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NFL notebook: QB Rodgers will practice on Saturday

Sports Xchange
22 Sep 2018, 09:49 GMT+10

While the game plan will change, the Green Bay Packers are sticking with the same blueprint for Aaron Rodgers this week.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters on Friday that Rodgers will not practice until Saturday, following the same path for his quarterback as the team did a week ago.

Rodgers was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report.

"That's the goal," McCarthy said. "He's done a ton of work with the strength staff and the training staff. Hopefully, he'll get out there tomorrow and have similar work (to last Saturday) and we roll right into the game."

Rodgers sprained his left knee in the season opener against the Chicago Bears. Although he returned to the game and led Green Bay to a stirring comeback victory by throwing three fourth-quarter touchdown passes, Rodgers did not practice until the day before last Sunday's matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

The two-time NFL Most Valuable Player acquitted himself well against Minnesota, finishing 30 of 42 for 281 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions. He was sacked four times.

The Packers appeared well on the way to victory after building a 13-point lead, but the Vikings stormed back with 22 fourth-quarter points in the eventual 29-29 tie.

The 34-year-old Rodgers said earlier this week that he was concerned the condition of the knee will only worsen as the season progresses.

"Hopefully, it goes the other way though," Rodgers said. "Obviously, it won't be 100 percent, so I'll just adjust accordingly to how I'm feeling and try to get through."

How the knee feels could lead to a practice regimen that evolves on a weekly basis.

"It just depends on how the week goes with the rehab and the recovery," Rodgers said. "Obviously, I'd love to be better than I was last week as far as health-wise, but there's some factors that are out of my control."

The Packers (1-0-1) will play their first road game of the season when they visit the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon.

Rodgers ranks second in franchise history in passing yards (39,069) and touchdown passes (317), trailing Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre in both categories (61,655 and 442, respectively).

--Head coach Mike Vrabel said Friday that quarterback Marcus Mariota's right elbow injury is getting better, but the Tennessee Titans will wait until Saturday to determine if he can play on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Mariota sustained the injury in the season opener against the Miami Dolphins and did not play last week, although he was active and on the sideline as backup as Blaine Gabbert replaced him and led the Titans to a 20-17 victory over the Houston Texans.

"It is probably going to take the next 24 hours to make a decision (on Mariota)," Vrabel said, according to the Titans' official team website. "It is pretty much the same as it's been since Wednesday. A little bit of improvement since last week."

Mariota is officially listed as questionable for the game as he deals with lingering numbness in the elbow. He suffered the injury on a hit by defensive lineman William Hayes in the third quarter of a 27-20 loss to the Dolphins. He completed 9 of 16 passes for 103 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions as the Titans lost to Miami.

Gabbert replaced Mariota against the Dolphins and completed 11 of 22 passes for 117 yards and no touchdowns with an interceptions, and then completed 13 of 20 passes for another 117 yards and another touchdown against Texans.

Whether it's Mariota or Gabbert playing against the Jaguars, the quarterback will benefit from the return of left tackle Taylor Lewan, who cleared concussion protocol. Lewan also was injured in the season opener.

--Wide receiver Josh Gordon, who is nursing a hamstring injury, was listed as questionable on Friday by the New England Patriots for Sunday night's game against the Detroit Lions.

Gordon was acquired by the Patriots on Monday from the Cleveland Browns. A week ago Friday, Gordon said he sustained the hamstring injury during a photo shoot on Friday night and he reported late to work on Saturday.

After missing the Browns' game on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, Gordon, who also dealt with a hamstring injury during the preseason, was traded to New England the next day.

Gordon has been limited in practice with the Patriots this week after undergoing an MRI that showed no serious injury.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon was selected by the Browns in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft. In part of five seasons with the Browns, he caught 180 passes for 3,106 yards and 16 touchdowns.

His best season was 2013, when he caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns, and was selected fist-team All-Pro and played in the Pro Bowl.

Gordon missed the 2014 and 2015 seasons for two separate violations of the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski (ankle) did not make the Patriots' injury report after practicing on a limited basis on Thursday and going through practice with no limitations on Friday.

