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No structural damage to Dez Bryant’s back

Dez Bryant, DeAngelo Hall AP

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant had to leave the stadium in a wheelchair after injuring his back during Sunday night’s season-ending loss to the Redskins and he was still on crutches Tuesday, leading to tests over the last few days to determine the extent of any damage.

Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com reports that the Cowboys got good news from those tests. Bryant has no structural damage to his back and the receiver has been diagnosed with back spasms that should not impact his readiness for next season.

Bryant also has a fractured index finger on his left hand, which was thought to be a season-ending injury until Bryant opted to put off surgery to help the Cowboys’ attempt to make the playoffs. Bryant did plenty in the final weeks to help that effort, one that obviously fell short although Watkins reports that the end of the season hasn’t led to the surgery being scheduled yet.

Bryant put together a huge 2012 season, finishing with 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. It’s the best of his three NFL seasons and exactly the kind of production the Cowboys were hoping to get when they selected Bryant in the first round of the 2010 draft.

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Bears part ways with Matt Slauson, too

Zz1lMjAwNmY1OTVlNTJjMTNiMTk3ZGRhMzRjYTBkZWZjOA== AP

A pair of veteran players are now former members of the Bears. On Sunday evening, the Bears officially released offensive lineman Matt Slauson and safety Antrel Rolle.

“We thank Matt and Antrel for the dedication and leadership they brought to our organization,” Bears G.M. Ryan Pace said in a press release.  “Both men did everything we asked of them.  Part of growing as a team is making difficult decisions like the ones we made today.  We never take them lightly given the respect we have for everyone who has put on a Bears uniform.  We wish each of them the very best as they move forward.”

Slauson, 30, started all 16 games last year, his third with the Bears. He previously played for the Jets.

Due to make $2.887 million in 2016, Slauson will count $835,000 against the cap. If the Bears made him a post-June 1 cut, that amount will be split over the next two years.

Both Slauson and Rolle become immediate free agents. Still, it would have been far better for both to become free agents long before the draft, and definitely not after it ended.

Pace can say what he wants about respecting Rolle and Slauson, but if the team truly respected them they would have been cut at a time when they would have had a much better opportunity to find work elsewhere. Now that teams with needs at those positions have filled them through the draft, it becomes much harder.

But Welcome to the Family anyway, all you draft picks who eventually could be treated the same way by the Bears or one of the other 31 franchises.

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Giants draft no linemen, on either side of the ball

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When the Giants won their last two Super Bowls, they had very strong line play, offensively and defensively. Currently, they don’t have a very strong offensive or defensive line. During the 2016 draft, the Giants drafted no offensive linemen and no defensive linemen.

As pointed out by Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, it’s the first time in franchise history that neither line was addressed in the draft.

“[W]e weren’t going to force anything,” Giants V.P. of player evaluation Marc Ross said after the draft ended, via Vacchiano. “You always want big bodies, but you want the right big bodies.”

Ross noted, per Vacchiano, that the Giants have a pair of former first-rounders (Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh) and a second-rounder (Weston Richburg). Tackle Jack Conklin was a possibility, but he was gone before the Giants selected. The Giants also spent millions on defensive linemen Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon.

“There were discussions here or there,” Ross said regarding the possibility of drafting a lineman. “But nobody at the time who was the highest-ranked player on our board, or close to that.”

The question now becomes, as Vacchiano points out, whether the Giants will end up with 49ers tackle Anthony Davis. Unretired for now, he wants to play in 2016 but not in San Francisco. G.M. Jerry Reese (wisely) declined to talk about Davis, but said that the team will “continue to upgrade our roster every day.”

The ceiling is high, so that shouldn’t be hard. At some point, the hay will be in the barn. As to the process of obtaining talent with the involuntary process of calling digs on incoming players, the hay (or lack of it) is already there.

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Derek Watt predicts a possible mutual knockout with J.J.

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 31: Corey Clement #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates with Derek Watt #34 after scoring a touchdown during the second half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Camp Randall Stadium on October 31, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Corey Clement; Derek Watt Getty Images

J.J. Watt and Derek Watt could have a couple of reunions over Thanksgiving weekend. One at the dinner table on Thursday, and another on the football field on Sunday.

