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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


The New England Patriots have released a statement from owner Robert Kraft on linebacker Tedy Bruschi's retirement.

"For the past 13 seasons, Tedy Bruschi helped define what it means to be a New England Patriot. The heart and soul of the defense during the most successful era in the history of the franchise, Tedy also served as an example to every new Patriot of what it takes to be a champion on and off the field.

"Tedy’s tenacity as a player made him a fan favorite long before he helped bring three Super Bowl championships to New England. His remarkable and courageous return to the field following a stroke only added to his legend as one of the most significant and memorable athletes in the history of New England sports.

"We are blessed in so many ways to have had Tedy Bruschi as a career Patriot.”


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Tom Brady eased anxieties about his sore right shoulder, telling listeners of Boston all-sports radio station WEEI he would like to play in the New England Patriots preseason finale Thursday night if coach Bill Belichick lets him.

Brady said "I certainly am expecting" to play in the regular-season opener Sept. 14 against the Buffalo Bills. Fans have been waiting for the "Monday Night Football" broadcast since the schedule was released in March.

Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth fell on Brady in Friday night's exhibition at FedEx Field.

"There's a lot of time before that game," Brady said. "There's a lot of players on our team that have bumps and bruises. I have bumps and bruises. It's just a physical game.

"I fell a little bit awkwardly, but I'm expecting to be out there, and I'm expecting to play this week if Coach lets me. We'll just see how the week goes."

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson


It is being reported that Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel has an MCL sprain in his knee and is expected to miss two to four weeks.

Cassel was hurt when he was sacked early in the game against Seattle on Saturday.

The Chiefs start the season Sept. 13 at Baltimore. It may be difficult for Cassel to heal and get enough practice time in before that game.

Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen are the top backups. Croyle has been running with the No. 2 offense, but Thigpen spelled Cassel when he was injured. The team didn't play Croyle against Seattle.

Croyle seemed to be a better fit for new coach Todd Haley's system than Thigpen, who is more of a freelancer.

Cassel's injury is a major disappointment for the Chiefs. The team has centered its franchise on Cassel, who was given a contract extension that will pay him $40 million in the next three years.

The injury is also concerning for the Chiefs because it further illustrates the Chiefs' problems on the offensive line. Last year, both Croyle and Damon Huard were lost for the season.

Cassel had been on the run most of the preseason before being hurt on the sack.

Now, it looks like the Chiefs may have to turn to a backup quarterback once again.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

One of the most popular players in New England Patriots history has reached the end of the line.

 
  Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images
  Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi is expected to announce his retirement Monday.
Inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi reportedly will announce his retirement Monday. The news was first mentioned by NBC broadcaster Al Michaels during the "Sunday Night Football" telecast from Denver.

The Patriots have scheduled a news conference for 10:45 a.m. Monday at Gillette Stadium for "an important player announcement." No details about the player were provided.

Bruschi has played 13 seasons, all with the Patriots.

He will be best remembered for his inspirational return after suffering a stroke in February 2005, a few weeks after winning his third Super Bowl and playing in his only Pro Bowl.

Retirement would ensure Bruschi leaves the game on his own terms. There has been talk in New England he might not make the final roster this year.

Head coach Bill Belichick reminded us Sunday that nobody is guaranteed a spot on the team by cutting last year's primary backup quarterback, Kevin O'Connell, the 94th overall pick in last year's draft.

Bruschi was surpassed on the Patriots' depth chart by Gary Guyton and had been playing with the Patriots' second team defense. He doesn't offer much special-teams value.

The Patriots are moving away from their 3-4 base defense and expect to use a 4-3 more often. They won't need as many linebackers anymore.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

A few thoughts on Chicago's preseason game at Denver, which the Bears led 17-3 when selected starters finished their night:

  • There's no question that quarterback Jay Cutler began a bit shaky, but we saw some vintage Cutler during the Bears' 98-yard drive that ended the half. The placement of his 6-yard touchdown pass to tailback Matt Forte, low and away from the defender, was perfect. Whatever emotion Cutler felt upon his return to Denver eventually was channeled well. Overall, he completed 15 of 21 passes for 144 yards.
  • Coach Lovie Smith told NBC that he was glad Cutler and the Bears would get a chance to operate in a hostile environment to help prepare them for the season opener at Lambeau Field. But for me, it was more important to see how the Bears offense would operate against a 3-4 defense. Once Cutler got himself calibrated for the regular blitzing, the Bears showed they could move the ball against that scheme.
  • As he so often did earlier in his career, Devin Hester jump-started the Bears' success with a 54-yard punt return. The play -- longer than any return Hester mustered during the 2008 regular season -- set up the Bears' first touchdown. Hester displayed his classic turn-up move and ran right through the Broncos' coverage. No matter how good Cutler is this season, the Bears will need some special teams juice from Hester to get where they want to go.
  • File away the tight spiral Forte threw in the first quarter -- as well as the smart decision he made to throw it away.
  • Defensive end Mark Anderson notched his first sack of the preseason. But if you didn't see the play, and only noticed the statistic in the box score, you wouldn't realize the play was made because linebacker Lance Briggs blitzed and put pressure on Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton. As NBC's Cris Collinsworth noted, the Bears blitzed pretty regularly for a preseason game.
  • Defensive tackle Tommie Harris did flash a bit after some initial passiveness. And it's only fair to point out he got double-teamed regularly. But fair or not, Harris finished the first half with no tackles, sacks or forced turnovers.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Seahawks released defensive tackle Kevin Brown, fullback Dan Curran, linebacker Shane Simmons and tight end John Tereshinski as the NFL's 75-man roster deadline approaches. Teams have until Tuesday to comply with the limit.

