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Packers sign DL Lowry to contract extension



GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers had as many as four key defensive contributors who were scheduled to be free agents after this season.

Now they only have three.

The Packers signed defensive lineman Dean Lowry to a contract extension, the team announced Tuesday. The three-year deal with worth just over $20 million, including a $6 million signing bonus, a source told ESPN.

Lowry, a fourth-round pick in 2016, was scheduled to make $2.025 million this year in the final season of his rookie deal.

He moved into a full-time starting role midway through the season after injuries depleted the defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson, Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark all finished the season on injured reserve.

Wilkerson was not re-signed, and Daniels is entering the final year of his deal. Starting inside linebacker Blake Martinez and last year’s sack leader, Kyler Fackrell, also are scheduled to be free agents after this season.

Lowry has only missed one game in his first three years, appearing in 47 regular-season games with 19 starts. He played in all 16 games and made eight starts last year. He set career highs in tackles (57), solo tackles (39), sacks (3) and passes defensed (4) while also registering the first forced fumble of his career.

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NFL preseason Week 2 takeaways



Welcome to the NFL, rookie.

Kyler Murray learned how the other half lives Thursday against the Raiders, who blitzed the No. 1 overall pick and made him look uncomfortable. But it wasn’t all bad for the youngsters as Week 2 of the preseason started, as Dwayne Haskins showed off his arm with a big touchdown pass against the Bengals.

We have all that and more in the biggest takeaways and fantasy football nuggets of the preseason’s second week from NFL Nation:

Jump to a matchup:

Carson Wentz should not touch the field this preseason. The QB injuries are piling up for Philadelphia. Cody Kessler was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a concussion, one week after backup Nate Sudfeld went down with a broken wrist. Coach Doug Pederson has been ratcheting up the intensity at practice to give the first team quality work in a controlled environment. He should continue on that path and keep Wentz out of harm’s way until the regular-season opener against Washington. The Eagles will probably have to add another arm this week with Kessler in concussion protocol. — Tim McManus

QB Gardner Minshew needed a bounce-back performance after really struggling in the preseason opener and delivered: 19-for-29 for 202 yards in three quarters despite being under pressure from the edge pretty much the entire night. Minshew did lose a fumble after getting hit (RT Leonard Wester got beat badly) and also had a TD pass called back because of a block-in-the-back penalty by TE Ben Koyack. Minshew also put together a solid two-minute drive at the end of the first half that resulted in a field goal, giving the Jaguars their first points of the preseason. Minshew was clearly much more comfortable than he was last week. He was decisive and got the ball out quickly, which are encouraging signs for the Jaguars — who again sat the majority of their starters — because they’re counting on him to be the backup to Nick Foles. His performance Thursday night pretty much cemented that. — Mike DiRocco



Sam Darnold links up with Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson before Ty Montgomery plunges in for a 1-yard TD run.

Playing behind a makeshift offensive line, QB Sam Darnold opened with a TD drive for the second straight week. The tempo was fast and Darnold was in command. It’s early, but he seems to have a firm grasp of the new offense. Big concern: RT Brandon Shell injured his knee in warmups, becoming the third offensive lineman to go down with an injury. Chemistry will be an issue in Week 1.— Rich Cimini

There has to be concern about the offensive line during Matt Ryan‘s first appearance this preseason. Ryan was sacked three times and threw under duress too much while completing 10 of 14 passes for 118 yards. Ryan absorbed some good hits, something you never want to see in the preseason. Right tackle Ty Sambrailo didn’t look like a starter, and backup center Wes Schweitzer had some issues, among others. The Falcons are playing without two injured players who were thought to be on track to start: left guard James Carpenter (quad) and rookie right tackle Kaleb McGary (heart procedure). Jamon Brown could start at left guard and McGary, if healthy, should surpass the struggling Sambrailo at some point. — Vaughn McClure

Rookie Ryan Finley made a strong case to be Cincinnati’s No. 2 quarterback this season. The fourth-round pick out of NC State followed up his preseason debut with another strong performance. Excluding a spike at the end of the first half, Finley was 20-of-25 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns. The rookie steadied the Bengals after a start riddled with miscues. He led Cincinnati’s second unit on a 12-play, 93-yard drive that took 7:36 off the clock in the first half. From there, the entire team found its rhythm, as the visitors scored 23 of the final 30 points. Halfway through the preseason, the rookie is completing 75 percent of his passes for 259 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.— Ben Baby

