Tagged in: practice

Kyrie Irving returns to practice as coach Steve Nash acknowledges Brooklyn Nets will face games without him

Kyrie Irving returned to practice Sunday, but the Brooklyn Nets sound like a team coming to grips with the realization that its starting point guard will not play in home matches for the foreseeable future.

While the situation around Irving’s availability for home games due to New York City’s COVID-19 protocols could change, Nets coach Steve Nash stated he knows the team will have to play games this season without Irving.

“We recognize he’s not playing in home games,” Nash told reporters after Irving practiced with the team in Brooklyn for the first time this preseason.

“We are going to have to for sure play without him this year. So it just depends on when, where and how much.” New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate requires a person to have proof of at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot to enter indoor gyms — counting Barclays Center, the home of the Nets, and Madison Square Garden, the home of the Knicks.

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But on Friday, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps that Irving would be allowed to practice at the team’s HSS Training Center after the city determined that the Nets’ practice facility in Brooklyn is a “private office building” as opposed to an indoor gym.

“We are just starting to navigate this,” Nash told reporters Sunday. “A new rule comes in Friday and here we are. We are trying to look at the big picture. The near term, right now I am not sure we have as many answers.”

“I think right now we assume he’s not going to be available for home games, but anything can change,” Nash later added. “Who’s to say? The city ordinances could change. Anything could change. Right now we are just trying to remain flexible, open-minded and figure it out as we go because information is coming in by like the half-day here. … We found out Friday he can come back in the building. Things are shifting. No one’s been through this before, and we are just trying to figure it out as we go.”

The city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate prevented Irving from taking part in the team’s media day at Barclays Center on Sept. 27.

Irving ended up participating via a videoconference call from his home. He practiced with the team for a week during the Nets’ training camp in San Diego.

Upon returning to Brooklyn, Irving missed four consecutive practices and a home preseason match Friday. But on the same day as the preseason game, the city made its determination on the HSS Training Center. Irving joined his teammates Saturday at an outdoor team event at Brooklyn Bridge Park and then practiced Sunday at the team’s facility.

Nash stated Irving will not play on Monday in Philadelphia, where the Nets play the 76ers in a preseason game. The Nets finish their preseason with a home game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday. If Irving does not get a vaccination shot before then, he will go the entire preseason without playing in an exhibition match since the Nets held him and several other veterans out of the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 3.

Nash said Irving was cleared to participate in everything in practice Sunday. “It’s not something we, I have experienced before,” power forward Blake Griffin said of what the Nets will do if Irving cannot play in home games. “Whatever he decides, whatever the team decides, whatever agreement we come to or whatever happens, we are just going to support him. When he is here, we can use him. He’s amazing. I’m not even going to waste time trying to wrap my head around something that I don’t know the situation yet. We will adjust and act accordingly.”

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Kansas City Chiefs set to sign newly reinstated WR Josh Gordon to practice squad

Former All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon, who recently was informed that he is being reinstated, is planning to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs, sources told ESPN.

Gordon is flying to Kansas City on Monday, and he is likely to be signed to the Chiefs’ practice squad tonight with the expectation that a promotion to the active roster will follow shortly thereafter.

Gordon, 30, had multiple teams contact him and express interest in signing him. But one of the attractions of playing in Kansas City was making it a long-term stop and spending multiple seasons there, according to his agents, Eric Dounn and Matt Leist from LAA Sports.

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The Chiefs have been searching for a wide receiver who can play every down along with Tyreek Hill since losing Sammy Watkins as a free agent in the spring.

They’ve given significant playing time to Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle, but none of those players have consistently delivered for the Chiefs.

Hill is behind only tight end Travis Kelce in receiving yards for the Chiefs with 267.

The other three wide receivers have combined for 260 yards.

Gordon was suspended indefinitely in December 2019 for violations of the league’s policies on substance abuse and performance-enhancing substances.

It was Gordon’s sixth suspension since the 2013 season and his fifth for some form of substance abuse, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Gordon submitted his reinstatement letter fo NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in July and the NFLPA recommended that he be reinstated. His application for reinstatement was approved by Goodell on Monday, a source said.

