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Four players threatened with suspension

The NFL is still seeking an audience with the four linebackers it's investigating for an alleged link to performance-enhancing drugs.

The league's latest message to James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Mike Neal and Julius Peppers came with an ominous and onerous threat: Answer our questions in the next 10 days, or start your suspension.

NFL senior vice president of labor policy and league affairs Adolpho Birch sent a letter Monday to the NFL Players Association detailing a plan to suspend Harrison, Matthews, Peppers and Neal if they don't speak with the league by Aug. 25.

Their punishment would then start the following day on an indefinite basis, to be ended at the discretion of Commissioner Roger Goodell once an interview has been completed.

Harrison, a 14-year veteran, is a longtime leader for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Matthews and Peppers are key cogs in Green Bay's defense, and Neal is currently a free agent who spent the past six seasons with the Packers. Harrison, Matthews and Peppers have been picked for the Pro Bowl a combined 20 times.

The NFL first notified the quartet on Jan. 11 about the investigation into a television report by Al-Jazeera featuring allegations made by Charlie Sly, who worked as an intern at an anti-aging clinic, about the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs by several athletes including the four linebackers. Sly later recanted his claims.

Birch, in his letter, said the league has made "at least seven attempts" to arrange the interviews.

49ERS: Thad Lewis, who served as the 49ers’ No. 2 passer in Sunday’s preseason loss to the Texans, tore his ACL on a third-quarter run and is out for the season.

Lewis appeared to suffer the injury on a 1-yard scramble. He came off the field following the third-down play and was examined by trainers. Chip Kelly said the 49ers likely would have inserted rookie Jeff Driskel into the game around that time anyway.

Lewis was 12-for-21 for a team-high 97 yards in the game. He suffered the 49ers only sack and ran four times for 10 yards.

VIKINGS: Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has left open the possibility of some preseason playing time for running back Adrian Peterson.

Zimmer said Monday he has not decided whether to put Peterson on the field in an exhibition game for the first time in five years. Zimmer said he'd let Peterson play "if he wants to," but the coach and the player have not discussed the situation recently.

The Vikings play Thursday at Seattle.

PATRIOTS: Tight end Rob Gronkowski left the first day of joint practices between the Patriots and Bearson Monday with an apparent lower-body issue.

Gronkowski made awkward cut while running a route during 7-on-7 drills. He grimaced after the play and paused briefly before jogging back gingerly to rejoin his teammates.

Gronkowski was led back to the locker room by a trainer and did not return.

BROWNS: Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon has been activated from the non-football injury list and returned to practice Monday.

Gordon, who suffered a quad injury while working out independently during the offseason, was back on the practice field with Cleveland for the first time since he was suspended in February 2015 for multiple violations of the NFL's drug policies.

Gordon is still suspended for the first four games of the regular season.