Thursday NFL Notes

Wednesday's big news turned out to be much ado about nothing, as Tom Brady participated in Thursday's practice one day after leaving with a knee injury. He was spotted wearing a brace, but the injury is minor and No. 12 plans on playing in Friday's preseason game against the Buccaneers.

Another star went down in Thursday evening's Falcons-Ravens preseason game, although Roddy White found time to protest a pass interference no-call before walking off the field under his own power. White was listed as questionable to return with a knee injury, and the fact that he never went back into the game is probably irrelevant given that the Falcons' first-team offense was taken out shortly after White suffered the injury.

Dion Lewis may not have much name recognition outside of college football circles, but heading into Thursday's preseason game, the former Pitt standout was expected to work as the top backup to Trent Richardson. Unfortunately for the Browns, Lewis suffered a broken fibula during Thursday's game, making him a near-lock to open the season on injured reserve or the PUP list.

Lewis' injury wasn't the only bad news for Cleveland running backs Thursday, as Montario Hardesty had his knee scoped and is now expected to miss the first few weeks of the season. Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya appear to be the top remaining options behind Trent Richardson, which means that the Browns could turn to the free agent scrap heap.

Le'Veon Bell reinjured his troublesome left knee during practice, although it seems likely that this is nothing more than an aggravation of the pre-existing soreness. Bell was hit during a non-contact drill, and probably won't be too pleased about the situation, even if the injury doesn't end up impacting his status for Week 1. He and Isaac Redman are listed as co-starters on the Steelers' most recent depth chart, but Bell started the first preseason game and is consistently going well ahead of Redman in early fantasy drafts. The Steelers have indicated that they would prefer to lean heavily on one running back, and Bell is still the best bet to be that guy.

Kenny Britt returned to practice Thursday, after missing four days with soreness in the same left knee that bothered him throughout the 2012 season. Though the injury is minor, it would be wise to keep a close eye on Britt if you're thinking about drafting the enigmatic receiver. Any more trouble with the left knee could be a sign of a nagging issue.

Though Arian Foster's calf is healthy, the star running back still hasn't returned to practice thanks to a seemingly minor back injury. The Texans hope to have him back Monday, which would likely allow Foster to tote the rock a few times during the third and possibly fourth preseason games. Foster's primary backup, Ben Tate, dealt with a groin injury earlier in training camp but is healthy at the moment. Deji Karim, Dennis Johnson, Cierre Wood, and Ray Graham are all vying for the No. 3 spot behind Foster and Tate.

Daniel Thomas is in line to open the 2013 season as the Dolphins' third-down back. He doesn't fit the mold of a quick and nimble receiving option, but is more reliable than Lamar Miller in pass protection. Miller is still expected to handle most of the early-down work, and could eventually become a true three-down back if his pass blocking improves.

Following up on Wednesday's good news, Coby Fleener (concussion) has likely been cleared and is expected to play in Sunday's preseason game against the Giants. Dwayne Allen is still out with a foot injury, but the Colts expect to have both of their talented second-year tight ends available for Week 1. While many would argue that Allen is the superior player, Fleener arguably has more upside as a downfield receiver. Assuming Allen's foot injury doesn't linger, we should see plenty of both tight ends this season.

Cecil Shorts (calf) has been ruled out of the Jaguars' second preseason game, which is scheduled for Saturday against the Jets. His absence is thought to be a precautionary measure, and he doesn't appear to be in much danger of missing Week 1. The biggest question surrounding Shorts is whether the Jaguars have anybody capable of getting the ball into his hands. Blaine Gabbert will get the start in Saturday's game, while Chad Henne is also expected to see playing time with the first-team offense. Gabbert seems to be the favorite to emerge from one of the more gruesome quarterback battles in recent memory.

Shorts may be out, but the Jaguars will get Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) back for Saturday's game. MJD is apparently pain-free, and it will be interesting to see how explosive he looks upon returning to an NFL field for the first time in nearly 10 months.

As expected, Mark Sanchez will start the Jets' second preseason game Saturday against the Jaguars. Geno Smith suffered a minor ankle injury in the first preseason game, and coach Rex Ryan said that Wednesday was Smith's worst day of practice as a Jet.


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