Tagged in: Safety

Tyrann Mathieu reports to New Orleans Saints after missing start of training camp

New Orleans Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu reported for training camp and was practicing Wednesday after initially being excused to attend to what the team described as a personal matter.

Mathieu made his first appearance of training camp Wednesday morning after missing the first six practices of camp and getting to the team hotel Tuesday night. Saints coach Dennis Allen stated they were able to talk at the hotel and that Mathieu appeared to be in “good spirits.”

The 30-year-old Mathieu did not participate in 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 drills but went through the team walk-through and did individual drills with the defensive backs.

“He’s anxious to kind of get back here and get started,” Allen said. “We’ll go through a little bit of a ramp-up period with him, kind of let him get his feet up under him, but man, to have a player of his decorated ability back in the building is a positive.”

On Thursday, Mathieu spoke to the media for the first time since his return to the team on Wednesday, praising the support he has received from his coaches and teammates and saying he’ll go through a ramp-up conditioning period as he gets back into football shape.

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“Everyone was really supportive, teammates, former teammates,” Mathieu said. “Lot of different people just being supportive. Obviously that was a great feeling, to have that support. … I’m sure at some point I’ll be more transparent about the first six days of practice, but more important I’m just happy to be back and around the guys. I’m feeling good, I’m in great spirits, really healthy. Everything that’s important, it’s going good. I’m just in a good place and just all about ramping it up and getting back into it.”

The offseason addition of Mathieu to the Saints’ secondary was met with much fanfare in New Orleans, where Mathieu grew up and played in high school before starring in college at LSU.

The nine-year NFL veteran agreed to a three-year, $33 million free agent contract with the Saints in early May.

Mathieu was raised by his grandparents in New Orleans then became a star football player and track athlete for St. Augustine High School. He maintained deep ties to the city, enhanced through his charitable endeavors and football camps in the area.

He also has deep ties to LSU, where his tenacious play over two seasons earned him the nickname “Honey Badger.” As a sophomore in 2011, he was a Heisman Trophy finalist and obtained the Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player. But his college career was cut short when then-Tigers coach Les Miles dismissed Mathieu in the summer of 2012 for repeated drug test failures.

Mathieu spent time in a Houston rehabilitation program, but it wasn’t until he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round in 2013 that he put his life together.

Mathieu became a dependable defensive standout for coach Bruce Arians and has since added two All-Pro nods with Kansas City to go with one earned in Arizona. He also has been named to the Pro Bowl each of the past three seasons. He wound up playing five seasons for the Cardinals before a year with the Houston Texans.

He signed with Kansas City as a free agent for $42 million over three years and immediately became the quarterback of the Chiefs’ defense, often relaying signals and directing the pre-snap alignment of defensive teammates.

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Safety Jessie Bates III, with ‘a real role on our team,’ lands franchise tag from Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals placed their franchise tag on safety Jessie Bates III, the team revealed Monday.

Bates was on the verge of becoming a free agent once his rookie deal expired at the end of the league year. The franchise-tag deadline for all teams is Tuesday.

“Over the past year, we’ve tried to extend his contract here in Cincinnati,” Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn said in a statement. “While that hasn’t come to pass, we want him here for 2022 to be a part of what we think should be an exciting football season and bright future for our organization.”

The franchise tag allows the Bengals to be in prime position to retain Bates’ services for the 2022 season. The franchise tender amount for safeties is $12.911 million, according to a memo obtained by ESPN on Monday.

At last week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Bengals executive Duke Tobin reiterated that the franchise’s intention was to keep him in Cincinnati.

“He’s a guy that developed and that has played well that has a real role on our team in a lot of different areas, particularly in leadership and playmaking skill,” Tobin said. “He’s a guy we want going forward.”

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The franchise tag allows Bates and the Bengals to negotiate a long-term deal until July 15 at 4 p.m. ET. If no multiyear contract is reached by then, Bates will not be eligible for a contract extension until after the season, according to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA.

Bates played a pivotal role in the Bengals reaching their first Super Bowl in 33 years.

In four postseason games, he had six pass deflections, 20 tackles and two interceptions, including one in the 23-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI.

The safety, who turned 25 in February, sought a contract extension with the Bengals after a breakout 2020 campaign; however, those preseason discussions did not lead to a new deal.

He started 15 games last campaign, making 88 tackles with an interception, four passes defended and a fumble recovery.

Since joining the Bengals, the 2018 second-round pick has been one of the team’s most dependable starters. He has appeared in 63 of a potential 65 games in four NFL seasons, starting all of them.

A neck injury suffered in a Week 3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers snapped Bates’ streak of 51 consecutive starts, the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.

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Las Vegas Raiders’ Johnathan Abram has season-ending shoulder injury

Las Vegas Raiders third-year strong safety Johnathan Abram suffered a season-ending left shoulder injury in the Raiders’ 16-14 triumph at the Cleveland Browns on Monday night and will undergo surgery, a source confirmed to ESPN.

