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  • Key OTA Battle: 49ers focus on O-line interior
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The center position is the center of attention this week as the San Francisco 49ers hold their first week of organized team activities at the club's training facility in Santa Clara.

    • The club's new regime made the addition of center Jeremy Zuttah one of their first pieces of business, acquiring him from the Baltimore Ravens.

      Zuttah will duel Daniel Kilgore for the starting position, but the early indication is the competition might not be a fair fight.

      New head coach Kyle Shanahan already has opened the door for Kilgore, who has experience at guard in his 49ers career, to move away from the center position this season.

      Shanahan noted Tuesday that Joshua Garnett, who made 11 starts as a rookie last season, will split time at the guard positions during the summer sessions.

      "We know he's going to play guard for us," Shanahan said of Garnett, a first-round pick last season. "We're trying to see what he's better at, left guard or right guard, based on our five that are going to end up being out there. Whoever that other person is, what's the best way to put those inside three people?

      "So you need some versatility. I know he played at right guard last year. I know he played at left guard throughout college. We worked him at both. Hopefully we'll put him in a spot that's the best for him and hopefully it will be the best for the team."

      Flexibility is a good thing for two reasons.

      First off, it would give Kilgore a chance to slide over to right guard if it were deemed he and Garnett were the club's best tandem. That would leave Zane Beadles, who can also play tackle, as the backup capable of filling in at multiple positions.

      Or possibly, it could be determined that Garnett will serve the role as the backup guard, with Beadles, who started all 16 games last season, and Kilgore, who started 13, getting the starting roles.

      Of course, a third option would be Garnett and Beadles retaining their starting spots, which would push Kilgore back into the competition with Zuttah, or settle for the multi-position backup role.

      Trent Brown (16 starts last season) and Joe Staley (13) return at the tackle spots, with Garry Gilliam having been wrestled away from Seattle to provide summertime competition.

      The 49ers did not use any of their 10 draft picks on an offensive lineman in April.

  • Key OTA Battle: Titans strive to get Mariota on-field work
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    NASHVILLE -- Marcus Mariota's recovery is ahead of schedule, say the Tennessee Titans, but it is still not complete.

    • Still that hasn't stopped the Titans from tailoring their organized team activities to accommodate their injured quarterback as much as possible.

      Mariota, working his way back from surgery for a broken fibula last December, is not taking part in team drills during organized team activities, so the Titans are doing additional 7-on-7 work to allow the quarterback to work with his receivers to develop timing and to run as much as possible without putting him in harm's way.

      "It felt great. Four months ago, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to participate in OTAs, and being able to do some of the drills and go through practice, it's a lot in my progress and in my recovery. I was just very happy and very grateful to be out there," Mariota said Tuesday.

      Titans head coach Mike Mularkey allowed Mariota to take all 15 reps in 7-on-7 work Tuesday, rather than working in the team's other quarterbacks.

      "I'll take it day-by-day with Marcus. We monitored him with the scripts. Basically he did everything in walk-through and individual and then we extended our 7-on-7 period to give him more reps. He took all the reps in the 7-on-7 period," Mularkey said.

      Mariota said he tries to take advantage of whatever opportunities come his way on the field, since he is limited by the injury.

      "That's the little I'm going to have in terms of my opportunity to see defenses and continue to grow mentally. As much as I can get out of the 7-on-7 and take mental reps in team (drills), I'm going to do my best to do that and continue to prepare for the season," Mariota said.

      Mariota had another tactic he used while sitting out team drills. Rather than stand away from the action, he positioned himself about five yards behind the backfield and stood alone in order to observe the play unfold and examine the defensive positioning.

      "It was something at Oregon we did. It just helps you mentally. It's like you're still in the play. You can still see everything, especially the defense," he said. "For me, at this point in time, I've got to get as much out of the mental reps as I can, and I'm going to do my best to play the game from there and learn and continue to get better every day."

      Mariota said he didn't dwell on his injured leg while on the field Tuesday.

      "During the drills, I do my best to not even think about it. As I've gone through my entire process, I've gone about doing things normal and just getting back to where I feel like myself again," Mariota said. "As I'm out there, I'm not even thinking about it. When I'm in here doing rehab, when I'm doing specific things to make my body ready, that's when I'm focusing on it."

  • Key OTA Battle: Getting Lynch immersed in Raiders system
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders got back to the business of football with their first on-field team session with coaches Tuesday with the hope of building on the success of a 12-win season.

    • "It's really about building a base right now, trying to install our system in all three phases," head coach Jack Del Rio said. "Trying to bring the young guys up to speed, the new veterans up to speed. And tweaks that we've done with our system to make sure we tighten things up."

      For a non-contact organized team activity, the Raiders weren't short on spirit, so much so that there were two scuffles -- including one with left tackle Donald Penn and second-year defensive lineman Jihad Ward.

      "I don't know what you're talking about," Penn said.

      The best news the Raiders could have manifested itself early, as quarterback Derek Carr practiced with no restrictions after breaking his right fibula in Week 16 -- an injury that was followed by consecutive losses to Denver in the regular-season finale and Houston in the wild-card round.

      Carr was moving freely, throwing well, showing no sign of being affected in any way.

      "He's healthy now," wide receiver Amari Cooper said. "He looks great. He looks normal."

      If Carr wasn't the center of attention, then it was running back Marshawn Lynch, who came out of retirement to play for his hometown team and was acquired by trade from Seattle.

      Lynch was present and went through warmups, but never put on a helmet as other running backs got the work. Del Rio said it was all according to plan.

      "He's doing great," Del Rio said. "He'll continue to do the things that we're asking him to do. He's really soaking up the system. He's doing a great job fitting in ... we have no issues there. He's been here like he said he'd be here. Really committed, excited to be a Raider. We're excited to have him."

      Lynch seems to have made a quick impression on his teammates.

      "He's a good spirit, good to have around," Cooper said. "A real cool person."

      Defensive tackle Mario Edwards had a recent sit-down with Lynch and came away impressed.

