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Philadelphia Eagles rookie WR DeVonta Smith plays with ‘bigger purpose’ after events involving former teammate Henry Ruggs

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PHILADELPHIA — Eagles rookie receiver DeVonta Smith said the tragic events involving his good friend, and former roommate, Henry Ruggs III gave him a “bigger purpose” for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, in which he led his team with five catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.

“First off, my heart breaks for everybody that was involved, the family of the young lady that lost her life,” Smith said. “It was rough at the beginning [of the week], but just coming in every day, being with the guys, they kind of gathered with me, helped me out a lot.”

Ruggs is facing multiple felony charges, including driving under the influence resulting in death and reckless driving, following a fatal accident in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Ruggs was driving 156 mph with a blood alcohol content twice Nevada’s legal limit before his car slammed into the rear of a vehicle that burned, killing a 23-year-old woman, according to prosecutors.

Smith and Ruggs were teammates at the University of Alabama from 2017 to ’19. They roomed together, challenged each other to get better on the field, and according to Smith, served as confidantes for one another. Prior to the Week 7 matchup between the Eagles and Raiders, Smith revealed that he and Ruggs communicate daily as part of a text chain for former Alabama receivers that also includes Jerry Jeudy and Jaylen Waddle. They had also stayed close by playing the video game NBA2K together, just like they had at college.

Smith credits Ruggs, who was selected 12th overall by the Raiders in the 2020 NFL Draft, for helping him with his transition to the NFL.

“It kind of gave me a bigger purpose,” Smith said, when asked how difficult it was to play Sunday. “Just going out there, playing for my brother, knowing he can’t play right now.”

The Raiders released Ruggs late Tuesday, just hours after the crash and shortly after he was released from a hospital and booked into a Las Vegas jail. The extent of his injuries was not disclosed, although Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said outside court that he believed Ruggs suffered a leg injury.

Ruggs’ girlfriend, identified by police as Kiara Je’nai Kilgo-Washington, 22, of Las Vegas, was with him in the car and was also injured in the crash. She underwent surgery Tuesday for a severe arm injury, authorities said.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts also played with Ruggs at Alabama for two seasons.

“Obviously, I have a lot of love for DeVonta. I love him like a brother. I have a lot of love for Henry Ruggs as well. I love him like a brother,” he said. “My ‘Bama brother. It’s tough for all of us to experience what we experienced this week, how tragic of a situation it was. But we’re all warriors and we all see it through. DeVonta made some big-time plays today and he’ll continue to do that for us.”

Smith said that he’s talked to Ruggs since the accident, that they “discussed everything” and described Ruggs as being “in good spirits.”

“I’m just glad that he’s himself, he’s gotten himself together and he’s not just down on himself,” Smith said.

Smith, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and 10th-overall selection this past April, eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the second time this season and tied the game at 24-24 late in the fourth quarter with his second touchdown of the year. The Chargers answered with a field goal to drop the Eagles to 3-6.

Smith leads the Eagles in targets (62), catches (38) and receiving yards (537) through nine games.

ESPN staff writer Paul Gutierrez and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, LB Fred Warner out 1-2 weeks, coach Kyle Shanahan says

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers breathed a collective sigh of relief Monday after receiving important injury news on two of their best players.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that receiver Deebo Samuel and linebacker Fred Warner suffered groin and hamstring strains, respectively, in San Francisco’s 34-26 victory Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings.

The bad news is that both will miss at least Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. But Shanahan was more pleased by the fact that both players aren’t expected to miss more than a game or two as the 6-5 Niners make their push for an NFC playoff spot.

“That’s what I was kind of telling you guys last night that I hope for that it was just a strain,” Shanahan said. “And strains usually [last] anywhere from one to two weeks. I think it was very good news considering what it could have been.”

According to Shanahan, both Samuel and Warner could return as soon as the Dec. 12 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Barring a setback, both would be expected back in time for a Dec. 19 home game against the Atlanta Falcons.

While the Niners got relatively good news in the big picture, the loss of Samuel and Warner even for one week is significant.

Samuel has been the team’s most productive offensive player, establishing himself as the league’s premier multidimensional weapon.

On Sunday, Samuel became just the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards, five rushing touchdowns and five receiving scores in the same season.

Without Samuel, the Niners will look to second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk to continue building on his recent surge, as well as the likes of tight end George Kittle, wideout Jauan Jennings and a burgeoning running game.

“He’s been a big part of our offense,” Shanahan said. “But I think we’re in a spot right now that we can overcome that.”

Replacing Warner also won’t be easy, especially since it’s something the Niners haven’t had to do at any point in his three-plus seasons. When he misses Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, it will be the first contest Warner has missed since he came into the league in 2018, snapping a streak of 59 consecutive regular-season starts.

