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Randy Gregory of Dallas Cowboys to apply for reinstatement

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FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Randy Gregory is preparing to apply for reinstatement to the NFL and Jones is hopeful the defensive end can return to the field in 2018.

“I’m not confident but I do see where his heart is,” Jones said. “He’s one of the smartest people that have played this game. By documentation he is. So he’s smart. That’s a tremendous step. Of course he’s had that same IQ since he’s had these issues. That’s the issues. This is definitely a medical issue. There’s no doubt in my mind (it’s) medical. That’s another campaign right there.”

Jones has said he believes the NFL needs to adjust its substance-abuse policy when it comes to marijuana. Gregory has had multiple violations of the policy for failed tests and missed tests that caused his season-long suspension in 2017. He played in only two games in 2016 and has not been around the Cowboys’ facility since the end of the 2016 season.

“He’s one of the smartest people that have played this game. By documentation he is. … Of course he’s had that same IQ since he’s had these issues. … This is definitely a medical issue. There’s no doubt in my mind (it’s) medical. That’s another campaign right there.””

Jerry Jones on Randy Gregory

He is eligible to apply for reinstatement and has been meeting what Jones called “subjective,” and “factual” standards in the process. Jones said a lot of the process is confidential and did not go into the part the team plays in Gregory’s reinstatement.

“My point is he’s doing very well and he’s got a lot to play for,” Jones said. “He’s got a new baby. He’s got a lot going for him. He’s very astute about knowing that he’s just got to hopefully do what every one of us has to do: is do better when you’re 24 and 25 than you did when you were 20.”

The Cowboys selected Gregory in the second round of the 2015 draft, No. 60 overall. Jones said Gregory would have been a top-five pick without the off-field issues coming out of Nebraska. A foot injury limited Gregory to 12 games as a rookie and he did not record a sack. A suspension kept him out of the first 14 games in 2016 but he had a sack in one of his two games.

The team was aware of Gregory’s issues before selecting him and hoped it could structure a program around him to help keep him on the field. Despite the suspensions that have caused him to miss 30 of the past 32 games, Jones remains in Gregory’s corner.

“He’s really a good person,” Jones said. “That goes a long way … He’s smart. That’s redeeming. In other words is there a chance that he could get this figured out and be accountable and responsible? There is. Oh, there’s one other little thing: he’s one helluva football player, OK?”

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Atlanta Falcons secondary takes hit as Darqueze Dennard hits IR

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The Atlanta Falcons placed veteran cornerback Darqueze Dennard on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, meaning he’ll be sidelined at least three weeks and unavailable for Monday night’s matchup at Green Bay.

Dennard, who signed a one-year deal with the Falcons before the season, is coming off his best game with an interception in the end zone in a 30-26 loss to the Chicago Bears. Dennard played 77 snaps before exiting with the injury with 2 minutes, 12 seconds left in regulation.

Dennard, who had been playing the nickelback role, started at left cornerback against the Bears because rookie first-round draft pick A.J. Terrell was placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list the night before the game. Terrell remains on the list and his status for Monday night’s game in unclear. Kendall Sheffield, who was projected to start at cornerback, has yet to play this season due to a foot injury but he’s out of a walking boot.

Another key member of the secondary, safety and captain Ricardo Allen, missed the Bears game with an hyperextended elbow.

Falcons secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr., who spent 11 years in Green Bay, addressed the banged up secondary in preparation for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

“This in the NFL. Everybody has to be ready,” he said. “We’re not played to go out there and play well. We’re paid to go win this week against Aaron. It’s going to be a great challenge. I was with Aaron for 11 years. I know what type of quarterback he is. Their offense is rolling. … There as good as any offense in the league.”

Depending on the status of both Terrell and Sheffield, the Falcons might have to start veteran Blidi Wreh-Wilson at left cornerback opposite Isaiah Oliver, who is expected to remain at right cornerback despite his noticeable coverage struggles. The team activated cornerback Jordan Miller from the reserve/suspended list Monday so he could be in line for action if ready to step in. The Falcons played Delrick Abrams some at cornerback against the Bears but then moved him back to the practice squad.

