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Green Bay Packers WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring) out for Week 3 game at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This game still has Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but the quarterbacks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers won’t have anything close to their full complement of receivers on Sunday.

The Packers for sure won’t have Sammy Watkins, their leading receiver through two games, because of a hamstring injury. Two of their other top receivers, rookie second-round pick Christian Watson (hamstring) and veteran Randall Cobb (illness), were listed as questionable on Friday.

The only one of the Packers’ top four receivers who has been cleared to play and taken off the injury report is Allen Lazard, who has been limited in practice this week because of the ankle injury that kept him out of the season opener.

Lazard returned for last week’s game versus the Chicago Bears and is the only receiver on the roster to have caught a touchdown this season

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Packers coach Matt LaFleur stated Friday that rookie receiver Romeo Doubs is “probably going to have to take more of a [work] load this week.”

The Buccaneers already knew earlier in the week that they would be without leading receiver Mike Evans because of his one-game suspension for last Sunday’s altercation in their game versus the New Orleans Saints.

Tampa Bay also won’t have receiver Chris Godwin, who was ruled out Friday because of a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, Julio Jones (knee) was listed as questionable. The Packers also could be without one of their top tight ends, Marcedes Lewis (questionable with a groin injury).

Left tackle David Bakhtiari, who has yet to play in the 2022 season, also was listed as questionable as he tries to return from multiple knee surgeries.

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Dak Prescott undergoes surgery on right thumb as Dallas Cowboys prep for QB’s absence

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had surgery on his right thumb Monday afternoon, and sources continue to believe he will miss six to eight weeks as he goes through rehabilitation.

Given that timeline, Prescott is looking at a return date of Oct. 30 vs. the Chicago Bears at the earliest, but it’s more likely to be Nov. 13 versus the Green Bay Packers in Mike McCarthy’s return to Lambeau Field.

Prescott suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys’ 19-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after his hand twice hit the hand of linebacker Shaq Barrett. After a screen pass to Ezekiel Elliott, Prescott went to the sideline because he could no longer grip the ball.

After the game, Prescott said, “I was told it was much cleaner than it could have been.” He visited with the team’s hand specialist, Dr. Thomas Diliberti, on Monday and had the surgery soon thereafter. “You know Dak’s personality, I mean, he would’ve had the surgery last night if they would have allowed it,” McCarthy said. “That’s the way he’s wired.”

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The Cowboys now have to figure out how to win without Prescott while he recovers, starting with Sunday’s matchup versus the Cincinnati Bengals with Cooper Rush as their starter. The Cowboys are 5-7 in games without Prescott in his career, although Rush won his first career start last year against the Minnesota Vikings, throwing for 325 yards and two touchdowns.

He completed 7 of 13 passes for 64 yards after replacing Prescott against the Buccaneers.

“I think the biggest thing is especially at the quarterback position because obviously the importance of it, is don’t overreact to it,” McCarthy said. “… Because at the end of the day, we’ve got to make sure we’re giving the players the tools to win the game on Sunday. The nice thing about Cooper is Cooper’s been in our system, knows our system inside and out. We won’t be in that position of trying not to do too much or vice versa. Cooper gives us the ability to keep playing.”

McCarthy acknowledged there is an emotional challenge the Cowboys will have to deal with in losing their leader.

In 2020, Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle that knocked him out for the season, and the Cowboys lost their first four games without him.

“Definitely going to be tough, but being in the NFL, that’s all a part of this game,” running back Tony Pollard said. “It’s a 100 percent injury rate so guys get injured, so we just have to make up for it. Everybody has to lock in, continue doing what they’ve been doing and just focus on doing their job the best that they can.”

McCarthy stated the Cowboys are looking to add a third quarterback to the roster with Will Grier on the practice squad and ready to assume the No. 2 role in Prescott’s absence. He has started two games in his career, both with the Carolina Panthers in 2019.

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Green Bay Packers star LT David Bakhtiari on PUP list ahead of first training camp

Green Bay Packers All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari’s return from the torn ACL in his left knee has hit another snag.

More than a year and a half removed from his injury, he’s still not in the clear. Bakhtiari was placed on the physically unable to perform list Saturday, according to ESPN’s Field Yates, meaning he almost certainly won’t be on the field when the Packers hold their first training camp practice on Wednesday.