When Warner departed in the third quarter against the Vikings, the Niners turned to Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles to step in at middle linebacker with Azeez Al-Shaair remaining at weakside linebacker.

How that plays out this week will depend on the status of fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Greenlaw also left Sunday’s game with what Shanahan described as an “irritation” of the core muscle injury that had kept him out since Week 1. Greenlaw is considered day-to-day this week.

And with strongside linebacker Marcell Harris in the concussion protocol, the 49ers figure to enter the Seattle game woefully thin at linebacker. That puts even more onus on Al-Shaair, who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the win against Minnesota.

“Azeez has been ready for anything we’ve asked him to do,” Shanahan said. “He always runs around and plays like his hair is on fire and he loves playing the football game. That’s not changing, but he’s just getting more and more confident of where to be, what to anticipate … He’s been playing at a high level all year and whether he’s inside or outside, I expect it to continue, we need it to continue, because he’s one of the reasons we’re playing pretty good right now.”

Elsewhere on the injury front, running back Trey Sermon suffered an ankle sprain that Shanahan said will keep him out “for a little while” and makes him a candidate to head to injured reserve with a chance to return later in the season.

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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers not expected to have surgery to repair broken toe during bye week

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are expected to use rest — not surgery — to help the quarterback’s fractured pinkie toe heal.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Monday that Rodgers is “gathering other opinions, so we’ll see where that goes,” but a source said those opinions are not expected to lead to surgery during this week’s bye.

The Packers (9-3) are off until Dec. 12, when they’ll face the Chicago Bears in a Sunday night prime-time game.

“The most important thing is healing and taking care of my toe,” Rodgers said Sunday when asked about his bye-week plans.

NFL Network reported earlier on Monday that Rodgers does not plan to have surgery.

Rodgers said he fractured the toe during his COVID-19 quarantine earlier this month, and he has played in the past three games since with almost no on-field practice preparations.

The only full-fledged practice he took part in during that stretch was on Nov. 19, two days before the Packers’ loss at Minnesota. He said he received a pain-killing injection at halftime of the game against the Vikings but did not need one to play in Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Rams.

“The difference is I didn’t have to get shot up again at halftime, so definitely the healing this week not practicing [helped],” Rodgers said after he threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 36-28 win over the Rams.

“Last week, I tried to do some stuff on Friday, felt like we needed maybe a little jolt and that kind of impacted Sunday a little bit from a pain standpoint. This week, I just did a walk-through on Saturday and obviously all the walk-throughs during the week, but no practice time, I think really helped. It definitely helped looking at the scans. The healing, kind of get to a better spot, so I’ve definitely felt better, but third quarter, late third, early fourth and I got stepped on early in the game, there was definitely some pain I was dealing with.”

Rodgers even had a rushing touchdown on Sunday, beating Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey around the edge for a 1-yard score. In the past two games combined, Rodgers has thrown for 692 yards and six touchdowns without an interception.

He said after Sunday’s game that he would make a decision about surgery after additional tests on Monday.

“The toe felt good most of the game,” Rodgers said. “Was just actually in talking with the docs. Not sure at this point; we’re going to do some more testing in the morning and get a better view of what’s going on in there, and then make a decision at that time.”

LaFleur said previously that he would leave the decision up to Rodgers and the medical staff.

“I’m not involved in any of those decisions, so I just take any information and hear it,” LaFleur said. “I don’t have ‘M.D.’ after my name. So I’ll let them handle that.”

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Dallas Cowboys DT Trysten Hill suspended two games for punching Las Vegas Raiders OG John Simpson

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The NFL suspended Cowboys defensive tackle Trysten Hill without pay for two games on Monday for punching Raiders guard John Simpson following Dallas’ Thanksgiving Day loss to Las Vegas.

The suspension was issued by NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan for violations of unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct rules.

“After the Las Vegas Raiders-Dallas Cowboys game on November 25, you engaged in conduct that this office considers unnecessary roughness and displays a lack of sportsmanship. Specifically, as both teams were shaking hands, you waited more than 50 seconds for your opponent at the 50-yard line. When you located him, you then walked toward him in the opposite direction of your locker room. You both engaged in a verbal chest-to-chest confrontation which you escalated by throwing an open hand punch to his facemask, forcible enough to cause your opponent’s helmet to come off,” Runyan wrote in the letter to Hill.

Hill is appealing the suspension, a source told ESPN’s Todd Archer. Derrick Brooks or James Thrash, who are jointly appointed and paid by the NFL and the NFLPA, will issue a ruling on the appeal.

If Hill’s suspension stands, he would be eligible to return to the Cowboys’ active roster on Monday, Dec. 13. He would miss games against the New Orleans Saints this Thursday and against the Washington Football Team on Dec. 12.

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