NASCAR Results

Date Race Track Location Laps Length  
Wednesday, Dec 31, 1969

Packers sign veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers have signed tight end Marcedes Lewis, adding another veteran to back up Jimmy Graham.

The 6-foot-6 Lewis, who turned 34 last week, played 12 seasons in Jacksonville. He ranks third in Jaguars history with 375 catches and second with 33 touchdown receptions.

Lewis also helped the Jaguars run for an NFL-best 141.4 yards per game last year.

He fills out the depth chart at a thin position for the Packers, who signed Graham as a free agent this offseason. Lance Kendricks was the only other tight end with extensive experience on the roster.

The tight end position can be productive on a Packers offense that figures to bounce back in 2018 with a healthy Aaron Rodgers returning at quarterback.

''Well the tight end position in this offense is difficult. I think that goes understated, frankly,'' coach Mike McCarthy said this week. ''The volume of responsibility is significant.''

General manager Brian Gutenkunst also announced several front office promotions and assignments on Friday, including the naming of veteran executives Jon-Eric Sullivan and John Wojciechowski to be co-directors of player personnel. They will replace Gutekunst, who was promoted from that position in January to replace Ted Thompson.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Jaguars sign rookie Chark to 4-year deal worth about $4.5M

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed rookie receiver DJ Chark to a four-year contract worth about $4.5 million.

A second-round draft pick from LSU, Chark was slotted to get a $1.3 million signing bonus. He was the 61st overall selection.

The 6-foot-4 Chark caught 66 passes for 1,351 yards and six touchdowns in four years with the Tigers. He had a career-high 40 receptions for 874 yards as the team's top target in 2017.

The speedy Chark also ranked second in the Southeastern Conference by averaging 10.6 yards a punt return. He finished his college career with 1,817 all-purpose yards.

Chark says ''to finally put your name on that piece of paper to solidify that you are indeed a player here is a surreal moment. I can't even put it in words right now.''

The Jaguars have six of their seven draft picks under contract. Only first-round defensive lineman Taven Bryan remains unsigned.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Civils rights activists rally outside of NFL headquarters

NEW YORK (AP) Civil rights activists protested outside NFL headquarters Friday, calling on team owners to overturn their new national anthem policy and urging a boycott of the league and its sponsors.

About 50 people gathered at the midtown Manhattan office building for a rally organized by National Action Network, a civil rights nonprofit.

Kirsten John Foy, the group's northeast regional director, was the first of 10 speakers who took turns during the 40-minute demonstration to criticize NFL team owners and President Donald Trump.

''Our demand is that the NFL reverse that immoral and unconstitutional decision,'' Foy said.

NFL owners voted Wednesday to require players to stand for the national anthem or stay in the locker room. Teams will be fined if players don't stand. Some players have been kneeling during the playing of ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' before games the last two seasons to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the protest in 2016. He did not play last season after being unsigned as a free agent. He is suing the NFL and team owners for colluding to keep him out of the league.

National Action Network spokesman Alex Butcher-Nesbitt said the group planned to hold similar demonstrations around the country, including Detroit and Los Angeles.

The Rev. Charles Williams II, president of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, said if Detroit Lions owner Martha Ford and the team adhere to the anthem policy, ''then they are doing nothing more than ... standing with racism.''

In New York, Foy was joined by progressive talk radio host Mark Thompson, who wore a long shirt with a depiction of Kaepernick in his 49ers uniform taking a knee, and city councilman Jumaane Williams, who brought a Kaepernick No. 7 jersey to display after he spoke and wore a shirt with the slogan (hash)IMWITHKAP across the front.

''I'm proud because I'm going to be on the right side of history,'' Williams said. ''I'm going to be standing and kneeling with Colin Kaepernick.''

Several speakers said supporters of Kaepernick and the protesting players should stop watching NFL games and no longer patronize companies that sponsor the league.

''You can't inundate us with tens of millions of dollars in commercial ads and then strip the people that generate your money and your profits of their first amendment rights,'' Foy said. ''And if they choose to protest, they've got to stay in the locker room. So the locker room is the new slave shanty.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Steelers prepare for life without injured Ryan Shazier

PITTSBURGH (AP) Ryan Shazier is neither gone nor forgotten. The Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker remains a fixture at the team's facility as he continues his recovery from spinal surgery last December that left his football future uncertain at best.

While there is a sense of loss, there is no sense of panic. The Steelers understand there is no one player that has Shazier's mix of speed and smarts. So they're not even going to try to replace him.

Expect a group that includes free-agent signee Jon Bostic, Tyler Matakevich and possibly even rookie Terrell Edmunds as part of the committee that will be in Shazier's spot at inside linebacker when the defending AFC North champions open the 2018 season in Cleveland.

The front office felt so comfortable with the idea it passed on selecting a linebacker in last month's draft, the first time in nearly a decade the Steelers didn't use one of their picks on a position coach Mike Tomlin considers among the most vital on the field.

That's fine by Bostic. The well-traveled 27-year-old signed a two-year deal in March following a productive if injury marred season in Indianapolis. Bostic's arrival appeared to be for depth purposes but when the draft came and went, he now finds himself with as good a shot as anyone as lining up next to veteran Vince Williams. While he kept tabs on the draft, he didn't exactly celebrate when Pittsburgh didn't pick up a linebacker.

''At the end of the day, I don't get paid to do that type of stuff,'' Bostic said during organized team activities this week. ''All I can control is me preparing, when my number is called upon, make sure that I'm ready.''

Something Bostic was last season for the Colts, finishing with 97 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery in 14 games before a knee injury in December sent him to injured reserve. He's good to go now and eager to show he's ready to unpack his bags and stay awhile.

The Chicago Bears chose Bostic in the second round of the 2013 draft, but he found himself on the move following a coaching change after the 2014 season. The Bears sent him to New England in 2015 and the following January the Patriots flipped him to Detroit for a draft pick. He never played a down for the Lions after breaking his left foot during a practice against the Steelers.

From there it was on to Indianapolis, where he breathed life into his career by being one of the most consistent performers on a team that won just four games. The expectations are considerably higher in Pittsburgh.

''Last year, when I was out there, I proved myself and going forward I plan to prove myself again,'' Bostic said. ''I got a lot of unfinished business.''

So do the Steelers, who were gashed for 164 yards rushing and 45 points in a stunning playoff loss to Jacksonville. Though Pittsburgh led the league and set a franchise record with 57 sacks, the defense struggled at times following Shazier's injury against Cincinnati on Dec. 4.

Throw out a Christmas Day game against Houston - which played without quarterback DeShaun Watson - and the Steelers allowed 33.5 points and 381 yards after Shazier's exit. They'll have a full offseason to get ready for life without him. The plan includes potentially flipping from a 3-4 to a 4-3 look in certain situations and getting creative with substitutions.

That's where Edmunds comes into play. Though technically a safety, he served as a de facto linebacker late in his time at Virginia Tech when the Hokies played with five or more defensive backs. There's also Matakevich, a special teams ace who will finished 2017 on injured reserve due with a shoulder issue.

General manager Kevin Colbert pointed out after the draft that Matakevich was injured during the same quarter the Steelers lost Shazier. Who knows what he could have done if asked to fill in for Shazier? It's one of the reasons Colbert said he didn't feel comfortable ''reaching'' for a linebacker in the draft if one who fit the profile wasn't available.

''Between Jon and Tyler we don't know what we have at those two quite honestly because Jon is new to us and Tyler will be in the rotation and competition as well,'' Colbert said. ''If there are positions that are available to us when we are picking, and they fit and they are at the right spot, great.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Packers sign veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers have signed tight end Marcedes Lewis, adding another veteran to back up Jimmy Graham.

The 6-foot-6 Lewis, who turned 34 last week, played 12 seasons in Jacksonville. He ranks third in Jaguars history with 375 catches and second with 33 touchdown receptions.

Lewis also helped the Jaguars run for an NFL-best 141.4 yards per game last year.

He fills out the depth chart at a thin position for the Packers, who signed Graham as a free agent this offseason. Lance Kendricks was the only other tight end with extensive experience on the roster.

The tight end position can be productive on a Packers offense that figures to bounce back in 2018 with a healthy Aaron Rodgers returning at quarterback.

Read more

Civils rights activists rally outside of NFL headquarters

NEW YORK (AP) Civil rights activists gathered outside of NFL headquarters and called on team owners to overturn a new policy aimed at stopping player protests during the national anthem. They also encouraged a boycott of the league and its sponsors.

About 50 people gathered Friday at the office building in midtown Manhattan that houses the NFL for a rally organized by National Action Network, a civil rights nonprofit organization.

Kirsten John Foy, the Northeast Regional Director for NAN, was the first of 10 speakers. They took turns criticizing NFL team owners and President Donald Trump.

Foy says ''Our demand is that the NFL reverse that immoral and unconstitutional decision.''�

The NFL owners voted Wednesday to require players to stand for the national anthem or stay in the locker room. Teams will be fined if players don't stand.

Read more

Workers to fix automation issues on Atlanta stadium's roof

ATLANTA (AP) Workers will begin the final construction phase of Mercedes-Benz Stadium's tricky retractable roof on Tuesday, nine months after the facility opened.

The $1.5 billion stadium will be open in good weather for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United games. Automation problems kept the roof closed for most of the stadium's first year.

Beginning Tuesday, the roof will remain in a locked open position for 10 days, including June 2, when Atlanta United plays the Philadelphia Union.

The management group of Arthur Blank, who owns the Falcons and Atlanta United, says the final commissioning work to complete the automation will last several weeks.

When work is completed, the roof is expected to close or open in as few as 12 minutes.

''The complexity of the design and our heavy events schedule has made it take longer than we had hoped, but great things take time and we're happy to see the finish line,'' Steve Cannon, CEO of Blank's management group, said in a statement.

The stadium will be host to the 2019 Super Bowl. The NFL prefers for the roof to be open for the Super Bowl, weather permitting.

The roof has been closed for most major events at the new stadium, including the Southeastern Conference championship game, Peach Bowl and College Football Playoff national championship game.

For the Falcons' first season in their new home, the roof was open only for the first home regular-season game against Green Bay.

Falcons CEO Rich McKay said on Jan. 24 the plan was to have more games played with the roof ''fully operational.''

''Fully operational means you will see us go to much more of an open configuration as we designed at the beginning,'' McKay said. ''When it's ready to go, we'll be open depending on weather.''

Ongoing work on the roof delayed the 2017 opening of the stadium by about a month. Atlanta United used Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium as its temporary home for the inaugural season in 2017 before moving to the new stadium.

The stadium will host the men's NCAA Final Four in 2020.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Work set to fix automation issues on Atlanta stadum's roof

ATLANTA (AP) Workers will begin the final construction phase of Mercedes-Benz Stadium's tricky retractable roof on Tuesday, nine months after the facility opened.

The $1.5 billion stadium will be open in good weather for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United games. Automation problems kept the roof closed for most of the stadium's first year.

The roof will remain in a locked open position for 10 days, including June 2, when Atlanta United plays the Philadelphia Union.

The management group of Arthur Blank, who owns the Falcons and Atlanta United, says the final commissioning work to complete the automation will last several weeks.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL players, coaches grapple with new anthem policy

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wanted to be talking about football matters - Seattle's recommitment to the run game, the addition of two new coordinators, almost anything to do with what happens between the lines.

Instead, the league's oldest coach has spent the past few days processing and discussing the league's new mandate that players on the field stand for the national anthem. Carroll, his players and those around the NFL are now trying to figure out how to tackle the polarizing topic in the locker room.

''We're going to have to deal with that,'' Carroll said. ''I was kind of liking the way it was going and so now it's kind of taken out of the control from the coach and the players and the locker room to a certain extent, so we're going to have to deal with that. In time, we'll figure it out.''

Players from Seattle, Buffalo, Denver and New Orleans were among those grappling with how to move forward following the league's announcement Wednesday of a new national anthem policy, which will fine teams if players on the field are not standing for the anthem. Players wishing to continue demonstrations like the kneeling movement sparked by Colin Kaepernick to protest social injustice will be allowed to remain in the locker room during the anthem.

Seattle's Doug Baldwin had the most striking comments, directed at both the league and President Donald Trump after his remarks to ''Fox & Friends'' on Thursday saying ''maybe you shouldn't be in the country'' if you don't stand for the anthem.

''He's an idiot. Plain and simple,'' Baldwin said. ''I respect the man because he's a human being first and foremost, but he's just being divisive, which is not surprising. It is what it is. But for him to say anybody who doesn't follow his viewpoints or his constituents viewpoints should be kicked out of the country is not very empathetic. It's not very American like, actually, to me. It's not very patriotic. It's not what this country was founded upon. It's kind of ironic to me the President of the United States is contradicting what our country is really built on.''

Even normally reserved Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson agreed with the sentiment that the owners' decision was a message to players to essentially be quiet.

''Pretty much. I think that's part of it. It seems that way,'' Wilson said. ''But I think a policy right or wrong is not going to fix our problems.''

The new policy allows teams to adopt their own workplace rules, which many players interpreted as a backhanded way of subjecting them to fines, suspensions or loss of jobs should they carry on with the protests.

Players are also frustrated the league didn't consult with the players' association before announcing the policy.

''I mean, they weren't ever going to engage us anyway. When you really think about it, why would we have a say-so?'' Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall said. ''I think they should have, right, but I guess they don't look at us like that, to have a say-so or input in this policy.''

Others around the league didn't see the policy as a potential issue.

''I'm really not too worried about it. I would expect that everybody's gonna be out there with their hand over their heart, showing respect to the flag and to the country,'' New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said.

But teammate Demario Davis had mixed emotions about the policy. His father served in the military, but he also understands why players have been protesting.

''I just think that when you love something - you care about it - you want to work to get it right. I love my children. When they do wrong things, I'm going to let them know they're doing wrong things. I'm not just going to sweep it under the rug because I love them,'' Davis said.

''I think that's the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Nationalism is loving your country just to love it, you know, even when it's right or wrong, you're going to take the side of your country. Patriotism is loving it enough to sacrifice for it, but also to call it (out) when it's wrong.

''The people who are speaking up for the people who are hurting have a deep love and devotion for our country. That's kind of gotten misconstrued at times. But it's important for people to understand that.''

The decision by the owners was an attempt to quell a firestorm by moving protests away from the public eye and potentially lure back disgruntled fans. But in the process they may have disgruntled their employees and rekindled what appeared to be an issue that was dying down.

''With this policy, with the inflammatory statement that Roger Goodell put out (Wednesday) again you opened the door for response and again to my point earlier, I think they missed it on that one,'' Baldwin said.

---

AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton and AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed to this report.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL's policy could mean a new playbook on protests this fall

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Now that the NFL is drawing the line against players kneeling during the national anthem, athletes protesting police brutality and racial inequality may need to find a new playbook.

The question is whether they intend to escalate their protests in some way.

''The owners can try to prevent kneeling, but they open another can of worms,'' said Randal Maurice Jelks, professor of African and African-American studies and history at the University of Kansas. ''Imagine if players decide as a team to not come out for the national anthem. Or if one-third of the team decides not to come out.''

Hoping to quell the furor started by quarterback Colin Kaepernick two years ago, the NFL announced Wednesday that players can stay in the locker room during ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but must stand if they venture onto the field. Not doing so will result in a fine against the team.

The decision was lauded by President Donald Trump, who suggested Thursday in a Fox interview that ''maybe you shouldn't be in the country'' if you don't stand for the anthem.

While NFL players who have supported kneeling in the past have not revealed their plans for this season, it is unlikely the new policy brought an end to the controversy.

''There were a lot of players who thought they could work with the league,'' said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a social justice organization that mobilized members to boycott the NFL and its corporate sponsors last season. ''Players will have to make a decision about whether they speak out. These owners are not just trying to keep the league without controversy - they've picked a side.''

Like protesters before them in past social movements, the players face a familiar dilemma: What to do when their public platform is taken away?

From the American Revolution through the civil rights era and, more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement, history has shown that when one avenue of protest is taken away, activists often move on to other - sometimes more disruptive - methods of protest.

Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, who attended the University of Nevada with Kaepernick and was among the first NFL players to join in the national anthem protests two seasons ago, said players don't care about teams being fined.

But as for what he intends to do this season, ''I guess we'll cross that road when it comes.''

He called the president's remarks ''disgusting'' and said that while he doesn't like the league's new policy, he understands it.

''We've got freedom of speech, right? Freedom to protest? Just because somebody disagrees or has an issue with something that's going on in this country, that doesn't mean that they should pack up and leave,'' Marshall said in response to Trump's comments.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate said he expects the team will discuss ''a solution to stand for justice in America.''

''We've got time to kind of brainstorm some ideas on how we could stand for justice and what we can do,'' Tate said.

During the Black Lives Movement, activists held protests that disrupted major thoroughfares and other public spaces across the country, then expanded their focus to local elections and working with the Obama Justice Department to bring about police reforms.

DeRay Mckesson, who began protesting as part of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014 and has continued to push for police reforms, said NFL players now find themselves in a similar position, and he hopes they fight the new policy.

''The attempt is always to silence and erase,'' he said. ''The point of protest is to bring public awareness to things people want to keep private.''

---

Holland reported from Washington. AP sports writers Arnie Stapleton in Denver, Noah Trister in Detroit and John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y., contributed to this report.

Read more

NFL teams under no time pressure to form own anthem policies

With no deadlines to meet and a monthlong summer break coming up, NFL teams are in no hurry to formulate a policy on demonstrations during the national anthem.

One day after league owners mandated that players must stand for the ''Star-Spangled Banner'' - they now have the option of remaining in the locker room for the playing of the anthem - few of the 32 teams had done more than preliminary work on the issue.

The NFL gave teams the option of developing their own workplace rules, which many players interpreted as a backhanded way of subjecting them to fines, suspensions or loss of jobs should they carry on with the protests.

For now, other than New York Jets owner Christopher Johnson's decision to pay any fines doled out by the league without passing punishment to the players, each franchise's approach is uncertain.

After all, once mandatory minicamps end in mid-June, teams don't get together again until training camps open in late July. The opening preseason game - the first time the anthem would be played before an NFL match - is Aug. 2 when Baltimore and Chicago face off in the Hall of Fame game.

''I'm sure it's something that will be addressed, by the players and by the coaches, collectively,'' Lions receiver Golden Tate said Thursday. ''But right now, we don't play a game until August, and that's when it's going to be applicable in football stadiums. So we've got time to kind of brainstorm some ideas on how we could stand for justice and what we can do.''

What some teams have done in the past likely indicates how they will handle disciplining players for demonstrations during the anthem - regardless of the intent. Owners Jerry Jones of the Cowboys and Robert McNair of the Texans have been among the staunchest advocates of no exceptions to standing during the anthem.

Others have taken a less stringent stance, emphasizing working together with the players in their communities rather than focusing on how the message about social injustice is being delivered.

