National Football League
NFL News Wire
  • Wednesday, July 30, 2014
    San Antonio Raiders? Davis eyes options
    By The Sports Xchange

    Mark Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders, confirmed visiting with San Antonio officials about relocating his team to that area.

    • Davis said he met with former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros, then-mayor Julian Castro, city manager Sheryl Sculley, Mario Hernandez of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, and the president and chairman of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce in mid-July.

      "I was asked to meet two weeks ago with the owner of the Oakland Raiders, Mark Davis, and members of his staff," Sculley said in a statement to City Council. "Mr. Davis has expressed interest in a possible relocation of his NFL team to San Antonio and we are engaged in preliminary due diligence. The agenda for this visit included a tour of the Alamodome and meetings with local business leaders."

      Any NFL team seeking relocation needs the approval of 24 of the league's 32 owners.

      NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello said Tuesday that the NFL "received no applications from any of our teams to relocate at this point, so there is nothing for us to respond to."

      Davis was in San Antonio to see Cliff Branch inducted into a local Hall of Fame, according to the Raiders' team website.

      The desire for a new stadium with seating for at least 50,000 at the site of antiquated o.Co Coliseum appears to be a longshot, and it's expected that spurred Davis to look at alternatives. He bristled at commissioner Roger Goodell's idea of sharing Levi's Stadium with the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara and has also looked at Portland, Ore., as an option.

      Cisneros told MySanAntonio.com the door is open to the Raiders.

      "I didn't press that point, but we want to give him things to think about and options should he need to make a decision," he said.

  • Wednesday, July 30, 2014
    Cowboys DE Lawrence to miss two months
    By The Sports Xchange

    Rookie Demarcus Lawrence, the Dallas Cowboys' hand-picked replacement for DeMarcus Ware, could miss half of the regular season with a broken foot.

    • Lawrence was injured Tuesday in a training camp workou at Oxnard, Calif., and will miss 2-3 months.

      The 34th overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Cowboys traded up to select Lawrence, who is penciled in as the starting right defensive end in Rod Marinelli's defense. He was trying to beat left tackle Tyron Smith in a blocking drill in camp Tuesday when he was tossed to the ground clutching his right ankle and foot. He was carted off to receive medical attention.

      Already without left defensive end Anthony Spencer, who is on the physically unable to perform list, the Cowboys might soon be scouring for veteran options.

      If the season began today, veterans George Selvie and Jeremy Mincey would be the starting defensive ends for Dallas.

      The Jets signed veteran Jason Babin last week, a player the Cowboys could have used, at least during preseason.

      Jason Hatcher, who played defensive tackle and was capable of sliding outside, signed with the Washington Redskins in free agency.

  • Wednesday, July 30, 2014
    CB Peterson signs extension with Cardinals
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Arizona Cardinals' Patrick Peterson, in the discussion as the NFL's top cornerback, received a five-year extension worth $70 million, he announced on Twitter on Tuesday night. The team followed with an official announcement, although it did not release terms.

    • Peterson, a Pro Bowl player in each of his first three seasons, including as a returner as a rookie, wrote that $48 million of the contract is guaranteed.

      "Do I feel I'm the best cornerback? Absolutely," Peterson said at the beginning of training camp. "That answer is never going to change."

      Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman signed a four-year, $57 million contract in May, with $40 million guaranteed.

      Peterson, 24, will be able to focus solely on his defense this season. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said the team won't use Peterson on punt returns or on offense, where he dabbled last season because of his speed, getting 11 touches.

      Peterson (6-1, 219) has 12 career interceptions, including three last season, when he made 42 tackles. He has four punt return touchdowns, all during his rookie season of 2011. He is one of seven players to be selected to the Pro Bowl three times before his 24th birthday.

  • Wednesday, July 30, 2014
    Raiders owner meets with San Antonio officials
    By The Sports Xchange

    Mark Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders, confirmed a San Antonio Express-News story that he visited with San Antonio officials about relocating his team to that area, according to multiple reports.

    • Reports state that Davis met with former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros, then-mayor Julian Castro, city manager Sheryl Sculley, Mario Hernandez of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, and the president and chairman of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce in mid-July.

      "I was asked to meet two weeks ago with the owner of the Oakland Raiders, Mark Davis, and members of his staff," Sculley said in a statement to City Council. "Mr. Davis has expressed interest in a possible relocation of his NFL team to San Antonio and we are engaged in preliminary due diligence. The agenda for this visit included a tour of the Alamodome and meetings with local business leaders."

      Any NFL team seeking relocation needs the approval of 24 of the league's 32 owners.

  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    49ers claim OL Philipp off waivers
    By The Sports Xchange

    The San Francisco 49ers claimed offensive lineman Michael Philipp off waivers from the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday. The team waived quarterback Kory Faulkner to make room for Philipp.

    • Philipp (6-4, 328) went undrafted in May after being a four-year starter at left tackle for Oregon State. He signed with the Cleveland Browns in May, was waived May 19 and was then signed by Miami on May 28. He projects at guard or tackle during the 49ers camp.

      San Francisco had signed Faulkner (6-4, 227) as an undrafted free agent on May 12. Faulkner played collegiately at Southern Illinois.

      Earlier Tuesday, the 49ers signed running back Alfonso Smith and waived/injured guard Fouimalo Fonoti, an undrafted rookie from Michigan State signed in May.

  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    Former Bills WR Reed blasts Bon Jovi, Manziel
    By The Sports Xchange

    Former Buffalo Bills receiver Andre Reed is no fan of Jon Bon Jovi or Johnny Manziel.

    • As Reed prepares for induction into the Pro Football of Fame in Canton, Ohio, this weekend, he took some shots at the rocker who is part of a Toronto-based group bidding to buy the Bills and the Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback making headlines with his off-the-field actions.

      As for Bon Jovi, there's concern in Buffalo that Toronto-led buyers would try to move the team to Canada.

      "Man, (expletive) Bon Jovi!" Reed told New York Magazine. "You might as well just take this city, throw it in the river, and let it go down Niagara Falls."