The Falcons are 0-3 after blowing double-digit leads in consecutive weeks against the Bears and Cowboys following a season-opening loss to the Seahawks.

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Brett Rypien to start for Denver Broncos against New York Jets

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In an injury-riddled season that has led to a major slump on offense, the Denver Broncos (0-3) will start their third different quarterback in four weeks when Brett Rypien opens the game behind center Thursday night against the New York Jets.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio told the team Tuesday morning that Rypien, who played on the Broncos’ final drive in Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, would start against the Jets. Rypien said Fangio informed him of the decision Monday.

Fangio also said there is a chance Jeff Driskel, who started the Buccaneers game, would play in some situations against the Jets.

“We’ll just see how the game unfolds,” Fangio said. “We may change it up a few times.”

Drew Lock started Denver’s first two games, but suffered a right (throwing) shoulder injury in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is expected to miss at least another two games.

Rypien, nephew of longtime NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster last week. He will be the ninth different quarterback to start a game for the Broncos since the start of the 2017 season.

The Broncos also signed Blake Bortles, a 2014 first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, last week, but Fangio said Monday it was “unrealistic” to expect him to be an option to start against the Jets.

Rypien entered last Sunday’s game in relief of Driskel with 9 minutes, 56 seconds remaining. He completed his first eight passes but his last attempt was intercepted in the end zone when he tried to squeeze a throw in to Jerry Jeudy. Rypien finished the game 8-of-9 for 53 yards.

Fangio said he liked how Rypien got the ball out quickly on a day when the Broncos struggled with Buccaneers’ pass rush.

“He played pretty good in there,” Fangio said. “… We want to see if that can continue.”

Added offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur: “He executes well, he’s quick-minded, he gets the ball out quickly.”

When asked what attributes he has that have helped him the most in his time with the team, Rypien said, “I think fast and get the ball out.”

The move comes with the Broncos’ offense struggling. The team has surrendered 13 sacks (all in the past two games), tied for second-most allowed in the league.

The Broncos are also ranked 30th in scoring in the league (15 points per game) and 29th in both total offense (289.3 yards per game) as well as third-down conversions (34.2 percent). Their quarterbacks have just four touchdown passes this season (one by Lock, three by Driskel).

Rypien, who came to the Broncos as an undrafted rookie in 2019, spent most of last season on the practice squad and was initially signed to it again after this year’s training camp when the Broncos kept two quarterbacks on the roster in Lock and Driskel.

“It was good to get in there for a drive [last Sunday],” Rypien said. “Hopefully that can carry over to this Thursday.”

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Tennessee Titans COVID-19 outbreak – What we know about the positive coronavirus tests; will NFL games be postponed?

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The NFL has its first COVID-19 team outbreak. At least nine members of the Tennessee Titans have produced confirmed positive test results in the past four days, a rash of coronavirus infections that could potentially have spread during Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Titans have closed their practice facility until at least Saturday, while the Vikings have closed theirs until they have further test results. Decisions on both teams’ Week 4 games are pending.

Here’s what we know at the moment, with appropriate context. We will continue to update as news develops.

Jump to:
Timeline for return to facilities
Could games get postponed?

So this started with the Titans?

Yes. On Saturday, Titans linebackers coach Shane Bowen returned a confirmed positive test. The Titans received the results before they departed Nashville for Minneapolis, and Bowen was held back from making the trip.

Were the other eight Titans employees infected by Bowen?

We don’t know. What we do know is that the entire Titans traveling party was tested Saturday, as they would ordinarily be. The Titans had those results by Sunday morning. All were negative, meaning every coach, player and staff member was eligible for Sunday’s game.

The Titans stayed Saturday night at the JW Marriott, adjacent to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, according to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. League protocol requires all members of the traveling party to have their own rooms and also prohibits them from “congregating, visiting or mingling with individuals outside of the Traveling Party once they have arrived in the game city.”

On Sunday, they defeated the Vikings won, 31-30. The team flew back home after the game ended.

