National Football League
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  • Saturday, July 26, 2014
    Manziel sees mistakes, moves forward
    By The Sports Xchange

    With training camp starting for the Cleveland Browns, Johnny Manziel knows it's time to get down to the business of playing football.

    • The rookie quarterback created plenty of headlines during the summer with his monkey business, showing up at parties with celebrities and all over social media.

      "At the end of the day, I've made some rookie mistakes," Manziel said Friday. "There were some things I wish I could have gone back and done a little differently."

      Manziel said he has talked with coaches and management to assure them that he's now focused on the task at hand, heading into training camp as the No. 2 quarterback behind Brian Hoyer.

      A Fourth of July photo of Manziel rolling a $20 bill in a bathroom concerned coach Mike Pettine enough to call Johnny Football while vacationing in Hawaii.

      "I've talked about that with Coach Pettine, talked about it with (general manager) Ray Farmer and the people I need to talk about that with," Manziel said. "Moving forward they're good with everything and I've told them everything I need to and everything's been good."

      That said, Manziel isn't going to change his lifestyle during the offseason.

      "I don't think there's anything wrong with me going out and having a nightlife and a social life," Manziel said. "I'm 21 years old and it was the offseason and it's free time for us."

      Manziel admits he has a lot to learn but says he's up to the challenge.

      "I think there are definitely things I can do moving forward to help better act as a professional," Manziel said. "At the same time, I'm still learning how to do that, still getting used to this role, still getting used to this league, still getting used to being a professional football player. I'm not in college anymore.

      "There's things I need to do better, and that's just part of being a professional. Hopefully with time and going through this season and as time goes on (I'll) get better at doing that."

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Byrd starts Saints camp on PUP list
    By The Sports Xchange

    WHITE SULPHER SPRINGS, WVa. -- Despite media reports earlier in the week that free safety Jairus Byrd would be ready for the start of training camp, the New Orleans Saints' prized acquisition in free agency was put on the physically unable to perform list Friday.

    • Saints coach Sean Payton said after the team's first practice of their three-week stay at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia that Byrd, who had surgery on May 29 to repair a damaged disc in his back, was given the PUP designation that limited him to working with trainers on the side while teammates practiced nearby.

      But Payton said Byrd, who received a six-year, $54 million contract from the Saints on the first day of the free-agency signing period in March, will be back "sooner rather than later" and certainly before the team leaves West Virginia to return to their home base Aug. 14.

      "We'll work day to day with him," Payton said. "I think the good news is that it's going to be sooner than later. I don't want to put a time on it, but his progress is ahead of schedule.

      "We're still just getting it to where we feel it is 100 percent. ... Clearly, before we leave here, he'll be back on the roster."

      Byrd wasn't at full speed, but he seemed to move well as he ran and did some backpedaling under the watchful eye of trainers.

      While he's on the PUP list, Byrd cannot participate in team drills, but he can work with trainers on the side. He counts against the 90-man camp roster and can be activated at any time during training camp or exhibition season.

      Byrd joined nose tackle John Jenkins, a second-year pro, on the PUP list.

      While team officials have not commented on the nature of Jenkins' injury, it was reported earlier this summer that he had surgery on a torn pectoral muscle that sidelined him for all of their organized team activities and veteran minicamp.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Bears sign OL Gandy
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Chicago Bears signed guard-center Dylan Gandy to a one-year contract, the team announced Friday.

    • The Bears also waived defensive end Jamil Merrell, an undrafted rookie from Rutgers.

      The 6-3, 295-pound Gandy played in 15 regular-season games for the Detroit Lions last season, but did not start any of them. He contributed mostly on special teams. He appeared in 120 games with 19 starts over eight seasons with Indianapolis (2005-07) and Detroit (2009-13).

      Gandy has not started a game since the 2009 season.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Dolphins offensive line the talk of camp again
    By The Sports Xchange

    DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins' revamped offensive line had a shakeup in Friday's opening practice of training camp. The interior was manned by center Shelley Smith, right guard Dallas Thomas and left guard Daryn Colledge.

    • The Dolphins ended minicamp with center Mike Pouncey, Thomas at left guard and Smith at right guard.

      Everyone knew change was coming because Pouncey had hip surgery to repair a torn labrum after minicamp. Pouncey and running back Knowshon Moreno (knee) were placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list Friday.

      But few expected Smith to get the first shot at center, a position he has never played in a NFL game.

      "I played a little bit in college, a little bit in high school," Smith said, "but I haven't had the opportunity yet in the NFL. So it will be a new challenge for me and I'm looking forward to it."

      Coach Joe Philbin said Friday's offensive line change was purely on an experimental basis.

      "I will tell you that we're going to be looking at a number of combinations," he said. "This is practice number one and this is the way that we wanted to look at it today. We'll take a look at the film and go from there. But we will be moving some guys around and taking a look at guys and how they respond."

      The Dolphins, of course, allowed a NFL-worst 58 sacks last season.

      Left tackle Branden Albert, the Pro Bowl selection acquired from Kansas City during free agency, and right tackle Ja'Wuan James, the first-round pick from Tennessee, are still in the spots they had during offseason workouts.

      The interior of the line is a bit of a mess, however.

      Sam Brenner, the backup center who also plays guard, was expected by many to get the first shot at starting center. And there was speculation that backup left tackle Nate Garner might get the second chance. Those changes would have been easier than moving the starting right guard (Smith) to center, and moving the starting left guard (Thomas) to right guard.

      Smith got some work at center during OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and minicamp.