      Reed also was critical of Manziel, citing a recent tweet by Johnny Football calling LeBron James "my guy" after the Akron native announced that he was returning home to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers.

      "Who the (expletive) is Johnny Manziel?" Reed said. "LeBron ain't your guy! You're not 'Johnny Football.' You're 'Johnny Rookie Bitch.'"

      Reed added that Manziel should be glad he didn't land in Buffalo.

      "They'd boo that motherf----- outta here," Reed said. "The fans would put him in his place."

      Reed spent 16 years with the Bills and went to four Super Bowls and seven Pro Bowls. He ranks 11th in NFL history in career receptions.

  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    NFL roundup: Seahawks' Winston signs for one year
    By The Sports Xchange

    Eric Winston signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, who envision the eight-year veteran at right tackle.

    • Winston confirmed the signing via Twitter on Tuesday.

      "Season finally starts for me today! Looking forward to chasing a ring with the Seahawks!! Time go to work!," he wrote.

      In addition to signing Winston, the Seahawks placed wide receiver Taylor Price on injured reserve, released cornerback Chandler Fenner and guard Bronson Irwin and signed wide receiver Randall Carroll and cornerback Terrell Thomas. Thomas, a USC product recruited by Carroll, was a second-round pick of the New York Giants in 2008. He played all 16 games last season after missing consecutive seasons because of torn knee ligaments.

      ---Arizona Cardinals linebacker John Abraham remained absent from training camp on Tuesday and the team had no indication as to when he might show up.

      Cardinals coach Bruce Arians would not say whether Abraham's absense was related to a DUI arrest last month. According to a police report, Abraham was found passed out in a vehicle on June 29 in Atlanta after leaving a strip club. He failed field sobriety tests and was taken into custody. He also was driving with a suspended South Carolina license.

      On Friday, Abraham was not present for the Cardinals' conditioning tests at University of Phoenix Stadium and Arians said at the time that Abraham was excused for personal reasons.

      ---With about 10 minutes remaining in practice Tuesday, New York Giants running back David Wilson was spotted walking off the field with head trainer Ronnie Barnes after suffering what coach Tom Coughlin described as a "burner."

      Wilson was just cleared for contact on July 21, the first day of training camp, after recovering from neck surgery. Wilson, whose neck issues first came to light in the Giants' Week 5 loss in Philadelphia last year, was placed on season-ending injured reserve. He underwent spinal fusion surgery in January to address a herniated disc.

      Coughlin, visibly concerned when asked about Wilson, said he didn't want to speculate on what happened until the doctors had a chance to examine the 23-year-old Wilson. Clearly, though, he was upset that Wilson, who had been looking forward to moving on with his career after finally receiving medical clearance, experienced what could be a setback.

      ---High-priced safety Jairus Byrd participated in his first practice with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday. Byrd was activated from the physically unable to perform list, where he landed after back surgery in March.

      Coach Payton said after the team's first practice of their three-week stay at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia that Byrd, who had surgery on May 29 to repair a damaged disc in his back, was given the PUP designation that limited him to working with trainers on the side.

      Payton said Byrd, who received a six-year, $54 million contract from the Saints on the first day of the free-agency signing period in March, was scheduled to be back before the team leaves West Virginia to return to their home base Aug. 14.

      ---Dinged by injuries at the position, the San Francisco 49ers signed running back Alfonso Smith to a one-year contract.

      Smith joins a depth chart depleted in the opening days of training camp by injuries to key reserve running backs Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James. Hunter is out for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee and James is out for up to six weeks with an elbow injury.

      To create a roster spot for Smith, the 49ers waived/injured guard Fouimalo Fonoti, an undrafted rookie from Michigan State signed in May.

      Smith totaled 48 carries for 156 yards and two touchdowns in 43 games over four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, where he also played on kick-coverage teams.

      ---A man in Baltimore County will be formally charged with disorderly conduct for urinating on the grave of former Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell.

      Modell and wife Patricia are buried at Druid Ridge Cemetery in Baltimore. The cemetery said last week the incident was "disappointing and disrepectful." In a news release, State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger said charges should be a deterrent to any future offenders.

      The man has not yet been identified beyond his sports fan allegiance to the Cleveland Browns. In a video posted on YouTube, the man with a username BrownsFan4Life removes a Ravens jersey with former safety Ed Reed's name and number (20) and urinates on the grave site the bottom of his pants using a catheter tube.

      ---The Indianapolis Colts signed free agent linebacker Jonathon Sharpe and former Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner on Tuesday.

      Sharpe participated in the 2014 Super Regional Combine in Detroit. Tanner was with the Cowboys from 2011 to 2013 and rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 56 carries and added nine receptions for 93 yards. On special teams, he contributed 21 tackles.

      ---Former Buffalo Bills receiver Andre Reed is no fan of Jon Bon Jovi or Johnny Manziel.

      As Reed prepares for induction into the Pro Football of Fame in Canton, Ohio, this weekend, he took some shots at the rocker who is part of a Toronto-based group bidding to buy the Bills to possibly move the franchise to Canada and also the Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback who is making headlines with his off-the-field actions.

      "Man, (expletive) Bon Jovi!" Reed told New York Magazine. "You might as well just take this city, throw it in the river, and let it go down Niagara Falls."

      Reed also was critical of Manziel, citing a recent tweet by Johnny Football calling LeBron James "my guy" after the Akron native announced that he was returning home to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers.

      "Who the (expletive) is Johnny Manziel?" Reed said. "LeBron ain't your guy! You're not 'Johnny Football.' You're 'Johnny Rookie Bitch.'"

      ---Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon and his attorney will argue in an appeal to the NFL on Friday that second-hand smoke resulted in a failed drug test.

      Gordon is working with Maurice Suh, the lawyer who assisted Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in his case against the NFL in 2012. Sherman's four-game suspension was waived.

      Gordon is facing a one-year suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy for a third time. According to ESPN.com, Gordon was just over the threshold with his failed test with one of his samples. A second sample was more than a nonogram per milliliter below the cutoff line. His legal team plans to call witnesses to testify that the scores are an indication of second-hand smoke. ProFootballTalk.com reported that Gordon has passed 70 or more drug tests since last year when he entered Stage II of the NFL's drug program.