      "On camera he may not talk as much, but you know, once you get to know him, he opens up to you," Edwards said.

  • Key OTA Battle: All eyes on Broncos QBs Siemian and Lynch
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Trevor Siemian was the first quarterback under center when the Denver Broncos began their team-period work at their first OTA on Tuesday morning. But that doesn't mean anything in his competition with 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch.

    • Lynch will be the first quarterback up Wednesday. And Siemian will be the first quarterback to take snaps Thursday. That's just how Broncos head coach Vance Joseph wants it, as the two are expected to divide first-team work on a 50-50 basis throughout OTAs and into training camp.

      It's clear what Joseph wants to see from his two young passers.

      "Decision-making, accuracy, command of the huddle, consistency -- that's always key with quarterback play," Joseph said just after Tuesday's OTA concluded. "So far, so good. It's the first day. Both guys were engaged. So it was a good day."

      Siemian looked smooth and composed, settling into coordinator Mike McCoy's new scheme. He forced few throws, and made quick reads, completing a variety of short to intermediate passes that are expected to be staples of the offense.

      "It's different all across the board: the run game, drop-backs, managing protections," Siemian said. "It's totally different. We're all getting used to it, but I think a lot of guys are excited about what we're doing, and some guys have experience coming from a few years back, so that's always good too.

      "At the end of the day, it's 11-on-11, right? There's a lot of carryover, but it's pretty different from what we were doing."

      Lynch struggled early during Tuesday's work. His first pass was nearly intercepted by safety Justin Simmons. His third pass, in a seven-on-seven period, was picked off linebacker by Brandon Marshall, who dived down to the ground to grab the pass. But eventually he found a groove, and stretched the field with a completion to backup tight end Steven Scheu.

      The scheme is "pretty different," Lynch said, but he feels it suits him better.

      "I feel like it fits more of how I play," Lynch said. "I'm more comfortable in it and there is a little bit more similarities to what I did at Memphis compared to what I had to do last year."

      The scheme suits Lynch. But it also appears to suit Siemian, and with his 14 games of starting experience from last year, he could have an edge.

      Time will tell, however. Joseph has said multiple times that he wants the competition to extend well into training camp. Siemian looked sharper out of the gates, but Tuesday's work was just a beginning, and nothing more.

  • Key OTA Battle: House's return amps up secondary competition
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    GREEN BAY -- Plenty has changed since Davon House last played for the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 18, 2015.

    • Fellow defensive backs Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde no longer are with the team, as they all were when the Packers suffered the forgettable 28-22 overtime loss at the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship during the 2014 season.

      As House returned to the Packers this year after what turned out to be a two-season getaway in Florida with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the once-former understudy to those aforementioned mentors has been entrusted as a leader in the secondary.

      "From when I was here before, we had Sam and Tramon, so they were THE guys," House said Tuesday. "Now, I'm in the role where I'm going out there every time they call the 1s. I'm the first one doing the reps and the drills. I'm the example, I guess you could say."

      Only 27 years old, the seventh-year pro has embraced his newfound role as the dean of Green Bay's defensive backs.

      No matter in what direction House looks while he's on the field this spring in drills for the defensive backs, in the group's meeting room and its section in the locker room at Lambeau Field, he is unequivocally surrounded by a youthful cast. Demetri Goodson, a fourth-year pro who also is 27, is the only other DB who has logged more than three seasons in the NFL.

      "I think it's easy to give leadership because all I'm going to do is teach them what the vets taught me," said House, reflecting on his first stint in Green Bay, when his esteemed collection of tutors also included future Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Woodson.

      The return of House to the Packers, who signed him to a one-year, $2.8 million contract after the Jaguars cut him in early March, is part of a substantial overhaul of the back end of the defense this offseason.

      Green Bay previously cut Shields, the onetime top cornerback who missed all but one game last season because of a recurring concussion, and versatile contributor Hyde wasn't re-signed as a free agent.

      Instead, the Packers have begun to reshape what was their weakest link last season around House, the incumbent safety duo of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett and the arrival of rookies Kevin King and Josh Jones.

      "It's very versatile," said House, giving his assessment of the secondary two days into Green Bay's organized team activities.

      The Packers won't have their full complement of defensive backs until minicamp, which is June 13-15.

      That's because King, the team's top draft pick who went first in the second round at No. 33 overall, can't participate in OTAs with his college (Washington) still in session for classes this spring.

      King is expected to step right in as a starter as Green Bay tries to remedy its pass-challenged defense. The Packers ranked 31st in the 32-team league last season, allowing an average of 269.3 net passing yards.

      Things only got worse in the NFC Championship in January, when the Atlanta Falcons torched Green Bay's injury-riddled and confused secondary for 392 yards and four touchdowns through the air from Matt Ryan in a 44-21 rout.

      Head coach Mike McCarthy is adamant this spring for the Packers to pass the football liberally as a way to help the defense as much as it is to keep Aaron Rodgers and his long list of receivers sharp.

      "We're really focused on the passing game," McCarthy said.

      He noted Tuesday that the number of run plays has been cut in OTAs by 6 to 10 percent from the previous year.

      Besides the urgency to get the defensive backs more reps in tracking the football, McCarthy said the spring practices with players not in pads and full contact off-limits softens the need to run the ball even with a revamped backfield this year.

      "The practice environment with the helmets and the shorts and the rules in place, the run-game production is minimal, as far as the quality of work," McCarthy said. "The quality of work is definitely higher in the environment of throwing the football. So, we're just taking a little more advantage of that."

      House, for one, likes the extra work defending the pass. He lined up in Tuesday's OTA session as a starter on the outside opposite LaDarius Gunter, a third-year pro who started all but one game last season with Shields sidelined.

      The Packers also worked in underachieving Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins as the nickel back and featured Clinton-Dix, Burnett, Kentrell Brice and the intriguing Jones at safety. Burnett and the speedy Jones, also a second-round draft pick this year, have been getting some hybrid work at linebacker early on in the OTAs.