None of the four players released was considered likely to challenge for a spot.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

With the Cincinnati Bengals and Andre Smith ending their 30-day contract impasse Sunday, the next phase is to find out what Smith brings to the table at this stage of the season.

 Smith

Had the contract dispute never happened, Smith without a doubt would be the starter in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. He was arguably the top offensive lineman in the draft. But Smith's absence has created challenges -- mentally and physically -- that the rookie has to overcome before he sees the field.

Now Smith's status as a starter is in limbo. Backup Anthony Collins has been serviceable and took all of the first-team reps since training camp began last month. Smith is expected to be Cincinnati's best offensive lineman, but it won't happen right away. So Collins, if a game were played today, would be the safer option.

But Smith has a chance to prove over the next two weeks that he can surpass Collins and be better protection for starting quarterback Carson Palmer. There are certainly no guarantees that will happen. In fact, Collins is probably the favorite to start at right tackle on Sept. 13 against Denver.

A major part of the evaluation will be whether Smith can ready himself to play in Thursday's preseason finale and perform well against the Indianapolis Colts. The Bengals will not make that call until Wednesday or Thursday after monitoring Smith for several practices.

Despite long odds, playing Thursday would give Smith at least a fighting chance to start in Week 1. Otherwise, expect him to remain a backup for now and help as Cincinnati's third tackle until he catches up to the rest of his teammates.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The 49ers have released receiver Mark Bradford, receiver Chris Francies, kicker Alex Romero, cornerback Carlos Thomas and cornerback Jahi Word-Daniels. The team announced the cuts.

Much bigger decisions loom when the team trims to 53 players by Sept. 5.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The Washington Redskins released linebacker Alfred Fincher, cornerback Michael Grant, defensive tackle Michael Marquardt, wide receiver Marques Hagans and offensive tackle Devin Clark on Sunday. Fincher, a solid special teams player for the Skins, was the most surprising name on the list. Coach Jim Zorn explained the decision following practice Sunday.

"I don't want to take anything away from Fincher because he's worked really hard, and he has improved," Zorn said. "But to us there was kind of a ceiling there on him compared to some of the other guys that are coming on. Now he may have been more seasoned, but sometimes with a younger guy there is a potential there that you like -- a speed or a flash that I think coaches are looking at that kind of give those guys a little bit longer look. Al, in all fairness, he was here a year ago, and the other guys are doing as well as he, so we decided that maybe they'll have a higher ceiling."

Zorn also said that defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth missed Sunday's practice due to stomach issues. He said that running back Clinton Portis will not play Thursday in Jacksonville, but indicated some of the others starters would be in the game. It sounds like we're going to see a whole lot of Colt Brennan and Chase Daniel in this game. If I had to guess right now, I think Zorn's leaning toward Daniel as the third quarterback.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Tom Brady's shoulder must really be passable.

Kevin O'Connell, on the other hand, is not.

ESPN.com's John Clayton reports the New England Patriots informed O'Connell they've released him.

 
  Jim Rogash/Getty Images
  The Patriots drafted quarterback Kevin O'Connell last year in the third round.

O'Connell has had a lousy preseason, completing 12 of 26 passes for 108 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. He had a 25.8 passer rating.

But the move is curious on many levels:

  • Brady hurt his throwing shoulder two days ago. Releasing O'Connell underscores the belief Brady will be fine to open the regular season, but the minor injury had to be a reminder of how the backup always is one play away from taking over the offense.
  • Giving up on a highly drafted quarterback so soon is rare. The Patriots drafted O'Connell out of San Diego State in the third round last year, making him the 94th overall selection. Sixteen months later, he's unemployed.
  • The Patriots can't be comfortable with Andrew Walter yet. The Oakland Raiders cut Walter four weeks ago, and the Patriots picked him up a few days later to push O'Connell. Walter has thrown only nine passes this preseason and none over the past two games. He played only one series Friday night against the Washington Redskins, handing off twice. Walter has completed 5 of 9 passes for 62 yards.
  • The other quarterback on the depth chart is unproven, although undrafted rookie Brian Hoyer has had a decent preseason. He has completed 11 of 19 passes for 112 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

In his meeting with the media Sunday afternoon, New Orleans coach Sean Payton indicated running back Pierre Thomas, who's been out with a sprained MCL, should be ready for the regular-season opener against Detroit.

