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New Orleans Saints approved to have 3,000 fans for Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game

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Fans will be back at New Orleans Saints home games beginning this weekend.

The Saints and New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell announced an agreement Tuesday of a phased approach to allowing fans to attend games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with 3,000 tickets be distributed to season ticket-holders for Sunday’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers.

In a statement, the sides said that if local health and safety guidelines remain in place and COVID-19 cases remain stable, attendance will increase to 6,000 fans for November games against the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons, before growing to 15,000 fans for December contests against the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.

Up until the week, the Saints had not been permitted to have fans, even in a limited capacity, at the Superdome due to coronavirus restrictions in the city.

But the team had what it called a “productive meeting” with Cantrell, Ochsner Health president Warner Thomas and other medical advisors on Monday, paving the way to Tuesday’s joint announcement.

The Saints and the NFL previously had talked with officials in Baton Rouge about the idea of moving games to LSU’s Tiger Stadium so fans could be in attendance.

With the Saints given the OK to have fans, the NFL now has 19 teams approved to host spectators from the general public at varying percentages of stadium capacity: Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Washington.

Information from ESPN’s Mike Triplett was used in this report.

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Joe Burrow injury gives Bengals a sobering look at holes on roster, staff – Cincinnati Bengals Blog

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CINCINNATI — Great players are able to mask a team’s flaws and produce winning moments.

That’s why even during a truncated rookie year, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow proved he’s already a transcendent quarterback. As the 2020 top overall draft pick turning into one of the NFL’s top rookies, he helped transform Cincinnati into a franchise that was trending upward in its rebuild.

That was before the sobering moment he went down last Sunday against Washington with a season-ending knee injury. The 20-9 loss highlighted a few of the issues that had previously been overlooked because of the optimism surrounding Burrow.

Over the final six games of 2020, the Bengals have no choice but to face their flaws. That process has already started with the preparation for Sunday’s home game against the New York Giants (1 p.m. ET, FOX).

Cincinnati (2-7-1) is expected to start Brandon Allen at quarterback, a decision that indicates their previous backup, second-year QB Ryan Finley, isn’t the best option for winning games. It’s a firm evaluation that will likely be a trend as the Bengals try to salvage the 2020 season with a few wins.

“Ultimately, winning is what it comes down to,” coach Zac Taylor said. “We have to find ways to finish off games and get a complete game in all three phases from our team because we got to go win.”

A postseason appearance in 2020 was always unlikely. But if the Bengals showed some promise, a playoff push in 2021 could be more than realistic.

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Stephania Bell goes into detail about Joe Burrow’s injury and explains how so much damage was done.

With Burrow out for an undetermined amount of time, Cincinnati is forced to evaluate the shaky parts of the roster. That apparently included its No. 2 quarterback.

Finley, a fourth-round pick in 2019, was the primary backup since the beginning of last season and held that role throughout training camp. However, after last Sunday’s outing in which he went 3-of-10 passing for 30 yards after Burrow’s injury, the Bengals opted for Allen against the Giants (3-7). By going with the sparsely-used veteran, it was an admission that Cincinnati’s depth chart wasn’t as strong as it previously believed.

The quarterback spot doesn’t appear to be the only position that received a hard look after Burrow’s devastating injury. Based off Wednesday’s practice, recent signee Quinton Spain could replace Michael Jordan, another 2019 fourth-round pick, at left guard. Jordan struggled against Washington and was beaten on the play when Burrow suffered his knee injury in the third quarter.

The coaching staff won’t be the only ones evaluating the roster the rest of the way.

Bengals safety Jessie Bates, who has three interceptions and has been among the NFL’s top safeties, noted that it will be easy for players to become disengaged at practices as the temperature dips and the work feels even more tedious. Bates said it will be up to the team leaders to set an example to those who want to remain in Cincinnati after 2020.

“If you’re not playing to that standard or not doing everything to that standard, then I think it should make it clear what is going to happen next year, who is going to be here in this locker room and stuff like that,” Bates said.

If Burrow can make a full recovery as anticipated and return to the field around next September, the Bengals will have a realistic opportunity to end a five-year playoff drought. The Bengals will get another opportunity to address their weaknesses, fortify the roster and coaching staff and give Burrow and the team a chance to truly be successful.

Bengals safety Vonn Bell, one of last offseason’s big additions, views the remainder of 2020 as a time for self-reflection and to find ways to improve and push forward.

“That’s when you dig deep,” Bell said. “And that’s when you find out who you truly are.”

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‘Improvise and adjust’: Broncos won’t have NFL QB in uniform vs. Saints – Denver Broncos Blog

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — All season long, right from the first day of an abbreviated training camp in the August sun, Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio has said 2020 would be a season “to improvise and adjust.”

Now, Fangio and the Broncos’ coaching staff and players have been handed the biggest adjustment anybody in the league has faced. Unless there is some late reprieve from the NFL’s offices, the Broncos will face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High with no available quarterbacks.