      "It's a little bit of everything," House said of the varied assignments playing the secondary in the Green Bay defense. "This is like a DB's dream - to come here and to play football."

      Saying he's "a lot more confident" in his second go-around with the Packers than he was his first four years with the team, House is ready to lead the defensive backs by example and with production.

      "My first year in Jacksonville (in 2015), I was able to do what I know I can do," House said. "I had 25 pass breakups with four picks, which is pretty darn good, and that's what I expect to do here again as a full-time starter."

  • Key OTA Battle: Eagles hope fire lit under Agholor
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    PHILADELPHIA -- Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles didn't get near enough production from their wide receiving corps. Slot receiver Jordan Matthews was the only wideout with more than 36 receptions (he had 73).

    • With 2015 first-round pick Nelson Agholor underperforming for the second straight year and summer trade acquisition Dorial Green-Beckham making little progress, the Eagles did two things in the offseason.

      First, they fired wide receivers coach Greg Lewis after just one season and replaced him with the more experienced Mike Groh. Then, they used free agency and the draft to upgrade the position.

      They signed veteran free agents Alshon Jeffery (to a one-year, $9.5 million contract) and Torrey Smith and added two more wideouts in the draft (fourth-rounder Mack Hollins and fifth-rounder Shelton Gibson).

      Suddenly, their talented, young second-year quarterback, Carson Wentz, has several enticing targets to throw to, particularly in the red zone, where the Eagles weren't very good last year.

      Now, both Jeffery and Smith come with question marks. Jeffery has missed 11 games in the last two years and had just six touchdown catches in the 21 games he did play in.

      And while Smith caught 30 touchdown passes in four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens from 2011-14, he comes to the Eagles after catching just 53 passes the last two seasons for the San Francisco 49ers.

      But Jeffery has that one-year deal and Smith's three-year deal only includes just $500,000 in guaranteed money. So, adding them was not a major gamble.

      The Eagles are hoping the hiring of Groh and the additions of Jeffery and Smith might light a fire under the underperforming Agholor, who has just 59 receptions in his first two NFL seasons and has yet to have more than 65 receiving yards in a game.

      "Nelson's worked extremely hard this offseason," head coach Doug Pederson said. "Mike Groh's addition has really sort of lit a fire under him a little bit. And bringing in Alshon and Torrey, as I've said all along, competition, man. It sharpens you. And that's what I've seen from Nelson. He's done a great job already this spring."

      If Jeffery and Smith can return to form, the Eagles' offense could make some noise this season. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Matthews already is one of the leagues' better slot receivers. And tight ends Zach Ertz and Trey Burton both are major matchup problems for opposing defenses. And don't forget about running back Darren Sproles, who has had 50-plus catches in eight of his last nine seasons.

  • Key OTA Battle: Competition to be fierce on Chargers O-line
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    SAN DIEGO -- The line is in motion and that's a good thing for the Los Angeles Chargers.

    • It's the offensive line, in particular, which is getting so much attention in the team's last set of offseason workouts. And, the final sessions to be held in San Diego, as the team relocates to Los Angeles.

      It once seemed the only item to compete with stadium talk with the locals was what to do with the line. Quarterback Philip Rivers was on his back too often and running back Melvin Gordon found lanes too seldom.

      So general manager Tom Telesco went to work -- again -- in trying to patch up something that wasn't holy.

      Telesco declined to continue with right guard D.J. Fluker, a former first-round pick, and King Dunlap, an injury prone left tackle.

      So he burned two high draft chips on guards Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney. The result is an offensive line in flux, but if it gets it out of its funk, what's to lose?

      Center Matt Slauson has slid over to left guard. Spencer Pulley, an undrafted free agent who opened eyes last year in spot play, is at center.

      "Spencer has been really solid," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said after Tuesday OTA session. "I've been pleased with his consentincy."

      Feeney is at guard, or is that Lamp? Or both?

      Joe Barksdale mans right tackle, but he's not above being pushed. Kenny Wiggins is another guard, but he'll have to fight, too. Max Tuerk, a mending center, is in the mix in year two but has to show something fast.

      The Chargers are still figuring out which big body to fill which large gap and that's what the offseason is for.

      But don't be surprised if it's a line with at least one, if not two, rookie starters. The Chargers were thrilled in getting Lamp and Feeney, two of the better linemen on most anyone's draft board.

      "It's his techniques and fundamentals," Lynn said about Feeney. "A lot of his game he had in college has helped him a lot ... it has just carried over. He walked on campus ahead of some of the other rookies."

      No matter the line's makeup, put your marker on Slauson. He will be on it in some capacity, as teammates gravitate to his leadership and coaches love his production.

      Lynn embraces a spirited position competition and he's got one with his wide-open offensive line.

      "When we get in training camp and get the pads on," Lynn said, "that is the true evaluation at that position."

  • Giants' Beckham inks most lucrative shoe deal in NFL history
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    Nike re-signed New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a shoe deal that, according to multiple reports, will pay him twice as much as any previous Nike deal with a football player.

    • Espn.com reported that, based on sources, Beckham signed a five-year deal that will pay him about $5 million per year.

      Nicekicks.com reported the deal is worth more than $29 million, with incentives that could add $1 million each year. Nj.com reported the deal is the most lucrative for an NFL player in history.

      NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the five-year contract could be expanded to eight years.

      Apparently, Beckham was able to create a bidding war with Adidas. Nike was given the option to match Adidas' offer, which is what the company did. Beckham's original deal with Nike was scheduled to expire earlier this month.

      Nike did not comment on the deal.

      "It was a long process," Beckham's agent, Zeke Sandhu, told ESPN. "This proved he's an icon."

      Beckham's appeal to the shoe companies is not only his talent and flashy style on the field, but also his social-media impact.

      He has 8.3 million Instagram followers, 2.3 million Twitter followers and 1.3 million Facebook followers.

      The Nike shoes he wore for each game last season also drew attention. Each design seemed to spark interest on social media.

