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Former 1st-round pick Austin savors fresh start with Packers

Thu Dec 3 2:02am ET
AP Sports Writer

Tavon Austin says he still has the same skills he possessed back when his impressive 40-yard dash times helped make him the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

Austin is eager to showcase that as the Green Bay Packers' newest acquisition attempts to revive his career.

''I'm still explosive,'' Austin said Wednesday. ''If anything, I'm still 4.3. If I ain't 4.2 no more, I know I'm 4.3. I felt like my workout spoke for itself how explosive I was and things like that.''

The Packers signed Austin this week to boost a receiving unit that lacks depth beyond three-time Pro Bowl selection Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard. It marks perhaps one final chance for Austin, who has never quite lived up to his lofty draft position.

Austin notes that he's played for several different quarterbacks and in plenty of different offensive systems since joining the NFL. The 5-foot-8 speedster hopes Green Bay offers him a chance for stability.

''Hopefully I just come and add a little more threat to the offense, just free people open and sometimes I get the ball as well and show what I can do,'' Austin said.

The San Francisco 49ers placed Austin on injured reserve before the season and later reached an injury settlement with him as he dealt with a knee problem. Austin said he's been feeling better for about the last three weeks.

He now reunites with Packers coach Matt LaFleur, who was the Rams' offensive coordinator in 2017 when Austin was still with Los Angeles. Austin spent his first five seasons with the Rams, who traded up to take the former West Virginia star with the eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft. Austin played for the Dallas Cowboys from 2018-19.

''He's very explosive,'' LaFleur said. ''I love the way he works and just the energy he brings all the time. We've got to get him kind of acclimated to what we're doing and how we call things. There is a little bit of a difference between what, some of the stuff that we call things here and what we did when we were together in LA, and certainly he's had a couple stops since then. So we'll just see where he's at and kind of evaluate it and take it day by day.''

Austin says he already has noticed a difference in what it's like to work with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He noted how the two-time MVP might ask a question at random points during meetings just to make sure everyone knows the task at hand.

''I always respected him, but now being in the meeting room with him, you can definitely see it's a big difference,'' Austin said. ''I thought I was a big study guy and I knew my stuff, but compared to him, I really don't know anything.''

Austin believes he can help a team in plenty of different ways.

His 15 touchdown catches and 10 touchdown runs show he can fill a variety of roles, whether it's running a pass route or a jet sweep. Austin also has experience returning punts.

''Truly at heart I am a receiver, and to be honest, I am a running back as well,'' Austin said. ''It's just about somebody really giving me the chance and really believing in me and letting me get comfortable and letting Ta do what he do best, how I did my whole life.''

Rodgers says Austin's versatility can make a difference.

''I was a fan of Tavon's in college,'' Rodgers said. ''I remember watching him, just how electric he was.''

Austin believes he can still provide a spark. Now he has a chance to prove it.

''I'm thankful,'' Austin said. ''One thing I can say is I'm thankful. It's been a long road for me through my injuries. It's been a long road for somebody just really trusting in me.''

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Player Notes
Chris Carson Dec 2 11:50pm ET

Seattle Seahawks running backs Chris Carson (foot) and Carlos Hyde (toe) were both limited in practice on Wednesday. Carson returned in Week 12 after missing four games and was substantially out-touched by Hyde, although Carson did score a touchdown. The fact that Carson played just 37 percent of the offensive snaps is concerning, but hopefully he'll see a bigger workload this weekend against the Giants. Consider him an RB2 in a good matchup with the Giants. Hyde played 62 percent of the snaps on Monday night, rushing 15 times for just 22 yards and catching two of three targets for an extra seven yards. Fantasy managers should expect Carson to receive a bigger workload in his second game back, making Hyde a touchdown-dependent RB3/flex in deeper formats.

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Kyler Murray Dec 2 11:50pm ET

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (shoulder) was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Murray tweaked his shoulder in the Week 11 loss to the Seahawks and failed to record a touchdown in last week's loss to the Patriots, throwing for just 170 yards. He also ran the ball a season-low five times for 31 yards. After carrying the ball double-digit times in Weeks 6-10, Murray has only 10 rushing attempts in his last two games. Is his injury causing him to run less? It looks like it, and he'll have another tough matchup with the Rams in Week 13. LA's defense has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to QBs in the last five weeks. While the second-year signal-caller shouldn't be benched by his fantasy managers, he might underwhelm again if you're expecting high-end QB1 production.