But this time Gordon, who last played for the Zappers of the Fan Controlled Football league with former Browns teammate Johnny Manziel, stated he is ready to contribute. Gordon led the NFL in receiving in 2013, when he accumulated 1,646 receiving yards.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Antonio Brown tests positive for COVID-19

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have placed wide receiver Antonio Brown on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team revealed Wednesday.

Brown has tested positive for the virus, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Brown is the third player, along with inside linebacker/special teams captain Kevin Minter and practice squad wide receiver Travis Jonsen, to be placed on the list this week.

“Kevin and A.B. are both on the COVID list. With A.B., we’ve got plenty of guys with a proven track record at that position,” Arians stated, pointing to their depth at wide receiver with Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson.

“Kevin will be missed as far as special teams, but we’ve got some young guys ready to roll.” Arians said Minter and Brown technically still have an opportunity to play Sunday, but the team is preparing as if they won’t be available.

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Brown, like every one of his teammates and all members of the Bucs’ coaching staff, is fully vaccinated, and per NFL rules, needs two negative tests 24 hours apart to return, as long as he is asymptomatic.

Players who are vaccinated are not subject to the mandatory 10-day quarantine as unvaccinated players.

Brown’s 138 receiving yards through two matches is second-most on the team this season, and he’s arguably the Bucs’ most versatile route runner — he can go deep but also is extremely productive using his suddenness inside.

Last year’s team moniker was “beat the virus,” and Arians has largely attributed losing only four starters to COVID-19 — for a total of six games — with winning the Super Bowl.

The Bucs hit the road this week for one of the more challenging parts of their schedule. They take on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, and then next week, they’ll travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to take on the New England Patriots.

The Bucs lost to the Rams 27-24 last season, with the Rams limiting the Bucs to just 209 passing yards, among the lowest of their season.

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Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will miss 6-8 weeks with broken foot

Dallas Cowboys defensive DeMarcus Lawrence sustained a broken foot in Wednesday’s practice that will force him to miss 6-8 weeks.

It is a huge blow to a defense that did not generate a sack in Week 1 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and could also be without its second-best pass rusher, Randy Gregory, Sunday versus the Los Angeles Chargers.

Lawrence was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice but immediately had an MRI, which revealed the break.

Lawrence did not practice for most of training camp because of offseason back surgery but he recorded six tackles, two quarterback pressures and forced a fumble against the Buccaneers.

He has 45.5 sacks for his career and is a two-time Pro Bowl pick. As for Gregory, coach Mike McCarthy did not sound hopeful before practice about him passing COVID-19 protocols in time to play versus the Chargers.

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“If you look at the history, it’s been 10 days pretty much everybody we’ve dealt with in the COVID protocol,” he said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

With Lawrence out and if Gregory cannot play, then the Cowboys would potentially turn to Dorance Armstrong and Tarell Basham as their starters with Bradlee Anae and Chauncey Golston as backups.

They have combined for 10 sacks in their careers, or only 3.5 sacks more than what Lawrence recorded a year ago. Basham has 7.5 sacks in 59 games.

Golston, a third-round pick, missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury and was inactive for the season opener.

Perhaps the start of Wednesday’s practice was a bad omen for the Cowboys defensive line. Assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett was carted off the field with an apparent right knee injury that will require surgery.

Since the 31-29 loss to the Buccaneers, the Cowboys have lost four starters: Wide receiver Michael Gallup was placed on injured reserve with a calf strain, right tackle La’el Collins was suspended five games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Gregory was placed on the COVID-19 list and now Lawrence is out with the broken foot.

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Baltimore Ravens adding RB Le’Veon Bell to practice squad

The Baltimore Ravens signed three-time Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell to their practice squad Tuesday to help their injury-filled backfield, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Bell, 29, will likely soon get elevated to the 53-man roster, the source added.

The addition of Bell comes after the Ravens lost third-string running back Justice Hill to an Achilles injury on Thursday. Baltimore already had lost starting running back J.K. Dobbins when he tore the ACL in his left knee in the preseason finale.

