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NFL notebook

New era begins

Rodgers sharp in Packers loss

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Associated Press / August 12, 2008

Aaron Rodgers shrugged off a shaky beginning as Brett Favre's replacement.

In his first start for the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, Rodgers delivered a pair of scoring drives and a handful of highlights last night in a 20-17 exhibition loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Despite spending most of the past three seasons holding a clipboard, Rodgers didn't show many signs of nerves in his first step out of Favre's shadow.

The Bengals tagged Rodgers for an early interception of a deflected pass, but he recovered to complete 9 of 15 throws for 117 yards and a touchdown.

Rodgers was greeted warmly by fans before the game, with a significant portion giving him a standing ovation.

"I've always felt like we have the best fans in the NFL, and that they would support our team, regardless of how they feel about myself, or Brett, or management or whatever," Rodgers said. "But it was a great reception when we took the field."

Rodgers could have had a second scoring strike, but couldn't connect on a deep ball to wide open receiver James Jones on the Packers' third drive. On the next play, Rodgers threw a crisp 30-yard pass to Ruvell Martin on third and 2 that helped set up a 37-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.

Garcia returns

Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia returned to practice in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., after being sidelined 10 days by a right calf strain, an injury overshadowed by the Buccaneers' pursuit of Favre as a possible replacement.

Even before Garcia, 38, a Pro Bowl selection last season, was hurt July 31, the Bucs were in the middle of speculation about Favre, who came out of retirement and was traded from Green Bay to the New York Jets last week.

The Bucs were suitors at the end of the saga, too, although general manager Bruce Allen has said they never made an actual offer for the quarterback.

"At this point, it's water under the bridge. There's no reason to dwell on it," Garcia said. "I'm thankful that things worked out where I was able to stay and be the starting quarterback here . . . When it's all said and done, that's what really matters to me."

Jones makes plea

Jaguars receiver Matt Jones pleaded not guilty in Fayetteville, Ark., to possession of cocaine, a charge that carries up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Jones is free on a $2,500 bond. He faces an Oct. 10 trial date - two days before the Jaguars play at Denver . . . Seahawks wide receiver Bobby Engram will miss 6-8 weeks with a cracked bone in his right shoulder sustained on the first play of Friday's preseason game against Minnesota, adding to the injuries on offense for the defending four-time NFC West champions. Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck missed his second consecutive day. He has a stiff back that first tightened while he played two series against the Vikings . . . The Panthers have returned to training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., without top receiver Steve Smith, who sustained a concussion in the preseason opener. Coach John Fox said he's day-to-day . . . Bills reserve offensive tackle Matt Murphy was driven to a hospital shortly after hurting his left shoulder during practice in Pittsford, N.Y. Coach Dick Jauron didn't have an immediate update on the severity of the injury. He said the player was having tests.

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