Devin Smith listed as probable, probably won’t play


The NFL debut of speedy Jets receiver Devin Smith will be probably still be delayed.

But it might not be. Smith is ahead of the schedule Jets coach Todd Bowles has shared publicly and was officially listed as probable for Sunday’s game against the Browns on the injury report.

Smith suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung on what Bowles called a “freak play” in a July 31 practice. The immediate diagnosis was an absence of at least six weeks, but Smith has been back at practice this week, participating in team drills but with no contact.

Because he hasn’t been hit and because he missed so much time — Smith was hospitalized after the injury — Bowles has said that Smith probably won’t be among the active Jets players this weekend.

At very least, Smith’s status gives the Browns something to think about. Smith was the best deep threat in college football last season and gives the Jets an element they’ve been missing in recent years.

Panthers CB Norman clears concussion protocol

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The Panthers will have starting cornerback Josh Norman in the lineup for Sunday’s season opener. Norman passed the NFL’s concussion protocol and returned to practice Friday.

He left last week’s preseason finale in Pittsburgh after suffering a concussion. But Norman, who missed two games last year after suffering a concussion, insisted this one was minor and that he would be fine.

Norman, 27, was a fifth-round pick of the Panthers in 2012. He started 10 games last season and had a career-high two interceptions.

Norman is best known outside of Charlotte for his training camp fight with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Vikings place starting center on IR/return

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Longtime Vikings center John Sullivan has been placed on injured-reserve/designated for return after undergoing back surgery.

After sitting out for three weeks, Sullivan underwent a lumbar microdiscectomy Wednesday. His absence for at least half the season is another blow to a Vikings offensive line that also lost tackle Phil Loadholt to a torn Achilles tendon early in the preseason.

Teams can place one player per season on IR/designated for return. Those players can return to practice in six weeks and to games after eight weeks.

An eight-year veteran, Sullivan is making $7 million this season after signing an extension with the team last April. Giving him the IR/return designation opens up a roster spot the Vikings can fill before their Monday night season opener at San Francisco.

Veteran Joe Berger, who’s been with the Vikings since 2009, will likely replace Sullivan in the starting lineup.

Chargers TE Green being evaluated for possible concussion


Chargers tight end Ladarius Green was being evaluated for a possible concussion Wednesday, four days before the already shorthanded Chargers open the season vs. the Lions.

Longtime top tight end Antonio Gates is serving a four-game suspension to start the season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Green, who’s entering his fourth season, has 36 catches over the last two seasons. He had three touchdown catches in 2013, flashing some of the potential that made him a fourth-round pick in 2012 and, the team thought, the heir apparent to Gates.

With Gates out the Chargers kept three tight ends on their initial roster: Green, David Johnson and Kyle Miller. Johnson has 23 career catches, just five in the last two seasons, while Miller’s only NFL regular-season appearance came in 2012.

Tight end Alex Bayer was signed to the Chargers’ practice squad after he was released by the Rams. If Green isn’t cleared for Sunday, Bayer could be promoted to the active roster.

Patriots place starting center on IR/designated for return

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The Patriots have placed starting center Bryan Stork on injured-reserve/designated for return, the team announced Wednesday.

Stork missed the entire preseason due to a concussion. A fourth-round pick in 2014, he moved into the starting lineup a little more than a month into last season and played well for a line that allowed Tom Brady to be sacked just 21 times all season.

The team announced Stork would miss Thursday night’s opener before announcing he’d been given the IR/return designation. He’ll be eligible to return to practice after six weeks and eligible to be activated in eight weeks, assuming he can pass the league’s concussion protocol.

Teams can place one player per season on IR/designated for return.

The Patriots list veteran Ryan Wendell as their backup center. Wendell didn’t participate in camp until Aug. 24 due to a shoulder injury, so Josh Kline and David Andrews could also be in the plans for Thursday night.

Mike Evans misses practice again


The Buccaneers practiced Wednesday without wide receiver Mike Evans, leaving some doubt about the availability of Evans for Sunday’s season opener vs. the Titans.

Evans, who caught 68 passes and scored 12 touchdowns as a rookie, has a hamstring injury and was shut down following the team’s second preseason game on Aug. 24. Evans said at the time the team was just playing it safe and he would be ready to play if it was a regular season week.

Now, the team is down to two practices before its first real game. Bucs Coach Lovie Smith didn’t address the status of Evans earlier this week; the team will place him on its first in-season injury report Wednesday and Smith will address the media after practice.

