Rob Walton vows to make Broncos “the best team to cheer for, play for and work for”

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Owners approved the sale of the Broncos Tuesday. It meant good-bye to the Pat Bowlen trust and hello to the Walton-Penner family ownership group.

Both groups released statements through the team after the unanimous vote approving the sale.

Rob Walton’s statement reads: “We are grateful for the support and trust of the National Football League and the 31 other teams with today’s vote. We couldn’t be more excited to join the Denver Broncos.

“It’s a responsibility and privilege to serve as stewards of such an iconic franchise. We have tremendous respect for what Pat Bowlen has meant to the Broncos and look forward to building on this organization’s championship legacy.

“While we’re deeply committed to fielding a great team to win Super Bowls, our family and extraordinary partners are also dedicated to our off-the-field responsibilities to Broncos Country and the Rocky Mountain region.

“Operating with integrity and accountability, we aim to draw on our individual strengths and those of the players, coaches and staff who have shaped the Broncos’ storied history. And to that end, we want to thank (CEO) Joe Ellis for his guidance throughout this process and his willingness to serve as an advisor to ownership for this season.

“Across the entire organization, we will all continue to listen and learn.

“Most importantly, we will strive to make the Denver Broncos the best team to cheer for, play for and work for in all of sports. Go Broncos!”

Ellis congratulated Walton and his group on taking the reins of the team and announced he has accepted Waltons’ request to remain as an advisor this season: “As I step down as President & CEO, it has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to be part of the Denver Broncos for 27 seasons. I am forever thankful to our dedicated staff, the players and coaches for making this franchise what it has become today — one of the best organizations in all of sports.

“There are no words to express the gratitude I have toward Pat Bowlen for his trust, friendship and the responsibility to serve the Broncos and this community for nearly three decades. Pat’s legacy of winning, doing things the right way and giving back is unmatched. He is a Pro Football Hall of Famer in every sense for what he has meant to this organization and the National Football League.

“To Broncos Country: From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Your passion and loyalty, especially through the challenges we’ve faced over the last few years, are what make the Broncos so special. You are truly the best fans in the NFL and deserve many, many more Super Bowls.

“Most of all, I want to thank my wife Ann, daughter Catherine, and sons Si and Zander for their unwavering (mostly!) support through the ups and downs, wins and losses, and unforgettable moments during this incredible ride.

“Looking ahead, I am confident the Walton-Penner family ownership group will add to the Broncos’ championship tradition on and off the field while putting their own stamp on this great organization. I was asked by them to serve as an advisor to ownership for this season, and I’ve accepted their request to help in the transition however possible.

“The Broncos are in great hands with Rob Walton, Carrie Walton Penner, Greg Penner, Mellody Hobson, Condoleezza Rice and Sir Lewis Hamilton along with the many outstanding people in our organization. I wish them much success, happiness and fun as they begin this journey. Go Broncos!”

Jakeem Grant carted off at Browns practice

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The Browns may have a significant injury issue with one of their depth receivers.

Jakeem Grant was carted off the field during 1-on-1 drills at Cleveland’s Tuesday practice with an apparent left leg injury, according to multiple reporters on the Browns’ beat.

Grant signed a three-year deal with Cleveland in March. He’s entering his seventh pro season after Miami selected him in the sixth round of the 2016 draft.

He made the Pro Bowl last year as a returner and was a second-team All-Pro for the second consecutive season. He averaged 11.9 yards per punt return between four games with Miami and 11 with Chicago. He also averaged 23.4 yards per kick return.

Grant has four punts returned for a touchdown and two kicks returned for a touchdown in his career. He’s also recorded 100 catches for 1,140 yards with seven TDs in 81 games.

The Browns have had a string of injuries at receiver at training camp, notably with Amari Cooper, Anthony Schwartz, and David Bell all missing at least a little practice time.

Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy out for preseason opener

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The Cardinals won’t be playing either of their top two quarterbacks against the Bengals in this week’s preseason opener.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury announced that Trace McSorley will start on Friday. Jarrett Guarantano is also set to take snaps as the only other quarterback on the roster.

Murray is just returning from five days away from the team due to a positive COVID test. He was also dealing with wrist soreness early in camp, but Kingsbury said “not much” when asked if that was still bothering him.

“It’s more maintenance at this point,” Kingsbury said. “I expect to see more of him as we get into next week.”