      The deal was done by Sandhu and Beckham Jr.'s mother, Heather Van Norman, who is his business manager.

      Nike's endorsement deal with Beckham was scheduled to expire earlier this month.

  • Key OTA Battle: Bears QB Glennon insists 'this is my year'
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears quarterback room is one big happy family.

    • At least that's the picture they've painted.

      Quarterback Mike Glennon couldn't deny being surprised over the draft-day trade to bring Mitchell Trubisky to Chicago as the second overall pick.

      Yet, Glennon said the surprise quickly faded after his phone talk with general manager Ryan Pace.

      "It was made clear to me about 10 minutes after from a call from Ryan and the next morning again: the 2017 season is my year," Glennon said. "That's all I can worry about.

      "I'm not worried about the future. I'm not worried about the past. I'm worried about the present and right now this is my team and that's where my focus is."

      Glennon and Trubisky worked together at quarterback in the offense for the first time this week along with Mark Sanchez and Connor Shaw, as the Bears brought in all players for the first organized team activities.

      Glennon sought to confirm what Pace said two weeks ago at rookie camp about there being no bad feelings between himself and the team, and painted a picture of togetherness within the Bears' quarterback situation.

      When Glennon left Tampa to sign with the Bears in free agency, he left a situation where he was behind Jameis Winston. It didn't seem completely unlike the situation with Trubisky's selection in the draft.

      "People might want to compare, but it's not the same situation," Glennon said. "I can only say it so many times: this year has been fully communicated that it's my year. I'm not going to worry about the future. As long as I play well, it will all work out."

      If Glennon had to do it over, he said he's still sign in Chicago.

      "There's absolutely no reason to go hindsight," Glennon said. "But even if I were to, I would still have came here.

      "Like I said, this is my year. There are no guarantees in the NFL. The majority of guys in the NFL are playing year-to-year. I'm here to prove myself that I can be the quarterback this year and going forward. But right now my focus is on winning games this year."

      Glennon said he never brought up the draft situation ahead of time with Pace, so he didn't have a reason to be angry.

      "It was never discussed," Glennon said. "The GMs and the scouting department make those decisions. I never brought it up. They never brought it up to me."

      While Glennon called it a non-issue, Bears head coach John Fox did say it was necessary to talk to Glennon to make sure the situation was perceived correctly.

      "I mentioned awhile back after the draft; it doesn't matter what position, you're taking a first-round pick if you have a first-round pick, and it's going to be some position, regardless of what that is, on a football team guys need reassurance," Fox said. "And then once they get back between the lines, it's football as usual."

      Last year, the Eagles had an uncomfortable situation with Carson Wentz and Sam Bradford in the same quarterback room and eventually traded Bradford. At least initially, Glennon and Fox said they see nothing of that sort at Halas Hall.

      "It's been clear in the building that this year is my year and everyone's on board with that," Glennon repeated.

      If harmony exists or is restored, the real problem is working into a new offense for both Glennon and Trubisky.

      "Obviously, the more time I spend in it the more comfortable I'll be," Glennon said. "I have three different offenses in four years in Tampa so I'm used to learning a new offense. Hasn't been a real big issue for me."

      Fox saw Glennon's initial efforts at learning the offense fully in step with what they saw of him with Tampa.

      "He's kind of grabbed the bull by the horns and I don't expect it to change," Fox said.

      During rookie camp, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said practices might need to be altered somewhat because he has so many quarterbacks in need of reps. Only Shaw returns from last year.

      "As far as I'm concerned, it won't be an issue at all," Glennon said. "I get the No. 1 reps and that's all I know."

      Trubisky and Glennon hadn't met before they got into Halas Hall together. After they did, they got along fine, although there is one lingering problem -- Trubisky went to North Carolina and Glennon to North Carolina State.

      "My five years at N.C. State, we won four out of five, so I feel pretty good," Glennon said.

  • NFL notebook: Hall of Famer Kennedy dies
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    Pro Football Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy passed away at the age of 48, the Orlando Police Department said Tuesday.

    • The cause of death remains unknown. ESPN reported that police said Kennedy's death wasn't suspicious but they are investigating.

      Kennedy, an eight-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, spent his entire 11-year career with the Seattle Seahawks from 1990 to 2000. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

      The Seahawks retired Kennedy's No. 96 the same year.

      The 1992 Defensive Player of the Year totaled 58 career sacks along with 448 tackles, six forced fumbles, five recoveries and three interceptions over his 167 career games.

      --NFL owners voted to approve several rule changes at the spring league meeting, including shortening overtime periods to 10 minutes after the idea was proposed at the annual league meeting in March.

      NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in a letter to fan, echoed what he shared earlier in the day with owners regarding celebrations after touchdowns -- using the ball as a prop, going to the ground and creating snow angels -- are permitted.

      Twerking, mimicking the use of a weapon or similar motions -- such as Redskins cornerback Josh Norman pretending to fire an arrow with a bow last season -- are subject to a penalty.

      The owners also voted to allow two players to return off the injured reserve list during the season instead of one and to eliminate the waves of preseason roster cuts and create one deadline to set a 53-man roster.

      --Dallas Cowboys defensive end David Irving is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL performance-enhancing drug policy.

      According to multiple reports, Irving informed the league he would appeal and believes there is "evidence" that will clear him.

      Irving had four sacks and led the Cowboys with 26 quarterback pressures in 2016.

      --Super Bowl LV is relocating from L.A. Los Angeles was awarded the 2021 Super Bowl -- Super Bowl LV -- but with construction delayed by record rainfall and the Rams and Chargers unable to become full-time tenants of the new venue until 2020, NFL owners voted unanimously to delay the site as Super Bowl host for an additional season. Instead, Tampa, Fla., was named site of the 55th Super Bowl.

      No. 56 goes to Los Angeles. The $2.6 billion project in Inglewood, Calif., will be headquarters for Super Bowl LVI at the conclusion of the 2021 season.

      The next Super Bowl in February 2018 will be played in Minneapolis, followed by Atlanta and Miami returning as host cities.

