Xavien Howard reports to Dolphins training camp

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Cornerback Xavien Howard would like a new contract and that desire led him to stay away from the Dolphins’ mandatory minicamp this offseason, but he isn’t holding out of training camp.

The Dolphins posted a video of Howard at their facility as players report for the start of camp on Tuesday. Howard would have been subject to daily fines of $50,000 if he opted not to join the team at camp.

Howard signed a five-year extension with the Dolphins in 2019 and head coach Brian Flores confirmed in June that the two sides were “talking about a potential renegotiation” in light of Howard’s feeling that he’s outplayed that pact.

There has not been any word of progress in talks about a deal that would be more to his liking, but Howard’s presence at camp suggests the conversations will continue with an eye on keeping him in his spot as a defensive leader in Miami.

Alex Highsmith: It was awesome to add Melvin Ingram

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After Bud Dupree tore his ACL last season, Alex Highsmith moved into a starting role on the edge of the Steelers defense and Dupree’s departure as a free agent this offseason signaled that he’d remain in that role this season.

That outlook changed last week, however. The Steelers signed Melvin Ingram and the veteran’s presence will impact who is lining up across from T.J. Watt during the 2021 season.

Highsmith’s playing time may go down as a result of his arrival, but the 2020 third-round pick had nothing but good things to say about Ingram’s arrival in Pittsburgh.

“It was awesome,” Highsmith said, via Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “So far, Melvin has been great for us here. He’s been a guy I’ve been able to ask questions and to learn from. He’s a veteran, Pro Bowl guy. All of us were excited when we brought him in.”

It remains to be seen how the playing time will shake out this year, but the hope in Pittsburgh is that it will be a case of the more the merrier when it comes to the pass rushing spots.

Joe Judge: Issues with Kadarius Toney have been overinflated


The Giants took wide receiver Kadarius Toney in the first round of this year’s draft, but they didn’t have him on the field as much as they would have hoped in his first offseason with the team.

Toney had cleat issues during rookie minicamp, skipped the team’s voluntary OTA practices and missed practice time during the team’s mandatory minicamp. His availability for the start of training camp is in question after he landed on the COVID-19 reserve list, but none of those developments have created concerns for head coach Joe Judge.

“This guy does a tremendous job in meetings,” Judge said, via Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “He does a great job in walkthroughs. He practices hard. So that to me is really the measuring stick of what it is. And I think there are a lot of things early in this guy’s career that are, to be honest with you, being overinflated. It hasn’t detracted from the actual football when he’s involved with us.”

While Judge said he’s “seen a lot of improvement” from Toney since the draft, his positive feelings about the rookie come with a caveat. He said there’s “always a learning curve” for rookies and believes “it takes a season for these guys to really get rolling” as NFL receivers, so Toney’s immediate contributions may not be massive for the Giants.

Aaron Rodgers arrives in Green Bay

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Aaron Rodgers has arrived in Green Bay to report to training camp.

Rodgers’ private plane landed at the Green Bay airport late on Monday night. Although no fans were there to greet him, multiple members of the media spotted him getting off the plane and into a waiting car.

All offseason, speculation swirled about whether Rodgers was done playing for the Packers. Rodgers started the speculation immediately after the Packers’ loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game with cryptic comments that sounded like he was ready to move on, and throughout the offseason he declined to say directly that he would return to the Packers as reports continually surfaced that he is unhappy.

Now that speculation can end, and Rodgers can get to work when the Packers open camp today. Rodgers’ future beyond 2021 remains in doubt, and there’s a good chance that he’ll finish his career elsewhere and that the Packers will move on to Jordan Love in 2022. But for now, Rodgers is in Green Bay.

Joe Judge not taking sides, just explaining realities to players on vaccines

NFL: OCT 22 Giants at Eagles
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New York Giants head coach Joe Judge is trying not to take a side in the discussions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines and whether his players do, or don’t, get vaccinated.

However, he’s also being bluntly clear that the decision not to get one of the three vaccines currently available will make life this season more challenging for his players.