''I have always believed it is the responsibility of sports teams to be very proactive in our communities,'' says Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

''In this great country of ours, there are so many people who are hurting and marginalized, which is why I am proud of our players for continuously working to influence positive change. Their words and actions have demonstrated not only that they have a great deal of respect for our country, but also that they are committed to finding productive ways to fight social injustice, poverty and other societal issues that are important to all of us.

''We must continue to work together in creative and dynamic ways to make our communities stronger and better, with equal opportunities for all.''

One certain thing: The uncertainty about how each team will deal with players who defy the NFL's mandate will last for weeks.

Not so for any league personnel such as game officials, sideline crews, et al. They will be disciplined for any violations of the anthem policy, though the exact punishments have not yet been determined by the NFL.

One organization, the National Action Network, will march on league headquarters Friday to ''advocate for players' right to kneel and call on NFL owners to reverse (the) dangerous decision violating players' First Amendment rights by imposing fines for not standing during the national anthem.''

Such protests could become more prevalent if teams decide to strongly discipline players who demonstrate during the anthem. But some franchises aren't sure they need their own policy. Or if that is even the proper description.

The Falcons' position is any players on the field will stand, so no need to make plans for any other outcome.

Team spokesman Brian Cearns suggested it's too strong to say they have a team policy: ''The word policy sounds like it was mandated. It was discussed as a team and agreed upon as a team,'' Cearns said in an email to The Associated Press.

Defensive linemen Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett knelt during an early season game at Detroit last year.

Coach Dan Quinn said that was a ''one-off'' and, sure enough, after that game all players stood together on the sideline, with arms interlocked, the remainder of the season.

''Was every player who stood last year against social justice?'' Lions guard T.J. Lang tweeted ''Or just the guys who do it this year because there is now a rule? Asking for a friend.''

Buffalo linebacker Lorenzo Alexander doesn't expect his team ''to do anything.''

''I understand where they're at. And it's hard,'' Alexander said. ''And I understand that from a business perspective trying to be socially responsible. And people can act like it's in a vacuum and say you have to pick a side. But it's not that simple. It's a very complex situation.

''And so I respect them, because I was a business owner and I understand it. It makes a big impact. I'm in this to grow the business, grow their brand, and us doing this does have an impact, whether we say it or not. That's what we want, because we're trying to bring attention to it. But they have to have a foot over here, a foot over here. It's hard.''

---

AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton and Sports Writers Charles Odum, Paul Newberry, John Wawrow and Noah Trister contributed.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL's policy could mean a new playbook on protests this fall

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Now that the NFL is drawing the line against players kneeling during the national anthem, athletes protesting police brutality and racial inequality may need to find a new playbook.

The question is whether they intend to escalate their protests in some way.

''The owners can try to prevent kneeling, but they open another can of worms,'' said Randal Maurice Jelks, professor of African and African-American studies and history at the University of Kansas. ''Imagine if players decide as a team to not come out for the national anthem. Or if one-third of the team decides not to come out.''

Hoping to quell the furor started by quarterback Colin Kaepernick two years ago, the NFL announced Wednesday that players can stay in the locker room during ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but must stand if they venture onto the field. Not doing so will result in a fine against the team.

The decision was lauded by President Donald Trump, who suggested Thursday in a Fox interview that ''maybe you shouldn't be in the country'' if you don't stand for the anthem.

While NFL players who have supported kneeling in the past have not revealed their plans for this season, it is unlikely the new policy brought an end to the controversy.

''There were a lot of players who thought they could work with the league,'' said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a social justice organization that mobilized members to boycott the NFL and its corporate sponsors last season. ''Players will have to make a decision about whether they speak out. These owners are not just trying to keep the league without controversy - they've picked a side.''

Like protesters before them in past social movements, the players face a familiar dilemma: What to do when their public platform is taken away?

From the American Revolution through the civil rights era and, more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement, history has shown that when one avenue of protest is taken away, activists often move on to other - sometimes more disruptive - methods of protest.

Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, who attended the University of Nevada with Kaepernick and was among the first NFL players to join in the national anthem protests two seasons ago, said players don't care about teams being fined.

But as for what he intends to do this season, ''I guess we'll cross that road when it comes.''

He called the president's remarks ''disgusting'' and said that while he doesn't like the league's new policy, he understands it.

''We've got freedom of speech, right? Freedom to protest? Just because somebody disagrees or has an issue with something that's going on in this country, that doesn't mean that they should pack up and leave,'' Marshall said in response to Trump's comments.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate said he expects the team will discuss ''a solution to stand for justice in America.''

''We've got time to kind of brainstorm some ideas on how we could stand for justice and what we can do,'' Tate said.

During the Black Lives Movement, activists held protests that disrupted major thoroughfares and other public spaces across the country, then expanded their focus to local elections and working with the Obama Justice Department to bring about police reforms.

DeRay Mckesson, who began protesting as part of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014 and has continued to push for police reforms, said NFL players now find themselves in a similar position, and he hopes they fight the new policy.

''The attempt is always to silence and erase,'' he said. ''The point of protest is to bring public awareness to things people want to keep private.''

---

Holland reported from Washington. AP sports writers Arnie Stapleton in Denver, Noah Trister in Detroit and John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y., contributed to this report.

Read more

Saints' first offseason work sharpens focus on new faces

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Patrick Robinson spied Drew Brees stepping up to throw deep down the middle, sprinted back toward his own end zone and made an outstretched interception of a ball that initially looked to be thrown beyond anyone's reach.

''Impressive,'' was how Saints coach Sean Payton described the play by Robinson, a cornerback who is one of several recent additions aimed at strengthening a club that nearly advanced to the NFC title game last season.

The onset of offseason practices this week has provided Payton and his staff a chance to begin forging roles for players such as Robinson, as well as fellow newcomers such as linebacker Demario Davis, safety Kurt Coleman, receiver Cameron Meredith and first-round draft choice Marcus Davenport.

It's also a chance to see if any of the club's younger running backs - such as rookie Boston Scott - might fill the void created by Pro Bowl rusher Mark Ingram's four-game suspension for use of a banned substance.

''Obviously, we hate to miss a guy like that. He's such huge part of what we do and such a great teammate, too,'' Brees said of Ingram after Thursday's non-padded practice, the first open to reporters this offseason. ''We'll manage.''

Alvin Kamara is on track to emerge as New Orleans' top running back after being selected as the Offensive Rookie of the Year last season.

But while Kamara played a more versatile running and receiving role that Payton calls a ''Joker back,'' Ingram was a force on more traditional runs.

At only 5-foot-7, Scott is smaller than Ingram, but Payton won't discount the rookie's ability to compete for snaps Ingram might otherwise have gotten.

''He's shorter, but he's built pretty well. He is someone who has good instincts,'' Payton said.

''It's early, but he's done some really good things. There's a running ability he has as well. I wouldn't look at him as a ''Joker'' back, if you will. He's got some of those traits, but he does a pretty good job with some of the in-line runs.''

The preseason performance of Scott, a sixth-round draft choice out of Louisiana Tech, as well as that of Trey Edmunds, a second-year pro out of Maryland, could determine how the Saints cope with Ingram's suspension.

''I'm going to work, do everything I can to learn the playbook and just grind,'' Scott said. ''By the time preseason rolls around, I'll be ready.''

The Saints hope they've bolstered the passing game by adding receiver Cameron Meredith during free agency. Meredith led Chicago in receiving two seasons ago, but is coming back from a major knee injury that wiped out his 2017 season.

Meredith did some route-running and catching on Thursday, after which Payton pronounced him ''way ahead of schedule.''

''He's going to factor in this year,'' Payton said.

Meredith, meanwhile, discussed his motivation to regain his 2016 form.

''It was a major injury. I'm not going to downplay it,'' Meredith said. ''I'm excited to go out there and prove people wrong.''

On defense, the Saints cannot yet be sure how well 2017 starting end Alex Okafor will come back from his torn Achilles.

In the meantime, Davenport is expected to get a lot of offseason work as the Saints try to refine his pass-rushing skills in time for the fall.

''He's a tremendous worker,'' Payton said. ''He's coming along really well. There's a strength element you feel.''

The Saints expect the linebacker group to be strengthened by Davis, a former defensive leader with the New York Jets, as well as the return of second-year pro Alex Anzalone, who started four games as a rookie before the rest of his season was cut short by a shoulder injury.

Both can play multiple roles.

''I'm down with whatever my coaches want me to do,'' Davis said. ''I'm here to win.''

Robinson, Payton said, has returned to the club that drafted him in 2010 a more confident and capable player after winning a Super Bowl with Philadelphia last season.

Robinson ''has played on the biggest stages and had success,'' Payton said. ''It's good seeing him back in our building.''

Notes: Ingram was not at practice, even though the terms of his suspension allow him to participate in all offseason and preseason work. Payton said he disagreed with Ingram's decision, but respects it and has had friendly phone conversations with Ingram about it. Brees said he also has spoken with Ingram, adding, ''I know Mark's doing what he needs to do to get himself ready to play this season. He's doing what's best for him and therefor what's best for the team.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Buccaneers sign draft picks Vita Vea, Carlton Davis

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed first-round draft pick Vita Vea and second-round selection Carlton Davis to four-year contracts.

The deals were announced Thursday. They leave Tampa Bay with one unsigned draft pick, second-round running back Ronald Jones.

Vea, a 347-pound defensive tackle out of Washington, was the 12th pick in last month's draft. Davis, a cornerback from Auburn, was the last of three players the Bucs selected in the second round - No. 63 overall.

Both players are expected to compete for starting jobs as rookies.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

Read more

Seahawks' Baldwin says NFL "really missed it" with policy

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin had harsh words for the comments made by President Donald Trump regarding the NFL's new national anthem policy on Thursday, as players began to process the new mandate from the league's owners.

Baldwin has been a leading voice from the players' perspective for why there were protests last season even though Baldwin never participated in kneeling or sitting on the sidelines during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.''

He spoke passionately after the Seahawks concluded their offseason workout and sounded offended by the president's comments to ''Fox & Friends'' in an interview that aired Thursday saying, ''maybe you shouldn't be in the country'' if you don't stand for the anthem.

''He's an idiot. Plain and simple,'' Baldwin said. ''I respect the man because he's a human being first and foremost, but he's just being divisive, which is not surprising. It is what it is. But for him to say anybody who doesn't follow his viewpoints or his constituents viewpoints should be kicked out of the country is not very empathetic. It's not very American like, actually, to me. It's not very patriotic. It's not what this country was founded upon. It's kind of ironic to me the President of the United States is contradicting what our country is really built on.''

Baldwin was among a handful of players that have expressed frustration and disappointment with the NFL mandating players must stand for the national anthem if they're on the field, though they now have the option of remaining in the locker room for the playing of the anthem and carry on the campaigns against social injustice.

Even normally reserved Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson agreed with the sentiment that the owners' decision was a message to players to essentially be quiet.

''Pretty much. I think that's part of it. It seems that way,'' Wilson said. ''But I think a policy right or wrong is not going to fix our problems.''

The new policy allows teams to adopt their own workplace rules, which many players interpreted as a backhanded way of subjecting them to fines, suspensions or loss of jobs should they carry on with the protests.

For Baldwin, who is among the players to have worked with the league on addressing social concerns and community programs, the anthem decision felt like a step back.

''If you're asking my opinion, I think that in conjunction with the NFL, the way that things were going, I felt on the Players Coalition side of things we were coming to an amicable agreement and relationship and working toward initiatives and causes that we wanted to see as players addressed, I thought that you would see the demonstrations and the issues within the NFL dissipate,'' Baldwin said.

''But again, when you stoke the fire and inflame a gap that was really dissipating at the time, diffusing, you cause more problems. That's why I say I think the NFL missed it.''

Others around the league didn't see the policy as a potential issue.

''I'm really not too worried about it. I would expect that everybody's gonna be out there with their hand over their heart, showing respect to the flag and to the country,'' New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said.

But teammate Demario Davis had mixed emotions about the policy. His father served in the military, but he also understands why players have been protesting.

''I just think that when you love something - you care about it - you want to work to get it right. I love my children. When they do wrong things, I'm going to let them know they're doing wrong things. I'm not just going to sweep it under the rug because I love them,'' Davis said.

''I think that's the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Nationalism is loving your country just to love it, you know, even when it's right or wrong, you're going to take the side of your country. Patriotism is loving it enough to sacrifice for it, but also to call it (out) when it's wrong.

''The people who are speaking up for the people who are hurting have a deep love and devotion for our country. That's kind of gotten misconstrued at times. But it's important for people to understand that.''

The decision by the owners was an attempt to quell a firestorm by moving protests away from the public eye and potentially lure back disgruntled fans. But in the process they may have disgruntled their employees and rekindled what appeared to be an issue that was dying down.

''I feel like it might want to make people just want to rebel, just like when Trump said what he said last year,'' Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall said.

''People rebelled. And let's be clear. I know they say they'll fine the team, but players don't care about that. Players don't care about the teams get fined.''

---

AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton and AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed to this report.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Police: Incognito threw weights before hospitalization

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Police took veteran NFL guard Richie Incognito to a mental hospital after he allegedly threw weights and tennis balls at gym employees and another patron and told officers the government is spying on him, according to a report released Thursday.

Boca Raton police say a patron at Life Time Athletic, Mark O'Brien, told officers James Brown and Dave Rosenthal he was jogging on the outdoor track when he saw Incognito acting angry. O'Brien said he tried to calm Incognito, but as he walked away, the former Buffalo Bill threw a tennis ball at his foot, tried to run him over with a weighted pushing sled and then threw two weights - one into the pool and another at him, which missed. He said Incognito, 34, then cursed at him, telling him to get out of his ''playground.''

O'Brien called 911 and in a recording released Thursday a voice identified as Incognito's can be heard in the background yelling and cursing at him. He told the dispatcher Incognito, who was dressed in shorts and no shirt, was trying to hit him as they talked. He told the dispatcher the 6-foot-4, 322-pound Incognito is ''huge'' but a ''little overweight.''

O'Brien told The Associated Press on Thursday that Incognito also ripped apart a boxing mannequin and slammed his knee into its head, and feared Incognito might do the same to him. He said he didn't know Incognito, who also played for the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins, where he was suspended in 2013 for the racial bullying of a teammate, Jonathan Martin.

''I can fully appreciate and understand people going through tough times and mental illness but his behavior was irrational. I hope he gets help,'' O'Brien said.

Officer Brown wrote that when he and Rosenthal arrived at the gym, a staff member handed them Incognito's concealed weapons permit and told them he had thrown objects at the staff. No gun was found on Incognito and it is unexplained why the employee would have his permit.

Brown said that when he approached Incognito, he said he was under contract for the National Security Agency, a top U.S. spy agency, and that another patron was wearing headphones nearby.

''I'm running NSA class level 3 documents through my phone,'' Incognito told Brown, saying he couldn't have anyone with Bluetooth capability near him.

Brown said that when he asked Incognito why the government would be watching him, he replied that Brown didn't have a high enough security clearance to discuss it with him.

He said Incognito's hands were shaking and he would suddenly jump and move without warning. Incognito told the officers he was taking a dietary supplement and denied thrown objects at people.

Brown said that when he told Incognito he was worried he was going to hurt himself or others, Incognito yelled at a woman in the pool to call the FBI.

Brown and Rosenthal took Incognito into custody under Florida's Baker Act, which allows for people to be hospitalized for 72 hours if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Incognito's lawyer, Mark Schamel, did not immediately return an email Thursday seeking comment. Incognito has not been charged with a crime as police say in his mental condition he could not form intent.

Incognito announced earlier this year that he was retiring from football after 11 seasons, the last three with Buffalo. The Bills released him from their reserved/retired list Monday, leaving open the possibility he could sign with another team.

He has been on a downward spiral for much of this offseason.

His closest friend on the Bills, center Eric Wood, is being forced into retirement after being diagnosed with a career-ending neck injury in January.

The Bills also asked Incognito to take a pay cut in restructuring the final year of his contract. Incognito initially backed the agreement by posting a note on Twitter saying he was ''thrilled to be returning this season and fired up to get back to work with my Buffalo Bills brothers.'' However, he had a change of heart weeks later and abruptly fired agent David Dunn in a post on Twitter.

---

Wawrow reported from Buffalo, New York. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Read more

NFL's policy could mean a new playbook on protests this fall

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Now that the NFL is drawing the line against players kneeling during the national anthem, athletes protesting police brutality and racial inequality may need to find a new playbook.

The question is whether they intend to escalate their protests in some way.

''The owners can try to prevent kneeling, but they open another can of worms,'' said Randal Maurice Jelks, professor of African and African-American studies and history at the University of Kansas. ''Imagine if players decide as a team to not come out for the national anthem. Or if one-third of the team decides not to come out.''

Hoping to quell the furor started by quarterback Colin Kaepernick two years ago, the NFL announced Wednesday that players can stay in the locker room during ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but must stand if they venture onto the field. Not doing so will result in a fine against the team.

The decision was lauded by President Donald Trump, who suggested Thursday in a Fox interview that ''maybe you shouldn't be in the country'' if you don't stand for the anthem.

While NFL players who have supported kneeling in the past have not revealed their plans for this season, it is unlikely the new policy brought an end to the controversy.

''There were a lot of players who thought they could work with the league,'' said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a social justice organization that mobilized members to boycott the NFL and its corporate sponsors last season. ''Players will have to make a decision about whether they speak out. These owners are not just trying to keep the league without controversy - they've picked a side.''

Like protesters before them in past social movements, the players face a familiar dilemma: What to do when their public platform is taken away?

From the American Revolution through the civil rights era and, more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement, history has shown that when one avenue of protest is taken away, activists often move on to other - sometimes more disruptive - methods of protest.

Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, who attended the University of Nevada with Kaepernick and was among the first NFL players to join in the national anthem protests two seasons ago, said players don't care about teams being fined.

But as for what he intends to do this season, ''I guess we'll cross that road when it comes.''

He called the president's remarks ''disgusting'' and said that while he doesn't like the league's new policy, he understands it.

''We've got freedom of speech, right? Freedom to protest? Just because somebody disagrees or has an issue with something that's going on in this country, that doesn't mean that they should pack up and leave,'' Marshall said in response to Trump's comments.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate said he expects the team will discuss ''a solution to stand for justice in America.''

''We've got time to kind of brainstorm some ideas on how we could stand for justice and what we can do,'' Tate said.

During the Black Lives Movement, activists held protests that disrupted major thoroughfares and other public spaces across the country, then expanded their focus to local elections and working with the Obama Justice Department to bring about police reforms.

DeRay Mckesson, who began protesting as part of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014 and has continued to push for police reforms, said NFL players now find themselves in a similar position, and he hopes they fight the new policy.

''The attempt is always to silence and erase,'' he said. ''The point of protest is to bring public awareness to things people want to keep private.''

---

Holland reported from Washington. AP sports writers Arnie Stapleton in Denver, Noah Trister in Detroit and John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y., contributed to this report.

