Luke Kuechly not practicing Tuesday, still in concussion protocol

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If Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly doesn’t have a concussion, the Panthers sure are treating him like he has one.

According to Bill Voth of the team’s official website, Kuechly was jogging around during practice Tuesday, but did not participate in drills.

He walked onto the field wearing a baseball cap instead of a helmet, which was a good sign as to his level of participation.

While there were reports that he did not suffer a concussion last week against the Eagles, the team quickly responded by saying he remained in the protocol and there was no change to his status.

The fact he’s had diagnosed concussions the last two years makes them approach everything with an abundance of caution. When he missed six games last year, he was cleared by the independent neurologist to return, but coach Ron Rivera held him out of meaningless games late anyway.

Monday Night Football ratings down last night, season still up over 2016

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AFC South games routinely generate the NFL’s lowest television ratings, and last night was no exception.

The Titans’ win over the Colts drew a 6.1 overnight rating for ESPN on Monday night, which according to Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily is the third-lowest overnight ESPN has had for a Monday night game since it acquired the Monday night rights in 2006. That’s down 3 percent from last year’s Week Six Monday night game.

The two lowest ratings in the history of Monday Night Football both came last year, with the lowest ever coming opposite a presidential debate and the second-lowest coming late in the season when the Colts played the Jets with both teams out of the playoff race.

Despite last night’s disappointing rating, ESPN’s Monday night ratings are still up 4 percent this year compared to the first six weeks of Monday Night Football last year.

Roethlisberger: Martavis Bryant told me he doesn’t want to go anywhere

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Sunday brought a report that Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant requested a trade, which was followed by Bryant tweeting that he’s happy in Pittsburgh and his girlfriend apparently confirming the report.

That leaves some uncertainty about Bryant’s desire, but Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger feels pretty sure about where the wide receiver’s head is at the moment. Roethlisberger was asked about the report during a Tuesday appearance on “Cook and Poni” on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh and said his conversations with Bryant haven’t left him thinking Bryant wants out.

“Martavis, I talked to him, he doesn’t want to go anywhere,” Roethlisberger said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Sometimes things come from agents because they want what they think is best for the player and don’t realize that it ends up hurting the player. I don’t know exactly what happened here, but I do know that Martavis, there hasn’t been any inklings of unhappiness. It’s unnecessary drama.”

Whatever happened, Bryant is in Pittsburgh and there’s no sign that the Steelers plan to change that in the near future. An uptick in production from Bryant would likely ensure things remained that way and Roethlisberger said he thinks increased repetitions after missing all of last year will get Bryant back to a role like the one he played in 2015.

NFL decided not to formally review Derrick Henry touchdown

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With the Titans up by seven on Monday night and in position to burn up the clock and exit with a win, running back Derrick Henry broke a 72-yard touchdown run — giving Tennessee a 14-point victory.

Coincidentally, the Titans were favored by seven or 7.5 points to win, and the touchdown allowed them to cover the spread.

Henry came dangerously close to stepping out of bounds with a left foot, both at the Tennessee 44 and the Tennessee 49. A formal replay review never happened, and ESPN didn’t even mention the possibility that Henry had been out of bounds.

According to a league spokesman, it was determined that a closer look wasn’t necessary. Arguably, however, the game should have been stopped to ensure that Henry didn’t step out of bounds.

Apparently (and this didn’t come from the league but from someone familiar with how things work there), the standard for not ordering full replay review is the mirror image of the standard for overturning a ruling on the field. Basically, there must be clear and obvious evidence the ruling was correct to avoid an examination of whether there is clear and obvious evidence the ruling was not correct.

Discretion exists where the play will have no significant impact on the outcome of the game. In this case, however, the impact came not on the outcome of the game but on the outcome of the wagering on the game. With the NFL moving a team to Las Vegas and with a sense that legalized sports wagering is inevitable, the league needs to be cognizant of meaningless scores that actually are meaningful, and to ensure that they are valid and proper scoring plays.

It’s entire possible that Henry remained inbounds. But it was close enough to take a second look, and it definitely was close enough for any of the many ESPN employees who have eyes on the field to have noticed it and mentioned it to the guys in the booth.

Ravens make a change at linebacker

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The Ravens offense has been a big problem through the first six weeks of the season, but a Tuesday roster move addressed the other side of the ball.

The Ravens announced that they have released linebacker Jonathan Freeny and replaced him on the roster with Steven Johnson. Freeny joined the team in late September after defensive end Brent Urban was placed on injured reserve. He had two tackles in three appearances with the team.

Johnson played six games with the Steelers last year and played in one early this season while bouncing on and off the roster in Pittsburgh. He spent the first three years of his career with the Broncos and spent the 2015 season with the Titans.

Freeny saw all of his work on special teams and that will likely be Johnson’s main focus in Baltimore as well.

