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Green Bay Packers coach absolves kicker Mason Crosby of some blame for end-of-game misses

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — A day after Mason Crosby missed three potential game-winning field goals before finally sealing the victory on his fourth try, coach Matt LaFleur absolved the 37-year-old kicker of some of the blame.

“I think there’s just some things that we absolutely need to clean up just from an operation standpoint,” LaFleur said Monday of the Packers’ overtime win at the Cincinnati Bengals. “You can’t put all of that on Mason. I thought there’s some areas that we have to make sure we get corrected, and we will.”

In the special teams world, “operation” is code for snap, hold and protection.

Long-snapper Hunter Bradley has struggled with snap accuracy. Holder Corey Bojorquez is new this season and there have been protection issues — a near block on the game-winning field goal in Week 3 and a block that was called back by a penalty in Week 4.

“I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus, so I’m not going to expand on that,” LaFleur said. “Sorry, you’re going to have to watch the tape, evaluate it yourself and come up with your own conclusions there.”

Crosby on Sunday said he’s his own harshest critic and would fix whatever went wrong. He had made 27 consecutive regular-season field goals, including his first three Sunday against the Bengals. He then missed from 36 yards with 2:12 left in regulation, from 51 on the final play of regulation and from 40 after Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell intercepted Joe Burrow on the first play of overtime.

Bengals rookie kicker Evan McPherson hit the right upright and missed from 57 yards with 21 seconds left in regulation and then missed from 49 after Crosby’s first overtime miss.

Crosby, the team’s career scoring leader, finally ended it when he made a 49-yard field goal with 1:55 left in overtime.

“All I can think about is that last kick right now,” Crosby said. “You see the faces of your teammates and what those guys put on the line to continue to get in that position. I just want to come through for them. Everyone has all the faith in the world in me, and I have all the faith in the world that I’m going to keep getting those ops.

“I’m so happy I was able to come through there at the end, and I’m going to celebrate it. I’m a realist and I’m honest with myself and I’m probably my harshest critic, so I’m going to make sure that I do what I can and we’ll clean up anything on the other side if there are any operation or protection or things like that. Up front, we moved some guys around and the protection seemed really great all day.”

The Packers don’t just have field goal operation problems to worry about. They may have lost another cornerback. Kevin King couldn’t finish Sunday’s game because of a shoulder injury apparently aggravated further on a collision with Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd in the third quarter.

“He was playing a lot of that game or part of that game with basically one arm,” LaFleur said of King, who has a history of shoulder injuries. “So I thought he competed well and was playing really, really well.”

Last week, the Packers lost All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander, also to a shoulder injury. He was placed on injured reserve with the hope that he can return at some point this season.

The Packers could be without two of their top three cornerbacks for Sunday’s game at the Chicago Bears. Rookie Eric Stokes, Isaac Yiadom and Chandon Sullivan finished the game against the Bengals as the team’s top three cornerbacks. The Packers also signed cornerback Rasul Douglas off Arizona’s practice squad last week, but he was inactive against Cincinnati.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady (thumb) expected to play Thursday vs. Eagles

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TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who suffered a thumb injury to his right throwing hand in the Bucs’ 45-17 win over the Miami Dolphins Sunday, is expected to play through the injury when the team travels to face the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night.

Brady did not give specifics on the injury, which he sustained early on in the game before throwing for five touchdowns and 411 yards, but he had previously played through a thumb laceration that required 12 stitches in the AFC Championship Game after the 2017 season.

“He went through the full practice,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Monday. “Had we had a full-speed practice, he probably would have limited his throwing. But he looks like he’ll be fine Thursday.”

Safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who missed last week due to a concussion, returned to practice Monday for the first time since suffering the injury. There’s a possibility he will play Thursday night if he can clear the concussion protocol. The protocol does allow players some limited action in practice toward the later portion of the five-step process.

“He was out there today doing more cognitive stuff — doing the checks and things like that,” Arians said. “So yeah, I think he can [clear the protocol]. Will he? I don’t know yet. We’ll see how this goes.”

As for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has missed the past two games with fractured ribs, Arians said, “It will be very, very close this week, so we’ll see.” Gronkowski has not returned to practice but has been doing some work on his own.

Arians said that cornerback Carlton Davis, who was placed on injured reserve with a quad injury after Week 4, “does not look like he’ll need surgery, but we have no clue how long this is gonna be.” Arians also said that cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who was placed on injured reserve with a dislocated elbow after Week 1, is “still a few weeks off.”

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New York Giants WR Kadarius Toney has ankle injury, apologizes for throwing punch Sunday

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Add Kadarius Toney to the New York Giants‘ list of injuries to monitor.

The rookie wide receiver is dealing with an ankle problem that has his status in doubt for Sunday when the Giants host the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium.

“He was at the doctor when we went through our squad meeting [Monday] but we’ll see where that comes out right there,” coach Joe Judge said. “I don’t think it’s anything significant, in regards to season-ending. We’ll see how it affects us immediately in the future for this week.”