The Chargers and Texans are due to meet in Houston on November 27, and if pick No. 198 in the 2016 draft makes the team in San Diego and contributes, he’ll have a chance to say a different kind of hello to his brother.

We might just knock each other out,” Derek Watt said after being drafted, via the Associated Press.

Most would put their money on J.J., primary since Derek is an unknown commodity. He’s not unknown to one specific member of the Chargers — the running back for whom Derek Watt blocked at Wisconsin.

“He was hoping they could get me there,” Derek Watt said of 2015 first-rounder Melvin Gordon. “He was extremely happy and looking forward to me being back out there with him. . . . He’s definitely an extremely talented guy. He’s got a year under his belt now so I think that definitely helps him out. I’m going to go out there and try to help him do everything I can. We’re going to pick up right where we left off, I think.”

That would be great news for Gordon, who didn’t rush for 100 yards once in 2015 and who averaged 3.5 yards per carry.

“We already know how each other kind of thinks and what each other sees,” Derek Watt said. “We’ve been in the same meetings, we’ve been involved in the same plays and we communicate what we see on the field to each other. He’ll tell me if he thinks I should have done something differently or if he saw something other than what I saw, and I’ll do the same. I’ll tell him, ‘Hey, I thought you could have done this or that.'”

Coach Mike McCoy seems to think that having a true fullback will help, but that it’s won’t magically improve the quality of the team’s running game.

“You could very easily argue, ‘Eliminate that guy and he should be able to see better,'” McCoy said, via the AP. “It’s a matter of everybody doing their jobs better, and I’ll say, committing to the run more. Running the ball more.”

Whether the Chargers will be able to run the ball or otherwise move it against the Texans in Week 12 could depend on whether Derek Watt or anyone else on the field wearing lightning bolts on his helmet is able to neutralize Derek Watt’s big brother.

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DeMarco Murray tells Titans’ coaches he’ll mentor Derrick Henry

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 12:  DeMarco Murray attends Sports Illustrated's Fashionable 50 NYC Event at Vandal on April 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images) Getty Images

Titans running back DeMarco Murray isn’t worried about second-round draft pick Derrick Henry taking carries away from him.

Murray told the Titans’ coaches he’s looking forward to playing with Henry and helping the Heisman Trophy winner develop into an NFL player. Titans coach Mike Mularkey said he called Murray to make sure he understood that Henry wasn’t coming to take the starting job away from Murray, and Mularkey said he and Murray are on the same page.

“You don’t do it for everybody, but there’s certain circumstances that you feel like it is necessary to make sure you are clear on the motive and why you are doing things,’’ Mularkey said of calling Murray. “Out of respect [for DeMarco] I wanted to do that.”

Mularkey said he was pleased with how eager Murray sounded to work with Henry.

“First of all, he loved the pick,’’ Mularkey said of Murray. “And he said, ‘He’s going to make me better and I am going to do the same for him.’ He said, ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to make him a great player‘.”

According to Mularkey, Henry’s job will be to back Murray up.

“I told DeMarco, ‘Nothing has changed since we made the trade for you. You’re still going to be the guy who is going to carry the load for us and I know when you need to take a break and come off the field there will be no letdown when the next running back comes in, whoever that is’,’’ Mularkey said. “That is our mindset and I told him that directly not long after we made that pick, that he was clear with the direction we were going to go with it.”

With Henry joining Murray in the backfield, running behind a line featuring first-round offensive tackle Jack Conklin, Mularkey’s promised “exotic smash mouth” offense is coming together. And Murray is glad to be a part of it.

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Bears release Antrel Rolle

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 09:  Antrel Rolle #26 of the Chicago Bears warms up before a game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 9, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears took three defensive backs during the final day of the draft on Saturday and it appears those rookie additions to the roster were a precursor to a veteran deletion.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Bears have released Antrel Rolle and Rolle has tweeted a farewell to Chicago. Rolle signed a three-year contract with the team before last season and was set to make a base salary of $2.4 million in 2016.

None of that money is guaranteed, so the Bears wouldn’t be on the hook for any money if Rolle remained with the team into camp but his first year in Chicago was apparently enough to leave the Bears feeling confident about moving on. Rolle played in seven games and ended the year on injured reserve with a knee injury, neither of which is a good omen for a player turning 34 in December.

