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THE entire Dallas Cowboys squad took a stand against US president Donald Trump by taking a knee during the national anthem with their game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The entire Dallas Cowboys squad took a knee during the national anthem

GETTY

The entire Dallas Cowboys squad took a knee during the national anthem

Donald Trump caused a major uproar at the weekend when he referred to NFL players who ‘take a knee’ during the national anthem as “sons of b******”.

And his comments were met with widespread reaction from the players in protest against the president’s attack on the league.

Over the course of the weekend matches, many players in the NFL took part in a silent protest by either taking a knee or locking arms to protest against social injustice and racism during the national anthem.

And the Dallas Cowboys became the latest NFL side to take part in the protest during the national anthem ahead of their match against the Arizona Cardinals.

Before the match it was reported the team would possibly take part in the protest with one player stating Trump “crossed a line”.

One player said, “We have to do something.”

Said another, “It’s not going to be business as usual. He crossed a line. Something will be done.”

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Let’s talk about it.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Here, we’re at the bye week! Normally I’d bemoan the tediousness of it all, but this time around, I’m just grateful for the chance for Atlanta to take a breather and get healthy.

We are going to use this time to take stock of the Falcons and the NFL through four games, and so we’ll lead things off with an upbeat, hopefully fun question: Who has been the most impressive Falcon through four games?

There are some truly worthy candidates. Julio Jones has been his usual stellar self, Brooks Reed is having a weird resurgent season, Takk McKinley is putting together one hell of a rookie campaign, and Grady Jarrett is a legitimate beast in the middle of the defensive line.

For all that, though, I guess I’d go with Devonta Freeman. He has been absurdly good yet again, with 70 carries for 285 yards, an NFL-leading five rushing touchdowns, and nine receptions for 70 yards over four games. That’s a combined 355 yards and five TDs in an offense that has needed every hard-fought yard, and Freeman still looks like one of the greatest backs in the league. Steve Sarkisian is obviously willing to lean on Free, and that means he’ll probably be one of Atlanta’s best all season.

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Falcons owner Arthur Blank discussing his plans before the Lions’ game on Sunday. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com) 

Falcons owner Arthur Blank stood next to head coach Dan Quinn on the field during the National Anthem before Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions.

Defensive tackles Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe elected to kneel while holding hands with defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel (standing to the right of Jarrett) and Adrian Clayborn (standing to left of Poe).

Eight members of the Detroit Lions elected to kneel also.

“It’s just a physical and symbolic representation of what I said yesterday,” Blank said before the game about standing with his team.

Blank was fine with whatever the players elected to do.

”What they do is their choice,” Blank said before the game. “I’m supportive of our players. I’m certainly supportive of their rights to express their freedom of speech. I don’t think…the people that fought for this country going back several hundred years primarily weren’t fighting for geography. They were fighting for way of life, and part of that is reflected in the freedom of speech and the ability to speak up and speak out on issues.

Blank was not pleased with the comments of President Donald Trump about players who have elected to kneel during the National Anthem.

“It’s unfortunate that the president chose to go in that direction and speak out the way he has,” Blank said. “Love conquers and that kind of divisiveness and calling out accomplishes nothing, satisfies nothing.”

Blank was not one of the seven NFL owners who dontated $1 million to Trump’s campaign. Blank was a strong supporter of  President Barack Obama.

Players around the league have been protesting social and racial injustice in the country.

“The issues that they point to are legitimate issues,” Blank said. “They need to be talked about it. We need to make progress as a country moving forward with them. We don’t do it by creating walls. We don’t build walls. That doesn’t create better listening or better responses or connections.”

Blank noted that the Falcons are one of the busiest teams when it comes to doing community service.

“I think our players love this country,” Blank said. “They not only play this game, but they work their fannies off physically and financially giving back in a variety of ways to our communities throughout the national football league. We are the first to step up and do very significant things. They do it day in and day out. I see it every day with our players.”