The Giants also have to monitor starting quarterback Daniel Jones, who is in the concussion protocol. The Giants won’t know much officially on him until later in the week, according to Judge. Mike Glennon would start if Jones is unable to play.

New York did receive fairly encouraging news on running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hyperextended knee). X-rays on Barkley’s left ankle were negative, although the Giants wouldn’t put a timetable on his return. His injury was described by a source on Sunday evening as a “sprain.”

Golladay and Barkley were undergoing further testing Monday afternoon, but Judge was “hopeful they dodged a couple bullets right there.” Neither injury is expected to be long-term.

A source told ESPN on Monday afternoon that most of the injured Giants were probably out a “couple weeks.” In the grand scheme of a 17-game season, this was fairly encouraging news.

The Giants (1-4) did lose rookie cornerback Rodarius Williams for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.

Toney had an X-ray immediately after Sunday’s 44-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys when he had a career-best 189 yards receiving. They came back negative.

He didn’t seem to think it was anything that would affect his status for this week.

“Yeah, I’m good,” Toney said Monday when asked about his ankle and if he would practice and play this week.

The 20th overall pick in this year’s draft also apologized Monday on Twitter for throwing a punch that got him an ejection late in the fourth quarter.

Judge said the incident would be handled in-house and a league source told ESPN on Monday that Toney would not be suspended. He would go through the standard discipline process with the league that will likely result in a fine

Toney didn’t think this incident would be anything more than a one-off.

“Me and Judge talked, and you know, stuff like that. Really, it was just a one-time thing,” he said. “I’m a rookie making early mistakes. I’ve just got to learn from them and build from it.

“I felt like I needed to apologize to mainly everyone, because as far as little kids looking up to me and stuff like that, it’s not the example I want to set for them, you know what I’m saying? I feel like, everybody makes mistakes and stuff like that, but at the end of the day we always have to be accountable for our emotions and our actions also.”



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Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll says Russell Wilson ‘in good spirits,’ helping Geno Smith prepare for starting role

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RENTON, Wash. — Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said quarterback Russell Wilson is “in good spirits” as he embraces his new role, which is to help Geno Smith prepare to start in his absence.

As for how long Smith will have to quarterback the Seahawks, Carroll wouldn’t give any estimate on when the team thinks Wilson can return from finger surgery.

Life without Wilson officially began Monday as the Seahawks held a 30-minute practice, which is standard coming off a Thursday night game. It marked the first time in Wilson’s nine-plus NFL seasons that he missed a practice because of an injury. He watched while wearing a bandage over the middle finger on his throwing hand, which was surgically repaired on Friday after he suffered a tendon rupture and a fracture-dislocation the night before in Seattle’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

“Russ had a very successful surgery and we’re really happy with all the reports and we don’t have any timelines for you at all right now,” Carroll said. “I know that’s all you want to hear. But we don’t have anything like that. But he’s in really good spirits and really active today as much as he can be around us and all that. Really happy for the results for the initial part of it.”

Carroll said there was no choice for Wilson but to have surgery, and declined to give a timeline on his return when pressed. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the team believes he has a realistic chance to make it back in four weeks.

Seattle plays the Steelers, the Saints and the Jaguars over the next three weeks, before its bye.

Carroll said Wilson will remain with the team while rehabbing. Asked if Wilson will be placed on injured reserve — which would require him to miss at least three games — Carroll said, “We’ll see. That’s an option.”

The Seahawks will have to make some sort of move at quarterback because Smith is the only healthy one they have on their 53-man roster. Jake Luton, a second-year player, spent the first three games on their 53-man roster as a game-day inactive and has been on their practice squad since.

Carroll called it “a real advantage” for Smith to be in his third season with the Seahawks. Before replacing Wilson in the fourth quarter Thursday night, Smith’s only action with Seattle outside of preseason came in mop-up duty. He has made 31 starts since entering the NFL in 2013, but none since 2017.

“He’s been through everything that we’ve done, he’s gone every step of the way with Russ,” Carroll said. “They have been just shoulder to shoulder through all of the process. He’s been a great help for Russ, he’s been a great sounding board for Russ. He’s just been an asset.”

Carroll said Wilson knows it’s now his job “to help Geno and get him ready.”

“Imagine how if he can figure out a way how he can compete at that, he’s doing it,” Carroll said. “So he’s already starting to listen to the game plan, he’s figuring out where it fits and how it’s going to go. He’s going to prepare just like he was playing. His plan is to stay as sharp and as fresh as he possibly can.”

Carroll said linebacker Bobby Wagner suffered a bruised knee against the Rams but gave no firm indication on his status. He said running back Chris Carson made a “big turn” over the weekend in the right direction after missing that game with a neck injury, “so we’ll see how it goes.”

The Seahawks were not required to provide a report detailing participation in Monday’s practice. Carson and Wagner were standing off to the side and not wearing helmets during the period that was open to reporters.

The team activated tight end Gerald Everett off COVID-19 reserve and designated center Ethan Pocic to practice. They have 21 days to activate Pocic off injured reserve.

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