  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    Falcons RB Jackson sidelined by hamstring injury
    By The Sports Xchange

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Running back Steven Jackson sat out Tuesday's practice with a right hamstring injury, but head coach Mike Smith expects Jackson to be ready in time for the regular-season opener against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 7.

    • Smith noted it was not the hamstring that Jackson injured in Week 2 last season, when the veteran struggled out of the gate and had his streak of eight consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons snapped, finishing with 543 yards and six touchdowns on 157 carries. However, it continues a series of soft-tissue issues the 31-year-old Jackson has dealt with in recent seasons.

      With Jackson sidelined, veteran Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Devonta Freeman will shoulder the bulk of the workload, with Antone Smith also likely to see increased snaps.

      -- After entering training camp last season anointed as the Atlanta Falcons' starting center almost by default, Pete Konz finds himself in the underdog role 12 months later.

      A second-round pick in 2012, he was viewed as the long-term answer in the pivot with the reputation of being a dogged and tireless worker coming out of a Wisconsin program with a lengthy reputation for churning out quality NFL offensive lineman. Todd McClure retired after Konz's rookie season and the torch appeared to have been passed.

      But Konz hit a significant bump in the road, getting overwhelmed to start the season and ultimately found himself starting 10 games at right guard, where he was still considered a weak link on a unit that grossly underperformed in 2013. Joe Hawley took over at center and performed well enough to enter training camp this year atop the depth chart.

      "With all that I've done (over the offseason), if I can push someone to be better and if they beat me outright, that's fine," Konz said after Tuesday's practice. "I am a team player. I can do everything else for this team, but I'm focusing right now on that starting spot and winning that spot over."

      Hawley knows he's in a dogfight for the starting job, and doesn't expect anything to be handed to him.

      "They're expecting a lot out of me," Hawley said. "They gave me an opportunity last year, halfway through the season and I think they liked what they saw. They brought me back for another opportunity and I'm just really trying to grow as a leader, work on my communication and my rapport with (quarterback) Matt (Ryan).

      "I think it's going to be good, having a whole training camp with the ones and working with those guys and I think brining in new guys on the offensive line, I think we're really solidifying that group and I think we're going to be a huge asset this year to the team."

      --Second-year LB Paul Worrilow is being groomed to be the defensive signal-caller with Sean Weatherspoon out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. An undrafted rookie in 2013, Worrilow led the Falcons with 137 tackles last season.

      --LB Walker May worked with trainers on the side Tuesday with an undisclosed injury.

      QUOTEABLE: "The grind doesn't stop. It won't just come to you. RISE UP and get it." -Falcons running back Steven Jackson, on his Twitter account Monday.

  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    Seahawks sign OT Winston
    By The Sports Xchange

    Eric Winston signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, who envision the eight-year veteran at right tackle.

    • Winston confirmed the signing via Twitter on Tuesday.

      "Season finally starts for me today! Looking forward to chasing a ring with the Seahawks!! Time go to work!," he wrote.

      In addition to signing Winston, the Seahawks placed wide receiver Taylor Price on injured reserve, released cornerback Chandler Fenner and guard Bronson Irwin and signed wide receiver Randall Carroll and cornerback Terrell Thomas. Thomas, a USC product recruited by Carroll, was a second-round pick of the New York Giants in 2008. He played all 16 games last season after missing consecutive seasons because of torn knee ligaments.

      Winston has never missed a game -- 112 total with Houston (2007-2011), Kansas City (2012) and Arizona (2013) -- and said he's in the best shape of his career after offseason workout sessions with Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson.

      A peek at the September schedule might have motivated head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider to seek a veteran edge blocker. Before a Week 4 bye, the Seahawks will see Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers of the Green Bay Packers, and Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware of the Denver Broncos (Week 3) with a trip to San Diego (Dwight Freeney, Melvin Ingram, Jarret Johnson) in between.

      The Super Bowl champions lost 2013 starter Breno Giacomini in free agency to the New York Jets, but Seattle drafted Missouri right tackle Justin Britt in the second round of the 2014 draft and had Michael Bowie, a rookie seventh-round pick last season who played guard and tackle, competing for the spot.

      Giacomini was more of a brawler than Winston, a better fit in zone-blocking schemes.

      The Seahawks are familiar with Winston, who started all 16 games with the Arizona Cardinals last season and was elected NFL Players Association president in the offseason.

      The 30-year-old said in an interview last week that he would sign without being promised a starting spot.

      Thomas played for Carroll at USC from 2004-2007.

  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    Man to face charges for urinating on Modell's grave
    By The Sports Xchange

    A man in Baltimore County will be formally charged with disorderly conduct for urinating on the grave of former Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell.

    • Modell and wife Patricia are buried at Druid Ridge Cemetery in Baltimore. The cemetery said last week the incident was "disappointing and disrepectful."

      In a news release, State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger said charges should be a deterrent to any future offenders.

      The man has not yet been identified beyond his sports fan allegiance to the Cleveland Browns.

      In a video posted on YouTube, the man with a username BrownsFan4Life removes a Ravens jersey with former safety Ed Reed's name and number (20) and urinates on the grave site the bottom of his pants using a catheter tube.

      Modell's son, David, who served as Ravens CEO under his late father, said he planned to pursue charges when he learned of the incident.

  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    Perseverance pushed C Wendell into Patriots' picture
    By The Sports Xchange

    Bill Belichick loves an underdog, and he found one in center Ryan Wendell.

    • The starting pivot for the New England Patriots arrived as an undrafted free agent in 2008, with a strong recommendation from Belichick pal and confidant Pat Hill, whose experience as an NFL offensive line coach gives him credibility beyond his bond with the longtime Patriots' head coach.

      It wasn't abundantly clear where, when or if ever Wendell would fit in the Patriots' plans.

      "When Ryan first got here, he couldn't even make our practice squad. He was a camp player, wasn't on our practice squad," Belichick recalled Tuesday.

      Two months into the 2008 season, Wendell was added to the practice squad.