Read more

Ravens' Joe Flacco welcomes Lamar Jackson with 'open arms'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco laughed at the notion that he holds a grudge against first-round draft pick Lamar Jackson.

''We welcomed Lamar here with open arms,'' Flacco said.

The two quarterbacks appeared amiable as they rotated snaps, along with Robert Griffin III, in workouts this week. Flacco was clearly the most polished of the three, zipping passes downfield with almost pinpoint accuracy.

Nonetheless, it is shaping up to be an important season for the veteran Flacco.

He has been assured that he will remain the starter in 2018 but also must consider how his future will be influenced by the presence of the rookie Jackson.

''Obviously, when you pick a quarterback, when you pick anybody in the first round, it means something,'' Flacco said. ''I don't know what that means. I don't know exactly what it is. That's not my job to worry about what it is. My job is to keep my approach exactly what it's been the last 10 years and help my team win football games.''

Flacco, 32 threw for 3,141 yards with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2017. Baltimore's passing attack was ranked 29th in the NFL, and that played a key part in the team missing the playoffs for a third straight year.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome signed three free agent receivers - Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead - to help improve the passing game. He also selected a pair of tight ends - Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews - in the first three rounds of this year's draft.

The Ravens also took Jackson with the 32nd overall pick. He ran for 50 touchdowns and threw for 69 more during an impressive three-run at Louisville.

While Jackson needs more time to develop into effective passer, he is a dynamic athlete that could push for playing time, especially inside the red zone. Flacco, however, is not worried about Jackson taking snaps from him.

''Listen, I want to win football games,'' Flacco said. ''Whatever's going to help us win. I'm probably going to maintain that myself under center is our best chance to win football games. But whatever helps us win football games, I'm game.''

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has been impressed with Jackson over the recent offseason workouts.

''He is a very talented guy,'' Harbaugh said. ''He has practiced well everytime he has been out here. The toughest thing for him right now is calling the plays. He has never been in that type of system. So, I would say he has made a big jump calling the plays and annunciating the offense.''

Harbaugh is not worried about having any type of quarterback controversy on his hands. He dismissed any potential friction between Flacco, Jackson and even Griffin.

''It was much ado about nothing,'' Harbaugh said. ''I never thought it was anything and I know it's not anything.''

As for Flacco, he is just concerned about getting the Ravens back on track and ending the postseason drought. He welcomes anyone ready to contribute to that goal.

''I'm worried about right now, myself getting these guys ready to win football games,'' Flacco said. ''Nothing is ever promised to us. That's the reality.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Chiefs sign top draft pick Speaks to rookie contract

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Chiefs signed second-round draft pick Breeland Speaks to his four-year rookie contract Thursday, making him the third of their six draft selections to sign a deal.

Kansas City did not have a first-round pick this year after trading it away last year to move up and select quarterback Patrick Mahomes II. So, new general manager Brett Veach waited until the 46th overall pick to grab Speaks, who is expected to bolster the Chiefs' weak pass rush this season.

Speaks played three seasons at Mississippi, where he had 121 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and nine sacks. But the Chiefs hope his production will increase now that he can focus on outside linebacker.

The Chiefs needed help there even before parting with veteran Tamba Hali this offseason.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL teams under no time pressure to form own anthem policies

With no deadlines to meet and a monthlong summer break coming up, NFL teams are in no hurry to formulate a policy on demonstrations during the national anthem.

One day after league owners mandated that players must stand for the ''Star-Spangled Banner'' - they now have the option of remaining in the locker room for the playing of the anthem - few of the 32 teams had done more than preliminary work on the issue.

The NFL gave teams the option of developing their own workplace rules, which many players interpreted as a backhanded way of subjecting them to fines, suspensions or loss of jobs should they carry on with the protests.

For now, other than New York Jets owner Christopher Johnson's decision to pay any fines doled out by the league without passing punishment to the players, each franchise's approach is uncertain.

After all, once mandatory minicamps end in mid-June, teams don't get together again until training camps open in late July. The opening preseason game - the first time the anthem would be played before an NFL match - is Aug. 2 when Baltimore and Chicago face off in the Hall of Fame game.

''I'm sure it's something that will be addressed, by the players and by the coaches, collectively,'' Lions receiver Golden Tate said Thursday.

''But right now, we don't play a game until August, and that's when it's going to be applicable in football stadiums. So we've got time to kind of brainstorm some ideas on how we could stand for justice and what we can do.''

What some teams have done in the past likely indicates how they will handle disciplining players for demonstrations during the anthem - regardless of the intent. Owners Jerry Jones of the Cowboys and Robert McNair of the Texans have been among the staunchest advocates of no exceptions to standing during the anthem.

Others have taken a less stringent stance, emphasizing working together with the players in their communities rather than focusing on how the message about social injustice is being delivered.

''I have always believed it is the responsibility of sports teams to be very proactive in our communities,'' says Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

''In this great country of ours, there are so many people who are hurting and marginalized, which is why I am proud of our players for continuously working to influence positive change. Their words and actions have demonstrated not only that they have a great deal of respect for our country, but also that they are committed to finding productive ways to fight social injustice, poverty and other societal issues that are important to all of us.

''We must continue to work together in creative and dynamic ways to make our communities stronger and better, with equal opportunities for all.''

One certain thing: The uncertainty about how each team will deal with players who defy the NFL's mandate will last for weeks.

Not so for any league personnel such as game officials, sideline crews, et al. They will be disciplined for any violations of the anthem policy, though the exact punishments have not yet been determined by the NFL.

One organization, the National Action Network, will march on league headquarters Friday to ''advocate for players' right to kneel and call on NFL owners to reverse (the) dangerous decision violating players' First Amendment rights by imposing fines for not standing during the national anthem.''

Such protests could become more prevalent if teams decide to strongly discipline players who demonstrate during the anthem. But some franchises aren't sure they need their own policy. Or if that is even the proper description.

The Falcons' position is any players on the field will stand, so no need to make plans for any other outcome.

Team spokesman Brian Cearns suggested it's too strong to say they have a team policy: ''The word policy sounds like it was mandated. It was discussed as a team and agreed upon as a team,'' Cearns said in an email to The Associated Press.

Defensive linemen Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett knelt during an early season game at Detroit last year. Coach Dan Quinn said that was a ''one-off'' and, sure enough, after that game all players stood together on the sideline, with arms interlocked, the remainder of the season.

Buffalo linebacker Lorenzo Alexander doesn't expect his team ''to do anything.''

''I understand where they're at. And it's hard,'' Alexander said. ''And I understand that from a business perspective trying to be socially responsible. And people can act like it's in a vacuum and say you have to pick a side. But it's not that simple. It's a very complex situation.

''And so I respect them, because I was a business owner and I understand it. It makes a big impact. I'm in this to grow the business, grow their brand, and us doing this does have an impact, whether we say it or not. That's what we want, because we're trying to bring attention to it. But they have to have a foot over here, a foot over here. It's hard.''

---

AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton and Sports Writers Charles Odum, Paul Newberry, John Wawrow and Noah Trister contributed.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Police: Incognito threw weights before hospitalization

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Police took veteran NFL guard Richie Incognito to a mental hospital after he allegedly threw weights and tennis balls at gym employees and another patron and told officers the government is spying on him, according to a report released Thursday.

Boca Raton police say a patron at Life Time Athletic, Mark O'Brien, told officers James Brown and Dave Rosenthal he was jogging on the outdoor track when he saw Incognito acting angry. O'Brien said he tried to calm Incognito, but as he walked away, the former Buffalo Bill threw a tennis ball at his foot, tried to run him over with a weighted pushing sled and then threw two weights - one into the pool and another at him, which missed. He said Incognito, 34, then cursed at him, telling him to get out of his ''playground.''

O'Brien called 911 and in a recording released Thursday a voice identified as Incognito's can be heard in the background yelling and cursing at him. He told the dispatcher Incognito, who was dressed in shorts and no shirt, was trying to hit him as they talked. He told the dispatcher the 6-foot-4, 322-pound Incognito is ''huge'' but a ''little overweight.''

O'Brien told The Associated Press on Thursday that Incognito also ripped apart a boxing mannequin and slammed his knee into its head, and feared Incognito might do the same to him. He said he didn't know Incognito, who also played for the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins, where he was suspended in 2013 for the racial bullying of a teammate, Jonathan Martin.

''I can fully appreciate and understand people going through tough times and mental illness but his behavior was irrational. I hope he gets help,'' O'Brien said.

Officer Brown wrote that when he and Rosenthal arrived at the gym, a staff member handed them Incognito's concealed weapons permit and told them he had thrown objects at the staff. No gun was found on Incognito and it is unexplained why the employee would have his permit.

Brown said that when he approached Incognito, he said he was under contract for the National Security Agency, a top U.S. spy agency, and that another patron was wearing headphones nearby.

''I'm running NSA class level 3 documents through my phone,'' Incognito told Brown, saying he couldn't have anyone with Bluetooth capability near him.

Brown said that when he asked Incognito why the government would be watching him, he replied that Brown didn't have a high enough security clearance to discuss it with him.

He said Incognito's hands were shaking and he would suddenly jump and move without warning. Incognito told the officers he was taking a dietary supplement and denied thrown objects at people.

Brown said that when he told Incognito he was worried he was going to hurt himself or others, Incognito yelled at a woman in the pool to call the FBI.

Brown and Rosenthal took Incognito into custody under Florida's Baker Act, which allows for people to be hospitalized for 72 hours if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Incognito's lawyer, Mark Schamel, did not immediately return an email Thursday seeking comment. Incognito has not been charged with a crime as police say in his mental condition he could not form intent.

Incognito announced earlier this year that he was retiring from football after 11 seasons, the last three with Buffalo. The Bills released him from their reserved/retired list Monday, leaving open the possibility he could sign with another team.

He has been on a downward spiral for much of this offseason.

His closest friend on the Bills, center Eric Wood, is being forced into retirement after being diagnosed with a career-ending neck injury in January.

The Bills also asked Incognito to take a pay cut in restructuring the final year of his contract. Incognito initially backed the agreement by posting a note on Twitter saying he was ''thrilled to be returning this season and fired up to get back to work with my Buffalo Bills brothers.'' However, he had a change of heart weeks later and abruptly fired agent David Dunn in a post on Twitter.

---

Wawrow reported from Buffalo, New York. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Read more

NFL teams with foundation to support veterans, families

NEW YORK (AP) The NFL is joining an effort for nonprofit organizations to support healthy lifestyle programs for veterans and their families.

The league will contribute $2 million to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which was established in 2006 after the television journalist was wounded by a roadside bomb while covering the war in Iraq.

The foundation has invested more than $55 million for programs that empower the military and their families. The NFL will work with the Woodruff group in creating a grant referral system for nonprofits.

Anna Isaacson, the NFL senior vice president of social responsibility, says the league is committed to ''evolving its work in the military landscape and funding programs that will make a tangible, long-lasting impact.''

One of those programs is Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, a nationwide nonprofit that provides rehabilitative fly fishing programs for disabled active duty personnel and for disabled veterans. It has 8,500 participants and another 3,500 volunteers who teach disabled veterans the intricacies of fly fishing and stages events locally, regionally and nationally.

''The BWF provides us with a grant each year that supports one of our largest programs for rod building,'' says Todd Desgrosseilliers, president and CEO of Project Healing Waters who spent 31 years in the military and sustained traumatic head injuries in combat. ''We had over 900 veterans participate in it thanks to that. It's part of a larger core of activities we have that include fly fishing education and outings.

''We meet on a regular basis, whether weekly or twice or month, with a minimum of once a month. This is a group of disabled veterans coming together with folks who care about them, and involved in an activity that is fun and therapeutic.''

An affiliation with the NFL is logical, says Marshall Lauck, chief growth and marketing officer for the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

''The NFL is such a prominent American brand and one that has a longstanding commitment to the vet community,'' Lauck says. ''This is not something new to them, given their history with supporting veterans and the active military. It's a time of increased interest on their part in how most effectively they can support the veteran community (through nonprofits).

''Our expertise can be very helpful for the NFL in its goals in supporting the veteran communities.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

The Denver Broncos have revamped their backfield

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) ��� Jackhammers and buzz saws nearly drowned out the coaches hollering during OTAs this week at Denver Broncos headquarters, which is undergoing a makeover this spring.

Upgrades include a massive new theater for team meetings and an expansion of the training room.

Another thing the Broncos are remodeling is their backfield.

It's hardly recognizable following the departures of veterans C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles along with longtime position coach Eric Studesville, one of six assistants fired after last season.

Curtis Modkins, who tutored 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Howard in Chicago last season, replaced Studesville, Miami's new run game coordinator who served four head coaches in his eight years in Denver.

Charles wasn't re-signed after one season in Denver, and the Broncos released sixth-year pro Anderson , their leading rusher, to save $9 million. He signed with the Carolina Panthers.

That leaves not a single running back in Denver who has ever posted a 100-yard game in the NFL.

It's a backfield bursting with energy, if not enthusiasm.

"We're all young," third-year pro Devontae Booker said. "We can go out there and take it to the house at any time."

Booker didn't start a single game last year, and second-year pro De'Angelo "Hop" Henderson carried seven times as a rookie. But with fullback Andy Janovich known more for busting helmets than tackles, they're the ones getting peppered with questions from a trio of rookies.

"It's crazy," said Booker, who turns 26 Sunday. "I think Hop's the same age as me, but I've been here longer."

The Broncos selected Royce Freeman from Oregon in the second round of the NFL draft and Arkansas' David Williams in the seventh before adding Colorado's Phillip Lindsay, who went undrafted.

Booker isn't acting like he's suddenly ascended to the top of the depth chart, either.

"We've got four or five backs competing to be the guy, so he's got to come out and work and earn the right to be the guy," coach Vance Joseph said. "Obviously, he understands that with C.J. gone, it's a wide-open race. He's excited about that and he should take a step forward."

No matter who emerges as the Broncos' lead back, there will be plenty of carries to go around.

"Someone's got to be the starter, but I think to have a great running game, you have to have two or three guys," Joseph said. "I think also (important is) having a third-down back, a guy who can be great in protections, catch the ball out of the backfield and beat linebackers one on one."

Booker, for one, wouldn't mind sharing snaps.

"Running back by committee," Booker said. "If it happens like that, I'm all for it."

Here's a look at the running backs jockeying for carries in 2018:

DEVONTAE BOOKER : Coming off an injury-marred season, he was expecting to share snaps this season - with Anderson.

"It was crazy, because the first day we got back, that's when everything happened. I had just seen him. We were doing physicals and the next thing I know" he's been released, Booker said. "It was shocking to me, but at the end of the day it's a business. Best of luck to C.J."

DE'ANGELO HENDERSON : The speedster from Coastal Carolina escaped serious injury when a drunken driver totaled his Jeep last week.

"It definitely makes you appreciate everything more," Henderson said. "After I stopped, I was like, I'm lucky. I've got a newborn son, I got a fiancee. I've got a family that really cares about me and teammates that are counting on me this year."

ROYCE FREEMAN : Freeman's high football odometer - 947 rushes, 79 catches in college - didn't scare off the Broncos: "What it shows to us is he's durable," general manager John Elway said.

Freeman agrees his college workload shouldn't be a concern.

"It is not often you get backs playing as many games or taking as many carries," Freeman said. "I feel like the fact that I was able to do so proves I am a durable running back."

DAVID WILLIAMS : He's embracing the crowded running back room, saying he enjoys competing for carries.

"It's actually a great situation," Williams said. "If it was me in college, I would go to this school, if this was a school, because the situation is good. I'm just blessed to be able to have the opportunity to be in this situation."

PHILLIP LINDSAY : In all but one of the last 14 seasons, an undrafted college free agent has made the Broncos' 53-man roster, and this Denver native is a good bet to continue that trend.

He's out to wow the coaching staff as a rusher, receiver and returner.

"I'm just going to showcase everything," said the former Buffaloes standout known as the "Tasmanian Devil" for his relentless motor.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Read more

Police: Incognito threw weights before hospitalization

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Police took veteran NFL guard Richie Incognito to a Florida mental hospital after he allegedly threw weights and tennis balls at gym employees and another patron and told officers the government is spying on him.

Boca Raton police released a report Thursday detailing officers' interaction with the 34-year-old Incognito after the other patron called 911 on Wednesday to report his behavior.

Officers wrote that Incognito said he was involved with National Security Agency, but that he couldn't talk about it because they didn't have a high enough security clearance.

Incognito announced earlier this year that he was retiring from football after 11 seasons, the last three with the Buffalo Bills. But the Bills released him from their reserved/retired list Monday, leaving open the possibility he could sign with another team.

Read more

NFL sparks new questions over anthem; Trump lauds league

ATLANTA (AP) With its popularity threatened and critics stretching all the way to the White House, the NFL just wanted to get past the debate over taking a knee during the national anthem.

Put the focus back on football.

Instead, the league seemed to muddle the divisive issue even more with a new policy that stirred up defenders of free speech, prompted a couple of owners to quickly backtrack and raised all sorts of potential questions heading into next season.

After a tumultuous season, NFL owners wrapped up their spring meeting in Atlanta by announcing Wednesday that players would be required to stand for the national anthem if they're on the field before a game, but gave them the option of staying in the locker room if they wanted to carry on the Colin Kaepernick-inspired campaign against police brutality and social injustice.

Commissioner Roger Goodell called it a compromise that respected the wishes of everyone, from those who consider ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' a sacred part of the American experience to those who believe the right to protest during the anthem is also in the best tradition of a free but imperfect society.

Yet, it was clear to everyone that the owners wanted to quell a firestorm by moving any further protests away from the public eye - especially if it lured back disgruntled fans while appeasing President Donald Trump and his vocal base of support.

Kneel if you like.

But stay out of sight.

''This is a fear of the diminished bottom line,'' said defensive end Chris Long of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles . ''It's also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it.''

Trump stoked the issue during a political campaign, saying the NFL should fire any players who kneel during the anthem . During an interview that aired Thursday morning on ''Fox & Friends,'' he praised the league for doing ''the right thing.''

''You have to stand proudly for the national anthem,'' Trump said. Or ''you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe they shouldn't be in the country.''

Vice President Mike Pence called it ''a win for the fans, a win for (the president), and a win for America.''

The NFL didn't consult the players' union on its new policy, though Goodell stressed that the league had talked to countless players over the past year and was committed both financially and philosophically to the fight for social justice .

''We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,'' Goodell said. ''We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.''

In an attempt to quell a potential challenge from the NFL Players Association, the league said any violations of the new rules would result in fines against teams - not individual players.

But the league also gave teams the option of developing their own workplace rules, which many players interpreted as a backhanded way of subjecting them to fines - or worse - should they carry on with the protests.

''If the team says `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut,'' Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster said.

The head of the NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith , angrily denounced the NFL's decision and called it a blow against America's most basic rights - freedom of speech.

Since the new policy is a change in the terms and conditions of employment that was not collectively bargained, any attempts to fine individual players would surely be opposed by the union.

