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The NFL announced it has upheld the season-long suspension of Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle.

Burfict has been banned for the remainder of the NFL season without pay for the hit, the league confirmed on Wednesday.

A Pro Bowler in 2013, Burfict was ejected in the second quarter of the Raiders' Week 4 win over the Colts last month.

"There were no mitigating circumstances on this play," the NFL said in a statement. "Your contact was unnecessary, flagrant and should have been avoided."

Burfict's team-mates came to the 29-year-old's defense after the hit, however, their appeals did not sway the NFL's decision. 

"I don't think he was trying to hurt that man; the man was going down," quarterback Derek Carr told reporters after the suspension was first announced. "You see it all the time — there's flags flying everywhere.

"We see other people choking people out, and they're going to play this Sunday. We see other people hitting people in the helmet, and they're going to play this Sunday. And Vontaze Burfict won't play the rest of the year? I think that's a little excessive if you ask me.

"I don't think it's fair if we really got to know the guy. If the people making the decision really knew the guy that we know, inside our building ... he's a great person, his heart is broken because he's not playing football. The guy just wants to play football. We don't get a lot of time to play this game in our lives."

The Raiders are 3-2 this season and second in the AFC West behind the Kansas City Chiefs (4-1).

 

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley has been officially ruled out of Thursday's road game against the New England Patriots as he continues to rehab his high ankle sprain.

The Giants will also be without tight end Evan Engram, the team's leading receiver (373 yards), who is dealing with a sprained MCL.

Receiver Sterling Shepard, in the league's concussion protocol for the second time this season, is also out, along with running back Wayne Gallman, Barkley's top back-up who is missing for the same reason.

The injuries leave New York (2-3) short-handed against the league's top-ranked defense, an undesirable scenario for rookie quarterback Daniel Jones' first meeting with undefeated New England (5-0).

Barkley was able to return to practice last week but the team announced on Wednesday he will miss the Week 6 contest.

He was aiming to beat his initial four to eight-week timetable for recovery, but the Giants are taking a cautious approach in easing him back into action.

The 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year injured his ankle in the second quarter of the team's Week 3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and missed the subsequent games against the Washington Redksins and Minnesota Vikings.

Despite missing the past two weeks entirely and most of the game in which he was injured, Barkley still leads the Giants in rushing with 237 yards. 

Gallman is next with 107 and Jones will enter the Patriots game as the team's active rushing leader with 78 yards, 25 more than projected starting running back Jon Hilliman.

Rihanna has confirmed she snubbed the NFL's offer to be the Super Bowl LIII half-time act earlier this year in support of Colin Kaepernick.

A report emerged last year that stated the singer had turned down the opportunity to perform at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium due to the continued absence of Kaepernick, who has been out of the league since the 2016 season, when he started to kneel during the national anthem in protest at perceived racial injustice in America.

Maroon 5 - an underwhelming selection in the eyes of many - eventually performed at the game between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams.

In an interview with Vogue, Rihanna has now corroborated the claims her views on the NFL meant she was unwilling to appear at the showpiece event.

Asked whether she rejected the chance in a show of solidarity with Kaepernick, she replied: "Absolutely.

"I couldn't dare do that. For what? Who gains from that? Not my people. I just couldn't be a sell-out. I couldn't be an enabler.

"There's things within that organisation that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way."

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Kaepernick, who remains unsigned, retweeted a post containing the quotes tweeted by his girlfriend Nessa Diab.

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey is set to return to practice on Wednesday after missing his side's past two games.

The team announced Ramsey was poised to take part in practice, though NFL Network reported it will be in a "very limited fashion" and he will likely do individual drills. 

Ramsey's return comes just days after he saw a specialist in Houston for his back injury, with the Jags (2-3) due to host the New Orleans Saints (4-1) in Week 6 on Sunday.

He missed the Jaguars' Week 4 win over the Denver Broncos, ending a streak of starting the first 51 regular-season games of his NFL career, and had not practiced leading up to that game. 

The 24-year-old had reported an illness along with his back injury and he stepped away from the team on Wednesday of that week to be with his family in Nashville for the birth of his second child.

Ramsey also sat out last week's loss to the Carolina Panthers due to the back injury as coach Doug Marrone said his player worked hard to be available but could not get there.