Bell, who worked out for Baltimore on Monday, will provide experience and pass-catching skill behind starter Gus Edwards and backup Ty’Son Williams.

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In 2019, the Ravens had a chance to sign Bell in free agency but chose to add Mark Ingram, who played in Baltimore for two seasons before getting released in January.

After gaining over 1,000 yards rushing in three of his five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell hasn’t been the same playmaker since sitting out the 2018 season. Last season, he totaled 328 yards rushing and two touchdowns with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs.

Bell last played for the Kansas City Chiefs after he was let go by the New York Jets.

His role on the Chiefs was pretty much non-existent, and he had been looking for a job for some time.

The Ravens could also sign a young running back who can help on special teams as well, a source said. Bell isn’t the first former Pro Bowl player to get signed to the Ravens’ practice squad. Last year, Baltimore added wide receiver Dez Bryant to its practice team before promoting him to the 53-man roster.

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Top New York Jets free-agent signing Carl Lawson ruptures Achilles, will miss 2021 season

New York Jets defensive end Carl Lawson, the team’s biggest free-agent signing from the offseason, will miss the 2021 campaign after rupturing his left Achilles tendon Thursday.

The injury happened during a red zone period in a joint practice between the Jets and Green Bay Packers at the Packers’ facility. Several players took knees and the practice fell ominously quiet as medical personnel tended to Lawson.

Safety Zane Lewis also suffered a season-ending injury during the joint practice as the Jets stated he tore a patella tendon and sprained an MCL. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (knee) and wide receiver Denzel Mims (hip) also were injured Thursday, but their injuries are considered minor and both players are day-to-day, the Jets said.

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Lawson’s season-ending injury is a huge blow to the Jets, who were counting on him to be their primary edge-rushing threat in their new 4-3 front.

He had been dominant in training-camp practices.

The loss of Lawson will force the Jets to retool their defensive line under new head coach Robert Saleh, who spent the last four seasons as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator.

Saleh is no stranger to dealing with injuries and still fielding a strong defense. The 49ers ranked No. 5 in total yards allowed last season despite the losses of Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman and Ezekiel Ansah due to injuries.

Bryce Huff, an undrafted free agent last year out of Memphis, is the favorite to get a chance to replace Lawson as a primary pass-rusher for the Jets.

The Jets signed Lawson to a three-year, $45 million contract in March. He spent his first four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. Lawson has a history of major injuries. He tore his left ACL at Auburn in 2014, and he tore his right ACL with the Bengals in 2018.

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C.J. Henderson rejoins Jacksonville Jaguars after missing Sunday scrimmage

Jaguars cornerback C.J. Henderson returned to practice Tuesday after being excused from Sunday’s scrimmage for personal reasons, and the team is positive that the second-year player can make up for all the time he has missed in training camp before the Sept. 12 season opener.

Henderson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list July 23. He was activated Friday but has participated in only two of the team’s 11 practices.

“He can make us a lot better football team,” assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Charlie Strong said Tuesday. “Just to see him get around us and get out on the field and go to work was really exciting.

“I think we’ve still got enough time here [to get him ready]. We’re what, a month still out from playing our first game, and then we have these preseason games and they will be good to get him back so he can get out there and run around.

But just knowing that he can get back and we can just teach him the defense and he can learn it, because we’re doing a lot on defense and it would be good for him to get back and just go through the whole learning process. Even if he can’t come after practice, just being in the classroom really helps.”

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Strong said he and coach Urban Meyer are committed to helping Henderson, the No. 9 overall pick in 2020, recover from a hard rookie season that included a shoulder and groin injury that eventually landed him on injured reserve in November and that the two recently visited Henderson at his home.

“Any time you have a great young man like that, you want to make sure that you do everything possible to help him and to help him get back on track,” Strong said.

“I was telling Coach, I said, ‘We’re out of the process of just trying to just get guys and just push them aside.’ Our whole thing is just creating value for him.

“… He wants to play. And that’s the thing. He’s going to do everything he can to get back, and we’re going to do everything we can to help him get back.”

Henderson’s NFL debut in 2020 was impressive, with five tackles, an interception and three pass breakups, including one on fourth down to seal the Jaguars’ triumph over the Indianapolis Colts.

