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NFL notebook: London not being considered for Super Bowl

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Philadelphia Eagles fans cheer on their team before the Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota on February 4, 2018. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI

By The Sports Xchange

The NFL may annually play regular-season games in London, but do not expect a Super Bowl to be played there in the near future.

That was the message conveyed by commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday morning on an appearance on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football" ahead of Sunday's game between the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and AFC finalist Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium.

Goodell acknowledge the idea has been discussed among owners but added without a team based in London, it would not be fair to fans.

"That's been talked about a lot," Goodell said. "But the ownership really feels strongly that that's a reward for our fans. I think if you had a franchise here, I think it would come into play. I think without a franchise it's probably difficult."

While Goodell said that without a team in London that a Super Bowl being held there would be unlikely, he acknowledged that the league feels there is enough of a fanbase to bring a team there at some point.

Sunday will be the 24th game played in London since 2007 and third this season. The Jaguars have played a game in London in every season since 2013.

-- Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy's status remains murky for Monday night's matchup against the visiting New England Patriots.

McCoy remained in the NFL's concussion protocol, Bills coach Sean McDermott told reporters on Saturday.

McDermott said the team will take it "one day at a time" regarding McCoy's availability to play against the AFC East-leading Patriots.

Backup running back Chris Ivory also is a question mark. He was a limited participant in practice on Thursday and Friday after injuring the hamstring Wednesday.

McCoy was at practice Saturday but wearing a non-contact jersey. He was injured in last week's 37-5 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

-- New England Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel was back at practice Saturday, raising the possibility that he could be available for Monday night's matchup at the Buffalo Bills.

Michel suffered a knee injury early in last week's 38-31 win over the Chicago Bears and did not practice all week before showing up at Saturday's indoor session.

Reports out of Boston said Michel did not suffer structural damage to the knee, but he was expected to sit out at least one game.

The second of New England's first-round picks (No. 31 overall) in this year's NFL Draft, Michel has been a vital cog in the team's four-game winning streak. He ran for 316 yards and four touchdowns in wins over Miami, Indianapolis and Kansas City before the knee injury limited him to four carries and 22 yards against the Bears.

-- New England Patriots standout tight end Rob Gronkowski appears on track to return to the lineup for Monday night's game at the Buffalo Bills.

Gronkowski, who sat out last week's win over the Chicago Bears, met with the media Saturday and reported improvement in the back injury that kept him from accompanying the team to the Windy City.

"Obviously, I feel better. I have been taking steps every single day forward," Gronkowski said. "That is all I can ask for, taking steps every day forward and definitely at this time last week way better because every day I have been taking steps forward to get better."

Despite sitting out against the Bears, Gronkowski still leads the Patriots with 405 receiving yards on 26 catches.

-- Although a number of teams are in need of help at wide receiver, scratch Jeremy Maclin off the list of available free-agent candidates.

Maclin will undergo a surgical procedure that will keep him from returning to the field this season, the NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Saturday.

The 30-year-old Maclin has been dealing with a hamstring. According to the report, the procedure will be to repair a hamstring/glute injury and will allow Maclin to be ready for the 2019 season.

Maclin was released by the Baltimore Ravens in mid-March, a move that reportedly saved the team $5 million in salary cap space. In his lone season in Baltimore, he posted career lows in receptions (40), yards (440) and yards per catch (11.0)

Before his stint with the Ravens, Maclin spent the previous two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, amassing 1,088 yards on a career-high 87 receptions in 2015 before dipping to 44 catches for 536 yards the following year.

-- Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie safety Jordan Whitehead was fined $26,739 on Saturday for his hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield last Sunday.

The league said Whitehead was fined for unnecessary roughness.

With about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, Mayfield scrambled and gained 35 yards on a second and 26 play. As Mayfield began to slide, Whitehead dived at him helmet first. However, no penalty was enforced on the play even though two flags were thrown.

After the officiating crew discussed the play, referee Shawn Hochuli said there no penalty on the play since "the quarterback was still a runner and therefore is allowed to be hit in the head. He had not yet begun to slide."

After Tampa Bay's 26-23 overtime win, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Hochuli did not provide him with a good explanation for both flags being thrown.

-- After losing Will Fuller for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Houston Texans may need another wide receiver, but it does not appear it will be free agent Dez Bryant.

Fuller was injured in the fourth quarter of Thursday night's 42-23 victory over the Miami Dolphins and on Friday Texans coach Bill O'Brien was asked about possibly adding Bryant but sounded noncommittal.

"I would say my answer to that is we explore everything," O'Brien said.

Bryant has been a free agent since being released by the Dallas Cowboys on April 13. The Baltimore Ravens offered him a contract, but he declined. Bryant also visited the Cleveland Browns, but is working out on his own and dealing with personal issues.

The Texans (5-3), who have won five in a row to surge into first place in the AFC South, do not play until Nov. 4 at Denver and have a bye the following week.

-- Los Angeles Rams tackle Aaron Donald briefly was the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.

If he keeps up his current pace for the unbeaten Rams, Donald could claim a more permanent place in the NFL record books. He was a one-man wrecking crew in Los Angeles' 39-10 romp over the San Francisco 49ers last week, registering a career-high 4.0 sacks.

That performance gave Donald a share of the NFL lead with 8.0 sacks and put him on pace to not only eclipse his career high of 11 -- set in 2015 and matched last season -- but also to shatter the career record for defensive tackles.

The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year has 47 sacks in 69 games in four-plus seasons and is on track to top the current league mark of 137.5 for a defensive tackle, set by Minnesota's John Randle.

-- San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle has made quite an impression on his teammates in his brief NFL career.

So much so that when the 49ers selected team captains earlier this week, Kittle was among five players voted upon to share the honor. Given that Kittle is only in his second season, the designation was a bit of a surprise, although he has certainly been among the most productive players for San Francisco with 32 catches for 527 yards and two touchdowns.

"We've got a lot of veteran guys on the team ... but coach (Kyle) Shanahan said it was just based on the season so far, and I feel like I've been playing really well," Kittle told the San Francisco Chronicle. "So (it wasn't) expected, but I really appreciate it. Any time you can be voted a captain by your peers is always a great thing."

Kittle already has surpassed his yardage total (517) from his rookie season and is well on pace to eclipse the 43 receptions from a year ago, when the 2017 fifth-round draft pick from Iowa struggled to stay healthy.

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