NFL Network first reported the season-ending nature of the injury.

Abram suffered the injury late in the match and was replaced by Roderic Teamer, who figures to replace Abram in the starting lineup in the Raiders’ final three games —  versus the Denver Broncos (7-7), at the Indianapolis Colts (8-6) and against the Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) — as Las Vegas (7-7) tries to keep its playoff hopes alive.

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The Raiders also placed cornerback Brandon Facyson on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, joining cornerback Nate Hobbs.

The Raiders also placed cornerback Trayvon Mullen on injured reserve Monday.

The third of the Raiders’ three first-round picks in 2019 — Abram was selected at No. 27, behind defensive end Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 and running back Josh Jacobs at No. 24 — Abram played just one half of his rookie season as he suffered a season-ending injury to the same shoulder in his NFL debut.

After a mostly down second season, Abram benefited mightily from the arrival of new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and was impactful as a box safety against the run.

Still, he remained a liability in pass coverage. Abram, whose 116 tackles ranks second on the team and who is tied for first with one interception, had not missed a snap this season before going down with less than eight minutes to play Monday.

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DeRozan leads Bulls over Lakers 115-110 in team’s return

DeMar DeRozan scored 38 points after missing two weeks in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 115-110 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.

Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Lonzo Ball added 19 points as the Bulls snapped a two-game losing streak. It was Chicago’s first match since Dec. 11 after two were postponed.

LeBron James had 31 points, Carmelo Anthony added 21 and Russell Westbrook 20 as Los Angeles dropped its second straight.

With the Bulls trailing by a point in the final minute, DeRozan hit an 18-footer for a 111-110 lead with 52 seconds remaining. Following a Lakers miss, DeRozan missed a shot but then was fouled with 15.6 seconds left after Ball grabbed the offensive rebound. DeRozan then hit both free throws for a 113-110 edge.

Like much of the first two months of the season, the Bulls turned to DeRozan in crunch time and he delivered.

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“It’s an honor to be trusted in those moments,” he said. “I never take it for granted. It’s an adrenaline rush that you can’t duplicate, so you try to make the most of it every time you’re put in that position. There’s nothing like it. You’ve got to take the good with the bad, and I’m willing to take both.”

Before having two matches postponed last week due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the Bulls had 10 players in the health and safety protocols. That number is down to four right now, including All-Star Zach LaVine.

Although the Lakers haven’t had any games postponed, they currently have six players — Kent Bazemore, Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker. Dwight Howard, Malik Monk and Austin Reaves — and coach Frank Vogel in the health and safety protocols.

Assistant David Fizdale served as coach on Sunday.

It also was Los Angeles’ first match since forward Anthony Davis sprained his left knee on Friday. He is expected to miss four weeks.

“Obviously we’re doing things on the fly, figuring out how to play with the lineups we have and the people we have available,” Westbrook said. “New guys are stepping in here, so we’ve got to do what we can. That’s it. You’ve just got to play hard and let the rest take care of itself.”

Chicago led nearly the entire first half and by as much as 10 points before taking a 61-59 halftime lead. The Lakers went ahead 65-64 early in the third quarter on a floater by Isaiah Thomas.

The teams traded baskets and leads for the remainder of the quarter before Los Angeles took an 84-83 advantage into the fourth.

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New York Giants lose safety Jabrill Peppers for rest of season to ruptured ACL, high ankle sprain

New York Giants safety Jabrill Peppers’ season is over after he suffered ankle and knee injuries Sunday in a triumph over the Carolina Panthers.

Peppers ruptured the ACL in his right knee in the third quarter of the 25-3 victory. He also suffered a high ankle sprain and was placed on injured reserve.

He’s now the third Giants captain to land on season-ending injured reserve this season, joining offensive lineman Nick Gates and middle linebacker Blake Martinez.

Another captain, running back Saquon Barkley, has also missed a pair of games as the team has been ravaged by injuries in recent weeks. It’s a tough way for Peppers’ career with the Giants to perhaps end.

Peppers was playing this campaign on the fifth-year option to his rookie contract. He is a free agent at the end of the season.

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“I know the game means a lot to Pep,” coach Joe Judge said on Monday. “He’s a tremendous leader on this team and brings a lot to us in terms of production and just leadership on the field.”

Peppers, 26, had 30 tackles and a sack this year.

He missed a pair of matches because of a hamstring injury and had seen his playing time and role decrease this season. He had fallen behind veteran Logan Ryan and second-year player Xavier McKinney in the safety rotation.

The Giants got Peppers along with first- and third-round picks back in 2019 in the trade that sent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns. But his time with the Giants has been marred by a variety of injuries, tallying 17 missed games in three years.

