NFL notes: Falcons rule out RB Devonta Freeman for Sunday; Packers QB Aaron Rodgers questionable

The Atlanta Falcons will be missing another key starter for Sunday’s game against Carolina. Two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman was ruled out after missing the entire week of practice with a knee injury, another blow to a team that was already reeling from injuries to defensive stalwarts Keanu Neal and Deion Jones.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is questionable for the Packers’ NFC North showdown with Minnesota. Rodgers, who missed the end of the first half of the Week 1 victory against Chicago with an injured left knee, did not practice Wednesday and Thursday and would not have practiced on Friday.

Coach Dan Quinn said he’s hopeful that Freeman’s injury isn’t too serious. But there was a bit of uncertainty in the coach’s voice when he spoke after practice on a sweltering Friday afternoon.

“We’re under the hope that it’s not a long-term thing,” Quinn said. “When he can do the violent, explosive cuts that make him him, we’ll certainly get him in there.”


Freeman was injured in a season-opening loss to Philadelphia. Even though the Falcons had a 10-day break before their second game, the running back was not able to overcome the latest in what has become an alarming series of injuries.

During the 2017 season, Freeman sustained two concussions and a right knee injury. He missed two games and wasn’t nearly as effective as the two previous years even when he was able to get on the field.

Freeman finished with 865 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, along with 36 receptions.

The starting spot is still in good hands with Tevin Coleman, but Freeman’s injury deprives the Falcons of their 1-2 punch out of the backfield. Rookie Ito Smith, a fourth-round draft pick, moves up on the depth chart. Recently signed Brian Hill could also get some playing time.


NFL fines

New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata has been fined $40,108 by the NFL for two roughing-the-passer calls in the team’s season opener.

Onyemata was docked $20,054 Friday for each of the penalties Sunday in the Saints’ 48-40 loss to Tampa Bay.

The first came in the third quarter on an incomplete pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick, when Onyemata violated the new rule requiring defensive players to avoid putting their full weight on quarterbacks. The second occurred during a 36-yard touchdown catch by DeSean Jackson in the fourth quarter when Onyemata made contact with Fitzpatrick’s helmet.


Onyemata was one of several players fined $20,054 for roughing the passer in the league’s opening weekend, joining the Rams’ Aaron Donald, Minnesota’s Sheldon Richardson, Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett and Dallas’ DeMarcus Lawrence.

New England safety Duron Harmon was fined $26,739 for his hit on Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, which drew a flag for unnecessary roughness.


Oakland Raiders rookie defensive tackle P.J. Hall will miss Sunday’s game at Denver with an ankle injury. The Raiders will also be without fellow starter Justin Ellis, who was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week with a foot injury. The injuries leave Oakland thin at defensive tackle with rookie Maurice Hurst the only player who was with the team before this week. The Raiders signed veterans Johnathan Hankins and Clinton McDonald this weekr. .. Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel says he expects to play both starting quarterback Marcus Mariota and backup Blaine Gabbert on Sunday against the Houston Texans. Mariota didn’t throw during the open portion of practice Friday for the second straight day. He was listed as limited and questionable. Whoever plays at quarterback will be playing behind a makeshift offensive line missing left tackle Taylor Lewan, who sustained a concussion in the Dolphins game and didn’t practice all week. Right tackle Jack Conklin, still recovering from surgery on his left knee in January, is out as well. …


Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is optimistic running back Leonard Fournette will play against New England despite missing practice all week. Marrone says Fournette’s recovery from a strained right hamstring has been “encouraging,” but the coach listed Fournette as questionable on the injury report. … New York Jets wide receiver Jermaine Kearse practiced fully for the third straight day and appears ready to play Sunday against Miami after sitting out the season opener with an abdominal injury. Safety Marcus Maye is doubtful with a foot injury that has sidelined him the last few weeks. He would be replaced in the starting lineup again by Doug Middleton. Outside linebacker Josh Martin was the only player ruled out as he continues to recover from a concussion. …

Janoris Jenkins is back with the New York Giants and ready to play against the Dallas Cowboys after an undisclosed family emergency Thursday. Linebacker Olivier Vernon is going to miss his second straight game with an ankle injury. … Dolphins left guard Josh Sitton is out for the season. Sitton has been diagnosed with a torn left rotator cuff, an injury sustained last week. The team placed him on injured reserve, and did not immediately announce a corresponding move to the 53-man roster. Ted Larsen will be promoted to the starting role.