--Running back Leonard Fournette, who missed last week's victory over the New England Patriots because of a right hamstring injury, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey are among five Jacksonville Jaguars listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans.

The 23-year-old Fournette, who has been limited in practice all week, carried the ball only nine times for 41 yards and caught three passes for 14 because being injured in the opener against the New York Giants.

Last season as a rookie, Fournette rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns on 268 yards, in addition to catching 36 passes for 302 yards and another score.

The Jaguars made the 6-foot-1, 228-pound Fournette the fourth overall pick of the draft last year out a LSU.

The 6-1, 194-pound Ramsey, who has an ankle injury, was a surprise addition to the injury report, because he has not been listed all week. He has made eight total tackles in victories over the Giants and Patriots.

The Jaguars selected the Ramsey, also 23, with the fifth selection of the 2016 draft out of Florida State. He was selected first-team All-Pro and played in the Pro Bowl last season.

Also listed as questionable for the Jaguars this week are running back T.J. Yeldon (ankle), cornerback DJ Hayden (toe) and guard AJ Cann (triceps).

--Safety Damontae Kazee of the Atlanta Falcons was fined $10,026 by the NFL on Friday for his hit on quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers in last Sunday's game.

Kazee, who was ejected from the game, has apologized. He could have been suspended by the NFL, which would have meant his fine would have been one game check, $32,647.

"I was playing too fast in the game and trying to make a play and overplayed it," Kazee said, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I apologize for him and for hitting him like that, but I didn't do it on purpose. I was just trying to make a play, that's all.

"I have to learn when to take my shot and not take my shot. When he was sliding, I was already in the air. I tried to lean over to the left and nicked him with my facemask. I apologized for the hit and everything. ...

"I'm trying to learn to keep my head up when I'm tackling now. It's a new rule. I have to adjust to that."

Newton had gone into a slide after running for a first down on a fourth-down play when Kazee hit him helmet-to-helmet.

Said Newton: "He's playing as hard as he can, I'm playing as hard as I can. That's what this football game brings. At the end of the day, it's football. I ain't gonna cry, I ain't gonna have no ill will towards him. It is what it is."

Kazee, who was drafted in the fifth round (149th overall) out of San Diego State by the Falcons last year, was flagged for a hit on wide receiver Marqise Lee of the Jacksonville Jaguars during a preseason game last month, but was not fined.

--Running back Dalvin Cook and defensive end Everson Griffen of the Minnesota Vikings will miss Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, head coach Mike Zimmer said Friday.

Cook missed practice this week because of a hamstring injury he sustained last week against the Green Bay Packers. Cook said it was only a cramp, but the Vikings aren't taking any chances after he missed all but four games in 2017 because of an ACL tear.

In two games, Cook totaled 78 yards rushing on 26 carries without a touchdown.

With Cook on the sideline, Latavius Murray will get the start at running back against a Buffalo defense that ranks 22nd in the NFL after two weeks.

Backup running back Mike Boone also could see playing time for the first time during the regular season after playing well during the preseason.

Griffen played against the Packers despite a toe injury but missed practice on Wednesday because of a knee injury he suffered against Green Bay. He had six total tackles and was credited with two half-sacks in the first two games.

Zimmer also said center Pat Elflein will play for the first time this season against the Bills after missing the first two games because of shoulder and ankle injuries. He was a full participant in practice beginning Wednesday.

--Quarterback Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles will make his first start of the season against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, but he won't have running backs Jay Ajayi or Darren Sproles in the backfield with him.

Ajayi (back) and Sproles (hamstring) both were ruled out of the game by the Eagles on Friday. Sproles also missed last week's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of the injury, and Ajayi injured his back in that defeat.

In two games, Ajayi has 85 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 22 carries.

"It doesn't affect play calling, it just affects personnel in the game, because like you said, we're down some bodies," head coach Doug Pederson said of the injuries.

"Look, we don't make excuses for it. It's part of the National Football League. Injuries are going to happen each and every week, and we've got to get the next guy ready to go."