Henderson injured his shoulder three weeks later but played through it, which contributed to his inconsistency.

A groin injury suffered versus the Green Bay Packers ended his season after eight games.

Henderson, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, was expected to be the Jaguars’ top cornerback in 2021, but Sidney Jones worked in his spot with the first-team defense during Henderson’s time on the reserve list. Henderson worked with the second-team defense at times Tuesday.

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New York Jets’ Zach Wilson signs rookie deal after missing first 2 days of practice

It took longer than expected, but the New York Jets and quarterback Zach Wilson agreed to terms on his rookie contract Thursday.

The first-round pick and presumptive starter, who missed two days of practice as the two sides haggled over technicalities in the contract language, signed a four-year, $35.15 million contract — a slotted deal that is fully guaranteed.

It contains a $22.9 million signing bonus and a fifth-year team option, standard for all first-round picks.

Wilson, who took a red-eye from Los Angeles and arrived in New Jersey on Thursday morning, was the last unsigned first-round selection from the 2021 NFL draft.

The contract includes offset language and the signing bonus will be paid within 15 days, per a source, details that imply that the sides have compromised because those were the sticking points. Originally, the Jets wanted to defer payments into 2022.

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Coach Robert Saleh, speaking to reporters shortly before news of the deal broke, said he talked to Wilson early in the week.

The conversation was strictly about football, not contract-related, Saleh said. He said he wasn’t worried about the stalemate being a disruption to the team.

“It’s more concern for the kid,” Saleh said. “Every rep is important, so my concern is that it’s two days too many for him. But as far as the installs go and the way we’re preparing the rest of the team, that doesn’t concern me.

“But this young man has a chance to do something special around here that hasn’t been done in a while and every rep matters for him.”

Wilson benefited from a heavy workload in the spring. With no veterans on the roster, he took all the first-team reps.

There was an increased sense of urgency to strike a deal because the Jets are counting on him to be their opening-day starter, although they haven’t revealed that. The only other quarterbacks on the roster are James Morgan and Mike White, neither of whom has regular-season experience. Rookie contract disputes are unusual because the deals are slotted, but teams and agents sometimes haggle over certain clauses.

The Jets include an offset in every contract that has guaranteed money, which provides financial protection if they release the player before the contract is complete. An offset lets a team to cut a player before the end of his four-year contract is completed and have the remaining money reduced by the amount of his next contract.

This isn’t an unusual stance. It’s believed that 30 of the 32 teams use offsets in contracts. The exceptions are the Los Angeles Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars, with the latter having signed No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence to a deal with no offsets.

Without an offset, a cut player collects the guarantee from his old team plus the money he receives from his new team — aka double dipping.

What complicated the Jets’ negotiation was that at least two of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round received deals without full offsets — Lawrence and Justin Fields (No. 11 by the Chicago Bears). Fields received a partial offset.

Interestingly, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, the top pick in 2020 and represented by the same agency that negotiated Wilson’s contract, signed a contract that includes offset language.

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Green Bay Packers sign QB Jake Dolegala after minicamp tryout

Make it five quarterbacks now on the Green Bay Packers’ roster.

Jake Dolegala signed with the team after his tryout during the three-day minicamp finished Thursday.

He did not get many reps during the 11-on-11 portions of the three practices, but he showed enough during drill work that the Packers want to take a longer look.

In other news, the NFL revealed Thursday that Packers tight end Jace Sternberger was suspended without pay for the first two games of the regular season for violating the league’s policy and program on substances of abuse.

With the addition of Dolegala, the Packers’ quarterback depth chart looks like this: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love, Blake Bortles, Kurt Benkert and Dolegala, who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019 as an undrafted free agent out of Central Connecticut and also spent part of last campaign on the New England Patriots’ practice squad.

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While Rodgers was a holdout during mandatory minicamp, the Packers gave Love the bulk of the work in team periods. Instead of dividing reps during 11-on-11s, Love took the majority of the snaps. Of the 31 snaps Thursday, Love took 26, while Bortles got two and Benkert three.

