Tagged in: training camp

Julio Jones signing deal with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Veteran wide receiver Julio Jones has a new home, agreeing to a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday.

The seven-time Pro Bowler gives soon-to-be 45-year-old Tom Brady another weapon in Tampa, Florida, as Jones looks to rebound from a down season with the Tennessee Titans.

Jones joins a receiver group with the Bucs that contains holdovers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller and Breshad Perriman, and welcomed Russell Gage — like Jones, another former Falcon — this offseason. Godwin had offseason surgery on a torn ACL suffered late last season.

The Bucs opted not to put him on the PUP list to start training camp, but a source told ESPN that they will be careful with him before letting him practice.

Tampa Bay also brought on veteran Kyle Rudolph last week, a move to shore up its tight end spot in the wake of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement.

The Titans released Jones in March, just one season after getting him in a trade from the Falcons.

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Tennessee dealt two draft picks to acquire him last year, hoping he would provide much-needed balance to its passing attack.

However, he appeared in just 10 games because of injuries and had career lows with 31 receptions for 434 yards and just one touchdown reception. It was the second consecutive season in which Jones was limited by injury. He appeared in just nine games for the Falcons in 2020.

The Falcons drafted Jones sixth overall in 2011, sending multiple picks to the Cleveland Browns to be able to take the Alabama standout. Atlanta, when it moved up to acquire Jones, traded its first-round pick in 2011 (No. 26), its second-round pick, two fourth-round picks and its 2012 first-round pick.

Jones, 33, is the Falcons’ career leader in catches (848) and yards (12,896) and is second to Roddy White in touchdown receptions (63). His 91.9 receiving yards per game is the best per-game average in NFL history.

He also leads the NFL in receiving yards since 2014, and Evans leads the NFL in touchdown catches (75) during that span. Now, they’re both on the same team.

Also Tuesday, the Bucs waived tight end Codey McElroy with an injury designation. A source told ESPN that McElroy will undergo foot surgery this week after dealing with the injury during the offseason.

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San Francisco 49ers give Jimmy Garoppolo’s agents permission to seek trade

The San Francisco 49ers have given Jimmy Garoppolo’s agents permission to seek a trade involving the veteran quarterback, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Garoppolo, who is recuperating from offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder, has been cleared to start practicing as the Niners prepare for the start of training camp next week, a team source told Schefter.

The Niners are still expected to exercise caution this summer with Garoppolo, who underwent the surgery in March — a procedure that delayed San Francisco’s efforts to trade him.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged in May that Garoppolo was “most likely to be traded” but then noted that a trade was “not a guarantee.”

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Second-year quarterback Trey Lance has worked as the starter during San Francisco’s offseason program while Garoppolo, who has been the Niners’ starter since late in the 2017 season, has spent most of his offseason rehabbing in Southern California. Garoppolo was excused from the team’s mandatory minicamp in early June after not taking part in the team’s offseason conditioning program.

Veterans are planned to report to Niners training camp Tuesday.

Garoppolo, 30, is entering the final season of his contract and is scheduled to count $26.95 million against the 2022 salary cap. That deal involved a no-trade clause for the 2021 season only, and the 49ers have the right to trade him to any team of their choosing.

An acquiring team would take on a $24.2 million salary if it traded for Garoppolo right now, but that salary is not guaranteed and interested teams could potentially work with him on a contract extension that knocks down the salary number in exchange for guarantees.

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‘No one knows’ time frame for Kawhi Leonard’s return from ACL injury

Lawrence Frank reiterated that Kawhi Leonard has a “significant rehab” from his ACL injury and that “no one knows” the time frame for when the LA Clippers star will return and whether he will play this campaign.

Leonard underwent surgery to repair a partial tear in his right ACL on July 13 and is expected to be out for an extended period of time.

“Oh, we don’t even breach that,” Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, stated when asked if he anticipates Leonard playing this season.

“I think at this point, it’s just no one knows when you’re dealing with a recovery from an ACL [injury], the time frame.

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“Even just to save you guys [from asking] throughout the year, is no one knows. You just attack it day by day. He has a very detailed plan with a great group, and we’ll just let his body and the doctors tell us when it’s the right time.”

Leonard injured his knee during the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals versus the Utah Jazz on June 14.

He missed the Clippers’ final eight playoff matches with what the team called a sprained right knee.

Center Serge Ibaka, who is recovering from back surgery in June during the playoffs, will be limited and participate in noncontact drills to start training camp, Frank said.

Rookie point guard Jason Preston, the 33rd overall pick in the 2021 draft, injured his foot in a group workout this week and will not be available to start training camp next week in San Diego. Frank stated the severity of the rookie’s injury will be determined in the next couple of days.

Frank also would not discuss whether Clippers players and staff members were fully vaccinated as camp is set to start Tuesday.

