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Knee-Jerk Monday: Rob Gronkowski back at practice

We've made it: 20 consecutive weeks of professional football finally starts Sunday. That means 20 consecutive weeks of Monday knee-jerk overreaction is on the way, too.

Each Monday in this space, we'll try to calm the masses in a new weekly column called Knee-Jerk Monday. We'll try to point out when not to panic and what news actually matters. We'll get things started with some trends from the preseason.

The sky is not falling


Green Bay Packers' backup quarterback situation: Things didn't look pretty after the team dumped Graham Harrell, Vince Young and B.J. Coleman. You never want to sign your backup quarterback the Monday before Week 1, but that's what Packers general manager Ted Thompson did when he brought Seneca Wallace aboard.

That's not a great sign, but what's really changed here? The Packers never were going to be a contending team with Harrell or Coleman as the backup. Their backup quarterback situation has been a problem since Matt Flynn left last year, not just the last few weeks. Yes, there is a ridiculous drop-off after Rodgers. That's also true of every top-shelf quarterback in the league and his backup.

Injuries to Rob Gronkowski, EJ Manuel and Santonio Holmes: Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone announced that "the plan" last week was to start undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel. Some outlets ran with the story like Tuel was projected to start, but rookie EJ Manuel always was going to be the guy if his knee injury healed as hoped. Manuel had a "full practice" Monday and looks on track to start in Week 1.


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All the fantasy football league players who drafted Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes have to be smiling. Gronkowski already is practicing in full pads and 11-on-11 drills in New England. Holmes, meanwhile, is practicing again for New York. His supposed season-threatening foot injury magically cleared up once training camp was over. Contract year!

Mid-summer injury reports often get overhyped. Teams speak loudest with how they use their players, and all three of these players are making rapid progress.

Jonathan Dwyer cut by Pittsburgh Steelers: There have been a lot of anguished tweets wondering why Dwyer was cut in favor of Felix Jones. It sounds like the coaching staff wasn't fully on board with the decision.

Dwyer is a low-level backup. If letting him go changes the Steelers' season, Mike Tomlin has big problems. It reminds me of when New York Giants fans and writers cried about Jake Ballard being claimed by New England.

Brandon Marshall leaves camp for four days: Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery said it well Monday: "I see a guy that is more dynamic. I see a guy better in and out of his breaks. I see a stronger player."

Marshall has made some noise about his hip injury not being fully recognized, but he has looked better this year than last. His workload has increased. His hip hasn't been truly healthy for years, and he still produces. There always will be a little drama when Marshall is on your team, but this seems very tame.

Any preseason performances: They just don't matter. You think you know something after watching the preseason, but you just don't know. Teams that struggled in August will be great in Week 1, and vice versa. The preseason only matters for injuries and guys earning spots on depth charts.

Worthy of more attention


Baltimore's starting lineup: Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome drafted safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown with the plan to start them in Week 1, essentially replacing Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, respectively. James Ihedigbo and Josh Bynes are slated to start instead.

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Meanwhile, Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark both started in the Ravens' third preseason game. The team isn't sure which wide receiver is third on the depth chart behind Jacoby Jones. Oh, and Jones is second on the depth chart.

Champ Bailey's status: It's one thing for the Denver Broncos' defense to cope without Von Miller. It's another thing to lose Miller and Champ Bailey, not to mention Elvis Dumervil. (Although we just mentioned him.)

The Ravens and Broncos, who meet in Thursday night's NFL season opener, both have more unsettled places on their rosters than expected heading into the season.

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