Raiders players will not participate in voluntary in-person workouts

NFL: SEP 27 Raiders at Patriots
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Raiders players announced Thursday night they have voted not to participate in voluntary in-person workouts this offseason.

They join players from the Browns, Giants, Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks, Lions, Bears and Bucs in releasing a statement that some or all of their players will not take participate in planned in-person work that begins next month.

“We have come together as a team to discuss the important issues related to our health and safety,” the statement from Raiders players reads. “We know the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on our membership, our families and our home city of Las Vegas this past year, and we continue to feel for everyone in our community and our country who has been impacted by the coronavirus.

“Given the data and facts shared by our union about reduced injuries and other health benefits of the virtual offseason last year, players from our team will not participate in a voluntary in-person workout program. We respect those players on our team and across the NFL who have contractual incentives linked to their participation in the program, but we stand in solidarity with our fellow players who are making the best decision on behalf of themselves and their families.”

The virtual portion of the offseason program begins Monday. The NFL announced Wednesday that Phase Three, the only phase that will consist of on-field work, will include 10 on-field voluntary in-person practices and a three-day mandatory minicamp that will run from May 24-June 18.

Mike Vrabel: Nobody prepares harder than Derrick Henry does to carry the load

Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots
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Derrick Henry has led the league in rushing the past two seasons. He also has led the NFL in rushing attempts in back-to-back years.

Henry had 303 carries for 1,540 yards in 2019 and 378 carries for 2,027 yards in 2020. The Titans running back had a league-leading 397 total touches in 2020.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Thursday what he said during the season: There’s a fine line in managing Henry’s workload.

“It’s no secret that Derrick is a large part of what we are, and who we are as a football team,” Vrabel said in a live event with season-ticket holders, via Jim Wyatt of the team website. “We try to be smart as we prepare. Nobody prepares for the rigors of the season more than Derrick. I’m not going to say that Derrick is the hardest working player in football; I wouldn’t do that to the players around this league. But I can’t imagine that any of them work harder than he does, and he understands that, and the toll that he is going to take.”

Henry, 27, has a chance to become the first back in NFL history to have back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons, and he will have an extra game to get it done with the league going to a 17-game season. Henry averaged 126.7 rushing yards per game in 16 games last season.

Eric Dickerson holds the NFL single-season record with 2,105 rushing yards in 1984.

Vrabel joked with a season-ticket holder who wants another 2,000-yard season for Henry but expressed concern for Henry’s health.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Vrabel said with a smile. “You can’t want 2,000 yards, and then have him standing next to me.

“We’ll always try to do what is best for the team, and what is best for Derrick. Just be smart and make sure he is communicating with us and how he feels, and we’re evaluating his performance.”

Justin Fields is now the betting favorite to go third overall

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On March 29, North Dakota St. quarterback Trey Lance was the favorite to be the third overall pick in the draft. Then, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones became the favorite. Now, there’s a third favorite to go third overall.

PointsBet has made Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields the favorite to become the pick of the 49ers at No. 3

Currently, Fields has odds of -125 for to hear his name called as the third player picked, two weeks from tonight. Jones is +100, and Lance is +450.

On March 29, Lance was the favorite at +130. Fields had odds of +150, and Jones stood at +160. By April 8, Jones moved to -200 favorite, with Fields at +250 and Lance at +300.

Now, it’s Fields.

The reason for the shift isn’t clear. Surely, the 49ers aren’t investing three first-round picks and a third-round pick without having a damn good idea as to their intended selection. There’s a fine line, frankly, between building a mystery and creating the impression that the 49ers traded up without a firm and specific plan.

Also, keep this simple reality of the NFL’s ultimate reality show in mind. For the same reason that the powers-that-be don’t want picks to be tipped during the draft, they also don’t want a bunch of picks to be set in stone before the draft begins. Already, it’s widely presumed that the Jaguars will take Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 and the Jets will take Zach Wilson at No. 2. If the 49ers make their plans known, why tune in for the first hour of the draft?

