Eagles

NFL Notes: Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict has suspension reduced to 3 games

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NFL Notes: Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict has suspension reduced to 3 games

CINCINNATI -- Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict had his NFL suspension reduced from five to three games for his egregious hit on a Chiefs running back during a preseason game.

During the second preseason game, Burfict leveled running back Anthony Sherman on a pass play when he wasn't the intended target.

Burfict appealed and had two games shaved off the punishment. He'll miss home games against the Ravens and Texans and a road game with the Packers. He'll be eligible to return for a game in Cleveland on Oct. 1.

It's the second straight season he's suspended for the first three games. He was suspended last season for his hit to Antonio Brown's head during a 2015 playoff loss to the Steelers.

Browns: Two-time Pro Bowl CB Haden released
CLEVELAND -- Too expensive and too-often injured, Joe Haden is no longer part of Cleveland's long-term plans.

The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, who had gone from being one of the city's most popular players to polarizing, was released Wednesday after the team couldn't trade him or persuade him to take a pay cut.

"We want to thank Joe for all he has done for this organization both on and off the field," said Sashi Brown, executive vice president of football operations. "He has been a great teammate and a true asset to the Cleveland community. These are very difficult decisions, we have the utmost respect for Joe and in my eyes, he will always be a Cleveland Brown."

A first-round pick in 2010, Haden has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons and the Browns felt he was no longer one of their top defensive backs.

Cleveland, which is in need of a wide receiver, had shopped Haden but couldn't find a partner, mostly because he'll make $11.1 million this season and has two more seasons left on a five-year, $67.5 million extension -- $45 million guaranteed -- he signed in 2014 (see full story).

Chiefs: Former 1st-round OL Erving acquired from Browns
CLEVELAND -- The Browns have traded offensive lineman Cam Erving, a former first-round pick, to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Cleveland is getting a fifth-round pick for Erving, the No. 19 overall selection in 2015 who was a disappointment for the Browns. They tried him at center, guard and tackle, but the 6-foot-5, 313-pounder struggled at each spot.

Erving has been sidelined with a calf injury in recent weeks and limited in practice.

He started 13 games last season, 12 at center and one at right tackle. Cleveland's offensive line was ravaged by injuries last year, but the Browns still managed to finish second in the NFL by averaging 4.9 yards per attempt.

Erving made 42 consecutive starts at Florida State, where he started as a defensive lineman before moving to offensive tackle. Later, he was switched to center and played well for the Seminoles (see full story).

Texans: Team ready to head home after game cancelled
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texans were planning to head home to flood-ravaged Houston after their final preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys was canceled Wednesday.

The game had been moved from Houston to the home of the Cowboys because of widespread flooding in the Houston area in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The decision to cancel Thursday night's game altogether was announced when the Texans said local authorities had found a safe route for the team to drive the 250 miles home.

"At this time, the priority of our organization is getting our players, coaches and staff back home to be reunited with their families, many of whom have been evacuated from their homes and are currently sheltered," the Texans said in a statement. "The team feels it is imperative to get back home to help the Houston community recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey."

After the Texans played their preseason game in New Orleans last weekend, they went to North Texas instead of home after the storm. The Texans worked out Monday and Tuesday at the Cowboys' practice facility (see full story).

Vikings: Bridgewater still working his way back
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Exactly one year ago, Teddy Bridgewater dropped back to pass during a routine drill and tumbled to the ground with a devastating injury to his left knee.

The unflappable Bridgewater has made a remarkable recovery, but he still has a long way to go before he can return to action with the Minnesota Vikings.

"He's got to be able to protect himself on the field and be able to do the movements that are required by his position," coach Mike Zimmer said. "When he's there, he'll practice."

Bridgewater has taken questions from reporters only once since the fateful afternoon of Aug. 30, 2016, when teammates were jolted by the sight of their popular quarterback writhing in pain and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman had to lead a hasty effort to save his leg.

Each day during training camp this summer, with the rest of the Vikings working on strategy and technique, Bridgewater has been off to the side simply working on rebuilding strength in and around the knee that suffered a dislocation and multiple ligament tears (see full story).

Jason Kelce storms off practice field

Jason Kelce storms off practice field

One member of the Eagles' offensive line returned to practice on Thursday, but another might be added to the injury report by the end of the day.

Starting left guard Stefen Wisniewski was practicing for the first time since hurting his ankle against the Rams on Sunday. It was not immediately clear whether Wisniewski would be a full or limited participant, but it appears he will have a shot to play against the Giants this week.

Wisniewski exited Sunday's game in the first quarter and was unable to re-enter the contest. He was replaced by Chance Warmack, and later Isaac Seumalo.

Doug Pederson said Wisniewski was "doing good" when he last spoke on Wednesday.

Though Wisniewski was back, Eagles center Jason Kelce temporarily left practice on Thursday only to return shortly thereafter. It was unclear whether Kelce was injured, but his absence was preceded by a demonstrative outburst.

Kelce threw his helmet, then slammed a recycle container before storming out of the Eagles' practice facility visibly upset. The seventh-year veteran returned minutes later and was participating in drills toward the end of the media portion of practice.