      "We certainly think he has the ability to play the position," Philbin said. "As you know, that's a critical position in the offense. It's hard to play that position if you don't get a number of quality repetitions in there. So we wanted to get him in there today and let him get to work at the center position."

      On the first 11-on-11 play in Friday's practice, quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a bad exchange with Smith. Tannehill also was sacked a few times even though players weren't wearing pads.

      The offensive line seemed to do well in run blocking as running back Lamar Miller made several impressive runs.

      The Dolphins will find out more about the offensive line Sunday when they'll be in full pads for the first time.

      Still, the bottom line is the Dolphins will take the field with five new starters during their Sept. 7 season opener against New England. And even Colledge admitted it's rare for an offensive line to enter a season with five new starters.

      "Almost never happens anymore," Colledge said. "It's tough. It's hard out there. But again, the great offensive lines are the ones that can keep five, six guys that play the entire year. You don't need always to have best offensive line or a bunch of Pro Bowlers. You need to find guys that can consistently play and line up for you every single week."

      In a somewhat related note, the Dolphins' new offense, brought in by coordinator Bill Lazor, features lots of pre-snap motion. It also moves wide receiver Mike Wallace around. Last year, under offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, Wallace stayed planted on the right side of the formation.

      "I love it," Wallace said of the offense. "He just brings a different type of excitement to the table. I love Coach (Mike) Sherman, but Coach Lazor's a real different type of guy. So I'm really excited about it."

      Tannehill did complete a deep pass to Wallace on Friday, which should soothe many fans who struggled through the duo's difficulties last season. But overall Tannehill still appeared inaccurate on his deep throws.

      NOTES: DE Dion Jordan, who will serve a four-game suspension for use of performance enhancing drugs, didn't elaborate on the issue Friday. "It sucks personally," he said of the suspension. "It's my job, but I'm not able to participate with my guys that are out here working with me and going through the same type of thing.". . . Wide receiver Jarvis Landry, the second-round pick from LSU, continues getting rave reviews from teammates. On Friday, even owner Steve Ross said he was excited about Landry. Ross: "I think he's really going to be somebody that's going to surprise a lot of people and really bring some excitement to this team."

      ... MLB Koa Misi seems to be in the right place at the right time in his new position. But Sunday, when the players wear full pads, Misi's move from SLB will get a better gauge. ... RB Lamar Miller is the starter once again because Knowshon Moreno (knee) is on the PUP list. Miller had a good practice Friday both running and receiving. He hasn't been tested as a pass blocker -- a noted weakness from last season. ... RT Ja'Wuan James, the first-round ick from Tennessee, continues to struggle against three-time Pro Bowl DE Cam Wake. But that's to be expected to a certain extent. ... TE Michael Egnew had a so-so showing Friday. He was a frequent target on short routes and did a nice job catching the ball. But Egnew still struggles as a blocker. ... S Jimmy Wilson is holding his job as a nickel (slot) CB. Wilson has been active during the entire offseason getting his hands on passes.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Colts' Ballard injured again
    By The Sports Xchange

    More bad news for Vick Ballard.

    • The Indianapolis Colts running back tore his left Achilles tendon during Friday's training camp practice and could be lost for the season, ESPN reported. Ballard fell to the turf after catching a pass on a non-contact play and was headed for an MRI to confirm the diagnosis.

      Ballard, who left the field on a golf cart after initially limping, was coming back after playing in only one game last season for the Colts because of a torn ACL in his right knee.

      "When you see someone like Vick Ballard go down who's worked so hard to get back, it's tough, but it happens," Colts owner Jim Irsay said, according to ESPN. "As soon as you get to camp, those things happen. He's still young, and he's got a full career ahead of him, so we have to do an MRI and see exactly what it is and then go from there. But you really hope to not hear any of that kind of news."

      As a rookie in 2012, Ballard ran for a team-leading 814 yards and scored two touchdowns. In last year's season opener, he rushed for 63 yards on 13 carries before suffering the torn ACL.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    49ers activate WR Ellington, sign TE-LS Nelson
    By The Sports Xchange

    The San Francisco 49ers moved wide receiver Bruce Ellington from the active/non-football injury list to the active roster and signed tight end and long snapper Kyle Nelson to a one-year contract on Friday.

    • Ellington was selected by the 49ers in the fourth round of the NFL Draft in May.

      The 22-year-old played in 38 games in three years at South Carolina and finished his college career with 106 catches for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also played basketball for the Gamecocks.

      Nelson rejoins the 49ers after previous stints with the team during offseason workouts in 2013 and a portion of training camp in 2012.

      After Nelson was released by the 49ers on July 10, 2013, he bounced around, going to the Seattle Seahawks for about a month before his Aug. 26, 2013, release, and then signing with the Washington Redskins last October. He played in 11 games for the Redskins.

      The 27-year-old undrafted free agent started his career with the New Orleans Saints and also has spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers before his second stint in San Francisco.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    NFL roundup: Lynch a no-show at Seahawks' camp
    By The Sports Xchange

    Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch officially started his contract holdout Friday by not attending the first day of training camp.

    • Lynch is in the third year of a four-year, $30 million contract. He received $6 million of it in a signing bonus. He will make $5 million in base salary this season and $5.5 million in 2015, but he wants more money up front or more guaranteed money.

      General manager John Schneider addressed Lynch's absence on ESPN radio in Seattle but would not say if the team would restructure the final two years on his contract.

      "Without being specific, obviously, we don't talk people's contracts," Schneider said. "We all love Marshawn, but he made a decision not to be here. The thing I would say, without getting into it too deep, is we've had a plan in place for several years. Just two years ago, Marshawn was one of the first guys we were able to reward."