McCoy is dealing with some arm soreness that has kept him from throwing in practice. Both players could return for the second game of the summer, but Kingsbury said Murray “won’t play much, if at all” in the preseason.

Jaguars waive Kyle Sloter

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The Jaguars signed quarterback Kyle Sloter and waived EJ Perry last month, but they’ve had a change of heart on Tuesday.

The team confirmed an announcement from Perry’s agent that his client was rejoining the AFC South team while also announcing that Sloter has been placed on waivers.

Sloter joined the Jaguars after playing for the USFL’s New Orleans Breakers earlier this season. He completed 168 of 291 passes for 1,798 yards and nine touchdowns.

Prior to his USFL excursion, Sloter spent time with the Broncos, Vikings, Cardinals, Lions, Bears, and Raiders without appearing in any regular season games. He was 13-of-25 for 127 yards and a touchdown in the Hall of Fame Game.

Perry joins C.J. Beathard and Jake Luton on the rungs below Trevor Lawrence on the quarterback depth chart in Jacksonville.

Browns sign Jordan Kunaszyk

NFL: DEC 21 Washington Football Team at Eagles
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Cleveland is adding gaining some depth at linebacker.

The Browns announced on Tuesday that they’ve signed Jordan Kunaszyk.

Entering his fourth season in the league, Kunaszyk spent the last two seasons with Washington. He appeared in 11 games last season, mainly playing on special teams. He played 12 defensive snaps, too.

Kunaszyk entered the league as an undrafted free agent with Carolina in 2019. He was let go in the team’s 2020 roster cuts to 53 players and landed with Washington’s practice squad in late September.

The Commanders released Kunaszyk in May.

As a corresponding roster move, the Browns waived linebacker Silas Kelly with an injury designation. Kelly joined Cleveland as an undrafted linebacker out of Coastal Carolina in May.

Ryan Poles: My intention is to make sure Roquan Smith is a Bear

NFL: JUN 08 Chicago Bears OTA Offseason Workouts
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Bears linebacker Roquan Smith went public with his desire to be traded on Tuesday morning and General Manager Ryan Poles offered a response from the team at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Poles said he was disappointed that things have progressed to this point because he loves Smith as a person and a player and “thought we’d be in a better situation” by this point in the summer. Poles said that he thought the offer of a new contract for Smith showed “him the respect he deserves,” but that a deal has to make sense for both sides and “obviously we’re not at that point.”

Neither that disappointment nor Smith’s request has Poles ready to say things have reached a point of no return, however.

“Right now, my intentions are to sign Roquan to this team,” Poles said. “We’re going to take it day by day. At the end of the day we have to do what’s best for this organization, but my intention is to make sure Roquan Smith is on this team.”

Smith’s stated intention is to play for someone other than the Bears, so something’s gonna have to give in Chicago for the status quo to change.

Jon Allen on Commanders firing Sam Mills: “It’s a great game but a terrible business”

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The Commanders fired defensive line coach Sam Mills III today, a surprising decision that left one of his players saddened.

Washington defensive tackle Jon Allen said it hurt to learn that the position coach he has played for since 2020 has been let go.

At the end of the day, it’s sad,” Allen said, via the Washington Post. “I think me and Coach Sam were getting along really well. We were really making some progress as a defensive unit. It’s the NFL. People just got to remember it’s a great game but a terrible business.”

Commanders head coach Ron Rivera has not explained precisely why he fired Mills, citing only “philosophical differences.” It seems likely that there’s more going on: Mills has been on Rivera’s staff for the last 12 years, first with the Panthers and then with the Commanders. It’s hard to see why “philosophical differences” would suddenly pop up during their 12th training camp together.

But whatever the reasons, Mills is now out of work, and Allen is expressing a feeling that many players and coaches have had about the business of professional football.

Ron Rivera: The timing between Carson Wentz and the receivers is getting better

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Quarterback Carson Wentz has experienced an up-and-down training camp so far this summer.

But Tuesday was reportedly a good day for the quarterback, according to practice observers.

Head coach Ron Rivera liked what he saw, too, touting the improved chemistry between the quarterback and his targets.

“He’s getting more and more comfortable,” Rivera said, via NBCSportsWashington.com. “He’s developing a little bit more of a rapport with the receivers, and the tight ends, and the backs. And I think, again, we were in a padded practice where the offensive line can defend themselves for the most part as opposed to some of the shell practices that people observed. So I just thought it was a well-timed-out practice. I thought the timing between him and the receivers is getting better, and I think that’s important.”

