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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers’ fate — and perhaps the Packers’ playoff chances — are in the hands of the doctors.

That’s the only update coach Mike McCarthy had on his quarterback after Rodgers underwent tests Monday morning to see whether his broken right collarbone has healed to the point that he could return Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, the first game for which Rodgers is eligible to be activated off injured reserve.

Packers physician Dr. Pat McKenzie is expected to make a determination after consulting with several specialists.

“It is now in the evaluation stage,” McCarthy said late Monday afternoon. “Dr. McKenzie is reviewing it. There’s a number of medical opinions that will be involved in a decision, so at this time, I do not have a clean decision for you or an update. That’s where it stands.”
McCarthy joked that if he didn’t have a decision by Tuesday, “they’re going to be putting Pat McKenzie on IR.”

Aaron Rodgers is eligible to be activated off injured reserve for Sunday's game against the Panthers, but whether he will be back on the field depends on the health of his collarbone.

Aaron Rodgers is eligible to be activated off injured reserve for Sunday’s game against the Panthers, but whether he will be back on the field depends on the health of his collarbone.

It’s unclear why the Packers didn’t put Rodgers through tests late last week.

To this point, everything has gone according to plan in Rodgers’ recovery from surgery on Oct. 19, when he had screws and plates implanted to stabilize his right clavicle. Rodgers said he hoped to come back this season but only if the tests showed the bone had healed.

He returned to practice on Dec. 2, the day he turned 34. Even before that, however, he was throwing. The first time he did so in public was before the Nov. 26 game at Pittsburgh, where he was seen throwing passes 50-plus yards in the air. Packers linebacker Clay Matthews even joked that Rodgers looked so good during the rehab process that the Packers shouldn’t have put him on injured reserve.

“It’s in the evaluation process,” McCarthy said. “I don’t have an answer for you. I’d like to know as soon as possible. Frankly, it’s best for Aaron to know as soon as possible. He’s the one that has to get ready, and obviously, in his mind he’s ready to go if you watch him practice and the conversations with him. But this is a medical decision, and Dr. McKenzie is obviously in touch with a number of different medical experts, and they’re evaluating the information.”
With or without Rodgers, McCarthy and his offensive staff are well into their game plan for the Panthers. They typically start on the next opponent late in the previous week, and this game was no different.

“We do preliminary game plans at the end of each week,” McCarthy said. “So, for instance, the offensive staff has a preliminary game plan for Carolina that is worked on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and then we evaluate their game that they played yesterday. So we had a chance to watch that against Minnesota. Obviously, we were here early this morning correcting our game from Cleveland. So the process is in full motion, and so, we’ll just keep going down the road.”

Brett Hundley won three of his seven starts in place of Rodgers, including consecutive overtime wins the past two weeks to get the Packers to 7-6 and keep them alive in the playoff race.

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"The red zone, it's a tough area, it's just like third down, tight windows, you have got to get on the same page with guys and only having been here a short while, it's going to take a little time," Jimmy Garoppolo said.

“The red zone, it’s a tough area, it’s just like third down, tight windows, you have got to get on the same page with guys and only having been here a short while, it’s going to take a little time,” Jimmy Garoppolo said.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Despite dominating in major statistical categories such as total yards, first downs and time of possession, the San Francisco 49ers still needed a last-second field goal to overcome the Chicago Bears last week.

Yes, a Niners’ turnover and a special teams miscue helped contribute to that, but the biggest culprit preventing the Niners from winning in far more comfortable fashion was an inability to finish trips to the red zone with touchdowns.
In fact, the 49ers’ went 0-for-5 on trips inside Chicago’s 20 on Sunday, settling for a field goal on four of those trips and purposefully playing for one on their final possession. That the Niners were still able to win is a positive, but the lack of red zone production has been a consistent theme all season and the biggest reason for those struggles has also been a persistent issue.

“The tighter it gets, the more exact you have to be,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Everything gets harder, the windows get smaller. Even the run support with safeties, you can play a two-shell defense and still meet the back at the line of scrimmage because they don’t have to drop back as far. They’re not as worried about posts up over the top and things like that. So, everything gets tighter so you’ve got to execute very well. We didn’t as a whole team.”

At the center of that lack of execution was a series of self-inflicted mistakes in the form of penalties. The Niners were called for six infractions on plays run inside Chicago’s 20 with the Bears accepting four of them. Making matters worse, those penalties didn’t just come inside the Bears’ 20 but inside their 10.

On the Niners’ first drive, they had second-and-goal at Chicago’s 9 when right tackle Trent Brown was called for holding. Suddenly, it was second-and-goal from the 19, a difficult proposition for any team. Two plays later, they settled for the first of five field goals.

