Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski ‘satisfied’ with how injured hamstring is healing

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski stopped short Tuesday of making any declarative statements about the health of his injured hamstring or his availability for Thursday night’s home game against the Houston Texans, saying only that he felt “decent.”

“We’ll see,” he said. “It will definitely be a coach’s decision, a trainer’s decision. We’ll all come together.

“I’m just doing everything I can right now to be as healthy as I can be. I’m improving every single day. Basically, day by day right now. бн Obviously, you just don’t wake up and you’re 100 percent, but I’m satisfied with the improvements.”

Gronkowski was a limited participant in Tuesday’s practice, showing up in full pads for the walkthrough session. He explained that he wore the full pads to get a feel for them, and that it’s also part of his recovery and training regimen.

“You just want to get a feel for your shoulder pads when you haven’t been in them,” he said.

Yes, he is. It’ll be interesting to see the Redskins’ approach Sunday. The fourth quarter switch came as a surprise, given defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s response last week explaining his reluctance to not only adopt this strategy but also to make such a change in-game. Both corners said they did not practice this during the week.

In the process, McCarthy has created a homogeneous offense that leaves little to the imagination. In two games, he’s used a three-receiver set on 95 of 123 offensive snaps, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That’s 77.2 percent of their plays with three receivers on the field. Of those 95 snaps, all but 11 featured that same trio of receivers.

What’s more, 86 of those 123 snaps featured the exact same personnel group: three receivers, one tight end and one running back. That’s 69.9 percent of their offense with the same look that most teams call their “11” package.

The Packers’ offensive struggles have surprisingly carried over from last season even though Nelson, a Pro Bowl receiver in 2014 before he blew out his knee last year and missed all of 2015, and free-agent tight end Jared Cook were expected to change the dynamic.

Instead, two games into the season the same questions that dogged McCarthy last season remain on the table for the asking.

Elvis Dumervil says he’s not playing in Ravens’ opener after setback

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil said Wednesday that he will not play in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.

Dumervil acknowledged he had a minor setback in his recovery from an offseason procedure in the foot area. He was the only Ravens starter who was not practicing Wednesday.

Since 2006, Dumervil ranks second among active players with 96 sacks. His 31 multiple-sack games leads all players in the past 10 seasons. Dumervil has been one of the most durable defenders in the NFL since joining the Ravens in 2013. He’s only missed one game and has played in 35 straight games.

“It’s one of those things where your body kind of tells you when it’s ready,” Dumervil said. “So we’re all pushing. We wanted it to be Week 1, but unfortunately, it wasn’t.”

“The big thing for both of them, they might try to play mind games with each other,” Roethlisberger said in preparation for the Sept. 12 opener at FedEx Field. “I’ll talk to my guy and makes sure he keeps a level head.”

Norman, who became the richest cornerback in the league after signing a five-year deal with the Washington Redskins this offseason, never backs down from a verbal confrontation, most famously scrapping with New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham last year.

Brown’s passion was on display in the preseason when an official in a preseason scrimmage issued an ejection warning after Brown complained ferociously about the lack of holding calls on Detroit Lions corners.

There’s a healthy respect between Norman and Brown. At the least, though, they will engage in some healthy debate about what happens downfield.

Roethlisberger isn’t sure whether Norman will shadow Brown, as he’s “traditionally been a one-spot kind of guy” but sometimes moves around. “We’ll be ready for anything,” Roethlisberger said. “[Norman’s] one of the best, if not the best in the business.”

At 6-foot and 200 pounds, Norman has size on his side against the 5-foot-10 Brown. But save the 6-3 Richard Sherman holding Brown to six catches and 51 yards last season, Brown typically toasts all comers. Brown averaged 10 catches a game with Roethlisberger in the lineup.

Trump on Kap: Maybe he should find another country

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has weighed in on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to refuse to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of what he deems as racial injustice in the United States in addition to recent comments from the quarterback on Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

It’s unclear if the Saints expect McCain to push third-year pro Kasim Edebali for a starting job or if they were just looking for depth and special-teams help. But the Saints have essentially been in the market for pass-rush help since back in March — a need that became even greater after second-year defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha went down with a knee injury this summer.

