Tagged in: practice

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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Donovan Mitchell returns to practice, expects to play in Sunday’s playoff opener for Utah Jazz

All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell practiced Thursday for the first time since spraining his right ankle more than a month ago and plans to play in the Utah Jazz’s playoff opener.

“That’s the goal,” Mitchell said. “Barring any setbacks, God forbid — knock on wood — that’s the goal. I’m just trying to go out there and be there for my teammates and try to help to go out there and win a championship. That’s the goal. It’s been the goal all year.”

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Mitchell, who averaged career bests of 26.4 points and 5.2 assists per game this season, sat out the last 16 games as the 52-20 Jazz wrapped up the NBA’s best record and the top overall seed.

Utah will open the playoffs Sunday at home against the winner of the Western Conference play-in game between the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies.

Mitchell suffered the injury April 16 against the Indiana Pacers when he jumped to try to deflect a long outlet pass and came down awkwardly with his foot underneath Indiana guard Edmond Sumner.

Mitchell has ramped up his on-court work in the past two weeks, staying in Salt Lake City when the team was on the road to work out with assistant coach Keyon Dooling, but hadn’t participated in competitive, full-contact action until Thursday.

Mitchell said that the ankle still has some soreness but that he didn’t experience any significant pain. “Practice was good,” Mitchell said.

“I got out there and competed. You could definitely tell it was the first time in four or five weeks, but that’s to be expected. I’m just trying to find ways to get back in a groove.”

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Rafael Nadal cruises past teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid Open

In a much-anticipated clash of generations, Rafael Nadal showed he is still clearly the man to beat in Spanish tennis, cruising to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the second round of the Madrid Open on Wednesday.

Nadal, seeking his sixth title in Madrid and looking to regain top form ahead of the French Open, was never threatened by Alcaraz, who turned 18 on Wednesday.

In the women’s draw, Paula Badosa defeated Belinda Bencic 6-4, 7-5 to become the first Spanish woman to reach the semifinals in Madrid. She will face top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, who got past Petra Kvitova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

The 120th-ranked Alcaraz was coming off his first victory at a Masters 1000 event and had called the match versus his idol a “dream come true.” He has been touted by many as the successor to the 34-year-old Nadal.

After the crowd at the “Magic Box” center court sang “Happy Birthday” to him, Alcaraz squandered a break point in the first game and then struggled to keep up with the 20-time Grand Slam champion. The wild-card entry was hampered by unforced errors, earning his lone break toward the end of the second set.

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Alcaraz needed medical attention in the third game after losing a long rally, apparently hurting his arm or shoulder while going for an overhead smash.

The two Spaniards had never played a match against each other but practiced together at the Australian Open, where Alcaraz reached the second round.

“It was a difficult match against a youngster who has been playing very well and who has an enormous potential ahead of him,” Nadal said Wednesday. “All he needs is some time. In addition to being a great tennis player, he also has great values, which is something society needs right now.”

After the match, tournament director Feliciano Lopez, who lost to Alcaraz in the Andalucia Open last month, brought out a birthday cake, and Nadal also joined the celebration.

“It’s amazing to spend my birthday playing against Rafa, learning from him,” Alcaraz said. “It could (be) better if I could win, but I really enjoy (it). I think this match made me grow up as a player.”

Nadal will next face Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin, who defeated Jannik Sinner 7-6 (5), 6-2. Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost to Nadal in the Barcelona final, advanced to the third round by beating Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-2.

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Green Bay Packers fear LT David Bakhtiari suffered season-ending ACL tear in practice

The Green Bay Packers have lost one of the most important members of their high-powered offense, All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, to what is alleged to be a season-ending knee injury suffered in practice on Thursday, a source told ESPN.

The primary diagnosis is a torn ACL, a source told ESPN, confirming a report by NFL Network. Bakhtiari will still need to undergo further tests to confirm that preliminary diagnosis.

The Packers added Bakhtiari to the injury report after Thursday’s practice. During the portion open to reporters, there was no apparent issue. Coach Matt LaFleur spoke before practice and will next take questions from reporters on Friday.

The Packers (12-3), who lead the NFL in scoring at 31.6 points per game, would be the NFC’s No. 1 seed if they triumph their regular-season finale on Sunday at the Chicago Bears.

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But now they’ll have to do it without their best non-skill position player on offense.

It comes just six weeks after they signed Bakhtiari to a record-setting, four-year, $103.5 million contract extension, making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history.

The 29-year-old, who was drafted in the fourth round in 2013, has been either first- or second-team All-Pro each of the past four years. He was named a Pro Bowl starter when the selections were revealed last week.

When Bakhtiari missed three games earlier this season because of broken ribs, the Packers played Billy Turner at left tackle. Turner has been a regular starter on the right side, at both guard and tackle.

Most recently, Turner has started the past four games at right guard, while Rick Wagner has started at right tackle. However, Wagner suffered a knee injury in Sunday’s victory over the Tennessee Titans and was a limited participant in practice. Another option would be to move Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins to left tackle.