“Personally, I’m a huge advocate of the vaccinations. I believe in the science and believe in the evidence as a personal viewpoint,” Frank said.

“But in regard to speaking on behalf of players or staff, I’m not comfortable sharing that type of information other than personally, what my beliefs are and what we spread and what we educate everyone in the organization. But ultimately, that’s not my news to share.”

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Los Angeles Rams acquire RB Sony Michel from New England Patriots

The Los Angeles Rams have acquired Sony Michel from the New England Patriots to add some much-needed depth at the running back position.

The Patriots obtained a sixth-round pick in 2022 and a fourth-rounder in 2023 in the deal.

Michel fills an immediate need for the Rams, who will play the season without rising star Cam Akers after he tore his right Achilles tendon while working out before training camp.

In Akers’ absence, Darrell Henderson Jr. has taken over as starter, but the Rams lack depth behind the third-year pro.

“We identified Sony for many reasons,” Rams general manager Les Snead said Wednesday. “Number one, being his experience, and experience meaning like a player who has carried the ball in big games and in those big games, where there have been big moments, big drives, big series.”

Second-year pro Xavier Jones, an undrafted free agent in 2020, and rookie seventh-round pick Jake Funk have competed throughout the preseason with the hope of proving they could fill the position.

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At the outset of training camp, coach Sean McVay stated the Rams would give their young backs ample opportunity to compete for the job but left open the possibility that the team could look for outside help when the season opener approached.

Asked this week whether Jones and Funk had proved through two preseason games that they could be ready for Week 1 versus the Chicago Bears on Sept. 12, McVay said the Rams were in the process of figuring that out.

“We got a little bit of time,” McVay said. “Darrell is a guy that’s been established and done some good things. But I was pleased with both those guys.”

Henderson suffered a mild thumb sprain in practice Monday but returned to practice Tuesday with a cast or brace protecting his left hand.

A fourth-year pro, Michel has rushed for 2,292 yards and 14 touchdowns in 28 starts for the Patriots, who drafted him in the first round with the 31st pick in 2018.

“What he does bring is this element of make a cut, get north and south and get north and south with some force,” Snead said. “The physics that he brings to the table — let’s call it a flavor or genre that we felt like complemented our group.”

In a 13-3 triumph over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, Michel rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

Michel is due to earn a base salary of $1.79 million in the final year of his contract in 2021 after the Patriots previously elected not to exercise his fifth-year option for 2022. He had drawn rave reviews from Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears this preseason, with Fears saying he had “upped his total game.”

Last season, Michel missed six games when he was placed on injured reserve after Week 3 because of a quadriceps injury. In nine games he rushed for 449 yards and a touchdown on 79 carries. In a 24-3 loss to the Rams, Michel rushed for 22 yards on seven carries.

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Seattle Seahawks cut DE Aldon Smith for off-the-field matter

Aldon Smith’s hopes of continuing his NFL comeback with the Seattle Seahawks are over.

The team waived the veteran defensive end, it announced, with sources telling ESPN the move was due to an off-the-field matter. The decision is not football-related but rather the result of Smith violating the team’s trust, according to a source.

The 31-year-old Smith has faced alcohol and legal issues for much of his NFL career, including an arrest in April on a second-degree battery charge in Louisiana.

That incident occurred shortly after the Seahawks signed him to a minimum-salary deal hoping that he could keep his personal life in order and continue his career revival, which started last season with the Dallas Cowboys after he missed the previous four seasons because of NFL suspensions. Smith has been staying in a sober living home in Seattle, as he did last season in Dallas.

While speaking with reporters on July 31 for the first time since signing with the Seahawks, Smith said his “tremendous support staff” helps him with his ongoing attempt to remain sober.

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“For me, it was just making myself vulnerable and being willing to trust and lean on [those] people,” he said. “I’ve always had people that were there, but I would always try to carry everything on my shoulders. So letting people help me and accepting that help was a major game-changer.”

Smith had been impressing the Seahawks with his play during training camp.

“Really good” was how one team source last week described how Smith was looking on the field. He played in the Seahawks’ mock game Sunday at Lumen Field and practiced Tuesday after the team’s day off.

Smith is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 24 in connection to his April arrest in Louisiana. He is accused of choking a man unconscious during an altercation that started inside a New Orleans-area coffee shop. According to the police report obtained by WWL-TV, Smith had confronted the man about marital issues the man was having with one of Smith’s relatives.

Two days before that incident, the Seahawks signed Smith to a one-year, $1.1 million contract that included $137,500 guaranteed.

Smith did not take part in the Seahawks’ voluntary offseason program — many of their veteran players declined to take part until the final week — and received an excused absence from their mandatory minicamp in June. Coach Pete Carroll said Smith was not physically ready to practice at the time.

