ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, who suffered a concussion in the team's Aug. 23 preseason game against the Houston Texans, will increase his activity level when Denver returns to practice Monday as he continues to progress in the league's concussion protocol.
Welker ran some routes, in shorts and a T-shirt with no helmet, before Thursday night's preseason finale against the Dallas Cowboys, but he had only been cleared to travel to the game at that point and was not in uniform when it began.
Asked Saturday about Welker's status for the coming week, Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said the wide receiver is progressing and not rushing the recovery process.
"One step at a time, still in the process, in (the) protocol. So, he'll be out running around Monday and continue through the protocol, take it one day at a time,'' Elway said.
Welker still has several benchmarks to meet within the league's concussion protocol before he can return to full participation in practice or to play in a game, but Monday is expected to be his most activity since he sustained the concussion. Welker also suffered concussions last year in a Nov. 17 game against the Kansas City Chiefs and a Dec. 8 game against the Tennessee Titans.
He missed the final three games of the regular season in 2013, but returned to play in all three of the Broncos' postseason games, including Super Bowl XLVIII.
On Friday, coach Jason Garrett said he was not sure when Spencer would be able to practice. Spencer, who will play right defensive end, had microfracture surgery on his left knee last fall and has gone through a painstaking rehab process. In the last few weeks, the Cowboys have said Spencer is ahead of schedule on his comeback.
The Cowboys also have rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence on the active roster despite a broken foot. He is likely to be placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. He needs to be on the 53-man roster through Tuesday in order to be placed on the short-term IR. With this designation, he would miss the first eight games of the season but be eligible to practice starting in Week 6.
The Miami Dolphins activated Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey from the physically unable to perform list before Saturday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, the team announced. Pouncey will hold an active roster spot in Miami, despite still being several weeks away from returning to the field due to major hip surgery.
This was an important decision for the Dolphins. If the team kept Pouncey on the PUP list after today's deadline, he would be required to miss the first six games of the regular season. But rehab has gone well for Pouncey, and this decision indicates the team believes he can return sooner than originally expected.
The Dolphins certainly need their best interior offensive lineman. Pouncey is one of the top centers in the AFC and coming off his first Pro Bowl season in 2013. Miami's running game in the preseason has been inconsistent without Pouncey in the middle.
Pouncey hinted to the Miami media recently that he was excited and aiming for the London game against the Oakland Raiders in Week 4.
"I never played in London before," Pouncey said with a smile.
Pouncey will have a chance to reach that goal now that he's off the PUP list.
If they were going to keep a fourth offensive tackle, it likely would have been first-year pro Aaron Adams, who spent all of last season on their practice squad. But the knee injury Adams sustained on the Packers' second play from scrimmage in Thursday's preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs turned out to be season-ending.
Adams tore both his ACL and MCL on the play, according to a league source. When the Packers make their final cuts on Saturday, Adams will be placed on injured reserve.
The Packers have eight offensive linemen who are locks to make the final cut. One of those eight, projected starting center JC Tretter, won't be able to play for at least the first month of the season because of the knee injury he sustained last week.
That would leave the Packers with only two healthy backups, tackle Derek Sherrod and guard Lane Taylor.
The Packers have at least two other injuries from the preseason finale to consider before Saturday's cuts. Rookie defensive end Khyri Thornton sustained a hamstring injury that his agent, Rodney Edwards, said on Friday could keep the third-round pick out for a few weeks. Also, second-year linebacker Nate Palmer sustained a knee injury, but the severity was not known.
The Steelers’ claiming of Webb, a former fourth-round draft pick, could be an indication that cornerback Brice McCain sustained a significant groin injury Thursday night in the Steelers' preseason finale.
The loss of McCain for an extended period would weaken a position where Steelers are not particularly deep. Rookie Shaquille Richardson is nursing a knee injury and the fifth-round pick is a candidate for the short-term injured reserve list, though the Steelers would first have to put him on the 53-man roster.
The Steelers have yet to announce any cuts, and they have until 4 p.m. ET on Saturday to finalize their 53-man roster.
The Steelers will essentially redshirt Zumwalt after he missed most of their offseason practices because UCLA had not completed its school year. The sixth-round pick has been hampered by a groin injury, and Zumwalt has not played since the Steelers’ first preseason game on Aug. 9.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Friday he doesn’t anticipate anybody missing practice next week.
That means backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (pinkie), defensive end Ropati Pitoitua (broken hand) and fullback/running back Jackie Battle (neck/shoulder) will be OK. Defensive linemen Mike Martin (hamstring) and Antonio Johnson (knee) should practice as well, presuming they are both on the roster.