So don’t be surprised if reporters and analysts who work for the networks that will televise the draft to try to keep the plans at No. 3 and beyond as vague and uncertain as possible, for as long as possible. Indeed, why would anyone watch the ultimate reality show is the ultimate reality already is known?

Mac Jones: Not comparing myself to Tom Brady, but I want to emulate his competitiveness

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama
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Alabama quarterback Mac Jones wants to make clear that he’s not comparing himself to Tom Brady. But there are some traits he thinks he and Brady have in common.

Jones said in an interview with Kirk Herbstreit on ESPN that he does think he has some similarities to Brady, in that people haven’t always been impressed with him as a physical specimen, but he has the competitive fire that motivates him to win.

“I don’t like to compare myself to him, I’ve got a long way to go,” Jones said. “But coming out of college it was, doesn’t have arm strength, can’t throw a spiral, can’t move. I can do that stuff, but it’s more like the intangible stuff. . . . He’s got the fire still, and that’s why he’s so good.”

One area where Jones is not like Brady is that Brady was a sixth-round draft pick, while Jones is expected to hear his name called early in the first round, two weeks from tonight.

Chris Carson: Seattle’s rushing game “can be something special”

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles
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After Chris Carson agreed to return to the Seahawks, Russell Wilson went on social media to endorse the move. Wilson was “definitely in my ear” about re-signing, the running back said Thursday.

Carson will start, but Rashaad Penny also will get playing time. The Seahawks drafted Penny in the first round in 2018, but he played only three games last season while continuing to recover from a knee injury.

While #letrusscook became the battle cry early last season when Wilson helped get the Seahawks off to a 6-1 start as the offense averaged 34.3 points and 414.4 yards per game, the rest of the season didn’t go as well. That prompted coach Pete Carroll to say after the season that he wants the Seahawks to get back to running it more and running it better.

Carson believes he and Penny can get the job done.

“I think we can be one of the top rushing duos in the league,’’ Carson said, via Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. “We both bring a different feel to the game, like different attributes. But we complement each other so well. I feel like his limit is ridiculous once he starts getting his feet wet in the game. I think it’s going to be something special.’’

Carson’s 12 100-yard games since 2018 are fifth-most in the NFL, but after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, he rushed for only 681 in 12 games last season. The Seahawks were 2-2 in the four games Carson missed with a foot injury.

“Man, that was my whole goal last season was to play 16 games,’’ Carson said. “And when it didn’t happen, going through that period was stressful.’’

Neither Carson nor Penny ever has played a full, 16-game schedule. The team hopes both can make it through a full, 17-game season this season.

Giants players announce they won’t attend in-person voluntary workouts

NFL: NOV 15 Eagles at Giants
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Giants players released a statement through the NFLPA announcing they will not take part in voluntary in-person workouts at the team facility.

Players from seven other teams have made similar announcements, declaring some or all of their players will not take participate in planned in-person work this offseason.

“Our team is a strong, unified brotherhood of professionals who love the game of football and work year-round to perfect our craft,” the statement from Giants players reads. “We also have to make the best decisions to protect our health and safety, which is why players on our team are exercising our CBA right to not attend in-person voluntary workouts. We stand in solidarity with players across our league who are making informed decisions with the help of our union, both in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and what the data shows about the benefits to our overall health and safety.”

The virtual portion of the offseason program begins Monday. The NFL announced Wednesday that Phase Three, the only phase that will consist of on-field work, will include 10 on-field voluntary in-person practices and a three-day mandatory minicamp that will run from May 24-June 18.

Saints sign Jalen McCleskey

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Receiver Jalen McCleskey has agreed to terms with the Saints, his representation, National Sports Agency, announced.

McCleskey’s father, J.J., played 32 games for the Saints from 1994-96 as a defensive back and now coaches the defensive backs at Tulane.

Jalen McCleskey played his final college season at Tulane in 2019 after four years at Oklahoma State. He went undrafted last spring but signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent.

Atlanta cut McCleskey out of training camp.

McCleskey caught 167 passes for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns in four years with Oklahoma State. In his lone season at Tulane, he caught 37 passes for 581 yards and four touchdowns.

