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Titans’ O.J. Murdock dead at 25, police say he committed suicide

Tennessee Titans wide receiver O.J. Murdock committed suicide this morning in front of the Tampa high school he graduated from, according to the Tampa Police Department. He was 25 years old.

According to a news release distributed by the Tampa police, Orenthal James Murdock was found in his car at approximately 8:30 a.m. in front of Middleton High School. He had suffered an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound and was transported to Tampa General Hospital in critical condition.

Murdock was pronounced dead at 10:43 a.m.

After Murdock did not report to the Titans’ training camp last week, coach Mike Munchak said Murdock had been excused for “personal reasons.” No details have emerged of the issues that Murdock was dealing with.

An undrafted free agent who signed with the Titans out of Fort Hays State last year, Murdock missed the entire season with an Achilles injury. Murdock began his college career at South Carolina, where he played for two years and was a teammate of Kenny McKinley, a Denver Broncos wide receiver who committed suicide in 2010.

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Bucs sign defensive end Justin Trattou

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On the eve of training camp, the Buccaneers made a roster move. They signed veteran defensive end Justin Trattou.

The Bucs waived rookie Evan Panfil with an injury designation to make room.

Trattou played in 37 games, with no starts, in six seasons. He spent 21/2 seasons with the Giants before moving on to the Vikings. Trattou played in all 16 games with the Vikings last season.

The 28-year-old has 13 career tackles and two interceptions.

Trattou started on Florida’s 2008 national championship team, making 27 tackles and four tackles for loss.

He gives the Bucs more short-term depth as several defensive ends recover from injury.

Panfil signed with the Bucs as an undrafted rookie out of Purdue. He worked with the team in OTAs and minicamp.

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Cardinals sign veteran LB Philip Wheeler

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The Cardinals announced they have signed linebacker Philip Wheeler to a one-year deal.

Wheeler has played in 133 games, with 66 starts in nine seasons. He has played for the Colts (2008-11), Raiders (2012), Dolphins (2013-14), and Falcons (2015-16) during his career. In his career, he has 513 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 25 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 15 passes defensed.

Wheeler played the past two season with the Falcons, appearing in 28 games, including the postseason. He made one tackle in Super Bowl LI against the Patriots. 
 
The 32-year-old entered the league with the Colts as a third-round selection in 2008. He has played in all 16 games in six different seasons in his career, including 2013 with the Dolphins when he started every game and had a career-high 118 tackles.
 

 

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D’Onta Foreman’s court date move to Aug. 30

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Texans running back D’Onta Foreman has a new court date in Austin, Texas. The date was moved from Monday to Aug. 30, attorney Chip Lewis told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Foreman, a third-round pick from the University of Texas, told reporters Wednesday that Lewis is working to get marijuana and weapons charges dropped. Anything other than abandonment of the marijuana charges will result in a one-game suspension. If the weapons charges aren’t dropped, he could face other discipline.

Lewis has said the handgun found in Foreman’s car was legal, recently purchased by Foreman, registered in his name and properly secured inside the vehicle. The attorney said the marijuana belonged to the passenger in Foreman’s car.

“I definitely feel good about it,” Foreman said Wednesday. “My lawyer is great. He’s doing everything possible to get everything dropped, and like I said, I’m innocent and I feel like — it’s the truth, I am innocent — so we’re looking forward to getting everything dropped and everything will take care of itself.”

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T.J. Ward not focused on contract as he enters final year of deal

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T.J. Ward enters the final year of his contract not knowing whether this marks his final season in Denver. But the safety isn’t thinking about the future as training camp begins.

“”When it comes to my contract, I am trying to do everything I did before getting my last deal,” Ward said, via Troy Renck of Denver’s ABC affiliate. “I am just trying to play my best football. Last year was a disappointment for me and for the team. I am just trying to have a much better season, regardless of the contract. You can throw all that to the side. I am here playing football and trying to be the best football player, and the best player in the league.”