Rivera noted a few days ago that even though Wentz has demonstrated some inaccuracy, the team isn’t “overly concerned.” Tuesday’s session sounds encouraging in that regard as the Commanders prepare for the season.

Owners approve sale of Broncos to Rob Walton’s group

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The Broncos finally have an owner again.

For the first time since Pat Bowlen placed the team in trust while he battled Alzheimer’s disease, the franchise has one person in charge of the team. That person is Rob Walton, the former Wal-Mart CEO and the son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

The vote, which required at least 24 owners to secure approval, was never in doubt. The league announced that it was unanimous.

Walton becomes the richest owner in the NFL, by far. He has a net worth of nearly $70 billion.

Currently, no other teams are for sale. That could change if the owners ever manage to nudge Daniel Snyder out in Washington, or when the Seahawks are sold by the estate of Paul Allen. Any sale of the Seahawks before May 1, 2024 would result in the state of Washington getting 10 percent of the proceeds.

Allen’s sister, Jody, recently issued a statement denying that the team is for sale. It was clear within the broader context, however, that it eventually will be.

Cowboys set to sign Brett Maher, cut Jonathan Garibay

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The Cowboys were unhappy with the kickers that they brought to training camp this summer, so they’ve decided to reach into their past to bring a new competitor into the mix.

According to multiple reports, the Cowboys are set to sign Brett Maher after a Tuesday workout. Undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay will be waived to make room for Maher, which leaves Lirim Hajrullahu as Maher’s rival for the kicking job.

Maher had a summer stint with the Cowboys in 2013 before returning to kick in 29 games over the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He was 49-of-66 on field goals and 68-of-69 on extra points before being released late in the 2019 season. He was 16-of-18 on field goals and 10-of-12 on extra points in eight games for the Saints last season.

Garibay had a memorable highlight at Texas Tech last season when he won a game with a 62-yard field goal, but his continued misses in training camp practices sealed his fate with the Cowboys.

Peter Harvey previously handled the Hue Jackson, Scot McCloughan arbitrations

NFL: AUG 25 Preseason - Chiefs at Bears
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As we wait for a decision from Peter Harvey in the Deshaun Watson appeal, it’s important to remember that this isn’t Harvey’s first NFL rodeo.

He has handled at least two prior arbitrations that resulted in a finding that was favorable to the NFL teams involved in the disputes.

In 2020, Harvey found that former Browns coach Hue Jackson’s arbitration claims against the team couldn’t proceed, because of the release he signed in order to secure his buyout after being fired during the 2018 season. Jackson claimed, among other things, that the Browns’ “4-year plan” incentivized tanking by tying bonuses for the coaches and front office to factors that cut against winning in the short term. Harvey never got to the merits of Jackson’s claims, because Harvey concluded that Jackson had agreed to waive any claims in order to receive ongoing compensation.

Before that, Harvey served as the arbitrator of the grievance filed by former Washington G.M. Scot McCloughan. He had sued the team after being fired for cause. The team said he was fired because of his alcohol use. McCloughan argued, among other things, that the team knew he was again using alcohol when he was hired, that alcohol use didn’t affect his job performance, and that the organization’s culture in many respects sprang from the use and abuse of alcohol.

Harvey would not keep being assigned these matters if he wasn’t giving the league the results it wanted. And it’s important for Harvey to maintain the relationship, since it’s a selling point in the recruitment of other clients.

Even though he’s not a league employee, Harvey is paid to provide services to the league. If he suddenly stops giving the league what it wants from him, the league will start finding someone else who will.

That’s simply how it goes, in many forms of business. Harvey may not be an employee of the league, but he’s beholden to it. Which means that the outcome of the Watson appeal will be exactly what the NFL wants it to be. If not, someone else will eventually become beholden to the league, instead of him.

Kyle Shanahan planning to play Trey Lance in first and third preseason games

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The 49ers begin their preseason slate this week with Friday’s matchup against the Packers.

Quarterback Trey Lance appears likely to play.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said before Tuesday’s practice that he’d like “some” of the team’s starters — including Lance — to play in the first and third preseason games.