      ---Andre Johnson spent months away from the team, but when it came time for the Houston Texans to report to training camp, the All-Pro wide receiver was back in formation.

      The 33-year-old wide receiver requested a trade and said he would not report to training camp after skipping offseason workouts and minicamp.

      His hard-line stance appeared to soften Monday when Johnson was seen at the team facility. It is not known if first-year head coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith made assurances about Johnson's contract or future with the team.

      But coaches met with Johnson, starting the process of assimilating into the offensive system.

      Johnson has three years and $31.5 million in base salary left on his contract but does not want to be part of another rebuilding project. The Texans are coming off a 2-14 season, and made another change at quarterback with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick pegged to replace Matt Schaub.

      ---New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was cleared by doctors to play, but he said he is not quite at that point just yet.

      Gronkowski has participated in individual drills for the past two days and watched from the sidelines during team drills. He also worked with quarterback Tom Brady individually after practice.

      Gronkowski said he does not have a timetable on when he will take part in team drills.

      "If it was 100 percent, I'd be doing every single little thing," he said. "So, no, I'm not 100 percent, I'm working every single day to get to that."

      Gronkowski is working his way back from a torn right ACL he sustained on Dec. 8 against the Cleveland Browns. He also missed part of the season coming back from forearm and back injuries.

      ---The Patriots released tight end Nate Byham four days after the team signed him. The 26-year-old Byham, a free agent, joined the Patriots on Monday after spending the past two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2010 season with the San Francisco 49ers.

      ---The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and guard Carl Nicks came to a mutual parting of the ways.

      Nicks signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract ($31 million guaranteed) with Tampa Bay in 2012 but developed a MRSA infection in 2013 after he sustained a toe injury and played in only two games last season. The 29-year-old Nicks was limited to nine games the past two seasons because of health issues. Before coming to Tampa, he played four seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

      ---Jon Beason admits he is taking "baby steps" in his recovery from the foot injury he suffered during the offseason program in June, but still hopes to be manning the middle linebacker spot when the New York Giants begin the regular season.

      Beason suffered a ligament tear and a small fracture to the sesamoid bone in his right foot, and began training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. He has been spending time on the underwater treadmill while setting benchmarks in his recovery -- although no timetable has been set for his return to the field.

      ---The Detroit Lions signed free agent punter Drew Butler and released safety Gabe Lynn/

      Butler joins the Lions after spending time with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2012) and the Chicago Bears (2013). Lynn was an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma.

      ---The Cleveland Browns signed linebacker Jamaal Westerman. He is a 6-foot-2, 257-pound veteran entering his sixth NFL season out of Rutgers.

      Westerman has spent time with the New York Jets (2009-11), Arizona (2012), Indianapolis (2012), Buffalo (2013) and Pittsburgh (2013).

      ---The Minnesota Vikings signed rookie wide receivers Andy Cruse and Ty Walker and waived wide receiver Josh Cooper and tackle Matt Hall.

      Minnesota also placed tight end Chase Ford, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Andrew Sendejo on the physically unable to perform list.

      ---The Cincinnati Bengals' medical staff cleared seven players to return to practice from the active/physically unable to perform, active/non-football injury and/or active/non-football illness lists.

      Defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi, guard Clint Boling, cornerback Leon Hall, punter Kevin Huber, wide receiver Colin Lockett, cornerback Onterio McCalebb and guard Mike Pollak each returned to practice.

      ---Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain was convicted of two misdemeanor charges from a 2013 incident in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., and was sentenced to 18 days in jail, according to Al.com.

      McClain's lawyer filed an appeal for a jury trial, which will allow McClain to return to the Cowboys' training camp.

      McClain was acquired by the Cowboys from the Baltimore Ravens for a sixth-round pick after he sat out the 2013 season. He had 246 tackles and 6.5 sacks in three seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

      ---The Seahawks signed guard C.J. Davis and wide receiver David Gilreath to reach their 90-man roster.

      Davis was out of the NFL last season after appearing in seven games for the Denver Broncos in 2012. He was originally signed by the Carolina Panthers in 2010 as an undrafted rookie and played in seven games that season.

      Seattle will be Gilreath's seventh NFL team since entering the league in 2011 with the Indianapolis Colts. He has played in three career games, all with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012.

      ---The Philadelphia Eagles excused safety Keelan Johnson from training camp for an undetermined amount of time stemming from his arrest in Arizona last weekend.

      Johnson, who will still count toward the team's 90-man roster, met with coach Chip Kelly on Thursday in Philadelphia.

      Johnson, 24, was arrested in Tempe for shoving a police officer after a bar fight, according to multiple reports.

      ---The Atlanta Falcons waived wide receiver Darius Johnson, who caught 22 passes for 210 yards with one touchdown last season as an undrafted rookie signed out of Southern Methodist.

      Johnson saw unexpected significant playing time in 2013, appearing in 10 games with Julio Jones suffering a season-ending injury.

      ---The Baltimore Ravens signed former New York Giants safety Will Hill, according to the Baltimore Sun.

      Hill is under a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, which triggered the Giants' release of him in early June. Hill was suspended two other times in 2012 and '13 for similar offenses. He missed four games in each of those seasons in due to drug-related bans.

      Just days after Hill's latest suspension was announced, the Giants released him June 2.

      ---The San Francisco 49ers elevated wide receiver Bruce Ellington from the active/non-football injury List to the active roster.

      The 49ers also signed tight end/long snapper Kyle Nelson to a one-year deal.

