Randy Gregory withdraws 10-game suspension appeal

Randy Gregory has withdrawn his appeal of his 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse, a source with knowledge of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

The second-year pass rusher, who is out of rehab and was removed from the Dallas Cowboys’ reserve/did not report list last week, is currently two games into the four-game suspension he is serving for his first substance-abuse violation. With the 10-game suspension tacked on, he won’t be eligible to play until Week 15 when the Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 18.

It has showed.

Johnson, in his second dance of the competition, did the Foxtrot with his partner, Lindsay Arnold, to the theme song of ’90s television show “Family Matters,” as part of TV Night. Johnson was dressed in bright yellow suspenders, a yellow-and-blue-striped oxford shirt with a collar, and hiked-up, rolled up jeans, with high socks underneath.

Essentially, he was a giant, 6-foot-5, crazy-built Steve Urkel, with glasses to boot.

“I’ve watched Urkel since I was a little kid,” Johnson said of the Family Matters” character portrayed by actor Jaleel White.

The injury took the air out of a terrific first-half performance. Garoppolo completed 18 of 27 passes for 234 yards and three scores in 25 minutes of game action. Despite having no Rob Gronkowski at his disposal, Garoppolo had the Patriots’ offense humming like it was 2007 and Tom Brady was running the show. He has specialized on third-and-long plays, going through his reads and displaying great pocket movement.

“You can’t point any fingers, we’re not a good football team right now,” Bears tight end Zach Miller said. “We didn’t play well. Our defense kept us in it early, but we didn’t do enough offensively to win that football game.”

Drew Brees, Saints need each other too much to say goodbye

It was a fun dream while it lasted, but no, Drew Brees will not be an unrestricted free agent next March.

Seriously, can you imagine what that would have been like? Brees coming off just his average 5,000-yard, 38-touchdown season, unsigned by the New Orleans Saints, free to sign with any team? Just think of the free-for-all — the roster and salary-cap cartwheels we’d have seen from teams like the Jets, the 49ers, the Chiefs, the Bills, the Bears… heck, who knows? Maybe the Lions or the Falcons. Teams would have been firing coaches and bailing out of bad quarterback contracts like kids elbowing their friends out of the way at the ice cream truck.

I don’t know whether I have the heart to tell Brees this Saints team is a lot further away from title contention than he thinks it is, or that his best chance of adding a second Super Bowl ring to his jewelry case would have been to go somewhere else next year. That’s easier for me to say than it would be for him to do. Teams stick with their quarterbacks because they’re too scared to be without one. Quarterbacks stick with their teams when they’ve grown too comfortable for anything else to be worth it.

In the end, this was the right outcome for Brees and for the Saints, who are happy together no matter what else happens around them. But it’s another reminder that premium quarterbacks don’t move around much in the NFL. Because once you find one, it’s just about impossible to convince yourself to let him go.

The extension will be announced as a five-year deal but contains an automatic void at two years, sources told ESPN’s Ed Werder. That means Brees is contractually committed to the Saints for only the 2016 and 2017 seasons. His $20 million salary this season and $24.25 million for next season — a total of $44.25 million — is fully guaranteed, the sources said.

The deal also includes a no-trade clause and forbids the Saints from using their franchise tag on the quarterback. In essence, the Saints get Brees under contract for one additional season, but by spreading the contract over five years, they significantly reduce Brees’ $30 million cap hit for 2016, which was the highest for any player in NFL history.

The extension reduces Brees’ cap number from an NFL-record $30 million to $17.25 million for 2016, sources told Werder.

Brees said Wednesday he is “humbled and honored” to continue his journey with Saints. He said both sides are very happy with the contract’s structure and wants to finish his career in New Orleans.

“I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me,” he said.

Brees said the contact process “is probably a bit more complicated than it should be” but said he understands the job everyone has to do. One thing “everyone is very much aligned with is what puts this team in the best position to win,” he said. The salary-cap savings for the Saints was an important aspect of the deal for him.

“My approach is the same regardless, regardless of whether I have a five-year deal or I have a one-year deal. In my mind, you’re always playing on one-year deals,” he said. “Playing on one-game deals, you know? I mean, you’ve gotta prove it each and every week. You’re only as good as your next performance. So that will always be mindset.”