Ward signed a four-year, $22.5 million deal with the Broncos in 2014 after four years in Cleveland. The sides have had no recent talks on an extension, according to Renck.

Ward, 30, made the Pro Bowl for three consecutive seasons from 2013-15. Last season, he made 87 tackles, one sack and one interception, missing the final two games with injury. Ward hopes to return to his Pro Bowl form, which obviously will help him in contract negotiations either with the Broncos or once he hits free agency.

“We went 9-7; it wasn’t my best season; I got hurt,” Ward said. “It’s a bunch of stuff. That’s what I am looking at.”

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Odell Beckham wants to be highest-paid player in league

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Owner John Mara said recently that the Giants “certainly don’t want to seeOdell Beckham playing for anyone but them and it appears Beckham wants the team to pay handsomely for the right to keep him in Jersey.

Beckham spoke to Uninterrupted this week about a variety of topics, including his contractual future in the NFL. Beckham said that a forthcoming second NFL deal wasn’t on his mind when he reported to minicamp after skipping the voluntary portion of the team’s offseason program, but now admits that he’s set a lofty goal on that front.

“It’s like the elephant in the room, and you don’t want to talk about it but I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’m like, ‘No, I’m going to … there’s no need to not talk about it,'” Beckham said. “I believe that I will be hopefully not just the highest-paid receiver in the league, but the highest paid, period.”

Unless Mara has a strong desire to make good on Beckham’s dream, it seems unlikely that Beckham will realize that goal. Quarterbacks dominate the list of top-paid players in the league and the exceptions are usually tasked with sacking those well-paid signal callers. The top-paid wideouts in the league right now — Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas — have deals averaging between $14-17 million per season. That pales in comparison to the best-paid players overall and there’s not much cause for Beckham to leave them well behind even if he does go to the top of the receiver list.

The Giants exercised their option on Beckham’s contract for 2018 and they will then have the franchise tag at their disposal, so there’s not much immediate fear that they’ll lose him if he pushes to make his hope become reality. That said, it should be interesting to see how things play out from here given the parameters Beckham would like to set for his future compensation.

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Cardinals make moves, including signing TE Gerald Christian

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The Cardinals signed tight end Gerald Christian to a one-year contract, releasing tight end Steven Wroblewski to make room.

Arizona also announced it had reached injury settlements with linebacker Tevin Floyd (hamstring) and cornerback Jumal Rolle (hamstring).

Christian returns to the Cardinals, who made him a seventh-round choice in the 2015 draft out of Louisville. As the final pick of the draft that year, Christian earned the title of Mr. Irrelevant.

Christian was in training camp with the Cardinals last year before the team released him Aug. 29.

He played in three games with Buffalo last season and had one reception for 14 yards after splitting the season between the Bills’ active roster and practice squad. Christian was released by the Bills on March 6.
 

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Bills to manage Sammy Watkins’ practice reps

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Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins avoided the physically unable to perform list to start camp, but he’s not ready for a full workload yet.

Watkins had foot surgery this offseason and coach Sean McDermott said on Thursday that the team has put together a plan to monitor Watkins’ workload in hopes of avoiding more problems in the future.

“We’ve put together a rep count that will build up and at times come down a little bit just based off of the plan from the outset,” McDermott said, via the team’s website. “But we’ve got to be flexible with that and see how he feels and that starts tonight.”

Watkins’ ability to stay healthy is important to the Buffalo offense and to Watkins, who is entering the final year of his contract after the team opted not to exercise their option on his contract for 2018.

Left tackle Cordy Glenn doesn’t have the same contract issue, but he’s in the same boat as Watkins when it comes to his workload early in camp. Ankle issues cost him five games last year and McDermott said his reps will also be managed closely as the Bills get to work this summer.

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Texans claim Devin Street

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The Texans bolstered their receiver depth, claiming Devin Street off waivers from the Jets. The Jets waived Street on Wednesday after claiming Lucky Whitehead off waivers.