      --The New England Patriots and Rob Gronkowski agreed to a restructured deal that could pay the tight end as much as $10.75 million this season, according to multiple reports.

      Gronkowski's contract runs through 2019 but no changes were made to the final two years of the deal.

      The restructuring is broken into three tiers, according to Drew Rosenhaus, who is Gronkowski's agent. The first tier pays Gronkowski $10.75 million provided he participates in 90 percent of the Patriots' offensive plays, catches 80 passes, reaches 1,200 receiving yards or is named All-Pro.

      The second tier earns Gronkowski $8.75 million for 80 percent of plays, 70 catches, 1,000 yards or 12 touchdowns. The third tier lands Gronkowski $6.75 million for 70 percent of plays, 60 catches, 800 yards or 10 touchdowns.

      --Cornerback Adoree' Jackson, one of the Tennessee Titans' two first-round draft picks this year, has agreed to a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth season, the Titans announced.

      Jackson was the 18th overall pick. Wide receiver Corey Davis, who was taken by the Titans with the fifth overall pick, is one of three draft picks that have not yet signed with the team.

      Under the NFL rookie wage scale, the total value of Jackson's deal is worth up to $11.3 million, with a $6.3 million signing bonus, per Spotrac.

      --Brandon Marshall is no longer a member of the New York Jets, but the well-traveled wide receiver remained a talking point for former teammates after organized team activities.

      Defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson told a horde of media that team chemistry was decidedly improved. Richardson then bowed, smiled and said, "Let's just say we've got 15 reasons why it's better," a reference to Marshall's former uniform number.

      The Giants signed Marshall to a two-year deal.

  • Patriots' Gronkowski agrees to restructured contract
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    The New England Patriots and Rob Gronkowski agreed to a restructured deal that could pay the tight end as much as $10.75 million this season, according to multiple reports on Tuesday.

    • Gronkowski was slated to make $4.25 million in salary in 2017, according to spotrac. He also has roster and workout bonuses of $250,000 apiece.

      Gronkowski's contract runs through 2019 but no changes were made to the final two years of the deal.

      The restructuring is broken into three tiers, according to Drew Rosenhaus, who is Gronkowski's agent.

      The first tier pays Gronkowski $10.75 million provided he participates in 90 percent of the Patriots' offensive plays, catches 80 passes, reaches 1,200 receiving yards or is named All-Pro.

      The second tier earns Gronkowski $8.75 million for 80 percent of plays, 70 catches, 1,000 yards or 12 touchdowns.

      The third tier lands Gronkowski $6.75 million for 70 percent of plays, 60 catches, 800 yards or 10 touchdowns.

      The 28-year-old Gronkowski hasn't played all 16 regular-season games since 2011. He has played in 11 or fewer games in three of the past five seasons.

      Gronkowski, a four-time Pro Bowler, played in just eight games last season due to a back injury that required surgery. He caught 25 passes for 540 yards and three touchdowns.

      In seven NFL seasons, Gronkowski has 405 receptions for 6,095 yards and 68 touchdowns.

  • Key OTA Battle: Dolphins have too many linebackers
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    The Miami Dolphins have a problem at linebacker, but it's considered to be a better problem than it had last year when it lacked talent and depth.

    • The Dolphins' problem at linebacker nowadays, and they hope things stay this way, is they have too many linebackers for their 4-3 scheme among Lawrence Timmons, Kiko Alonso, Koa Misi and Raekwon McMillan, the second-round pick from Ohio State.

      Last season, the Dolphins used Alonso in the middle and while he was up for the challenge (115 tackles), the team wants more of a dominant run stuffer at that position. And they want athletic guys who are sure tacklers on the outside.

      Linebackers are thought to be a major reason Miami's run defense was 30th in the league at 140.4 yards per game, so upgrades, mainly in the form of Timmons, the free agent from Pittsburgh, and McMillan, were sought.

      Timmons, a standout inside linebacker for years in the Steelers' 3-4 defense, is regarded as a dominant run stuffer and is also thought to be the top candidate to start in the middle.

      "I played every position in Pittsburgh so I'm used to being interchangeable," Timmons said. "I'm like a fixer."

      Alonso is regarded as the top candidate to start on the weak side. That would theoretically leave Misi, whose season ended early last year due to a neck injury, and McMillan, regarded as a head-banger in college, to battle for the strong-side position, although returnee Neville Hewitt, who made five starts last year, could also be a factor.

      First-year defensive coordinator Matt Burke said he could employ the outside linebackers as strong side and weak side, or right and left. He said he has experience with both methods in the NFL.

      Head coach Adam Gase doesn't seem to be in a hurry to make such decisions at any positions.

      "We'll go through the process and see what happens," he said. "It's hard for me to say who plays where. I know they're all going to play linebacker."

      Gase said he hasn't even given a lot of thought to which linebackers might play in base defense and which might play in sub-packages.

      "There's just a lot of moving pieces we've got to figure out," he said.

      Whatever ends up happening, the Dolphins think they're more talented and deeper at linebacker this year than they were last year.

  • Titans sign CB Jackson
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    Cornerback Adoree' Jackson, one of the Tennessee Titans' two first-round draft picks this year, has agreed to a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth season, the Titans announced Tuesday.

    • Jackson was the 18th overall pick. Wide receiver Corey Davis, who was taken by the Titans with the fifth overall pick, is one of three draft picks that have not yet signed with the team.

      Under the NFL rookie wage scale, the total value of Jackson's deal is worth up to $11.3 million, with a $6.3 million signing bonus, per Sportac.

      Jackson won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top collegiate cornerback last season while at USC. Jackson returned four kickoffs for touchdowns and four punts for touchdowns during his college career.

      Jackson also played wide receiver for the Trojans, but the Titans expect to use him on defense and as a returner.

  • Key OTA Battle: Injuries affect Colts competition at safety
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    INDIANAPOLIS -- There are a lot of questions for the Indianapolis Colts as first-year general manager Chris Ballard attempts to retool an ineffective and inconsistent defensive unit.