Peppers, a New Jersey native, was a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft out of the University of Michigan.

In a flurry of other roster moves, the Giants are signing defensive back J.R. Reed off the Los Angeles Rams’ practice squad and waiving wide receiver David Sills and cornerback Josh Jackson from the active roster. Defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton was also released off the practice squad.

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George leads Clippers over Paul and Suns, 106-92 in Game 3

Paul George scored 27 points and the Los Angeles Clippers pulled away in a dominant third quarter, beating newly returned Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns 106-92 on Thursday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

The Clippers cut their series deficit to 2-1, ending the Suns’ franchise-record playoff winning streak at nine games.

Kawhi Leonard remained out with a right knee sprain, leaving George to carry the load again. After missing two crucial free throws in a one-point loss in Game 2, Paul had 15 rebounds and eight assists and played a game-high 43 minutes. He made 6 of 7 free throws.

The Suns got Paul back after he missed the first two games while being sidelined since June 16 because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The former Clipper, who was booed heartily during intros, had 15 points and 12 assists, but was 5 of 19 from the field.

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Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 18 points.

Reggie Jackson added 23 points for the Clippers, and Ivica Zubac had 15 points and tied his career playoff high with 16 rebounds.

Game 4 is Saturday night at Staples Center.

After Phoenix won the first two games by a combined seven points, the teams played a close first half. Then the Clippers went to work in front of their raucous, Thunder Stix-pounding fans.

They took control with the biggest run of the game, a 21-3 spurt that left them leading 71-56 in the third. Terance Mann got it going with six straight points and Jackson scored four in a row before George scored inside. Zubac dunked off George’s pass and made a pair of free throws. The Suns were limited to a 3-pointer by Paul.

Devin Booker picked up his third and fourth fouls in a 42-second span during the Clippers’ run. Booker — wearing a clear mask to protect his nose that required stitches after he and Patrick Beverley banged heads in Game 2 — was 5 of 21 from the field, making only one of seven 3-point tries, and finished with 15 points.

Jae Crowder, who assisted on Deandre Ayton’s winning dunk on Tuesday, fouled out with 4:51 remaining. He had nine points, six rebounds and six assists.

George capped the third by banking in a 3-pointer from just inside midcourt, and it beat the buzzer, stunning the fans and sending the Clippers into the fourth leading 80-69. He nearly bobbled the ball along the right sideline, with Booker and Cam Johnson pressuring, before getting the shot off.

Luke Kennard opened the fourth with a 3 from the right corner, getting fouled and making the free throw. Marcus Morris hit a three before George got fouled. He confidently made both, keeping the Clippers ahead 89-71.

Cameron Payne, who so ably filled in for Paul in the first two games, went down with a left ankle injury after playing four minutes and didn’t return.

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Seattle Seahawks re-sign Damarious Randall, moving him to CB

The Seattle Seahawks have re-signed Damarious Randall and plan to move him back to cornerback, the team revealed Friday.

Randall played cornerback for his first three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, who drafted him 30th overall in 2015. He has also played safety and some nickelback.

Most of Randall’s 35 defensive snaps last campaign came at safety. He appeared in 10 matches with the Seahawks — mostly on special teams — after joining their practice squad in September.

It’s not clear if the Seahawks see Randall as an option at nickelback or on the outside.

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At 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds, the 28-year-old is smaller than what the Seahawks typically prefer in their perimeter cornerbacks. But D.J. Reed emerged for Seattle on the outside last season despite not having prototypical size.

The Seahawks’ other perimeter cornerbacks incorporate free-agent addition Ahkello Witherspoon and Tre Flowers, who has started 37 games for Seattle over the past three seasons.

Safety Ryan Neal has played cornerback in the past. Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair are returning at nickelback, although Blair is coming off a torn ACL.

The Seahawks wanted to re-sign cornerback Quinton Dunbar, but he signed with the Detroit Lions instead.

Other Seahawks corners with starting experience are D.J. Reed, who can play multiple positions and who finished the season starting at right cornerback and free-agent addition Ahkello Witherspoon, who started 33 games in four seasons with the 49ers, playing on both the left and right side.

Randall has 14 interceptions and 47 passes defensed over six NFL seasons. He spent three with Green Bay and two with the Cleveland Browns before landing in Seattle last year.

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Minnesota Vikings, safety Xavier Woods reach 1-year deal

The Minnesota Vikings agreed to a contract with free-agent safety Xavier Woods, the team revealed.

Terms were not disclosed but a source confirmed to ESPN on Saturday that it’s a one-year, $2.25 million deal that contains $1.75 million guaranteed.

The 25-year-old Woods, who developed into a versatile safety with the ability to cover the slot over his first four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, is expected to fill the Vikings’ opening at free safety opposite Harrison Smith after Anthony Harris’ departure in free agency.