The two-time Pro Bowler's back issues come as there is speculation around his long-term future with the Jaguars.

He was involved in a heated exchange with Marrone on the sideline during the team's Week 2 loss to the Houston Texans and requested a trade shortly after the incident, citing a meeting with management that did not end to his liking.

NFL Network reported earlier this week the Jaguars have not considered trade offers even though Ramsey’s request to be dealt "still stands".

Ramsey, who was initially selected by Jacksonville with the number five pick in the 2016 draft, has nine interceptions and 45 pass breakups throughout his NFL career.

Cam Newton will not travel with the Carolina Panthers to London as he continues to rehab his injured foot, coach Ron Rivera confirmed on Tuesday.

Quarterback Newton has not played since Week 2 of the season but was seen on Tuesday at the team's practice facility without wearing a walking boot.

However, Rivera told the media that the 30-year-old will not feature against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, meaning Kyle Allen will once again start for Carolina.

"He's continuing his rehab - we have no timeline," Rivera said on Newton's fitness. "Again, he will go through whatever they [the medical staff] have planned out for him then, as we progress, we will see.

"He won't make the trip [to London]. Medically, it is the best thing to keep him from being on an aeroplane for eight hours.

"Kyle is our starter and we will continue that way."

Newton - who completed 50 of his 89 pass attempts for 572 yards with an interception and two fumbles in his two appearances this season - is reportedly dealing with a Lisfranc injury and has been sidelined for the last three weeks.

With a bye looming in Week 7, the earliest the former first-round pick will return to action is Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers.

Allen has won all his starts since taking over as the team's quarterback, completing 60 of 90 passes for 674 yards and five touchdowns ahead of the clash with the Buccaneers.

Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has joined FOX Sports as an NFL analyst, the broadcaster announced on Tuesday.

Gronkowski in March retired following nine seasons in the league, all spent with New England, despite only turning 30 last May.

A second-round selection of the Patriots in 2010, he finished his career with five Pro Bowl selections, four first-team All-Pro honours and three Super Bowl victories.

Gronkowski will make his first appearance in his new role on Thursday, when his former team the Patriots host the New York Giants in Week 6.

"I'm extremely excited to be joining FOX Sports," Gronkowski said. "For the past 25 years, they've offered viewers top-notch NFL programming from the field to the booth to the studio.

"Their deep talent roster is unmatched, which was important for me as I embark on this new chapter in my life because I'll be able to learn from the best in the business."

Gronkowski is New England's all-time leading touchdown scorer and is tied for the second-most receiving scores in postseason history.

He is also the NFL's postseason leader among tight ends in catches (81) and receiving yards (1,163).

Sam Darnold has been cleared to play in Week 6, the New York Jets announced on Tuesday.

Quarterback Darnold has been out since Week 2 after he was diagnosed with mononucleosis but can return against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

He went 28-for-41 passing for 175 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in his lone start this year, a 17-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 1.

Darnold was cleared for non-contact drills last week but was ultimately ruled out of facing the Philadelphia Eagles.

New York are 0-4 in his absence and 0-5 on the season.

The Dallas Cowboys are not going to start doubting head coach Jason Garrett after suffering their second loss of the season, insists Stephen Jones.

Jones, director of player personnel for the Cowboys, dismissed a question about whether Garrett is on the hot seat after losing back-to-back games to the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.

Those defeats followed a strong 3-0 start to the season, but Jones insists there are no plans to make a change despite the downturn in fortunes.

"Absolutely not," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. "He's done a great job with this team.

"He had the guys playing hard [in Week 5] when it could have gotten really ugly."

If the 3-2 Cowboys can pull off a road win against the winless New York Jets on Sunday and a home victory in an NFC East battle with the Philadelphia Eagles before their Week 8 bye, Garrett just might shut down the noise.

"Just hang in there with us," Jones added. "I really believe we're going to correct these things to be really more consistent. I feel like the best is yet to come."

Garrett, 53, is in his 10th season with the Cowboys, leading Dallas to three division title games in the last five campaigns.

But the team have not won a conference championship during his tenure as they wait for a first Super Bowl appearance since the 1995 season.