    • One area that is getting a makeover is safety, where first-round draft pick Malik Hooker is expected to push for a starting job.

      Hooker, though, will not participate in OTA work and his availability for the start of training camp is in question after the former Ohio State standout underwent surgery in January for hip and sports hernia issues.

      It's hoped that he will be able to return for the early stages of training camp, which begins the last week of July.

      Third-year safety Clayton Geathers is also missing OTA workouts after undergoing surgery in March to address a bulging disk. Geathers had a foot injury heading into last season and then was sidelined late in the year with concussion symptoms.

      He was later diagnosed with the disk problem after experiencing pain. According to both head coach Chuck Pagano and Geathers, the decision to undergo surgery was "the last option."

      "Clayton was hurt on the final play of the Tennessee game (on Nov. 20). He had a concussion and then developed further symptoms," Pagano explained Tuesday.

      Geathers was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the year at that point. That's when the disk injury was discovered.

      "Surgery was the last option," Pagano explained. "He's rehabbing and he's right on schedule."

      So is there a timetable for when Geathers is expected to return to the practice field? Not just yet.

      "When I'm ready, I'm ready," the former Central Florida defensive back admitted. "The surgery was a success. I've been getting positive notes from the doctors.

      "I trust the process, trust the surgery. I know my style of play. And once (the disk) heals, I'm ready to go. We'll see how it goes."

      The decision to have the surgery was reached after consulting with the Colts' training and medical staffs, as well with his family. He then met with multiple doctors in order to come up with a plan to address the issue.

      "The surgery has been a success," Geathers said. "It's looking good, starting to do more movement."

      With Hooker and Geathers both sidelined, former cornerback Darius Butler will continue to see work at safety. Butler has been playing cornerback, but slid over to safety last season due to injuries at the position. He's fully on board with the move.

      "I'm practicing (at safety) until I'm told otherwise," he said.

      Second-year safety T.J. Green is also getting additional reps during the OTA workouts.

      Defensive coordinator Ted Monachino says putting the best group of five defensive backs on the field to begin the 2017 season is the key.

      "What will happen is those best five guys will be out there in nickel. And if Darius isn't the nickel corner, then if he's one of those best five he'll be playing the deeper parts of the field. He's pumped up about whatever role," Monachino said.

      "He knows and we all know what a blessing and an opportunity it is to be in an NFL building. He's just thrilled to be back and can't wait to get started carving out a new niche and a new role because from a leadership standpoint, that spotlight has become brighter with Darius."

  • Stalled stadium shifts Super Bowl 55 away from L.A.
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    Super Bowl LV is relocating from L.A.

    • Los Angeles was awarded the 2021 Super Bowl -- Super Bowl LV -- but with construction delayed by record rainfall and the Rams and Chargers unable to become full-time tenants of the new venue until 2020, NFL owners voted unanimously Tuesday to delay the site as Super Bowl host for an additional season. Instead, Tampa, Fla., was named site of the 55th Super Bowl.

      No. 56 goes to Los Angeles.

      The $2.6 billion project in Inglewood, Calif., will be headquarters for Super Bowl LVI at the conclusion of the 2021 season.

      League rules prohibit stadiums from hosting a Super Bowl in its first season of operation.

      The next Super Bowl in February 2018 will be played in Minneapolis, followed by Atlanta and Miami returning as host cities.

      “The Tampa Bay area has enjoyed great success over the years hosting Super Bowls and we look forward to working with our local leaders in the coming months to meet the requirements for hosting Super Bowl LV in 2021," Buccaneers co-chairman Bryan Glazer said in a statement released by the team. "Today’s announcement offers us the opportunity to showcase Tampa Bay’s unique ability to come together as a host for world-class events.”

  • Key OTA Battle: Steelers Bryant fights to stay clean
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    PITTSBURGH -- Martavis Bryant says he is a changed man. He had better be, or his final chance at an NFL career won't last long.

    • Bryant, who missed 27 of a possible 48 games since being drafted in 2014 because of drug suspensions and injuries, took part in the Steelers' first offseason training activity Tuesday after serving a one-year drug suspension.

      "I changed my whole life around compared to how I used to be," Bryant said. "Everything is earned, not given," Bryant told a swarm of media just off the practice field as the Steelers completed their first practice of the spring. "All I can do is just take care of my business and do what I have to do off the field. And as long as I do that they will see the change and everything how I changed my ways. As long as I pass my test, go to meetings and maintain my sobriety that will be fine. ... I know it's my last chance."

      Bryant missed six games as a rookie as he recovered from a training camp injury. He missed another five games due to his first drug suspension at the beginning of the 2015 season and all last season on his second drug suspension.

      The Steelers are hoping Bryant can be more reliable next season because when available he is one of the most dynamic young players in the NFL.

      Bryant's specialty is being able to make big plays. He averages 17.4 yards per reception and has scored 14 touchdowns in 21 career games.

      If he can stay clean, Bryant's return could mean big things for the Steelers' offense. Without Bryant last season, the Steelers still managed to finish among the top 10 teams in the NFL in scoring, passing and total offense. The addition of Bryant should make the Steelers among the top offenses in the league again.

      Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin didn't waste any time Tuesday by putting Bryant in with the first-team offense in the first practice of the offseason.

      "It's definitely appreciated, but I didn't expect anything," Bryant said. "I'm here just to be a team player, and do what I got to do to help out with the team."

      Bryant joins an already accomplished group of receivers. Antonio Brown remains one of the best in the business. Eli Rogers established himself in the slot last season and rookie Juju Smith-Schuster was drafted to provide an over-the-middle presence. Veterans Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, Demarcus Ayers and Cobi Hamilton will vie for the fifth and sixth spots, if they carry that many.

      "I'm excited," Roethlisberger said. "We have a lot of guys. It's fun to be able to rotate through guys. I want to throw to each one to see what they can do and develop some chemistry, but I also realize my arm won't last that long so it's a fun problem to have right now, but it's early."