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The Packers’ head official weighed in on Saturday.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday evening, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy issued a statement in response to President Donald Trump’s comments from Friday night regarding demonstrations by NFL players during the national anthem prior to games.

Here is Murphy’s statement in its entirety:

It’s unfortunate that the President decided to use his immense platform to make divisive and offensive statements about our players and the NFL. We strongly believe that players are leaders in our communities and positive influences. They have achieved their positions through tremendous work and dedication and should be celebrated for their success and positive impact. We believe it is important to support any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves with the hope of change for good. As Americans, we are fortunate to be able to speak openly and freely.”

Support for players who do not stand for the anthem appears to be shared through different levels of the Packers’ organization. In August, general manager Ted Thompson was asked about the anthem demonstrations during a press conference in training camp, and responded with the following (per Packersnews.com):

“I view this as something that you’re asking me from a personal standpoint, not what I would do but what I would feel about a particular player if he made such and such action or if he failed to make such and such action. This is a free country, in my opinion, and free people can do what they like.”

Head coach Mike McCarthy did not specifically weigh in on the demonstrations himself, but mentioned in August (per Madison.com) that he gives a presentation to the Packers’ players regarding the anthem.

“Our approach has always been to give the history and the understanding of what the national anthem means, and why it’s played before any National Football League game, particularly how it started after World War II. I go through the whole history and the importance of what it means to you personally.”

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Taylor Heinicke throws a pass during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Miami Dolphins, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots announced today that they have signed QB Taylor Heinicke to the practice squad and released WR Demarcus Ayers from the practice squad.

Heinicke, 24, was originally signed by the Minnesota Vikings as a rookie free agent out of Old Dominion on May 6, 2015. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder, made the Minnesota 53-man roster as a rookie in 2015 but was inactive for all 16 games. He began the 2016 season on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list before being elevated to the 53-man roster on Nov. 8, where he was inactive for the last seven weeks of the season. Heincke was released by Minnesota on Sept. 11, 2017.

Ayers, 23, was signed by the New England Patriots to the practice squad on September 4. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round (229th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Houston. Ayers spent time on the active roster and practice squad for the Steelers as a rookie, seeing action in two regular season games with one start and finishing with six receptions for 53 yards and one touchdown. He played in two postseason games and caught three passes for 27 yards. He was released by Pittsburgh on Sept. 2.

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FOXBORO — With the evidence in hand, Brian Brazil made his case to the referees.

The coach of Hebron High in Carrollton, Texas, Brazil had just watched his team lose to Allen, 28-21, in 2011. What had Brazil up in arms was how his defensive end, Deatrich Wise Jr., fell victim to one hold after another without a single yellow flag thrown.

The explanation he received made it even worse.

“The game was over and I took (Wise’s) jersey over to the official, and the jersey was completely ripped. It was torn to shreds. I took it to the officials after the game and said, ‘Not one holding call. Did not call holding once, and I told you before the game (he would be held),’ ” Brazil recalled. “And they said, ‘Coach, he’s on the backside of the play.’ And I said, ‘Exactly. He runs everything down from the backside.’ ”

That didn’t matter. The officials, despite acknowledging the fouls, believed Wise wasn’t in position to make the plays and, thus, didn’t see it as a violation.

“I guess (the holding) worked,” Brazil said. “I had to get his jersey replaced because I couldn’t use it after that game. It was totally shredded.”

Wise said Thursday that game taught him a valuable lesson.

“High school is when I learned that refs never call a holding call,” Wise said, “and I’ve kind of got to get used to it.”

As Wise enters his third career NFL game this afternoon with the Houston Texans coming to Gillette Stadium, opposing offensive linemen have yet to keep him out of the backfield. Already with two sacks in two games, Wise has drawn an illegal hands to the face call, but no holding penalties yet.

