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New Orleans Saints’ Michael Thomas ruled out vs. Green Bay Packers with ankle injury

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METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas won’t play in Sunday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers after he was ruled out for the second straight week with his high ankle sprain.

Thomas has not practiced since he suffered the ankle injury during the final minutes of New Orleans’ Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, the team chose not to place him on injured reserve — which would have required him to miss at least three games. So there is still hope that he could potentially return as soon as next week.

The Saints’ offense struggled without Thomas in Monday night’s 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, which led to scrutiny over Drew Brees’ lack of downfield passes.

Brees completed 26 of 38 passes for 312 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Third-year receiver Tre’Quan Smith caught five passes for 86 yards, but newly signed veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders had just once catch for 18 yards.

“Obviously with the loss of Mike Thomas last week, we’re having to fit some guys in new roles, get some guys some significant playing time, maybe in different situations that they haven’t been in before,” Brees said earlier this week. “I think there definitely is that element of just getting everybody on the same page, everybody in sync. And man, I’m confident with the guys that we have, with the system that we have and everything that we’re gonna be able to get back on track.”

Thomas is obviously vital to New Orleans’ offense. He won the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award last season after setting the NFL record with 149 catches in a season.

Thomas isn’t the only star receiver who might be missing from Sunday night’s marquee matchup, however. Packers receiver Davante Adams is listed as doubtful after missing practice all week with a hamstring injury.

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Bucs adding Antonio Brown all about maximizing Tom Brady’s window

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TAMPA, Fla. — Nearly seven months to the day after Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said “it’s not gonna happen” with Antonio Brown, the Bucs have signed the controversial, but highly talented wide receiver who last played for Arians in 2011 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It wasn’t coach-speak, Arians is a straight-shooter. He called Brown “too much of a diva” and said he wasn’t a fit for the Bucs’ locker room, even with quarterback Tom Brady campaigning for him behind closed doors. But that was before injuries began to mount in the Bucs’ receiving corps.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans has been hobbled by an ankle injury since Week 4 and has barely been able to practice. Their other Pro Bowl receiver, Chris Godwin, has missed three games because of concussion and a hamstring strain. Their speedy deep threat Scotty Miller has been hampered by a hip/groin injury. And tight end O.J. Howard — who had become a big part of the screen game — went to injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles.

The result? Brady’s top receiver against the Chicago Bears was rookie Tyler Johnson, who he’d never completed a pass to prior to Week 5. And if the Bucs want to not only make the postseason but make a run at a Super Bowl with Brady, they realize that their window is tight and, they need reinforcements at a position that’s been hit hard by injuries.

It’s the same reason they signed A.Q. Shipley as a backup center, so that if something happened to Ryan Jensen, Brady could take snaps from an experienced center. It’s the same reason they signed running backs Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy — to ensure Brady had experienced running backs to pair with Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn — who could help in the passing game.

So how will Arians handle Brown, whom he’s publicly traded barbs with, had a tryout with the New Orleans Saints that included a camera crew entourage that infuriated members of the Saints coaching staff, once cursed out former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and arrived to Oakland Raiders camp in a hot air balloon.

The feeling inside the organization is Arians personality is strong enough to handle him. Arians has never had a problem giving anyone a piece of his mind — as seen by his expletive-filled tirades in practice — and he coached Brown with the Steelers. Brown also has ties to several members of Arians’ coaching staff, like offensive assistant Antwaan Randle-El, who was his teammate in 2010.

But the person who can make the biggest impact in all, and who can hold Brown in check, is Brady, whom Brown developed an immediate connection with in New England. In their one and only game together with the Patriots, Brown had four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in a 43-0 win over the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots released Brown less than two weeks after signing him.

Brady has had success keeping troubled teammates in check when others have failed, examples include including LeGarrette Blount, Martellus Bennett, Corey Dillon, Randy Moss and Aqib Talib. But Brown’s off-the-field issues are serious — two cases where he was accused of sexual misconduct and a felony charge of battery and burglary. He will need to be held in check at all times.

This move signifies just how much influence Brady has on this organization. Brown’s personality is in contrast to Evans, Godwin, Miller, Johnson, Justin Watson, Jaydon Mickens and Cyril Grayson — players who don’t complain when the ball doesn’t get thrown their way.

Brown won’t be eligible to play until Week 9, but it’s an important rematch against the Saints, whom they have a half-game lead on in the NFC South but lost to in Week 1.

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Washington QB Dwayne Haskins fined for breaking team’s coronavirus-related protocols

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ASHBURN, Va., — The Washington Football team fined quarterback Dwayne Haskins for violating the team’s COVID-19 protocols, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Haskins made a reservation for a family friend at the team hotel the night before Washington played at the New York Giants last week. The team fined him $4,833 — the maximum it could have fined him was $14,650, a source told Schefter. Another source said Haskins had made a reservation for this person, but it was caught before the person arrived, so there was never any contact.

Washington has not had any positive test cases since the team reported for training camp in late July. The team also was the first to pull its scouts off the road in the spring when the pandemic hit and among the first to close its building.

Haskins, the 15th overall pick in 2019, was inactive for the game, a 20-19 loss. Washington benched him two weeks ago in favor of Kyle Allen.

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Antonio Brown reaches contract agreement with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Antonio Brown and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reached agreement on a one-year deal, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

While contract language still has to be finalized and Brown has to pass COVID-19 protocols before he can join the team, Brown is likely to make his Bucs’ debut in Week 9 against the New Orleans Saints.

Both sides wanted to complete a deal that reunites Brown with quarterback Tom Brady. The Seattle Seahawks were also in the mix before Brown and the Buccaneers reached an agreement.

The Bucs have been banged up at the wide receiver position. Mike Evans has been playing on an injured ankle since Week 4 and hasn’t been able to practice consistently, while Chris Godwin just returned from a hamstring injury, and deep threat Scotty Miller has been limited by a groin/hip injury.

Brady had been pushing for the Bucs to sign Brown since the summer. Brady took Brown under his wing during Brown’s brief tenure in New England — on and off the field.

The two had immediate on-field chemistry — Brown had 4 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown in a 43-0 win over the Miami Dolphins — in their first game together. As it turned out, it was their only game together, as Brown was released later in the week.

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians worked with Brown while he was the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and previously had been critical of Brown. Arians told Schefter on his podcast in 2019 that Brown was “too much of a diva,” and said as recently as March that Brown wasn’t a fit on the Bucs.

In July, the NFL announced it had suspended Brown for eight games without pay because of multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Brown is eligible to come off the suspension after Week 8.

Brown, 32, had been the subject of an NFL investigation following an accusation of sexual misconduct at his home by an artist who was working there in 2017. He also pleaded no contest in June to a felony burglary with battery charge and two lesser misdemeanor charges related to a January incident with a moving truck company outside his home in Hollywood, Florida.

The NFL said in July that Brown was directed to continue counseling and treatment. The league also said that any further violations would likely result in harsher discipline.

Information from ESPN’s Jenna Laine and Mike Reiss was used in this report.

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