      ---The NFL and NFL Players Association announced that Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Derrick Brooks will serve as an appeals officer beginning this season.

      Brooks will hear player appeals of on-field discipline. He replaces Matt Birk, who was named NFL Director of Football Development earlier this month.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Patriots end TE Byham's short stay
    By The Sports Xchange

    The New England Patriots released tight end Nate Byham four days after the team signed him.

    • The 26-year-old Byham, a free agent, joined the Patriots on Monday after spending the past two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2010 season with the San Francisco 49ers.

      Byham has 11 career receptions for 82 yards and one touchdown with the Buccaneers and the 49ers. Knee and calf problems in 2013 limited Byham to four games before he went on injured reserve.

      The 49ers picked the 6-foot-4, 264-pounder in the sixth round of the NFL Draft in 2010. He was signed by Tampa Bay on Oct. 2, 2012, after the 49ers released him.

      In four NFL seasons, Byham has played in 29 games and started 11.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Lions sign P Butler, cut S Lynn
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Detroit Lions signed free agent punter Drew Butler and released safety Gabe Lynn, the team announced Friday.

    • Butler joins the Lions after spending time with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2012) and the Chicago Bears (2013). An undrafted free agent out of Georgia, Butler last played in an NFL game in 2012 with the Steelers, when he appeared in 16 games and tallied 77 punts for a net average of 37.8 yards, and had 26 punts inside the 20-yard line.

      Lynn was an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Buccaneers, Nicks go separate ways
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and guard Carl Nicks came to a mutual parting of the ways on Friday.

    • Nicks signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract ($31 million guaranteed) with Tampa Bay in 2012 but developed a MRSA infection in 2013 after he sustained a toe injury and played in only two games last season.

      "I'd like to thank the Buccaneers organization for working with me as I have attempted to get myself back on the football field," Nicks said. "However, after careful consideration, I have made the decision to step away from the game. This was by no means an easy decision, but I believe that it is what is best for me and my family as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers."

      The 29-year-old Nicks was limited to nine games the past two seasons because of health issues. Before coming to Tampa, he played four seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

      "I know this has been a difficult time for Carl and his family, but we respect his decision and thank him for his effort in trying to get back on the football field," Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said. "Carl is a very prideful athlete and has been an elite level guard in the league. We are all disappointed that he will not be a part of this new chapter of Buccaneers football."

      It's uncertain whether Nicks, who went to two Pro Bowls and started 70 games during his six seasons in the NFL, will retire.

      "I regret not having the opportunity to work with Carl, but I understand and support his decision to do what is best for him and his family," Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said. "I know Carl gave this decision a lot of careful consideration and I appreciate his honesty through this process."

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Desperate Bears look to 'deformed' safety
    By The Sports Xchange

    BOURBANNAIS, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears opened practices with a safety position so unsettled that even a 34-year-old who hasn't played in a year can't be ruled out of the starting mix.

    • Free agent acquisition Ryan Mundy practiced with starters throughout organized team activities and appears the closest thing the Bears have to a certainty at safety. He has had the most playing time in practices, but rookie Brock Vereen and former Packer M.D. Jennings manned the other spot in the offseason and are getting chances in practice with starters, as well.

      Waiting to enter the fray is Chris Conte, who had shoulder surgery in March, and Craig Steltz, who had groin surgery. Both began camp on the physically unable to perform list.

      The late entry was former Cardinal Adrian Wilson, who will be 35 in October and missed all of 2013 with what was widely reported as a torn Achilles but was actually a condition called Haglund's deformity. It's a painful condition resulting from a bony enlargement on the back of the heel near the Achilles, but general manager Phil Emery was willing to give him a chance.

      The injury had Wilson in a hard cast for about 10 weeks but did not require repairing the Achilles itself with surgery, so there is the possibility he didn't lose much speed from the injury. Then again, a 35ish safety can expect to lose something merely from age.

      "I'm just here to play football," Wilson said. "I'm a very prideful person. I take a lot of the critics that said I can't play, that it was a terrible signing by the Bears and all this other stuff that's being said, and I use that as motivation for me.

      "I think it's a low risk for (the Bears), high reward. So I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

      Wilson playing at a level anywhere near what he once did would be better than any of the other options at the position.

      "Obviously, I think I still have burst," Wilson said. "I think I can still play. And if Mr. Emery thought that I couldn't play or I thought that I couldn't do any of that stuff, he probably wouldn't have signed me or had me after the workout."

      Emery said he has had experience with veteran safety pickups proving productive.

      "I was in Atlanta when we brought in Lawyer Milloy," Emery said. "He played two more quality seasons. I'm not sure if he was 32 or 33, whatever his age was at the time. He was a veteran player, had been released due to contract -- in terms of not coming to contract with the Patriots. He gave us two great years. Explosive hitter.

      "I see that in Adrian. He sets a tone. Talk about a guy that (will) come down in the box and whack you and whack you in space. That's what he's done."

      Wilson would be considered at 6 feet 3, 222 pounds a large safety to say the least, which means he'd be expected to absorb a lot of hits and physical play in general. That's not easy for a 35-year-old.

      Coaches consider the safety positions interchangeable, so Wilson's goal is to learn both spots while he learns a defense he hasn't had the chance to know until now because he signed late in the offseason.

      "It's an open competition back there," coach Marc Trestman said. "If he's ready to go condition-wise in terms of on a daily basis, obviously improve his condition, and practice effectively, then we'll see where he's at. But we're excited to have him. He's been an outstanding player in this league for a very long time -- one of the best to play this game."