He can see it, do it

All one must do to get a sense of how Wise can dominate at the point of attack is shake his hand. Not only does Wise have fingers that stretch out seemingly to the size of a catcher’s mitt, but his grip can have a crushing effect. Those big, strong hands, combined with 35-plus-inch arm length, make for a daunting physical specimen. Brazil even theorized that the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Wise could have grown into an offensive tackle.

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Veteran running back Chris Johnson is on a mission to prove to the Arizona Cardinals that it was a mistake to release him

The Arizona Cardinals must’ve had their reasons. Perhaps it was the fumbling by Chris Johnson that got him released by the club. Maybe it was the fact that the running back would soon be turning 32, an age that most playing the position are hitting a wall.

All of that mattered very little when Cardinals’ star David Johnson suffered a severe wrist injury during the season opener. The two to three month prognosis called for a roster move to be made. Right then and there, it was obvious who general manager Steve Keim would be calling.

“CJ2K” barely started getting acclimated to the everyday life of a normal person when he was summoned back to the nest. Any resentment that Johnson may have been carrying for being let go would have to be placed aside. The NFL is a business where personal feelings have no place.

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When the Cowboys visit Arizona of late, it’s provided quite the show. The last three times, it’s been decided at the very end.

* In 2008, the game goes to overtime, and the Sean Morey blocks a punt, with Monty Beisel recovering in the end zone for a 30-24 win;
* In 2010, on Christmas night, the Cardinals blew a 21-3 lead and then got a Jay Feely field goal with five seconds left for a 27-26 win;
* In 2011, Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey misses a 49-yard field goal on the final play of regulation and the game went to overtime. LaRod Stephens-Howling then grabbed a Kevin Kolb dump pass and raced 52 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Whether we’ll see that kind of drama Monday night is unlikely, but you can’t really know. This is a game where you figure to get a much better read on the Cardinals. No early start time to gum up the works, no road game. If the Cards are going to show more than they have, this is the time and place.

“The Cowboys are apparently ‘America’s Team’ so there will be a lot of eyes on this matchup,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said.

In a weekend in which I’m guessing a lot of eyes will be everywhere on the NFL after the President’s comments and the league-wide reaction to them, Cardinals-Cowboys will cap what will likely be an emotional weekend all around. A win would do wonders for the Cards’ emotion too.

— I like the concept from Frostee Rucker about the Cardinals staying together one way or the other when it comes to potential protest. The idea that sports can stay separate from where we are as a country, though, that’s long past.

— As expected, John Brown is going to sit again (so will D.J. Humphries), and so J.J. Nelson becomes important again. Not ideal that he’s listed as questionable, or that your speed merchant is dealing with a hamstring. If I had to guess, I’d think Nelson plays, but if he was limited all week, there has to be concern with how much he can do.

— It looks like the Cards finally get Deone Bucannon back. As for the questionable Mike Iupati, after the job Alex Boone did last week, if you aren’t sure, it makes sense to me to stick with Boone again.

— Speaking of Boone, there was some learning-on-the-fly last week. “I’m not even kidding, there was a play where I was like, ‘I have no idea what’s going on,’ ” Boone said. “Carson (Palmer) looked at me and told me and was like ‘SET, GOOOO!’ Hey man, trial by fire, right?”

–All this talk about offensive line play – the Cardinals certainly have had their share – there was a great quote by Browns stud left tackle Joe Thomas this week.

“As offensive linemen, we consider ourselves mushrooms because we get thrown in the corner of a dark room and people pile poop on us and then expect us to grow,” Thomas said. “So that is why we are mushrooms.”

I have not had a chance to run the mushroom analogy past any of the Cards’ linemen.

— One lineman who actually played tight end this week was rookie guard Will Holden, who played 15 snaps at tight end last week because Jermaine Gresham was hurt and he was a better blocking option in heavy packages than Ifeanyi Momah. Holden said he’d never played tight end before. Ever. In college, he came in for similar heavy packages but he played inside while they had another offensive lineman be the tight end.