Bills cut Manny Lawson, Jerome Felton; Glenn Gronkowski makes team

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — In a significant surprise, the Buffalo Bills released veteran outside linebacker Manny Lawson as part of their final cuts Friday.

Manny Lawson was the only projected starter who played the entire first half of Thursday’s preseason finale loss to the Detroit Lions. Ryan said this week he wanted to give the linebacker playing time because he missed the first two preseason games as he recovered from a partially torn pectoral muscle.

He’s a Buffalo native. All of the Gronkowski brothers were raised in Williamsville, a Buffalo suburb. Glenn, who played at Williamsville North High School, grew up as a Bills fan. “Obviously the last five or six years, I had to cheer for the Patriots [because of Rob],” Glenn told KISS 98.5 in May. “Down deep, I’ve been a Bills fan my whole life. My senior year of high school, I went to every home game, I’m pretty sure.”

Beginning Saturday after the final 53-man roster is set, Burfict will begin serving a three-game suspension for repeated violations of player safety rules.

“Of course you want to be out there, but these are the cards that I was dealt,” he said at his locker on Thursday night.

Burfict won’t be able to return to the playing field until Week 4 — a Thursday night game against the Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium.

So what will he do during that time period? Burfict said he’ll spend some time with family and help his sister, an incoming freshman at college, get settled in her dorm.

“I missed the family trip to put her in her dorm, but I told her I’d come out there,” he said.

He might even watch a Bengals game with her, although he has no idea how that will go. Wherever he is, he won’t be missing the chance to see his team, even from afar.

“I will be watching some way,” Burfict said. “I’ve never really watched a game with her, so it would be my first to watch with her, probably treat her out to dinner or something.”

Winners and losers: Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott shine

The loneliest job in football belongs to the man who lets Tom Brady down. Patriots second-year tight end A.J. Derby learned the hard way Friday night, when his wide-open drop ended Brady’s third drive of his brief preseason.

Although Jones paced an injury-ravaged Green Bay wide receiver corps last season, he has now been released by the Chargers, Giants and Raiders in the past 16 months. Back in March, the Packers informed Jones that they would rather go forward with ascending receivers such as Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis.

Specializing in outmuscling defensive backs at the catch point, Jones can still help a team in a reduced role. His last two stops have exposed his limitations as a No. 1 target, as he struggles to separate from coverage to give his quarterback an open read.

If Jones is going to catch on elsewhere as a third or fourth receiver, he might have to wait awhile. Those jobs are hard to come by for speed-challenged veterans who don’t contribute on special teams.

It’s been quite a summer for Trevor Siemian.

The former seventh-round pick has made the remarkable climb from depth chart also-ran to starting quarterback for a defending Super Bowl champion. I know we’re wrapped up in #Kaepflaggate and all, but this feels like a story flying under the radar. Trevor Siemian is starting for the Denver Broncos! In a game that counts and everything! This is crazy.

Jimmy Vesey has made his decision, and the Blackhawks are not part of his plans despite going all-out in their recruiting efforts for the NCAA standout.

The reigning Hobey Baker Award winner officially chose to sign an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers on Friday.

So what’s next for the Blackhawks?

General manager Stan Bowman said at the ninth annual Blackhawks Convention in July that he’s fully prepared to enter the 2016-17 campaign with the roster as currently constructed, so adding Vesey would have been a mere bonus — albeit a nice one.

Both Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville stressed the importance of searching within the organization for help, which means there are opportunities for notable prospects like Ryan Hartman, Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz to step up in a large role.

However, there is still room for the Blackhawks to fill out the roster and add more forward depth via free agency if they choose to go that direction.

One thing we know for sure is, there has never been a more important training camp for the Blackhawks than the one this September, and that’s when the roster will really begin to take shape.

Teddy Bridgewater back practicing for Vikings

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater resumed throwing in practice Tuesday, for the first time since he missed last Thursday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

“He’s played an awful lot of games. It’s not like he’s a first-year rookie,” Zimmer said. “He played (12) the first year, and 17 last year, so he’s played (29) games or something like that. We’re going to continue to do what we think is best.”