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Breshad Perriman Dec 2 11:40pm ET

New York Jets wide receiver Breshad Perriman (shoulder) was listed as a limited practice participant on Wednesday. Don't look now, but Perriman has been fantasy relevant the last three weeks while either scoring a touchdown or topping 75 yards receiving. He caught four of his eight targets in Week 12 against the Dolphins for 79 yards. It's still hard to trust anyone on the winless Jets and Perriman has had his fair share of injuries in his career, but he might be the most trustworthy Jets receiver at this point. In deeper league, Perriman is worth considering as a WR4/flex, but don't expect him to put you over the top if you need one more win to get into the fantasy postseason.

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Cam Newton Dec 2 11:30pm ET

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (abdomen) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Newton's injury doesn't appear to be serious enough to keep him from playing in Week 13 against the Chargers. The 31-year-old former MVP was just 9-for-18 passing for 84 yards and two interceptions in the Week 12 win over the Cardinals. He added nine carries for 46 yards. Newton's rushing ability gives him a little more upside, but he's not running like he used to and has limited weapons in the passing attack, making him a midrange QB2 this Sunday with a limited ceiling. The Los Angeles defense has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points per game to signal-caller this year, including four rushing touchdowns to the position.

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Kalen Ballage Dec 2 11:30pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers running back Kalen Ballage (ankle), linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (chest) and offensive guard Trai Turner (ankle) were all limited in practice on Wednesday. Ballage was inactive in the Week 12 loss to the Bills, but he's on the right track to make his return in Week 13 against the Patriots. The 24-year-old saw double-digit carries from Weeks 9-11 and was also seeing usage in the passing game, putting him in the flex consideration. However, Austin Ekeler returned from Injured Reserve last weekend and should remain as the team's featured back to close out the season. Ballage could still be mixed in here and there alongside Joshua Kelley and Troymaine Pope, but Ekeler's return has all but killed the fleeting fantasy value that he had.

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C.J. Prosise Dec 2 11:20pm ET

Houston Texans running back C.J. Prosise (illness) did not take part in practice on Wednesday due to a non-COVID-19-related illness. Prosise had a season-high five carries for 12 yards and caught a two-yard pass for a touchdown in the Thanksgiving win over the Lions last week as the backup to Duke Johnson. He saw some notable work in the red zone in Week 12 and should continue to see a bigger role until David Johnson returns from Injured Reserve, but Prosise still isn't seeing enough touches to be considered a realistic flex option, even in the deepest of leagues. Buddy Howell and rookie Scottie Phillips would be called on to step up behind Johnson if Prosise is unable to play in Week 13 against the Colts.

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David Johnson Dec 2 11:20pm ET

The Houston Texans activated the 21-day practice window for running back David Johnson (concussion) to return from Injured Reserve on Wednesday. It means that Johnson could technically return for the Week 13 matchup with the Colts, but that would be wishful thinking by his fantasy managers. The 28-year-old has been out since Week 9, and the Texans are just hoping that he can return sometime soon. We'd be surprised if Johnson made it back this weekend, but he should be picked up off the waiver wire if he's available. Duke Johnson will continue to have RB2 upside until David Johnson is fully healthy and cleared from the league's concussion protocol.

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D.J. Chark Dec 2 11:10pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. (ribs) was limited in practice on Wednesday after sitting out of the Week 12 loss to the Browns. Chark seems to be on the right track to return this Sunday against the Vikings and their suspect secondary, but can you trust him in fantasy lineups with quarterback Mike Glennon under center for the second straight week? To be honest, Glennon is an upgrade over rookie Jake Luton and could even be an upgrade over Gardner Minshew II. Chark has seen double-digit targets just twice this year and has only one 100-yard game, but the matchup is nice enough that he should be considered a WR3/flex with upside for more if he plays. The Vikings Defense has allowed 18 receiving touchdowns (second-most) and the third-most fantasy points to receivers in 2020. Chark's return would lower the ceilings of Keelan Cole and rookie Laviska Shenault Jr.

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Equanimeous St. Brown Dec 2 11:10pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receivers Allen Lazard (core) and Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) and safety Darnell Savage (back) were limited practice participants on Wednesday. Lazard saw a bigger role in his second game back from core muscle surgery and found the end zone, but he had just 23 receiving yards. He returned to the game after being banged up, giving him a good chance to play in Week 13 against the Eagles. Green Bay should be able to move the ball against Philadelphia, but Lazard will once again be a touchdown-dependent WR4/flex in his third game back from surgery. St. Brown doubled his reception total in Week 12 against the Bears with two catches for 39 yards. As long as Davante Adams and Lazard are on the field, St. Brown is an afterthought.