New Orleans apparently decided to look outside the building for help after being disappointed with its most recent preseason results. Coach Sean Payton called the pass rush “very concerning” after Friday’s preseason loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Coming of age in America’s turbulent 1960s, though, Brown is also recognized for a social activism beyond football that led to the Black Economic Union and the Amer-I-Can program which has changed the lives of former gang members and ex-convicts.

Appearing on Monday’s edition of NFL Total Access, Brown weighed in on the controversy surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s recent protest during the playing of the national anthem.

“I listened to him and he makes all the sense in the world. He’s within his rights and he’s telling the truth as he sees it,” Brown explained. “I am with him 100 percent. … Now if you ask me ‘Would I do that?’ No I won’t, because I see it a little differently. I’m an American citizen, I pay my taxes, I want my equal rights but this is my country, and consequently I don’t want to open up for ISIS or anybody that will take away what we’ve already gained.”

When Brown arrived on the NFL scene in 1957, he fought for equal rights in a league that still limited the number and influence of African-American players.

“We had to fight in a certain kind of way to make it better,” Brown said, “so these young people can make the kind of money they’re making and the league can be 80 percent African American.

“Young men in my day really stepped up. … These were champions for freedom, equality and justice for all humans beings, and they were educated individuals that used their education and knowledge to represent their case. So now 50 years later we have a young man saying something that was kind of taken for granted in our day. We were way past that. For me it’s like going back in time.”

While professional athletes have been reluctant to speak out in recent years, Brown believes there are signs that they are becoming more outspoken and willing to deal with the public backlash — as Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett implored late last month.

With Dion Lewis out, is there a viable fantasy option in the New England backfield?

Dion Lewis’ injury setback isn’t only frustrating news for his fantasy owners in leagues that drafted early; it’s also aggravating in that it takes the New England Patriots’ backfield a step backwards in terms of role certainty from week to week.

“We’ve talked to him. He knows what he has to do. He’s working through it,” said Koetter, directing all questions about possibly bringing in another kicker to general manager Jason Licht. “I wouldn’t think that’s an option, but that would be a question for Jason.”

Koetter was asked if he believes Aguayo’s struggles are mental.

“I think so and I think he believes that,” Koetter said.

Roberto Aguayo has missed two field goal attempts and one extra point conversion attempt through the first two preseason games.

Aguayo admitted Monday that indeed, his confidence has been affected.

“I’d say a little bit, but in times like this, it builds you up so down the road in the future, you’re a lot stronger, ya know? You’ve got to have times like this where you struggle a little bit,” Aguayo said.

On Monday, Koetter put him on the spot at the end of practice and said that if he made a 50-yarder, the team could go home early. He made it, and his teammates celebrated with him. They also let him break the huddle. “I haven’t had that feeling in a long time … a game-winning kick,” Aguayo said.

Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said it gave him a huge boost.

“It was big for him because he got to see what making his kicks can do for his team, how it can energize us when he makes his kicks.”

“He’s a rookie. He was drafted as a kicker, so a lot of expectations come with you being the guy,” said McCoy, who was selected third overall in the 2010 NFL draft and didn’t have a breakout season until 2013.

“With me not struggling right away with injuries, not living up to expectations, who better to go talk to him?” said McCoy, who tore the biceps in both arms his first two seasons and ended up on IR. “I just go and encourage him and say, ‘Hey listen, just stay the course. Just stay the course.”

Despite the boo-birds, several fans waited for Aguayo after practice to get his autograph and to offer words of encouragement. “We watched you all the way back at Florida State,” said one fan. “We have a lot of faith in you.”

Meanwhile, former Bucs kicker Patrick Murray, now with the Browns, went 4-for-4 on his kicks during the joint practice session. The Bucs waived him in May, two and a half weeks after drafting Aguayo.

Rodgers said that this will be a one-shot deal for the preseason; he’s not expecting to play in the finale at Kansas City.

