Barkley may be back sooner than expected

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Don't be surprised if New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is back in the lineup a lot sooner than expected.

Just 10 days after sustaining a high sprain to his right ankle, Barkley worked out with a trainer on the field Wednesday and appeared to move well as the Giants (2-2) got ready to practice for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings (2-2).

Barkley did not practice with the team and coach Pat Shurmur said after the workout the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is making progress. The team will watch him this week to determine his status.

There had been reports Barkley might miss up to two months with the injury.

Shurmur scoffed at those on Wednesday.

"Some people's doctors had him at eight weeks," Shurmur said. "Not my doctors."

The 22-year-old Barkley is in fabulous physical shape. Most people recall him on the Giants' sideline with crutches and a walking boot on his foot in the second half of New York's 32-31 win over the Buccaneers on Sept. 22. He tweeted a picture of himself without the walking boot Sunday.

Barkley was not in the locker room after practice and unavailable for comment.

Daniel to get start for Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- It came as no surprise when Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy on Wednesday announced Chase Daniel will start at quarterback in place of injured Mitchell Trubisky in London against the Oakland Raiders.

The unexpected announcement actually came from Bears linebacker Roquan Smith when he said he plans to play against the Raiders on Sunday.

Smith missed the Bears' 16-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings for what Nagy had termed a "personal issue," and on Monday his status had been uncertain.

"I will play this week," Smith said with resolve.

The eighth overall pick in the 2018 draft, Smith had 24 tackles in the first three games but then was watching from the sideline against Minnesota with no explanation other than "personal issue" from Nagy or the Bears organization.

"Like coach said, it was a personal reason," Smith said. "That's behind us now. So (I'm) just focused on getting better this week and moving on to Oakland."

Darnold practicing, still not cleared for contact

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Sam Darnold was back on the field, breaking down the pre-practice huddle and tossing passes while looking as though he hadn't missed a beat.

The New York Jets and their quarterback still need to wait before they know if he can play in a game.

Darnold practiced Wednesday for the first time since being diagnosed with mononucleosis three weeks ago. He still hasn't been cleared for physical contact or lifting weights, leaving his availability for New York's game at Philadelphia on Sunday uncertain.

"I like our odds better than what they've been," coach Adam Gase said. "Last week, if we would have been playing a game, I would have said it was really low. I like the fact that things have looked and progressed in the right direction. ... There's just some gray there still."

Darnold was listed as a limited participant at practice, but wide receivers Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder both gave the quarterback positive reviews.

"He looked good," Anderson said. "He looked comfortable. To me, I didn't feel like he was away."

Added Crowder: "He's been out three or four weeks, but first day back, coming off the bye week, I thought today was really good."

Raiders upset about Burfict's long suspension

The Oakland Raiders are upset about the lengthy suspension handed down to linebacker Vontaze Burfict for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle.

Burfict was suspended Monday for the final 12 games of the season and any playoff games for "repeated violations of unnecessary roughness rules" in the most severe penalty ever handed out by the NFL for an on-field infraction.

Coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday after the team's practice in London that he had expressed his disagreement with NFL Vice President of football operations Jon Runyan over the punishment and hopes it will be reduced on appeal.

"He knows how I feel," Gruden told reporters in London. "It hurts our team really bad and I'm anxious to see what the appeal says. I'm not happy about it at all and I don't want to say anything else. I'm obviously upset about it."

Burfict has been suspended twice previously for on-field hits, serving a three-game ban in 2016 and another three-game suspension the following year that was reduced from five games on appeal. The previous longest suspension served for an on-field infraction was a five-game ban Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth got in 2006 for kicking and stomping on Cowboys center Andre Gurode's face, leading to 30 stitches.

Ross injured as Bengals' woes continue

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals put receiver John Ross III on injured reserve Wednesday, the latest blow to a winless team that's already missing star receiver A.J. Green.

Ross landed hard on his right shoulder during a 27-3 loss in Pittsburgh on Monday night that left Cincinnati 0-4 for the first time since 2008. The former first-round pick is eligible to return after eight games if the shoulder heals.

The third-year receiver was finally having a breakout season. After missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury, Ross led the Bengals with 328 yards receiving and three touchdown catches. He was Cincinnati's only deep threat with Green recovering from an ankle injury suffered during training camp.

"You hate it for him and you hate it for this team," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "He was a guy who was progressing and one of our key players."

Ross was coming off two disappointing seasons. The ninth overall pick in 2017 was limited to three games as a rookie because of shoulder surgery. He finished with no catches and a fumble on his only carry. A groin injury last season limited him to 13 games with 21 catches for 210 yards and seven touchdowns, a hint at what he could become if he stayed healthy.

Ross and Tyler Boyd were carrying the passing game with Green hurt. Now, there's little experience beyond Boyd. The Bengals elevated undrafted rookie receiver Stanley Morgan off the practice squad to fill the roster spot.

Second-year player Auden Tate, fourth-year veteran Alex Erickson and undrafted rookie Damion Willis fill out the receivers group.

Coach Zac Taylor said there's a chance Ross could return late in the season.

"It's tough news for him," Taylor said. "He really worked hard to come back from the injury in training camp, and he was playing well. It's tough to see a guy go through this when he's fought through this before."

Green hurt his left ankle during the first practice of training camp in Dayton, Ohio. The Bengals are carrying him on the active roster, hoping he can return in October. Taylor ruled him out for a game Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1) at Paul Brown Stadium and had no timeline for a return.

With their receiving group sapped by injuries, the Bengals are likely to turn more toward running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard and their tight ends when they face the Cardinals in a matchup of first-year head coaches still trying to get that first win. Kliff Kingsbury's team tied the Lions 27-27 before losing to the Ravens, Panthers and Seahawks.

Dalton was sacked eight times in the loss at Pittsburgh as the offensive line got overwhelmed. Taylor said left tackle Cordy Glenn would miss a fifth straight game Sunday as he recovers from a concussion.

Other than Glenn and Green, everyone else had a full practice Wednesday.

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