Injuries taking toll in Raiders backfield

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Injuries taking toll in Raiders backfield

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders will be without their top two running backs for Sunday's game in Baltimore after Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson missed a third consecutive day of practice.

Both players suffered high ankle sprains in last week's loss to Tampa Bay and have been wearing walking boots since then.

Coach Dennis Allen had been hopeful of getting at least one of the two back in time to play the Ravens. Now the Raiders will have to lean on a seldom-used third-string running back and a converted fullback to get the running game going.

``(Neither) of them made enough progress this week that they were able to be up,'' Allen said Friday. ``We'll probably be going through the same thing next week and we'll see where we're at.''

This marks the 14th game in five seasons McFadden has missed because of injuries. The fourth overall pick in 2008, he has yet to play a full 16-game schedule since entering the NFL.

McFadden was injured early in the first quarter against the Buccaneers when his left ankle bent awkwardly following a short gain. He remained in the game and continued to play before leaving for good with about nine minutes left in the first half.

Taiwan Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2011 who has played primarily on special teams this season, and fullback Marcel Reece have been splitting reps in practice with Oakland's first team offense while McFadden and Goodson are sidelined. The team has also discussed the possibility of activating former Stanford running back Jeremy Stewart from the practice squad.

``Of course I'm very excited,'' Jones said. ``You've gotta be patient in this league. I've been waiting for my opportunity and it's here, so I'm going to try to make the most of it.''

Jones, who sat out the final six games of 2011 with a hamstring injury, has only one carry for two yards this year. He began the season as the Raiders kickoff returner but fumbled in his first play of the opener against San Diego.

Since then, Jones has seen very little playing time in the backfield but has emerged as Oakland's leading tackler on special teams.

Now that he's back on offense, the speedy Jones will pair with Reece in an attempt to spark a running game that ranks 31st in the NFL.

``I'm very aware that I'm not Darren McFadden,'' Jones said. ``The coaches, they do a good job of putting me in positions and giving me plays for what I can bring to the table. I'm not trying to be Darren McFadden or anyone else.''

Defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring) will also miss the game. Desmond Bryant, who was pulled from last week's loss to Tampa Bay because of an irregular heartbeat, will start in Seymour's place.

Cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot) has also been declared out while right tackle Khalif Barnes is questionable with a groin injury.

Notes: Stewart, an undrafted free agent who scored nine touchdowns during his senior season at Stanford in 2011, will accompany the team on the trip to Baltimore but a decision on his status probably won't be made until game time. ... Allen said he expects to activate cornerback Ron Bartell from the temporary injured reserve list before Sunday's game. Bartell, who has been out with a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 1, will start if he's added to the 53-man roster. ... While the rest of his teammates were preparing for the short bus trip to the Oakland airport, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey went out to the practice field to catch passes from a Juggs machine. After leading the team in receptions a year ago, the former first-round pick has just 19 catches this season.

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AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

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AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

Here’s a key AFC North question. Will Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell stay healthy?

Bell is without question one of the league’s most talented backs. However, knee injuries have ended his season the past two years, leaving the Steelers without him when they were eliminated from the playoffs.

De’Angelo Williams did a superb job in place of Bell last season, rushing for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns. But Bell is a better pass receiver and more elusive – capable of turning almost any play in to a big play. In 2014, Bell had over 2,000 yards combined from scrimmage – 1,316 yards rushing and 854 yards receiving.

Bell doesn’t want to be labeled as injury-prone, yet some people already view him that way. But at Steelers OTA’s, Bell showed up looking healthy, while vowing not to run cautiously next season.

“I’m going to be physical,” Bell told ESPN.com. “I’m out here with no knee brace or anything, didn’t wear a sleeve or anything. I’ve been training my knee for everything I’m about to go through, so when September gets here I’ll be even better than I am now. That’s even crazy to think about. But I’m excited.”

When Bell has been healthy, putting up numbers has not been a problem. The more Bell plays next season, the better the Steelers’ chances of making the playoffs.

Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

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Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

If the NFL had an All-Academic team, Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel would be on it.

In February, Urschel began the Ph.D program in mathematics at MIT. How’s he doing so far? Here’s a hint. When it comes to grades, Urschel is only familiar with one letter in the alphabet.

“My first semester in school in nearly three years,” Urschel wroter on Twitter. “Four PhD classes at MIT. Four A’s. The streak continues!!!”

Entering his third season with the Ravens, Urschel has found a way to juggle his love for football with his love for mathematics. He posted an interesting article on The Players Tribune this week in which he described training with the football team at MIT this spring.

“I probably had about 50 or 60 pounds on the biggest guy on MIT’s O-line,” Urschel wrote. “But when we ran, they put me to shame. They could outsprint me.

“What I found is that the team at MIT is no joke. It is a football team – in some ways, more of a football team than any I’d ever seen. These guys love football. They are playing the game because they want to. No one is making them come to practice, no one is checking up on them. They know as well as anyone about head injuries; they know that football is dangerous; they know the feeling of exhaustion and pain. They still play. They don’t do it for money, and they don’t do it for status.

“We talk about dedication and passion in the pros, but the truth is, sometimes the game feels like a job. You start to think of the paycheck. You feel the grind. But training with the team at MIT, I started thinking about what had drawn me to football as a kid. It felt like a game again. I had thought I might have something to teach the team. I never imagined they’d have so much to teach me.”

That guy in the Dos Equis beer commercials might be the most interesting man in the world. But Urschel has built a strong resume as the most interesting player on the Ravens.

RELATED: NFL ANNOUNCES LOCATIONS FOR 2019, 2020 AND 2021 SUPER BOWLS

NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

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NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

The NFL has decided on the locations of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls. The vote took place at the NFL owners meetings in Charlotte on Tuesday. 

Atlanta will host Super Bowl LIII in 2019, while South Florida (Miami) will get the event in 2020 and Los Angeles will host in 2021. 

The cities chosen each included new or upgraded stadiums in their pitches to the league. 

Atlanta will be home to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opening in 2017. 

Miami's stadium (Sun Life Stadium from 2010-2016) is undergoing a $400 million renovation that will include an open-air canopy to provide shade for 92 percent of seats, according to Sports Illustrated. Construction should be complete before the 2017 season. 

And Los Angeles will boast a new 300-acre, campus-style stadium housing the Rams and potentially a second team. The $2.6 billion project will be the most expensive sports arena in the world, reports CNN, and should be ready before the 2019 NFL season.