance, under duress, making things happen. You knew the speed of the NFL would throw that kind of timing off. But he still throws a true ball. The Rams wanted to rewire him to what?

“I watched the Rams offense last season. It was awful football. There was nobody there on that staff that could teach him, develop him. You have a high-value guy like that and he went to the worst offensive place, the Rams.”

Now, the Rams have wunderkind Sean McVay, who helped get the most out of Kirk Cousins the past two years in Washington.

“What is he, a couple of months older than Jared?” Martz said. (McVay is nine years old than Goff.) “They hired a buddy for Jared. The NFL has nothing to do with being the friend or the buddy of the quarterback. You’ve got to coach them and work them hard with respect. But buddy? And this guy is a quarterback expert? An offensive expert? Wait a minute while I puke. Right, he’s going to be able to teach and handle and guide Jared through tough times because of all of his expertise and knowledge? Right. I’m not going to drink that Kool-Aid.”

Martz sounds like he’s been drinking something stronger. He comes off as stereotypical Glory Days grump who resents a younger coach doing a job that Martz surely believes he could do better right now. But McVay has been successful as a coordinator, the same path Martz took to become a marginally successful head coach.

Yes, Martz took the Rams to a Super Bowl after succeeding Dick Vermeil after Super Bowl XXXIV. However, the Rams arguably should have been to more — and should have won at least one — with Martz at the helm. Instead, Martz had a variety of conflicts within the organization, ultimately alienating future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner and, eventually, moving on from him. The Rams later moved on from Martz, who never received serious head-coaching consideration again.

It’s unclear why Martz has a problem with McVay. Per a league source, the two men have met briefly only once. Thus, this one possibly can be chalked up to good, old-fashioned old-man resentment of the guy who is getting it down without having to walk five miles in the snow. Uphill. Each way.

Jerry Jones declines to say whether he supports Roger Goodell contract extension

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was reportedly furious at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over the Ezekiel Elliott suspension. So does that mean Jones opposes extending Goodell’s contract, as the owners reportedly plan to do?

Jones himself isn’t saying. On 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Jones said he simply wouldn’t comment on whether he believes he and his fellow owners should keep Goodell in charge.

“That’s obviously an internal, very internal thing and I would not comment about it. And I don’t want that to be interpreted. I just will not comment about it. I’m one of the people that are basically involved in how that is being negotiated. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment about it,” Jones said.

There have been reports that Jones thinks the owners pay Goodell too much money, and that Jones is not among the six owners involved in negotiating Goodell’s contract extension. But if Jones isn’t satisfied with the job Goodell is doing, it would appear that the majority of his fellow owners disagree with him. And so Jones may think that he shouldn’t speak out publicly, even as privately he’s displeased with the Commissioner.