“I felt fine,” Holden said. “It’s a little different view of the defense because you’re wider out and it’s a little harder to hear. But once you settle into the game, you’re just playing football.”

Holden said he was happy with his play, although he was willing to allow, smiling, that how well he did was “up for debate.” OL coach Harold Goodwin said Holden needed to finish blocks better. Holden probably won’t be needed this week now that Gresham is back, but it’s an option going forward.

— The last time the Cardinals hosted the Cowboys on “Monday Night Football” was 1995, when Larry Centers made his incredible leap, Buddy Ryan left before the game was over and cameras were capturing footage later used in the movie “Jerry Maguire.”

“Everybody loves Jerry Maguire,” Larry Fitzgerald said. “ ‘Show me the money.’ It’s what Monday night is all about.”

(Speaking of Maguire, it makes you think back to Rod Tidwell, right?)

— Bruce Arians, after the win in Indy, now has 42 victories as Cardinals head coach. It ties him with Don Coryell for second-most in team history (Ken Whisenhunt has the top mark with 49.) B.A. was asked what he thought of that.

“It was a bad team for a long time,” Arians deadpanned. Seriously, though, “to be even mentioned with Coach Coryell, that’s mind-boggling to me,” Arians added. “He was one of my great idols and watching that team play.”

— A random tidbit Fitz revealed this week, of which I have no recollection: He played special teams as a rookie. He was on punt return, as an outside blocker taking on the opposing gunner.

“I played hold-up guy,” Fitzgerald said. “I was pretty good at it too. Me and Nate Poole, we held it down out there.”

Poole, if you remember, was on the receiving end of the famous McCown-to-Poole TD pass in the last game of 2003 to knock the Vikings out of the playoffs and send the Cards from the No. 1 overall pick to No. 3. Probably got them Fitzgerald in the first place. Now that’s drama.

See everyone Monday night.

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The Falcons have played two exhibition games at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and will host the Packers tonight in their first regular-season home game. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC)

Remember when the Falcons faced the Saints in the final game at the Georgia Dome in January, but then there was another game?

And then another?

Well, Sunday’s Falcons-Packers game will be the ‘second’ home opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and it appears the franchise saved the best for last.

A sellout crowd, national TV audience and the NFL commissioner are among the highlights of the first regular-season NFL game in the $1.5 billion facility – and it just happens to feature the teams that met in the ‘final’ Georgia Dome finale.

The Falcons played two exhibition games at MBS in August, the ‘first’ home opener against the Cardinals Aug. 26 and the Jaguars on Aug. 31.

Here are a few things you should know if you’re going to the game, what to expect once you get there and of course the game itself:

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America proved to be the land of missed opportunity for the Premiership roadshow on Saturday night.

Saracens returned to winning ways with a flat victory over Newcastle as 6,271 – what seemed to be a generous official figure – turned out at the 18,500-seat stadium in Philadelphia.

The occasion itself will not live long in the memory of the Americans.

Saracens returned to winning ways in front of a generous official crowd figure of 6,271

With swathes of empty seats, the atmosphere was flat and there was no stars and stripes fanfare – in contrast to the 200-piece marching band at the college football on Friday night.

‘It’s integral to the success of this project that the game is sold out,’ said Dominic Hayes, Premiership Rugby’s commercial director, in June.

More could have been done to advertise the occasion around the city and the promoters will be back to their drawing board as they prepare the third instalment of this American series.

The second instalment of Premiership rugby will not live long in the memory of the Americans

The second instalment of Premiership rugby will not live long in the memory of the Americans

Local fans waited with anticipation to see Billy Vunipola, who has previously linked himself with a switch to the NFL, and the No 8 showed flashes of his power on a rusty return from injury.

Newcastle flanker Mark Wilson showed his England quality with early turnovers and lineout steals, but it was local boy Chris Wyles who opened the scoring for Saracens after seven minutes.

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