Less than a month ago, the Packers had only two quarterbacks on their roster: Rodgers and Love. They added Benkert, who had previously been on the Falcons’ practice squad, after a tryout during their rookie camp and then added the veteran Bortles just days later.

The Packers released defensive tackle Anthony Rush to make room for Dolegala.

Sternberger said in a statement posted to Twitter that he fell asleep behind the wheel in February 2020 after making the “horrible decision” to drink after taking anti-depressants.

“I want to apologize to the GB Packers organization and everyone else who has supported me along this journey,” Sternberger said in the statement. “It is never okay to drink and get behind the wheel.”

Sternberger, who said he has been going to therapy over the past 16 months, can participate in all offseason and preseason practices and matches but then will be out until Week 3.

“I will never ignore my mistakes,” he said. “I have owned up to my poor decision and accept the consequences.”

Sternberger, a third-round pick in 2019, has 12 career catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. He was a healthy scratch in both of the Packers’ playoff games last season.

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Johnathan Abram’s goal is to play under control for Las Vegas Raiders

First, the Las Vegas Raiders signed Karl Joseph. Then they used a second-round draft pick on Trevon Moehrig. Tyree Gillespie came in the fourth round.

Surely, bringing in three new safeties had to send a message to incumbent starter Johnathan Abram, right? Meh …

“It doesn’t,” insisted Abram, a first-round draft pick in 2019, after Wednesday’s OTA practice. “Only thing it does is bring us together. As soon as those guys got drafted, as soon as Karl got signed back, I reached out to everybody. I told them, ‘It’s time to go to work.’

“Each guy’s going to push each other. We’re all going to come out every single day and just be our best. Day in and day out. Being a pro … if everybody does that, it’s going to make the room entirely better.”

And it should improve Abram’s oft-boom or bust, heat-seeking-missile style.

For one thing, Abram is settling in at a new position as a box safety in new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s heavy Cover-3 scheme.

“It’s interesting going from what we went to last year, playing a lot of split-safety, playing high,” Abram said. “So this is going to be more suitable to my talents and my strengths.”

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For another, Abram realizes he needs to slow down a tad and not always go for the kill shot, lest he take out a teammate — which has happened on occasion — or himself — yeah, that’s happened, too.

Like his rookie campaign, when he played all of one half of the 2019 season opener due to a self-inflicted shoulder injury.

“Last offseason was a struggle for me coming off the shoulder injury,” he said. “So this year I stayed around the facility a lot … I’m more than 100 percent, honestly. I’m as strong as I’ve ever been.

“This year, [the goal is] just being more consistent. Playing under control. Not really taking that many wild hits, getting myself knocked out of the game [and] hurting my own body … being consistent, being disciplined and constantly just doing my job. Filling my grade sheet with ‘plusses’ every day. Then every Sunday, I think my game will blossom.”

It’s only OTAs, and they are voluntary, but 83 of the 89 players on the Raiders’ current roster were practicing on Wednesday, with running back Josh Jacobs, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, tight end Derek Carrier, cornerback Isaiah Johnson and rookie linebacker/safety Divine Deablo not participating.

But there was Abram, taking on a leadership role with the defensive backs on a far side of the field.

And as draft classmate Clelin Ferrell noted, he has seen Abram focusing on “making it a special year” for both himself and the Raiders.

“All of us, we’re tired of losing,” Ferrell said. “Seeing his discipline, he’ll bring the guys along on the back end and the way he’s trying to push the fact that we’ve really got to learn this defense, so we can just go out there and play.”

Abram had two interceptions last season. He was also criticized for his inconsistent ball skills and for being badly out of position on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ 22-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Travis Kelce in the final minute of the Raiders’ loss to the Chiefs on Nov. 22.

Still, as former Raiders defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil stated last year, it is easier to get a player to slow down than to get him to speed up.

Now, Abram has a new position coach in 21-year coaching veteran Ron Milus.

And Abram also has a couple of veterans in the secondary to lean on in new cornerback Casey Hayward Jr., who has played for Bradley, and a one-time roommate in Joseph. Remember, Abram and Joseph started one match together and now Joseph is entering his sixth season.

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