      Emery called it a situation where they're simply looking for two good men.

      "I'm just saying that we're going to move these guys around and try to find the best two guys that can play every down," Emery said.

      At the moment, best two is not a high level compared with many other teams in the NFC.

      Cornerback Kyle Fuller made an immediate impression in the first practice -- good and bad. Fuller made a couple interceptions but also gave up a long gainer to wide receiver Brandon Marshall on a post pattern and was beaten deep by wide receiver Chris Williams on a long pass behind the secondary.

      Fuller, who is playing starting left corner when starter Tim Jennings moves inside to the nickel-slot position, said he'll focus more on the mistakes.

      "Growing up playing football, I've always held myself to a high standard, so I'll be doing that same thing," Fuller said.

      NOTES: The only contract signing issue the Bears seem to have is veteran Lance Briggs, who is in the final year of his deal. It's unlikely the 33-year-old veteran would get a deal before late in the season. "I would say that it's normal for us not to sign or re-sign players during the fall," Emery said. "That's pretty much been our mode of operation. ... DE Jared Allen hasn't heard much talk among veterans about how the defense collapsed last year. "I think they understand what last year was," the new Bears pass rusher said. "They understand the injuries and stuff like that. They know every year rests on its own." .... RG Kyle Long began camp on the non-football illness list, so Eben Britton played with the starters in his place when practices began. Long is suffering from a viral illness and will be re-evaluated early next week after arriving Thursday for the opening of training camp.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Browns sign LB Westerman
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Cleveland Browns signed linebacker Jamaal Westerman, the team announced Friday.

    • Westerman is a 6-foot-2, 257-pound veteran entering his sixth NFL season out of Rutgers. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Jets in 2009, he has appeared in 58 games with three starts. He has amassed 35 tackles, six sacks, four fumble recoveries and one forced fumble, while adding 27 special teams tackles.

      Westerman has spent time with the Jets (2009-11), Arizona (2012), Indianapolis (2012), Buffalo (2013) and Pittsburgh (2013). Last season, he appeared in 12 games with the Bills and totaled five tackles and a half-sack on defense and four stops on special teams. He also appeared in the season finale with the Steelers, but did not record any statistics.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Giants' Beason taking 'baby steps' in rehab
    By The Sports Xchange

    Jon Beason admits he is taking "baby steps" in his recovery from the foot injury he suffered during the offseason program in June, but still hopes to be manning the middle linebacker spot when the New York Giants begin the regular season.

    • Beason suffered a ligament tear and a small fracture to the sesamoid bone in his right foot, and began training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. He has been spending time on the underwater treadmill while setting benchmarks in his recovery - although no timetable has been set for his return to the field.

      "I think I'm a little superhuman a little bit, I heal a little faster," Beason said Friday. "At the end of the day, hey, six weeks, that's what the timetable calls for, so you listen and try to do right."

      Beason has also spent significant time in the film room with Jameel McClain, his replacement in the middle of the Giants' defense. It's a crash course for McClain, the former Baltimore Raven who excelled in the team's 3-4 scheme but had his contract terminated in February to save $3.2 million in salary cap space. He signed with the Giants on March 15, and likely will slide outside once Beason is healthy.

      "I think it is important for everybody to have a role regardless of what people like to claim as a starter or someone who comes in and does something," said McClain, a seventh-year veteran who entered the league as an undrafted rookie and has gone on to start 55 of 87 career games. "As long as we can maximize everybody's ability, that just makes the defense better. When you have a lot of guys out there playing football, and everybody is fresh it becomes a more fun game at that point.

      "As far as who will be playing and what role they will be playing, that is up to the coaches, but we are just out there identifying what we can do well and they will put us in position after that."

      While Beason enjoys watching the linebacker unit come together, it's paining him not to be on the field building chemistry with his teammates.

      "Unfortunately, I've done it before and I hate it more than anything because you want to get that cohesiveness with the guys that you're going to be playing with," Beason said. "You're expected to play every single down. I am. That's where the conditioning, the cardio, all that stuff comes into play. If you want to play at a high level more consistently, you have to have that game shape, that football shape and that's what you miss when you don't have training camp.

      "That's why you don't just show up (for the regular-season opener) and say, 'Hey, we're going to play football.' That part of it is always tough. Mentally I think I'll be OK. I can handle it."

      It's the physical that remains the question. Beason is not ruling out squeezing in a preseason game.

      "You don't put much stock in them but you need them to get ready," he said. "The one thing you can't simulate, even in practice, is tackling. Live speed tackling to the ground is something you've kind of got to do. You start off the first preseason game a little sloppy and by the time the second, third preseason game rolls around you're good and you're back into that normal routine. "

      --Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said over the offseason that he's in the best shape of his life, and defensive line coach Robert Nunn has been impressed with what he has seen from JPP.

      "I don't see any limitations," Nunn said. "I don't know about what percentage he's at -- that's hard for me to calculate. But I see nothing that shows any kind of limitations. He really came in in good shape, good condition, good frame of mind, and is off to a really good start."

      Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka have been thrust into leadership roles following the departure of Justin Tuck, the venerable veteran who signed with the Oakland Raiders.

      "There was (a void) when we lost Osi (Umenyiora last offseason)," Nunn said. "When we lose those guys, you hate it, but that's part of the business and you just have to move on and other people take those roles. We have a healthy situation in the room. Now all we have to do is get out there and perform."

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Gronkowski: 'I'm not 100 percent'
    By The Sports Xchange

    New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was cleared by doctors to play, but he said after training camp Friday that he is not quite at that point just yet.