      "He has worked his way from there on to a consistent practice squad player to a roster player to playing more plays, or whatever it was, played as many plays as anybody in the league did (last season)," Belichick said of Wendell, who started all 16 games for the Patriots in 2012 and 2013 and played a league-high 1,231 snaps last season. "I'd say it's been about as big of a progression as really any player could have, any player I've had or any player could have -- maybe Steve Neal ... same kind of thing, guys that weren't even on the practice squad that eventually became starting players in the NFL. That's a pretty big jump."

      Wendell is a grinder, a polished run blocker who survives on effort and desire in the passing game. He was rewarded in March with a two-year, $4.55 million deal despite not performing at a peak level in 2013. The Patriots will keep him at center in front of quarterback Tom Brady, but would like to see improvement in his pass protection.

      "Physically he's developed," Belichick said of the 300-pounder. "So, he's had a lot of good people to work with. He's taken advantage of that. He's put in a lot of sweat equity himself and he's got a good result to show for it. It's a great story. It's a great example of perseverance and dedication and hard work with good results; I love to see it."

      Reliability is a calling card of offensive linemen in the Belichick regime. He missed only six snaps the past two seasons. There was a bigger reason personnel boss Nick Caserio and Belichick kept Wendell around.

      "I think when you look at the overall performance, the overall projection of where you think the player is going to be based on whatever -- his age, his experience, his work ethic, his training or age, whichever way it's going, there's a certain projection there but you wait and let it play out," Belichick said. "...Certainly if we would have projected Ryan Wendell and Steve Neal their rookie years; none of us would have thought -- (Tom) Brady for that matter. His rookie year, he didn't do anything either. None of us would have thought that those guys would be the contributors they ended up being. That's why we go out there and have training camp. That's what competition is about. Sometimes you find out things differently."

  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    Browns acclimate to protecting Johnny Football
    By The Sports Xchange

    Decades between the last franchise-caliber quarterback in Cleveland, there is no guarantee the Browns' answer is on the current roster.

    • But Brian Hoyer, who has fewer than 200 career pass attempts and three career starts, and rookie Johnny Manziel are vying to convince coach Mike Pettine that they are the right man for the starting job in 2014.

      Veteran offensive tackle Joe Thomas said the early sense in training camp is that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's system will be more balanced than recent seasons.

      "There's definitely going to be a big emphasis on the running game. The offense that (offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan brings here has traditionally always been kind of a run-first offense, going way back to when they were in Denver and it was being run in Houston," said Thomas. "It's not like it's going to be 80-20 run-pass, but it's going to be closer to 50-50 run-pass mix than we've ever seen since I've been here."

      Hoyer is mobile, and Manziel generated over 10,000 yards total offense in two seasons at Texas A&M using uncanny mobility to threaten defenses as a runner and scrambler who can create passing lanes wide enough to park a Mack truck. That also makes life difficult on assignment-conscious blockers.

      "It's kind of like the read-option. You don't know where he's going to be a lot of times when the play breaks down," Thomas said. "It makes it difficult to try to block for a spot, which is kind of what you're used to doing. Sometimes busts become the biggest plays you have when you have a guy running free. All of a sudden, Manziel's running out of the pocket, throwing a ball downfield. It's a lot like playing (Steelers quarterback) Ben Roethlisberger. A lot of times, the biggest plays that they've had in the past were ones where we had defensive guys running free to the quarterback but can't get him down. Then, he breaks out of the pocket and he extends the play. Now, defensive backs have to cover their guy for six or seven seconds which doesn’t happen and then you get the big chunk down the field."

      Hoyer connected instantly with tight end Jordan Cameron in his brief pre-injury cameo last season, and Cameron is expected to be a lead receiver in the offense if wide receiver Josh Gordon's reported season-long suspension holds.

      Cameron is playing for a new contract. He noticed -- and received multiple text messages -- when Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph signed a $36.5 million deal Sunday night. But Cameron's future is essentially in the hands of two unproven passers.

      "I wouldn't say they're polar opposites," Cameron said. "They're both very competitive people. The quarterback needs to be super competitive. Kind of like I said, the energy from a quarterback, it leaks off to everyone else and it's pretty contagious. They both have that."

      Cameron said there is no backing down from an expanded role in the offense, knowing it means more attention from defenders.

      "You want that. You want more targets, if that's what it's going to be," Cameron said. "Like I said, I'm not even thinking about that right now. It's Day 1 of camp, and when that time comes we'll worry about it then."

      NOTES: TE Gary Barnidge and LB Tank Carder were activated for Monday's practice. To create roster space, OL Chris King and K Jake Rogers were released. ... Rookie CB Justin Gilbert, the Browns' top draft pick, is competing for a starting job with Buster Skrine. Gilbert said the team reminded him in a meeting that All-Pro CB Joe Haden, who starts at left cornerback for the Browns, did not start as a rookie. "They were like, 'If you don't start the first week, Joe Haden didn't start until a couple of games in the season.' Whatever we can do in the defensive room to win games, that's the main key."

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    Colts waive WR Burks
    By The Sports Xchange

    Wide receiver Aaron Burks lasted just over two weeks with the Indianapolis Colts, as he was waived Monday night.

    • Burks was signed as a free agent on July 11, but Indianapolis' receiving corps was already crowded when Burks arrived. He was not considered to be a candidate for one of the top six receiving roles on the team.

      The undrafted Boise State product signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in mid-May and was waived a month later. Burks played four years in Boise, making 47 catches for 743 yards and four touchdowns.

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    Lions, Suh table extension talks
    By The Sports Xchange

    ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew said the team tabled discussions with two-time All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh until after the 2014 season, but they remain focused on keeping Suh in Detroit.

    • "We have the formula for getting a guy signed," Mayhew said Monday. "We have a player that wants to be here; we have a team that wants to keep the player. Those are the two most important things."

      Suh said he likes playing for the Lions, but did not want to comment on the contract negotiations ending.

      "It wasn't my decision," Suh said. "I'm not going to talk about my contract. We're going to continue to talk about football."