Louis Murphy took first-team reps in Wednesday’s practice with Evans out.

Browns rookie RB Johnson cleared, returns to practice


The Browns entered the week with one healthy running back on their active roster, but rookie Duke Johnson has cleared concussion protocol and will practice this week with the intent of playing Sunday vs. the Jets.

“He’s fully cleared,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said of Johnson. “When you come out of the concussion protocol you’re either cleared or you’re not.

“We’re not in pads. He’s not going to get hit today but he needs the work, the actual reps of playing.”

A hamstring injury kept Johnson out for three weeks of training camp, and one quarter into his preseason debut Aug. 29 Johnson suffered a concussion. Wednesday marked his first practice since then.

A third-round pick, Johnson started his lone preseason game. That’s either a sign the Browns have very high hopes for him, or that the team was down on second-year runners Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, neither of whom had a strong camp. West was traded to the Titans last Sunday, leaving Crowell as the only healthy back on the roster before Johnson was cleared.

Pettine said the plan is for Crowell to start Sunday and for Johnson to be watched closely in practices in hopes he can contribute.

“If (Johnson) had taken every rep we’d be a lot more confident about putting him out there for extended snaps,” Pettine said. “If he puts a solid couple days together here, there’s no reason to think he won’t play a significant role in the game.”

Pettine said second-year cornerback Pierre Desir also cleared concussion protocol, leaving 2014 first-round cornerback Justin Gilbert (hip flexor) as the only player in question for the season opener. Pettine said backup quarterback Johnny Manziel had “natural soreness” after returning to practice Monday but that was expected following a two-week absence. Manziel should be the No. 2 quarterback Sunday.

Ravens use IR/return designation on DE Brent Urban


The Ravens have placed defensive end Brent Urban on injured-reserve/designated for return, giving the second-year defensive end a chance to return from a torn biceps in play in the second half of this season.

The IR/return designation can be used once per season. A player given the designation can return to practice after six weeks and be activated after eight weeks.

Urban suffered the injury in early August. A fourth-round pick in 2014, Urban missed his rookie season after tearing his ACL in training camp last summer.

Rookie running back Terrence Magee takes Urban’s spot on the Ravens’ 53-man roster. The Ravens needed to add a third running back because backup running back Lorenzo Taliaferro is dealing with a knee injury suffered in the preseason.

Boom Herron waived-injured by Colts


The Colts designated running back Daniel ‘Boom’ Herron as waived-injured Sunday, ending his season unless he’s claimed by another team.

Herron suffered a shoulder injury in last Thursday’s preseason finale. The waived-injured designation means he will revert to injured-reserve with the Colts unless he’s claimed by another team. Herron might have been the primary backup for Frank Gore this season if he’d been healthy; instead, the Colts figure to go with either rookie Josh Robinson or Vick Ballard, who’s played in just one game in the last two years due to injuries, behind Gore.

Herron signed his exclusive-rights tender last April to stay with the Colts. He ran well down the stretch last season, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and ran 45 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts’ three playoff games.

A sixth-round pick of the Bengals in 2012, Herron played five games for the Colts in 2013 after being signed off of the Bengals’ practice squad. He played in all 16 games and made three starts for the Colts last season.

Texans will place Savage on IR, possibly go QB shopping

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The Texans are placing quarterback Tom Savage on injured-reserve, ending the second-year player’s season two days after Savage suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason finale.

NFL Network’s Rand Getlin had the news about Savage first.

With Savage done for the year and Ryan Mallett possibly still in the doghouse, the Texans could look to add a quarterback this weekend via trade or the waiver wire. The pool of available quarterbacks is shallow; this is the risk the Texans took in bringing just three quarterbacks to camp.

Whether the Texans would want to add a veteran as the emergency quarterback or a developmental prospect to the practice squad in order to run the scout team is unknown and probably is dependent upon the team’s options once general manager Rick Smith and coach Bill O’Brien scan the waiver wire. Many teams are keeping just two quarterbacks on their initial 53-man rosters.

Brian Hoyer will start for the Texans after he won a camp competition with Mallett.

Tevin Coleman makes his case for playing time


The preseason finale is generally the most meaningless of the meaningless preseason games, but Falcons rookie running back Tevin Coleman used his chance Thursday night to put himself at least in the conversation and probably in the rotation when the regular season begins.