    • Gronkowski has participated in individual drills for the past two days and watched from the sidelines during team drills. He also worked with quarterback Tom Brady individually after practice.

      Gronkowski said he does not have a timetable on when he will take part in team drills.

      "If it was 100 percent, I'd be doing every single little thing," he said. "So, no, I'm not 100 percent, I'm working every single day to get to that."

      Gronkowski is working his way back from a torn right ACL he sustained on Dec. 8 against the Cleveland Browns. He also missed part of the season coming back from forearm and back injuries.

      The Patriots will have their first practice in pads Saturday, and Gronkowski plans to participate by running routes and working on cutting and planting.

      "For the last six months I worked my butt off to be here," Gronkowski said. "Cutting on it, making it stronger, I'm here and I'm ready.

      "Running routes, being in the huddle, catching balls from Tom Brady, it's a dream come true again. Feels like it got taken away and I feel like I got it back."

      Gronkowski, who is 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, does not plan to alter how he plays.

      "I'm going to go full speed and I'm going to keep smashing and bashing everything I do," he said.

      Gronkowski played 16 games in each of his first two NFL seasons in 2010 and '11, but a broken forearm limited him to 11 games in 2012 and he played seven games last year.

      "I'm preparing myself to my max ability right now and listening to my trainers so I'm ready to go when it comes down to it," he said.

      Last season, Gronkowski had 39 catches for 592 yards with four touchdowns. In four NFL seasons, he has 226 receptions with 3,255 yards with 42 touchdowns. He had 17 TDs in 2011.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Peterson wants Vikes' QB situation settled soon
    By The Sports Xchange

    MANKATO, Minn. -- Running back Adrian Peterson would appreciate the Minnesota Vikings settling down at quarterback, ASAP.

    • Coach Mike Zimmer called it a competition, saying veteran Matt Cassel enters camp as the "No. 1 quarterback" before quickly adding that things could change before the team lines up at St. Louis for the regular-season opener. Rookie first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater is Cassel's primary competition, while failed former first-rounder Christian Ponder hasn't been ruled out.

      "I feel like (deciding on a starter soon) is going to be very important for us," Peterson said. "Like I said, I feel like the coaching staff and the guys up top will evaluate and do what's best for us.

      "It feels good to know you have a couple guys to lean on, as well. It's not a secret. The quarterback position really hasn't played well, but that's why you bring guys in, you improve as an individual and you try to take steps forward. From what I've been able to see from Christian and Matt, those guys have done that and that's the approach that they're taking. That's all you can really ask."

      At 29 years old, Peterson most likely doesn't have much more time to wait on a quality quarterback. Despite a Hall of Fame-caliber start to his career, the Vikings have won only one playoff game during Peterson's career. That came in 2009 with Brett Favre at quarterback.

      --CB Captain Munnerlyn began training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list because of a hamstring injury. Zimmer said the injury isn't serious, but the Vikings must be careful not to push him back too fast. The depth at corner is unproven behind Munnerlyn and Xavier Rhodes.

      --SS Andrew Sendejo also began camp on the PUP because of lower back and ankle issues that go back to the end of last season. Sendejo once was considered strictly a special teamer, but he turned a lot of heads last year when he stepped in for injured starting FS Harrison Smith. If his health cooperates, Sendejo should compete for the starting safety job next to Smith.

      --TE Chase Ford is on PUP and could end up on injured reserve following surgery earlier this month for a stress fracture in his left foot. Ford was one of the candidates for the second pass-catching tight end position behind starter Kyle Rudolph.

      --NT Linval Joseph, who missed most of the offseason team work because of shoulder surgery, reported to camp in excellent shape. Zimmer was impressed and said he expects "great things" from Joseph at a position that Zimmer calls a "vital" part of his defensive schemes.

      --LT Matt Kalil, who also missed a lot of the offseason team work because of knee surgery, was cleared recently. He said his knee is "super strong." Kalil will need his health if he's to put his sophomore slide behind him. After a Pro Bowl rookie season in 2012, Kalil was far too inconsistent a year ago.

      --WRs Andy Cruse and Ty Walker, first-year players, were signed Friday to provide camp depth at receiver. WR Josh Cooper, a third-year pro, and undrafted rookie OT Matt Hall were released.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Vikings address Priefer situation head on, and move on
    By The Sports Xchange

    MANKATO, Minn. -- A new head coach, major turnover on defense and a quarterback competition that includes an increasingly popular rookie first-round draft pick all were overshadowed by an unwanted distraction as the Minnesota Vikings reported to training camp in Mankato, Minn., for the 49th consecutive season.

    • The Vikings hope that changes ASAP, which is why they focused their attention on special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who will be suspended by the team for the first two or three regular-season games because of an anti-gay comment he made in a team setting in 2012.

      In hopes of addressing the situation en masse and then putting it behind them quickly, the Vikings set up press conference settings for general manager Rick Spielman, coach Mike Zimmer, Priefer and long snapper Cullen Loeffler, who was the one who confirmed the comments through an independent investigation into the allegations made by former punter Chris Kluwe.

      This was the first time Priefer had addressed the media since the suspension was announced last week. Priefer was suspended for three games, but can reduce that to two games if he successfully completes sensitivity training.

      "I like to set a higher standard for myself -- a higher standard of conduct, a higher standard of work ethic, a higher standard of being a father and a husband and I expect a lot from my players as well," Priefer said. "In this situation, with my comment, I failed. I didn't just go below the bar. I went way below the bar. I made a mistake. I was wrong. I brought a lot of undue attention to the Minnesota Vikings organization and brought an unwanted distraction, and I apologize. The apology that I spoke about, that I put out (in a statement) on (July 18), I want to reiterate that in a very humble and sincere manner."

