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Exit from minicamp my fault

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Defensive tackle Michael Pierce accepted responsibility for being pulled from practicing during last week’s Baltimore Ravens mandatory minicamp, blaming it on an error in his training regimen.

“Throughout the offseason, I tend to lift more than run,” Pierce told WNSP-FM radio in Alabama on Friday. “Being a nose guard, I want to be strong or whatnot. I, honestly, just mismanaged my running a little bit.”

Pierce reported to the Ravens last week significantly heavier than his listed playing weight of 340 pounds. A restricted free agent, Pierce didn’t attend the team’s offseason conditioning program and sat out all of the voluntary practices in the spring.

On Tuesday, Pierce left the field following the stretching portion of practice after speaking to coach John Harbaugh, who later told reporters that the fourth-year lineman wasn’t ready to practice “from a safety standpoint and for his own health.”

“Out of respect for Coach Harbaugh, he’s been nothing but a fair guy, he just wanted me to get in with the strength and conditioning staff and do more running before camp comes,” Pierce said.

Baltimore defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale expressed disappointment that Pierce wasn’t in shape to practice but cautioned anyone about piling on him.

“Let’s don’t forget what a great football player he is,” Martindale said last week. “He’ll get back there. I can’t tell you when, but he’ll get back there.”

Pierce, 26, was ranked as the fifth-best interior defensive lineman by Pro Football Focus last season. Considered one of the better run defenders in the NFL, Pierce received a second-round tender this offseason and will earn $3.095 million.

He signed as an undrafted rookie out of Samford in 2016, and his weight had previously never been a major issue. This is an important year for Pierce, who can become an unrestricted free agent after the season. But his season didn’t start smoothly.

“At the end of the day, you expect a team leader to come back in better shape than I did,” Pierce said. “That’s a mistake on my behalf I have to correct. I don’t want to get into much more than that.”

The Ravens report to training camp in about 5½ weeks.

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Saints rule out starting LBs A.J Klein (knee), Kiko Alonso (thigh) vs. 49ers

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METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints have ruled out two of their starting linebackers before Sunday’s critical NFC showdown vs. the San Francisco 49ers.

Strongside linebacker A.J Klein (knee) and middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (thigh) were both injured during last Thursday’s win at Atlanta. The timing is especially unfortunate because the 49ers have the NFL’s No. 2-ranked rushing offense at 148.0 yards per game.

And because both teams are 10-2, Sunday’s game could wind up determining the NFC’s top seed and home-field advantage.

The Saints’ run defense, meanwhile, ranks No. 3 in the league, allowing just 88.6 yards per game. They will likely count on veteran backup Craig Robertson as one replacement starter. Backups Stephone Anthony and newly signed Manti Te’o could also help fill the void.

On a positive injury note, the Saints’ standout left tackle Terron Armstead is listed as questionable after he returned to practice on a limited basis all week with his ankle injury. Even if he is not ready to return yet Sunday, it’s a good sign that he will be back soon.

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Giants expect Golden Tate, Evan Engram to face Eagles

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate was cleared from the concussion protocol and will play Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tate, who is second on the Giants with four receiving touchdowns, missed last week’s loss to the Green Bay Packers. He is set to play his first game with quarterback Eli Manning after missing the first four weeks of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Manning is expected to return to the starting lineup for the first time since Week 2 in place of an injured Daniel Jones, who has a high ankle sprain.

Manning should have a full complement of weapons at his disposal. Tight end Evan Engram is also expected to return after missing three games with a foot injury.

It would mark the first time this season that all the Giants’ pass-catching weapons (Tate, Engram, running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Sterling Shepard) are on the field together. The Giants (2-10) are trying to snap an eight-game skid.

Tate returns just in time to face his former team. He was traded from the Detroit Lions to the Philadelphia Eagles midway through last season. He signed with the Giants this offseason as a free agent after catching the game-winning touchdown in a playoff win for the Eagles earlier this year.

The veteran receiver has been productive in his seven games with the Giants. Tate has 36 catches for 450 yards and four touchdowns.

But he was injured late in a loss to the Chicago Bears. He was diagnosed with a concussion the day after that game, in which he took several big hits. The Giants say the concussion occurred when his head slammed into the ground while making a touchdown grab late in the fourth quarter. He remained in the game for the final drive.

Engram leads the Giants with 44 receptions. He also has 467 yards and three touchdown grabs in eight games.

But Engram hasn’t played since hurting his foot late in a Week 9 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He recently said it was a two-to-four week injury.

Engram has missed three games and had the bye week to recover. He’s been a limited participant in practice this week, but told ESPN he’s done way more than the past few weeks.

“All indications are he’ll be ready to go,” coach Pat Shurmur said earlier Friday.

The same can’t be said for Jones. He didn’t practice Friday even though he ditched the walking boot on his right foot. He spent most of his time on the sideline working with a trainer. Shurmur considered it “very unlikely” the rookie quarterback would play despite all the Giants’ weapons finally being together.

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Colts to be without Adam Vinatieri, T.Y. Hilton vs. Bucs

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INDIANAPOLIS — Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri has been ruled out for Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay because of a left knee injury, coach Frank Reich said Friday.

Vinatieri, who said he started feeling pain in his knee last week, did not practice Thursday or Friday after being a limited participant Wednesday. It will be the first game he has missed due to injury since 2009.

Reich said they have not talked about putting Vinatieri on the season-ending injured reserve list, instead classifying the kicker as being “week to week” with four games left in the regular season.

Vinatieri, 46, dealt with a similar knee problem during training camp.

He has made a career-low 68% of his field goal attempts this season and missed 14 kicks — eight field goals and six extra points. Two of Vinatieri’s misses — against the Chargers and Steelers — cost the Colts games.

Chase McLaughlin, who the Colts claimed off waivers Wednesday, will handle the kicking duties. McLaughlin has played in seven games this season, four with the Chargers and three with the San Francisco 49ers. He was 13-for-17 on field goals and made all 15 of his extra point attempts.

The Colts, who are on a two-game losing streak, also ruled out receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) and cornerback Kenny Moore (ankle) for Sunday’s game.

The Colts will get some help on offense, as running back Marlon Mack (hand), who has rushed for a team-high 862 yards, and rookie receiver Parris Campbell (hand) are expected to return, barring any setback after missing two and four games, respectively.

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