Coleman missed much of August with a hamstring issue and carried four times for two yards last weekend in his preseason debut. But he carried eight times for 56 yards Thursday vs. the Ravens, sparked by a 26-yard run in the first quarter.

A third-round pick, Coleman missed much of August with a hamstring issue but was drafted to be an immediate contributor and push projected starter Devonta Freeman.

Freeman sat out the entire preseason but returned to practice this week for the first time since Aug 6.

It was awesome to see him,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.

The Falcons open the season Sept. 14 vs. the Eagles.

Report: Chris Johnson will start for Cardinals Thursday


Chris Johnson is set to debut with the Arizona Cardinals Thursday night, and per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Johnson will be the team’s starting running back in the preseason finale.

Johnson signed with the Cardinals Aug. 17, before the second preseason game, but has been slowed by a hamstring injury. The Cardinals know that Johnson, who’s three weeks from turning 30, isn’t the same player who had six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Tennessee to start his career but they hope he can still provide some big-play pop and catch up to a new offense.

Johnson’s contract option wasn’t picked up by the Jets after he rushed 155 times for 663 yards last year. He was shot in the shoulder last March in an incident during which his friend was killed in Florida.

The plan, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters Wednesday, is for Johnson to get 10-12 carries as the Cardinals evaluate him. Arians has said he believes Johnson can help the Cardinals but is guaranteed nothing.

The Cardinals won’t play their starters Thursday, so it will be Chris Johnson and rookie David Johnson getting the carries early. They’re competing for touches behind the team’s current starter, Andre Ellington.

Manziel says elbow issue just tendinitis, nothing to worry about

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It’s always something with Johnny Manziel, and the latest is an arm/elbow soreness issue that Browns coach Mike Pettine said last week was minor — and the next day Pettine announced the Browns were shutting Manziel down for the preseason.

Manziel hasn’t thrown in more than a week, but Tuesday he told reporters he is only battling tendinitis in his throwing elbow and said, “I’m not worried about it all.”

The issue will end up keeping Manziel from two valuable preseason games, and Pettine said last week that Manziel would have played with the No. 1 offense for the first time this summer in last Saturday’s preseason game had he been healthy. Pettine has been firm that Josh McCown is the team’s starting quarterback.

Manziel said the elbow soreness is something he’s dealt with every year since he got to Texas A&M in 2011 and that it generally gets better past training camp because quarterbacks are asked to make fewer throws once the regular season begins. He said he’s sought multiple opinions on his tendinitis, including having the team’s medical staff reach out to Dr. James Andrews, and that surgery was never recommended.

The Browns have to be as certain as Manziel is that he will be available for next week and the Sept. 13 season opener. Thad Lewis will start Thursday’s preseason finale and try to make a strong enough impression to win a roster spot in the process; if there’s concern about Manziel being able to serve as McCown’s backup, the Browns almost have to keep Lewis when the team trims the roster to the regular-season size of 53 this weekend.

Unless McCown can lead the Browns to a bunch of wins, Manziel will eventually get a shot to play this season and try to give the team a better showing than he did in basically seven quarters last season. But he has to be healthy first, and then he’ll have to prove he can be worth the wait.

Andy Reid: Kelce could play if he had to


Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce went down in Monday’s practice with what looked to be a leg or ankle injury, giving the team a scare.

Before Tuesday’s practice, though, Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters that Kelce just suffered a sprained ankle, not the dreaded high ankle sprain, and would be ready to play this week if the team had a regular-season game.

The Chiefs open the season Sept. 13, and there’s no reason for the team to rush its talented young tight end back for Thursday’s preseason finale. So, as long as Kelce can get back on the field Saturday or Sunday when the Chiefs really begin preparing for their opener vs. the Texans, Monday’s injury will quickly be forgotten.

49ers coach says Dockett does not have cracked rib

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The rib injury suffered by 49ers defensive tackle Darnell Dockett in last weekend’s preseason game vs. the Broncos is not believed to be serious.

Tuesday, 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said Dockett has a cartilage issue, not a cracked rib, and Tomsula said he expects Dockett to be available for the Sept. 14 season opener.

Dockett posted a picture on Snapchat Monday while receiving treatment and called it a cracked rib.

Dockett, 34, did not play last season after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason while he was with the Cardinals. He’s expected to be a rotational player on the remade 49ers defense.