      None of those who spoke on Thursday would go into details of what was said to investigators during a six-month investigation. Reporters were referred to the 29-page summary of the findings that was released by the Vikings last week. The Vikings also wouldn't explain the decision to hire a law firm to interpret the results of the investigation rather than release the 150-page investigation itself.

      "I spoke to the appropriate individuals and I cooperated throughout this entire process and the results are in that investigation," Priefer said. "And now I think it's time to move on."

      As of Friday, the Vikings were still trying to figure out how to handle Priefer's absence. They have not ruled out bringing in an interim special teams coach. Priefer's assistant, Ryan Ficken, also is a possible replacement.

      Spielman expressed the team's respect for Priefer as a quality coach and person who made a mistake.

      "When the report came out last Friday and I know we reviewed everything, and this is what we thought and our ownership thought was the best course of action," Spielman said.

      The situation began in a January article on the website Deadspin.com, when Kluwe accused Priefer of saying in a 2012 team meeting, "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows." This was in reference to Kluwe's support of gay marriage rights.

      Priefer said this during a meeting with kicker Blair Walsh and Loeffler. Loeffler said Thursday that he never thought it was "a serious comment."

      "I always thought it was a joke," Loeffler said. "They both laughed about it."

      Kluwe claims Priefer caused his release because of his support of gay marriage. The Vikings argued that Kluwe's release was based solely on performance. After Kluwe's subpar 2012 season, the team drafted punter Jeff Locke, a younger and much cheaper alternative to Kluwe. According to the law firm hired by the Vikings to interpret the investigation, evidence supported the Vikings' claim that Kluwe was released because of performance.

      Priefer was emotional at times while talking about the incident. After initially denying vehemently that he made the remarks, Priefer backtracked and apologized a week ago in a team release and again on Thursday.

      "The biggest thing I regret is I brought a lot of bad publicity to the Minnesota Vikings and I felt like I let my family down," Priefer said, choking up.

      Zimmer acknowledged it was a distraction Thursday, but he doesn't expect it to be one going forward.

      "I've been with the Dallas Cowboys and the Bengals and Atlanta and there have been distractions on every single team -- so-called distractions," he said. "But the media and the fans make it out to be a little bit bigger of a distraction than it is for the football team. It's a distraction today. (Friday), it's on to football."

      He also said he never considered firing Priefer. Priefer was one of three assistants that Zimmer retained from Leslie Frazier's staff.

      "I know what is inside of him," he said. "I know what's in his heart. And he made a mistake, and if anyone here hasn't made a mistake, I want you to raise your hand, because I know I've made plenty."

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Lynch a no-show at Seahawks' camp
    By The Sports Xchange

    Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch officially started his contract holdout Friday by not attending the first day of training camp in Renton.

    • Lynch is in the third year of a four-year, $30 million contract. He received $6 million of it in a signing bonus. He will make $5 million in base salary this season and $5.5 million in 2015, but he wants more money up front or more guaranteed money.

      General manager John Schneider addressed Lynch's absence on ESPN radio in Seattle but would not say if the team would restructure the final two years on his contract.

      "Without being specific, obviously, we don't talk people's contracts," Schneider said. "We all love Marshawn, but he made a decision not to be here.

      "The thing I would say, without getting into it too deep, is we've had a plan in place for several years. Just two years ago, Marshawn was one of the first guys we were able to reward."

      Without Lynch, the Seahawks could start Christine Michael or Robert Turbin.

      "I think Lynch, obviously, is a heck of a running back," Schneider said. "But just like last year with (cornerback) Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell stepped up when he had to go. It's the environment here of the next man up. That's no disrespect to Marshawn. Everyone knows what he can do. I mean, the man caused an earthquake."

      The earthquake refers to Lynch's 2011 Beast Quake playoff touchdown against the New Orleans Saints.

      Schneider said he is pleased with how Michael has performed.

      "Christine has worked his tail off and took a big step forward in his work ethic and maturity level," Schneider said. "He's more focused than he has been."

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Seven Bengals medically cleared to practice
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Cincinnati Bengals' medical staff cleared seven players to return to practice on Friday from the active/physically unable to perform, active/non-football injury and/or active/non-football illness lists.

    • Defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi, guard Clint Boling, cornerback Leon Hall, punter Kevin Huber, wide receiver Colin Lockett, cornerback Onterio McCalebb and guard Mike Pollak each returned to practice.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Cowboys LB McClain sentenced to jail
    By The Sports Xchange

    Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain was convicted of two misdemeanor charges from a 2013 incident in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., and was sentenced to 18 days in jail, according to Al.com.

    • McClain's lawyer filed an appeal for a jury trial, which will allow McClain to return to the Cowboys' training camp.

      McClain was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after he allegedly yelled "(Expletive) the police" at a crowded park. in Decatur. His lawyer disputes if it was McClain who actually is the one who said it.

      However, police video did indicate that McClain told officers: "You can't expect to be arrested three times in three years and play in the NFL."

      McClain was acquired by the Cowboys from the Baltimore Ravens for a sixth-round pick after he sat out the 2013 season. He had 246 tackles and 6.5 sacks in three seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Vikings sign Cruse, Walker
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Minnesota Vikings made a series of roster moves on Friday.

    • The team signed rookie wide receivers Andy Cruse and Ty Walker and waived wide receiver Josh Cooper and tackle Matt Hall.

      Minnesota also placed tight end Chase Ford, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Andrew Sendejo on the physically unable to perform list.