After Smith worked himself into shape heading into training camp, Carroll commented about how hard Smith had worked to get his body ready and how quickly he was picking things up. But Carroll also conveyed the reality that given Smith’s troubles with alcohol, there was more to his quest for a roster spot than what he showed on the field.

“We really sense that the more we can support him, the more, obviously, we can be there for him, the stronger it makes him,” Carroll said July 31. “So that’s really what our intent is here.”

The Louisiana arrest was the latest of Smith’s several legal issues, which have contained multiple DUI arrests and a domestic violence charge. The NFL suspended Smith for parts of the 2014 and 2015 seasons and from 2016 to 2019 for violations of its policies on personal conduct and substance abuse.

He returned to the NFL last season with the Cowboys and had five sacks in 16 games, with three coming in one game against Seattle and all of them coming in the first half of the season. Smith set an NFL record with 33.5 sacks over his first two seasons and has 52.5 sacks in six seasons.

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New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz will miss start of season due to injury

New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz is estimated to miss time at the start of the season because of injury, according to a source, adding to the Saints’ growing roster upheaval.

Lutz’s specific timetable is unknown, but there is optimism that he won’t miss too many matches. He missed time at the beginning of training camp with a groin injury, and the source indicated that Lutz aggravated a previous injury.

The kicker took to Instagram to acknowledge that he had an injury that had worsened and decided to get it “fixed now in order to miss the least amount of time as possible.”

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Lutz did not say when he hoped to return.

The Saints are signing veteran kicker Brett Maher after Monday’s auditions to fill in for Lutz, a source told ESPN. Maher, 31, spent two seasons as the Dallas Cowboys’ kicker 2018-19 and has been on practice squads/offseason rosters since then with the Jets, Washington, Texans and Cardinals.

The Saints are expected to have at least 11 new starters in Week 1 due to Drew Brees’ retirement, an offseason salary-cap purge, defensive tackle David Onyemata’s suspension and now injuries to Lutz and receiver Michael Thomas.

Lutz, 27, was a Pro Bowler in 2019 and ranks as one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history with a field goal rate of 86.6% during his five-year career.

The Saints will also have a new punter in 2021 after releasing longtime standout Thomas Morstead this offseason. Second-year pro Blake Gillikin is anticipated to take over the role after spending last season on injured reserve.

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Indianapolis Colts, Darius Leonard agree to 5-year, $98.5M extension that makes him top-paid ILB

The Indianapolis Colts and linebacker Darius Leonard have agreed to an extension, the team revealed Sunday.

Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter it is a five-year, $98.5 million extension that will make Leonard the highest-paid inside linebacker in NFL history.

Leonard passes San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner, who signed his new deal at the outset of training camp that made him the NFL’s highest-paid inside linebacker at the time.

“I’m a competitor. If you’re not first, you’re last,” Leonard said of besting Warner’s deal. “To have my name at the top, that’s something I don’t take for granted. I have to continue to go out and prove that. You’ve seen the [linebacker] rankings; I think I was sixth, I was No. 8 on Madden.”

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Leonard joins offensive tackle Braden Smith as the two players the Colts have locked up to long-term extensions during training camp.

Leonard stated he hopes to make his training camp debut this week after offseason ankle surgery.

The 26-year-old Leonard was a first-team All-Pro for the second time in 2020, when he had 132 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries while helping the Colts return to the playoffs after a one-year absence. He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, when he led the NFL with 163 tackles and also recorded seven sacks.

A second-round draft selection in 2018, Leonard has 416 tackles in three seasons and also has 15 career sacks and seven interceptions. “We all know Darius, that chip has served him well,” coach Frank Reich said.

“Whatever level of disrespect he felt from all that, he’s used that as a motivator in [his] own way, but what I’ve learned to appreciate about Darius is he’s going to be motivated no matter what to be the very best. He’s going to hold himself to those standards.”

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Chris Hogan reaches deal with New Orleans Saints

After moonlighting as a lacrosse player this summer, veteran wide receiver Chris Hogan will return to the NFL and try to help the New Orleans Saints make up for the absence of injured star Michael Thomas.

Hogan, 33, agreed to a deal with the Saints on Monday, a source told ESPN’s Mike Reiss, confirming an NFL Network report.

As expected, Thomas was formally placed on the physically unable to play list Monday to start training camp. He is expected to miss time at the beginning of the regular season after having ankle surgery in June.

Hogan (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) will compete for a roster spot along with Saints receivers Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Marquez Callaway and others in a position group that is thin on proven talent after New Orleans released veteran Emmanuel Sanders this offseason.

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Hogan won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots during a nine-year career that also saw him play with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets.