 Thomas

"There would be some concern, although I think very little that he wouldn't be ready for Detroit, at least based on the information now," Payton said." The feeling is he'll be ready for that game and would probably be listed as questionable for Thursday night's [preseason] game."

Payton also said the Saints may consider keeping four running backs on their roster. Thomas and Reggie Bush are locks for roster spots, and Mike Bell seems to be the top candidate for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart.

But Lynell Hamilton and undrafted rookies P.J. Hill and Herb Donaldson each have shown some promise.

"It makes it a tough decision and hopefully we can keep working and training these guys and give them more work next week and gather as much information as we can on them," Payton said.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Atlanta Falcons got a jump on Tuesday's deadline for cutting rosters to 75 players when they released three players Sunday afternoon.

Defensive tackles Jason Jefferson and Tywain Myles and long-snapper Robert Shiver were released. Jefferson's the only one remotely close to a surprise because he did appear in 13 games for the Falcons last year, but the team upgraded at defensive tackle in the offseason, particularly by drafting Peria Jerry in the first round.

All rosters have to be down to 75 players Tuesday. The final cut to 53 players has to be reported to the league office by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Smith deal complete

August, 30, 2009
8/30/09
12:58
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Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The Cincinnati Bengals officially signed No. 6 overall draft pick Andre Smith, the team announced Sunday afternoon.

Smith signed a four-year, $26 million deal, which includes $21 million guaranteed. The contract also has a team option for two more years that would make it a six-year, $42 million contract that would guarantee $29.5 million. Smith's total contract is about $4 million more than the contract of No. 7 pick Darrius Heyward-Bey.

The Bengals, reportedly, were initially unwilling to surpass Heyward-Bey's deal. The Oakland Raiders went above and beyond to sign their rookie receiver, which influenced the overall pay scale. But both the Bengals and Smith's agent, Alvin Keels, eventually reached a compromise, which probably includes incentives Smith will have to reach on the field to get the final number Keels desired.

Smith is currently practicing with the Bengals and his playing time will be determined by his readiness on the field. Cincinnati plays its final preseason game Thursday against the Indianapolis Colts, then opens the regular season at home Sept. 13 against the Denver Broncos.

Andre Smith deal close?

August, 30, 2009
8/30/09
9:19
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Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The long, drawn-out saga between the Cincinnati Bengals and first-round pick Andre Smith could be coming to an end.

 Smith

According to reports, the team is close to ending its 30-day contract battle with the rookie right tackle and a deal could be finalized soon.

The Bengals have a short week of practice before taking the field Thursday in the preseason finale against the Indianapolis Colts. Smith's status would depend on his readiness to play. He's been working out independently in Alabama during his holdout.

Cincinnati certainly needs him. The pass protection has been shaky all preseason and starting quarterback Carson Palmer is already nursing an ankle injury.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has been leaving the door open for Smith to help the team in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. But missing a month of practices could make starting Smith right away a risky idea.

Three and Out: Colts

August, 30, 2009
8/30/09
6:30
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Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Three quick hits on the Indianapolis Colts:

1. Jim Caldwell will be a steady leader. Sure, there is still some adjusting for a team led by Tony Dungy for so long. But Caldwell has a similar demeanor, and the first time this team faces a crisis and looks to him, I expect it'll like how he responds. Too much has been made of other changes on the coaching staff. Tom Moore and Howard Mudd are back in place leading the offense and offensive line, respectively, after retirements that helped with their pensions. And new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer and special teams coach Ray Rychleski replaced coaches many thought Dungy had been loyal to for too long.

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Indianapolis Colts

2. The defense is bigger and more physical. Philip Wheeler and Clint Session are more rugged as the outside backers. The interior defensive line is much bigger with Ed Johnson back and rookies Fili Moala and Terrance Taylor in the mix. That should mean the team fares better in run defense, but all these guys can run too, so the team hasn't sacrificed its dedication to speed. Look for more variety on defense, as indications are a Cover-2 team will play more man and do more blitzing. Whatever the new wrinkles to the scheme, the mindset is more aggressive. Safety Bob Sanders many not be ready for opening day but the team has an excellent fill-in with Melvin Bullitt.

3. Marvin Harrison was hardly himself last year, and while not having him makes things different for Peyton Manning, he's got a solid stable of weapons with Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. While protection and run blocking are issues at the start, firepower shouldn't be. Addai looks primed for a rebound after a second-year slow-down and Brown is a more dynamic second option out of the backfield.

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