      Cruse spent the first 10 weeks of the 2013 season on the Houston Texans' practice squad. He entered the NFL with the Texans as an undrafted free agent out of Miami (Ohio). He was released on May 19.

      Walker spent last season on the practice squads of the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. He played in all four games with the Packers during the 2013 preseason. He signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    NFL names Brooks as appeals officer
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NFL and NFL Players Association announced Friday that Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Derrick Brooks will serve as an appeals officer beginning this season.

    • Brooks will hear player appeals of on-field discipline. He replaces Matt Birk, who was named NFL Director of Football Development earlier this month.

      Brooks spent 1995-2008 as a linebacker with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his 14 seasons, he played every game and was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times. He helped the Buccaneers win Super Bowl XXXVII.

      Since 2011, Brooks served as the president of the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena League.

      "Derrick views this game with a very unique understanding as both a player and a team president," NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said in a statement. "His review of appeals will be informed by experience as a player and as an executive."

      Brooks joins former NFL player and coach Ted Cottrell as the league's appeals officers.

      "Derrick was jointly selected by the Players and the NFL and we expect he will bring expertise and professionalism to his role as an arbitration officer," NFLPA Senior Director of Player Affairs and Development Jason Belser said in a statement. "We look forward to working with him."

      Brooks and Cottrell are jointly appointed and jointly compensated by the NFL and NFLPA.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Seahawks sign G Davis, WR Gilreath
    By The Sports Xchange

    RENTON, Wash. -- The Seahawks signed guard C.J. Davis and wide receiver David Gilreath to reach their 90-man roster limit as the defending Super Bowl champions opened training camp Friday.

    • Davis was out of the NFL last season after appearing in seven games for the Denver Broncos in 2012. He was originally signed by the Carolina Panthers in 2010 as an undrafted rookie and played in seven games that season.

      Seattle will be Gilreath's seventh NFL team since entering the league in 2011 with the Indianapolis Colts. He has played in three career games, all with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Eagles excuse S Johnson from camp
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Philadelphia Eagles announced Friday that they excused safety Keelan Johnson from training camp for an undetermined amount of time stemming from his arrest in Arizona last weekend.

    • Johnson, who will still count toward the team's 90-man roster, met with coach Chip Kelly on Thursday in Philadelphia.

      The team wrote in a statement that it will not comment any further because it is a pending legal matter.

      Johnson, 24, was arrested in Tempe for shoving a police officer after a bar fight, according to multiple reports.

      The Eagles signed Johnson to the practice squad last season and was placed on the active roster on Dec. 17. He had two tackles.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Falcons waive WR Johnson
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Atlanta Falcons waived wide receiver Darius Johnson, who caught 22 passes for 210 yards with one touchdown last season as an undrafted rookie signed out of Southern Methodist.

    • Johnson saw unexpected significant playing time in 2013, appearing in 10 games with Julio Jones suffering a season-ending injury.

      Undersized at 5-feet-10 and 175 pounds, Johnson went undrafted after posting modest 40-yard dash times of 4.53 seconds at the Scouting Combine and 4.59 at his pro day in 2013. But he is a solid route-runner and earned a roster spot with the Falcons' practice squad coming out of training camp and was signed to the active roster on Oct. 19.

      His most memorable game as a rookie came in a six-catch, 67-yard effort on Thursday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints, but the performance was marred by Johnson's fumble in the red zone that cost the Falcons a chance at a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

      With Jones healthy and a five rookies added to the wide receiver depth chart along with veteran Devin Hester, the Falcons waived Johnson just one day into training camp.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014
    Fans stoke Dalton debate: 'AJ to A.J.' is future
    By The Sports Xchange

    CINCINNATI -- While debates simmer about if, when and for how much the Cincinnati Bengals should redo quarterback Andy Dalton's contract, now in its fourth year, the fans weighed in when training camp began Thursday.

    • Shortly after practice began, some fans hung a couple of signs over the railing of the bridge above the practice fields.

      One implored the Bengals to not sign Dalton, while the other read "AJ to A.J. The future is now," referring to rookie quarterback AJ McCarron, whom the team selected in the fifth round, and All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green.

      Another sign read: "Don't sign Dalton. He sucks." The signs were taken down quickly.

      Meanwhile, the team and player continue to indicate a deal is in the works and it will be only a matter of time before there is a resolution.

      Early this week, Bengals owner Mike Brown suggested Dalton is worthy of a deal similar to the one San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick signed this year -- a six-year extension worth as much as $126 million, give or take a truckload of cash. That is a bit misleading because the deal includes a lot of conditions, escalators and de-escalators, but does have $61 million guaranteed.

      But it is a sure bet that Dalton is clinging to that big number in negotiations. After all, he has taken the Bengals to three straight playoffs, although their stay was brief each time. Kaepernick took over the 49ers quarterback job in midseason in 2012 and took the team to the Super Bowl before losing that final game to the Baltimore Ravens. Last season, he led the 49ers to the brink of making another Super Bowl, missing by inches on a last-ditch pass against the Seattle Seahawks.

      Despite Brown's remark, most evaluators do not rate Dalton as highly as they do Kaepernick. That is where curiosity is rampant about what kind of deal will be made. Dalton played it down, saying it will just be a matter of time, which he repeated in various ways Thursday before the team's first training camp practice.

      "When the time is right, it's going to happen," he said. "Until then there is nothing new. I can't worry about it because there's no reason to. Will it be a relief when it gets done? Yeah, I'm sure because I won't have to keep talking to y'all about it."