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Cleveland Browns CB E.J. Gaines in concussion protocol, out Sunday


BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns cornerback E.J. Gaines was placed in concussion protocol on Thursday and will miss Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay.

Coach Hue Jackson said Gaines reported in the morning and complained about symptoms. He was placed in protocol soon after. Jackson said Gaines was not hurt in practice.

That means the Browns are down two cornerbacks as they prepare to face the NFL’s top-ranked passing offense — the Bucs average 368.4 yards per game and have 16 passing touchdowns compared to one rushing. Gaines was playing because starter Terrance Mitchell broke a bone in his wrist earlier this season.

“It’s tough,” Jackson said. “But again, next man up.”

T.J. Carrie will move from nickel back to starting at corner. Briean Boddy-Calhoun moves from backup safety to the nickel spot.

Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston threw for 395 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to Atlanta on Sunday. He is completing 75.4 percent of his passes and has five touchdowns in two games this season.



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Los Angeles Rams WRs Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp expected to clear protocol


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp are expected to clear the concussion protocol before the Los Angeles Rams play the Denver Broncos on Sunday at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.

“We’re right on track,” Rams coach Sean McVay said after practice Friday, adding that doctors could give a final clearance as soon as Saturday. “Looking positive in that direction.”

Cooks and Kupp progressed through the protocol this week after they were sidelined Sunday in a victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

“Just one of those things that’s part of the game,” said Cooks, who was placed into the protocol after a hit from Seahawks safety Tedric Thompson in the second quarter. “Things happen. It’s unfortunate, but it’s how you respond and it’s been a great week of just preparing and just getting back to football.”

Kupp notified the training staff at halftime that he did not feel all right after he hit his head on the turf inside the two-minute warning.

“Been able to go through this week and move through the protocol here and just being smart about making sure that I’m 100 percent,” Kupp said. “I wouldn’t be out there if I wasn’t for sure I was 100 percent, so it’s been a different week, for sure, just having to go through this protocol and not being able to practice. But it’s part of it, I understand it.”

Cooks and Kupp have played major roles in the Rams’ top-ranked offense, which is averaging 468.4 yards and 34.6 points per game and has propelled the team to a 5-0 start.

Cooks has caught 26 passes for 452 yards and a touchdown, and Kupp has 30 receptions for 438 yards and five touchdowns.



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Los Angeles Rams WRs Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp clear protocol


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp have cleared the concussion protocol ahead of the Los Angeles Rams‘ game against the Broncos in Denver on Sunday.

Cooks and Kupp progressed through the protocol this week after they were sidelined during a victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

“Just one of those things that’s part of the game,” said Cooks, who was placed into the protocol after a hit from Seahawks safety Tedric Thompson in the second quarter. “Things happen. It’s unfortunate, but it’s how you respond and it’s been a great week of just preparing and just getting back to football.”

Kupp notified the training staff at halftime that he did not feel all right after he hit his head on the turf inside the two-minute warning.

“Been able to go through this week and move through the protocol here, and [I’m] just being smart about making sure that I’m 100 percent,” Kupp said. “I wouldn’t be out there if I wasn’t for sure I was 100 percent. So it’s been a different week, for sure, just having to go through this protocol and not being able to practice. But it’s part of it. I understand it.”

Cooks and Kupp have played major roles for the Rams’ top-ranked offense, which is averaging 468.4 yards and 34.6 points per game and has propelled the team to a 5-0 start.

Cooks has caught 26 passes for 452 yards and a touchdown, and Kupp has 30 receptions for 438 yards and five touchdowns.



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Behind-the-scenes look at the NFL game-day concussion protocol


In recent years, the term “concussion protocol” has become such a part of the NFL lexicon that everyone refers to it — from players to coaches to those of us who cover the league to all the fans who watch. But how many of us could actually describe the different elements of the protocol? Or identify the roughly 30 medical personnel present at every game?



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Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR DeSean Jackson expected to be cleared from concussion protocol


Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson is expected to clear concussion protocol and play against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, a source told ESPN.

Jackson caught five passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 48-40 win over the New Orleans Saints but left the game with a concussion. He participated in practice late in the week and is listed as questionable.

Jackson spent his first six NFL seasons with the Eagles, scoring 32 touchdowns from 2008-13.

He has five career 1,000-yard receiving seasons, but he struggled in his first season in Tampa with 50 catches for 668 yards and three touchdowns.

The Bucs need Jackson’s vertical threat against the reigning Super Bowl champions while Ryan Fitzpatrick replaces the suspended Jameis Winston at quarterback.



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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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New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski cleared from concussion protocol


BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been cleared from the concussion protocol, he confirmed on Thursday.

“I’m cleared, ready to roll,” he said, adding that he has no limitations. “It feels good.”

Gronkowski said he had no doubt that he would be ready for Super Bowl LII, crediting the team’s medical staff and noting it was a conservative approach.

Gronkowski had been diagnosed with a concussion in the AFC Championship Game after Jacksonville Jaguars safety Barry Church was defending a pass in Gronkowski’s direction and had his helmet make contact with Gronkowski’s helmet.

Asked if he felt the hit was dirty, Gronkowski said Thursday, “It’s just football.”



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Rob Gronkowski, still in concussion protocol, participates in football-specific drills with New England Patriots


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski took a step forward in the concussion protocol on Saturday, participating in football-specific drills with his teammates for the first time since taking a hit to the helmet in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

Gronkowski remains in the concussion protocol, according to the Patriots, which means he has yet to fully clear all five steps required to play in a game. Participating in football-specific drills is the fourth step, followed by full football activity.

“It’s always great to have him out there,” quarterback Tom Brady said Saturday. “He’s a great player, great person, great teammate and a big part of what we do. So it obviously hurts when he’s not out there for a lot of reasons, but he’s doing the best he can do and we’re all hopeful.”

In the portion of practice open to the media Saturday, Gronkowski jogged, stretched and caught a few passes in a drill in which there was no defense. He wore full pads and a helmet, and his level of participation in the rest of practice is not known.

Nonetheless, his presence brought a spark to the team.

“Absolutely, he’s got a great personality and a great way about him, so he definitely has a joyfulness to him and he brings that to the team,” Brady said. “It’s just a great attribute of his; it always has been since he got here.”

The Patriots had five players diagnosed with concussions during the regular season that they listed on their injury report, and four of them missed one game before returning the following week. While every situation is different, the team’s hope is obviously that Gronkowski follows a similar progression. His clearance must come from the Patriots’ head team physician and be confirmed by an independent neurological consultant, per the NFL’s concussion protocol guidelines.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who will be departing for Super Bowl LII on Sunday, are expecting Gronkowski to play.

“He’s an awesome player and somebody who you have to be ready to play,” said Eagles defensive end Chris Long, who spent the 2016 season with the Patriots. “He’s so unique. In my opinion, I’m not an expert historian, but you’d have to really sell me on there being a better tight end that ever played.

“I know he’s got more work to do to get that title, but in my book, in his prime right now as a player, I can’t think of a tight end better in the history of the game that does everything, because he can block, too. He’s a team guy, he’s a great teammate. So it’s going to be a big challenge.”

As for the cut on Brady’s right hand that required 12 stitches, he told ESPN on Saturday that there is “still some work to do” and it is “not where it needs to be,” while noting that he has the benefit of time to get to that point before Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4.

ESPN’s Jordan Raanan contributed to this report.



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