So no one was tested on Sunday?

Correct. The protocols call for daily testing on every day except game day. Neither the league or the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has explained explicitly why, but timing is likely a substantial part of the answer. Results for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, performed on the morning of a game by nasal swab, probably wouldn’t be returned in time for kickoff.

Point of care (POC) tests have quicker results — PCR tests are usually returned overnight, whereas POC tests can be returned on the same day, and even before kickoff after a morning test — but are not as accurate. At this time, POC tests are only used to help confirm initial positive tests, and the NFL doesn’t yet trust them on their own. And the NFL likely didn’t want to sideline a player or coach based only off a POC test.

When were they next tested?

All Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees from the Titans and Vikings, which includes players and coaches, were tested Monday morning. Of the eight Titans who returned confirmed positive tests, three were players and five were employees. They have not been identified. None were displaying symptoms, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano. No members of the Vikings returned positive tests.

What about the officials who worked the Titans-Vikings game on Sunday?

Most officials travel home on the night of the game or the next morning. Per their protocol, they are tested twice per week — once in their hometowns and once on the day before games. Referee Clete Blakeman’s crew worked this game, and it is not immediately known if any of them were affected.

Does that mean the outbreak is contained?

No. General guidance from public health officials suggest it can take up to 5-7 days for an infection to register in a test. That’s why the Titans facility is closed through at least Saturday. The NFL/NFLPA protocol calls for increased monitoring for eight days for anyone who had close contact with someone who returned a confirmed positive test.

How do they determine close contact?

The protocols follow CDC guidelines: within 6 feet apart for at least 15 minutes of an infected individual. The league identified 48 close contacts to monitor, based on contact tracing of the eight confirmed positive individuals, according to Graziano. It’s unclear if those are all members of the Titans, or if some are members of the Vikings.

That includes contact during a game as well as data recorded by mandatory proximity devices worn by all team employees before and after the game. Per the protocol, “Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2M and Tier 3 Individuals will also be required to wear Kinexon Proximity Recording tracking devices at all times while engaged in team activities (including in the Club facility, during practices, and during team travel).”

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Dianna Russini explains the possible origin of the Titans’ coronavirus outbreak and why she doesn’t anticipate Tennessee playing its Week 4 game against Pittsburgh.

So did the virus find the one hole in the protocol?

If the Titans passed the infection to the Vikings, then yes. Games are the one point in the NFL week where social distancing is impossible, and the period when it’s most likely that an infected person will breathe on others. That’s part of the reason the NFL has insisted on coaches and other non-players wearing masks on the sideline.

The absence of gameday testing also heightens the risk. A POC test Sunday morning might have caught at least some of the positive results the Titans eventually recorded Monday.

Right. But it seemed as though the NFL protocols were working.

They were. As of Tuesday morning, there were only four players on the NFL’s COVID-19 list. Only seven players, and another 29 non-players, had returned positive results during the four testing periods from Aug. 12 through Sept. 19.

But as Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University, said earlier this month: “An outbreak really can happen at any time.” It’s fair to wonder if this will prompt a shift into game-day testing.

When can the Vikings and Titans get back to their practice facilities?

We know the Titans won’t return before Saturday at the earliest. The Vikings’ return depends on whether they receive any confirmed positive results.

How long will the infected players and staff members be kept away from the team?

It’s complicated. Here is a flow chart for symptomatic and asymptomatic positive tests.

What about their Week 4 games?

At the moment, both are still scheduled to play Sunday. That could change in the coming hours and days, however. The Titans’ game Sunday in Nashville against the Pittsburgh Steelers could easily be moved to Week 7, if the NFL moves the Steelers’ Week 7 game against the Baltimore Ravens into Week 8, when both have byes. A potential rescheduling of the Vikings’ game at the Houston Texans is less obvious.

The NFL formed an independent committee made up of unaffiliated former league officials to advise commissioner Roger Goodell on equity and fairness in these situations. One immediate question is whether it’s fair for the Titans to play the Steelers on Sunday if they have been away from their team facility, and thus unable to practice, all week.



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