Cooper Kupp of Los Angeles Rams injures knee taking hit, carted off

DENVER — Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp was carted off the field Sunday in Denver after suffering a knee injury but returned to the game in the second half.

Kupp took a jet sweep in the second quarter, gained 12 yards and was headed out of bounds as safety Darian Stewart grabbed him by the face mask and eventually took him down with a horse-collar tackle, for which Stewart was penalized. Kupp lay on the Broncos sideline before he was taken away on a cart.

A second-year pro, Kupp was also sidelined for the second half of a victory over the Seattle Seahawks last week after he was placed into the concussion protocol. He cleared protocol a day before facing the Broncos.

Kupp did not record a reception Sunday. He has 30 receptions for 438 yards and five touchdowns this season.

Backup Josh Reynolds, who caught two passes for 39 yards last week, was inserted in Kupp’s absence.

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Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt fined $20K for hit on Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt was fined $20,054 for a hit on Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on Sunday, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The league fined Watt — the league’s co-leader in sacks — for “forcibly hitting in the knee area or below” in the Steelers’ 41-17 win over the Falcons on Sunday.

Watt was called for roughing the passer on the play, which came in the second quarter. He said after the game that he was surprised by the call.

“I understand the rules. I’m not a dirty player,” Watt said. “I tried to pull off him at the end. Whether the ref saw it or not, I understand why they call it. It was a low hit. But I tried to pull my arms off. … It puts us in a bind because I don’t know what else I can do.”

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who is tied with his brother atop the league standings with six sacks, tweeted that he couldn’t believe the league issued a fine for the hit.

T.J. Watt sacked Ryan three times in the game, including a strip-sack that resulted in a touchdown.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was critical of the officiating in the game, saying, “Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We gotta get ’em correct. And so I’m pissed about it, to be quite honest with you. But that’s all I’m gonna say on it.”

Tomlin was fined $25,000 for his comments.

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Grady Jarrett’s fine for Nick Foles hit rescinded

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett had a $20,054 fine for a hit on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles rescinded by the NFL following an appeal, multiple sources told ESPN.

The league initially issued the fine after Jarrett was penalized for roughing Foles in the Falcons’ season-opening loss to the Eagles. The much disputed “body weight on the quarterback” came into play, but Jarrett insisted from the beginning it was a legal hit.

“I feel like not power-driving him into the ground is fair,” Jarrett told ESPN after the initial fine. “I feel like not intentionally hitting him in the head is fair. Form tackle — like I asked when the refs came to speak to us — I don’t think that’s fair to call roughing. And we’ve seen that happen a lot. That’s something that we hope they take into more consideration as far as not being so quick to pull it. If they want to do that, they might as well go to two-hand touch.”

Jarrett made his appeal via video last month.

“I didn’t feel like it was a penalty; the team didn’t feel like it was a penalty; my representatives didn’t feel like it was penalty,” Jarrett said after making the appeal.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn sided with Jarrett from the outset, saying his player used the proper technique on the play.

Jarrett having his fine rescinded should not be shocking. Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers was flagged for roughing the passer on three separate occasions this season, two involving body weight on the quarterback, yet never received a fine.

According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, there have been 50 roughing-the-passer penalties called so far this season, the most through five weeks since 2001. The Packers lead the way with five such calls. The Falcons have two, with Jarrett’s and defensive back Brian Poole getting fined $20,054 for hitting Drew Brees in Week 3.

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Damontae Kazee of Atlanta Falcons fined for hit to helmet of Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton

ATLANTA — Falcons safety Damontae Kazee, who was ejected for unnecessary roughness last Sunday after a helmet hit on Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, was fined $10,026 by the NFL, a source told ESPN on Friday.

Kazee plans to appeal the fine, the source said.

The league did not take any futher discipline against Kazee, who is set to return to the lineup for this week’s NFC South showdown with New Orleans.

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Falcons’ Damontae Kazee ejected for hit on Cam Newton

ATLANTA — Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee was ejected for unnecessary roughness at 12:14 of the second quarter after a helmet hit on Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

As Newton slid to the ground, Kazee dove low and made helmet contact with Newton, causing Newton to go to the sideline momentarily to be checked by the medical staff. Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith then went after Kazee, but Smith was not ejected. Smith did receive an unnecessary roughness penalty to offset Kazee’s.

Kazee was in the starting lineup Sunday after the Falcons lost starting strong safety Keanu Neal to a season-ending ACL tear. Kazee actually started at free safety, with starting free safety Ricardo Allen moving over to strong safety.

Jordan Richards entered the game after Kazee got ejected.

Kazee was flagged for two helmet infractions during the preseason.

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Antwione Williams of Minnesota Vikings fined for hit on Jacksonville Jaguars’ Cody Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS — Sacking the quarterback will cost players a pretty penny if not done correctly in 2018.

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Antwione Williams endured a large sanction for his controversial tackle of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler on Saturday. According to NFL Network, Williams was fined $20,054 for roughing the passer because he appeared to exert extra force when tackling Kessler by using his body weight to drive him into the ground.