From 2013: Ted Thompson and the backup quarterback “jinx”

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Mike McCarthy can reiterate until he’s gray in the face that his quarterbacks moving forward will be Brett Hundley and Joe Hallahan Houlihan O’Callahan Callahan, but it’s ultimately not the Packers coach’s call. The man who determines the composition of the roster is G.M. Ted Thompson.

Four years ago, the last time the Packers had to proceed with a revolving door of mediocrity after Aaron Rodgers broke a collarbone (it was the left side that time), Thompson had an intriguing, to say the least, explanation for his staffing decisions when it comes to the team’s No. 2 quarterback.

“You make sure you have so many of every position, given the limitations of a 53-man roster,” Thompson told USA Today. “But quite frankly, you never think about your better players ever getting hurt. If you think that way, you might jinx it. It might happen. Literally, you don’t think about it. It’s a place where you never tread.”

So Thompson believes in jinxes?

“No,” Thompson said. “But you still never tread. You just don’t like to say it.”

Which means he does believe in jinxes. Or at least he did in 2013. This year, the No. 2 behind Rodgers has been Brett Hundley, who completed two of 10 regular-season passes before 2017. And the No. 3 (now No. 2) is a Division III quarterback with no regular-season playing time. So maybe Thompson still believes in jinxes.

Maybe he should revisit that. Twice in four years, Rodgers has suffered a multi-game injury.

Meanwhile, the team that beat the Packers on Sunday has to be very glad that it invested $2 million in another quarterback with Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater already on the roster.

Tuesday meeting in New York includes 13 players, 11 owners

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The NFL and NFLPA announced last week that there would be a Tuesday meeting involving officials from both organizations as well as players and team owners as a precursor to the league meetings regarding the national anthem later in the day.

That meeting is underway in New York and the league has released the names of all the people involved. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent are there from the league while NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith is joined by president Eric Winston and senior director of player affairs Don Davis.

The Dolphins have three players — wide receiver Kenny Stills, tight end Julius Thomas and safety Michael Thomas — at the meeting, which is the most of any team. The Jets, represented by left tackle Kelvin Beachum and linebacker Demario Davis, and Eagles, represented by defensive end Chris Long and safety Malcolm Jenkins, each have two players. Colts cornerback Darius Butler, Chargers tackle Russell Okung, Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, 49ers safety Eric Reid, Redskins cornerback Josh Norman and Anquan Boldin, who announced his retirement in August, round out the group.

 

Michael Bidwill of the Cardinals, Arthur Blank of the Falcons, Terry Pegula of the Bills, Bob McNair of the Texans, Shad Khan of the Jaguars, Stephen Ross of the Dolphins, Robert Kraft of the Patriots, John Mara of the Giants, Art Rooney II of the Steelers, Jeffrey Lurie of the Eagles and Jed York of the 49ers are there on the ownership side.

 

The meeting will not involve any vote or attempt to come to an agreement on how the national anthem should be approached for the rest of the season. That meeting will involve only team owners while this meeting is one to discuss the issues that players have been protesting and how to address them in conjunction with any agreement that may come to pass regarding the anthem.

Panthers add linebacker depth with Andrew Gachkar

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With Luke Kuechly remaining in the concussion protocol, the Panthers brought in some linebacker insurance with their spare roster spot.

The team announced they had signed veteran Andrew Gachkar.

He fills the roster spot cleared when they released quarterback Brad Kaaya, after they promoted quarterback Garrett Gilbert from the practice squad yesterday and released safety Dezmen Southward.

Gachkar was in camp with the Jaguars this summer. He spent four years with the Chargers, and two with the Cowboys, and has been regarded as a good special teams player (though that’s something they say about most backup linebackers because if you’re not starting you run down kicks, and if you’re not good at it they find someone who is).

The Panthers also released defensive lineman Mike Purcell from the practice squad, and signed running back Jalen Simmons and cornerback Zack Sanchez to fill the two spots there.

Saints expect Brett Hundley to be “well ready” for Sunday

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The Saints are the first team preparing to face a Packers team quarterbacked by Brett Hundley and that’s prompted two different reactions from defensive end Cam Jordan.

The first is that he’s not going to do the thing players sometimes do when they say they want to face an opposing team at full strength. Jordan said he hates to hear about a player being injured and Aaron Rodgers is no exception, but admits to hoping that “this makes it push in our favor.”

Jordan also knows that Hundley has gotten a lot of “tutelage from one of the greats of our era” and expects he will be “well ready” for Sunday’s game. Linebacker Craig Robertson shares that view.

“They got a great coaching staff over there man and a lot of people that’s been in place there a long time,” Robertson said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “[Hundley] has been watching Aaron Rodgers. He can still get coached up by Aaron, still get coached up by the same coaches that coach Aaron so he’s going to be ready to play and we’ve got to be ready to play.”

Hundley had a rough time against the Vikings last Sunday, but the Packers will get all week to plan for his presence in the lineup and coach Mike McCarthy is adamant that he’s the right man to fill in for Rodgers so avoiding overconfidence sounds like the best approach for the Saints.