      --Wide receiver Golden Tate, the Lions' top free-agent signee, was taken off the active physically unable to perform list in time to practice Monday, the first day of training camp.

      --Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, the second-round pick, missed most of practice after suffering a thumb injury, but said he hopes to return to practice Tuesday.

      --Quarterback Matthew Stafford, on ESPN's Mike & Mike radio show Monday morning, said the Lions "absolutely" have no excuses not to have a better offense this year.

      "I totally agree with that, and I think our biggest challenge right now is learning the new offense and making sure we master it," Stafford said.

      --Running back Mikel Leshoure, the fourth-year back, had some reps with the first team Monday, though he's still behind Joique Bell and Reggie Bush. Leshoure thinks he can play more this season with a new coaching staff.

      "I feel like I'll get a role somewhere," he said.

      --Offensive tackle Corey Hilliard earned first-team reps at right tackle Monday. He's in a competition with second-year tackle LaAdrian Waddle, and the two will likely split first-team reps moving forward.

      --Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree is competing for one of the final receiver spots, and he played great with the first and second teams Monday, making multiple catches and running crisp routes.

      --Defensive end Kalonji Kashama, an undrafted player from Eastern Michigan, was waived/injured, leaving an opening on the 90-man roster.

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    NFL roundup: League claims Rice message sent
    By The Sports Xchange

    Uproar over the NFL's punishment for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is unfounded, NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch said Monday.

    • Rice was suspended two games for his offseason arrest and plea deal in a domestic violence incident involving his then-fiancee and now wife, Jenay Palmer. Rice was seen on surveliance video at a casino in Atlantic City dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator in February.

      The Ravens have supported Rice in the case, citing his sterling reputation before the incident, which create a social media firestorm in February and again last week when the NFL handed down a two-game suspension. The media and public reaction on Twitter and elsewhere was that the NFL sent the wrong message to Rice and other domestic violence offenders.

      Rice was also fined a third game check and did not appeal the decision within the three-day allowable period to do so, leading to speculation that the NFL received Rice's consent to not object to the ban.

      "Listen, I think if you are any player and you think that based on this decision that it's OK to go out and commit that kind of conduct, I think that is something that I would suggest to you that no player is going to go out and do that," Birch said Monday, appearing on ESPN Radio. "So in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we've done that. We can talk about the degree of discipline, we can talk about whether or not third parties need to be involved. I would suggest to you that a third party has been involved in this matter and that was the court that reviewed it, the prosecutor that reviewed it."

      ---Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson may not take a snap during the preseason.

      Coach Mike Zimmer told NFL.com that there is "nothing to see" from Peterson as the Vikings prepare for the season. At the most, Peterson may take only a few snaps.

      Zimmer said the injury risks are too great to have Peterson playing much, if at all, in exhibition games. However, he will allow Peterson to see some action if he thinks it will benefit him.

      ---Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said that the team will eventually sign quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a long-term contract.

      The Steelers have told Roethlisberger, 31, that they will not sign him to a new deal before the start of the season. He has two years left on his contract.

      Roethlisberger will make $12.1 million in base salary this season, according to ESPN, and his salary cap hit is $18.895 million.

      ---Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Jason Pinkston is not yet cleared to practice with the team.

      In a joint statement with Pinkston's representatives, the firm of Schwartz and Feinsod, the Browns attempted to clarify without offering specifics on the nature of the medical issue.

      "Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Jason Pinkston has not been medically cleared to participate in football activities. The team has been in communication with Jason and his representatives and will respect their wishes to not provide any further details at this time."

      ---Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen told ESPN 950 that quarterback Robert Griffin III was rushed back from a knee injury last season.

      After throwing 20 touchdown passes and just five interceptions in 15 games as a rookie, Griffin III threw 16 touchdowns and 12 picks in 13 games last season.

      "What you saw last year was almost a little disrespectful to the game of football," Allen said. "It's impossible to ask a player to perform well during the regular season if you haven't practiced. Last year at this time, he was still rehabbing his knee, and he wasn't allowed to practice or work in team drills."

      In other news, the Redskins signed linebacker Everette Brown.

      ---Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris met with Dr. James Andrews and is considered ahead of schedule in rehabbing from a torn ACL in his left knee.

      Harris is hoping to return to practice later this week on a limited basis in non-contact drills. He is still on the active/physically unable to perform list.

      ---Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler left practice Sunday with a groin injury, and the team is running out of replacement options.

      Chandler re-signed a two-year deal to return to the Bills in the offseason. Chandler is coming off a 2013 season in which he set career highs with 53 catches for 655 yards and two touchdowns. He has caught a pass in 32 consecutive games, most in franchise history among tight ends.

      ---Carolina Panthers first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin had an MRI on his sore left knee.

      Benjamin, a wide receiver, bumped his knee on a teammate during practice on Sunday afternoon.

      Team officials said Benjamin's injury does not appear to be serious, but he missed Monday morning's practice.

      ---The Indianapolis Colts waived running back Chris Rainey. Head coach Chuck Pagano confirmed following a morning training camp practice that the Colts released Rainey for violating a team rule.

      Rainey was signed by the Colts as a free agent on Nov. 20, 2013. In two games with Indianapolis last season, he had six kickoff returns for 131 yards and four punt returns for 29 yards.

      ---The Detroit Lions removed wide receiver Golden Tate from the active/physically unable to perform list.

      Tate was placed on the PUP list late last week, but will not miss any training camp practices after all. He missed part of the team's offseason program with a shoulder injury. He said in June that he only had soreness.

      ---The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed defensive tackle Jibreel Black and cornerback Anthony Gaitor.

      Black, who was not drafted, played collegiately at Michigan. Gaitor has played 12 games in three seasons with the Buccaneers since they selected him in the seventh round of the 2011 draft. He has 10 career tackles and four pass breakups.

      The team also waived running back Brendan Bigelow and wide receiver Quintin Payton.

      ---The New England Patriots claimed rookie running back Tyler Gaffney off waivers from Carolina.

      Gaffney, 23, was originally drafted by the Panthers in the sixth round of the 2014 draft out of Stanford. He was injured in training camp and was released by the Panthers on July 27.