Rolle never missed a game in five previous seasons with the Giants, however, and played well enough when healthy that he could get a look elsewhere this offseason.

The Bears took Deon Bush and Deiondre’ Hall in the fourth round before adding DeAndre Houston-Carson in the sixth round. Bush and Houston-Carson are listed as safeties. Hall is listed as a corner, but some think his best shot at an NFL future will come with a position switch.

 

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Su’a Cravens listed as a safety

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 19:  Su'a Cravens #21 of the University of Southern California Trojans awaits the snap against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on October 19, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated USC 14-10.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

After Su’a Cravens was drafted by the Redskins in the second round of the draft, he said that the late Sean Taylor was his all-time favorite safety and hoped that he would “be half as good as” one of his predecessors in the organization.

Cravens’ link to Taylor will go beyond just sharing an employer. Cravens will wear No. 36 as a rookie, which was the same number that Taylor wore during his first season with the team. Taylor then switched to No. 21, which Cravens wore while at USC.

A player wearing the same number as Taylor might as well play the same position and the Redskins announced that they are listing Cravens as a safety. He was listed as a linebacker in college.

Whichever way the Redskins choose to list Cravens is fine as his role is expected to be a hybrid of the two spots that sees Cravens line up in a variety of positions and fulfilling a variety of responsibilities. It’s an approach that we’ve seen more and more of around the league and the Redskins hope it’s part of the plan for a better defense in 2016.

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Lions “followed through” on Bob Quinn’s goal of getting tougher up front

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Taylor Decker of Ohio State holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #16 overall by the Detroit Lions during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The last time the Lions took a total of five offensive and defensive linemen in a draft was in 1989, when the proceedings lasted for 12 rounds.

It’s a seven-round affair these days, but the Lions were able to match that figure because General Manager Bob Quinn made improving the group in the trenches a priority. The Lions took offensive tackle Taylor Decker in the first round, then followed with defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and center Graham Glasgow on the second day. Offensive lineman Joe Dahl and defensive end Anthony Zettel closed things out on Saturday.

The group — “the bigger, the better,” Quinn said of what he was looking for on both sides of the ball — left Quinn feeling satisfied about his efforts to give the team a more physical attitude up front.

“Absolutely, that was one of my goals going into the draft and I felt like there was a lot of players at different levels of the draft that we could do that,” Quinn said, via the Detroit News. “So, it was a goal of mine, it was a goal of coach [Jim] Caldwell’s, and I think we followed through on that.”

The Lions aren’t locking Decker into the left or right side, although he played left tackle at Ohio State and improving on Riley Rieff was seen as a goal for the Lions this offseason. Robinson will likely be part of the rotation on the interior of the defense right away and Quinn said Glasgow will compete with incumbent center Travis Swanson, so there should be plenty of chances to see how well Quinn did in adding fight up front.

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Bradford could blow starting job if he stays away too long

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Sam Bradford remains an Eagle. He also remains the team’s starting quarterback. One of those things could change in time — and not the one Bradford wants to change.

Comments from coach Doug Pederson make it clear that, at some point, Bradford’s absence will affect his status at the top of the depth chart.

“Anybody that’s not in any of the 32 offseason programs is losing valuable time at that club,” Pederson said, via Josh Paunil of PhillyMag.com. “So anybody that’s not in the offseason program, yes, would lose the time.”

Bradford reportedly isn’t taking calls from Pederson, and Pederson told reporters on Saturday that he hasn’t spoken to Bradford since Bradford commenced his quest for a trade.

It’s unclear how much time Bradford would have to miss before he’d slide on the depth chart. At some point, however, that will happen.

“I think it depends on how and when he does come back and how fast we can catch him up and put him back in that situation and see where he’s at at that time,” Pederson said, via Paunil. “Again, no one makes the team in April. We’re not making any roster adjustments and letting people go. It’s all about evaluation, and he’s in that evaluation process. But as I’ve said in the past, he was one, Chase [Daniel] is two and we’re moving on from there.”

The Eagles have insisted that they won’t trade Bradford, who apparently isn’t willing to compete after having playing time handed to him since 2010, thanks to the last windfall No. 1 overall contract.

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Jaguars sign nine undrafted free agents

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 26: Max Wittek #13 of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors throws the football in warm ups before the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars loaded up on defensive players in the draft by using six of their seven picks on that side of the ball.