Zimmer also said he has made a decision about whether running back Adrian Peterson will play in the preseason. He would not, however, discuss that choice publicly before the Vikings’ first game at U.S. Bank Stadium — their new $1.1 billion home — on Sunday.

“It’s not necessary. Why is it necessary?” Zimmer said.

When a reporter suggested that revealing the information wouldn’t cost the Vikings any competitive advantage in a preseason game, Zimmer said, “Call (Chargers coach) Mike McCoy and ask him if they’re not going to care. Just ask him. Call him. Ask him if he cares. I would. I think it’s important.

“If they knew Adrian Peterson was playing in the backfield, I think they’d probably be having a lot of eight-man boxes and a lot of run blitzes and stacking the line of scrimmage.”

When it was then suggested to Zimmer that the Vikings would want defenses to play Peterson the way they would in the regular season, giving him a chance to get some work before the team’s opener Sept. 11, Zimmer said, “We’ll see in the game.”

The Seahawks’ offseason goal was to have the offense pick up where it left off during the second half of 2015. And Thursday night’s performance looked like a step in that direction.

QB depth chart: Wilson’s touchdown to Lockett is a good example of why he sometimes scoffs when asked about getting rid of the ball quickly. The truth is the coaches like the diversity of the offense. They want the quick passing game to work. But they also want Wilson to use his natural athleticism to extend plays and frustrate defenses. Trevone Boykin entered the game in the third quarter and scrambled for a 16-yard TD. He was 4-for-10 for 31 yards as a passer. Jake Heaps came in with two minutes left in the game.

Maybe that dude could start: Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel. He was out of work as recently as a couple weeks ago, but with Jarran Reed (toe) sidelined, McDaniel got the start at defensive tackle. He looks like a good bet to make the roster and be a part of the defensive-line rotation.

Who got hurt? Pete Carroll will provide updates, but it didn’t appear that any Seahawks left the game due to injury.

Chargers’ Derek Watt, J.J.’s brother, shows toughness runs in family

SAN DIEGO — On the San Diego Chargers’ first offensive play from scrimmage last week, fullback Derek Watt got just enough of Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden to spring running back Melvin Gordon loose outside for a 12-yard gain.

Watt said he has regular conversations with older brother J.J. and younger brother T.J., who plays linebacker at Wisconsin. J.J. Watt remains on the physically unable to perform list for the Texans after having surgery on his back.

“We talk all of the time, whether it’s a text or call,” Derek Watt said. “We have a group chat with all three of us. He’s [J.J.] been able to watch a couple of our games because he’s been out.

“But it’s been good. He’s been giving me a little bit of feedback and just telling me to hang in there, keep getting through camp, and when the regular season starts, things will pick up. It’s also good to talk and get away from football, talk about random stuff outside of the game, just to get away from it, because he knows it’s a grind.”

Coaches often turn to friends and others in their profession for advice. Rivera took it one step further, reaching out to a man he’d never met, retired Adm. William McRaven, the architect of the 2011 raid that killed bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

By no means was Rivera comparing a Super Bowl loss to a military operation in which lives were lost when he emailed McRaven. By no means did McRaven try to do the same. But both acknowledged that the leadership it takes to train soldiers in the military for a mission is not that different from the leadership it takes to prepare a player for a new season.

“There’s nothing worse in the world than having to deal with the loss of a comrade, or in some cases a hostage you were trying to rescue or people you were trying to help,’’ said McRaven, now the chancellor at the University of Texas. “But I do think the emotions and how you deal with these situations are similar.’’

Rivera reached out to a lot of people in an effort to address the “Super Bowl Hangover,” a term that has come into use over the years because no team that lost the title game has made it back the next year since the 1992-93 Buffalo Bills. Rivera sought advice from Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden and former baseball manager Tony La Russa, among others.

Those choices all made sense in that each learned how to handle disappointment in sports.

McRaven spent three and a half decades working in U.S. and NATO Special Operations. His 1995 book “Spec Ops” is considered the standard text on the subject.