Running back Corey Clement (quad) is listed as questionable and he is expected to play, but if he can't go, the Eagles will be down to Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams in the backfield.

The Eagles also listed linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (groin), wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) and left tackle Jason Peters (quad) as questionable.

Pederson said Jeffery has not been cleared for contact, and Peters was a full participant in practice.

--San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin remains a question mark for Sunday's matchup at the Kansas City Chiefs.

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan told radio station KNBR on Friday morning that Goodwin will be a game-time decision because of a quadriceps injury that has limited him in practice this week.

"He's not there yet; hopefully, he will be by Sunday," said Shanahan, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Shanahan added that he expected cornerback Richard Sherman to play against the high-powered Chiefs despite the fact he missed practice Thursday with an unspecified heel injury.

The 30-year-old Sherman tore his right Achilles in November while with the Seattle Seahawks and had to undergo surgery. He also underwent surgery in the offseason to remove bone spurs from his left heel.

"I expect him to be out there (Sunday)," Shanahan said on KNBR. "He didn't practice yesterday; he's had some wear and tear on his heel. ... We're taking it smart with him."

Sherman has played every defensive snap in the first two games and allowed one reception. His presence will be vital against a Kansas City offense that is averaging 40 points and features an explosive wideout in Tyreek Hill.

Goodwin suffered the injury in the first half of San Francisco's 24-16 season-opening loss at Minnesota. It forced him to sit out last week's 30-27 victory over the Detroit Lions.

In his sixth season overall and second with the 49ers, Goodwin established career highs last year by hauling in 56 receptions for 962 yards. He also had two touchdown catches.

Rookie Dante Pettis started last week and had one reception for 35 yards. The second-round pick out of Washington had two receptions for 61 yards and a 22-yard touchdown catch in the loss to the Vikings.

--The Carolina Panthers will be without starting right guard Trai Turner for a second straight week.

Turner, who suffered a concussion in the season opener and missed last week's loss in Atlanta, has been ruled out for Sunday's home matchup against the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Turner is among three starters on the offensive line who are sidelined. Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams, the starting offensive tackles, both are on injured reserve.

The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Turner started all 16 games in both 2015 and 2016 and made 13 starts a year ago, earning Pro Bowl honors in all three seasons.

Backup center Tyler Larsen will start in place of Turner for a unit that was forced to start Chris Clark at left tackle last Sunday -- four days after he was signed off the street.

While Turner was among four players ruled out for the game against the Bengals, the Panthers did get some good news on the injury front Friday when rookie cornerback Donte Jackson practiced on a limited basis.

Jackson was listed as questionable for Sunday because of a groin injury, but head coach Ron Rivera said he "moved around really well" at Friday's practice, per the team's official website.

"We'll see how he is tomorrow after some treatment this afternoon and tomorrow morning and we get a good feel for it," said Rivera.

A second-round pick out of LSU in this year's NFL Draft, Jackson has 12 tackles in two games and notched his first interception against the Falcons last week.

--The Baker Mayfield Era is underway on the shores of Lake Erie.

Or is it?

Despite Mayfield's dazzling NFL debut, in which he came out of the bullpen to lift the long-suffering Cleveland Browns to their first victory since Christmas Eve in 2016, Hue Jackson was not ready to commit to the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft as the team's new starter -- yet.

"I have to watch the tape," Jackson told reporters shortly after Mayfield rallied the Browns from an early 14-point deficit in a dramatic 21-17 victory over the New York Jets on Thursday night.

Mayfield came on late in the first half for injured starter Tyrod Taylor (concussion) and ignited the comeback by playing superbly in his NFL debut, finishing 17 of 23 for 201 yards without a turnover.

For good measure, and to add to the giddiness of Cleveland fans, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner completely outplayed New York rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who was taken two slots behind Mayfield in 2018 the NFL Draft.

"That's why we drafted him," Jackson said of Mayfield in the afterglow of the victory. "We drafted him for that reason. He has that magnetism. He has it. He's still a young player. He has a lot of work to do. He's got to keep working. Tonight is his night. It was his coming out party.