Former Eagles standout Leroy Keyes dies at 74

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The Eagles announced that former player Leroy Keyes died at his home in West Lafayette, Indiana, on Thursday. Keyes was 74.

The Eagles made Keyes the third overall choice in 1969 out of Purdue, where he starred as a running back, defensive back and return specialist. He finished as the school’s all-time leader in touchdowns (37), points (222), and all-purpose yards (3,757).

Keyes, a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1968, earned induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990. He recently was named to the Mount Rushmore of Purdue football in an online poll, joining quarterbacks Drew Brees and Bob Griese and defensive back Rod Woodson.

In his four years with the Eagles, Keyes played running back, cornerback and safety. In 1971, Keyes and All-Pro Bill Bradley formed one of the best safety duos in the game, combining for 17 interceptions.

Keyes spent one season with the Chiefs after leaving Philadelphia.

He later returned to Philadelphia to work for the city’s school district as a desegregation specialist for 16 years before returning to his alma mater to join its coaching staff in 1995. He remained with Purdue in several capacities until his retirement in 2011.

Keyes is survived by his wife, Monica, and four children: Raymond, Jacqueline, Courtland, and Colin.

Cardinals announce five signings, including Ryan Bee, Tavien Feaster

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The Cardinals announced the signings of receiver Andre Baccellia, defensive lineman Ryan Bee, running back Tavien Feaster, linebacker Jamell Garcia-Williams and receiver Darece Roberson, Jr. on Thursday.

In 2020, Baccellia spent training camp with the Chiefs and Patriots after signing with Kansas City as an undrafted rookie out of the University of Washington. Baccellia, 24, played 48 games at Washington and caught 107 passes for 1,183 yards and five touchdowns, while also rushing for 119 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.

Bee played one game with the Washington Football Team as a rookie in 2019 and had one tackle after entering the league as an undrafted rookie free agent from Marshall. He spent the majority of his rookie season on Washington’s practice squad before being released following training camp in 2020.

Feaster spent time on the practice squads of the Lions and Giants in 2020 as a rookie. He entered the league with Jacksonville as an undrafted rookie free agent out of South Carolina. Feaster played at South Carolina in 2019 as a graduate transfer after spending his first three seasons at Clemson.

Garcia-Williams signed with San Francisco as an undrafted rookie free agent from UAB in 2019. The 49ers released him following training camp that season. Garcia-Williams was a defensive lineman in college.

Roberson played collegiately at Wayne State University.

Raiders waive Maurice Hurst and Arden Key; release Kyle Sloter

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The Raiders have released a pair of defensive linemen who were part of the team’s first draft class after Jon Gruden returned as their head coach in 2018.

The team announced that they have released defensive tackle Maurice Hurst and defensive end Arden Key. They also released quarterback Kyle Sloter.

Hurst was a fifth-round pick in 2018 and he started 17 of the 41 games he played for the team. He had 76 tackles, eight sacks, an interception, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries while with the team.

The Raiders signed Solomon Thomas and Quinton Jefferson while re-signing Johnathan Hankins this offseason.

Key was a third-round pick and he had 49 tackles and three sacks in 37 appearances for the team.

Browns players: We are exercising right not to attend in-person work

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In his role as NFL Players Association president, Browns center JC Tretter has been advocating for a virtual offseason program this year.

On Thursday, Tretter’s teammates issued a statement saying that they agree with him and players from other teams who have said they will not be taking part in any in-person work this offseason.

“The NFL’s memo outlining how they plan to implement voluntary workouts falls short of what we as players believe is adequate,” the statement said. “The Cleveland Browns players agree that a virtual offseason, like we had last year, is the best decision for everyone in our league.”

“COVID-19 continues to affect our players, our families and our communities, and we must continue to take it seriously. In addition to the ongoing threat of the pandemic, felt healthier both mentally and physically last year, which we attribute to sufficient recovery time and the lack of additional wear and tear on our bodies during the spring months.”

“For those reasons, we stand in solidarity with players from other clubs by exercising our CBA right to not attend in-person voluntary workouts this offseason. We are professionals who train year-round, wherever we spend our offseason. As we proved last year, we will be ready to compete this upcoming season.”