A.J. Green will not make his Cincinnati Bengals return against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, coach Zac Taylor has confirmed.

The Bengals receiver will not participate in practice this week as he continues to recover from ankle surgery, meaning the earliest he will make his comeback is in Week 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Green suffered the injury early in training camp and underwent surgery in July but was seen last month on the rehab field running and making a few catches.

"We'll get A.J. through this week. He will not practice this week," Taylor said. "He'll be on the rehab field. He's making good progress.

"Each player is different. It depends on the injury. I watch him every day on the rehab field, so I've seen him do some good things. There will be some things that we ease him into.

"You don't just go into practice full-blown on your first day after being off for two months. There will come a time where we start working him into individual work and then ease him into practice.

"We're encouraged with where he's at. He's not going to take any reps against the defense, but I would like to see him do some individual work when he feels like we're ready to make that move."

Green, 31, has made seven Pro Bowls over his eight-year career, which has been spent entirely in Cincinnati. He caught 46 passes for 694 yards with six touchdowns in nine games last season. 

Baker Mayfield will be out of the league unless he learns to respect the game, Richard Sherman said in an astonishing critique of the Cleveland Browns quarterback after he snubbed a pre-game handshake with the San Francisco 49ers cornerback.

The 49ers cruised to a dominant 31-3 win over the Browns on Monday to move to 4-0 on the season, former number one overall pick Mayfield enduring a chastening evening at Levi's Stadium as he was pummelled by an imposing San Francisco defense.

Mayfield completed only eight of his 22 pass attempts with two interceptions and was sacked four times in a defeat that sees the Browns drop to 2-3 in a campaign where they have struggled to live up to pre-season expectations.

Sherman intercepted Mayfield's second pass of the game and afterwards revealed the Niners defense was given extra motivation by the signal-caller's decision not to shake hands with Sherman and fellow San Francisco captain DeForest Buckner at the coin toss.

"What's amazing, and annoying, was him not shaking hands at the beginning," Sherman said. "That's some college s***. It's ridiculous.

"We're all trying to get psyched up, but shaking hands with your opponent -- that's NFL etiquette. And when you pull bush league stuff, that's disrespectful to the game. And believe me, that's gonna get us fired up.

"Respect the game. You can have rivals, but pay your respect in that moment -- especially when you're young.

"He hasn't earned anything in this league. How many games has he won? He's acting like he was the MVP last year. If [Patrick] Mahomes did that, it would be one thing. But he would never do that, because he has too much respect for the game.

"And when you see a guy who doesn't? You humble him every chance you get. Because eventually, he will have respect for the league -- or he'll be out of it."

On his interception, which came when Mayfield attempted to force a throw to Antonio Callaway under pressure from Nick Bosa, Sherman added: "He was getting sacked, and he should have just eaten the ball.

"He's throwing as he's falling, and I've already broken on the ball, so there's no reason to chuck it. That's youth. You've got to eat that play and get to the next one.

"And he's throwing it to Callaway -- it's one thing if he puts it up for Odell or [Jarvis Landry], because those guys are so good they might be able to make a play. But no, he shouldn't have thrown it."

Sherman also took aim at the former Oklahoma Sooners star for previous comments the unashamedly outspoken Mayfield made about New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, former team-mate Duke Johnson and ex-Browns head coach Hue Jackson.

"There's no reason for him to say and do those things, especially given how little he's accomplished," said Sherman. "That's where he's gonna have to grow up. He might get there, but he has a long way to go."

Nick Bosa told Baker Mayfield he "had it coming" after mimicking the quarterback's flag plant at Ohio State in the San Francisco 49ers' dominant victory over the Cleveland Browns on Monday.

Two years ago Mayfield led Oklahoma to an upset 31-16 victory over Ohio State and celebrated by planting his college's flag in the middle of the field at the Buckeyes' Stadium.

Bosa played that night and remembered Mayfield's inflammatory act when the Niners cruised to a 31-3 victory over the Browns to improve to 4-0.

Mayfield was harassed by San Francisco's defensive front throughout and Bosa, who accounted for two of his team's four sacks, pulled out an imaginary flag-plant celebration after forcing the Browns quarterback into an intentional grounding penalty late in the first half.