''History has taught us that both patriotism and protest are like water; if the force is strong enough it cannot be suppressed,'' Smith wrote on Twitter. ''The CEOs of the NFL created a rule that people who hate autocracies should reject.''

But many players are mindful that Kaepernick, who began the protest movement in 2016 during his final year at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, didn't play at all last season and still hasn't been picked up by another team . They're also aware of the plight faced by safety Eric Reid, one of Kaepernick's former teammates and another protest leader, who is also out of work with the upcoming season just a few months away.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL .

Washington defensive back Josh Norman said the owners have a right to decide what the players can and cannot do, a sentiment shared by many of his colleagues around the league.

''They've pretty much got the teams,'' Norman said. ''They make those decisions. We've just got to go through with it, I guess.''

A handful of outspoken players vowed to carry on the cause, including Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.

''I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting,'' he said. ''This has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone's patriotism, but doing what we can to effect real change for real people.''

While Goodell said the new policy was unanimously approved by the owners, CEO Jed York of the 49ers - Kaepernick's former team - contradicted the commissioner by saying he abstained. York said he didn't feel comfortable making a decision without directly involving the players' union.

New York Jets owner Christopher Johnson took a similar approach. He said his team will pay any fines doled out by the league, without passing on punishment to the players.

''I will support our players wherever we land as a team,'' Johnson said. ''Our focus is not on imposing any club rules, fines or restrictions.''

So, what happens next?

The NFL just wants the issue to go away.

Instead, it raised a whole new batch of questions.

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL teams with foundation to support veterans, families

NEW YORK (AP) The NFL is joining an effort for nonprofit organizations to support healthy lifestyle programs for veterans and their families.

The league will contribute $2 million to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which was established in 2006 after the television journalist was wounded by a roadside bomb while covering the war in Iraq.

The foundation has invested more than $55 million for programs that empower the military and their families. The NFL will work with the Woodruff group in creating a grant referral system for nonprofits.

Anna Isaacson, the NFL senior vice president of social responsibility, says the league is committed to ''evolving its work in the military landscape and funding programs that will make a tangible, long-lasting impact.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Buffalo Bills receiver Zay Jones has knee surgery

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Bills receiver Zay Jones has had knee surgery that will prevent him from participating in the team's series of spring practices.

Coach Sean McDermott wouldn't discuss the nature of the injury or which knee was operated on in providing the update Thursday, when the Bills closed a three-day voluntary minicamp. He also didn't have a timetable for when Jones could resume practicing, but said he's not concerned about the rehab process extending into the season.

McDermott said the injury had been bothering Jones for some time, and the team and player decided to have surgery as soon as possible.

It's the second operation for Jones, who had surgery in January to repair a shoulder injury.

Jones was Buffalo's second-round pick out of East Carolina, and struggled to make a consistent impact in his rookie season. He finished with 27 catches for 314 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games, including 10 starts.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Trump suggests NFL players who kneel shouldn't be in US

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump praised an NFL policy banning kneeling during the "The Star-Spangled Banner," saying that "maybe you shouldn't be in the country" if you don't stand for the anthem.

Trump spoke to "Fox & Friends" in an interview that aired Thursday. The policy forbids players from sitting or taking a knee on the field during the anthem but allows them to stay in the locker room. Any violations of the new rules would result in fines against teams.

"I think that's good," Trump said in the interview that taped Wednesday. "I don't think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it's good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country."

Trump told confidants Wednesday that he was thrilled with the NFL's new policy, believing it vindicated his move last fall to call out the players who kneeled while suggesting that he planned to call attention to it again when the season starts in September, just months before the midterm elections, according to a person familiar with the president's conversations but not authorized to discuss them privately.

Trump first seized upon the issue last September when called on team owners to fire players who followed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's lead by kneeling during the national anthem. During a September rally, he referred to an NFL player making a gesture during "The Star-Spangled Banner" as a "son of a bitch" who should be fired.

The president's comments spurred a national conversation about patriotism and the nation's symbols and the use of peaceful protest. Trump, meanwhile, told Republican allies that he thought the culture war issue was good for his base even as he received some criticism for seemingly being more focused on the anthem flap last fall than the government's response to a deadly hurricane in Puerto Rico.

Trump said in the Fox interview that he thought "the people" pushed for the new policy.

"I brought it out. I think the people pushed it forward," Trump said. He added: "you know, that's something ideally could have been taken care of when it first started, it would have been a lot easier, but if they did that, they did the right thing."

---

Follow Lucey on Twitter at http://twitter.com/catherine-lucey and Lemire at http://twitter.com/JonLemire

Read more

NFL sparks new questions over anthem; Trump lauds league

ATLANTA (AP) With its popularity threatened and critics stretching all the way to the White House, the NFL just wanted to get past the debate over taking a knee during the national anthem.

Put the focus back on football.

Instead, the league seemed to muddle the divisive issue even more with a new policy that stirred up defenders of free speech, prompted a couple of owners to quickly backtrack and raised all sorts of potential questions heading into next season.

After a tumultuous season, NFL owners wrapped up their spring meeting in Atlanta by announcing Wednesday that players would be required to stand for the national anthem if they're on the field before a game, but gave them the option of staying in the locker room if they wanted to carry on the Colin Kaepernick-inspired campaign against police brutality and social injustice.

Commissioner Roger Goodell called it a compromise that respected the wishes of everyone, from those who consider ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' a sacred part of the American experience to those who believe the right to protest during the anthem is also in the best tradition of a free but imperfect society.

Yet, it was clear to everyone that the owners wanted to quell a firestorm by moving any further protests away from the public eye - especially if it lured back disgruntled fans while appeasing President Donald Trump and his vocal base of support.

Kneel if you like.

But stay out of sight.

''This is a fear of the diminished bottom line,'' said defensive end Chris Long of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles . ''It's also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it.''

Trump stoked the issue during a political campaign, saying the NFL should fire any players who kneel during the anthem . During an interview that aired Thursday morning on ''Fox & Friends,'' he praised the league for doing ''the right thing.''

''You have to stand proudly for the national anthem,'' Trump said. Or ''you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe they shouldn't be in the country.''

Vice President Mike Pence called it ''a win for the fans, a win for (the president), and a win for America.''

The NFL didn't consult the players' union on its new policy, though Goodell stressed that the league had talked to countless players over the past year and was committed both financially and philosophically to the fight for social justice .

''We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,'' Goodell said. ''We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.''

In an attempt to quell a potential challenge from the NFL Players Association, the league said any violations of the new rules would result in fines against teams - not individual players.

But the league also gave teams the option of developing their own workplace rules, which many players interpreted as a backhanded way of subjecting them to fines - or worse - should they carry on with the protests.

''If the team says `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut,'' Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster said.

The head of the NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith , angrily denounced the NFL's decision and called it a blow against America's most basic rights - freedom of speech.

Since the new policy is a change in the terms and conditions of employment that was not collectively bargained, any attempts to fine individual players would surely be opposed by the union.

''History has taught us that both patriotism and protest are like water; if the force is strong enough it cannot be suppressed,'' Smith wrote on Twitter. ''The CEOs of the NFL created a rule that people who hate autocracies should reject.''

But many players are mindful that Kaepernick, who began the protest movement in 2016 during his final year at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, didn't play at all last season and still hasn't been picked up by another team . They're also aware of the plight faced by safety Eric Reid, one of Kaepernick's former teammates and another protest leader, who is also out of work with the upcoming season just a few months away.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL .

Washington defensive back Josh Norman said the owners have a right to decide what the players can and cannot do, a sentiment shared by many of his colleagues around the league.

''They've pretty much got the teams,'' Norman said. ''They make those decisions. We've just got to go through with it, I guess.''

A handful of outspoken players vowed to carry on the cause, including Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.

''I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting,'' he said. ''This has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone's patriotism, but doing what we can to effect real change for real people.''

While Goodell said the new policy was unanimously approved by the owners, CEO Jed York of the 49ers - Kaepernick's former team - contradicted the commissioner by saying he abstained. York said he didn't feel comfortable making a decision without directly involving the players' union.

New York Jets owner Christopher Johnson took a similar approach. He said his team will pay any fines doled out by the league, without passing on punishment to the players.

''I will support our players wherever we land as a team,'' Johnson said. ''Our focus is not on imposing any club rules, fines or restrictions.''

So, what happens next?

The NFL just wants the issue to go away.

Instead, it raised a whole new batch of questions.

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Trump suggests NFL players who kneel shouldn't be in US

WASHINGTON (AP) ��� President Donald Trump praised an NFL policy banning kneeling during the "The Star-Spangled Banner," saying that "maybe you shouldn't be in the country" if you don't stand for the anthem.

Trump spoke to "Fox & Friends" in an interview that aired Thursday. The policy forbids players from sitting or taking a knee on the field during the anthem but allows them to stay in the locker room. Any violations of the new rules would result in fines against teams.

"I think that's good," Trump said in the interview that taped Wednesday. "I don't think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it's good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country."

Trump told confidants Wednesday that he was thrilled with the NFL's new policy, believing it vindicated his move last fall to call out the players who kneeled while suggesting that he planned to call attention to it again when the season starts in September, just months before the midterm elections, according to a person familiar with the president's conversations but not authorized to discuss them privately.

Trump first seized upon the issue last September when called on team owners to fire players who followed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's lead by kneeling during the national anthem. During a September rally, he referred to an NFL player making a gesture during "The Star-Spangled Banner" as a "son of a bitch" who should be fired.

The president's comments spurred a national conversation about patriotism and the nation's symbols and the use of peaceful protest. Trump, meanwhile, told Republican allies that he thought the culture war issue was good for his base even as he received some criticism for seemingly being more focused on the anthem flap last fall than the government's response to a deadly hurricane in Puerto Rico.

Trump said in the Fox interview that he thought "the people" pushed for the new policy.

"I brought it out. I think the people pushed it forward," Trump said. He added: "you know, that's something ideally could have been taken care of when it first started, it would have been a lot easier, but if they did that, they did the right thing."

---

Follow Lucey on Twitter at http://twitter.com/catherine-lucey and Lemire at http://twitter.com/JonLemire

Read more

Trump suggests NFL players who kneel shouldn't be in US

WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump praised an NFL policy banning kneeling during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner,'' saying that ''maybe you shouldn't be in the country'' if you don't stand for the anthem.

Trump spoke to ''Fox & Friends'' in an interview that aired Thursday. The policy forbids players from sitting or taking a knee on the field during the anthem but allows them to stay in the locker room. Any violations of the new rules would result in fines against teams.

''I think that's good,'' Trump said in the interview that taped Wednesday. ''I don't think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it's good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country.''

Trump last fall called on team owners to fire players who followed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's lead by kneeling during the national anthem. During a rally, he referred to an NFL player making a gesture during ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' as a ''son of a bitch'' who should be fired.

The president's comments spurred a national conversation about patriotism and the nation's symbols and the use of peaceful protest. Trump said in the interview that he thought ''the people'' pushed for the new policy.

''I brought it out. I think the people pushed it forward,'' Trump said. He added: ''you know, that's something ideally could have been taken care of when it first started, it would have been a lot easier, but if they did that, they did the right thing.''

Read more

Trump lauds NFL policy banning kneeling for national anthem

WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump praised an NFL policy banning kneeling during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner,'' saying that ''maybe you shouldn't be in the country'' if you don't stand for the anthem.

Trump spoke to ''Fox & Friends'' in an interview that aired Thursday. The policy forbids players from sitting or taking a knee on the field during the anthem but allows them to stay in the locker room. Any violations of the new rules would result in fines against teams.

''I think that's good,'' Trump said in the interview that taped Wednesday. ''I don't think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it's good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country.''

Trump last fall called on team owners to fire players who followed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's lead by kneeling during the national anthem. During a rally, he referred to an NFL player making a gesture during ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' as a ''son of a bitch'' who should be fired.

The president's comments spurred a national conversation about patriotism and the nation's symbols and the use of peaceful protest. Trump said in the interview that he thought ''the people'' pushed for the new policy.

''I brought it out. I think the people pushed it forward,'' Trump said. He added: ''you know, that's something ideally could have been taken care of when it first started, it would have been a lot easier, but if they did that, they did the right thing.''

Read more

What's next? NFL sparks new questions with anthem policy

ATLANTA (AP) With its popularity threatened and critics stretching all the way to the White House, the NFL just wanted to get past the debate over taking a knee during the national anthem.

Put the focus back on football.

Instead, the league seemed to muddle the divisive issue even more with a new policy that stirred up defenders of free speech, prompted a couple of owners to quickly backtrack and raised all sorts of potential questions heading into next season.

After a tumultuous season, NFL owners wrapped up their spring meeting in Atlanta by announcing Wednesday that players would be required to stand for the national anthem if they're on the field before a game, but gave them the option of staying in the locker room if they wanted to carry on the Colin Kaepernick-inspired campaign against police brutality and social injustice.

Commissioner Roger Goodell called it a compromise that respected the wishes of everyone, from those who consider ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' a sacred part of the American experience to those who believe the right to protest during the anthem is also in the best tradition of a free but imperfect society.

Yet, it was clear to everyone that the owners wanted to quell a firestorm by moving any further protests away from the public eye - especially if it lured back disgruntled fans while appeasing President Donald Trump and his vocal base of support.

Kneel if you like.

But stay out of sight.

''This is a fear of the diminished bottom line,'' said defensive end Chris Long of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles . ''It's also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it.''

Trump stoked the issue during a political campaign, saying the NFL should fire any players who kneel during the anthem . During an interview that aired Thursday morning on ''Fox & Friends,'' he praised the league for doing ''the right thing.''

''You have to stand proudly for the national anthem,'' Trump said. Or ''you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe they shouldn't be in the country.''

Vice President Mike Pence called it ''a win for the fans, a win for (the president), and a win for America.''

The NFL didn't consult the players' union on its new policy, though Goodell stressed that the league had talked to countless players over the past year and was committed both financially and philosophically to the fight for social justice .

''We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,'' Goodell said. ''We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.''

In an attempt to quell a potential challenge from the NFL Players Association, the league said any violations of the new rules would result in fines against teams - not individual players.

But the league also gave teams the option of developing their own workplace rules, which many players interpreted as a backhanded way of subjecting them to fines - or worse - should they carry on with the protests.

''If the team says `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut,'' Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster said.

The head of the NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith , angrily denounced the NFL's decision and called it a blow against America's most basic rights - freedom of speech.

Since the new policy is a change in the terms and conditions of employment that was not collectively bargained, any attempts to fine individual players would surely be opposed by the union.

''History has taught us that both patriotism and protest are like water; if the force is strong enough it cannot be suppressed,'' Smith wrote on Twitter. ''The CEOs of the NFL created a rule that people who hate autocracies should reject.''

But many players are mindful that Kaepernick, who began the protest movement in 2016 during his final year at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, didn't play at all last season and still hasn't been picked up by another team . They're also aware of the plight faced by safety Eric Reid, one of Kaepernick's former teammates and another protest leader, who is also out of work with the upcoming season just a few months away.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL .

Washington defensive back Josh Norman said the owners have a right to decide what the players can and cannot do, a sentiment shared by many of his colleagues around the league.

''They've pretty much got the teams,'' Norman said. ''They make those decisions. We've just got to go through with it, I guess.''

A handful of outspoken players vowed to carry on the cause, including Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.

''I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting,'' he said. ''This has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone's patriotism, but doing what we can to effect real change for real people.''

While Goodell said the new policy was unanimously approved by the owners, CEO Jed York of the 49ers - Kaepernick's former team - contradicted the commissioner by saying he abstained. York said he didn't feel comfortable making a decision without directly involving the players' union.

New York Jets owner Christopher Johnson took a similar approach. He said his team will pay any fines doled out by the league, without passing on punishment to the players.

''I will support our players wherever we land as a team,'' Johnson said. ''Our focus is not on imposing any club rules, fines or restrictions.''

So, what happens next?

The NFL just wants the issue to go away.

Instead, it raised a whole new batch of questions.

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

What's next? NFL sparks new questions with anthem policy

ATLANTA (AP) With its popularity threatened and critics stretching all the way to the White House, the NFL just wanted to get past the debate over taking a knee during the national anthem.

Put the focus back on football.

Instead, the league seemed to muddle the divisive issue even more with a new policy that stirred up defenders of free speech, prompted a couple of owners to quickly backtrack and raised all sorts of potential questions heading into next season.

After a tumultuous season, NFL owners wrapped up their spring meeting in Atlanta by announcing Wednesday that players would be required to stand for the national anthem if they're on the field before a game, but gave them the option of staying in the locker room if they wanted to carry on the Colin Kaepernick-inspired campaign against police brutality and social injustice.

Commissioner Roger Goodell called it a compromise that respected the wishes of everyone, from those who consider ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' a sacred part of the American experience to those who believe the right to protest during the anthem is also in the best tradition of a free but imperfect society.

Yet, it was clear to everyone that the owners wanted to quell a firestorm by moving any further protests away from the public eye - especially if it lured back disgruntled fans while appeasing President Donald Trump and his vocal base of support.

Kneel if you like.

But stay out of sight.

''This is a fear of the diminished bottom line,'' said defensive end Chris Long of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles . ''It's also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it.''

Trump addressed the issue during a political campaign, saying the NFL should fire any players who kneel during the anthem . He had no immediate comment on the new policy, but Vice President Mike Pence called it ''a win for the fans, a win for (the president), and a win for America.''

The NFL didn't consult the players' union on its new policy, though Goodell stressed that the league had talked to countless players over the past year and was committed both financially and philosophically to the fight for social justice .

''We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,'' Goodell said. ''We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.''

In an attempt to quell a potential challenge from the NFL Players Association, the league said any violations of the new rules would result in fines against teams - not individual players.

But the league also gave teams the option of developing their own workplace rules, which many players interpreted as a backhanded way of subjecting them to fines - or worse - should they carry on with the protests.

''If the team says `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut,'' Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster said.

The head of the NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith , angrily denounced the NFL's decision and called it a blow against America's most basic rights - freedom of speech.

Since the new policy is a change in the terms and conditions of employment that was not collectively bargained, any attempts to fine individual players would surely be opposed by the union.

''History has taught us that both patriotism and protest are like water; if the force is strong enough it cannot be suppressed,'' Smith wrote on Twitter. ''The CEOs of the NFL created a rule that people who hate autocracies should reject.''

But many players are mindful that Kaepernick, who began the protest movement in 2016 during his final year at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, didn't play at all last season and still hasn't been picked up by another team . They're also aware of the plight faced by safety Eric Reid, one of Kaepernick's former teammates and another protest leader, who is also out of work with the upcoming season just a few months away.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL .

Washington defensive back Josh Norman said the owners have a right to decide what the players can and cannot do, a sentiment shared by many of his colleagues around the league.

''They've pretty much got the teams,'' Norman said. ''They make those decisions. We've just got to go through with it, I guess.''