But after playing in just 12 total matches with the Panthers and Jets in 2019 and 2020 while battling injuries, he briefly decided to switch careers this offseason and play in the Premier Lacrosse League before the Saints lured him back.

Hogan was a standout lacrosse player at Penn State before he spent a year playing football at Monmouth and joined the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2012.

He was mostly inactive during his time in the PLL, starting with the Cannons before being traded to the Whipsnakes. Back in the NFL, Hogan brings versatility along with his experience.

He has lined up almost equally in the slot and out wide while catching 216 passes for 2,795 yards and 18 touchdowns in the regular season. He has another 34 catches for 542 yards and four TDs in the playoffs.

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Kansas City Chiefs re-sign defensive end Alex Okafor to 1-year deal

Veteran defensive end Alex Okafor has signed a one-year contract to return to the Kansas City Chiefs, just days before the first players start reporting for training camp.

The Chiefs did not disclose financial terms in announcing the deal Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Okafor has 30 sacks and 183 tackles in eight NFL seasons, including the past two with the Chiefs. He joined the club as a free agent from New Orleans in March 2019, signing a three-year, $18 million contract.

Okafor made an immediate impact in helping rebuild the Kansas City defense, recording five sacks and 21 combined tackles in 10 games. A torn pectoral muscle in Week 15 forced him to finish the season on injured reserve. He missed playing in the team’s triumph over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV.

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The veteran signed a restructured contract in August 2020 that reduced his salary cap figure for that upcoming season by $2 million and voided the final year of his original three-year deal.

A hamstring injury limited Okafor to 11 games last season.

He finished with three sacks and 16 total tackles. He contributed in a backup role during the team’s playoff run, picking up five total tackles in three postseason contests, including one stop versus Tampa Bay in the team’s 31-9 loss in Super Bowl LV.

Okafor expects to compete for a backup role behind anticipated starters Frank Clark and Chris Jones as the team’s edge rushers. Competition at defensive end also includes veteran Taco Charlton, second-year pro Mike Danna and 2021 fourth-round draft pick Joshua Kaindoh.

Clark was charged in California with felony possession of an assault weapon stemming from a traffic stop in March. In June, he was arrested in Los Angeles after police said they saw a submachine gun in his car. Chiefs players begin reporting to training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph on Friday.

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New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley ‘doing well’ in ACL rehab, unsure of status for start of season

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley says he is “doing well” in his rehab from a torn ACL, but won’t put a timetable on his return or provide any public assurance that he will be back for the beginning of the new season.

The Giants open the regular season versus the Denver Broncos on Sept. 12, some 11 months after the major surgery on Barkley’s right knee. He also had MCL and meniscus damage.

“You know me. I’m going to take it one day at a time. Just come in with my head down and ready to work,” Barkley said Wednesday after spending the second day of mandatory minicamp inside the team facility while most of his Giants teammates practiced.

“It’s going to be whenever my body tells me I’m ready or I’m able to show everyone I’m ready again. That’s when I’m going to be able to go out there and hopefully be elite, what I was before but even better.”

This is the approach Barkley and the Giants are taking. They aren’t going to set any potentially unrealistic expectations for his return, thus putting any unnecessary pressure on him to get back on the field.

The tight-lipped Barkley wouldn’t even go into detail about where he is in the rehab process, although sources have told ESPN recently that there have been no significant setbacks and that he has progressed to jump-cutting. “Looks good,” one of the sources said.

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Barkley was also positive about the progress he’s making, even if he was unwilling to publicly provide the full details.

“I just expect to come in every single day and work hard, work my butt off, listen to the coaches, listen to the trainers, listen to the doctors,” he said. “I’m going to take it one day at a time. Whenever I’m able to, I guess you can say, go out there and participate with the team again, I’ll be ready.

“I’m doing well. I’m doing pretty well. Just taking one day at a time. Just listening to the trainers from [senior vice president of medical services] Ronnie [Barnes] to [director of rehabilitation] Leigh [Weiss] to all the way down and still being in conversations with [surgeon] Dr. [Neal] ElAttrache and [head team physician] Dr. [Scott] Rodeo. Just listening to them and taking it one day at a time.”

It has become clear in recent weeks that the Giants are going to take it slowly with the Pro Bowl running back. They are looking at this situation with a long-range view that prioritizes his well-being and future over the short-term gain of being ready for training camp or the start of the campaign.

Barkley is not expected to be full-go for the start of training camp, a source told ESPN last month. They aren’t going to put him on the field in live situations until he’s 100%. It’s entirely possible that might not be until October.

Barkley seems to be on board with the plan, although he admitted it’s difficult to be patient.

So for now and likely most of this summer, he will just have to envision how he fits into the offense alongside newcomers Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Kyle Rudolph and several others.

Free-agent acquisition Devontae Booker is filling Barkley’s role in the meantime.

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