The Redskins hoped the preseason would identify their No. 1 quarterback, but after two preseason games that hasn’t happened. Colt McCoy can’t yet play because of issues with his leg and Case Keenum has been ordinary in two starts. He’s still adapting to the offense and getting in sync with his receivers. But being in a competition makes it tougher to build that chemistry. And rookie Dwayne Haskins shows more big-play potential — as evidenced by his 55-yard touchdown pass to Robert Davis. He’s not afraid to challenge down the field, but he also hasn’t shown enough to seriously challenge more experienced players. But with what those players have shown, it’s hard to believe Haskins won’t be used at some point this season.— John Keim

It might be too soon to say the Packers have a serious problem with their run game — after all, neither Aaron Jones nor Jamaal Williams (both have hamstring issues) have played a snap in the preseason — but the installation of new coach Matt LaFleur’s outside-zone oriented scheme has been a rough go. The Packers totaled just 7 yards rushing on seven attempts in the first half a week after they had only 38 yards on 13 carries in the first half against the Texans. That’s 45 yards on 20 carries when the opponents were playing starters or key backups. Any hope that sixth-round rookie Dexter Williams could serve as a change-of-pace back looks bleak given his inability to hang onto the ball (he dropped a pass and couldn’t secure a handoff in which a fumble was charged to the quarterback). Tra Carson has been the starter in the absence of Jones and Jamaal Williams, but he’s averaging just 1.7 yards per carry. As much as LaFleur’s offense centers around the run game and what it can do for play-action, he needs to know if the lack of production is because he doesn’t have his top backs or because the scheme hasn’t taken hold. — Rob Demovsky



Lamar Jackson breaks free for an 18-yard touchdown, but it is nullified because of Willie Snead IV’s illegal blindside block.

Lamar Jackson continues to improve as a passer, but — as the Ravens’ starting quarterback showed and said Thursday night — he’s still at his most dangerous when running with the ball. On third-and-10, Jackson saw his receivers covered and took off, faking out Tramon Williams in the open field before leaping over Jaire Alexander to reach the end zone. The spectacular 18-yard touchdown run was nullified by Willie Snead‘s illegal block, but that doesn’t erase another highlight-reel moment that will keep defensive coordinators up at night. “The four-man rush gave me a lane,” Jackson said, “and I just did what I do best.” Jackson finished 6-of-10 passing for 58 yards, leading the Ravens to field goals on both of his drives. — Jamison Hensley

The Raiders defense, with a cast of new characters headlined by middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, looks much improved. At least it did in this second exhibition for both teams, with Oakland harassing No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray into a 3-for-8 passing night for 12 yards and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner sacking the nimble Murray for a safety. In four series, the Raiders starting defense only let Murray run once, for 4 yards. In fact, Joyner’s safety came on the third straight blitz dialed up by defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. At one point, the Raiders had outgained the Cardinals 231-12 in total yards. Also, rookie Josh Jacobs looks primed to be the Raiders’ feature back, starting and carrying the ball four times for 21 yards on their opening touchdown drive with Derek Carr under center, as the Raiders’ starting offense played just one series. — Paul Gutierrez

Thursday night was one to forget for Kyler Murray. The rookie quarterback went 3-for-8 for 12 yards with a 4-yard run and looked out of sync in the four possessions he played, which went into the second quarter. He was flagged twice for false starts because of his clap snap, once for delay of game and went down in the end zone to avoid a sack for a safety. While, yes, it’s still the preseason and the Cardinals are running a vanilla offensive scheme, there were still some issues that Murray and the Cardinals need to clean up. — Josh Weinfuss

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Megatron partners in marijuana-for-CTE research



Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and his business partner, ex-NFL lineman Rob Sims, have partnered with Harvard University to research the benefits of medical marijuana in the areas of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, more commonly known as CTE, as well as the management of pain.

The duo — who co-own the cannabis company Primitive — announced the partnership, which includes a six-figure donation with the option for future money given to the International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute at Harvard during the Cannabis Capital Conference in Detroit on Thursday.