Rodgers hasn’t played in either of the first two games, but Packers associate head coach Tom Clements said that even a two-time MVP quarterback, who is entering his 12th NFL season (and ninth as a starter), could use the work.

Alshon Jeffery not worried about Kevin White’s quiet preseason

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera called it a “misunderstanding.’’

Wide receiver Devin Funchess said “nothing happened.’’

Regardless, the ‘Peanut Punch’’ led to a mild skirmish between Funchess and rookie cornerback Daryl Worley during Tuesday’s fully padded practice.

For background, recently retired Carolina cornerback Charles “Peanut’’ Tillman has been at practice the past two days working with the young corners. A part of that has been teaching them the “Peanut Punch,’’ a method he used to force 44 career fumbles.

Worley tried the maneuver on Funchess after the second-year receiver caught a slant pass over the middle. Unfortunately, instead of punching the ball he caught Funchess in the neck area.

The best glimpse of White in the preseason could come Saturday versus the Kanas City Chiefs, where the Bears’ first team is expected to play at least one full half. While it’s not a requirement, it would be beneficial for White to get more involved offensively, without compromising what Chicago’s offense truly intends to do Week 1 at Houston.

The Windermere, Florida, native was a seventh-round pick by the Broncos in the 2015 draft. His regular-season playing time with the Broncos, after one year as Peyton Manning’s apprentice, amounts to one snap — a kneel-down play on Dec. 20 to close out the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He started only three games in his first three seasons at Northwestern before making 11 starts as a senior until he tore his ACL on Nov. 11, 2014, against Purdue. In those 14 career starts, he finished fourth all time in school history in passing yardage (5,931) and seventh in career passing touchdowns (27).

“… We are proud to call him a Titan, and he is always welcome around this team. We wish him and his family the best in his next chapter of life.”

Mike Clay’s ultimate draft board

That’s going to be a tough (impossible?) act to follow, but I’ll do my best. The below round-by-round analysis will give you an idea of what’s going through my head on draft day. I have my rankings. I have my projections. I’ve set up tiers. And I certainly have a few of my favorite targets circled and in the queue.

Round 1 target: Antonio Brown

I know. I know. Who doesn’t want the best player in fantasy? The reason I list Brown here is because there’s a healthy debate out there as to the best position to draft from. My preference is as early as possible. If I can get my hands on Brown, I know I have one spot in my lineup filled with a player who owns both an elite floor and elite ceiling. Incredibly, Brown has finished just under half of his games as a top-10 fantasy wideout over the past two seasons.

I’d also be content with Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr. early in the first round, but I’m not overly fond of a late first-round pick, simply because there is a massive tier of players of similar value. Picking early allows you to grab an elite player and then pick up two of the remaining available standouts at the second/third-round turn.

RICHMOND, Va. — The sight of a 300-pound defensive lineman fielding punts is not a pleasing one. Unless, for his teammates, it means the end of training camp. That’s the spot the Washington Redskins were in Monday morning on the final day of workouts here.

And after Chris Baker failed to catch a punt, it was up to Ricky Jean Francois to save the day — and end the practice. Jean Francois had to roam far to his right, but he grabbed the ball and was immediately pounced on by teammates. Even offensive coordinator Sean McVay jumped on him.

“There’s a reason 300-pound guys are not meant to be back there doing this,” Jean Francois said, “but to get my team to go home a little early, I’m down for it. Just in case [head coach] Jay Gruden ever needs an emergency punt returner, in case the fifth or sixth string [can’t go], I’m the guy. I might fair catch it. If I try to run, I might get 5 to 10 yards. I’m not going to give you more than that.”

The punts were shot from a JUGS machine approximately 40 yards away.

Amari Cooper: Foot injury ‘affected my whole game’

Cooper even considered skipping the Pro Bowl because he didn’t think he deserved the honor.

The No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft played through a mid-November quadriceps injury and suffered the foot injury in practice leading up to Week 14.

Prior to those two ailments, he was on pace for 82 receptions, 1,306 yards and eight touchdowns. The first rookie since Mike Ditka in 1961 with three 100-yard performances in his first six career games, Cooper was so dominant by Halloween that NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah was inspired to pick the Raiders’ greenhorn over record-setting Odell Beckham as the young wide receiver with the highest upside.