The Cowboys drafted Street in the fifth round in 2014. He spent two seasons in Dallas, playing in 30 games, mostly on special teams. He made nine catches for 132 yards and a touchdown with the Cowboys.

Dallas waived Street last year coming out of the preseason, and the Patriots signed him to their practice squad. He didn’t last long in New England, and the Colts added him to their active roster. Indianapolis released him before this year’s draft.

The Patriots claimed Street and then released him, and he signed with the Jets early last month.

Street, 26, played in five games with the Colts last season, making one catch for 20 yards.

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Eli Manning on a pitch count in camp

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Giants quarterback Eli Manning will have his workload reduced in training camp, General Manager Jerry Reese said Thursday.

“Eli has to take care of himself and get himself ready to play mentally and physically,” Reese said, via Michael Eisen of the team website. “When guys get up in age, you have to take care of them. There are a few guys on the squad that coach [Ben] McAdoo and our staff, we’ve talked about, ‘Okay, let’s make sure these guys get to the game, get to the season.’ You’ve got to protect them in some ways. Each one of those guys you want to protect, along with a few more guys, older guys, you want to protect.”

Manning, 36, enters his 14th season having started 211 consecutive games, including the posteseason. He has thrown 7,225 career passes in regular-season and postseason games. So putting him on a training camp “pitch count” makes sense.

“You can call it a pitch count,” Reese said. “You can frame it like that; you can frame it however you like. That’s a good way to frame it if you like.”

The Giants can expect push back from Manning, who prefers to make most of the snaps in practice. But he threw 598 passes in the 2016 regular season, the third-highest total of his career, and another 44 in the playoffs.

Reese pointed to Tony Romo’s practice schedule in 2014 when the Cowboys quarterback was returning from back surgery. Romo didn’t practice on Wednesdays during the regular season and had the best season of his career, leading the league in completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating.

“I think it is just commonsense,” Reese said. “You see it all around the National Football League. I think Romo, one year there was one day where he never practiced. I think it was on a Wednesday or something like that. You see it all over the league with older players; coaches give them some time off or some reps off. We have some older players at different positions that we want to have fresh going into the games and the latter part of this season and again hopefully the playoffs.”

 

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Broncos signing Stevan Ridley

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The Broncos won’t have running back Devontae Booker for training camp or the preseason as a result of a wrist injury so they are adding a veteran to the backfield.

According to multiple reports, the Broncos will sign Stevan Ridley to help make up for the absence of Booker.

Ridley played one game for the Falcons last season and ran the ball three times for seven yards. He spent 2015 with the Jets, playing in eight games after recovering from a torn ACL suffered while playing for the Patriots in 2014. Ridley spent four seasons in New England and set personal bests with 290 carries for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns.

If Booker’s recovery progresses as expected and Jamaal Charles shows he has something left in the tank, there probably won’t be space for Ridley on the Broncos roster come September. Should things go the other way on either of those fronts, however, Ridley may be able to find a role in Denver this year.

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Le’Veon Bell doesn’t report to Steelers camp

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Steelers players reported to training camp on Thursday, but running back Le’Veon Bell wasn’t among them.

That comes as no surprise as Bell has not signed his $12.1 million franchise tender and players in that position tend to stay away from the early part of camp at the very least. The deadline to sign a longer deal passed on July 17, leaving that deal on the table through the start of the season unless the Steelers offer him more money or a promise not to use the franchise tag to make reporting more worth Bell’s while.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown has been lobbying Bell to report to work recently and continued that effort on Thursday.

“When trying to do something special, we would like all our guys here,” Brown said, via ESPN.com.

Brown’s overtures have fallen on deaf ears to this point, so the Steelers will begin practicing with rookie James Conner in position to take on a bigger workload at running back. How long that remains the case will be a big question for the Steelers as camp unfolds in the coming days and weeks.

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Martellus Bennett goes all in with Packers

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Packers tight end Martellus Bennett has been called “cheesy” before, but the name seemed to fit perfectly as he conducted interviews Thursday wearing a foam cheesehead.