Bakhtiari was injured in practice Dec. 31, 2020. It took more than a year for him to return to game action following his initial surgery. He played 27 snaps in last year’s regular-season finale — his only game action of the 2021 season — but then was shut down for the playoffs.

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The Packers held him out of all OTA and minicamp practices this offseason, letting Bakhtiari to work with the group of players rehabbing from injuries.

As recently as June, Packers coach Matt LaFleur stated the hope was that Bakhtiari would be ready for the start of training camp.

“Our plan all along was to hold him from [offseason workouts] and make sure he’s continuing to get stronger and ready to go hopefully for training camp,” LaFleur said. “We just thought that this is a guy that’s played a lot of ball and it’s best to hold him from this portion of it.”

Bakhtiari returned to practice briefly last fall but then underwent a second surgery to help reduce swelling in his knee. That delayed his return until the Week 18 game versus the Lions.

It’s uncertain whether Bakhtiari had another procedure done this offseason. The Packers placed nine players on PUP on Friday, but Bakhtiari was not one of them. They were: WR Christian Watson, TE Robert Tonyan, G/T Elgton Jenkins, K Mason Crosby, DE Dean Lowry, RB Kylin Hill, DL Hauati Pututau, OLB Randy Ramsey and RB Patrick Taylor.

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Aaron Rodgers: ‘Definitely’ will finish career with Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers stated Tuesday he doesn’t know how many more seasons he will play — admitting that the three-year, $150 million contract extension he signed in March shouldn’t be an indicator — but he knows where he will conclude his career.

A year after he skipped the Green Bay Packers’ mandatory minicamp as part of his offseason of discontent with the organization, he was asked whether he planned to finish his career with the only team he has ever played for in the NFL.

“Yes, definitely,” Rodgers said.

That was in doubt as recently as March, when everything from retirement to asking for a trade was on the table.

Rodgers put any of that doubt to rest on Tuesday after the first practice of the Packers’ mandatory minicamp. He had previously skipped most of the voluntary offseason program to instead work out in Southern California.

“I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” Rodgers said with a smile, channeling his inner Marshawn Lynch.

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He may have only been half joking. A source said that last June, after Rodgers skipped the mandatory minicamp, the team sent him a letter informing him that he would be fined for his absence.

Tuesday’s practice was his first opportunity to throw to newly acquired receivers.

Sammy Watkins (signed as a free agent) and 2022 draft picks Christian Watson (second round), Romeo Doubs (fourth round) and Samori Toure (seventh round).

The only key member of the Packers’ offense not in attendance was receiver Allen Lazard, who has not yet signed his restricted free-agent contract.

“I miss the guys,” Rodgers said, “I love being around the guys. It’s been a nice offseason. I appreciate my [training] team back in Southern California and the work we put in. But it’s good to be back out here with the guys. Good to meet Christian and Romeo and get reacclimated with some of the older guys. It’s just about timing and them feeling the cadence and the urgency and stuff, and just nice to be back in the building with these people.

“They’ve been great about me taking care of myself the way I best need to. Obviously it’s worked out the last couple years by my play, and I expect nothing less.”

Packers coach Matt LaFleur originally wasn’t sure how much work he would give Rodgers on Tuesday, but after seeing that the reigning MVP was in good shape, he allowed Rodgers to take part in almost every drill, including some 11-on-11s that were at a jog-through speed.

The Packers are coming off three straight 13-win seasons but failed to reach the Super Bowl in any of them, including two losses in the NFC Championship Game.

And now Rodgers has to deal with life after Davante Adams, the All-Pro receiver who wanted out of Green Bay and was traded this offseason to the Las Vegas Raiders.

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Green Bay Packers, Jaire Alexander finalizing four-year, $84M extension

It was never a question of if the Green Bay Packers were going to sign All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander to a contract extension. It was only a matter of when and for how much.

It happened on Monday, and it included a defensive-back-record signing bonus of $30 million as part of a four-year, $84 million contract, Alexander’s agent, John Thornton, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Alexander’s new deal averages $21 million per year, also a new mark for defensive backs.

Alexander had previously been tied to the Packers for only this season on the fifth-year option to his rookie contract. That would have paid him $13.294 million for 2022, and the whole total would have counted on this year’s salary cap. With the signing bonus prorated and a lower base salary of $1.076 million, the Packers will create significant additional salary-cap space.