In another sequence in the second quarter, the Niners had second-and-1 at Chicago’s 7 and didn’t get the first down on a running play. On third-and-1, they promptly got two false start penalties and suddenly it was third-and-11 at the Bears’ 17. Again, the result was a field goal.

Those mistakes are especially concerning given that the Niners have had that problem for most of the year. After 12 games, the Niners’ 13 accepted offensive penalties committed in the red zone are the most in the league as are the 15 they’ve been called for overall.

Of course, while penalties are at the heart of last week’s red zone woes, there are other ways for the 49ers to improve as well.

“I put a lot on those penalties down there,” Shanahan said. “We had way too many penalties. But, it wasn’t just the number of penalties, it was the time we got those penalties. I feel like that cost us two touchdowns down there, so that was disappointing. The other two times we got in the red zone it was two third-and-6s, and we didn’t convert between the 20 and 15. So, we’ve got to do a better job there. Not getting the third down, and being better on our third down. But, the most disappointing thing with the red zone was the penalties when we should have scored, I believe.”

Three quarters of the way through the season, the Niners are tied with the Cleveland Browns for the second-worst red zone touchdown percentage in the league (40.6 percent). And they’re only a little bit better when it comes to scoring in goal-to-go situations, where they have scored touchdowns on 61.1 percent of their opportunities, ranking 25th in the league.

One thing that could help in both areas is the presence of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s only played a game and three snaps but his quick release and accuracy should help him fit the ball into the tight windows to get the job done in tight spaces. There were a few times he was a little late on throws against the Bears, and though he could get away with it in some spots, it clearly didn’t happen near the goal line.
But the chance to get more time with his pass-catchers should only serve him and the Niners well as they get more opportunities deep in opponent territory.

“The red zone, it’s a tough area, it’s just like third down, tight windows, you have got to get on the same page with guys and only having been here a short while, it’s going to take a little time, but I think overall we’re going in the right direction,” Garoppolo said.

The other good news for the Niners on the red zone front is that the penalties, especially of the pre-snap variety, are correctable issues.

“It’s just little things like that when you’re in the red zone and things don’t go perfect, you end up getting field goals,” Shanahan said. “It’s a combination of all those things. The biggest thing was the penalties, though.”

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Dallas Cowboys executive Stephen Jones confirmed Monday that Ezekiel Elliott will be training outside the United States during his suspension.

Jones, who made his comments in an interview with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, didn’t disclose the exact location where the running back is training.

NFL Network first reported the news of Elliott’s plans.
“Actually, I give Zeke credit. This was his idea. He’s wanting to really go to work and not have distractions while he’s not able to play the game. He felt the best way to do that was to get away from this environment … and really work to get himself in the best possible shape,” Jones said.

Jones said Elliott went over his plans with the team’s coaches and strength and conditioning staff, who were comfortable with what they heard.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, Stephen’s father, said Sunday night that he also believed Elliott had a good plan for his time away from the team.

Stephen Jones noted that the Cowboys aren’t permitted to have contact with Elliott during his suspension but was hopeful that the running back will be able to stay in playing shape.

“Certainly it’s not easy when you’re not in a competitive environment, but it sounds like he has a good plan and hopefully one he’ll pull off,” he said.

Elliott, 22, was suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell in August after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 in Ohio with his girlfriend at the time. The NFL players’ union sued on Elliott’s behalf.

He was able to play in the first eight games through a number of legal decisions, but he lost a temporary administrative stay that kept him on the field in last week’s victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Cowboys missed Elliott in Sunday’s 27-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, as the team rushed for 107 yards on 21 carries. Alfred Morris led the Cowboys with 53 yards on 11 carries but had just 8 yards on six first-half carries. Elliott had 783 rushing yards in the first eight games of the season, with four straight games of more than 90 yards on the ground.

He will miss at least the next four games, pending a Dec. 1 hearing, and he is likely to miss the next six.

“He’ll be a better person from this and a better player for us when this is all said and done. It will be a life lesson for him and hopefully he’ll come back and take the next chapter,” Stephen Jones said.

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BEREA, Ohio — Josh Gordon used drugs or alcohol before every NFL game he played, Gordon told the magazine GQ in an interview released Monday.

The Browns wide receiver told GQ that he made taking some substance “a ritual … before every game.”

“We would stay at the team hotel, and then players are allowed to go back home, get what they need and then go to the game,” Gordon said. “So I’d leave the hotel early morning, go home, eat breakfast, do my little ritual, whatever it may be, some weed, some alcohol and then go to the game. And then, I’d definitely be partying after every game, win or lose. Every game.”
Gordon said he started taking drugs in seventh grade, continued through college and even did something before every game he played in 2013, when he led the league in receiving yards while playing 14 games.