Kelce was not on the Eagles' injury report as of Wednesday but was listed during the week leading up to the Rams game with an ankle injury.

In other returns, Eagles tight end Brent Celek was back on the practice field Thursday. Celek was excused from the previous day's practice to attend the birth of his child.

Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones was also a participant, showing no sign of setbacks from his first practice on Wednesday. The 2017 second-round draft pick has been on the reserve/non-football injury list while recovering from a torn Achilles but is eligible for a spot the 53-man roster within the next 20 days.

2017 Nick Foles much different than 2013 Nick Foles

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2017 Nick Foles much different than 2013 Nick Foles

Nick Foles' first career with the Eagles ended abruptly in a heap just outside the painted Texans logo near midfield in NRG Stadium. 

On Nov. 2, 2014 Foles dropped back to pass on the last play of the first quarter in Houston, when outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus came from behind and slammed Foles to the ground with his full 250-plus pound frame landing on top of him. 

Mercilus ran off the field, receiving high-fives from his teammates, as Foles laid on the ground in the fetal position. His collarbone was broken. Unbeknownst to him, he had already played his last snap as an Eagle.

Even without the injury, 2014 just didn't have the magic from the year before. The Eagles were 6-2 heading into that early November game, but Foles wasn't having the same type of Pro Bowl season everyone saw in 2013. He just didn't seem like the guy who amazingly threw 27 touchdowns and two interceptions the year before and earned the starting gig. In 2014, Foles had already thrown 10 interceptions and just 13 touchdowns through those first eight games.  

As it turns out, the play in Houston wasn't Foles' last snap as an Eagle. He returned this offseason as the team's backup quarterback, but thanks to Carson Wentz's torn ACL, it's his job from here on out. 

Just don't expect Foles to be the same guy he was in 2013. Or in 2014, for that matter. 

He's a completely different quarterback and man these days. 

"I think with experience and age, you gain knowledge and wisdom," Foles said on Tuesday, the day after the Eagles announced Wentz was done for the season. "Obviously, life changes. You just sort of see the game more clearly. Even stepping into the game the other night (Sunday vs. Rams), you're in the fourth quarter, you're on the road, it's a big game. You really just go back to your training, you go back to your experiences in life. You know how to live in that moment, how to execute the plays to help your team win. 

"Since that moment in Houston, where I fractured my collarbone, I've experienced a lot more experiences in the NFL than I had up to that point. A lot of them great, some of them not so great. But they all go together to create this moment in time. I'm excited for this opportunity."

Foles didn't end up being the Eagles' starting quarterback for the "next thousand years" as Chip Kelly quipped in December of 2013. 

Foles was traded to the Rams in March 2015 as a part of the Sam Bradford trade and then signed a two-year extension with St. Louis. But things didn't go swimmingly with the Rams. In St. Louis, he played just one poor season, during which he was actually benched for Case Keenum. 

When the Rams drafted Jared Goff with the No. 1 overall pick, Foles was unhappy and wanted out. The Rams granted that request, releasing him in July 2016. Foles then signed with the guy who drafted him. He spent last season with Andy Reid's Chiefs as their backup. Foles played in three games and started one. And he actually played fairly well, but the Chiefs declined the second-year option on his contract, which made Foles a free agent for the second time in two years. This offseason, he came back to Philly. 

So, yeah, a lot has happened since the last time Eagles fans really saw Nick Foles. 

"I think he's definitely matured as a quarterback [in terms of] his leadership ability and his understanding of our offense and of defenses," said head coach Doug Pederson, who was gone by 2013, but was Foles' QB coach during his rookie season in 2012. "We always knew he was a very smart, intellectual quarterback and could process information. But he's been able to take it to the next level in his preparation. And just how he responds to the guys and how the guys have responded to him. A great example was in the fourth quarter of that game the other day. He comes in and nobody blinks. Nobody bats an eye. There was no hesitation and that's just the confidence that the guys have in Nick."

Perhaps one of the most important things to happen to Foles came this summer. Foles and his wife Tori welcomed their first child into their family. Daughter Lily was born in late June and there's just something about becoming a parent that seems to put everything into perspective. 

"Having a child, that's huge," Foles said this week. "I get to go home and hug my daughter. That's the greatest thing in the world."

So Foles isn't the same fresh-faced kid who became the Eagles' starter thanks to injury in 2013. He's not even the same guy who saw his first Eagles' career end in a heap in Houston. 

Foles is 28. He's a father. He's a veteran in the NFL. Maybe those things, more than anything else, make him more ready now to take over the starting gig than back in 2013. 

Foles was almost zen-like on Tuesday. He's mature, comfortable and confident. A lot has happened in a few years. 

"The wisdom and going in and playing, it almost just makes everything more simple," Foles said. "It clears your brain because you just go out there and play and let it rip. I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. 

"There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. That was a big reason why my wife and I sat down and the opportunity came up to come back here and be in this environment. Obviously, it was for a different role when I came here, but I'm ready to step up and help this team win."