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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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Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder make third fight in rivalry official

WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder have both signed contracts for the third fight in their heavyweight rivalry.

During the Josh Taylor-Jose Ramirez telecast on ESPN on Saturday, Fury stated that he had signed his contract. Wilder has also completed his side of the deal, according to boxing manager Shelly Finkel.

The fight will be on July 24, sources told ESPN. T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will host the bout, Top Rank’s Bob Arum told ESPN’s Kel Dansby.

Fury will get 60% of the purse to 40% for Wilder, sources told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel.

The agreement comes six days after an independent arbitrator ruled that Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) was legally obligated for a third fight with Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs).

The arbitrator’s ruling derailed negotiations between Fury and Anthony Joshua for an undisputed title fight in Saudi Arabia this summer. Both sides were on the verge of finalizing a deal before Monday’s arbitration.

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Discussions were limited regarding a potential “step-aside” fee to Wilder to make Fury-Joshua possible.

The World Boxing Organization (WBO) has ordered Joshua to defend his heavyweight title against mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk.

Prior to the first fight in 2018 that ended in a draw, Wilder had knocked out all his previous adversaries. Fury got off the canvas in the 12th round to escape his first defeat. In the 2020 rematch, Fury battered Wilder for a seventh-round TKO victory. Neither fighter has fought since the fight.

Fury first fought Wilder, who is now 35, in 2018 and took the WBC title from him in a rematch in February 2020 with a seventh-round stoppage.

“Shall we do it and put him out of his misery? Crack the other side of his skull? Give him another shoulder injury, another bicep injury, a leg injury… the whole lot,” Fury said in a video posted by Top Rank Boxing.

“Wilder, contract’s signed, you’re getting smashed… You’re getting knocked out, end of, one round, you’re going. I’ve got your soul, your mojo, everything, I own you.”

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Pass-rusher Aldon Smith signs with Seattle Seahawks

Former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Aldon Smith has signed with Seattle, the Seahawks revealed Thursday.

The 31-year-old Smith adds to what was already a deep collection of edge rushers in Seattle. The Seahawks re-signed Carlos Dunlap and Benson Mayowa, added Kerry Hyder and return Jamal Adams, L.J. Collier, Alton Robinson, Rasheem Green and Darrell Taylor.

After being reinstated from an indefinite suspension that lasted from 2016 to 2019 for multiple off-field incidents and violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Smith joined the Cowboys in 2020 on a one-year deal worth up to $4 million based on some incentives.

The Seahawks had strong interest in Smith last offseason before he signed with Dallas, a source told ESPN.

Smith was informed on March 24 that he would not be re-signed by the Cowboys, a source told ESPN. He started the 2020 campaign strong with a three-sack outing in Week 3 versus the Seahawks, but he concluded the year with five sacks.

He was second to DeMarcus Lawrence on the Cowboys with 33 quarterback pressures and had 48 tackles, five tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries, returning one for a touchdown.

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Smith played in every game, seeing action on 808 defensive snaps — the most among Cowboys defensive linemen and fourth most on the defense. All that work may have played a part in a late-season fade and some injuries.

He quickly rose to stardom with a record 33.5 sacks in his first two NFL seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, with that total rising to a record 42 after three seasons. However, Smith got sidetracked off the field.

In 2013, Smith was arrested on suspicion of DUI after crashing his truck into a tree in a residential neighborhood in San Jose, California. In 2014, the NFL suspended him for nine games for violating the league’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies.

In August 2015, Smith was released by the Niners the day after he was arrested on hit-and-run, DUI and vandalism charges. He signed with the Raiders a month later but was suspended for a year for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Smith was released by the Raiders in 2018 after he was arrested on multiple charges, including domestic violence, assault and false imprisonment.

Smith pleaded no contest to a pair of misdemeanor charges in November 2018 to settle his domestic violence case from earlier that year.

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Bengals A.J Green signs franchise tender

A.J. Green officially put ink to paper on Friday afternoon. 

The Cincinnati Bengals star wide receiver signed the one-year franchise tag tender the team extended to him in March, the team stated. He will make about $18 million this campaign. 

Green wanted a multi-year extension but knew this day was coming all along. The Bengals thought it was best to place him under the franchise tag after the receiver sustained a season-ending left ankle injury on the first day of training camp in 2019. 

The veteran receiver has suffered lower-body injuries and missed substantial time in three of the last four years. But, the Bengals do believe Green is still capable of being a premier No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. The team is enthusiastic to see him back healthy this season with rookie quarterback Joe Burrow under center. 

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“A.J. is one of the best receivers in the NFL,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said in a statement. “He’s an important part of our plans, and we’re thrilled to have him in the fold from Day 1. We’re looking forward to the impact of his talent and leadership on our offense this season.”

Coming into his 10th season, Green ranks second in team history in most receiving categories. 

Green is expected to report to Bengals training camp July 28. He and the team hope it won’t be his final training camp in a Bengals uniform. “From the day that he joined our organization nine years ago, A.J. Green has been an outstanding player and a class act,” Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn said in a statement.

“We are pleased that he will be part of the team this year, starting with the first practice. By signing, A.J. puts himself and the team in the best position to have a great season together, and we look forward to the opportunity at the end of the season to discuss keeping him here long-term. He has been an integral part of our team, and we expect this year that he will be the same impact player he has always been.”

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