A handful of outspoken players vowed to carry on the cause, including Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.

''I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting,'' he said. ''This has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone's patriotism, but doing what we can to effect real change for real people.''

While Goodell said the new policy was unanimously approved by the owners, CEO Jed York of the 49ers - Kaepernick's former team - contradicted the commissioner by saying he abstained. York said he didn't feel comfortable making a decision without directly involving the players' union.

New York Jets owner Christopher Johnson took a similar approach. He said his team will pay any fines doled out by the league, without passing on punishment to the players.

''I will support our players wherever we land as a team,'' Johnson said. ''Our focus is not on imposing any club rules, fines or restrictions.''

So, what happens next?

The NFL just wants the issue to go away.

Instead, it raised a whole new batch of questions.

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Column: Score one for Jerry Jones and billionaire owners

NFL owners were busy handing out prizes at their meeting in Atlanta, doling out Super Bowls to various cities and giving Nashville the 2019 draft.

Then they gave one to themselves: A new anthem policy adopted with the fervent hope that the protests sparked by Colin Kaepernick will go away and the golden goose that is the NFL will continue to soar untouched.

Stay in the locker room if you wish during the national anthem. But don't even think about kneeling on the sideline where you can be seen.

This wasn't an attempt to settle a real issue, not even close. This was strictly for self-preservation and to keep any protest off the TV cameras and away from the prying eyes of the current tenant of the White House.

And guess what? It just might work.

Not for the players, who will lose whatever rights they had left. But they've always been expendable anyway, in a league that for years stood by doing nothing as their brains were scrambled by hits on the field.

No, this one is for Jerry Jones and his fellow billionaires.

They're the ones who want desperately to move any protests about social injustice to the locker room, where no one but the towel guy will notice. They're the ones who called the new policy a compromise, yet made no real concessions to protesting players and didn't even bother consulting the players' union on the plan.

Their new rules are as simple as they are absolute: If you want to protest, do so by staying in the locker room during the national anthem.

Then get your rear out there and play a game.

Vice President Mike Pence was quick to cheer, sending out a tweet with the hashtag (hash)Winning. It was President Donald Trump himself who really put the heat on NFL owners last season by saying it was a disgrace to allow players to take a knee during the anthem.

Then as television ratings sank and sponsors started to get nervous, owners figured they had better move to protect their cash cow.

Meanwhile, players have little choice but to accept it - assuming they wish to remain employed.

''That's their decision to make,'' Redskins corner Josh Norman said. ''They've pretty much got the teams. They make those decisions. We just got to go through with it, I guess.''

Though the NFL was quick to triumph the fact the new policy passed by a unanimous vote, it's clear some owners are not as comfortable with it as others. The Buffalo Bills issued a statement saying they would rather work closely with players on social issues than issue fines for kneeling during the anthem, and the head of Kaepernick's former team said his team abstained from the vote.

San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York went a step further by saying other measures might also be taken, including a suspension of all concession sales during the national anthem.

''If we want to be sacrosanct, if we want to honor the flag, we've got to make sure we go through a litany of things,'' York said. ''We're not going to force people to stand in their seats, but we're certainly going to make sure we're not profiting during that two or three minutes of time during the game.''

That, at least, is a step in the right direction. If players can't kneel during the anthem, there's no reason the beer guy should be able to keep pouring $12 brews.

Let's just hope the anthem police have some sympathy for fans who might forget to take off their hats during the song.

So now the game will move on from who is kneeling on the sideline to who is in the locker room during the anthem. Fans and television cameras will scan the sidelines to see who is missing, and those who want to make political hay of it on either side will duly take note.

In the long run, though, the issue will likely fade away, just like NFL owners want it to. And that may not be such a bad thing, since the original purpose of highlighting social injustice has become twisted instead into a debate over the patriotism of NFL players.

Most of them are very patriotic indeed, just like most of the fans who watch them. They also have the right to speak up and protest outside their workplace, just like the fans who watch them.

But the bottom line is that NFL owners have every right to protect their business. They pay the salaries, and they decide the rules.

Now everyone else can decide whether they want to keep playing along.

----

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

Read more

Stand or stay out of sight: NFL takes on anthem protesters

ATLANTA (AP) Stand or stay out of sight.

Looking to quell a national debate that was sparked by Colin Kaepernick, stoked by President Trump and some say chipped away at the very popularity of America's game, NFL owners approved a new policy Wednesday that allows players to protest during the national anthem by staying in the locker room but forbids them from sitting or taking a knee if they're on the field.

Commissioner Roger Goodell called it a compromise aimed at putting the focus back on football after a tumultuous year in which television ratings dipped nearly 10 percent. He said it was unanimously approved by NFL owners, but that was immediately called into question when the head of the San Francisco 49ers - Kaepernick's former team, no less - said he abstained from the vote. The owner of the New York Jets also took a more conciliatory approach, promising not to punish any player who continues to protest against social injustice in full view of fans.

The players' union said it wasn't consulted in the talks and would file a grievance against any change in the collective bargaining agreement. The owners seemed to address that concern by saying only teams would be fined for violations, not individual players. But the league also cleared the way for teams to set their own workplace policies, raising the specter of an even more convoluted approach to an issue that has dominated conversation away from the field.

The head of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith , angrily denounced the new policy and called it a blow against America's most basic of rights - freedom of speech. Since the new policy is a change in the terms and conditions of employment that was not collectively bargained, any attempts to fine individual players would surely be opposed by the union.

''Management has chosen to quash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so,'' Smith wrote on Twitter. ''I know that not all of the NFL CEO's are for this and I know that true American patriots are not cheering today.''

So, what happens to a player who decides to keep kneeling during ''The Star-Spangled Banner?'' Considering Kaepernick is heading into his second year without a job and a former teammate and fellow protester, Eric Reid, is also out of work, it seemed to clear to at least one player what message the NFL was trying to send.

''If the team says `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut,'' Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster said. ''They'll find a way to get you up out of there.''

Arizona Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea, who has been in the league for a dozen years, scoffed at Goodell's notion that this was a step toward appeasing all sides.

''If you want to use your right of freedom of speech and take a knee, you're going to get fined,'' Bethea said. ''So it's really not a compromise. But they did give us the option as far as guys wanting to stay in the locker room. It's going to be something guys are going to have to deal with. Either it's going to be a team thing and everybody stays in the locker room or everybody goes out and stands.''

49ers CEO Jed York said every owner who voted was in agreement with the new policy, but he abstained because he wasn't comfortable with a process that didn't directly involve the players. He wouldn't say if any other owners declined to vote.

''I want to work with my team to make sure everything we do is about promoting the right types of social justice reform and getting to a better America,'' York said.

Jet owner Christopher Johnson said his team will pay any fines doled out by the league, without passing on punishment to the players.

''I will support our players wherever we land as a team,'' Johnson said. ''Our focus is not on imposing any club rules, fines or restrictions.''

Clearly, Goodell and most owners just want to put the divisive issue behind them.

The NFL started requiring players to be on the field for the anthem in 2009 - the year it signed a marketing deal with the military.

''We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,'' said Goodell, who dismissed concerns about the lack of union involvement by contending the league met with countless players over the past year.

''We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices,'' the commissioner added, ''but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.''

The owners spent more than three hours over two days addressing the contentious issue - which made it all the way to the White House.

Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system that has drawn both praise and scorn.

Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to be picked up by another team.

Trump turned the debate into a campaign issue , saying the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.'' The NFL hasn't gone that far, but Kaepernick and Reid believe they are being singled out as leaders in the movement.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL .

There was no immediate comment from Trump on the new policy, but Vice President Mike Pence called it ''a win for the fans, a win for (Trump), and a win for America.'' Last season, Pence walked out of game at Indianapolis after some players kneeled during the anthem.

''Americans can once again come together around what unites us - our flag, our military, and our National Anthem. Thank you NFL,'' Pence tweeted, adding the hashtag ''ProudToStand.''

York said he intended to meet with his players to discuss the change.

''They know I will stand up for them,'' York said. ''I hope we can have a good, respectful conversation: Is it the best policy for us to write a check to the league (for further on-field protests) or can we find a better way to use this money?''

York said other initiatives were in the works, including a suspension of all concessions sales during the national anthem .

''If we want to be sacrosanct, if we want to honor the flag, we've got to make sure we go through a litany of things,'' he said. ''We're not going to force people to stand in their seats, but we're certainly going to make sure we're not profiting during that two or three minutes of time during the game.''

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

Associated Press Writer George Henry in Atlanta and AP Sports Writers Will Graves in Pittsburgh and Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this report.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Critics: NFL decision chooses mainstream appeal over players

WASHINGTON (AP) With its decision to ban kneeling during the national anthem, critics are accusing the NFL of prioritizing being in the good financial graces of mainstream America over the social justice passions of its players trying to draw attention to the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police.

Some opponents of the new policy now vow to never watch an NFL game again.

The NFL's new anthem policy - similar to NBA rules in place for decades - makes the athletes stand for ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' or be absent from the field while it's played.

Critics say the league acted without input from its majority-black players and buckled to pressure from some major advertisers and even President Donald Trump, who rallied his mostly-white base against players for failing to display their patriotism, shifting the debate from social justice for minorities to how to act during the anthem itself. Others, including some players, applauded the league's action or took no issue with the policy.

''I think they made this decision to placate Donald Trump and those like him who blindly equate standing for the national anthem with patriotism,'' said Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. ''The country I want is a country where everyone wants to stand for the national anthem,'' Richmond said, emphasizing the word ''wants.''

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted ''(hash)Winning'' and declared the decision ''a win for the fans, a win for (President Trump), and a win for America.''

The NFL started requiring players in the league to be on the field for the anthem in 2009 - the year it signed a marketing deal with the military. Its new rule passed Wednesday permits players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requires them to stand if they come to the field.

Taking a knee during the anthem has been an issue since August 2016, when now-unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick started protesting the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police. The issue bubbled over from the field into living rooms as other players joined the movement, and morphed into a larger discussion last fall when Trump called on NFL owners to fire players who did not stand during the national anthem.

''This is white supremacy, period. A blatant and disgusting attempt to strip black athletes of their voice and reduce them to a number on a jersey - all while continuing to profit off of their bodies,'' said Rashad Robinson, executive director of advocacy group Color of Change.

Bree Newsome, who climbed a pole to snatch down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse in 2015, tweeted: ''For the white-owned NFL to blackball Kaepernick & then change policy to specifically target Black athletes' protest of racism is not simply a matter of football. It is about using one of the largest stages in America to reinforce racial caste in USA.''

Civil rights groups denounced the decision.

''Instead of working together to address an issue disproportionately plaguing the communities of the majority of NFL players, the owners instead desire that players bury their heads, shut up, and just play football,'' NAACP chairman Derrick Johnson said.

Kaepernick and other NFL players who kneeled said their protests were over the shootings and other mistreatment of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement. The quarterback was not resigned by the San Francisco 49ers after beginning his protest and has not played for an NFL team since. He has filed a grievance against the league, as has out of work safety and fellow protester Eric Reid.

Calls to boycott the NFL because of the anthem decision started immediately online. NFL fans previously had threatened to boycott the NFL because players were kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner, and others said they wouldn't watch until Kaepernick was signed by a team. Now a new group is promising not to watch pro football games.

''As a former NFL player I am extremely conflicted but more than likely will not be supporting anymore until this is resolved amongst other issues,'' said Matthew A. Cherry, who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens.

The NFL Players Association said it would challenge any changes that violate the collective bargaining agreement.

''This is fear of a diminished bottom line. It's also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation,'' Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long said on Twitter . ''This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it. It also lets you, the fan, know where our league stands.''

Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea, a 12-year NFL veteran, said ''fining players for really expressing what they believe, I think that's kind of overboard.''

Others said they approved of the compromise.

''I'm going to stand for the national anthem,'' Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe said. ''Whatever anybody else wants to do, that's their decision and they have the right to their opinion. So, they can do whatever they want - as long as they stay in the locker room, I guess.''

Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster shrugged his shoulders when asked about the policy and said that in a way, players are powerless.

''If the team says, `This is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut,'' Foster said.

---

AP sports writers Will Graves in Pittsburgh, Bob Baum in Phoenix, Arnie Stapleton in Denver, Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia.

---

Jesse J. Holland covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. Contact him at jholland(at)ap.org, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jessejholland . You can read his stories at AP at http://bit.ly/storiesbyjessejholland

Read more

49ers' Foster won't stand trial on domestic violence charges

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) A Santa Clara County judge ruled Wednesday that San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster will not have to stand trial on domestic violence charges after determining there was no evidence that Foster ever hit his ex-girlfriend.

Judge Nona Klippen said prosecutors didn't meet the burden of probable cause on charges of felony domestic violence and forcefully attempting to dissuade a witness.

Foster was also charged with felony possession of an assault weapon after officers found a Sig Sauer 516 short-barreled rifle in his home while investigating his ex-girlfriend's domestic violence report. That charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.

The 49ers have not allowed Foster to take part in the offseason program while he dealt with these charges and general manager John Lynch had said he would be cut from the team if it was determined that he hit a woman. Foster will be allowed back Thursday now that the domestic violence charges have been dropped.

''It has been made clear to Reuben that his place on this team is one that must continue to be earned,'' Lynch said. ''We will continue to monitor the remaining misdemeanor charge.''

The prosecutor's office released a statement expressing disappointment in the judge's decision.

''We are disappointed because the evidence demonstrated that Mr. Foster seriously hurt his girlfriend,'' the statement said. ''Some have wondered why we still think Mr. Foster hurt his girlfriend when she said that he didn't. Recantation is common among domestic violence victims. Some are scared, some feel guilty, some are coerced, some need money. Whatever the cause, we move forward on cases when victims falsely recant because we know that if we don't more victims will be hurt.''

The accuser, Elissa Ennis, recanted her accusations two days after telling police she was hit in the head eight to 10 times by Foster. She testified at a preliminary hearing last week that the injuries were caused by a fight with another woman and she gave prosecutors video of that fight. She said she lied initially because she wanted retribution after Foster tried to end their relationship.

Klippen said recantations aren't uncommon in domestic violence cases but said there was no supporting evidence in this case that Foster had attacked Ennis.

''The injuries appear more consistent with a fight with another woman on a street than with being hit in the head by this defendant,'' Klippen said while ruling from the bench.

Klippen also pointed to the fact that Ennis appeared ''unusually calm'' while making a second 911 call reporting the incident. A bystander who gave her a phone to make the call testified she wasn't frantic and didn't appear to have serious injuries, and there was no evidence of prior abuse. Ennis also testified that she had made false allegations in another case after a boyfriend broke up with her.

Prosecutor Kevin Smith had no comment while leaving the courthouse after the ruling and Foster only gave a thumbs-up before getting into a car with his attorney.

The 49ers drafted Foster 31st overall last year after questions about his health and character caused him to drop from being a possible top 10 pick.

Foster delivered on the field, ranking second on the team with 72 tackles in 10 games as a rookie and looking like a key part of San Francisco's defensive future.

''I'm excited to get him back, give him a hug and move forward,'' left tackle Joe Staley said.

Foster was charged in January in Alabama with second-degree marijuana possession before the incident in February that led to this case. Foster is due in court next month for a hearing in his marijuana case.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league will ''continue to monitor all developments in the matter which remains under review.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Critics: NFL decision chooses mainstream appeal over players

WASHINGTON (AP) With its decision to ban kneeling during the national anthem, critics are accusing the NFL of prioritizing being in the good financial graces of mainstream America over the social justice passions of its players trying to draw attention to the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police.

Some opponents of the new policy now vow to never watch an NFL game again.

The NFL's new anthem policy - similar to NBA rules in place for decades - makes the athletes stand for ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' or be absent from the field while it's played.

Critics say the league acted without input from its majority-black players and buckled to pressure from some major advertisers and even President Donald Trump, who rallied his mostly-white base against players for failing to display their patriotism, shifting the debate from social justice for minorities to how to act during the anthem itself. Others, including some players, applauded the league's action or took no issue with the policy.

''I think they made this decision to placate Donald Trump and those like him who blindly equate standing for the national anthem with patriotism,'' said Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. ''The country I want is a country where everyone wants to stand for the national anthem,'' Richmond said, emphasizing the word ''wants.''

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted ''(hash)Winning'' and declared the decision ''a win for the fans, a win for (President Trump), and a win for America.''

The NFL started requiring players in the league to be on the field for the anthem in 2009 - the year it signed a marketing deal with the military. Its new rule passed Wednesday permits players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requires them to stand if they come to the field.

Taking a knee during the anthem has been an issue since August 2016, when now-unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick started protesting the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police. The issue bubbled over from the field into living rooms as other players joined the movement, and morphed into a larger discussion last fall when Trump called on NFL owners to fire players who did not stand during the national anthem.

''This is white supremacy, period. A blatant and disgusting attempt to strip black athletes of their voice and reduce them to a number on a jersey - all while continuing to profit off of their bodies,'' said Rashad Robinson, executive director of advocacy group Color of Change.

Bree Newsome, who climbed a pole to snatch down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse in 2015, tweeted: ''For the white-owned NFL to blackball Kaepernick & then change policy to specifically target Black athletes' protest of racism is not simply a matter of football. It is about using one of the largest stages in America to reinforce racial caste in USA.''

Civil rights groups denounced the decision.

''Instead of working together to address an issue disproportionately plaguing the communities of the majority of NFL players, the owners instead desire that players bury their heads, shut up, and just play football,'' NAACP chairman Derrick Johnson said.

Kaepernick and other NFL players who kneeled said their protests were over the shootings and other mistreatment of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement. The quarterback was not resigned by the San Francisco 49ers after beginning his protest and has not played for an NFL team since. He has filed a grievance against the league, as has out of work safety and fellow protester Eric Reid.

Calls to boycott the NFL because of the anthem decision started immediately online. NFL fans previously had threatened to boycott the NFL because players were kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner, and others said they wouldn't watch until Kaepernick was signed by a team. Now a new group is promising not to watch pro football games.

''As a former NFL player I am extremely conflicted but more than likely will not be supporting anymore until this is resolved amongst other issues,'' said Matthew A. Cherry, who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens.

The NFL Players Association said it would challenge any changes that violate the collective bargaining agreement.

''This is fear of a diminished bottom line. It's also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation,'' Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long said on Twitter . ''This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it. It also lets you, the fan, know where our league stands.''

Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea, a 12-year NFL veteran, said ''fining players for really expressing what they believe, I think that's kind of overboard.''

Others said they approved of the compromise.

''I'm going to stand for the national anthem,'' Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe said. ''Whatever anybody else wants to do, that's their decision and they have the right to their opinion. So, they can do whatever they want - as long as they stay in the locker room, I guess.''

Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster shrugged his shoulders when asked about the policy and said that in a way, players are powerless.

''If the team says, `This is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut,'' Foster said.

---

AP sports writers Will Graves in Pittsburgh, Bob Baum in Phoenix, Arnie Stapleton in Denver, Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia.