Sam Martin returning to practice for Lions

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The Lions placed punter Sam Martin on the non-football injury list before the start of the regular season, which left him ineligible to practice or play in the first six weeks of the season.

Those six weeks are up and Martin is ready to get back on the field. The Lions announced on Tuesday that Martin will return to practice and he’ll be eligible to play when the Lions return from their bye in Week Eight.

Martin reported to camp with the foot/ankle injury that led to his placement on the NFI list, which required the Lions to open the season with Kasey Redfern as their punter. Redfern went on injured reserve after one game and Jeff Locke has handled the duties over the last five weeks.

Martin has been the punter in Detroit for the last four seasons and has an average of 46.9 yards per kick over that span.

Doug Baldwin, Roger Goodell write joint letter supporting sentencing reform

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Responding to players whose anthem protests shined a spotlight on criminal justice in America, the NFL has come out in support of sentencing reform.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin jointly signed a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, which would reduce minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

“Over the last two seasons, one particular issue that has come to the forefront for our players and our teams is the issue of justice for all,” Goodell and Baldwin wrote. “Last season, as part of our My Cause My Cleats initiative, several players chose to highlight equality and justice on their cleats, while others chose causes related to supporting the difficult work of law enforcement. These expressions of player advocacy aptly capture the challenges we currently face as a nation – ensuring that every American has equal rights and equal protection under the law, while simultaneously ensuring that all law enforcement personnel have the proper resources, tools, and training and are treated with honor and respect.”

The bill has not made it to the floor for a vote in Congress despite having bipartisan support. The NFL and its players are lending their voice to that support.

Jay Gruden: We’ll “actively expand” Josh Doctson’s role

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Wide receiver Josh Doctson has scored touchdowns in two of his last three games, but he only saw a quarter of the snaps in last Sunday’s win over the 49ers despite scoring in the first quarter.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden says that will change. Doctson only played sparingly after being selected in the first round of the 2016 draft because of an Achilles injury, leaving the team to “make sure he can handle the little bit that’s on his plate” before expanding his portfolio.

“We are going to actively expand [his role], without a doubt,” Gruden said, via the Washington Post. “He didn’t get as many reps as I would like at the end of the day when you look at the numbers, but it’s our job. We have got to get him in there more and expand it.”

Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder and Ryan Grant are all playing at least half the snaps so far this season, something that will likely be changing if Washington follows through on their plans regarding Doctson.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie back after one-game suspension

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The Giants’ suspension of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t last long.

Rodgers-Cromartie will be back with the team when they return to work tomorrow, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Giants coach Ben McAdoo and Rodgers-Cromartie had a disagreement about playing time that got heated last week, and McAdoo decided to suspend Rodgers-Cromartie. That led to some talk that there were big problems within the Giants’ locker room, although that dissipated when the Giants played by far their best game of the season in Sunday night’s win over the Broncos.

Whatever issues there were between coach and player, they’ve now been resolved well enough that the suspension is coming to an end, and Rodgers-Cromartie’s indefinite suspension has turned out to last just one game.

Jason Myers out as Jaguars kicker, Josh Lambo in

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The Jaguars had a miserable special teams day against the Rams in Week Six and one member of the group lost his job on Tuesday.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the team is cutting kicker Jason Myers. Myers missed two field goals against the Rams, including a 54-yarder late in the game that would have cut the Jags’ deficit to one score with time for an onside kick.

Myers was 11-of-15 on field goals on the season and missed one against the Jets in a game that Jacksonville would ultimately lose on a field goal in overtime. Myers was 53-of-64 on field goals in his first two seasons with Jacksonville and missed 12 extra points over his entire tenure.

Josh Lambo will be the new Jaguars kicker. He was 52-of-64 on field goals for the Chargers the last two seasons, but got beaten out by Younghoe Koo this summer. The Chargers have since cut Koo and signed Nick Novak.

Bills “still have confidence” in Marcell Dareus

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Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is the highest-paid player on the Bills, although you wouldn’t know it from watching the team play this season.

Dareus has not played more than a third of the snaps in any of his last three games, but defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier says that playing time isn’t a reflection of lost belief in Dareus after he was sent home from a preseason game for violating a team rule.

“Well, one of the things that you saw when you looked at the reps in the ballgame, I mean his reps were not out of whack,” Frazier said, via NewYorkUpstate.com. “He got as many opportunities as the others guys at the position. We still have confidence in Marcell for sure, as evidenced by the fact that he’s getting playing time.”

Dareus’ playing time may be evidence that they have more confidence in him than guys who aren’t active on Sundays, but it’s a far cry from where things once stood for Dareus in Buffalo. That may mean a change of address in the offseason, although the weeks to come will likely have a lot to do with the ultimate decision on Dareus’ future in Buffalo.