I chose to never take a side,” Judge said, via Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com. “And everybody has different opinions and beliefs and whatever they want to say. But my thing has been the entire time: I’m not going to take a side. The league and union have an agreement in terms of what the players’ choices are and it’s my job as a coach to inform everyone of all the information. When the players make their choice to enforce protocols if they choose not to be vaccinated, and that’s kinda just been it.

“We’re very honest with our players, and talk to them all the time. We just make sure they understand the reality is that it’s going to be tougher living if you’re not vaccinated.”

The Giants aren’t one of the 10 teams that have reached the 90 percent. Per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, the team’s infection control officer, Ronnie Barnes, indicated the team is “certainly shooting for relaxation of protocols” by getting to the 85 percent threshold set by the NFL.

The realities that face players that don’t get vaccinated will include the need for continued facial coverings, daily COVID-19 tests, increased travel restrictions, inability to leave team hotels on the road, and extended quarantine procedures following a positive case. Additionally, for players at the back end of the roster, it will be easier and more practical for teams to keep players that are vaccinated over ones that are not.

“You gotta be disciplined and follow all the protocols because it does affect the team and it affects the potential of what we can do,” Judge said. “So we just gotta make sure we’re disciplined and go through with it. In terms of the whole thing navigating this: To stand in a room with people of such diverse backgrounds, this isn’t a topic where I need to have a side. It’s just: You have a decision they’ve afforded you to make, here’s the information and whatever decision you make you have to live with it.”

For Judge, it’s a simple explanation to detail. One door yields one reality and the second door will bring another. The players will have to live with the consequences of whichever door they choose.

“All I can tell them is: Listen, I can tell you what day to day is going to be like and what the length of the season is going to be like and beyond that, the medical part has to stay up to the doctors,” Judge said.

John Kuhn sees writing on the wall: Unless Packers change how they do things, 2021 will be Aaron Rodgers last year in Green Bay

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Former Aaron Rodgers teammate John Kuhn repeatedly has called the problem between Rodgers and the Packers fixable. Now that it appears to be fixed, for how long will the repairs hold?

Appearing on the Zach Gelb Show on CBS Sports Radio, Kuhn was asked whether he thinks 2021 will be the last year for Rodgers in Green Bay.

“Boy, it’s hard to look at the writing on the wall and think that’s not the case,” Kuhn said. “I think the Packers need to do something exceptional this year, and maybe something out of the ordinary. Not just make a deep playoff run but maybe find a way to add a position here before the trade deadline throughout the season or make a trade right before the beginning of the season that proves, hey, they’re in it to win it. Because Aaron Rodgers quite frankly is looking at the last few holes of his back nine of his career. . . .”

One such move could be a trade for receiver Randall Cobb; Rodgers reportedly wants to see Cobb return to the Packers. Whatever they do, Rodgers (per Kuhn) is looking for a greater sense of urgency.

“The reality is he’s got three, five, six years left in this thing, and he feels like this year [if] the Packers don’t go all in, that just might be all the sign that he needs to leave,” Kuhn said. “So I think it’s gonna take a successful season, not just a good season offensively for the Green bay Packers but a successful season with some sort of deep playoff run, hopefully a Super Bowl berth, and then maybe doing it outside what we’ve seen the Green Bay Packer organization to do over the last twenty to twenty-five years.”

The Packers have from time to time spent in free agency. The looming restructuring the Rodgers’s contract will give them cap relief for the current year, allowing other players to be pursued.

The new Rodgers contract reportedly will give him freedom no later than 2023, when he’ll be 39. Whether he wants to stay for the 2022 season apparently will depend on what else the Packers do in 2021, with an eye toward letting Rodgers get to a Super Bowl for the second time in his career.

Colts elevate Kevin Rogers to director of player personnel

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The Indianapolis Colts have promoted Kevin Rogers to director of player personnel as part of a handful of tweaks to the front office.

The team announced on Monday they had promoted Rogers from his prior role as director of pro personnel. Rogers has been with the Colts for 20 years, joining the team as a scouting assistant in 2001. He has also served as a pro scout and assistant director of pro personnel before being elevated to his prior role as pro personnel director in 2014.