"It's just really ironic that it happened that the quarterback on the other side was a rookie, too. Baker did some good things tonight. He truly did."

Does that sound like a man who is wavering on handing over the keys to his offense to Mayfield?

Taylor's injury may make it a moot point that Mayfield will get the start when the Browns visit the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 30. But even if Taylor is cleared from the NFL's concussion protocol, it will be almost impossible for Jackson not to stick with his prized rookie.

Mayfield led the Browns to a field goal on his first possession to make it a 14-3 deficit at halftime. He guided Cleveland to another field goal in the third quarter before directing two lengthy touchdown drives that were capped by a pair of 1-yard runs from running back Carlos Hyde.

"Obviously, once Baker got into the game at quarterback, you just saw a different rhythm,'' Jackson said. "Obviously, the young man did some really good things. You can't take that away from him. What a night for him. He came off of the bench, went in there and led this team and helped lead this team to victory.''

Still, Jackson declined to say if he would've re-inserted Taylor back into the game if he received a medical OK to return to the lineup Thursday night.

"(Taylor) got hurt,'' Jackson said. "Let's not talk about if I would have or would not have. Baker played great, and he won the game. That's what's important."

Acquired in an offseason trade with the Buffalo Bills, Taylor was only 4 of 14 for 19 yards before the injury. Through his three starts, Taylor is completing only 48.8 percent of his passes and owns a quarterback rating of 63.7.

Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry, also acquired in the offseason trade with the Miami Dolphins, was among Taylor's staunchest backers throughout the team's offseason program. Yet he couldn't help but acknowledge the obvious after Mayfield's stellar introduction to the NFL.

"I don't think there's a coach or a player who has doubted him or felt like we were at a disadvantage when he came on the field," Landry said. "That's something you've got to love about him. That's why he's the first pick. That's why he's the Heisman Trophy winner. You saw it tonight, firsthand."

Jackson said he has no regrets about opening the season with Taylor as the starter. The plan all along, said the coach, was to allow Mayfield time to develop and not be rushed into the lineup.

"I think it was right; I still think he needed the time to see and understand the National Football League and how it works," Jackson said. "We're better served -- I can't tell you that Baker would have performed like that in Week 1. The way he works, the time he spends, it's been invaluable for him.

"That's all I ever said about Baker -- when we stick him out there, he was going to play well, and I truly believe that tonight was his coming out party.''

The Browns have used 29 different starting quarterbacks since the franchise relocated back to Cleveland in 1999. The player who almost assuredly will be No. 30 said the city should get used to more success.

"Cleveland deserves a win, but we're not done yet," Mayfield said. "So don't break the dilly dilly coolers too hard; just enjoy it. We deserve it, but at the same time we're just getting started."

--Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell received some unsolicited support from a former teammate regarding his holdout.

Mike Wallace, currently with the Philadelphia Eagles and a former wide receiver with the Steelers, posted on his Twitter account Thursday that Bell is being portrayed unfairly for staying away from the club in a contract dispute.

"It's crazy how they will make you out to be the villain when you want what you've earned," wrote Wallace, who spent his first four NFL seasons with Pittsburgh.

Bell has refused to sign a $14.5 million franchise tag while he pursues a new contract. Several of his teammates have been critical of the running back for not communicating with his fellow players. Center Maurkice Pouncey called Bell "selfish."

The sixth-year running back could lose up to $855,000 per game if he remains absent.

In follow-up tweets while debating the merits of Bell's holdout with Twitter followers, Wallace noted that every player's situation is unique.

"Just because it sounds good to you doesn't mean it does to him," Wallace wrote. "We all have a life to live and sometimes that means making choices that people don't agree with."

Bell struggled out of the blocks in 2017 before finishing the season with 1,291 rushing yards and 85 receptions for 655 yards. Bell was selected to the Pro Bowl for the third time and was named All-Pro for the second time.

Wallace predicted if Bell makes a similar return this season, he will win over the Pittsburgh faithful.

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