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    NFL claims message sent in Rice ban
    By The Sports Xchange

    Uproar over the NFL's punishment for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is unfounded, NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch said Monday.

    • Rice was suspended two games for his offseason arrest and plea deal in a domestic violence incident involving his then-fiancee and now wife, Jenay Palmer. Rice was seen on surveliance video at a casino in Atlantic City dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator in February.

      The Ravens have supported Rice in the case, citing his sterling reputation before the incident, which create a social media firestorm in February and again last week when the NFL handed down a two-game suspension. The media and public reaction on Twitter and elsewhere was that the NFL sent the wrong message to Rice and other domestic violence offenders.

      Rice was also fined a third game check and did not appeal the decision within the three-day allowable period to do so, leading to speculation that the NFL received Rice's consent to not object to the ban.

      "Listen, I think if you are any player and you think that based on this decision that it's OK to go out and commit that kind of conduct, I think that is something that I would suggest to you that no player is going to go out and do that," Birch said Monday, appearing on ESPN Radio. "So in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we've done that. We can talk about the degree of discipline, we can talk about whether or not third parties need to be involved. I would suggest to you that a third party has been involved in this matter and that was the court that reviewed it, the prosecutor that reviewed it.

      "But if it is a question about what the principle of the league is and what standards we stand by, that cannot be questioned. I think it is absolutely clear to all involved that the NFL does not condone domestic violence in any way and will not tolerate it in our league. I don't know how you can reach a conclusion other than that although I certainly respect the opinion."

      Because Rice entered a diversion program, he avoided legal repercussions.

      "The discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only discipline that occurred, with respect to Mr. Rice, in this case," Birch said. "I think that, were he not an NFL player, I don't know that he would be able to receive any punishment from any other source.

      "On balance, we reviewed all the materials, listened to the persons we listened to, took the input of the Players Association. When we looked on balance at all of that, we believe that discipline we issued is appropriate. It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think that's fair to say that doesn't reflect that you condone the behavior. I think we can put that to rest."

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    Falcons' Smith seeking toughness
    By The Sports Xchange

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Asked if one side of the football stood out above the other during Monday's fourth practice of training camp, Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith grinned and classified it as, "equal opportunity mistakes."

    • Smith wasn't concerned - it's was in line with the first practice in pads at most trainings camps he has been a part of during his career. For the Falcons players, it was the first time they have put on the pads and had physical contact on the field since last season - padded practices are not allowed during the offseason.

      "I thought it was an O.K. first practice (in pads)," Smith said. "The energy was there, the effort was there. But I think when we watch the tape we're going to see like with most first practices that our pad level was way too high.

      "That's something we can correct, easily, but the effort was outstanding and the energy was very good. But some of the technical things we'll need to make sure we get corrected.

      The practice was highlighted by some skirmishes in the trenches that the coach largely downplayed.

      "You're wasting a lot of energy when you're fighting," Smith said. "That's expected to be when guys are competing, but that's not the way to fight for a job. The way to fight for a job is between the whistles."

      Smith has been preaching becoming a tougher football team since the end of last season, but there is a fine line between being competitive and engaging in fruitless fights. When he discusses becoming a more physical football team, he doesn't want that to be confused for a lack of toughness.

      "Everyone wants to talk about toughness... if you play in the National Football League, you are a tough person," he said. "It's about being resilient, it's about being strong, it's about being physical. But in terms of being physical, we need to be a more physical football team. You just don't turn it on when you go out on the field and play a game. You gotta work on it on the practice field."

      That included a few scripted plays that ended with live hitting, and the infamous Oklahoma drill where two offensive players including a ballcarrier battle a defender inside a 5-yard box.

      "There was competition but it was also fun," said safety Dwight Lowery. "We had a good time. When you get to knock each other around a little bit and not run around in shorts, it's a lot more fun. At the same time, we have to build one day on top of the other."

      Again, it's a careful balance between practicing fundamentals and not getting a key player injured before the calendar even flips to August.

      "I think it's important that we limit (tackling), but it's also important that we work on it as well ... where the first time we're tackling for some of these guys is in the first preseason game," Smith said.

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    Patriots claim RB Gaffney off waivers
    By The Sports Xchange

    The New England Patriots claimed rookie running back Tyler Gaffney off waivers from Carolina on Monday.

    • Gaffney, 23, was originally drafted by the Panthers in the sixth round of the 2014 draft out of Stanford. He was injured in training camp and was released by the Panthers on July 27.

      The 6-foot, 220-pound Gaffney started all 14 games for Stanford during his senior season, finishing with 330 rushing attempts for 1,709 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns.

      The Patriots also released linebacker Josh Hull.

      Hull, 27, is a veteran of four NFL seasons with the St. Louis Rams (2010-12) and the Washington Redskins (2013). He was signed by the Patriots as a free agent on April 24.

      The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Hull was originally drafted by St. Louis in the seventh round out of Penn State in 2010. He was released by St. Louis at the end of training camp in 2013 and signed with Washington as a free agent on Oct. 15, 2013.

      Hull has played in 39 NFL games with one start and has registered 25 total tackles. Last season with the Rams, Hull played in 11 games and finished with 14 total tackles.

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    Smith wants Bucs to embrace the heat
    By The Sports Xchange

    TAMPA, Fla. - Lovie Smith had heard stories about the oppressive heat the three Florida teams often have to endure during training camp, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-year head coach experienced it first hand on Monday with the heat index approaching 100 degrees.

    • And he wasn't even wearing pads like the Bucs' players, but Smith has constructed practice times to get the players accustomed to the type of heat they will face during home games early in the season.

      "The heat in Tampa is no joke," Smith said Monday. "We'll be playing (regular-season games), of course, at this time, so we have to practice along these lines. Hot days like today when the heat index is up there, we'll never put the players at risk. We'll take as many water breaks as we need to and kind of watch them. But the guys have been working hard getting used to this environment with the pads on."

      The Bucs have the day off from on-field work tomorrow, although Smith expects some players to show up to work out or squeeze in additional film study.