  • Cowboys DE Irving facing suspension
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    Dallas Cowboys defensive end David Irving is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL performance-enhancing drug policy.

    • According to multiple reports, Irving informed the league he would appeal and believes there is "evidence" that will clear him.

      Irving had four sacks and led the Cowboys with 26 quarterback pressures in 2016.

      Dallas signed Irving in 2015 off the Kansas City Chiefs' practice squad. He signed a one-year deal as an exclusive rights free agent in 2017 and can become a restricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.

      Defensive ends facing suspension has been all too common in Dallas.

      Randy Gregory is suspended for the entire 2017 season for his latest drug-related violation. Demarcus Lawrence and Gregory were suspended to start the 2016 season.

  • Jets DL Richardson rips Brandon Marshall
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    Brandon Marshall is no longer a member of the New York Jets, but the well-traveled wide receiver remained a talking point for former teammates after organized team activities Tuesday.

    • Defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson told a horde of media in front of his locker following a crisp workout that team chemistry was decidedly improved. Rather than stopping there and leaving reporters and fans to guess the reasons why a new-look roster might be more cohesive, Richardson bowed, smiled and said, "let's just say we've got 15 reasons why it's better," a reference to Marshall's former uniform number.

      The Giants signed Marshall to a two-year deal and he's entering his 12th NFL season after stops in Denver, Miami, Chicago and the past two seasons with the Jets.

      Marshall campaigned most of last offseason for the Jets to bring back quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and his outspoken position on that topic and others rubbed several team leaders the wrong way.

      Former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and Marshall had a well publicized spat in training camp in 2016, when Marshall took a swing at Revis.

      Marshall and then-teammate Martellus Bennett almost came to blows while they were with the Chicago Bears. Bennett had a scrum with cornerback Kyle Fuller and Marshall criticized Bennett, who told Marshall "Six-time Pro Bowlers can get knocked out, too."

      Running back Matt Forte, who played with Marshall and for the Bears from 2012-14, said Marshall wouldn't talk to him after Forte called him out and quarterback Jay Cutler, a teammate of Marshall's with the Bears and earlier in their careers with the Broncos, pointed to Marshall as a reason for some of the team's recent dysfunction.

  • Seahawks legend Kennedy dies at 48
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    Pro Football Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy passed away at the age of 48, the Orlando Police Department said Tuesday.

    • The cause of death remains unknown. ESPN reported that police said Kennedy's death wasn't suspicious but they are investigating.

      Kennedy, an eight-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, spent his entire 11-year career with the Seattle Seahawks from 1990 to 2000. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

      The Seahawks retired Kennedy's No. 96 the same year.

      "Cortez Kennedy has been a pillar of the Seahawks franchise since joining the team as a rookie in 1990," the Seahawks said in a statement. "Tez was the heart and soul of the Seahawks through the 1990s and endeared himself to 12s all across the Pacific Northwest as a player who played with a selfless and relentless approach to the game.

      "Tez was an NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Pro Football Hall of Famer, and Seahawks Ambassador, but more than his on-field accomplishments, he was a loyal son, father, teammate and friend to many, possessing a larger-than-life personality and an infectious laugh.

      "We extend our warmest thoughts and prayers to his parents, Ruby and Joe Harris, daughter Courtney, and entire family on the unfortunate loss of a life-long Seahawk. We are proud to have been represented by such a special person."

      The 1992 Defensive Player of the Year totaled 58 career sacks along with 448 tackles, six forced fumbles, five recoveries and three interceptions over his 167 career games.

      Kennedy was named to the Associated Press' 1990s All-Decade Team and was an All-America honoree during his playing career at Miami. He was a member of the Hurricanes' national championship team in 1989.

      He was recruited to Miami by former coach Jimmy Johnson, who offered his condolences on Twitter.

      "Shocked at Cortez Kennedy passing...1 of the most talented players I ever recruited or coached...a fun loving person a sad day."

      Former NFL running back Emmitt Smith and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton were among those expressing their feelings on Twitter. Kennedy spent time working as an advisor to the Saints after his retirement.

      Smith: "I am truly sadden by the lost of a very good person. My condolences goes out to the family of Cortez Kennedy."

      Payton: "Thoughts and prayers are with Cortez Kennedy's family. A great friend and the most genuine person you would ever want to meet. #96"

  • NFL shortens overtime to 10 minutes
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    NFL owners voted to approve several rule changes at the spring league meeting in Chicago on Tuesday, including shortening overtime periods to 10 minutes after the idea was proposed at the annual league meeting in March.

    • The owners also voted to allow two players to return off the injured reserve list during the season instead of one and to eliminate the waves of preseason roster cuts and create one deadline to set a 53-man roster.

      NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is also expected to inform owners that celebrations after touchdowns -- including group celebrations, using the ball as a prop, going to the ground and creating snow angels -- are now allowed, according to USA Today's Tom Pelissero.

      The league's decision to shorten overtime by five minutes is intended to improve player safety, NFL Network reports. According to NFL Research, 22 of the league's 83 overtime periods over the past five years have lasted at least 10 minutes.

      At the league's annual meeting in March, owners banned leaping over the offensive line to block kicks, approved instant ejections for egregious head-to-head hits and OK'd centralized replay review from the NFL officiating command center in New York.

  • Rams focus on improved passing game
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, May 22, 2017

    THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Rams have multiple objectives as they begin OTAs. First and foremost is getting second-year quarterback Jared Goff onto a track that will result in a positive step forward from a disappointing rookie season.

    • Part and parcel to that is improving the infrastructure around him, specifically the offensive line and wide receiver positions.

      Wide receiver, in particular, will be a point of emphasis after the Rams walked away from leading receiver Kenny Britt and veteran Brian Quick during the offseason and replaced them with veteran free agent Robert Woods and a host of rookie and second-year players.

      Woods and Goff, who started seven games last year and completed 54.6 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and seven interceptions, have been working together since March.