Before this deal, they had about $11 million in cap space. Exactly how much cap space was created won’t be known until the full details of the contract become available.

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Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst had hinted that an extension for Alexander wouldn’t be far off.

When asked before the draft last month whether they could get a long-term deal done with him, Gutekunst said: “I think we’ll get [through] this draft weekend and we’ll go down that road with some of those players.”

“He’s such a big part of what we’re doing; he’s been such a good player for us since the day he kind of arrived,” Gutekunst said of Alexander earlier this offseason. “We’d love for [an extension] to happen. Certainly we’ve been in communication with his representation and we will continue to be as we go through the year.”

The Packers’ first-round pick (No. 18) in 2018 quickly became a star. He was named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie team in 2018, was picked as a Pro Bowl alternate in 2019 and made his first Pro Bowl in 2020 — when he also earned second-team All-Pro honors.

Although he played in only four matches last regular season because of a shoulder injury, he returned after a three-month absence to play in the NFC divisional playoff game versus the 49ers.

He led the Packers in pass breakups in each of his first three seasons and had the fourth-most pass breakups in the NFL from 2018 to 2020 with 42, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. Only James Bradberry (with 45), Stephon Gilmore (43) and Janoris Jenkins (43) had more.

The Packers have made a significant commitment to the cornerback position in the past year. They drafted Eric Stokes in the first round of the 2021 draft and then this March re-signed Rasul Douglas to a three-year, $21 million deal.

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Green Bay Packers sign veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins

The Green Bay Packers are finally adding to their receiver room by signing veteran Sammy Watkins.

The team revealed the deal on Thursday but didn’t reveal terms. A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Watkins’ contract is for one year and worth up to $4 million.

The Packers have lost three of their top receivers this offseason, headed by All-Pro Davante Adams in a trade to the Las Vegas Raiders. They also lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Chiefs) and Equanimeous St. Brown (Bears) in free agency.

The Packers’ top remaining receivers are Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers.

They haven’t used a first-round pick on a receiver since 2002 (Javon Walker) but have two picks in each of the first two rounds after the Adams trade, putting them in position to address that spot high in the draft.

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Packers head coach Matt LaFleur coached Watkins with the Rams in 2017, and Packers receivers coach Jason Vrable was in Buffalo when the Bills drafted him fourth overall in 2014.

Watkins, 28, has had difficulty staying healthy throughout his career.

He continued to struggle with injuries in his only season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021, ending with career lows in receptions (27) and receiving yards (394).

He has missed 30 matches over the past seven seasons, and he hasn’t played a full season since his 2014 rookie season.

He made two of the biggest catches of the season for Baltimore, setting up winning scores versus the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, but Watkins had no catches — and just three targets — in his final four games as he fell behind Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay on the depth chart.

In his eight-year career, Watkins has totaled 348 receptions for 5,059 yards receiving and 34 touchdown catches for the Bills, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and Ravens.

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Green Bay Packers to hire Rich Bisaccia to fix special teams

The Packers will ultimately have an experienced coach running their special teams. They are expected to hire veteran special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, who most recently served as the Raiders’ interim head coach.

A source stated Monday that an announcement is coming soon after some final details are worked out. NFL Network was first to report that the Packers were expected to hire Bisaccia.

He will be the third person to coordinate the Packers special teams in as many seasons, but he’s the first one with NFL experience doing so. Bisaccia was in his 20th season as an NFL special teams coordinator when the Raiders made him their interim coach following Jon Gruden’s resignation during 2021.

He joined the Raiders in 2018 after previously coaching special teams for the Cowboys (2013-17), Chargers (2011-12) and Buccaneers (2002-10). The 61-year-old also had 19 years of college coaching experience before entering the NFL.

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Bisaccia will replace Maurice Drayton, who was fired last week following the Packers’ disastrous special teams performance in the NFL divisional playoff loss to the 49ers.

Drayton’s units had a field goal and a punt blocked, the latter of which was returned for a touchdown. The Packers became the first team in 33 years to have both a punt and a field goal blocked during the same playoff game.

The playoff game was not an anomaly. The Packers special teams ranked 31st in ESPN’s FPI and dead last in Rick Gosselin’s widely respected special teams rankings. Drayton was promoted to special teams coordinator in 2021 after serving for two years as an assistant to Shawn Mennenga, whose units ranked 26th and 29th. Neither had been a special teams coordinator in the NFL before coming to Green Bay.