A rare receiver with precision route running, explosiveness after the catch and downfield tracking ability on 50/50 balls, Cooper was integral to Derek Carr’s early-season breakout performance. It should have come as no surprise, then, that Cooper’s injuries contributed to Carr’s late-season slump.

Prior to Week 12, Carr boasted a 63-percent completion rate at 7.66 yards per attempt with a 24:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 101.5 passer rating. Those numbers plummeted to 56 percent, 5.6 YPA, 8:7 TD-to-INT ratio and a 71.1 passer rating in the final five games.

With Cooper back to full health and poised to emerge as a weekly difference maker, the Raiders’ aerial attack should return to the heights of last September and October.

This week, tons of news on quarterbacks’ Case Keenum, Jared Goff, and the now exiled Nick Foles. Plus, news finally on Tr’e Mason, and Rams head coach Jeff Fisher cranks up some love for Keenum as the starter in Los Angeles. And after a couple of decades, the team makes an appearance in the Coliseum.

Rams Notebook

Goff reps with second team
Jared Goff, the number #1 overall selection in this year’s NFL draft, has been relegated to working with the second unit in practice this past week. hard to say, and depending on whom you listen to, if this is the way to get your would be franchise quarterback ready, but Jeff Fisher is committed to a plan, despite what the conventional wisdom may say.

Tr’e going nowhere fast

Tr’e Mason has a lofe seeminly spiraling out of control. Whether he plays football in 2016, or anytime in the future remains to be seen. But one thing is certain, given the reports just this week, this is a guy who has got to get it together, and not just to play football.

Arizona Cardinals

Rookie cornerback Brandon Williams was listed as one of the Cardinals’ starting cornerbacks opposite Patrick Peterson on Arizona’s first depth chart of the preseason. Though coach Bruce Arians said the depth chart was written with “invisible ink,” Arians said the starting job is Williams’ to lose. The third-round pick doesn’t feel any pressure to keep the job as incumbent starter Justin Bethel slowly gets healthier. “No pressure at all,” Williams said. “You only got pressure when you’re not prepared, not working, not working hard. There’s no pressure on me because I’m doing both of those things.” — Josh Weinfuss

Tom Brady on suspension appeal: A ‘personal’ decision

“I’ll deal with that when it comes,” Brady said. “… We’ve got a good, competitive team. I’m just rooting for us to win every game that we’re playing that I’m not in, and certainly when I’m in, I hope we win every game, too.”

Meanwhile, Brady’s replacement for Weeks 1-4 didn’t have the best day on the field.

Scrimmage ends with Garoppolo’s pass getting tipped, intercepted at the line by Jamie Collins. Lot of film study headed for Jimmy G tonight.

Courtney Fallon (@CourtneyFallon_) August 5, 2016
Brady went a perfect 25 of 25 during the Patriots’ scrimmage, as his Blue squad dominated Jimmy Garoppolo’s White squad. As camp continues, the Patriots will continue to hope Brady’s experience, excellence and leadership rubs off on Garoppolo. But as countless NFL quarterbacks of days past will agree, it’s never quite that simple.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — It was a bold move by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Or maybe we should call it a bald move.

At the start of Tuesday’s practice, the New York Jets’ quarterback approached a group of defensive players and made a proposition that resulted in The Haircut Heard ‘Round the NFL. Fitzpatrick came clean on Thursday, telling WFAN radio the story behind his headline-making buzz cut.

“My hair was just stupid,” Fitzpatrick said of his overgrown locks, which had become a social media phenomenon. “I needed to cut it. I was going to cut it anyway. It was a nice little spoof. I told the defense, I went up to Rontez Miles and a few of the guys and said, ‘The next person that picks me off gets to give me a fresh summer ‘do.'”

Fitzpatrick struggled on Tuesday, and sure enough, he was intercepted by rookie Juston Burris, a fourth-round pick from North Carolina State. Making good on his promise, Fitzpatrick allowed Burris to shave his head in front of the entire team.