I expect they will be.
The Titans avoided new injuries to significant players Thursday night in their loss to Minnesota, largely because their most significant players sat out.
"He got banged up a little bit last night and I hope he’s OK," Reid said.
Those injuries could allow the Chiefs to put Bray on injured-reserve, which would be convenient in that they would like to keep all four of their quarterbacks. To do that, the Chiefs would have to either keep them all on their active roster, which they don’t want to do, or put one on an injured list.
Doing so with Bray would cost him this season, but allow him to remain a part of the picture for the long term.
"If you took one player and you said 'who’s improved and changed themselves physically and mentally in the last year the most,' you probably have to put Tyler in that mix," Reid said. "From where he was to where he is now, there’s a big difference."
But coach Andy Reid said Hemingway would probably return to practice this week, and that the Chiefs might have enough available receivers to play against Tennessee.
"As long as A.J. is healthy, we’ll be OK numbers-wise," Reid said.
The Chiefs have nine receivers on their roster heading into Saturday’s final round of roster cuts. The seven who injuries and suspensions aside would be serious roster candidates are Bowe, fellow starter Donnie Avery, Hemingway, Williams, Jenkins, Frankie Hammond Jr. and Albert Wilson. The others are Mark Harrison and Fred Williams.
Hammond and Hemingway would take Bowe’s snaps against Tennessee. Including Avery, Wilson and Williams and Jenkins (if healthy), the Chiefs would have enough receivers to get through the Titans game.
So if Pierce is unable to play in the season opener, who would start at running back for the Baltimore Ravens? Veteran journeyman Justin Forsett, who hasn't made a start since 2010, could be the one to step up.
Of the Ravens' 24 healthy scratches in the preseason finale, 18 are projected to be starters. The fact that Forsett didn't play as well could suggest the Ravens wanted to keep him healthy for the opener.
The Ravens might trust Forsett to handle the starting role because he's more experienced than rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro and is more familiar with Gary Kubiak's offense after playing in Houston in 2012.
But Forsett wouldn't be asked to carry the entire rushing load. He only had six carries all of last season, and the Ravens would probably split carries with Taliaferro, who led the team with 243 yards rushing this preseason.
A small back, Forsett has impressed the Ravens with his burst. He ran for 69 yards on 16 carries (4.3-yard average) and caught three passes for 37 yards in preseason games. His biggest problem has been holding on to the football (two fumbles this preseason).
None of this speculation will matter if Pierce is able to suit up for the Sept. 7 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Even though Pierce has been banged up throughout his career, he has never missed a game in his two seasons.
There is just no certainty that he'll be healthy enough this time to play.
"Nowadays, with those things, I don't take any stock in that until they tell me that he's back," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "The concussion thing is hard to predict."
No Saints receiver has stood out more during the past three games than Morgan, who caught another four passes for 33 yards in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens.
He appears to have gone from the roster bubble to possibly even starting in Week 1 if Kenny Stills is still nursing a quad injury.
Morgan didn’t want to get ahead of himself, saying only that he thinks he’s done enough to prove he belongs on a roster somewhere in the NFL, whether in New Orleans or elsewhere since the decision is out of his hands.
But he did admit that these past few weeks have felt great following a long rehab process. Morgan has never specified all the details of his knee injury, but he said it was more than just an ACL tear and required two surgeries.
"Honestly, I’m excited, I’m confident. I mean, it’s been a long year. It’s been really trying. I’ve been through a lot," Morgan said. "So to be able to come out and even do a little bit has been truly a blessing."
Morgan’s best catch Thursday came on a 16-yard crossing route during the opening touchdown drive. And in some ways, it was even better than one of his classic deep catches.
Morgan said he has worked hard to prove that he can be used on short and intermediate routes in addition to just using his speed to run deep (which became his signature while catching 10 passes for 379 yards two years ago).
Morgan is also a standout blocker, which is why coach Sean Payton stressed recently that the Saints don’t consider him a "one-trick pony."
"I think they were just trying to mess up my average a little bit," Morgan joked of his short and intermediate catches Thursday. "But to be serious, it is important. That's one thing I’ve been harping on since I’ve been here. ... That just shows I’m capable of running the entire route tree."
After the game, which the Lions won 23-0, Bills coach Doug Marrone deferred comment on Watkins to a team spokesperson, who said he was "not aware" of any test results on Watkins' ribs.
Marrone decided to play Watkins in the finale to give the rookie more playing time with Manuel.
"Once the trainers cleared him to play, I was excited about it," Marrone said. "He hasn't really played since the first quarter of Pittsburgh. And he really didn't play before that because we were planning on playing him a lot in the Tampa game.