The Packers special teams problem isn’t unique to Matt LaFleur’s tenure.

Dating to the start of Mike McCarthy’s run as head coach in 2006, the Packers have ranked in the top 10 in special teams only once (2007). In that span, they have finished in the top half of the special teams rankings only four times — most recently 16th in 2017. In that same span, Bisaccia’s special teams have six top-10 finishes plus a No. 11 ranking this past season.

LaFleur acknowledged after the season that a coaching modification might not be the only necessary fix for the Packers’ special teams.

“Just one takeaway, just watching that game back, San Francisco had a lot of their starters on special teams,” LaFleur said. “That’s going to be something that I want to do some studies around the league and see how many teams operate that way. Again, does it have some inherent risk? Absolutely.”

Bisaccia interviewed for the Raiders’ permanent head-coaching job, which ultimately went to Josh McDaniels even after quarterback Derek Carr was among the players who threw their public support behind the interim coach.

Bisaccia went 7-5 after Gruden resigned, and the Raiders (10-7 overall) made the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

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Strong fourth quarter carries San Francisco 49ers past Green Bay Packers, into NFC Championship Game

The San Francisco 49ers simply will not go away.

The same Niners that were once 3-5 and headed for a long offseason full of questions are now headed to the NFC Championship match for the second time in three seasons.

To get there, San Francisco had to pull out the type of late-game magic that has been a hallmark of its late-season surge to the playoffs. The result was a wild 13-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night at Lambeau Field.

The 49ers await the winner of Sunday’s NFC divisional game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams.

After a disappointing offensive performance, the Niners pieced together the drive they needed at the biggest moment, with wide receiver Deebo Samuel taking a handoff nine yards for a first down on third-and-7 at Green Bay’s 38.

Samuel’s run set up place-kicker Robbie Gould’s winning 45-yard field goal as time expired.

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“This team has been through a lot,” San Francisco tight end George Kittle said. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity. We’ve dealt with a lot. We’ve lost games by making mistakes. We’ve won games dirty. This is a gritty team. It’s a salty team, and we just keep bouncing back.”

That toughness has been on display a lot over the past couple of months.

The Niners went 7-2 over their final nine games to get into the postseason.

That run culminated in a 17-point comeback triumph over the Rams in the final week that clinched a playoff spot.

The Niners went 7-2 over their final nine games to get into the postseason. That run culminated in a 17-point comeback triumph over the Rams in the final week that clinched a playoff spot.

It continued versus the Dallas Cowboys last weekend, when the Niners nearly coughed up a 16-point advantage but managed to squeeze by to advance to the divisional round against the Packers.

But Green Bay presented a unique challenge, one that for most of Saturday looked like it would be too much for the 49ers to overcome. As they’ve done for most of the past 2½ months, the Niners didn’t flinch.

It has become the signature trait of a team that is not as dominant as the 2019 juggernaut but that makes up for its shortcomings with an unrelenting will to win.

The Niners became the first team since the 1988 Buffalo Bills to block a punt and a field goal in the same playoff game. San Francisco also became just the fourth team to win a postseason contest without an offensive touchdown since 2000.

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QB Jimmy Garoppolo has ‘slightly’ sprained throwing shoulder, should be OK for Saturday vs. Green Bay Packers

Already playing through a torn ligament in his right thumb, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered another injury in Sunday’s triumph over the Dallas Cowboys.

This time, Garoppolo is dealing with what coach Kyle Shanahan called Monday a “slightly” sprained right (throwing) shoulder. According to Shanahan, the injury occurred in the second quarter.

Garoppolo joins linebacker Fred Warner (sprained right ankle) and defensive end Nick Bosa (concussion) on the list of key Niners nursing injuries to watch this week as the team prepares for Saturday night’s NFC divisional-round game versus the Green Bay Packers.

The good news, according to Shanahan, is that Warner and Garoppolo should be ready to go versus Green Bay. In fact, Shanahan believes Garoppolo will be able to practice when the team resumes those sessions on Tuesday.

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“He should be fine for practice,” Shanahan said. “He had to play through some pain and stuff, but he ended up checking out all right. Just a slight shoulder sprain and he should be good for [Tuesday’s] practice.”