“We’ve got a pretty good idea. I definitely want to see how these practices go these [next] two days,” Shanahan said in his press conference. “I’d like to get guys to play in this game, mainly because I don’t want them to play in the second game. Going to scrimmage a team, more into the scrimmage than the game. And then to have a chance to get them in a game four days after that versus Houston when we get back Sunday morning would be tough. So that’s why I don’t want them to play much in that game. So hopefully a little in one, a little in three, and then we’ll have 17 days to get ready for Week One.”

The 49ers host the Packers for the preseason opener on Friday, travel to play the Vikings on Saturday, Aug. 20, and have their preseason finale on Thursday, Aug. 25. The club will hold joint practices with Minnesota.

Shanahan said he hasn’t determined just how much Lance will play in the preseason games. But a reporter pointed out that Jimmy Garoppolo played particularly limited snaps in previous exhibition matchups.

“I haven’t totally thought about it yet. I didn’t know that we did that last year,” Shanahan said. “Right now, my gut is exactly what I said. I could change after these two practices and what we see out there and stuff. But I definitely would like to get him out there this week.”

Lance started a pair of games in 2021, so this won’t really be the first rodeo for last year’s No. 3 overall pick. But getting Lance comfortable as QB1 is the clear priority for the 49ers over the next month.

Mekhi Becton likely out for year with avulsion fracture of kneecap

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Jets head coach Robert Saleh sounded pessimistic about right tackle Mekhi Becton‘s outlook for the 2022 season after a Monday knee injury and things don’t look any better after more visits with doctors on Tuesday.

NFL Media reports that Becton has been diagnosed with an avulsion fracture of his right kneecap. He is set to see a surgeon on Wednesday and Saleh confirmed at a press conference that the 2020 first-round pick’s season is “more than likely” over as a result of the injury.

Becton missed the final 16 games of the 2021 season after hurting his knee in the season opener. That will leave him with a lot of time on the shelf heading into his fourth season and the lack of time on the field will make it impossible for the Jets to count on anything from him in 2023 or beyond.

It will also likely leave them looking for help in the short term. They signed a pair of depth linemen on Tuesday, but signing a veteran like former Seahawk Duane Brown, who recently met with the team, or making a trade for another tackle may be the path the team winds up taking.

Aaron Rodgers really wants to win another Super Bowl

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In his first press conference of training camp, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said his current motivation is “love, probably.”

As in, apparently, he’d probably love to win another Super Bowl.

Rodgers told Adam Schein of SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio that the two-time defending MVP hopes to become the one-time defending Super Bowl champion, again.

“I don’t say this as a cliche, I say this as heartfelt as I can,” Rodgers said. “I want to win the championship. I’ve had all the individual success I could possibly ever have dreamed of accomplishing. I’ve got 4 MVPs. I’m an honorary blackbelt. I’d like to win another Super Bowl.”

Rodgers is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He’s done plenty without a supporting cast of players who are destined to be immortalized in bronze. This year, he won’t have receiver Davante Adams.

Still, it’s more than what he does, or doesn’t, have available to him. As Chris Simms has pointed out more than once, Rodgers often becomes very conservative in the postseason, resisting the kinds of throws he routinely attempts when not playing in a single-elimination setting.

Basically, if he wants it this year, he needs to go get it. When he won his only championship, the Packers entered the postseason as the No. 6 seed. They had nothing to lose, and they played that way, winning in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago. When they win the No. 1 seed, Rodgers sometimes plays like he has everything to lose.

So maybe that’s the right path for the Packers. Don’t win the division. Sneak in as a wild-card. Be written off by everyone. And then go on a tear in the postseason, capped with a Super Bowl win in Arizona.

Jaguars bring back EJ Perry

NFL: MAY 31 Jacksonville Jaguars OTA Offseason Workouts
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Quarterback EJ Perry is returning to the Jaguars.

Perry’s agent Sean Stellato announced that his client is re-signing with the AFC South club. He was signed by the Jaguars after going undrafted earlier this year, but was cut when they signed Kyle Sloter to the 90-man roster last month.

Perry started his college days at Boston College and moved on to Brown for his final three years in school. He initially agreed to sign with the Eagles after the draft before pivoting to Jacksonville when the Eagles signed Carson Strong.

There’s no word on a corresponding move. Sloter joined Jake Luton and C.J. Beathard as backups to Trevor Lawrence and all four quarterbacks remain on the roster. Beathard has been dealing with a groin injury, but was cleared to return to practice over the weekend.