Williams, who hopes to make the Vikings’ 53-man roster next week, tweeted his disdain for the fine.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer did not initially agree with the penalty, being seen on the television broadcast saying “no, no, no, no” toward an official before seeking clarification. After the game, Zimmer said the refs got the call right.

“After I calmed down a little bit, I looked at it and [Williams’] head was to the side and he was going to the side,” Zimmer said. “If he would have just rolled, but he kind of pumped him into the turf. I actually think that was a good call.”

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Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh Steelers in concussion protocol after sustaining hit in practice

PITTSBURGH — Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is in the concussion protocol after sustaining a hit early in Tuesday’s practice.

Coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement that team doctors are evaluating the six-time Pro Bowler.

Teammates huddled in concern as Roethlisberger fell to the turf at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert said Roethlisberger was rolling to the right side on a goal-line play and ran into Gilbert and linebacker Keion Adams.

Roethlisberger got up on his own accord and talked with teammates and trainers, who eventually walked him out of the stadium. He appeared to leave the premises in a car.

Center Maurkice Pouncey said Roethlisberger told him “he was fine, he was good,” and reserve quarterback Mason Rudolph said the quarterback appeared in good spirits after the play.

“It happened so fast. I saw his head whip back,” Gilbert said. “I’ve got to see the film to see what happened. That’s my guy. No one wants to see anything happen to him, especially in a practice like this, coming to work and going and not tackling.”

Roethlisberger, 36, was last in the protocol in 2015 after taking a hit from then-Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett. Roethlisberger was vocal last offseason that long-term brain health would be a factor in how long he plays. Roethlisberger said this offseason that he’s eyeing three to five more seasons.

Earlier in the day, Tomlin praised Roethlisberger’s training camp performance. The team officially breaks camp Wednesday.

“Man, he’s been awesome,” Tomlin said. “Been really sharp, not only in terms of what he does, just how he’s communicating and helping and aiding in the development with the people that are going to be working alongside him. It’s been a very positive experience.”

Prior to Roethlisberger’s early exit from practice, Tomlin had ruled him out for Thursday’s preseason game, along with fellow veteran Landry Jones. Rookie third-round pick Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs, Pittsburgh’s fourth-round selection in 2017, will see all of the playing time when the Steelers visit the Green Bay Packers.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Inside the hit that defined Brian Dawkins’ Hall of Fame career – Philadelphia Eagles Blog

Editor’s note: This is part of a week-long look at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018, focusing on plays, moments or defining characteristics of the inductees.

Brian Dawkins’ ferocious hit on Alge Crumpler during the NFC Championship Game following the 2004 regular season between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons is legendary in the City of Brotherly Love. Crumpler learned this firsthand when he returned to the scene of the crime several summers ago.

“I went to a football camp in 2014 for [fellow tight end] Anthony Becht in Philadelphia, and a little 10-year-old kid comes up and tells me he remembers that hit,” said Crumpler, beginning to laugh. “It happened in [January 2005]. That I’ll never forget. I said, ‘Your parents have been training you well, young fella.'”

Key details concerning that play have faded from the storytelling over time, including that it resulted in a team-high 31-yard completion for Atlanta. “No one remembers that I held on to the football,” Crumpler said. Or that the Falcons scored a touchdown on the very next play.

Isolated and honored is the hit — a torpedoing, shoulder-to-chest crack that stopped the 260-plus-pound Crumpler in his tracks, sending him hard to the turf late in the second quarter while invigorating an Eagles defense that played at a fever pitch the rest of the way.

The Eagles went on to beat the Falcons 27-10, advancing to the Super Bowl at last, after being turned away in the championship game the three previous seasons. Dawkins’ hit on Crumpler is the most celebrated play of that game and is considered one of the defining moments of a now Hall of Fame career.

With Dawkins set to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 4, we spoke to him, Crumpler and longtime Eagles play-by-play man Merrill Reese about the sequence:

Dawkins: “It was going to be a physical contest. We knew that going into it; we talked about it all week long amongst ourselves. I felt personally disrespected to be honest with you. They were talking too much about how things fell into Atlanta’s hands: it was snowing, they were a running team, they were going to run over us … their defense is better. I kept hearing that over and over again. To me, that’s disrespect — you come into a man’s house talking about what you’re going to do in his house. It just so happened that Alge was the one that got the brunt of the blow when it comes to the frustration and anger I felt.”

Quarterback Donovan McNabb had just engineered a touchdown drive to give the Eagles a 14-3 lead, adding to the urgency as Michael Vick and the Falcons’ offense took the field late in the first half. A roughing the passer call on Philly set Atlanta up with a first-and-10 from the Eagles’ 41-yard line.

Crumpler: “We were trying to get something going. From what I remember, [the play] was a Sluggo Seam: a slant-and-go on the outside, a seam on my side. I kind of got a late jump off the ball, so the play took a little time to develop. And as Mike pumped the slant-and-go on the outside, I just have to trust that the safety gets moved off the pump. So, as I stand on my landmark and I catch the ball, I think I’m scot-free.

Dawkins: “The hit really shouldn’t have happened. … If I did what I was supposed to do, he wouldn’t have thrown it.