Warner sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter and was writhing in pain and grabbing at it, which put a scare into the Niners and their fans. Further testing on Monday, however, revealed it was a low ankle sprain, which means he should also be OK this week, though it’s unclear if he will resume practice right away.

“We’ll evaluate and see as the week goes,” Shanahan stated. “The initial scare was that it could have been high, so we got good news on that. He had something similar to this earlier in the year, but we’ll evaluate him on Wednesday, which I think is Tuesday this week.”

Earlier Monday, Warner had indicated that his injury wasn’t as serious as first feared, tweeting: “Sorry for the scare yesterday everyone, I appreciate everyone showing love and support for me and the fellas. We’ll be good to go. Huge win, onto the next.”

Bosa’s status is more unclear because he must clear the necessary steps of the concussion protocol in order to play.

Bosa suffered his concussion just before halftime of San Francisco’s 23-17 win against Dallas.

Shanahan said he did not get a chance to speak to Bosa on Sunday night or Monday morning but got positive reports from those who did.

“We’re being pretty optimistic with it,” Shanahan said. “I’ve seen that a few times and he seems like he’s in a pretty good spot right now, but I’m not going to be the one who judges that.”

In addition to Garoppolo, Bosa and Warner, Niners defensive end Jordan Willis suffered a high ankle sprain against the Cowboys, which puts his status in doubt against the Packers.

With a short week and less time for their injured players to heal, Shanahan said the Niners will have a lighter schedule this week. They will have a late start time on Tuesday, followed by less strenuous practices on Wednesday and Thursday before traveling to Green Bay.

“I think the biggest thing about this week is going to be about recovery,” Shanahan said. “So, the more sleep we can do, we’ll slow most of the stuff down. I doubt we get many full-speed reps in this week. … [We’ll] make it pretty easy on the guys this week.”

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Green Bay Packers clinch third straight division title as Aaron Rodgers ties Brett Favre’s TD record

All Matt LaFleur does is win division titles. In his three years as the Green Bay Packers coach, they’ve won the NFC North three times.

All Aaron Rodgers does is throw touchdown passes. In his 14th season as the Packers’ starter, he tied Brett Favre’s franchise record of 442 touchdown passes.

And just about everybody in green and gold left M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday with what they wanted — a 31-30 triumph over the Lamar Jackson-less Baltimore Ravens.

The victory was secured after the Ravens failed to convert on a 2-point conversion that would have given them a 1-point lead with 45 seconds left.

The Packers (11-3) clinched the division title, giving them an automatic playoff berth, and stayed on track for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs with three games to go.

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“You have to savor these a little bit,” Rodgers said. “These are special. It’s just the first step in our goals, but a lot of times the coach speak — I’m not saying that Matt did this — but a lot of times there might be coach speak that takes over and says, ‘Hey, you know this is just one goal and we have bigger goals and stuff,’ but I think it’s important to keep that perspective on how special accomplishing this is three years in a row and so just to enjoy it, to savor it, savor these moments. These are special moments.”

Rodgers also matched the man he replaced as Packers quarterback in 2008 on Sunday.

Greg Jennings caught Rodgers’ first touchdown 14 years ago in Dallas, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught No. 442 as Rodgers tied Favre.

Rodgers did it in 45 fewer games as he set the mark in his 210th game (203rd as a starter), while Favre needed 255 games (and 253 starts) over 16 seasons. Rodgers is in his 17th season but did not become a starter until his fourth year.

Rodgers has also thrown 193 less interceptions in his career than Favre threw as a member of the Packers.

Rodgers entered the match needing three touchdown passes to tie the record and four to break it. He threw his first of the game, No. 440 of his career, on a 3-yard out to Davante Adams to tie the game at 14-14 in the second quarter. It was also his 65th career touchdown to Adams, which tied Rodgers and Adams with Rodgers and Jordy Nelson for the most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver duo in Packers history.

The second one, No. 441, came on the opening drive of the second quarter when he bought time and looped a 9-yarder to Aaron Jones for a 21-14 lead.

The third one, the record-tying No. 442, was an 11-yarder to Valdes-Scantling with 12:54 left in the fourth quarter for a 28-17 lead.

Rodgers nearly had a fourth touchdown pass for the outright record, but he and Allen Lazard just missed on what would have been an 11-yarder midway through the fourth quarter.

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