---

Jesse J. Holland covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. Contact him at jholland(at)ap.org, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jessejholland . You can read his stories at AP at http://bit.ly/storiesbyjessejholland

Read more

49ers' Foster won't stand trial on domestic violence charges

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) A Santa Clara County judge ruled Wednesday that San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster will not have to stand trial on domestic violence charges after determining there was no evidence that Foster ever hit his ex-girlfriend.

Judge Nona Klippen said prosecutors didn't meet the burden of probable cause on charges of felony domestic violence and forcefully attempting to dissuade a witness.

Foster was also charged with felony possession of an assault weapon after officers found a Sig Sauer 516 short-barreled rifle in his home while investigating his ex-girlfriend's domestic violence report. That charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.

The 49ers have not allowed Foster to take part in the offseason program while he dealt with these charges and general manager John Lynch had said he would be cut from the team if it was determined that he hit a woman. Foster will be allowed back Thursday now that the domestic violence charges have been dropped.

''It has been made clear to Reuben that his place on this team is one that must continue to be earned,'' Lynch said. ''We will continue to monitor the remaining misdemeanor charge.''

The prosecutor's office released a statement expressing disappointment in the judge's decision.

''We are disappointed because the evidence demonstrated that Mr. Foster seriously hurt his girlfriend,'' the statement said. ''Some have wondered why we still think Mr. Foster hurt his girlfriend when she said that he didn't. Recantation is common among domestic violence victims. Some are scared, some feel guilty, some are coerced, some need money. Whatever the cause, we move forward on cases when victims falsely recant because we know that if we don't more victims will be hurt.''

The accuser, Elissa Ennis, recanted her accusations two days after telling police she was hit in the head eight to 10 times by Foster. She testified at a preliminary hearing last week that the injuries were caused by a fight with another woman and she gave prosecutors video of that fight. She said she lied initially because she wanted retribution after Foster tried to end their relationship.

Klippen said recantations aren't uncommon in domestic violence cases but said there was no supporting evidence in this case that Foster had attacked Ennis.

''The injuries appear more consistent with a fight with another woman on a street than with being hit in the head by this defendant,'' Klippen said while ruling from the bench.

Klippen also pointed to the fact that Ennis appeared ''unusually calm'' while making a second 911 call reporting the incident. A bystander who gave her a phone to make the call testified she wasn't frantic and didn't appear to have serious injuries, and there was no evidence of prior abuse. Ennis also testified that she had made false allegations in another case after a boyfriend broke up with her.

Prosecutor Kevin Smith had no comment while leaving the courthouse after the ruling and Foster only gave a thumbs-up before getting into a car with his attorney.

The 49ers drafted Foster 31st overall last year after questions about his health and character caused him to drop from being a possible top 10 pick.

Foster delivered on the field, ranking second on the team with 72 tackles in 10 games as a rookie and looking like a key part of San Francisco's defensive future.

Foster then was charged in January in Alabama with second-degree marijuana possession before the incident in February that led to this case. Foster is due in court next month for a hearing in his marijuana case.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league will ''continue to monitor all developments in the matter which remains under review.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Prescott, Elliott increase roles with Witten, Bryant gone

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Less than two years removed from spectacular rookie seasons that transformed the Dallas offense, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott are even more in control of the future of the Cowboys.

The team must move on without Jason Witten and Dez Bryant.

Witten retired earlier this month to join ESPN's ''Monday Night Football'' following 15 seasons as the Cowboys tight end.

He left as the club leader in catches (1,152), receiving yards (12,448) and games played (239). Witten was selected to the Pro Bowl 11 times.

Bryant was a three-time Pro Bowler playing all eight of his NFL seasons for Dallas before being released in April.

''As we lost those guys, the first statement coming in was we're not trying to replace those guys,'' Prescott said Wednesday after the Cowboys completed the second of three days of offseason practices this week.

''Those guys are irreplaceable.''

Prescott knows something about replacing a big-name Cowboy. He did so after four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo was lost to injury before the 2016 season.

As a fourth-round selection in 2016, Prescott led Dallas to a 13-3 record, an NFL East title and was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Elliott, Dallas' first-round pick that year, led the NFL in rushing yards in 2016 with 1,631. Last season, he was suspended for six games because of domestic violence allegations. The Cowboys dropped to 9-7, finishing four games behind the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in the division.

Witten most often led quietly, by example. Bryant was vocal, animated both on and off the field.

Prescott said his leadership style probably more resembles Witten's.

''Those guys did a great job of encouraging me to be the kind of leader that I am,'' Prescott said. ''Kind of making me take charge. Now with those guys gone, it's really no different.''

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Prescott made his presence felt in the locker room immediately.

''He's had really unique leadership qualities,'' Garrett said. ''The best leaders develop relationships with people, and he did that right from the start. It wasn't like he was banging the drum saying, `I'm a leader. I'm a leader.'''

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan sees a different type of leadership style in Elliott.

''Zeke sure brings a lot when it comes to his approach and how he plays, his physicality,'' Linehan said.

Garrett said of Elliott's season in 2017: ''Obviously what went on last year was distracting to anybody. There's no question he's locked in and ready to focus on what he needs to do to be prepared to play his best football.''

As for who will most likely fill Bryant's energy role, Linehan said, ''We don't have a whole ton of rah-rah guys yet. They're working on getting to know their jobs and earning their keep. I think that will get developed.''

Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns are among the newcomers who could fill the void of two players who combined last season for 132 catches and 1,398 receiving yards. Austin was acquired in a draft-day trade while Hurns signed as a free agent in March.

Two-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin hasn't participated in this week's team drills so far, though he's working out at the team facility on his own, while his representatives try to work out a new contract.

Martin is in the fifth year of his rookie deal at a salary of $9.4 million. The Cowboys drafted him out of Notre Dame with the 16th overall pick in 2014. He has started all 67 games in the regular season and playoffs for the Cowboys.

''He's one of the best players we have,'' Garrett said. ''He represents everything we want. We want him to be here for a long, long time. But there's a business side to this, and we all understand that.''

''We miss having `70' out there, but 100 percent understand the situation,'' Prescott said. ''Know why he's doing it. Want the best for him. I hope he gets everything he deserves.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

49ers' Foster won't stand trial on domestic violence charges

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) A Santa Clara County judge ruled Wednesday that San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster will not have to stand trial on domestic violence charges after determining there was no evidence that Foster ever hit his ex-girlfriend.

Judge Nona Klippen said prosecutors didn't meet the burden of probable cause on charges of felony domestic violence and forcefully attempting to dissuade a witness.

Foster was also charged with felony possession of an assault weapon after officers found a Sig Sauer 516 short-barreled rifle in his home while investigating his ex-girlfriend's domestic violence report. That charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.

The 49ers have not allowed Foster to take part in the offseason program while he dealt with these charges and general manager John Lynch had said he would be cut from the team if it was determined that he hit a woman. Foster will be allowed back Thursday now that the domestic violence charges have been dropped.

''It has been made clear to Reuben that his place on this team is one that must continue to be earned,'' Lynch said. ''We will continue to monitor the remaining misdemeanor charge.''

The accuser, Elissa Ennis, recanted her accusations two days after telling police she was hit in the head eight to 10 times by Foster. She testified at a preliminary hearing last week that the injuries were caused by a fight with another woman and she gave prosecutors video of that fight. She said she lied initially because she wanted retribution after Foster tried to end their relationship.

Klippen said recantations aren't uncommon in domestic violence cases but said there was no supporting evidence in this case that Foster had attacked Ennis.

''The injuries appear more consistent with a fight with another woman on a street than with being hit in the head by this defendant,'' Klippen said while ruling from the bench.

Klippen also pointed to the fact that Ennis appeared ''unusually calm'' while making a second 911 call reporting the incident. A bystander who gave her a phone to make the call testified she wasn't frantic and didn't appear to have serious injuries, and there was no evidence of prior abuse. Ennis also testified that she had made false allegations in another case after a boyfriend broke up with her.

Prosecutor Kevin Smith had no comment while leaving the courthouse after the ruling and Foster only gave a thumbs-up before getting into a car with his attorney.

The 49ers drafted Foster 31st overall last year after questions about his health and character caused him to drop from being a possible top 10 pick.

Foster delivered on the field, ranking second on the team with 72 tackles in 10 games as a rookie and looking like a key part of San Francisco's defensive future.

Foster then was charged in January in Alabama with second-degree marijuana possession before the incident in February that led to this case. Foster is due in court next month for a hearing in his marijuana case.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league will ''continue to monitor all developments in the matter which remains under review.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Stand or stay out of sight: NFL takes on anthem protesters

ATLANTA (AP) Stand or stay out of sight.

Looking to quell a national debate that was sparked by Colin Kaepernick, stoked by President Trump and some say chipped away at the very popularity of America's game, NFL owners approved a new policy Wednesday that allows players to protest during the national anthem by staying in the locker room but forbids them from sitting or taking a knee if they're on the field.

Commissioner Roger Goodell called it a compromise aimed at putting the focus back on football after a tumultuous year in which television ratings dipped nearly 10 percent. He said it was unanimously approved by NFL owners, but that was immediately called into question when the head of the San Francisco 49ers - Kaepernick's former team, no less - said he abstained from the vote. The owner of the New York Jets also took a more conciliatory approach, promising not to punish any player who continues to protest against social injustice in full view of fans.

The players' union said it wasn't consulted in the talks and would file a grievance against any change in the collective bargaining agreement. The owners seemed to address that concern by saying only teams would be fined for violations, not individual players. But the league also cleared the way for teams to set their own workplace policies, raising the specter of an even more convoluted approach to an issue that has dominated conversation away from the field.

The head of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith , angrily denounced the new policy and called it a blow against America's most basic of rights - freedom of speech. Since the new policy is a change in the terms and conditions of employment that was not collectively bargained, any attempts to fine individual players would surely be opposed by the union.

''Management has chosen to quash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so,'' Smith wrote on Twitter. ''I know that not all of the NFL CEO's are for this and I know that true American patriots are not cheering today.''

So, what happens to a player who decides to keep kneeling during ''The Star-Spangled Banner?'' Considering Kaepernick is heading into his second year without a job and a former teammate and fellow protester, Eric Reid, is also out of work, it seemed to clear to at least one player what message the NFL was trying to send.

''If the team says `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut,'' Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster said. ''They'll find a way to get you up out of there.''

Arizona Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea, who has been in the league for a dozen years, scoffed at Goodell's notion that this was a step toward appeasing all sides.

''If you want to use your right of freedom of speech and take a knee, you're going to get fined,'' Bethea said. ''So it's really not a compromise. But they did give us the option as far as guys wanting to stay in the locker room. It's going to be something guys are going to have to deal with. Either it's going to be a team thing and everybody stays in the locker room or everybody goes out and stands.''

49ers CEO Jed York said every owner who voted was in agreement with the new policy, but he abstained because he wasn't comfortable with a process that didn't directly involve the players. He wouldn't say if any other owners declined to vote.

''I want to work with my team to make sure everything we do is about promoting the right types of social justice reform and getting to a better America,'' York said.

Jet owner Christopher Johnson said his team will pay any fines doled out by the league, without passing on punishment to the players.

''I will support our players wherever we land as a team,'' Johnson said. ''Our focus is not on imposing any club rules, fines or restrictions.''

Clearly, Goodell and most owners just want to put the divisive issue behind them.

The NFL started requiring players to be on the field for the anthem in 2009 - the year it signed a marketing deal with the military.

''We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,'' said Goodell, who dismissed concerns about the lack of union involvement by contending the league met with countless players over the past year.

''We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices,'' the commissioner added, ''but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.''

The owners spent more than three hours over two days addressing the contentious issue - which made it all the way to the White House.

Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system that has drawn both praise and scorn.

Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to be picked up by another team.

Trump turned the debate into a campaign issue , saying the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.'' The NFL hasn't gone that far, but Kaepernick and Reid believe they are being singled out as leaders in the movement.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL .

There was no immediate comment from Trump on the new policy, but Vice President Mike Pence called it ''a win for the fans, a win for (Trump), and a win for America.'' Last season, Pence walked out of game at Indianapolis after some players kneeled during the anthem.

''Americans can once again come together around what unites us - our flag, our military, and our National Anthem. Thank you NFL,'' Pence tweeted, adding the hashtag ''ProudToStand.''

York said he intended to meet with his players to discuss the change.

''They know I will stand up for them,'' York said. ''I hope we can have a good, respectful conversation: Is it the best policy for us to write a check to the league (for further on-field protests) or can we find a better way to use this money?''

York said other initiatives were in the works, including a suspension of all concessions sales during the national anthem .

''If we want to be sacrosanct, if we want to honor the flag, we've got to make sure we go through a litany of things,'' he said. ''We're not going to force people to stand in their seats, but we're certainly going to make sure we're not profiting during that two or three minutes of time during the game.''

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

Associated Press Writer George Henry in Atlanta and AP Sports Writers Will Graves in Pittsburgh and Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this report.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

New Cardinals cornerback Taylor looks to earn starting job

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) For now anyway, Jamar Taylor seems the odds-on favorite to win the cornerback job opposite Patrick Peterson, a chore that's loaded with action since that's the direction most opponents decide to throw.

Last week, the Arizona Cardinals sent a 2020 sixth-round draft pick to Cleveland in exchange for Taylor, who started 29 games for the Browns the past two seasons.

''It means another opportunity,'' Taylor said after he practiced Wednesday, the second day of the Cardinals' voluntary workouts this week. ''Obviously, they (the Browns) didn't have me in their plans up there. It is what it is. I felt like I did what I needed to do up there as far as help change the culture. I was very loyal to the Browns, but letting me go, it definitely puts another fire in my gut to come out here and ball out.''

First-year coach Steve Wilks said Taylor might be the leading candidate but he has to earn the job.

''I think when you look at what he's done on paper, I think you can say that,'' Wilks said, ''but once we get out on the field, it's a clean slate for everybody.''

Taylor said he understands that.

''I've always got 100 percent confidence in myself,'' he said. ''But at the same time, you've got to put the work in. You can't just come in here and be like oh, you're going to be the guy. There's a ton of guys in here that are really good. I've been watching the last couple of days. I just have to come in here and make sure I'm doing my job so I get that opportunity.''

The Cardinals think highly enough of Taylor that they released another veteran cornerback, Marcus Williams, on Monday.

Wilks is known for his work with cornerbacks. He was cornerbacks coach of the Carolina Panthers before being promoted to defensive coordinator there last season.

''I'm excited,'' Taylor said. ''I've watched his defenses a lot. I'm a big film guy. Just seeing him when he was with Carolina, knowing him when he was with San Diego. I had some old friends that played for him. I've heard what type of coach he is and then seeing out there the past couple of days, it's amazing. This whole organization is a great organization.''

Asked what he thinks of Taylor, Wilks said, ''When you look at him over the time, particularly a couple of years ago when he had his best season on the other side of (Joe) Haden, to make plays on the ball, extremely smart. He's physical and I love the way he tackles. We take a lot of pride in that, of course I do, in making sure our cornerbacks tackle.''

Taylor's three career interceptions came in that 2016 season opposite the longtime standout Haden and he said he welcomes the challenge of playing opposite Peterson.

''It's just more plays for whoever's over there,'' Taylor said. ''More plays, that's how you've got to look at it. More opportunities for you to get picks. When I went to Cleveland, I played opposite Joe Haden. That meant more plays that year. I made a lot of plays on the ball. Playing opposite from a guy like Pat, it's a huge deal, you've got to hold your own.''

The Browns went 1-31 in Taylor's two seasons there, but the losing didn't wear him down, he said.

''I've always felt like I was a winner,'' he said. ''I rarely lost in high school, didn't really lose in college. My mindset was just worry about what I can do on the field. If that meant staying late and making sure I had my job right, that's what it meant. I just always tried to keep the other guys together, because in the NFL you could win or lose by three points, two points, one point. Every Sunday is different.''

Taylor, and especially his wife Mackenzie, are happy to be moving out West. She grew up in suburban Phoenix. He was a second-round draft choice by the Dolphins out of Boise State in 2013.

''She's more of a topic than I am,'' he said. ''We're both excited. I've been waiting to play on the West Coast my whole career. I went to Miami and all the way north to Cleveland. So I'm happy to be kind of close to home. I know she's happy to be around her family. We're going to definitely have way more support at games now.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

The Latest: Bethea: New NFL policy 'not really a compromise'

ATLANTA (AP) The Latest on the NFL's new policy requiring players to stand if they are on the field during the national anthem but permitting them to stay in the locker room if they prefer (all times EDT):

---

6 p.m.

Arizona Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea says the NFL's new national anthem policy is ''not really a compromise,'' as touted by the league.

The 12-year NFL veteran noted that ''if you want to use your right of freedom of speech and take a knee, you're going to get fined. So it's really not a compromise.''

(In reality, the team, not the player, would be fined.)

Bethea noted that the NFL did give players the option of staying in the locker room while the anthem is played.

''Either it's going to be a team thing and everybody stays in the locker room or everybody goes out and stands,'' Bethea said. ''But I think the fine thing is kind of overboard. I really do think fining players for really expressing what they believe, I think that's kind of overboard.

''It's a club policy so if the club supports the guys to do as they wish, then that's fine, too. If the club decides everybody stays in the locker room, that's a decision every team has to make.''

The players' union also dismissed the idea that the policy was a compromise.

''The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new `policy,''' the NFLPA said in a statement.

---

5:40 p.m.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott says he's happy an agreement was reached on the anthem issue.

Prescott says that ''I'll be out there standing.'' He added: ''I'm sure we all know what (owner) Jerry (Jones) said. His statement was last year, and I don't see that changing.''

While there was never a formal public declaration of such by Jones last year, the Cowboys owner had threatened to bench any players who did kneel.

During a Cowboys game at San Francisco in late October, about a half-dozen 49ers kneeled while all the Dallas players stood, though defensive tackle David Irving raised his fist after the anthem ended.

---

5:30 p.m.

The Minnesota Vikings haven't had any players kneel during the national anthem before games, and that's fine by coach Mike Zimmer.

Zimmer has frequently avoided commentary on such non-football subjects, but on Wednesday after practice, he made his feelings known about the controversy. He said he was proud of the team last season for standing during the anthem.

Zimmer said: ''I think it's important we represent our country the right way. A lot of people have died for that flag. That flag represents our country and what we stand for.''

---

5:10 p.m.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor learned of the new anthem policy shortly after practice. He was a bit surprised players were not consulted.

Taylor said that ''to make a decision that strong, you would hope the players have input on it but obviously not.''

Taylor added that ''it's what we have to deal with as players, good or bad. But at the end of the day, they call the shots and make their rules and that's what we have to abide by.''

Taylor hopes that the focus will now be on ''what players and owners can do in the community.''

---

4:45 p.m.

The New York Jets say they will pay any fines and not penalize players if they violate a new NFL policy to stand or stay in the locker room during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.''