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After concluding the season ranked 29th in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed, Minnesota has focused its efforts on the defensive side.

In addition to Woods, the Vikings have acquired only defensive players in free agency — defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, linebacker Nick Vigil and cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander as head coach Mike Zimmer looks to revamp a unit that allowed 29.7 points per game in 2020 (third-worst in the NFL).

A sixth-round draft pick in 2017, Woods became a full-time starter in his second season with the Cowboys and started his last 44 matches, missing four games over three seasons because of injury.

Heading into 2020, he was viewed as a cornerstone piece to the Cowboys’ secondary, but he struggled despite finishing second on the team with 72 tackles. He had just two tackles for loss, did not record a sack and had just two passes defended while not intercepting a pass for the first time in his career.

Woods can play both safety spots and also played as a nickel cornerback as a rookie.

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Denver Broncos placing franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons

The Denver Broncos are placing the franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons for the second successive season, it was announced Friday.

Simmons, who was poised to become an unrestricted free agent, becomes the first player to be tagged this offseason. The Broncos now have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal.

“Designating Justin with the franchise tag is a procedural move that allows us to continue working on a long-term deal,” general manager George Paton said in a statement Friday. We are completely focused on making sure Justin remains a big part of the Denver Broncos for many years to come.”

NFL teams have until Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET to place the franchise tag on their most valuable player.

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Simmons, the Broncos’ third-round pick in the 2016 draft, played on the franchise player tag in 2020, worth $11.4 million.

He concluded with 96 tackles and five interceptions. It was his third consecutive 90-tackle season. He has consistently been an active player in run defense along the line of scrimmage with the versatility to match up on a variety of players in coverage.

The 27-year-old has the combination of on-field performance and off-field community engagement, given that he has played every defensive snap for each of the past three campaigns and was the Broncos’ nominee this past season for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

When Paton was hired in January, Broncos president of football operations John Elway said trying to re-sign Simmons was “one of the biggest things” Paton had on his to-do list.

Simmons has consistently been one of the most active players in the community and one of the team’s leading voices in social justice initiatives.

He has acquired the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award, given out by the Denver chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America each season to a Broncos player to recognize professionalism and depth in interactions with the media. Simmons is the only three-time winner of the award since it started in 2006.

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Seattle Seahawks’ Jamal Adams says there’s ‘no question’ that he’ll play in playoff game

The biggest question facing the Seattle Seahawks this week actually isn’t a question to Jamal Adams: The All-Pro strong safety on Wednesday stated unequivocally that he’ll be on the field for Saturday’s wild-card game versus the Los Angeles Rams.

“No question in my mind. I’m playing, man,” Adams said. “Look, as long as these legs are moving, man, as long as my faith is with the man upstairs, which is very strong, I’m going to be out there.”

Adams said there was never a doubt in his mind that he would play despite the left shoulder injury he suffered in the fourth quarter Sunday that sidelined him for the end of Seattle’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Coach Pete Carroll said after the game the initial word was that Adams would be able to play this weekend, though he stopped short at the time of declaring as much. Carroll has been more noncommittal in his most recent comments, saying Adams’ availability wouldn’t be known until game day.

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Adams didn’t practice Tuesday, and he was listed as a limited participant Wednesday.

“I’m OK,” Adams said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m not going to be limited to anything. I’m full-go. I’m full energy. I’m me. I’m going out there to continue to make plays and continue to continue help the team win. That’s what I’m about.”

Despite missing four matches with a groin injury, Adams led the Seahawks this season with 9.5 sacks, an NFL record for a defensive back. He was named to his third straight Pro Bowl.

Asked if he’ll have to wear a supportive harness on his left shoulder, Adams said he’ll be playing with “something.” He’s been playing through an injury to his right shoulder since Week 10 and has two broken fingers on his left hand.

He called it “just another challenge” to play with two injured shoulders.

“I’m a savage, bro,” Adams said. “I’m a warrior, man. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes. It’s not about me. It’s always going to be bigger than me. It’s about this team. It’s about my brothers. It’s about my family back home, my why. So again, I’m excited for this opportunity. It doesn’t matter what obstacle is thrown my way. I always figure it out and that’s all that matters, man. So I’m looking forward to the matchup.”

Adams briefly returned Sunday after injuring his shoulder on a blitz but concluded the game on the sideline with a dejected look on his face. Carroll said the team had to take Adams’ helmet away.

“All the stuff that I’ve been through the past year — and again, I don’t like to ever make it about me because it’s never about me — but yeah, I went through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity due to injury,” Adams said.

“Obviously, he had to take my helmet away. And when he took my helmet away, it hurt me a little bit because I wanted to be out there and finish no matter what. “But at the end of the day, it’s about this team. It’s never going to be about me. I can’t wait to get out there. I will figure it out and that’s just who I am as a person.”

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