“We can be in position to develop a treatment for CTE,” Sims told ESPN on Thursday night. “There’s been suggestion that CBD (cannabidiol) and stuff can help cognitive disease, and we think that potentially there could be a treatment going forward that we can produce.”

Sims and Johnson were part of Harvard’s Global Catalyst Health Summit in May, when they agreed to make the commitment to give research money and start a consortium with the brain performance company NESTRE to work with the institute and Dr. Wilfred Ngwa. NESTRE has worked on brain training with NFL athletes, including former quarterback and current ESPN analyst Josh McCown later in his career.

As part of the partnership, Harvard will do medical research for Primitive, run clinical trials related to CTE and pain and also will provide quality assurance from Harvard Medical School for any products the company creates. As former NFL players, Sims and Johnson say they have researched studies on CTE and football that show a prevalence of former players having the disease, which can be diagnosed only postmortem.

“As being former athletes, we know there’s some sort of CTE or some sort of damage, 99% I think they say in the study,” Sims said. “So that means I may be walking around with some form of it. It’s really about the hope. Just providing hope, improving the game, making the game safer for former players after they are done.

“Really just being able to help people. I’m a second-generation NFL kid, both my father and father-in-law. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of what it looks like when you’re done playing ball. If we can help this facet of people suffering from CTE or other cognitive disease, that’s the real goal here.”

This is the beginning of what Johnson and Sims are hoping is a long-term partnership with the institute. If they are able to help people, they figure the business portion of it will follow.

“What our mission is going to be is just to improve quality of life,” Sims said. “So, you know, with NESTRE and the brain training and the human optimization, we believe there’s a way to continue to improve your brain function through working out.

“Then from our position, with that data that we’ll be able to gain, we believe that we can produce plant medicines, or cannabis, using nanotechnology to deliver payloads to areas where people would have symptoms of CTE, like mood and anxiety and memory loss. That’s the goal in the end.”

Sims said there isn’t a set date for the clinical trials to begin, but he is hopeful they can start during the first quarter of 2020.

This is the latest business venture for Sims and Johnson, who started working as a real estate company and then also opened a consulting firm before choosing to go the cannabis route after Michigan legalized marijuana in November. Their first attempt to get a license was rejected by the state, but those issues have since been rectified and their first cultivation facility is scheduled to open within the next month or so in Webberville, Michigan.

That’s a long way from their beginnings, when they never imagined they would be partnered with Harvard.

“Never in a million years, man,” Sims said. “I was trying to get Calvin to flip one or two houses with me two years ago, and then we ended up getting into cannabis real estate, and then we ended up getting into the licensing part of it, and now we’re getting into the medicine part of it.

“So it’s been quite a journey and I’m just looking forward to the future.”

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Kessler in protocol, latest QB injury for Eagles



Another game, another quarterback injury for Philadelphia Eagles.

One week after Nate Sudfeld suffered a broken left wrist, Cody Kessler was lost to a concussion early in the first quarter Thursday night against the host Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jacksonville defensive end Datone Jones came free off the edge on Kessler’s blind side and put a big hit on the quarterback. Kessler attempted to continue to play, but the officials stopped the game to have Kessler examined. After a trip to the medical tent, the 26-year-old was brought inside TIAA Bank Field and later placed in concussion protocol.

Rookie Clayton Thorson replaced Kessler.

Kessler starting in place of Sudfeld, who suffered a fracture on his non-throwing wrist in the preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans. Sudfeld is recovering from surgery and is expected to return at some point early in the regular season. Given that timeline, the Eagles declined to bring another quarterback into training camp this week.

Carson Wentz has yet to play this preseason. Coach Doug Pederson has been trying to create a gamelike atmosphere during practice and is giving the bulk of the snaps to the first team, preferring to have those players work in a more controlled environment as opposed to exposing them to injury in the preseason.

That might continue, given what has transpired over the past two weeks.

Backup quarterback has been a storyline in Philadelphia all offseason with the departure of former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, who signed a four-year, $88 million contract with the Jaguars in March. Foles stepped in for the injured Wentz each of the past two seasons and helped lead a playoff charge. Wentz was lost for the year with torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in 2017 and was shut down with a stress fracture in his back in December.

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