Jenkins has played everywhere but right guard this season, having played 599 snaps at left guard, 286 at center, 31 at right tackle and 26 at left tackle, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

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Seattle Seahawks designate Quinton Dunbar, Rashaad Penny as returns to practice

The Seahawks designated cornerback Quinton Dunbar (injured reserve) and running back Rashaad Penny (physically unable to perform) to return to practice this week.

Dunbar has missed the past four games with a knee injury. Penny, Seattle’s 2018 first-round pick, is working his way back from the ACL tear he suffered last December.

Coach Pete Carroll said Dunbar would practice Wednesday but didn’t offer any assurance he’ll play Sunday versus the New York Jets, saying the Seahawks don’t have to rush him back with how well D.J. Reed has played of late.

The Seahawks listed 23 players on their injury report Wednesday.

Running backs Chris Carson (foot) and Carlos Hyde (toe) were limited. Carroll stated Carson was feeling better Monday and that he was hoping he could handle a “full load” this week after carrying eight and 13 times in his first two games back.

With players coming off extended absences like Penny, the Seahawks usually like to see them practice for at least two weeks before letting them to play in a game.

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“We’re really excited to get him back and get him back on the field with us,” Carroll said of Penny. “It’s just been a long haul. It’s very meaningful for him to get back out there, first of all. You really want to see him bang his break and really get down and hit it and give really good tempo in practice.”

Right tackle Brandon Shell, out the past two games with a high ankle sprain, was listed as a limited participant in his first practice since the injury Wednesday.

Carroll said Shell would be plenty motivated to make it back this week so he could play against his former team. Shell spent his first four campaigns with the Jets before signing with Seattle in March and was having a strong debut season with the Seahawks before his injury.

“We’ll ease him back in,” Carroll said. “He’s real anxious to get back. It seems like he’s ready to go.”

Carroll said it won’t be until the end of the week that the team knows what possibilities safety Ryan Neal (hip pointer) or tackle Jamarco Jones (groin) have of playing Sunday. Neither practiced Wednesday.

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New York Giants WR Golden Tate suffers knee injury in practice

Golden Tate was planned to address the media for the first time since being benched for last week’s game versus Washington. Instead, the wide receiver was a late scratch after the New York Giants said he suffered a knee injury late in Thursday’s practice.

The original belief is that the injury is not anything potentially season-ending, a source told ESPN. Tate was officially listed as a limited participant in practice.

It has been an eventful campaign for Tate. He missed the season opener with a hamstring injury, fought Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey at midfield in Week 4 and expressed his displeasure with his shrinking role late in a Monday night loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then was suspended for his actions.

Just when he was supposed to return to face one of his former teams, the Philadelphia Eagles, he hurt his knee. The veteran receiver was set to resume his previous role, according to wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. Tate was playing just over 50% of the offensive snaps before being benched.

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He seemed to be participating fully during the portion of Thursday’s practice that was open to the media.

“We’re kind of past that issue now,” coach Joe Judge stated before practice. “We’re getting ready to play Philly right now. Golden’s getting ready to play Philly as well right now.

“I love the way he came to practice [Wednesday]. I love the way he’s preparing so far today. We’re going to be on the field today. We’ll be over in the stadium. It’ll be a good chance for the entire team to work on the turf for a day today and get moving forward with it. But look, we’re totally past the whole situation last week. It is what it is. I look forward to getting Golden on the field with us. We’ll roll him in fast.”

Undrafted rookie Austin Mack took Tate’s snaps in Sunday’s victory over Washington and led the Giants with 72 yards on four receptions.

Tate is a former Pro Bowl receiver with 682 receptions for 8,116 yards and 46 touchdowns in 112 career starts. But last week he was told to stay home Wednesday while the Giants practiced and spent most of the rest of the week working with the scout team.

In Week 8, Tate was caught on camera yelling “Throw me the ball” after a spectacular leaping touchdown grab late in the fourth quarter put the Giants in position to tie the score. His wife, Elise, ranted that night on Instagram about his lack of opportunities, and Tate later liked a tweet that suggested he should be cut and given an opportunity to sign elsewhere.

Sources stated the Giants were open to moving Tate before the trade deadline. But his salary (almost $4.5 million this season), age (32) and deteriorating production (22 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns in seven games) made it unlikely.

The rare times Tate has been called on in recent weeks, he has produced. He had touchdown grabs of 19 and 39 yards despite just five targets combined versus the Buccaneers and Eagles in his past two games.

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New Orleans Saints WR Mike Thomas returns to practice

New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas returned to practice Thursday, giving him an opportunity  to return to the lineup for the first time since Week 1.

It’s still unclear if Thomas (ankle/hamstring) will be able to play Sunday at Chicago. But he was participating in individual drills during the early portion of practice open to the media Thursday — which is something he did not do last week or on Wednesday of this week.

Thomas, the NFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, was initially sidelined by a high ankle sprain that he suffered in Week 1. He appeared close to returning in Week 5, but then he was benched for team disciplinary reasons after a practice altercation in which he punched teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

Then Thomas returned to practice after New Orleans’ Week 6 bye — only to suffer a new hamstring injury. Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that an MRI exposed a Grade 1 hamstring strain that was expected to sideline Thomas for one to two weeks.