      "Just like it says, 'day off' - do whatever you like," said Smith. "(The coaches are) going to come in to work and you're always looking ahead. We're looking ahead. We have so much in front of us."

      --Jeff Demps is listed as a second-year player, but the running back and former track star essentially hasn't played consistent football since his senior season at the University of Florida in 2011. He signed with the New England Patriots as an undrafted rookie, spent 2012 on injured reserve and was acquired by the Bucs in April 2013.

      Demps carries the moniker of the "fastest man in the NFL," which Smith said means the coaching staff is looking for ways to utilize his speed. Demps has his work cut out to carve out a niche considering the backfield features Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainer and Charles Sims.

      "I'm just kind of everywhere right now, just trying to get in where I fit in and whenever my number is called I'm just trying to get on the field and make something happen," Demps said."

      --CB Alterraun Verner continues to be limited by a hamstring injury, but said he's excited to be in Tampa Bay and isn't trying to live up to any comparisons to Darrelle Revis.

      "It's not something I'm overly caught up on," Verner said. "You should never be trying to replace somebody or try to play and be like somebody else, you have got to play within yourself and that's something that I learned through the years."

      --Defensive tackle Jibreel Black was added to the roster and cornerback Anthony Gaitor was re-signed. The team also waived running back Brendan Bigelow and wide receiver Quintin Payton.

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    Giants' offense challenging Manning to evolve
    By The Sports Xchange

    For a two-time Super Bowl champion, Eli Manning enters his 11th season with the New York Giants with as much to prove as almost any quarterback in the NFL.

    • He has plenty of football left in him at just 33 years old, but Manning is being challenged to make several changes in a new offense following a dreadful 2013 season in which he posted a 69.4 passer rating and was sacked 39 times - both easily career low water marks in nine years as a starter.

      New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is installing his version of the West Coast offense he learned as part of Mike McCarthy's staff in Green Bay. The play calls will come in quicker, Manning will be asked to get to the line faster and he'll be charged with making decisions with the ball to avoid some of those sacks.

      Last season's 57.5 completion percentage? The stated goal in McAdoo's offense is 70 percent - which hasn't been done often in NFL history and would obliterate Manning's 58.5 percent career mark.

      "We want to raise his completion percentage for sure," said quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf. "That's an impressive statistic if you look at the history of the league. That's what we're gunning for is 70 percent."

      To aid in the effort, more screen plays are being installed and Manning will be asked to go through his progressions. Expect fewer deep balls out of this offense, although the Giants will continue to push the ball downfield.

      "We'd like him to play faster and make quicker decisions and that's part of it," said Langsdorf. "We're trying to put some pressure on him to speed up and by doing so we'll get some more pressure on the defense and make them adjust to us."

      Manning acknowledged the installation of the offense is still a work in progress, but he has seen steady progress and believes the tempo is starting to click. The Giants also had two consecutive practices in pads, which tends to ratchet up the tempo.

      Sunday's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills in the Hall of Fame Game will also present Manning's first opportunity to test out alterations in his footwork in the new offense.

      "I think (the footwork) makes sense and you can rely on it but it's not only remembering the play and protection but also remembering what type of, do I take a step with my right foot first or my left foot, those things that are now becoming second nature," said Manning.

      For his part, Langsdorf sees a better athlete in person than he gave Manning credit for on tape.

      "He moves a lot better than I thought," said Langsdorf. "Nowadays, you're getting so much spread offense and quarterbacks. You get a guy who is running all over the place so you group Eli with a bunch of stiff guys, but that's not really the case. He is a good athlete, especially in the pocket. We're not going to run a quarterback draw with him but he moves around pretty well."

      --The Giants were heavily criticized for parting ways with Brandon Myers and not adding a veteran tight end through free agency or using one of their early draft picks on one. The hope is that someone will emerge among a young group that includes Adrien Robinson, Larry Donald and rookie Xavier Grimble. Veterans Kellen Davis and Daniel Fells were signed to compete for a backup role.

      "There have been guys that have made strides in different areas so right now we're looking for the complete tight end who can do it all," said tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride. "But we also need guys who are role players, guys who can be specialists in certain areas, as far as if he's best at executing a certain block, he's going to the have the opportunity to make those plays in the game.

      "If he's best at a certain route, he's going to have the opportunity to make those plays during the game. So I think you need both. You need to have the all-around tight and then you also have to have specialists, guys who are great at that particular role."

      --Coach Tom Coughlin said he has not determined exactly how long the starters will play against the Bills, but he sees a fifth preseason game as a benefit.

      "There are five games and you approach it in different ways, whether you have four or five, but this is going to benefit us," he said. "We're going to get some more opportunities in this offense."

      -- Coughlin said McAdoo will handle his game-day duties from the sideline rather than the press box.

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    Broncos CB Harris ahead of schedule
    By The Sports Xchange

    Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris met with Dr. James Andrews on Monday and is considered ahead of schedule in rehabbing from a torn ACL in his left knee.

    • Harris is hoping to return to practice later this week on a limited basis in non-contact drills. He is still on the active/physically unable to perform list.

      "We haven't put a timetable on it, he is day to day," coach John Fox said. "Today he did not participate and he still remains on PUP."

      Harris is expected to return by the second or third week of the regular season, according to the National Football Post.

      "It went well, it couldn't have gone any better," a source said. "It was definitely a good checkup, very positive."

      Harris recently said he is 85 percent recovered from the injury.

      Harris was injured during the playoffs against the San Diego Chargers in January. He has made 34 starts in three seasons with Denver.

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    Redskins GM: Griffin III rushed back from injury
    By The Sports Xchange

    ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen recently told ESPN 950 that quarterback Robert Griffin III was rushed back from a knee injury last season.

    • After throwing 20 touchdown passes and just five interceptions in 15 games as a rookie, Griffin III threw 16 touchdowns and 12 picks in 13 games last season.

      "What you saw last year was almost a little disrespectful to the game of football," Allen said. "It's impossible to ask a player to perform well during the regular season if you haven't practiced. Last year at this time, he was still rehabbing his knee, and he wasn't allowed to practice or work in team drills.

