GREEN BAY, Wis. Aaron Rodgers shrugged off a shaky beginning as Brett Favre's replacement.
In his first start for the Green Bay Packers, Rodgers delivered a pair of scoring drives and a handful of highlights in a 20-17 preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night.
The Packers definitively handed Rodgers the keys to one of the NFL's best offenses after trading Favre to the New York Jets last week ending an ugly, monthlong divorce with one of the most beloved players in franchise history.
And 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 off 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.
Carson Palmer finished the game 5-for-9 for 33 yards with a touchdown, connecting with tight end Ben Utecht for a 14-yard score early in the second quarter.
SMITH HAS CONCUSSION: The Carolina Panthers have returned to training camp without top receiver Steve Smith, who sustained a concussion in the preseason opener. Smith did not practice Monday. Coach John Fox said only that he's day-to-day. Smith was shaken up after making a leaping 19-yard catch in the first quarter of Saturday's 23-20 overtime win against Indianapolis. He continued to play, but quarterback Matt Moore said he knew something was wrong with Smith. The receiver was suspended for the first two regular-season games for breaking teammate Ken Lucas' nose in a fight during practice this month.
PATRIOTS WELL-STOCKED: The New England Patriots entered the offseason with a goal of trying to get younger and more athletic on defense.
That effort was dealt a blow when safety-linebacker Tank Williams, who was expected to see a lot of playing time at both positions, was put on injured reserve after hurting his knee in Thursday's loss to the Ravens.
One of those players being counted on heavily is third-year linebacker Pierre Woods, a free agent who saw the bulk of his action on special teams last season.
With most of the veterans watching from the sideline in the preseason opener against Baltimore, Woods and rookie linebacker Shawn Crable, also from Michigan, were two of the standouts on defense for the Patriots.
Woods had three tackles, a sack and forced a fumble. Crable had four tackles and an interception that he returned 11 yards.
The Patriots had a walkthrough practice Monday morning in preparation for Sunday's preseason game in Tampa against the Buccaneers.
LEFTWICH PRACTICES WITH STEELERS: Byron Leftwich waited nine months to get back on the practice field. Now that he's done that, his first NFL action is likely only days away. Signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the quarterback brought in to replace injured backup Charlie Batch impressed during his first two practices with the team on Monday, so much that coach Mike Tomlin said "it looks like he'll be able to play" Thursday when the team plays the Buffalo Bills in Toronto. "I was impressed simply by the fact he was a quick study," Tomlin said after a rain-soaked afternoon practice at Saint Vincent College. "He was able to step out there and step in the huddle, spew the verbiage out, get people lined up and actually get the ball around."
RAIDERS SIGN ARCHULETA: The Oakland Raiders signed Adam Archuleta to a contract on Monday in a move to add depth to their defense. Archuleta was at the Raiders facility Monday morning and left with trainer Rod Martin to take a physical. Archuleta was expected to take part in the night practice. Oakland released safety Greg Wesley to make room on the roster. Archuleta has been a safety in the NFL but played linebacker in college at Arizona State. He could contend for a spot as a backup safety or for the starting strong side linebacker job in Oakland. Ricky Brown, Robert Thomas and Sam Williams are competing for the starting role at linebacker alongside Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard.
ENGRAM OUT 2 MONTHS: Seahawks leading receiver Bobby Engram will miss six to eight weeks with a cracked shoulder, coach Mike Holmgren says. The 35-year-old Engram set a Seattle franchise record last season with 94 catches and then skipped offseason minicamps while in a dispute over his contract that expires after this season. Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck also missed practice for the second consecutive day Monday. He has a back injury. He might miss Saturday's preseason game against the Chicago Bears. Seattle also released former first-round pick Marcus Tubbs after the former starting defensive tackle failed a physical. Tubbs had been trying to make it back from knee surgery.