Stars on receiving end as league continues to reel

An embattled NFL, reeling from off-field brutality issues, received more bad news with numerous injuries to key players in the second week of an already tumultuous campaign.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera benched star defender Greg Hardy, who is appealing an assault conviction to a jury trial, only hours before a 24-7 victory over Detroit.

“This was in the best interest of the Carolina Panthers. We had to do this. I did this and that’s it,” Rivera said.

“This is a very difficult situation that the league is dealing with right now. Teams are dealing with this and we’re doing the best that we can.”

The Minnesota Vikings were without star rusher Adrian Peterson, on bail from reckless child injury charges, in a 30-7 loss to New England and officials pondered his future status after deactivating him this week.

Ray Rice, the star rusher fired by the Baltimore Ravens after a video showed him knocking out his then-fiancee, was reportedly set to file an appeal against his indefinite NFL ban.

That could provide an avenue other than the ongoing NFL investigation by ex-FBI director Robert Mueller to discover when the league first had access to the video that was made public last week.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has denied officials saw the video until last week, but critics have called for him to be removed over his handling of the case.

San Francisco defensive end Ray McDonald, arrested for domestic violence for hitting his pregnant girlfriend but not yet charged, played on Sunday for the 49ers, but the Chicago Bears spoiled the opening of their new stadium with a 28-20 victory. Jay Cutler threw four touchdown passes, three to Brandon Marshall, and the Bears rallied from a 17-0 deficit for the triumph.

Adding to the NFL woes were a series of injuries.

Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, who underwent major right knee surgery last year, suffered a dislocated left ankle, while receiver DeSean Jackson had a left shoulder injury in the Redskins’ 41-10 victory over Jacksonville.

Kirk Cousins came off the bench to throw two touchdowns and Washington defenders matched a team record with 10 quarterback sacks to spark the Redskins but the loss of flamboyant run-pass threat Griffin was a blow.

“We’re sick about Robert,” first-year Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. “People don’t understand how much work goes into being a starting quarterback.”

San Diego rusher Ryan Matthews suffered a right knee injury in the Chargers’ 30-21 upset of reigning Super Bowl champions Seattle.

San Diego’s Philip Rivers completed 28 of 37 passes, tossing three touchdowns to tight end Antonio Gates in the triumph over the Seahawks.

Miami Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno dislocated his left elbow in a 29-10 loss at Buffalo, which benefited from a 102-yard kick-off return touchdown by CJ Spiller.

Kansas City lost star rusher Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry to ankle injuries in a 24-17 loss at Denver, where Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes in the first half.

And Cincinnati receiver AJ Green suffered a right toe injury in a 24-10 triumph over Atlanta.

There was more on-field drama as Billy Cundiff’s 29-yard field goal with three seconds to play gave Cleveland a 26-24 upset of visiting New Orleans and Greg Zuerlein’s 38-yard field goal in the dying seconds gave St Louis a 19-17 victory at Tampa Bay.

Aaron Rodgers completed 25 of 42 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns to power the Green Bay Packers past the visiting New York Jets 31-24.

New York’s Muhammad Wilkerson swung punches at multiple Green Bay players in the third quarter and was ejected.

Tony Romo threw for one touchdown and DeMarco Murray ran for another as the Dallas Cowboys defeated hosts Tennessee 26-10.

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for two touchdowns and Arian Foster ran for 138 yards and a touchdown for Houston in a 30-14 triumph at Oakland.

Ted Ginn’s 71-yard punt return touchdown helped spark visiting Arizona to a 25-14 victory over the New York Giants.

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