As in: No. Available. Quarterbacks.

As in the nightmare on-field scenario of a season played in the middle of a pandemic. And as of Saturday evening, with all sorts of details about salaries, timing and available room on the schedule, there had been no indication the league would be willing to move the game to another date with the Saints already in Denver.

The Broncos have been in exponential scramble mode, almost from the moment they pulled Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles, who is on the practice squad, off the practice field early Saturday afternoon. The three were sent home and told to isolate.

They were deemed to be high-risk close contacts to Jeff Driskel, the Broncos’ quarterback who received a positive test result Thursday morning for COVID-19. Diskel was moved to the reserve/COVID-19 list later that day.

The Broncos determined Lock, Rypien and Bortles were in close contact with Driskel at one point and had not been wearing masks.

Just before practice Saturday morning, Fangio had been asked how he believed his team had handled the updates to the league’s COVID-19 protocols, the team’s positive test results and three canceled practices in recent weeks.

“It’s improvise and adjust,” Fangio sad. “We talked about that the first day of training camp. We knew it was going to be a season where that was going to be called upon several times probably, and that’s held true. I think our players have done a great job of improvising and adjusting when we’ve had to, and I believe they’ll continue to do that.”

And when asked, at that point, how contact tracing concerns with Driskel as well as wide receiver/returner Diontae Spencer, who tested positive Friday morning, Fangio said: “No, no one — all those questions — no new ones [Saturday]. Nothing from contact tracing with those two guys and everything was all positive this morning.”

A little over four hours after Fangio said that the Broncos were pulling the quarterbacks off the field and were in a place no other team has been in during a unique, unprecedented season full of unique, unprecedented moments.

So, with no practices remaining for the week, all of the game plans they spent the week creating having been cratered. The Broncos could potentially face the NFC South-leading Saints (8-2), who have the league’s No. 9 scoring defense and No. 2 rushing defense with a practice squad wide receiver named Kendall Hinton and running back Royce Freeman taking snaps behind center.

Hinton spent three seasons at Wake Forest as a quarterback — he threw for 245 yards in his first career start, in 2015, as he finished with 1,319 total yards to go with 11 total touchdowns that season in nine games — so he at least could get under center or in the shotgun and not be totally out of place.

The Broncos once went into total-makeover mode, during the 2011 season, from a traditional NFL passing offense to an option-oriented attack for Tim Tebow between Weeks 8 and 9 that season. But this isn’t that.

This is hours to get something in place. Hours to put the communications devices in the helmets and play the team that currently has the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

In the days to come, there will be plenty of discussion about if the game should have been moved or how, exactly, players did not wear masks as cases rage nationwide. This might be one, very public way, for the NFL to reinforce that masks are considered an important part of the equation and not a chinstrap.

But, right now, right in this moment, the Broncos might wake up Sunday morning and have to figure out how to play NFL football without an NFL quarterback in a uniform.

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Denver Broncos make Garett Bolles fifth-highest-paid tackle

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In a rather substantial bounce-back in a prove-it season, Garett Bolles has signed a four-year contract extension with the Denver Broncos that will make him one of the highest-paid left tackles in the NFL.

The deal will keep Bolles with the Broncos through the 2024 season and will average out to $17 million per year with the potential to reach $68 million total, sources confirmed to ESPN on Saturday.

The contract will put Bolles fifth in the league among tackles in average dollars per year, behind only David Bakhtiari — who signed an extension earlier this month — Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley and Lane Johnson. Bolles might have even hinted at the new deal earlier this week when he was asked about being recognized for his vastly improved play this year, including the possibility of his first Pro Bowl selection.

“This is a great organization. I love Denver, I love the fans here, I love everything about here,” Bolles said Tuesday. “I know you all kicked me in the butt over the years, but that’s just something that I took and was for me to change, and if it wasn’t for me to change, I know I wouldn’t be where I’m at. I took that very seriously and I took it into this offseason. I fixed the things I did [wrong], and this is me, and I’m not going anywhere.”

That’s a long way from the Broncos declining the fifth-year option on Bolles’ deal earlier this year, as the first-round draft pick in 2017 had led the league in holding penalties, and had been among the league leaders in penalties overall, in each of his first three seasons.

But Bolles, with his own fervent work in the offseason and the continued guidance from offensive line coach Mike Munchak, has consistently been one of the league’s highest-rated tackles this season. He’s the No. 9 tackle overall, and No. 6 among left tackles, in pass block win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Bolles has not surrendered a sack this season and has just three holding penalties in 10 games. Last season, he had 13 holding penalties and 17 penalties overall to go with 11 holding penalties (14 penalties overall) in 2018 and 10 holding penalties (15 penalties overall) in 2017.

Terms of the deal were first reported by 9News in Denver.

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