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Carlos Dunlap Dec 2 11:03pm ET

Seattle Seahawks DE Carlos Dunlap (foot) is nursing a sore foot, but head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday, Dec. 2 that he feels the pass rusher will be ready for the Week 13 game against the New York Giants. 'I can't tell you much yet, we won't know for the next couple of days, but he's just got a sore foot and we don't think he's going to miss because of that,' Carroll said.

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Josh Jacobs Dec 2 11:00pm ET

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Mitch Trubisky Dec 2 10:53pm ET

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Fantasy Spin: Nick Foles practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday, so Trubisky will get another chance to show what he can do. Still, he is more of a QB2 in most fantasy leagues of 12 or more teams despite his success against the Lions.

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Phillip Lindsay Dec 2 10:40pm ET

Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (knee) wasn't able to practice on Wednesday. Lindsay left the Week 12 blowout loss to the Saints early with a knee injury after carrying the ball nine times for just 20 yards. The 26-year-old has become a low-ceiling RB3/4 in an inconsistent Broncos offense while sharing carries with Melvin Gordon III. Lindsay's lack of involvement in the passing game (just two receptions all year), makes him almost unrosterable in PPR leagues. If he's unable to get on the practice field this week, Royce Freeman would serve as the backup to Gordon in Week 13 against the Chiefs. Freeman wouldn't have standalone value, but Gordon would be a low-end RB2 with upside if he has the backfield more to himself.

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Jerry Jeudy Dec 2 10:40pm ET

Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (ankle) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Jeudy was on the injury report last week but was taken off on Friday. He'll be fine to play this weekend against the Chiefs unless he suffers a setback. Denver's entire offense struggled in Week 12 when they were forced to start a practice-squad wide receiver at quarterback, so Jeudy should have more than just one target this Sunday. The Broncos should be forced to throw the ball more often against KC, but the Chiefs Defense is allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to wideouts. Plus, Jeudy and quarterback Drew Lock haven't been efficient in their connection this year. Jeudy will be more of a WR4/flex this weekend as he looks to bounce back from a donut in Week 12.

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Denver Broncos Dec 2 10:30pm ET

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Jonnu Smith Dec 2 10:20pm ET

Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith (knee), cornerback Adoree' Jackson (knee) and defensive end Jeffery Simmons (knee) all missed practice on Wednesday. Smith really put his fantasy managers in a tough spot in Week 12 with zero targets in the passing game against the Colts. He has plenty of pass-catching talent, but his floor is really low if he continues to be used a lot as a blocker. Add in the knee injury and you have a tight end that is extremely volatile as a touchdown-dependent low-end TE1/high-end TE1 against Cleveland this weekend. If Smith's knee injury is serious enough to keep him out this week, Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt would likely share snaps at the position.

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Calvin Ridley Dec 2 10:20pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones (hamstring) and Calvin Ridley (ankle, foot) and running back Todd Gurley II (knee) were all limited practice participants on Wednesday. Jones and Gurley didn't play in the Week 12 win over the Raiders, so their participation on Wednesday is a good sign that they'll have a chance to suit up in Week 13 against the Saints. The 31-year-old Jones often plays through nagging injuries, but his fantasy managers would love to see him log a full practice this week. He caught just two passes for 39 yards in the first meeting with New Orleans in Week 11, but Jones should top that if he returns. Ridley has the higher WR1 ceiling at this point, but Jones will be a must-start if he's active. Gurley has a chance to return this week, but even if he does, he'll be one to fade against a tough Saints run defense while potentially looking at a limited workload. Brian Hill and Ito Smith shared backfield duties with Gurley out against Las Vegas, with Smith the more productive rusher. This is probably a week to avoid Atlanta's backfield entirely if you can find better options.

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Russell Wilson Dec 2 10:10pm ET

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has cooled off from his MVP pace over the last four weeks, but he's got a chance to reignite those flames in Week 13 against the New York Giants. The Giants feature one of the league's better passing defenses, as they've allowed just 15.5 points per game to the quarterback position. Wilson's outlook isn't perfect for this game, but he does have the benefit of playing at home. On the season, he's averaging over 30 fantasy points per game in Seattle. With his complement of weapons and running ability, he's firmly in the QB1 conversation for this week.

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Adam Humphries Dec 2 10:10pm ET

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