August 29, 2018 / 1:39 AM / 3 months ago

NFL notebook: Cowboys owner Jones proposes 18-game schedule

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones offered a solution to shorten the NFL preseason, limit exposure to concussions and bring in a lot more money: an 18-game regular-season schedule.

Aug 3, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“I think candidly it’s probably physically better for players than it is to have the longer preseason, the longer practicing,” Jones said on 105.3 FM in Dallas on Tuesday. “Our studies show that we actually have a ramped-up injury situation with players during preseason as opposed to the injury factor in the regular season.”

A day earlier, in an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Jones added: “It would provide more than $1 billion to the players. ... It’s certainly worth considering. It would direct more value for what the players expend to the players.”

When the debate sizzled in 2012 over adding games to the regular season, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was also firmly on board with the Jones plan.

“I really think going to an 18-game season is critical to us getting a labor deal,” he said. “There’s not a lot of ways in this economic environment we can generate incremental revenues. That’s the best way. The other thing — our fans have said pretty loud and clear they’d like us to have fewer preseason games.”

—Kraft and Jones also share an interest in DraftKings, and both are retaining their stakes in the company as it shifts its sights toward traditional sports betting, according to a report from ESPN.

Kraft’s and Jones’ stakes in DraftKings are said to be less than 5 percent, according to the report.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN that current league policy “enables personnel to own equity interest in an entity that generates less than a third of its revenue from gambling-related operations.”

—Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson told reporters that the team will likely make a decision on which quarterback starts the regular-season opener by Friday.

The Eagles host the Falcons next Thursday to kick off the NFL season, but it remains unclear whether Carson Wentz will be cleared to play as he recovers from torn ligaments in his knee, or if Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles will get the start.

Asked about his deadline to announce the starter, Pederson replied, “Deadline? 90 minutes before kickoff. Privately? Probably Friday.”

—Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery will be activated off the physically unable to perform list before the regular season but is expected to miss Weeks 1 and 2, according to ESPN.

Jeffery has been on the PUP list while recovering from surgery in late February to repair a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder. If he were to remain on the list into the regular season, he would be required to miss the first six weeks.

According to ESPN, doctors have advised that Jeffery miss at least two games, but the team is optimistic he will be ready to play Week 3 versus the Indianapolis Colts. After playing the Falcons in the opener, the Eagles visit Tampa Bay in Week 2.

—Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck missed practice again, but head coach Frank Reich expects him to practice next Monday when the team opens its preparation for the regular-season opener.

Luck is dealing with what Reich called a “minor” foot injury he sustained in the team’s third preseason game on Saturday, though the coach said Luck would play this week if it were a regular-season game.

Luck, who turns 29 next month, missed all of last season while recovering from surgery to his throwing shoulder, but all indications are his shoulder will be no issue when the season opens.

—All signs point to Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell ending his holdout and reporting to the team within the next week, according to multiple reports.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bell has told some of his teammates he will report on Monday, when the Steelers have their first practice in preparation for the Sept. 9 opener against the Cleveland Browns. The report adds that the Steelers are operating based on the assumption that Bell will be there Monday.

Later in the day, however, Bell — who has been absent from the team’s entire offseason program and training camp while on the franchise tag for the second consecutive year — tweeted: “don’t believe the fake news, I never said anything to no one...”

—A sore left knee has kept Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin out of practice for much of the last month, but he is back on the field and expects to be ready when the Seahawks open the season Sept. 9 against Denver.

“I’m probably about 80 to 85 percent right now and the truth of the matter is it won’t be 100 percent,” said Baldwin, Seattle’s No. 1 receiver. “It’s something I’ve got to deal with for the rest of the season.”

Baldwin, who turns 30 next month, practiced just two days at the opening of training camp. He said his knee started bothering him in spring OTAs. He didn’t take part in Seattle’s mandatory minicamp in June.

WHEELING AND DEALING

—The Steelers restructured tight end Vance McDonald’s contract to create extra cap space, according to an ESPN report. Per the report, around $3 million of McDonald’s $3.7 million base salary for 2018 was converted into a signing bonus that will save the Steelers more than $2 million in cap space this year. ... The Cincinnati Bengals signed Pro Bowl defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap to extensions. Atkins signed a four-year extension reportedly worth $65.3 million and Dunlap signed a three-year extension for a reported $45 million.

—Free agent wide receiver Dez Bryant tweeted Monday night that he plans to play in the NFL this year, but that it might take some time. Released by the Dallas Cowboys in April, Bryant turned down a three-year offer from the Baltimore Ravens shortly after his release. He is believed to be seeking a one-year, prove-it deal with a contender before hitting the market again next offseason, but such an offer has yet to materialize, and there have been no other reported suitors.

MORE INJURY UPDATES

— Patriots running back Sony Michel remained limited in practice as he returns from a knee procedure, but running backs coach Ivan Fears has been impressed with the first-round pick. It remains to be seen whether he will be ready for Week 1 after getting fluid drained in early August, but he has been involved in all facets of preparation. ... Chicago Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is expected to play in the team’s regular-season opener against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 9, three weeks removed from surgery to repair a fractured right hand. Another linebacker, first-round pick Roquan Smith, remains limited in practice with tightness in his left hamstring, putting his availability in doubt for Thursday’s preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills. Bears tight end Adam Shaheen is seeking additional opinions on his right foot and ankle, which he injured earlier this preseason. The team has called it an ankle sprain, but additional damage was found during an MRI exam last week and the team wants more details.

—Cowboys guard Zack Martin returned to practice for the first time in 10 days and plans to ramp up activity throughout the week to be ready for the start of the regular season. Martin was diagnosed with a bone bruise and hyperextended knee on Aug. 18, but the Cowboys expect him to be ready for the season opener on Sept. 9. The makeup of the front five for Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers is not set in stone, with center Travis Frederick (Guillain-Barre syndrome) replaced by Joe Looney and Tyron Smith (hamstring) not practicing Tuesday. ... Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster is practicing for the first time in a month and expects to be ready for the team’s regular-season opener. Foster, who sustained a bone bruise and hyperextended right knee on July 28, had an ice wrap on the knee following Monday’s practice, but he told reporters he would be ready to play if the season began this weekend.

COMINGS & GOINGS

—The Tennessee Titans acquired linebacker Kamalei Correa from the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for a 2019 sixth-round pick, according to multiple reports. Correa, 24, was a second-round pick (No. 42 overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. He has played in 25 games (four starts) and has 19 tackles, one forced fumble and two passes defensed in his career. ... The Detroit Lions released defensive end Robert Ayers a day after signing him to a one-year contract. The veteran practiced with the team Monday after the Lions signed him in hopes of boosting a weak pass rush that has recorded just one sack through three preseason games. According to the Detroit Free Press, Ayers declined post-practice interview requests but put two posts on Instagram that made it seem as if he were looking forward to playing another season.

—The Cleveland Browns signed offensive lineman Earl Watford and waived kicker Ross Martin, meaning incumbent Zane Gonzalez has won the team’s kicking job. Watford, 28, was released by the Chicago Bears on Sunday after joining the team as a free agent in April. He started 22 games over the last three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. The Browns drafted Gonzalez, 23, in the seventh round last year, but he made just 75 percent (15 of 20) of his field-goal attempts as a rookie. He made his only attempt this preseason, from 54 yards, and went 3 for 3 on extra points.

—Field Level Media

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