"I think everybody knows what that was for," rookie Bosa told reporters.

"Just wanted to get payback. He had it coming."

Mayfield, who finished with 100 yards passing and only completed eight of his 22 attempts to go with two interceptions, is renowned for his brash attitude.

However, the softly-spoken Bosa said there was no response to his trash-talking on the field.

"I was trying to talk, I don't usually talk but this game... he had it coming. He didn't say one word back," Bosa explained.

"I was just screaming his name, 'Baker, Baker, you good? Come on, pick it up, we want a challenge'."

There were eight quarterback hits on Mayfield - of which Bosa provided five - and he was taken out for Garrett Gilbert late on when it was obvious there was no way back for the Browns.

Mayfield was the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, despite concerns over his height, and Bosa took aim at the 6ft 1in signal caller.

"I don't know how anyone thought he would be able to see over Arik [Armstead] and [DeForest] Buck[ner]," he said.

"He was panicking, he was double-clutching, rolling back and forth. We had him rattled all game."

The San Francisco 49ers improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1990 after beating the Cleveland Browns 31-3 in NFL action on Monday.

Both teams were playing for a rare feat in Monday Night Football at Levi's Stadium.

The 49ers were trying to get to 4-0 for the first time in 29 years and the Browns were attempting to move above .500 for the first time since 2014.

However, it would be San Francisco that would reach their goal thanks to a dominant victory.

The 49ers deployed a formidable defense to shut down Baker Mayfield and company, while Jimmy Garoppolo quietly had one of his best games of this season.

 

Three takeaways from the 49ers' dominant win over the Browns

Breida continues to shine

Matt Breida has stepped up in place of an injured Tevin Coleman. The running back who went undrafted in 2017 has played a key role in the 49ers' undefeated start, including Monday night when he tallied 114 yards on 11 carries with a blazing fast 83-yard scoring run. 

In fact, it was the fastest of any ball carrier over the last three seasons clocked at 22.3 mph.

The threat posed by Breida out of the backfield kept the Browns defense honest and helped Garoppolo, who was incredibly efficient – finishing 20-of-29 passing for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

Breida will see a decrease in touches now that Coleman is healthy again, but the 49ers now have great depth in the backfield as they sit atop the NFC West.

Was this Mayfield's blunder?

It was as much a bad night for Mayfield as it was a good night for the 49ers' defense. 

The Browns offense never really got going as Mayfield finished just eight-of-22 passing for 100 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was also sacked four times, led mostly by the efforts of a now-healthy Nick Bosa who finished with four total tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.

Mayfield had been hot and cold for the Browns this season heading into Monday's game. He had thrown four touchdown passes through the first four games but tallied six picks, which are tied for second-most in the league. It has not been an ideal start, much less under the bright lights with now four prime-time games and the contest in San Francisco not only put the team's record on the line but also begged the question of whether Mayfield can truly lead the talented Cleveland offense.

Monday night's answer: No. 

Garrett making the case for Defensive Player of the Year

While the 49ers' defense stole the show tonight, Myles Garrett has been making his case on the Browns' defense for Player of the Year.

Against Garoppolo, he had one sack and two total tackles. 

Garrett now has seven sacks for the season which makes him the only player with six-plus sacks in each of the last three seasons.

It did not hurt that he was up against rookie left tackle Justin Skule, who took the place of veteran starter Joe Staley after he suffered a broken fibula. Skule received the starting nod for the second consecutive week, but practice did not make perfect in this case as he struggled to contain Garrett.

NFL Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots released veteran tight end Benjamin Watson.

The Patriots signed Watson in the offseason to help fill the void left by star Rob Gronkowski's retirement, however, the 38-year-old was suspended for the opening four games of the season after violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy.

Watson was eligible to return this week but was never activated by the Patriots, who had talked him into coming out of retirement earlier this year.

"The God of victory is also God in failure," Watson tweeted on Monday. "I gave my all, but it was not enough to earn a spot on the @Patriots roster.

"I'm beyond disappointed but even more upset for my family who has supported me with all the love a husband and father could ask for. They are my heroes. Rom 8:28"

Watson began his career with the Patriots, who drafted him in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft.

He also had stints with the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens in an NFL career that has seen him rack up 530 catches for 5,885 yards and 44 touchdowns.

