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Browns lose Njoku to IR; DBs uncertain vs. Rams

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BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns placed tight end David Njoku on injured reserve with a wrist injury, the team announced Friday.

Njoku, who was injured in the first quarter of Monday’s game and also suffered a concussion, could require surgery for the wrist, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The news comes as the team’s entire starting secondary missed Friday’s practice with injuries heading into Sunday night’s game against quarterback Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams.

Both of Cleveland’s starting cornerbacks, Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, are questionable after suffering hamstring injuries this week. Safety Morgan Burnett (quad) also didn’t practice Friday and is listed as questionable. The Browns have already ruled out safety Damarious Randall for Sunday due to a concussion.

In response, the Browns signed cornerback Robert Jackson to the active roster off their practice squad and claimed safety Juston Burris via waivers from the Raiders.

“The guys that are there [against the Rams], I expect us to show up and play well, compete every snap,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. “The expectations haven’t changed. I just need 11 on each side of the ball to show up and play.”

The Browns were already without linebacker Christian Kirksey (chest), who could be out for an extended time. Kitchens said Kirksey is getting opinions on whether he will need surgery.

Other starters listed as questionable for Sunday include right tackle Chris Hubbard (foot) and wide receiver Rashard Higgins (knee).

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Jets’ Joe Flacco says he won’t be ready for opener after surgery

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New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco, who agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract Friday, confirmed speculation he won’t be ready for the Sept. 13 season opener against the Buffalo Bills because of his recently repaired neck.

“I can’t speak to exactly when I’m going to be ready, but it will not be day one,” Flacco said Tuesday in an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio. “Obviously, we’ll get with the doctors and I have another checkup come August, so we’ll see where that goes.”

Flacco, 35, who underwent surgery in early April for a herniated disk, could be cleared for contact in early to mid-September, sources said last week. He said he feels “normal right now” — he’s throwing and working out — but he probably will be limited to light work in training camp.

The Jets were aware of Flacco’s timetable when they finalized the deal. They’re confident he will be healthy enough to serve as Sam Darnold‘s backup for much of the season. The football calendar is up in the air because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“First and foremost, I want to help the team in any way possible and also be a guy Sam can lean on, that he can learn from,” Flacco said in his first interview since being released by the Denver Broncos after only one season. “I would say those are the two most important things: Help out the guys on the team and help out Sam to do all they can.

“For me, personally, I want to play football. I’ve had some things happen, got injured and had to have surgery. I have to find my way back into the league. I want to play for years to come. I think these guys have given me a great opportunity and hope I can make the most of my situation and make the most of whatever my role ends up being.”

The former longtime Baltimore Ravens starter and Super Bowl MVP admitted he wavered on whether to continue playing. He said he was “changing my mind every other day” earlier in the offseason.

“My mind was just all over the place, even a couple of months into the offseason,” he said. “I was just kind of going crazy about the whole thing. The fact that I finally got [the surgery] done and put all that behind me, I can move forward now and look forward to football.”

Flacco, acknowledging he knows “nothing at this point” about coach Adam Gase’s offensive system, is participating in the virtual offseason program. He said he wouldn’t hesitate to participate in a minicamp amid coronavirus concerns.

“It’s tough to talk about this and not get political, but I want to get back to work,” he said. “I think everybody wants to get back to work. It would be very easy for me and a bunch of the guys that play to sit here and say, ‘Ah, we can quarantine until this and this and this.’

“… I could quarantine forever — I’ve been lucky, I’ve been fortunate — but I want to get back to work. I think we all do, man. We need this. We need to get back to work and get things going.”

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Saints DE Noah Spence tears ACL while training away from team

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New Orleans Saints defensive end Noah Spence suffered a torn ACL while training away from the team, a source confirmed, Tuesday.

Spence was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list since the injury did not occur as part of New Orleans’ offseason training program — which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. That means he can’t play for the Saints this year and won’t count against their 90-man roster. The NFL Network was the first to report the nature of Spence’s injury.

Situations like this could add another wrinkle to these unusual offseason circumstances. Teams aren’t required to pay salaries in the cases of “non-football” injuries. But they could decide to work out injury settlements or place players on injured reserve when rosters are trimmed in September and continue paying them.

Spence, 26, was scheduled to make $910,000 on a one-year deal if he made the Saints’ 53-man roster. He would have counted $750,000 against their salary cap as part of the veteran minimum salary benefit.

The fifth-year pro originally joined the Saints last December after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins earlier in the 2019 season. He was a healthy inactive for all four games with New Orleans, including the playoffs. But he had a chance to earn a roster spot this year to provide depth behind starters Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport.

Spence (6-foot-2, 251 pounds) began his career as a second-round draft pick with the Buccaneers in 2016 and had a terrific rookie season with 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

His production has tailed off since then, however, in part because of a nagging shoulder injury that limited him to six games in 2017. He had another sack and forced fumble with the Bucs in 2017 and one sack with the Redskins in 2019.

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Miami Dolphins to open drive-in theater at Hard Rock Stadium

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The Miami Dolphins will soon let fans drive their cars inside the stadium where football players typically play every weekend in the fall.

The Dolphins announced Tuesday that they are launching an outdoor drive-in theater inside Hard Rock Stadium that will be used to show marquee games in team history, classic movies, commencement ceremonies, concerts and more. They are also hosting an open-air theater which can host small groups for an intimate viewing experience in the complex plaza.

The Dolphins have mocked renderings of the drive-in venture, which they say can host up to 230 cars. They are promoting it as a family-friendly event that people can participate in amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Food and beverage can purchased through an online system and delivered to cars. Restrooms will also be made available for use. Fans can put their name on an email list via the stadium website to be notified when tickets are available.

“We’ve spent several weeks planning this to be able to provide people with a safe option to go out and enjoy movies, classic Dolphins content, concerts, and celebrate 2020 graduates,” said Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium vice chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel. “It’s a fundamental human need to physically experience and celebrate events and experiences together, and we’re trying to provide options for everyone where they can be safely socially distant and socially present at the same time.”

Hard Rock Stadium became the first public facility to earn the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s STAR accreditation, the standard used for facilities to implement cleaning, disinfecting and infectious disease prevention work practices to control risks involved with infectious agents like the coronavirus.

Garfinkel and the Dolphins have been proactive and innovative in ways to function during the pandemic. They released mock-up plans earlier this month for what it could like to host approximately 15,000 fans in the stadium for NFL fans if the NFL and the government allows it in the fall. Owner Stephen Ross also said on CNBC Tuesday that there will “definitely” be a football season this fall and the plans as of now is to include having fans in the stands.

Hard Rock Stadium was the host for Super Bowl LIV. It also has hosted Miami Open tennis tournaments, several multiple large music festivals, college football championship games and international soccer games.

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