Thursday’s announcement was the seventh from players saying most or all of their players would not take participate in the planned in-person work this offseason.

Report: Cardinals signing Darece Roberson

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The Cardinals are signing former Wayne State receiver Darece Roberson, Bo Marchionte of college2pro.com reports.

Roberson went undrafted in 2020 and did not play last season.

Roberson scored 10 total touchdowns as a senior in 2019, catching 34 passes for 706 yards. He also rushed for 118 yards on 11 carries and handled both kick and punt return duties.

In four years at Wayne State, he had 24 receiving touchdowns and two more on returns.

Roberson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds at Florida Atlantic’s Pro Day on March 30.

The Cardinals have depth at the position, and the receivers room currently includes speedsters Rico Gafford, Andy Isabella and JoJo Ward.

Report: Broncos have received calls about DaeSean Hamilton

Denver Broncos Training Camp
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The Broncos have gotten trade inquiries about receiver DaeSean Hamilton, Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports.

Garafolo adds: “I believe that they would move him for the right place. This is a name that I’ll be watching as we get closer to the draft.”

The Broncos have depth at the position with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and Diontae Spencer among their options.

The Broncos drafted Hamilton in the fourth round in 2018, and he has played 46 of a possible 48 games. Hamilton, 26, has seen action on 44 percent, 64 percent and 50 percent of the team’s offensive snaps the past three seasons.

He has 81 catches for 833 yards and five touchdowns in his career, including 23 receptions for 293 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Mike Vrabel: Jim Schwartz may help in looking at players for the draft

Washington Football Team v Philadelphia Eagles
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When the Titans announced Jim Schwartz would be joining the team as its senior defensive assistant, head coach Mike Vrabel touted the experience and perspective Schwartz could provide to Tennessee’s staff.

Schwartz, 54, was most recently the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. But he was also the Lions head coach for five years, and was previously the Bills and Titans defensive coordinator. During an event with season ticket holders on Thursday, Vrabel elaborated on what Schwartz will do for Tennessee, particularly this month.

“I think what his role is, it’s just like everybody else: To help the team, to help us win,” Vrabel said, via Jim Wyatt of the Titans’ website. “No job is too small for any of us, and I am confident that is what he’ll do. As he works his way into what we are doing, it has been good to see him meeting with different guys and meeting with the defense and meeting with me.

“I would imagine that maybe he would look at players for the draft, as we get down here and we get a different set of eyes, a guy that has been around the league for a lot of years and has been successful.”

Though Tennessee won the AFC South last year, its defense was 24th in points allowed, 28th in yards allowed, and last in allowing a 52 percent third-down conversion rate. Shane Bowen called the defensive plays last year as the Titans’ outside linebackers coach, and is expected to do the same in 2021 after receiving an official promotion to defensive coordinator.

But now Schwartz will also be around the building as a resource.

“This process was something we talked about since [Schwartz] finished up contractually with Philadelphia,” Vrabel said. “It worked out and I think it works for everybody with what he is willing to do at this point and time and what we’d like to have him do, and help us out. He is local here, he loves the Titans, and he was excited about coming on board and trying to help us in any way that he could just like everybody else in our organization.”

Bears’ players say “majority of our locker room” will not participate in voluntary workouts

NFL: NOV 01 Saints at Bears
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Players on the Bears are the latest to release a statement through the NFL Players Association about skipping voluntary workouts this offseason.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the Bears cited ongoing concerns about COVID-19, as well as last year’s all-virtual offseason program, as reasons not to bring the team together for workouts this year.

“COVID-19 remains a risk both to our team, our families and to our fellow NFL players,” the Bears’ statement said. “We also saw the health and safety benefits of a fully virtual offseason, as injuries across the NFL were down last year. Players remain unclear about the protocols and protections, and rules remain inconsistent despite the last-minute communication by the NFL yesterday. It is for these reasons that the majority of our locker room are choosing to exercise our right and not participate in in-person voluntary workouts in order to stay as safe as possible.”

The Bears are the sixth team to say most players will boycott voluntary workouts.