The San Francisco 49ers opened their "Monday Night Football" matchup with the Cleveland Browns scoring 14 unanswered points, but perhaps the most meaningful highlight happened prior to kick-off.

During pre-game festivities, San Francisco defensive tackle D.J. Jones proposed to his girlfriend at Levi's Stadium. 

Jones was surrounded by friends, team-mates and family on the sideline about an hour and a half before the NFL clash.

The 24-year-old had to first distract his now-fiancée, Kayla Fannin, so he pointed to the scoreboard across the field and then popped the question.

Spoiler: Fannin said "Yes".

Among those cheering was 49ers team-mate Marquise Goodwin, who also celebrated the proposal. 

Jones was a sixth-round pick in the 2017 draft out of Mississippi.

He has started in all three games for the 49ers this season after earning the starting nod in just four of 10 games last year. Jones has four tackles through his first three games.

Another week, another quarterback disaster.

But that is nothing compared to the coaching catastrophe in Washington, where Jay Gruden is out of a job just five weeks into the season.

Here we look back at the biggest headlines from Week 5 and the impact they will have heading into Week 6.

 

What's next in the Rudolph aftermath?

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback's status "for this week and beyond" is reportedly "very much in doubt" after a knockout hit by Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas left Mason Rudolph motionless on the ground on Sunday. The loss forced third-string quarterback Devlin Hodges under center after Pittsburgh lost Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2, and it looks like the former undrafted free agent could be filling in for at least a couple weeks.

As for Thomas, it is unlikely he will face suspension for the hit, though the play could be reviewed for a possible fine. He was flagged on the play but did not get ejected.

Then there is the issue of the malfunctioning medical cart that forced Rudolph's team-mates to carry him off the field. The NFL released a statement claiming Rudolph did not need the cart, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted the cart failed because of operator error while adding Rudolph wanted to walk off the field rather than use the cart.

McCaffrey heats up MVP conversation

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey had a historic day in Carolina on Sunday, exploding for 237 total yards to become the first player since Jim Brown in 1963 to total 175-plus yards from scrimmage in four of a season's first five games. The 237 scrimmage yards tied McCaffrey's own franchise record.

"If I was writing, I would see if he's from earth," defensive lineman Gerald McCoy said. "I'd have to check to see if he's from Asgard or something. I don't know where that dude's from. If the season ended right now, he's the MVP."

McCaffrey leads the NFL with 587 rushing yards, averages 5.6 yards per carry and leads the Panthers with 31 catches. He has also scored seven touchdowns.

Callahan takes over Redskins after Gruden firing

The writing was on the wall after the Washington Redskins were routed by the New England Patriots to remain winless through Week 5 for the first time since 2001, ending Gruden's tenure with an underwhelming 35-49-1 record with one playoff appearance.

"Nobody's told me anything. If the key works on Monday, I'll keep working," Gruden told reporters when asked about his job security after Sunday's loss.

Now, Redskins assistant head coach Bill Callahan is set to take over as interim coach, and he wasted no time ruling out rookie Dwayne Haskins as a candidate to start under center in Week 6. Callahan claimed the first-round pick will be the Redskins' starting quarterback at some point, but insisted he's not ready "right now."

That leaves Colt McCoy or Case Keenum to be tasked with helping get the team back on track. 

Officiating seems more inconsistent than ever

This issue is certainly nothing new, but it grows more concerning each week. While officials do not appear hesitant to throw flags, many calls this season seem to have been blatantly wrong.

The league reportedly held a conference call last month with its referees to address the surge of flags, which comes after the NFL made changes to include pass interference as a reviewable penalty earlier this year. The league also stepped up enforcement of holding penalties even if they occurred away from the play.

Ramsey visits specialist for injury answers

The Jacksonville Jaguars requested cornerback Jalen Ramsey see a back specialist in Houston, after he missed the last two games with a back injury.

But the team reportedly is not budging on Ramsey's request for a trade. Ramsey was involved in a heated exchange with Jaguars coach Doug Marrone on the sidelines in Week 2 and asked to be traded the next day. Jacksonville already have reportedly turned down one trade offering two first-round draft picks for the Pro Bowl cornerback.

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