NFL domestic violence stance isn’t blanket policy you thought it was

The NFL invoked “mitigating circumstances” in Brown’s case, saying in a statement Friday that his ex-wife would not speak to investigators and that local police would not provide information about reports of additional incidents. In the end, the NFL said it could consider only one documented incident for which no charges were filed.

Last season, the NFL issued a four-game suspension to New York Jets receiver Quincy Enunwa rather than six because of his cooperation with league investigators, according to reporting from ESPN’s Jane McManus.

You could argue that the scale of domestic violence shouldn’t matter. If an NFL player so much as touches a woman, the theory goes, he should face harsh consequences. One time it could be a forceful grab of the arm. Another time, it might be a punch.

But to be clear, and to dispel any lingering myths, that’s not the policy the NFL has adopted. It is more elastic and, dare I say, more cognizant of reality. It requires more subjective judgment from league administrators, and thus more room to question the final decision, but it is most certainly not the blanket approach it appeared to be when first revealed. So it goes.

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders are a popular pick to end a postseason drought that has existed since 2003.

And yet …

“Well, if we play the way we did tonight, we won’t have to worry about the playoffs or anything like that,” Raiders running back Latavius Murray said after Oakland’s listless 20-12 preseason defeat at the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night.

“We have a lot of improvement to do and a lot of things to work on, so we will go back home and get better. … We just weren’t able to get anything going. We just didn’t play like we know we are capable of playing.”

For sure, if conventional wisdom says to not get overly excited about how good the Raiders looked in a 31-10 victory at the Arizona Cardinals last week, then one should not be too downcast over this experience, no?

Well …

Consider: Oakland’s first-team offense played the entire first half — a development that came as somewhat of a surprise to quarterback Derek Carr — and was able to muster only 73 yards of total offense. Even as the Packers’ first-team defense only played just into the second quarter.

“I don’t know what the reason was [for the offensive struggles],” said Carr, who completed nine of 13 passes for 38 yards with an interception. “It is hard to know, but I definitely felt that on both sides, throwing it and running it. I think it is nothing to worry about. We are going to be just fine. We will get all those things corrected and move on.

Greg Cosell’s QB Study: Jameis Winston is really impressive

Winston handled it all well and showed he understands many of the important nuances of playing quarterback. He has an innate feel for playing quarterback from the pocket. He has a natural sense of anticipation and throws the ball in rhythm. His ability to read coverage, and hold and move safeties with his eyes, stood out.

Here are two great examples of Winston manipulating safeties. You don’t see this too often from a rookie. Both of these plays came against a single-high safety who was located on the hash mark opposite tight end Cameron Brate. When Winston takes the snap, he looks at the safety right away to freeze him there. That gives Brate room to get open, then Winston makes anticipation throws to him.

Philadelphia Eagles fans couldn’t even get to halftime of the preseason opener before the first “We want Wentz!” chant.

You can’t blame them for being excited about quarterback Carson Wentz, the second pick of the NFL draft. He’s the Eagles’ future, and Thursday night was the fans’ first look at him in game action. Wentz gave the fans enough reason for hope, and he gave the coaches enough mistakes to correct.

Wentz got in late in the first half of the Eagles’ 17-9 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and his first completion showed why he was the second pick of the draft.

After an incompletion, Wentz stepped up in the pocket toward his right and delivered a blazing fastball to Zach Ertz for a 19-yard gain. Nobody ever questioned if Wentz’s arm is good enough.

Wentz is also a solid athlete, showing off his athleticism on one third-quarter run when he avoided the rush, got outside and then cut upfield for a nice gain. Wentz also ran a third-down read option, but was upended just before he got the first down.

Wentz had his worst rookie moment in the third quarter. With the Eagles in the red zone, his intended target ran a hesitation route crossing the field. And Wentz, just before he was crushed by defensive tackle A.J. Francis, made a dangerous throw that sailed too high and was picked off. He’ll learn that QBs shouldn’t make throws like that, especially so close to the end zone.

From seeing them first-hand over the years at New England Patriots camp, the on-field interactions are always relaxed; players and coaches asking for clarity on what is and isn’t permissible, and even some joking.