      "He's been great. He's been more than I could have really expected, honestly," Goff said. "His work ethic and you can tell how much it means to him and how bad he wants it. He's just a competitor.

      "He's smart, he's fast, he's strong, and he competes every day. He wants to be the best he can be every day and you can tell that. It's really exciting for me to have a guy like that, multiple guys like that, but him in particular."

      If early impressions from OTAs are worth anything, the work seemed to be paying off.

      "We're just trying to get the timing down," Woods said. "We're connecting. The biggest thing is, we're talking in meetings and then we're coming out on the field and executing what we've been talking about."

      Competition for starting jobs alongside Woods and veteran Tavon Austin -- assuming Austin wins one spot -- will be fierce. Intriguing rookies Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds and second-year wideouts Pharoh Cooper, Nelson Spruce and Mike Thomas are the leading candidates for playing time.

      Austin underwent wrist surgery in early May, which will knock him out of all OTAs. Not only does it delay his adjustment to the new offense under first-year head coach Sean McVay, it also interrupts chemistry-building with Goff.

      On the other hand, it will provide more opportunities for the youngsters to make an impact.

      Kupp, in particular, has a chance to make an early impression on coaches while forging workable chemistry with Goff, who desperately needs perimeter skill players he can have faith in.

      Kupp, like Woods, is a precision route runner with sure hands. He could be a tremendous help to a young quarterback simply by being in the right place at the right time and then holding onto the ball when targeted.

      Those were basic elements that no Rams quarterback could rely on with last year's wide receivers, who too often failed to run quality routes or dropped catchable balls to derail drives.

      Goff was keeping a watchful eye throughout the offseason as the Rams went about improving the team around him.

      "I was excited about it. From Robert to (LT Andrew) Whitworth to (C John) Sullivan, to all of the guys that we drafted. It's been really exciting to see," Goff said.

      "Exciting to see where their mentality is and, more than anything, I think they got some high character guys in here, especially those guys I named that we signed with Whitworth, and Sullivan, and Robert -- just some veteran guys that know what they're doing and can not only help me but can help everyone around them."

  • DT Donald misses first day of Rams' OTAs
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, May 22, 2017

    THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Defensive tackle Aaron Donald was a no-show at the Los Angeles Rams' first full-team organized team activities on Monday, but his absence was contract-related.

    • The Rams were aware in advance that Donald would not be there, and they appeared to be OK with it.

      Donald is in the fourth year of his five-year rookie contract, but Rams general manager Les Snead indicated the franchise and Donald are in the "serious stage" of renegotiating a new one.

      "I'm very hopeful about it," Snead said.

      Donald has been a Pro Bowl selection in each of his three NFL seasons. In 2017, he started all 16 games and recorded 47 tackles, eight sacks, five passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

      The question now is how much he is worth.

      "It's a process," Snead said. "We like Aaron. There's no doubt he's a really good player. We want him to be a Ram. That's our goal. We think he wants to be a Ram. That's what we're working toward."

  • Beckham absent for Giants' first OTA
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, May 22, 2017

    On the first day of organized team activities, Odell Beckham Jr. was a no-show for the New York Giants.

    • It was unknown why the wide receiver failed to attend the voluntary workout or when or if he might arrive. The team has nine more OTA sessions, with the next one on Tuesday and another on Thursday that is open to the media.

      Also unknown was how many voluntary works Beckham has attended during the five weeks of the Giants' offseason program. While the team can't force a player to attend the OTAs, coaches like to have as many players as possible on hand as they begin on install offensive and defensive schemes.

      Reports indicated that Beckham was an infrequent participant during the offseason and that he missed quarterback Eli Manning's informal workouts in early April at Duke University because of oral surgery.

      The three-time Pro Bowl receiver will make $1.8 million in the final year of his rookie contract. In April, the Giants picked up his fifth-year option, for 2018, for approximately $8.5 million.

      After that, he tweeted, "I'm more motivated now then I have ever been. Words are only that, so its time for action. To the LOYAL Giants fans out there. I'm lettin u kno now, this will be somethin uve never seen."

      Beckham's most recent game was the Giants' 38-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC playoffs in January. He infamously punched a hole in a wall outside the visiting locker room at Lambeau Field. The week before the game, Beckham and some of his teammates were photographed partying on a boat in Miami, a trek that caused a public backlash.

      The 24-year-old finished last season with 101 catches for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns in 16 games. That brought his career totals to 388 receptions for 4,122 yards and 35 touchdowns in three seasons.

      Meanwhile, the Giants' other top wideouts, including Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard, attended the first OTA workout on Monday.

      The Giants' first mandatory offseason workout is a three-day minicamp from June 13-15.

  • Jets release WR Devin Smith
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, May 22, 2017

    The New York Jets waived former second-round pick Devin Smith on Monday.

    • The wide receiver, who was the 37th overall pick of the 2015 draft, was waived with an injury designation. Smith tore his ACL for the second time in just under a year-and-a-half while participating in offseason workouts last month.

      "It's bad luck and bad timing because the kid worked so hard to get back," coach Todd Bowles told the team's website. "He has to persevere and adversity will help him get stronger.

      "But unfortunately in this game, over my course of time playing and coaching, you see these types of things. Some of the best athletes get hurt and don't get a chance to get on the field and it's just bad timing, bad luck."

      Smith caught nine passes for 115 yards and one touchdown in 10 games before an ACL tear in December ended his rookie season. The former Ohio State player reeled in just one pass for 20 yards while playing in four games in 2016.

  • Patriots add DeAndrew White to WR group
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, May 22, 2017

    The New England Patriots signed wide receiver DeAndrew White to a contract on Monday.

    • White, who spent last season on the team's practice squad, will join a deep wide receiver depth chart that includes Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola.

      The 25-year-old initially was signed by the San Francisco 49ers as a rookie free agent out of Alabama in 2015.

      White reeled in two receptions for 18 yards in four career games with the 49ers. The 6-foot, 192-pounder also returned six kicks for 142 yards and one punt for four yards before being released Sept. 3.