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The Saints could certainly use him at Chicago.

Their No. 2 receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, is on the reserve-COVID list. And undrafted rookie receiver Marquez Callaway, who led the team with 75 yards on eight catches last week, has been dealing with an ankle injury of his own.

Thomas and Callaway were formally listed as limited in Thursday’s practice.

Sanders could technically be eligible to return to activity for the first time on Sunday after testing positive last Thursday. But he stated that he will miss two games on Uninterrupted’s “17 Weeks” podcast on SiriusXM/Pandora.

Callaway was present for the start of Thursday’s practice but did not participate in the portion open to the media.

The Saints (4-2) have won three consecutive games despite their depleted WR corps, with Drew Brees and the passing offense finding a better rhythm by the week. They converted 12 of 14 third-down attempts and never punted in last week’s 27-24 triumph over the Carolina Panthers.

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New England Patriots’ Cam Newton to rejoin team after covid-19

The New England Patriots activated quarterback Cam Newton from the NFL’s COVID-19 reserve list on Wednesday.

Newton is likely to practice with the team on Thursday, which likely would lead to his starting on Sunday versus Denver.

New England was 2-1 with Newton as its starter, then lost at Kansas City when he was sidelined after testing positive for the coronavirus. Newton had tested positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 2.

Three Patriots remain on the COVID-19 reserve list: cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive tackle Byron Cowart and practice squad DT Bill Murray. Gilmore was the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

New England players say they have found an ally in coach Bill Belichick amid growing local criticism of the NFL’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Belichick’s approach to the virus outbreak within the walls of Gillette Stadium has earned him praise from those in the Patriots’ locker room as they navigate the stops and re-starts of this unusual NFL campaign.

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“Bill has done a good job of (saying), ‘Hey, this is forever kind of changing, it’s very fluid,’” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “But once we get it, (he says) ‘This is what we’ve got, this is what we’re gonna do,’ and I think all of us have just kind of (fallen) in line.”

New England players returned to the team’s facilities on Wednesday for the first time since participating in a walk-through Saturday to prepare for their now twice-postponed game versus Denver.

After a fourth positive COVID-19 test last Sunday, the NFL rescheduled the game with the Broncos — initially set for Sunday, but bumped to Monday after a handful of positive tests last week — to this coming Sunday.

Devin’s brother, Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty, was among those who voiced their displeasure with the league and its players’ union last week, claiming “they don’t care” about the well-being of players over profit.

“When he speaks, it’s from talking to a lot of different people — obviously with the (players association), but I would say most importantly the guys in our locker room,” Devin McCourty stated.

He added, “I think the biggest thing he said was the guys in the locker room, the guys in the organization, coaches, players — that’s what it’s about. It’s us keeping each other safe. It’s hard to imagine people outside of our building are gonna care more about our safety. I think that’s just a common sense thought.”

New England’s facilities were shut down last week from Wednesday through Friday, and another positive test kept the team away until this Wednesday, when players were permitted to return in limited numbers for workouts.

“Knowing that tomorrow was unknown as to when we would get back, it’s a challenge — but I think that’s just all about being a pro,” safety Adrian Phillips said. “When you get to the league … you’re gonna have some obstacles that you have to overcome, and this is just one of those obstacles.”

In what was initially set as their bye week, the Patriots plan to hold their first practice on Thursday, barring additional virus-related setbacks.

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Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson misses practice because of knee injury

The Baltimore Ravens were missing their best player when they took to the practice field on Wednesday, but it apparently won’t be an issue for when the team kicks off versus the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday. 

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson did not practice on Wednesday due to a knee injury that is not considered severe. He was held out of practice for “precautionary reasons” while Robert Griffin III took snaps as the No. 1 quarterback. 

Jackson was pulled early from the Ravens’ Week 4 31-17 victory over the Washington Football Team, but that’s likely because it was not a close game.

The reigning NFL MVP seemed to be fine, as he completed 14 of 21 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and also rushed seven times for 53 yards. In the second quarter, he even reeled off a career-long 50-yard touchdown, which extended the lead to double digits. 

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Jackson and the Ravens appeared to have bounced back from the 34-20 loss they suffered to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.

During that matchup, Jackson managed just 97 passing yards and one passing touchdown, as the Chiefs’ defense controlled the tempo of the game. 

According to Schefter, Jackson should be fine for the Ravens’ Week 5 divisional matchup with the Bengals, but it is interesting that he was not even a limited participant on Wednesday.

Jackson has missed just one game in his career, a Week 17 contest at the end of 2019 in which he did not play in order to rest and avoid potential injury ahead of Baltimore’s postseason. If Jackson were unavailable for the Ravens’ Week 5 game versus Cincinnati due to the knee issue, it would be his first game missed because of injury in his career.

Jackson won the 2019 MVP as part of the league’s best rushing offense in which he set the single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 1,206 yards and seven scores on the ground.

He’s completed 68.4% of his passes for 769 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception, and rushed 39 times for 235 yards and one score while leading the Ravens to a 3-1 start in 2020.

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