The team also promoted Brian Decker to director of team development, John Park to director of football research, Jon Shaw to director of pro scouting, Mitch Chester to college scouting and travel coordinator, Kyle Davis to associate athletic trainer and Kasia Omilian to scouting assistant.

The team also named Anthony Coughlan as an area scout.

Thomas Byrd was named as a Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellow and Andrew Dees was named a Colts Coaching Fellow.

Seahawks sign Darece Roberson, waive Saivion Smith

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The Seahawks announced the signing of free agent receiver Darece Roberson on Monday. They waived cornerback Saivion Smith in a corresponding move.

The Cardinals waived Roberson on May 17, and he had remained a free agent since.

Roberson ran a 10.79 in the 100-yard dash in high school. While at Wayne State, Roberson averaged more than 20 yards per catch twice (21.44 in 2018 and 20.76 in 2019) while also becoming the second player in school history to score touchdowns on kick and punt returns.

Roberson finished his college career with 92 catches for 1,767 yards and 24 touchdowns in 43 games.

He went undrafted in 2020 and didn’t sign with an NFL team until the Cardinals gave him an opportunity on April 15 of this year.

Smith, who went undrafted out of Alabama in 2019, was claimed by Seattle after being waived by Dallas in May.

No guarantee Saquon Barkley plays Week 1 as Giants take deliberate approach in his return

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Saquon Barkley repeatedly has refused to put a timetable on his return from a right knee injury. The Giants are doing the same thing.

Giants coach Joe Judge conducted one-on-one phone interviews with the team’s beat writers Monday. He would not guarantee Barkley would play the season opener as the Giants take a deliberate approach in the running back’s return.

“He’s doing everything we’re asking him, and he’s constantly asking, ‘How long ya think? How long ya think,’” Judge told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “So he wants to be back.

“We’re really just watching day by day and evaluating where he’s at and affording him the ability to come back when he’s fully ready to go, because the plan is when we get him back to keep him back. We don’t want to rush him back and do something that’s not best for him individually or best for the team, and we’re really taking a big picture and a long-term view of this.”

Barkley, 24, will begin camp on the physically unable to perform list. He surely will push the medical staff to clear him for the Sept. 12 season opener against the Broncos.

“Look, ideally we’d love to have him back as soon as possible,” Judge said, “but ultimately we’ve got to make sure when he comes back he can play 100 percent; he can play aggressive and confident; and that we have him back. So that’s the approach we’re taking.”

Barkley tore the anterior cruciate ligament, partially tore the meniscus and strained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee on Sept. 20. He underwent surgery Oct. 30.

49ers announce coaching fellows for 2021

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The 49ers announced the team’s 2021 Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellows. Tully Banta-Cain, Orlando Franklin and Ahmed Saleh will work with the team during training camp.

Banta-Cain will work with the defensive line, Franklin the offensive line and Saleh the defensive backs.

Banta-Cain is entering his second season as defensive coordinator at St. Monica (California) High School. He played eight NFL seasons after the Patriots drafted him in the seventh round in 2003.

Franklin appeared in 90 games along the offensive line after being selected by the Broncos in the second round of the 2011 draft. He also made seven career postseason starts.

Following his playing career, Franklin attended a broadcast bootcamp at Bowling Green State University in 2018. He currently works as a radio host on 104.3 The Fan in Denver.

Saleh is entering his first season as the defensive backs coach/special teams coordinator at Madonna University. He also has coaching stops as a defensive graduate assistant at Colorado State University and as a defensive student assistant at Michigan State University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Sean McVay: Rams will be “around” fully vaccinated at start of regular season

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Los Angeles currently is a COVID hot spot, again. The Rams are ready for it, with a high vaccination rate among staff and players.