Jets owner Christopher Johnson said Wednesday the team is focused on working with players to advance social justice issues rather than creating club rules or penalties that restrict demonstrations.

The ruling approved by NFL owners fines teams for their players kneeling on the field during the national anthem in a move meant to stem widespread debate over protests started by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The policy leaves it up to individual teams to decide whether to pass that cost on by punishing players directly.

Johnson says he plans to meet with Jets players and coaches to discuss the decision. He says he'll support the players ''wherever we land as a team.''

---

4:25 p.m.

Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho credits Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and Michael Thomas for using their platform to raise awareness of social injustice.

But he sidestepped the questions when asked if he was OK with how the league implemented the changes to its national anthem policy and whether the union should have had more input.

Acho, a union representative, said that ''of course, somebody who is standing on the side of the union is going to say yes and people who didn't give the union a say - the owners - are going to say no. And so, what I do think is, I think we're in a really good place, as a team, honestly as a country. Because we're at this point, almost like a point of contrition, right? What do you do now?''

Acho also said the players and league need to continue working together to address the issue. He said that ''it's not an us-versus-them thing.''

---

4 p.m.

Denver Broncos union representative Matt Paradis says that while he wishes players were consulted on the new national anthem policy, NFL owners have every right to introduce new rules.

Paradis says that ''they are the employers, so if they want to create a stipulation, we'll go from there.''

Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe agrees with the league's new mandate for players to stand for ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' or stay inside the locker room.

Wolfe says: ''That's probably the best way to do it. The NBA's been doing it for 20 years and they haven't had an issue.''

---

2:45 p.m.

Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster shrugged his shoulders when asked about the NFL's new policy on national anthem protests, saying in a way, players are powerless.

Foster says: `If the team says, `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut. You can fight the resistance on that one but, same as we can't smoke marijuana because it's illegal in certain states, it's the same issue.''

The guard says, ''you have to adhere to the rules and if not, they'll find a way to get you up out of there.''

The Steelers botched an attempt last fall to stay out of the national anthem flap by remaining in the tunnel during a game in Chicago.

Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a graduate of West Point who did three tours in Afghanistan before joining the NFL, found himself on the field when the anthem began playing and turned to face the flag. His teammates remained in the tunnel, leading to the stark image of Villanueva standing alone while his teammates remained out of sight 20 yards away.

Villanueva and the rest of the Steelers apologized for what they called a miscommunication.

---

12:45 p.m.

NFL owners have approved a new policy aimed at ending the firestorm over national anthem protests, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

The decision was announced Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the league's spring meeting in Atlanta.

In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team - not the players. The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.

The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue - which has reached all the way to the White House.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Bears see more comfortable Trubisky emerging as leader

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) As he prepares for his second season, Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky can sense the difference and so can his teammates.

It's the faith in him and the leadership he's showing.

''I love the position I'm in and the leadership role,'' Trubisky said Wednesday.

''I have to know the guys are looking at me. Come out every day and bring the energy and make sure I'm taking care of my business so that everyone else's job is easier around them, too. That's what I'm trying to do and I love the responsibility and I'm just very excited for the continuous opportunities to move forward and move this team.''

How far the Bears go largely hinges on the development of their quarterback.

General manager Ryan Pace banked on a big payoff when he traded up a spot with San Francisco last year to draft Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick. He then largely designed the offseason game plan around his young quarterback.

The Bears hired the offensive-minded Matt Nagy off Andy Reid's staff in Kansas City to replace the fired John Fox and overhauled their receiving group, with Allen Robinson the most notable addition.

They also added some potential difference makers in the draft, taking Iowa lineman James Daniels and Memphis receiver Anthony Miller in the second round.

More than anything, they believe they surrounded Trubisky with the pieces he needs to reach his potential and invigorate a struggling franchise.

The Bears have four straight last-place finishes in the NFC North and just one playoff appearance since the 2006 team reached the Super Bowl.

Along with the new additions, the Bears are seeing a more comfortable and confident Trubisky.

''He is in more control now,'' running back Tarik Cohen said. ''He knows the players. He can really call us out. When you're a rookie, you're hesitant to really jump on guys. He's taken over more of the reins. He's in the driver's seat now.''

It's a different feeling for a quarterback who wasn't even supposed to play last season. With just 13 college starts at North Carolina, the Bears planned to have him watch from the sideline.

Instead, Mike Glennon struggled and Trubisky started the final 12 games. It was a tough spot for a raw but talented rookie.

And though he showed some promise, he clearly had room to grow. It didn't help that he was working with a struggling receiving group hit hard by injuries.

It all added up to an offense that ranked 30th overall and finished in the bottom half for the third time in four years.

But whether it's the new system and pieces around him or just the fact that he's no longer a rookie, Trubisky is more comfortable. He's embracing the responsibility that comes with his role, and he can sense the mounting faith in him.

''Nothing gives me more confidence than when my teammates believe in me,'' Trubisky said.

He's still facing a steep learning curve. The same goes for his teammates and the coaches. They're all adjusting.

''That's part of being out here, too, with these guys, the nuances of things, the year-to-year editing that you do,'' new offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said.

The system is ''100 percent'' Nagy's, Helfrich said.

As for Trubisky?

''I really like his mindset,'' Helfrich said.

He sees a quarterback who's not afraid to ask questions as he grows into the job.

''I think we all see through his eyes on a lot of things and through his brain and how he thinks through things,'' Helfrich said.

''That's a big part of it, too is just learning how that guy sees things and being able to talk and teach to that. Today he made some mistakes, today he corrected some guys, but he'll throw that away and build from the good stuff and continue to kind of add a little bit more each day.''

NOTES: WR Kevin White said the conversation with general manager Ryan Pace was ''clean cut and smooth'' when he found out the Bears weren't picking up his fifth-year option. He also said he is feeling ''really good'' as he works his way back from a broken shoulder. Drafted seventh overall in 2015 and Pace's first pick as a general manager, White has been limited to five games because of leg and shoulder injuries.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

'Miracle' TD gives Diggs 'old smile' as contract year begins

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) More than four months have passed for Stefon Diggs since his yes-that-really-happened touchdown reception for Minnesota on the desperate last play from scrimmage gave the Vikings a postseason victory for the ages over New Orleans.

He still hears about the play a couple of times per week.

As nice as the accolades can be, they won't win the Vikings any games this year.

''I'm kind of over it at this point. It's definitely a blessing, but we've got a brand new season to worry about, a lot of exciting things taking place right now, so I'm going to focus on that,'' Diggs said. ''It's definitely an old smile right now.''

After a career-high eight touchdowns in 2017 while forming one of the NFL's best wide receiver duos with Adam Thielen, Diggs has entered the final year of his rookie contract, bound for a big raise.

With Kirk Cousins now in place, he's working with his fourth primary starting quarterback in as many seasons in the league. John DeFilippo also represents his third offensive coordinator.

Diggs is not one to be ruffled, though, not with the hurdles he has cleared over his career and the setbacks he's faced in life since his dad died 10 years ago.

''For me, it's just the same old building process, getting back going, getting the trust of your quarterback. That excites me, having a new challenge,'' said Diggs, who went to the Atlanta area with Thielen earlier this spring to hang out with and catch passes from Cousins.

Those receiver-quarterback relationships are as important as any on the roster.

''As far as being our general and the guy that's going to lead us, I put 100 percent faith in him,'' Diggs said.

Diggs is not the only integral Vikings player with an expiring deal, joining linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive end Danielle Hunter in the about-to-get-paid-a-lot club with no guarantee all three of them will fit under the salary cap.

The price for Diggs has markedly increased since the ''Minneapolis Miracle " game not only because of the clutch catch.

Mike Evans (Tampa Bay), Sammy Watkins (Kansas City) and Jarvis Landry (Cleveland) have all signed new contracts since March with annual average values of more than $15 million. Diggs has been watching, naturally, with several public praises of his peers . Reading between the tweets? Diggs is clearly confident he'll be in their situation soon.

''I like to congratulate guys every chance I get,'' Diggs said. ''So for my particular situation, I let my resume speak for itself. It'll figure itself out.''

If an extension doesn't get done in 2018 and he becomes a free agent, he could still sign with the Vikings, of course. Exploring the market doesn't sound like a goal of his, however.

''I love playing for the Vikings. I started here. I've had all my time here. I love my teammates. I love my staff. There's no place I'd rather be,'' he said.

Barr was the only notable player missing on Wednesday from practice. Coach Mike Zimmer said Barr told him he wouldn't attend, but Zimmer didn't divulge a reason. Barr's absence could be driven by a form of soft protest about the lack of a new deal or self-preservation from injury. These organized team activities in late May and early June are not required. Only the minicamp in mid-June is contractually mandatory.

One player whose presence was more pertinent than anyone's absence was kicker Kai Forbath, who was startled last month when the Vikings drafted Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson in the fifth round. Such moves rarely end well for the incumbent.

''I fortunately have never lost a competition, and I'm not shying away from this one just because they drafted him,'' Forbath said. ''As long as I make my kicks, everything should take care of itself.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Lights, cameras, Browns: Team set for "Hard Knocks" series

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Mostly unwatchable for several seasons, the Cleveland Browns could become a summer TV sensation.

HBO's banking on it.

''It's an underdog story,'' said network executive Peter Nelson. ''And people love rooting for underdogs.''

Despite the Browns' 0-16 record last season and dismal decades of futility for one of the league's signature franchises, NFL Films insists the Browns are the team it wanted to feature most on ''Hard Knocks,'' the award-winning documentary series that takes fans behind the scenes for an in-depth look at the grind - and the drama - of training camp.

''We got the team we wanted,'' said Ken Rodgers, NFL Films VP senior coordinating producer, ''our No. 1 pick, the Browns, to be on our show. We think it's the right time with the right team.''

Rodgers said the Browns were appealing on so many levels, but mostly because of their comeback story - the climb to being competitive again - is universal and strikes a chord with any sports fan.

''We tell our kids that it's not about how you get knocked down, it's about how you get back up and this is a unique situation, having such turnover on the roster, of starting anew, with some old pieces, with some valuable new pieces, that we just felt will speak to a lot of fans,'' he said.

''What we generally think of when we select a team is, who would the national audience be interested in finding out what's going on, what's going on with the team? And nationally now, the Browns are a big story, rightfully so.''

Cleveland had one of the busiest offseasons of any team. The Browns traded for quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry before selecting Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in the draft. Mayfield's arrival has energized Cleveland's fan base and created a national buzz about the Browns.

NFL Films is certain to train its cameras on the colorful Mayfield, whose on-field antics at Oklahoma earned him a bad-boy reputation.

During his opening remarks, Rodgers said he wanted to ''address the elephant in the room'' and seemed to be implying Mayfield.

''I think a lot of people will be asking how much a certain someone will be featured,'' he said, ''and this position on a football team demands a lot of attention, and it has always been that way for ''Hard Knocks.'' So, yes, we definitely will be featuring head coach Hue Jackson.''

Cleveland's third-year coach previously appeared on ''Hard Knocks'' when he was on Cincinnati's staff in 2013. Jackson enjoyed the experience and said he's not worried about the added camera crews and attention around camp affecting the QB battle between Taylor and Mayfield.

''It's a competition anyway,'' he said. ''Tyrod's our starting quarterback. Baker's our No. 1 pick. He's our quarterback of the future. I've said that since this happened. I don't think that will change. I want those guys to be exposed for what they do, because I think our fans want to know them and what makes the tick. But at the same time, I don't think it should put any more pressure on what we need to do as a football team about who's playing quarterback for us.''

Jackson plans to speak to his team about appearing on the show. He doesn't want anything to alter their focus in camp, and he's confident the Browns' leaders will make sure players don't play up to the cameras.

Running back Duke Johnson fears some of his teammates may see the show as an opportunity for publicity.

''I hope it doesn't really change much, but it's easy to say that now - there's no cameras here,'' he said following practice. ''I hope we don't have a lot of guys that turn into actors and try to be all Hollywood. If Hollywood is what you want to do after football, go for it.''

Jackson made it clear he doesn't want HBO's cameras around next week when he makes good on his promise and jumps into Lake Erie.

''No, please, no,'' he said.

NOTES: Johnson said he's ''very optimistic'' that he'll work out a contract extension with the team. He's in the final year of his rookie deal. ''It's going well,'' he said. ''It's not going bad. This is kind of my first contract negotiation. I'm not sure the timetable of when it's supposed to be done, when it should be done, so we're taking it one day at a time.'' Johnson led the team in catches (74) and yards receiving (693) last season.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

The Latest: Bethea: New NFL policy 'not really a compromise'

ATLANTA (AP) The Latest on the NFL's new policy requiring players to stand if they are on the field during the national anthem but permitting them to stay in the locker room if they prefer (all times EDT):

---

6 p.m.

Arizona Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea says the NFL's new national anthem policy is ''not really a compromise,'' as touted by the league.

The 12-year NFL veteran noted that ''if you want to use your right of freedom of speech and take a knee, you're going to get fined. So it's really not a compromise.''

(In reality, the team, not the player, would be fined.)

Bethean noted that the NFL did give players the option of staying in the locker room while the anthem is played.

''Either it's going to be a team thing and everybody stays in the locker room or everybody goes out and stands,'' Bethea said. ''But I think the fine thing is kind of overboard. I really do think fining players for really expressing what they believe, I think that's kind of overboard.

''It's a club policy so if the club supports the guys to do as they wish, then that's fine, too. If the club decides everybody stays in the locker room, that's a decision every team has to make.''

The players' union also dismissed the idea that the policy was a compromise.

''The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new `policy,''' the NFLPA said in a statement.

---

5:40 p.m.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott says he's happy an agreement was reached on the anthem issue.

Prescott says that ''I'll be out there standing.'' He added: ''I'm sure we all know what (owner) Jerry (Jones) said. His statement was last year, and I don't see that changing.''

While there was never a formal public declaration of such by Jones last year, the Cowboys owner had threatened to bench any players who did kneel.

During a Cowboys game at San Francisco in late October, about a half-dozen 49ers kneeled while all the Dallas players stood, though defensive tackle David Irving raised his fist after the anthem ended.

---

5:30 p.m.

The Minnesota Vikings haven't had any players kneel during the national anthem before games, and that's fine by coach Mike Zimmer.

Zimmer has frequently avoided commentary on such non-football subjects, but on Wednesday after practice, he made his feelings known about the controversy. He said he was proud of the team last season for standing during the anthem.

Zimmer said: ''I think it's important we represent our country the right way. A lot of people have died for that flag. That flag represents our country and what we stand for.''

---

5:10 p.m.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor learned of the new anthem policy shortly after practice. He was a bit surprised players were not consulted.

Taylor said that ''to make a decision that strong, you would hope the players have input on it but obviously not.''

Taylor added that ''it's what we have to deal with as players, good or bad. But at the end of the day, they call the shots and make their rules and that's what we have to abide by.''

Taylor hopes that the focus will now be on ''what players and owners can do in the community.''

---

4:45 p.m.

The New York Jets say they will pay any fines and not penalize players if they violate a new NFL policy to stand or stay in the locker room during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.''

Jets owner Christopher Johnson said Wednesday the team is focused on working with players to advance social justice issues rather than creating club rules or penalties that restrict demonstrations.

The ruling approved by NFL owners fines teams for their players kneeling on the field during the national anthem in a move meant to stem widespread debate over protests started by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The policy leaves it up to individual teams to decide whether to pass that cost on by punishing players directly.

Johnson says he plans to meet with Jets players and coaches to discuss the decision. He says he'll support the players ''wherever we land as a team.''

---

4:25 p.m.

Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho credits Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and Michael Thomas for using their platform to raise awareness of social injustice.

But he sidestepped the questions when asked if he was OK with how the league implemented the changes to its national anthem policy and whether the union should have had more input.

Acho, a union representative, said that ''of course, somebody who is standing on the side of the union is going to say yes and people who didn't give the union a say - the owners - are going to say no. And so, what I do think is, I think we're in a really good place, as a team, honestly as a country. Because we're at this point, almost like a point of contrition, right? What do you do now?''

Acho also said the players and league need to continue working together to address the issue. He said that ''it's not an us-versus-them thing.''

---

4 p.m.

Denver Broncos union representative Matt Paradis says that while he wishes players were consulted on the new national anthem policy, NFL owners have every right to introduce new rules.

Paradis says that ''they are the employers, so if they want to create a stipulation, we'll go from there.''

Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe agrees with the league's new mandate for players to stand for ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' or stay inside the locker room.

Wolfe says: ''That's probably the best way to do it. The NBA's been doing it for 20 years and they haven't had an issue.''

---

2:45 p.m.

Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster shrugged his shoulders when asked about the NFL's new policy on national anthem protests, saying in a way, players are powerless.

Foster says: `If the team says, `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut. You can fight the resistance on that one but, same as we can't smoke marijuana because it's illegal in certain states, it's the same issue.''

The guard says, ''you have to adhere to the rules and if not, they'll find a way to get you up out of there.''

The Steelers botched an attempt last fall to stay out of the national anthem flap by remaining in the tunnel during a game in Chicago.

Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a graduate of West Point who did three tours in Afghanistan before joining the NFL, found himself on the field when the anthem began playing and turned to face the flag. His teammates remained in the tunnel, leading to the stark image of Villanueva standing alone while his teammates remained out of sight 20 yards away.

Villanueva and the rest of the Steelers apologized for what they called a miscommunication.

---

12:45 p.m.

NFL owners have approved a new policy aimed at ending the firestorm over national anthem protests, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

The decision was announced Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the league's spring meeting in Atlanta.

In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team - not the players. The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.

The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue - which has reached all the way to the White House.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Jets to pay fines if players violate anthem policy

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets say they will pay any fines and not penalize players if they violate a new NFL policy to stand or stay in the locker room during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.''

Jets owner Christopher Johnson said Wednesday the team is focused on working with players to advance social justice issues rather than creating club rules or penalties that restrict demonstrations.

The ruling approved by NFL owners fines teams for their players kneeling on the field during the national anthem in a move meant to stem widespread debate over protests started by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The policy leaves it up to individual teams to decide whether to pass that cost on by punishing players directly.

Johnson says he plans to meet with Jets players and coaches to discuss the decision. He says he'll support the players ''wherever we land as a team.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

The Latest: Zimmer proud Vikings didn't kneel last year

ATLANTA (AP) The Latest on the NFL's new policy requiring players to stand if they are on the field during the national anthem but permitting them to stay in the locker room if they prefer (all times local):

---

5:30 p.m.

The Minnesota Vikings haven't had any players kneel during the national anthem before games, and that's fine by coach Mike Zimmer.

Zimmer has frequently avoided commentary on such non-football subjects, but on Wednesday after practice, he made his feelings known about the controversy. He said he was proud of the team last season for standing during the anthem.

Zimmer said: ''I think it's important we represent our country the right way. A lot of people have died for that flag. That flag represents our country and what we stand for.''