"So he hasn't really played that much. I always get concerned when people come out. I think, especially when you're a rookie, you gotta play. You just don't want to throw him in there during the season. So we're behind on that."
Marrone reiterated his stance that recovery from rib injuries can be uneven.
"You never know. X-rays, tests, things like that. Shows up one day, doesn't show up the next day. Could be out, could be in. Depends on the player," he said. "Could be a week, could be four to six weeks, could be longer. I'm not getting into all of that."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers had no intention of putting Aaron Rodgers at risk of injury in Thursday's preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rodgers and most of the starters on both sides of the ball were held out.
And it gave them the perfect excuse to get a long look at the two players locked in a battle to be his backup.
Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien might have made the Packers' decision that much more difficult, especially if they were thinking of keeping only one of them.
Alternating quarters, each threw a pair of touchdown passes in the Packers' 34-14 victory at Lambeau Field.
Playing the first and third quarters, Flynn finished 7-of-15 passing for 102 yards and two touchdown passes for a passer rating of 108.9. Meanwhile, Tolzien finished 12-of-18 for 139 yards and two touchdown passes for a passer rating of 126.9. If the Packers were hoping to sneak Tolzien through to the practice squad, for which he remains eligible, that might be even more difficult after teams see the film from this game.
Some other thoughts on the Packers' preseason finale:
- The only offensive line starter to play was center Corey Linsley, who assumed the job last week after JC Tretter injured a knee. The rookie fifth-round pick played the first two series, both with Flynn, and did not have any obvious breakdowns, but the Packers gave him plenty of help. On several plays, guard Lane Taylor and Linsley used combination blocks on the Chiefs' front.
- Undrafted rookie Jayrone Elliott, who was tied for the NFL preseason sack lead, registered his fifth sack of the summer in the first quarter. He overpowered Kansas City's starting right tackle Donald Stephenson to dump Chase Daniel on third-and-12. On the previous play, Elliott used a speed move to beat Stephenson to the inside and drew a holding penalty. The sequence might have locked up a roster spot for Elliott, who left the game briefly in the third quarter with an unannounced injury but returned.
- As good as James Starks looked in the preseason opener, DuJuan Harris has been the better running back since -- other than his fumble in Week 2 against the Rams. Harris gained 26 yards on his first four carries before getting dumped for a 6-yard loss after backup tackle Derek Sherrod whiffed on a block. Harris could have made enough of a statement that he would open the season as Eddie Lacy's backup.
- Early in camp, Rajion Neal looked like the better of the Packers' two undrafted rookie running backs. But Neal injured a knee in the preseason opener, leaving the door open for LaDarius Perkins. Against the Chiefs, Perkins scored on an 11-yard screen pass from Flynn and also had a long run of 22 yards.
- The Packers announced four other injuries. Tackle Aaron Adams (knee), defensive end Khyri Thornton (hamstring), linebacker Adrian Hubbard (knee), linebacker Nate Palmer (knee) left the game and did not return.
He did not return to the game, a 23-0 Bills loss.
Coach Doug Marrone deferred comment on Watkins to a team spokesperson, who said he was "not aware" of any test results on Watkins' ribs.
Marrone decided to play Watkins in the finale to give the rookie more playing time with quarterback EJ Manuel, but reiterated his stance that recovery from rib injuries can be uneven.
"Once the trainers cleared him to play, I was excited about it," Marrone said. "You never know. X-rays, tests, things like that. Shows up one day, doesn't show up the next day. Could be out, could be in. Depends on the player. Could be a week, could be four to six weeks, could be longer. I'm not getting into all of that."
The Detroit Lions might be without one of their draft picks for at least a little while.
"Kyle Van Noy underwent a successful surgical procedure today due to a core muscle injury," the team said on its website. "We will continue to monitor Kyle's progress and provide updates when appropriate."
Detroit coach Jim Caldwell told reporters in Buffalo after the 23-0 win over the Bills that the Lions should have an update on Van Noy's status in a day or two.
Caldwell had said earlier this week that Van Noy would see a specialist after sitting out the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with an abdominal injury.
Van Noy was expected to compete for the starting SAM linebacker spot with the Lions. In his place, Tahir Whitehead started the final two preseason games.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills be without some of their starters in the game.
Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Corey Graham, as well as tight end Scott Chandler, are inactive for unknown reasons. All three players practiced earlier this week.
Starting left guard Chris Williams (lower back), tight ends Tony Moeaki (hamstring) and Lee Smith (toe), cornerbacks Mario Butler (ankle) and Bobby Felder (groin), and safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) round out the Bills' inactives.