They announced a group of undrafted free agent signings on Sunday that was more balanced. The team has signed nine undrafted rookies and five of them play on the offensive side of the ball.

One of those additions is quarterback Max Wittek of Hawaii, who signs with the team a day after they drafted Brandon Allen in the sixth round. With Chad Henne back for another year backing up Blake Bortles, there’s likely only going to be room for one of those two in Jacksonville once the summer comes to an end. Wittek spent one year in Hawaii after transferring from USC, where he was beaten out by Browns third-round pick Cody Kessler.

The Jaguars also signed South Alabama tight end Braedon Bowman, Southern Miss tackle Rashod Hill, Louisiana-Lafayette wide receiver Jamal Robinson and San Diego State tackle Pearce Slater on the offensive side of the ball. Minnesota cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Ole Miss cornerback Mike Hilton and Michigan safety Jarrod Wilson were added on defense and Texas kicker Jaden Oberkrom joins the specialists.

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Subscribe to the PFT Live podcast now, please (but now)

PFTLive

Every Sunday (when I remember), I point out to the ProFootballTalk.com audience that there are more ways to get PFT content. Specifically, the podcast for the PFT Live radio show can be downloaded for free.

The best way to download it is to subscribe to it. That way, you don’t have to remember to download it.

If you subscribe to the PFT Live podcast, you’ll have constant access to NFL news, analysis, debate, and interviews presented in a way intended to be humorous at times, and entertaining always. (Key word: Intended. Whether it’s actually humorous or entertaining is a different question.)

Judge for yourself whether there’s anything informative, humorous, and/or entertaining about the PFT Live podcast by checking it out at iTunes or audioBoom.

Last week’s shows featured visits from folks like Adam Gase, Howie Roseman, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Connor Cook, Laquon TreadwellMatt Forte, DeMaurice Smith. This week’s shows will pack in plenty of conversations with General Managers who just stocked their rosters via the draft.

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DeAndre Hopkins looking forward to fewer double teams in 2016

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 28:   DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans reacts to a call during the second half of their game against the Buffalo Bills at NRG Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins played with four different starting quarterbacks and without a big threat at the other wideout spot, but still caught 111 passes for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns to help the Texans to the playoffs.

The Texans have worked to remedy both of those issues this offseason. Brock Osweiler is the new quarterback and Houston spent two of its first three draft picks on wide receivers. After the Texans added first-round pick Will Fuller and third-round pick Braxton Miller, Hopkins shared his excitement on Twitter.

“Ain’t no more double teams baby!” Hopkins wrote.

Fuller and Miller both have the speed to stretch defenses and open up other parts of the field for Hopkins. Fuller needs to be more consistent catching the ball and Miller is still new to the position, leading coach Bill O’Brien to point out that teams are going to make the rookies prove they can do it while discussing the motivation for the moves.

“Trying to get it where he could be more one-on-one and things like that,” O’Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle. “I think that’s what we’ve done with this offensive skill draft class. We’ve taken some guys that we think can really help us in space, help us at the receiver position and help us do a lot of different things, which in turn will help DeAndre and free him up a little bit more.”

Lamar Miller and fourth-round pick Tyler Ervin are new at running back, so there’s a lot of integration to be done before the season starts. If all comes together, everyone in Houston should be happier about the offensive situation than they were last year.

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Browns sign son of Bruce Matthews to UDFA deal

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 27:  Mike Matthews #56 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates with Josh Reynolds #11 of the Texas A&M Aggies after after Reynolds scored the game-tying touchdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the fourth quarter of the Southwest Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns signed former Texas AM center Mike Matthews after the conclusion of the draft. Matthews is the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the Browns gave Matthews a $7,500 signing bonus on a three-year contract and guaranteed $2,500 of his 2016 salary. Those are big numbers for an undrafted free agent, a sign that the Browns prioritized Matthews and knew they had competition for his services.

The Browns have an opening at center after Alex Mack signed with the Falcons. 2015 first-rounder Cameron Erving probably gets first crack at the job, but with a new staff and no one on the roster with significant NFL center experience, there could be a camp battle for the job.

Matthews was a three-year starter at Texas A&M like his brother, Jake, who now plays tackle for the Falcons. His uncle, Clay Matthews Jr., was a star linebacker with the Browns from 1978-93. His cousin, Clay Matthews III, is a star linebacker with the Packers.

