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NFL NOTEBOOK

Notes: NFL expands practice squads to 10

NFL teams can carry 10 players on their practice squads for the next two seasons.

The league and the players’ union agreed Tuesday to increase the number of practice squad members from eight to 10.

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‘‘It’s the No. 1 way for teams to develop players because . . . once the season starts, those guys are a part of the team,’’ Saints coach Sean Payton said in support of the change. ‘‘They’re involved in drills. They’re involved in every element. All you have to do is look at the past five years, practice squad players that are now on the 53-man rosters, and there’s a ton of them.’’

Also, criteria for practice squad eligibility has been expanded in two categories.

A player must have a minimum of six games on a practice squad — increased from the previous three games — for that year to count as one of three permissible seasons on the squad.

And each team now can sign a maximum of two practice squad players who have earned no more than two NFL seasons toward free agency.

Aside from that exception, a player with one or more accrued seasons can’t go on a practice squad unless he spent fewer than nine games on a club’s 46-player active list in each of his pro seasons.

Ball bounces back

Broncos running back Montee Ball returned to practice, participating in individual drills in his first on-field workout since undergoing an appendectomy Aug. 4.

Ball sat out the team drills when the Broncos squared off against the Houston Texans.

Weakside linebacker Danny Trevathan made an appearance at practice, hobbling out on crutches.

Trevathan fractured his left leg in practice last week and is out four to six weeks.

Linebacker Lamin Barrow was back on the field 48 hours after dodging a serious knee injury in Denver’s 34-0 win at San Francisco.

Tight end Gerell Robinson (ankle, knee) was also hurt in that game and was held out of practice along with cornerback Kayvon Webster (ankle), wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (thigh) and tight end Virgil Green (calf).

Browns undecided

Cleveland first-year coach Mike Pettine still hasn’t chosen his Week 1 starting quarterback, and that’s not his fault. Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel haven’t convinced him — or anyone, really — that they deserve the job.

Pettine had been expected to announce his choice Tuesday whether Hoyer, the inexperienced veteran and hometown hero coming back from knee surgery, or Manziel, the hyped rookie and former Heisman Trophy winner, would start the Sept. 7 opener at Pittsburgh.

But the decision has been delayed and it could carry through Cleveland’s third preseason game on Saturday.

MVP Smith returns

Malcolm Smith tracked the eyes of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and leapt into the air, snagging the football with one hand for an interception before racing 60 yards in the opposite direction for a touchdown. Earl Thomas, K.J. Wright, and other members of Seattle’s defense chased Smith to the end zone, shouting ‘‘MVP! MVP!’’ Not a bad first full day back on the practice field for Seattle’s Super Bowl MVP. Smith has been sidelined throughout the entire offseason while recovering from ankle surgery this spring. He showed Tuesday that he’s itching to get back to work with his teammates . . . Raiders coach Dennis Allen said the team will decide by next week whether cornerback DJ Hayden is healthy enough to start the season on the active roster or if he will go on the physically unable to perform list. Hayden is recovering from surgery in June on a stress fracture in his right foot and has been unable to practice this summer . . . The 49ers signed defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey to a two-year contract extension through the 2016 season. Dorsey, 29, is sidelined with a torn left biceps muscle that required surgery. He was injured Aug. 1, but hasn’t been ruled out for the season.

Specialists sought

Colts safety Delano Howell could soon be facing the biggest decision of his career.

General manager Ryan Grigson said the 24-year-old Stanford alum is seeking more medical opinions about a neck injury that has kept him out of practice for almost two weeks and could threaten his season or even his career.

Howell also missed the final 10 games last season with a neck injury, and, not surprisingly, the Colts want to be cautious about putting Howell back on the field.

Steelers sign Gilbert

The Steelers and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert have reached agreement on a new six-year contract that runs through the 2019 season. Gilbert, a second-round pick in the 2011 draft, has started 34 games in three seasons. He was selected as the team’s outstanding rookie after making 13 starts at left tackle in 2011. He missed the last 11 games of the 2012 season with an ankle injury and switched to right tackle last season . . . The Steelers are also planning to re-sign defensive end Brett Keisel to bolster a reconfigured line that has struggled to produce much of anything in the first two weeks of the preseason. The Steelers decided not to re-sign Keisel in the offseason after the 35-year-old finished with four sacks in 12 games in 2013 . . . Linebacker Jason Phillips, one of the first players signed by the Eagles under coach Chip Kelly, was released before he played in a regular-season game for the team. Phillips signed a two-year, $1.46 million contract as a free agent in 2013 with the Eagles, but tore the ACL in his right knee the first week of training camp in 2013 and spent the season on injured reserve . . . The Eagles acquired RB Kenjon Barner from the Panthers for a seventh-round pick . . . Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu came off the physically unable to perform list. The club said nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu, who tore his ACL in the final game last season, has also come off the list.

Viking appeals

Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson has appealed a pending three-game suspension for a repeat violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Simpson confirmed he was absent from practice Monday to attend a hearing on his case at league headquarters in New York. Simpson said he ‘‘just told them the truth,’’ but he acknowledged he was unsure whether his argument would persuade the NFL to reduce or eliminate any punishment. Simpson was arrested last November on suspicion of drunken driving when his car broke down on a freeway outside of downtown Minneapolis. He pleaded guilty to careless driving and refusing to submit to a chemical test.

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