Tennessee Titans

1 to 10 percent: Yes, DeMarco Murray could revitalize his career in Tennessee with Mike Mularkey’s exotic smashmouth approach, but injuries kept him from realizing his promise until that dominant 2014 campaign. That guy could come back, but it’s unlikely.

Andre Johnson was a disappointment during his lone season in Indianapolis and might struggle to make an impact down the depth chart in Tennessee, but what he did with Matt Schaub as his primary quarterback all those years in Houston should be enough to make the Hall. Johnson made seven Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro twice, which is usually enough for skill-position players to eventually work their way into Canton. It helps that he’ll finish his career in the top 10 in receptions and receiving yards, although he’ll likely fall out of those rankings by the time he’s eligible for selection.

Reports: Cardinals, Tyrann Mathieu agree to five-year deal

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 gets inducted on Saturday. Shutdown Corner will profile the eight new Hall of Famers, looking at each of their careers and their impact on the game.

On the field, Harrison changed how receivers were viewed. He came into the NFL when the league was trending toward tall, hulking receivers who could out-muscle cornerbacks. Harrison was just 6-feet and 185 pounds, but was too quick for defensive backs. That works in the NFL too.

There’s another side of Harrison that has clouded his legacy after his retirement. He was involved in a few murky gun incidents, although he was not charged with any crimes in them. In 2008, a man named Dwight Dixon said Harrison shot him in the hand after an argument outside Harrison’s car wash in Philadelphia, and a man named Robert Nixon said he was hit in the back with a stray bullet. Nixon also said Harrison was the shooter, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer and other reports.

Harrison admitted to fighting with Dixon five to 10 minutes before the shooting, the Philadelphia Inquirer said. Although bullet casings at the scene matched a gun that Harrison owned, no charges were filed due to inconsistent statements by the witnesses, who were deemed not credible by the district attorney.

I was rooting for Trent Richardson’s comeback.

Richardson was cut on Tuesday by the Baltimore Ravens, and that might be it for him in the NFL. He was out of football all last season. There wasn’t much interest in him before the Ravens, whose general manager Ozzie Newsome is a former Alabama star like Richardson, signed him.

Richardson has been the butt of many jokes after the former first-round pick failed with the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts. But he opened up about what happened, saying he struggled with the transition to the NFL. He didn’t work hard enough without the structure he had in college, and regretted that. He found his focus waning with friends and family members asking for money. He said he took it very hard when he was out of football last season. He just wanted to play again.

Josh Gordon: ‘In the past, I’ve been a selfish player’

“You definitely get that sense of need to do something important with your life and with my career. Considering my age, how much time I’ve been out and how much time I got left nobody knows,” Gordon said. “I’m starting to capitalize on that. Not only for myself but for the well being of my family and be there for this team that held me together and allowed me to comeback.”

Gordon is saying all the right things. Yet the old saying goes: actions speak louder than words. For Gordon’s sake, he understands that.

“There’s not too much I can tell people,” Gordon admitted. “To my fans I just want to show them.”

Gordon’s ability to stay clean is the only thing that separates him from regaining his status as one of the premier wide receivers in the league. Hopefully, Gordon now knows after sitting out more than a year that marijuana isn’t worth his livelihood as an NFL player. Maybe he can put that all in the past, regain his credibility as a football player and serve as a positive influence to others.

With the Ryan Fitzpatrick saga over in New York, Jets coach Todd Bowles stated the obvious in regards to the team’s starting quarterback position.

“It’s his job,” Bowles said.

It was one of the least-surprising pronouncements of the summer, but nonetheless notable after the Jets spent the offseason propping up Geno Smith’s qualities as a starting option.

Fitzpatrick put up one of the best seasons in franchise history in 2015 throwing 31 touchdown passes. That production after he filled in following the infamous Smith punch debacle led to a summer of back-and-forth over Fitzpatrick’s worth.

The sides finally found middle ground Wednesday night, the eve of training camp, agreeing to a $12 million deal.

Fitzpatrick said he was comfortable with a one-year deal, despite the lack of security.