“It’s been really good,” coach Sean McVay told reporters on Monday regarding the team’s willingness to get vaccinated. “All of our staff is. [I] don’t want to get into the exact numbers, but we are really close to 100 percent of our players having the vaccination. Some of those guys are in the process of getting that started within the last week. . . . I think you do want to be understanding and respectful of everybody has an individual approach, that resonates with me. Where you want to be empathetic to why they may feel good or why they might have concerns. Our guys have done a great job of trying to educate us on their perspective. We’ve gotten close to 100 percent of our guys that are committed to doing that, which is good.”

McVay stopped short of saying that the team will be fully vaccinated by the start of the season.

“I would say that it will be around there,” McVay said. “If certain guys feel adamant that they don’t want to — totally respect and understand that. I think for me as a coach, you want to be understanding of it. What it does do is, it eliminates some of the things that you naturally have to just navigate through with the obstacles that are in place, whether you are or aren’t [vaccinated], some of the protocols that we have to follow. I feel like we’re in a really good place and it’s not going to be any reason for it to be a distraction for our team.”

McVay’s inability to predict a 100-percent vaccination rate likely means that one or more players who definitely will be on the team have made it clear that they definitely won’t be getting vaccinated.

Ravens are signing Chris Smith

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The Ravens worked out three edge rushers on Monday. They are signing Chris Smith to a one-year deal, agent Drew Rosenhaus announced.

Dion Jordan and Shilique Calhoun were the other players who worked out for the Ravens.

Smith, 29, has 9.5 sacks in seven NFL seasons. He had one sack and four quarterback hits in eight games last season for the Raiders.

Smith also has spent time with Jacksonville, Cincinnati and Cleveland. The Jaguars made him a fifth-round choice in 2014.

In his career, Smith has appeared in 68 games with two starts. He has totaled 72 tackles, six pass breakups and 23 quarterback hits in addition to his 9.5 sacks.

Cardinals sign Marcus Henry, Daryl Worley

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The Cardinals signed offensive lineman Marcus Henry and cornerback Daryl Worley to one-year contracts Monday, the team announced.

Henry played one game last season with Dallas after spending the season on the Cowboys’ practice squad. He originally entered the league with New Orleans as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2016 out of Boise State.

Henry, 28, also has spent time on the practice squads of the Seahawks and Texans during his career. While at Boise State, Henry played in 50 games at center and was a first-team All-Mountain West selection as a junior and senior.

Worley, 26, is a five-year NFL veteran who spent time with Las Vegas, Dallas and Buffalo last season. He appeared in 10 games in 2020.

He originally entered the league with Carolina as a third-round selection in 2016 and spent his first two seasons with the Panthers. Worley then appeared in 27 games with the Raiders, including two last season, before playing seven games with the Cowboys and one with the Bills last season.

He has played in 66 career games with 54 starts and has 265 tackles, five interceptions, 37 passes defensed and one fumble recovery.

Dolphins sign Carson Meier, waive Jibri Blount with injury settlement

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The Dolphins announced Monday they signed tight end Carson Meier. In a corresponding move, the team waived tight end Jibri Blount with an injury settlement.

Meier started one game for Atlanta in 2019 with multiple stints on the team’s active roster. He spent training camp with the Falcons last summer.

Meier originally entered the NFL as an undrafted college free agent with Jacksonville on April 28, 2019. He was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2018 at Oklahoma.

The Dolphins signed Blount on May 6.

He didn’t play a down of college football. Blount, the son of Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount, was a basketball player at North Carolina Central.

Report: Cody Latimer pleads guilty to misdemeanor assault

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Free agent receiver Cody Latimer pled guilty Monday to a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from his May 16, 2020, arrest, Mike Klis of 9News reports. All other charges against Latimer were dismissed.

Latimer received two years probation, with no jail time, and was ordered to pay $1,503 in probation and court fees, per Klis.

Latimer faced charges of assault in the second degree, menacing, illegal discharge of a firearm, prohibited use of a weapon and reckless endangerment.

The NFL placed Latimer on the Commissioner’s Exempt List after his arrest in Douglas County, Colorado, and the Washington Football Team cut him.

Latimer, a 2014 second-round draft pick of the Broncos, played in Denver for four seasons and then two more years with the Giants. He had signed with Washington as a free agent during the 2020 offseason.