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Vernon Adams to get tryout with Seahawks

Zz1iMTgzM2JlMzBhMGE1OTQ3MzliMTA4YzQ5NmQ2ZTc2Mg== AP

Former Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams played well in the East-West Shrine Game. Not well enough to get drafted. And not well enough to be included in the land rush of undrafted players who sign immediately after the draft. But well enough to earn a chance to attend a rookie minicamp and show what he can do in the hopes of getting a spot on the 90-man roster.

According to multiple reports, Adams will participate in Seattle’s rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. Technically, it means he could be signed by another team before then. As a practical matter, it means that his agents already have determined that there’s no one that currently wants to sign him.

Last week, Adams declared himself to be better than the guy who ended up being the No. 1 overall pick.

“Honestly, if I’m not as good as him I am better than him,” Adams told Dan Patrick regarding Rams quarterback Jared Goff. “I’m not going to sit here and say he’s better than me because there’s nothing that he’s doing that I can’t do.”

And it’s not just blind optimism. Adams conceded in the same interview that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, the No. 2 pick in the draft, is better than Adams.

“He’s the only quarterback in this draft that I can literally say he’s better than me,” Adams told Patrick regarding Wentz. “I’ve seen him at the Combine. . . . He made every single throw. I’ve been watching him since we were both freshmen. He’s a legit quarterback.”

Adams will get a chance to prove to the Seahawks soon that he’s at least good enough to be a camp arm. If/when Adams does that, he can prove that he’s good enough to be on the 53-man roster.

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Bengals’ line coach decries “witch hunt” against his center

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 22:  Center Russell Bodine #61 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Many in Cincinnati hoped the Bengals would draft a center to replace the current starter, Russell Bodine. The Bengals’ offensive line coach doesn’t appreciate that.

When reporters asked Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander whether fifth-round rookie guard Christian Westerman could move to center and earn the starting job, Alexander got angry.

“You guys are asking about the Bodine witch hunt, right?” Alexander said. “This is a young player who is playing in his third year with a bunch of veterans and very good offensive linemen and he’s the last one right now because he’s the youngest. But I don’t care what anyone else says I think Bodine is a hell of a player. That’s where I’m at on that.”

Alexander said a recent trip to the barbershop was ruined because all three barbers working there were complaining about Bodine.

“It pissed me off,” he said. “They got three Italian barbers there all yelling at each other, they are all brothers and they are getting on me about Bodine. I finally had to tell one to eff off. Jeez, I can’t even get my haircut in peace.”

It’s a shame that Gino and Enzo didn’t let Alexander get his hair cut in peace, but the questions aren’t going away. Especially if Westerman shows promise and Bodine continues to struggle.

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Family ties meant nothing to Belichick when picking Ted Karras

webster-35x240-getty-images Getty Images

As noted in the Sunday morning one-liners, the Patriots made Ted Karras one of their 2016 draft picks. Ted Karras is the great-nephew of former NFL great-turned-actor Alex Karras.

Did the family connection factor in to the decision? Said coach Bill Belichick when asked that question by reporters at a post-draft press conference: “No.” (Hey, at least Belichick uttered an actual word.)

As it turns out, the NFL connection to the Karras family extends well beyond Uncle Alex, who died in 2012.

“My whole family is football players and football coaches,” Ted Karras told reporters after becoming the 221st pick in the draft. “Every male in my family has played college football. I’ll be in the fifth in the NFL in my family and I’m very grateful to join that fraternity. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play in the NFL.”

While the connection may not have attracted the Patriots to Karras, it helped Karras get ready for his chosen profession.

“A lot of them have been giving me advice my whole life,” Karras said. “We’re a tough family. We’ve all played and everyone’s an interior lineman. That’s kind of been our M.O. throughout me growing up. I knew I was going to be a lineman early and they’ve been giving me tips throughout each stage of my career and I’ve been able to deliver so far.”

In addition to Alex Karras, who played for the Lions from 1958 through 1970, Ted’s other great uncle, Lou Karras, played from 1950 through 1952. Ted’s father, also Ted, played one game as a replacement player during the 1987 strike and his grandfather, also Ted, played from 1958 through 1966.

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