"I'd leave the hotel early morning, go home, eat breakfast, do my little ritual, whatever it may be, some weed, some alcohol and then go to the game," Josh Gordon said in an interview with GQ released Monday.

“I’d leave the hotel early morning, go home, eat breakfast, do my little ritual, whatever it may be, some weed, some alcohol and then go to the game,” Josh Gordon said in an interview with GQ released Monday.

“When I got to the league, I think they had their doubts from the very beginning,” Gordon said. “From the day they drafted me, they had to know there was some type of risk involved. I don’t think that they specifically knew. But I’m sure they had their doubts. [I] missed a lot of meetings, showed up late a lot of times, eyes were probably bloodshot on many occasions. But I guess you couldn’t really draw a definitive conclusion because I thought I was evasive enough. And because nobody told me anything.”
Gordon said he’s different now because he went to a lengthy rehab for himself, not for someone else.

“At this point, I thought, ‘If I want any type of a life, if I wanted to live, [I'll stop],’” he said. “It was like: You’re never going back to f—ing work ever if you can’t figure out how to live. Because at this point in time, the trajectory, you’re going to die. You’re going to kill yourself.”

He also said he moved to Gainesville, Florida, because he could not take what he called harassment from Browns fans in Cleveland.

“Living in Cleveland, sometimes it could be a nightmare,” Gordon said. “I’ve been harassed, had drinks thrown at me. I’ve been [followed] in the grocery store, heckled everywhere. At the games, people harassed and heckled my brothers and my mom. [My] brothers got into fights in the stands. Cars [have] been jumped on. Somebody dented the hood of the car. Had to sue a guy and get the money back ’cause he damaged the car. People are throwing money, pennies, to break the windows. So Cleveland was rough, man.”

Browns coach Hue Jackson said the interview would not affect his thinking on Gordon’s rejoining the team.

“I think he was letting things out, if that’s what was said,” Jackson said. “I think he was cleansing himself of his past, and I get that, a little bit. But again, I think he said what he felt he needed to say.”
At his first scouting combine after being hired, Jackson said he would not put up with nonsense. On Monday, he said, “that’s not going to change.”

“I think we need to let him get out what he feels like he needs to get out,” Jackson said. “I’m sure this is part of his rehabilitation as well. To say certain things that you’ve done, I think that’s kind of good. Because you got to put it behind you as fast as you can.”

Jackson said he will need to know that Gordon is not trying to talk his way into being released with this interview.

“I don’t think he is trying to do that,” he said. “I do need to feel comfortable that he’s not. If he’s coming back to play football, I think he knows he needs to play football here.”

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MINNEAPOLIS — The NFL handed down a one-game suspension without pay to Vikings strong safety Andrew Sendejo for his hit on Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace on Sunday.

The league says the hit was a violation of safety-related playing rules, in which Rule 12, Section 2, Article 6 (i) states, “there shall be no unnecessary roughness. This shall include, but will not be limited to: (i) using any part of a player’s helmet or facemask to butt, spear, or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily.”
On the second play of Baltimore’s second drive, quarterback Joe Flacco threw a short pass to Wallace, and the receiver was quickly wrapped up and in the process of being tackled by Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Wallace’s left knee was almost touching the ground when he was hit near the head and neck area by Sendejo.

Wallace’s helmet came off after contact was made. The receiver lay on the ground for several moments before heading to the sideline with trainers. He was put in the concussion protocol and later ruled out for the remainder of the game.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh declined comment when asked about the suspension.

NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan handed down the suspension on Monday afternoon and gave his reasoning in a letter to Sendejo.

Mike Wallace was knocked out of the game Sunday by a shot to the head from Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo in the first quarter.

Mike Wallace was knocked out of the game Sunday by a shot to the head from Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo in the first quarter.

“The violation was flagrant and warrants a suspension because it could have been avoided, was violently directed at the head and neck area and unreasonably placed both you and an opposing player at risk of serious injury,” the letter read.

Coach Mike Zimmer defended Sendejo’s hit during his Monday press conference under the belief that Wallace established himself as a runner.

“I think the receiver took five steps after he caught the ball and I think [Sendejo] hit him with a glancing blow,” Zimmer said. “He established position as a runner, took two extra steps. Xavier was trying to pull the ball out, which he ended up doing. The guy went down a little bit, but in my opinion, [Wallace] was a runner.”

Sendejo has up to three business days to appeal the suspension, per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. Under the terms of the suspension, the safety will eligible to return to the active roster on Monday, Oct. 30, one day after Minnesota plays Cleveland in London.