“I bit a little bit on the slant, thinking they were going to go slant-and-go over the top [on the opposite side], and that opened that window up for Mike to throw it in there. And once he threw it in there, I was just trying to get myself in position to deliver the biggest hit that I could legally, so that I wouldn’t hurt my team but hopefully put some hurt on Alge.”

Reese: “Crumpler was a very, very powerful tight end. It was on the left sideline. And I remember Dawkins coming up at full speed and just crunching him. It was a frightening hit.”

Crumpler: “I’ve never been a part of a play where I’m running full speed and my next step never hits the ground.

“I held on to the ball and immediately went to the sideline. Our team was excited because our team scored the play after, but I didn’t see any parts of it because I was trying to recuperate.

“It completely took the wind out of me. Michael Vick, he comes over, he’s excited, and I just wanted to get to the sideline so I could catch my breath. All I remember is getting to the sideline, bending over, and a minute later our team is excited, and that kind of rejuvenated me. At least it counted for something.”

Dawkins: “It hurt [me, too]. He was probably about 270 at that time. It hurt. If you go back and watch the film, I was wobbly when I hit him. My leg kind of buckled when I hit him because that’s a lot of pressure, a lot of force. That’s why I always say most defenders have a screw loose, especially linebackers and safeties … you have to have a screw loose because you know it’s going to hurt, but you don’t back down, you don’t slow down — you go as hard as you can, you deliver as big of a hit as you can to send a message, every time.”

Reese: “Dawkins played with total disregard for the welfare of his body. He would do that time and time again.”

Crumpler: “I always had the confidence that I’m a big guy; as long as I’m running full speed, it’s going to hurt them as much as it hurt me. And I know it took a lot out of him. Whatever it took out of him, it kind of magnified defensively for his team for the rest of the game, because we couldn’t get much going after that.”

Dawkins: “During that week, we knew we were going to be physical. They’re a physical football team, but we were going to go out to make sure that everybody knew, when the game was over with, that the Philadelphia Eagles, that particular defense, was one to be reckoned with in that game. So it wasn’t just me. Hollis [Thomas] had a huge hit on Michael Vick … Trot [Jeremiah Trotter] had a huge hit on Mike. … It was a continuation of hits. We wanted to punish, punish, punish as much as possible. That just so happened to be the hit that everybody thinks about as being the hit that set the tone, and I think it did set the tone [in part], but I think the tone was already set. That was just the exclamation point on how this thing is going to be the rest of the game, and everyone fed into it.”

After that series, the Falcons were shut out the rest of the way, managing just 64 yards of offense over two-plus quarters. The Eagles were on their way to the Super Bowl.

Dawkins: “For us to finally get over the hump to have a chance to play in the Super Bowl after failing three times at that point to reach that plateau; to see the emotion that spewed out of [head coach] Andy [Reid], that spewed out of [defensive coordinator] Jim Johnson, hugging my neck, crying, ‘Dawk, we did it. We did it.’ Seeing their families on the field. That was a game that was the most memorable of my career.”

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NFL concussion claims hit $500 million in less than 2 years

PHILADELPHIA — More than $500 million in claims were approved as of Monday under the NFL’s concussion settlement, nearly a decade earlier than league officials estimated they would reach that amount.

Claims administrators in the settlement released an updated report on the concussion settlement information website saying about $502 million had been approved in less than two years of the settlement. The original actuarial estimates from the NFL estimated a little more than $400 million would be paid out in the first decade.

Attorneys for the retired players adjusted their estimates on the total payout of expected claims earlier this month, saying the settlement would likely reach $1.4 billion — almost a half billion more than the NFL originally estimated.

“We encourage all eligible former players to immediately sign up for a baseline assessment, and they can take comfort in knowing that compensation will be available for more than 60 years if they develop a qualifying condition,” said Christopher Seeger, co-lead class counsel for the former NFL players. “The fact that $500 million in claims have been approved in less than two years proves that this settlement is fulfilling its promise to former NFL players and their families.”

Almost 2,000 claims have been filed in less than two years, according to the update filed Monday. Hundreds more of the nearly 20,500 retired players signed up to be prequalified to file claims than were expected, outpacing all previous projections.

As of Monday, the claims administrator said 7,343 medical appointments to assess neurological baselines had been made, and more than 6,000 had been attended.

The settlement, which took effect January 2017, resolved thousands of lawsuits that accused the NFL of hiding what it knew about the risks of repeated concussions.

It covers retired players who develop Lou Gehrig’s disease, dementia or other neurological problems believed to be caused by concussions suffered during their pro careers, with awards as high as $5 million for the most serious cases.

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Clay Matthews of Green Bay Packers hit in face by line drive during charity softball game

Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews took a line drive off his face Saturday during a charity softball game near Appleton, Wisconsin.

Video of the incident was captured by WBAY-TV.

Packers players have put on a softball game annually at the home of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a minor league affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. The game has been hosted by Brett Favre, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson over the years. Matthews and Davante Adams took over as co-hosts this year after Nelson was cut.

Adams told spectators that Matthews “got a little boo-boo on his nose.” The game resumed without Matthews, who was pitching at the time.

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