“I usually like the metaphorical cheese that goes in my pocket, but the cheese that goes on my head works as well,” Bennett said. via Rob Demovsky of ESPN. “I’ve had this for a while. Sometimes I wear it around the building just to let the guys know that I’m part of the culture. I like it, though.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy refers to Bennett’s “big personality,” and it fits.

Bennett, 30, expects Green Bay to be his last stop after winning a Super Bowl with the Patriots last season. He said he took advantage of the 30 percent employee discount in the Packers’ Pro Shop, buying the cheesehead soon after he signed a three-year, $21 million deal.

On Tuesday night, Bennett spent the night in front of his locker at Lambeau Field after arriving at St. Norbert College to find the dorms locked.

“I was really sleepy throughout the day [Wednesday], but I toughed it through,” Bennett said. “It’s kind of weird sleeping in a corporate environment; you never get too comfortable. I like to Winnie the Pooh it, which is just sleep in like a hoodie, and nothing else like Winnie the Pooh, but I can’t do that here because if I Winnie the Pooh’d it here in my locker, it’s just weird. So I couldn’t get too comfortable to get too much sleep.”

Bennett handed reporters copies of his new comic book after his 30-minute interview ended.

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Crowds keep getting bigger at Patriots practices

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With Tom Brady now reaching G.O.A.T status, it’s critical to see him play before his career ends. It’s also critical, apparently, to see him practice.

Via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, more than 15,000 fans showed up for Thursday’s Patriots practice. The team opened Gillette Stadium ramps overlooking the practice fields to accommodate the sea of humanity hoping to see the Patriots play.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski understands the magnitude of the interest, and he acknowledges who it’s for.

“Every single year it gets louder and louder,” Gronkowski said, via Reiss. “It’s Tom. If I was in the stands, too, I’d be up on my feet cheering for him. What he’s done for this organization, for all the fans, all the football he keeps playing, it’s just unbelievable. I think every time he gets out on the field, he deserves a standing ovation. I would be one of them in the crowd doing it too.”

And that’s one of the only times that Gronk has ever used the phrase “doing it” without it referring to oh never mind.

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Jets claim running back Marcus Murphy off waivers

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The Jets claimed running back Marcus Murphy off waivers from the Saints, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post.

Murphy joins Lucky Whitehead, whom the Jets claimed off waivers from the Cowboys on Wednesday, among the competitors for the return spots. Murphy has 34 career punt returns for a 9.4 yards average and one touchdown and 19 kickoff returns for a 21.3 yards average. Whitehead has 44 career punt returns for a 6.9 yards average and 33 kickoff returns for a 25.6 yards average.

Murphy joined the Saints as a seventh-round pick in 2015. He contributed mostly on special teams the past two seasons but ball security issues prompted the Saints to make Murphy inactive on game day for the final 13 games.

The Saints’ offseason additions of running backs Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara and receiver/returner Ted Ginn Jr. made Murphy expendable.

Murphy is entering the third year of his four-year, $2.35 million contract, with a base salary of $615,000 this season.

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Drew Brees doesn’t expect or desire contract talks this summer

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In January, Saints quarterback Drew Brees said that he was comfortable playing out the final year of his contract in 2017 and nothing has changed in the interim.

Brees, who has a clause in his contract barring the Saints from using the franchise tag, said that he feels no “sense of urgency” to get a deal in place for the 2018 season. He said his focus is on making sure that he and the Saints are set up for success and that no one has been or will be talking about a new contract in New Orleans until the year is out.

“I don’t expect them to,” Brees said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I don’t really desire them to. I just want to play football. I want to help this team.”

It’s impossible to know exactly how things will play out for Brees this season, but there were no signs of impending doom last season. Brees threw for 5,208 yards while starting every game and throwing 37 touchdowns. More of the same will set him up quite nicely for when the focus does turn to contractual matters, which would explain why getting something done now isn’t an urgent matter for the quarterback.

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