      "We put him on the spot by trying to do that. And this year he's had a full offseason, his knee is 100 percent, knock on wood, and he's had all (the practices), and that's how you get ready to play a football season."

      After winning the NFC East in 2012, Griffin had major knee surgery and the team struggled to 3-13 in 2013. Coach Mike Shanahan was fired at the end of the season and replaced by Jay Gruden.

      Griffin said last week that he was appreciative of having coaches who support him, including Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay, a holdover from Shanahan's staff who moved from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator, replacing Kyle Shanahan.

      "There's just a difference in coming back from a knee injury and rehabbing as opposed to being able to work on your craft throughout the whole offseason," he said."It's beneficial to be out there at practice, it's beneficial to be able to not have to worry about an injury. ... I'm ready to go."

      One of Griffin's targets, wide receiver Pierre Garcon, left practice Monday with a hamstring injury, but it is not considered serious.

      "He left practice early. He had a couple catches and then just had a little soreness in his hamstring. He'll be OK," Gruden said.

      NOTES: CB Courtney Bridget (shoulder) is scheduled for an MRI, coach Jay Gruden said. ... OLB Everette Brown signed to give the team "another pass rusher," Gruden said. Brown played defensive end at Florida State and is a former Carolina Panthers' second-round pick. ... With an off day scheduled Tuesday, the Redskins were in full pads Monday. Gruden said maximizing the full-contact sessions is essential to evaluating young players. "When it's live tackling, you get a good feel for some of these young guys and that's what it's all about." ... Rookie LT Morgan Moses again practiced at left tackle, but the plan remains for him to slide to the right side. "I like the way he's developing. I really do," Gruden said. "He's big and long and he's doing a good job. He's starting to understand angles and getting out on the running game and protecting the quarterback. ... He's got a long way to go, but he's getting there."

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    Pagano: Colts release Rainey for violating team rule
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Indianapolis Colts waived running back Chris Rainey on Monday.

    • Head coach Chuck Pagano confirmed following a morning training camp practice that the Colts released Rainey for violating a team rule.

      "We let go of Chris Rainey. As you guys might have seen, he wasn't at practice," Pagano said. "We let Chris go, a violation of team rules. It's an in-house deal, that's all I'll say about that. And with that, I'll answer any questions that you have."

      Rainey was signed by the Colts as a free agent on November 20, 2013. In two games with Indianapolis last season, he had six kickoff returns for 131 yards and four punt returns for 29 yards.

      For his career, Rainey has returned 45 kickoffs for 1,166 yards and seven punts for 29 yards. He also has 26 carries for 102 yards, all in 2012 when he played with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

      A January 2013 arrest led to his release from the Steelers. He was arrested in Gainesville, Fla., and charged with one count of simple battery after an altercation with a woman over a cellphone.

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    Panthers WR Benjamin out with knee bruise
    By The Sports Xchange

    Carolina Panthers first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin left knee Monday will miss time with a bone bruise in his left knee.

    • Coach Ron Rivera said the injury was discovered in a precautionary MRI exam on Monday in Charlotte.

      "Young guys need as many reps and they can get," Rivera said Monday. "There's an old saying, 'If you can get 5,000 reps you can be ready to play.' So we want to get him as many as we can."

      Benjamin, a wide receiver who was an early entry candidate out of Florida State, bumped his knee on a teammate during practice on Sunday afternoon.

      Team officials said Benjamin's injury does not appear to be serious, but he missed Monday morning's practice and a timetable for his return was not released by Rivera.

      Benjamin, 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, is in contention for the team's No. 1 wide receiver spot. The team cut Steve Smith, the franchise's all-time leading receiver, earlier this year.

      Benjamin had 54 catches for 1,011 yards with 15 touchdowns last season in helping Florida State win the BCS national championship.

  • Monday, July 28, 2014
    WR Thomas back at Broncos camp; Ware hurt
    By The Sports Xchange

    Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas missed seven training camp workouts, but returned to the team Monday and cannot participate in the scheduled walkthrough after not making it to the morning practice.

    • Thomas was excused for several days while he arranged and attended the funeral of his grandmother in Georgia. She was integral in raising him while his mother was imprisoned.

      The NFL collective bargaining agreement mandates a player participate in three consecutive practices before going through a padded practice. Head coach John Fox said the team is wearing pads Monday as planned.

      "He is on schedule, he is back in the building and we will just leave it at that," Fox said.

      Thomas and the Broncos reportedly began discussions about a new contract in the offseason, but minimal progress was made. There is no indication Thomas will not return to the field, and wide receiver Wes Welker said there is no worry among his peers.

      "I can't speak for when he is going to be back exactly or anything like that but we are anxious to have him back and understand his situation and everything like that and feel for him," Welker said Monday. "Whenever he is ready, he is ready and we know what type of player he is, what type of person he is, and we are ready to have him out here on this football field with us."

      Thomas was not the only star on the sideline Monday.

      Defensive end DeMarcus Ware wasn't on the field because he is dealing with a bruise in his lower right leg. Fox said "he will be fine," when updating the injuries of the day.

      Ware missed the first regular-season game of his career last season -- he played in every game his first eight seasons with the Dallas Cowboys -- with a groin injury that sidelined him three games. Dallas released him in a salary-cap driven transaction in the offseason, and Ware, 31, signed a three-year, $30 million on March 12. He has 117 career regular-season sacks.

      NOTES: QB Peyton Manning, a University of Tennessee alumnus, used his day to choose the music for practice warm-ups predictably, playing "Rocky Top" to a lively response from his teammates. ... LB Von Miller, recovering from a torn ACL, said he's not thinking about rehab or the chance for re-injuring his knee. Miller is wearing a knee brace and said that is his new normal. "It's not frustrating at all. I'm living," Miller said. "I'm in a great spot. Recovering from an ACL is nothing. I'm out here playing the game I love and I'm feeling great.

      "...I try not to let my brace be an excuse or a reason why not to do something. It's the brace, it's what I've got to wear. I feel like I can play football without shoulder pads, so I'm not going to let not wearing shoulder pads have me out there like, 'Man, I can't play football today.' So having the brace on is just part of it. It's what I've got to do."