---

5:10 p.m.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor learned of the new anthem policy shortly after practice. He was a bit surprised players were not consulted.

Taylor said that ''to make a decision that strong, you would hope the players have input on it but obviously not.''

Taylor added that ''it's what we have to deal with as players, good or bad. But at the end of the day, they call the shots and make their rules and that's what we have to abide by.''

Taylor hopes that the focus will now be on ''what players and owners can do in the community.''

---

4:45 p.m.

The New York Jets say they will pay any fines and not penalize players if they violate a new NFL policy to stand or stay in the locker room during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.''

Jets owner Christopher Johnson said Wednesday the team is focused on working with players to advance social justice issues rather than creating club rules or penalties that restrict demonstrations.

The ruling approved by NFL owners fines teams for their players kneeling on the field during the national anthem in a move meant to stem widespread debate over protests started by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The policy leaves it up to individual teams to decide whether to pass that cost on by punishing players directly.

Johnson says he plans to meet with Jets players and coaches to discuss the decision. He says he'll support the players ''wherever we land as a team.''

---

4:25 p.m.

Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho credits Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and Michael Thomas for using their platform to raise awareness of social injustice.

But he sidestepped the questions when asked if he was OK with how the league implemented the changes to its national anthem policy and whether the union should have had more input.

Acho, a union representative, said that ''of course, somebody who is standing on the side of the union is going to say yes and people who didn't give the union a say - the owners - are going to say no. And so, what I do think is, I think we're in a really good place, as a team, honestly as a country. Because we're at this point, almost like a point of contrition, right? What do you do now?''

Acho also said the players and league need to continue working together to address the issue. He said that ''it's not an us-versus-them thing.''

---

4 p.m.

Denver Broncos union representative Matt Paradis says that while he wishes players were consulted on the new national anthem policy, NFL owners have every right to introduce new rules.

Paradis says that ''they are the employers, so if they want to create a stipulation, we'll go from there.''

Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe agrees with the league's new mandate for players to stand for ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' or stay inside the locker room.

Wolfe says: ''That's probably the best way to do it. The NBA's been doing it for 20 years and they haven't had an issue.''

---

2:45 p.m.

Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster shrugged his shoulders when asked about the NFL's new policy on national anthem protests, saying in a way, players are powerless.

Foster says: `If the team says, `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut. You can fight the resistance on that one but, same as we can't smoke marijuana because it's illegal in certain states, it's the same issue.''

The guard says, ''you have to adhere to the rules and if not, they'll find a way to get you up out of there.''

The Steelers botched an attempt last fall to stay out of the national anthem flap by remaining in the tunnel during a game in Chicago.

Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a graduate of West Point who did three tours in Afghanistan before joining the NFL, found himself on the field when the anthem began playing and turned to face the flag. His teammates remained in the tunnel, leading to the stark image of Villanueva standing alone while his teammates remained out of sight 20 yards away.

Villanueva and the rest of the Steelers apologized for what they called a miscommunication.

---

12:45 p.m.

NFL owners have approved a new policy aimed at ending the firestorm over national anthem protests, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

The decision was announced Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the league's spring meeting in Atlanta.

In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team - not the players. The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.

The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue - which has reached all the way to the White House.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

The Latest: Browns' Taylor surprised players had no input

ATLANTA (AP) The Latest on the NFL's new policy requiring players to stand if they are on the field during the national anthem but permitting them to stay in the locker room if they prefer (all times local):

---

5:10 p.m.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor learned of the new anthem policy shortly after practice. He was a bit surprised players were not consulted.

Taylor said that ''to make a decision that strong, you would hope the players have input on it but obviously not.''

Taylor added that ''it's what we have to deal with as players, good or bad. But at the end of the day, they call the shots and make their rules and that's what we have to abide by.''

Taylor hopes that the focus will now be on ''what players and owners can do in the community.''

---

4:45 p.m.

The New York Jets say they will pay any fines and not penalize players if they violate a new NFL policy to stand or stay in the locker room during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.''

Jets owner Christopher Johnson said Wednesday the team is focused on working with players to advance social justice issues rather than creating club rules or penalties that restrict demonstrations.

The ruling approved by NFL owners fines teams for their players kneeling on the field during the national anthem in a move meant to stem widespread debate over protests started by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The policy leaves it up to individual teams to decide whether to pass that cost on by punishing players directly.

Johnson says he plans to meet with Jets players and coaches to discuss the decision. He says he'll support the players ''wherever we land as a team.''

---

4:25 p.m.

Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho credits Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and Michael Thomas for using their platform to raise awareness of social injustice.

But he sidestepped the questions when asked if he was OK with how the league implemented the changes to its national anthem policy and whether the union should have had more input.

Acho, a union representative, said that ''of course, somebody who is standing on the side of the union is going to say yes and people who didn't give the union a say - the owners - are going to say no. And so, what I do think is, I think we're in a really good place, as a team, honestly as a country. Because we're at this point, almost like a point of contrition, right? What do you do now?''

Acho also said the players and league need to continue working together to address the issue. He said that ''it's not an us-versus-them thing.''

---

4 p.m.

Denver Broncos union representative Matt Paradis says that while he wishes players were consulted on the new national anthem policy, NFL owners have every right to introduce new rules.

Paradis says that ''they are the employers, so if they want to create a stipulation, we'll go from there.''

Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe agrees with the league's new mandate for players to stand for ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' or stay inside the locker room.

Wolfe says: ''That's probably the best way to do it. The NBA's been doing it for 20 years and they haven't had an issue.''

---

2:45 p.m.

Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster shrugged his shoulders when asked about the NFL's new policy on national anthem protests, saying in a way, players are powerless.

Foster says: `If the team says, `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut. You can fight the resistance on that one but, same as we can't smoke marijuana because it's illegal in certain states, it's the same issue.''

The guard says, ''you have to adhere to the rules and if not, they'll find a way to get you up out of there.''

The Steelers botched an attempt last fall to stay out of the national anthem flap by remaining in the tunnel during a game in Chicago.

Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a graduate of West Point who did three tours in Afghanistan before joining the NFL, found himself on the field when the anthem began playing and turned to face the flag. His teammates remained in the tunnel, leading to the stark image of Villanueva standing alone while his teammates remained out of sight 20 yards away.

Villanueva and the rest of the Steelers apologized for what they called a miscommunication.

---

12:45 p.m.

NFL owners have approved a new policy aimed at ending the firestorm over national anthem protests, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

The decision was announced Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the league's spring meeting in Atlanta.

In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team - not the players. The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.

The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue - which has reached all the way to the White House.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Incognito taken into custody for psychiatric examination

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) Richie Incognito, the NFL offensive lineman who was once suspended for bullying a teammate, was taken into custody Wednesday for psychiatric examination after an incident at a Florida gym.

Boca Raton police spokeswoman Jessica Desir said officers received a call Wednesday morning from a patron at Life Time Gym about a disturbance involving Incognito. He was taken into custody under Florida's Baker Act, which allows for involuntary psychiatric commitment for people seen as a danger to themselves or others. She did not have details about the disturbance.

The 34-year-old Incognito announced this year that he was retiring after 11 seasons in the NFL, the last three with the Buffalo Bills. The Bills released him from their reserved/retired list on Monday, leaving open the possibility he could sign with another team.

The four-time Pro Bowl selection has had a series of troubles. Incognito was among the players identified for targeting teammate Jonathan Martin in the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal during the 2013 season. The NFL suspended Incognito for the final half of the season and he was eventually released by Miami before being reinstated by the league the following offseason.

Incognito was out of football for 18 months before the Bills provided him a second chance by signing him to a one-year contract.

Incognito has been on a downward spiral for much of this offseason.

His closest friend on the Bills, center Eric Wood, is being forced into retirement after being diagnosed with a career-ending neck injury in January.

The Bills also asked Incognito to take a pay cut in restructuring the final year of his contract. Incognito initially backed the agreement by posting a note on Twitter saying he was ''thrilled to be returning this season and fired up to get back to work with my Buffalo Bills brothers.''

He, however, had a change of heart weeks later when Incognito abruptly fired agent David Dunn in a post on Twitter.

A week later, Incognito posted a series of vague Tweets which eventually led to him announcing his retirement. He included the accounts of the NFL Players' Association and the union's assistant executive director, George Atallah, by posting a note that read, ''I'm done,'' followed'' by a winking emoji with its tongue stuck out.

He sent the same message in a text to The Associated Press later in the day.

Incognito continued posting a variety of tweets over the next five days before abruptly stopping. He hasn't tweeted since posting his last messages on April 15, in which he said he was visiting his mother in New Jersey.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Chargers' Telesco laments Henry's injury, demurs on Gates

LOS ANGELES (AP) Chargers tight end Hunter Henry tore his knee ligament while running an ordinary route during a non-contact workout on the opening day of organized team activities, general manager Tom Telesco confirmed Wednesday.

Telesco declined to confirm whether the Chargers will go back to Antonio Gates to fill the suddenly gaping hole in their offense.

Henry is expected to miss the upcoming season while he recovers from his knee injury, which dealt an extraordinary blow to the Chargers' plans more than three months before their opener.

The franchise's second-round pick in 2016 was slated to fill a major role in the Chargers' offense after catching 81 passes for 1,057 yards and 12 touchdowns over his first two seasons.

''I'm not going to minimize it: He's a Pro Bowl talent with Pro Bowl intangibles,'' Telesco said. ''As bad as we feel about losing him, and as bad as the fans feel about it, Hunter feels worse. This team means a lot to him. He means a lot to us. It's going to be harder without him, but let me be clear: We will adapt and move on.''

Telesco indicated the Chargers haven't decided how they'll adapt just yet, and he is grateful they've got a few months to come up with a plan.

The GM was entirely noncommittal about the possibility on every Chargers fan's mind: A reunion with Gates, the franchise's career leader in receptions and yards receiving, and the NFL record-holder for TD catches by a tight end.

''Just looking at where we're at right now, we've got to look at really all of our options and what are out there, and kind of take it from there,'' Telesco said when pressed about the possibility of re-signing Gates.

The Chargers publicly bade farewell last month to Gates , who will turn 38 years old in June. Gates, whose 30 receptions last season were his fewest since his rookie season with the Bolts in 2003, already said he hopes to play in the NFL again this season.

Last month, Telesco cited a desire to increase Henry's role in one of the NFL's best offenses as a prime reason to part ways with Gates after 15 seasons. Before he missed the final two games of last season with a kidney laceration, Henry emerged as a top target for Philip Rivers, combining his size and athleticism with improved route-running.

''He's taking it tough, as you'd expect,'' Telesco said. ''He loves this team, and we love him, too, and he wants to be a part of it this year. ... He feels like he let us down. I told him, `Look, you did not let this football team down. You went out there, and you're practicing the way you always do, and these things happen.'''

These things seem to happen dismayingly often to the Chargers. Their recent history is littered with major injury problems for key players at nearly every position except quarterback, where Rivers has played every game since 2006.

The Bolts largely avoided debilitating injuries last year during their relocation season, and they barely missed the playoffs at 9-7 after winning nine of their final 12 games.

With Henry injured and Gates unsigned, the Chargers have exactly one tight end on their roster with an NFL catch: Virgil Green, an offseason free-agent signee from Denver, where he was used primarily as a blocker. Braedon Bowman and Sean Culkin also are back from last season's team, but neither has significant NFL experience.

''We have some young players on the roster that we think have a chance to develop,'' Telesco said. ''As we saw today in practice, they got a lot of extra balls today. So we'll see if some of those guys can ascend.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

While Bell stays home, rookie Samuels looks to impress

PITTSBURGH (AP) Jaylen Samuels smiled at the question. It's not the first time he's been asked where exactly he fits on the football field.

The answer during Samuels' time at North Carolina State depended on when you asked him.

Tight end? Fullback? Tailback? Wide receiver? Safety? At some point, the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie played them all for the Wolfpack.

He doesn't see that being an issue in the NFL. At least not in Pittsburgh anyway. The Steelers made it clear when they called him on the final day of the draft last month and told him they were taking him in the fifth round.

Samuels is a running back. And only a running back. For now anyway. Yet even as he explains his comfort level in a room that's currently missing Le'Veon Bell - who is skipping organized team activities while waiting to sign his one-year franchise tender - Samuels also tips his hand. He might not be done moving around the field just yet.

''I'm also in the slot, playing a little bit of that position, being able to run some routes, catch some balls in the slot, outside, wherever they want me,'' Samuels said on Wednesday.

Sounds an awful lot like what the Steelers ask Bell to do. Of course, Bell is a three-time Pro Bowler, a two-time All-Pro and one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Samuels is none of those things. He's just a 21-year-old trying to find his way and hardly the only one in a backfield that is wide open behind Bell.

Former Pitt star James Conner showed flashes as a rookie last fall before a knee injury ended his season. Stevan Ridley arrived in December as a stopgap and did enough to earn a one-year deal for 2018. Fitzgerald Toussaint remains on the fringe of the picture too. Jarvion Franklin and James Summers are unknowns.

Bell's long-term status is uncertain. He says he wants to be in Pittsburgh for the duration of his career. The Steelers do too. And yet if the two sides don't reach an agreement on a new contract by the mid-July deadline, 2018 will almost certainly be Bell's last year with the Steelers.

While Conner and Samuels are saying the right things - that the starting job is Bell's whenever he shows up and for as long as he's on the roster - both understand the opportunity the extra snaps created by Bell's absence offers.

So does their quarterback.

''This is a big time for James with some of the injuries that he had last year and learning last year,'' Ben Roethlisberger said. ''I think this will be really good for him to get as many reps as possible.''

Though Conner remains a work in progress in the passing game, Samuels has wasted little time proving he knows what he's doing when he lines up as a receiver. During a 2-point conversion drill on Wednesday, he hauled in a beautiful catch over a linebacker for a conversion, a grab that earned a roar from the sideline.

''It wasn't nothing new for me,'' Samuels said with a shrug.

Not by a longshot. Samuels set a school record by catching 202 passes at N.C. State, and his 47 touchdowns rank second all-time in program history. He believes he has a ''knack'' for getting over the goal line, and whenever the Wolfpack would get inside the opponent's 20, offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz has a special section on his playcall sheet just for Samuels.

''It was just `JaySam' plays,'' Samuels said. ''Just for whenever he wanted me to get the ball. If it was third down, fourth down, he'd just put me in the backfield and put me in the slot and try to get me the ball.''

Yet Samuels is just as comfortable lining up behind the quarterback too, a transition that began in earnest during his final season with the Wolfpack. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry in 2017 and ran for 12 touchdowns despite averaging just six rushes per game.

At 6-feet and 225 pounds, he considers himself a power guy with a dash of breakaway ability thrown in for good measure.

Still, NFL scouts didn't quite know what to make of him. He worked out with the tight ends at the draft combine, doing just two drills with the running backs. He thinks that's one of the reasons he was still there in the fifth round waiting for his name to be called. Getting passed over bothered him. More than a little.

''I felt disrespected going as late as I did,'' Samuels said. ''But that's just going to be motivation for me.''

No matter where - or when - he lines up.

NOTES: The Steelers and third-round pick Mason Rudolph agreed to a four-year deal on Wednesday, leaving first-round pick Terrell Edmunds as the only selection yet to sign. ... Roethlisberger was not on the field Wednesday.

---

More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Football is easier for Norman after 'Dancing With the Stars'

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Josh Norman thought football was difficult.

Then he appeared on ''Dancing With the Stars.''

The Washington Redskins cornerback had some impressive performances with dance partner Sharna Burgess on the show in Los Angeles and each week took a red-eye back to the East Coast for the team's offseason program. Norman and Burgess finished second to skater Adam Rippon and Jenna Johnson.

Norman was back on the field this week with a new appreciation for dancing and a fresh approach to his day job.

''My mindset is a bit different,'' Norman said Wednesday. ''I can go further now than I thought I could and push myself to pretty much a new level, I feel, a new height. So now I look at things and I (used to) be like, `That's hard.' Nah, I don't think so.''

Norman didn't quite know what to expect out of ''Dancing With the Stars,'' which included 12-hour days of learning, practicing, rehearsing and performing . Add in the cross-country flights and Norman was more fatigued than after a one-on-one showdown with Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

He approached the performances like NFL games, though, and was glad he took on the adventure that reminded him of theater class in college.

''You could be someone else,'' Norman said. ''You could be different. Everybody is different in their own right, and everybody work to a common goal. Part of it is just going out there amongst athletes and trying to best them all.''

Norman got a good laugh about going shirtless for dance routines because ''there's a lot of cougars that like the shirt off'' and knew voting was involved. Taking a temporary break from his pursuit of the Lombardi Trophy, Norman came away crushed that he didn't help Burgess win the Mirrorball Trophy she has been trying for the past seven years.

''This was the year to break that curse and I wasn't the one to do it and it's just like, `Dang,''' Norman said. ''It's like a heart-throbbing gut-puncher that I couldn't be the one for her to get over the hump.''

Norman was a winner to his teammates, a handful of whom traveled to L.A. to watch the finale Monday. Running back Chris Thompson was impressed by the dance moves and felt his teammate ''got cheated.''

''I never saw Josh as being a dancer, for one,'' Thompson said. ''It was great. It was just cool just to see somebody doing something different.''

Coach Jay Gruden said he watched every episode and came away impressed with Norman's rhythm, execution and willingness to balance dancing and football.

''The work that he put in to get ready for that show and also fly back out on red eyes and get here for practice or OTAs, I just really had a lot of admiration for what he did and what he accomplished because that's not easy,'' Gruden said. ''I thought he should've won the dang thing. I think he got ripped off, to be honest with you.''

Even in a losing effort, Norman figures ''Dancing With the Stars'' helped his physical and mental preparation, his footwork, posture and focus. Call it a journey of self-discovery.

''It taught me a lot about myself,'' Norman said. ''I grew tremendously. I wouldn't have wanted anything else from it than that.''

With the Redskins in the middle of organized team activities, Norman was hardly breaking a sweat Wednesday after what he had been through under the lights each week dancing.

''This is a cakewalk,'' he said. ''This is like picking daisies.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Worst to first: Browns top choice for "Hard Knocks" series

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Here's a new one: The Cleveland Browns were a No. 1 pick.

Despite the team's 0-16 record last season and decades of futility, NFL Films insists the Browns were the team it wanted to feature on this summer's HBO ''Hard Knocks'' series, which chronicles the grind - and the drama - of training camp.

But following a busy offseason, which included the team selecting quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in the draft, the Browns have become a more compelling story as they try to rebuild a once-proud franchise with one of the league's most passionate fans.

''We got the team we wanted,'' said Ken Rodgers, NFL Films VP senior coordinating producer, ''Our No. 1 pick, the Browns to be on our show.''

Cleveland had turned down previous requests to appear on the popular show.

Running back Duke Johnson said he's worried some of his teammates may try to ''be all Hollywood'' and act for the cameras.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

The Latest: Broncos' Wolfe agrees with new anthem rule

ATLANTA (AP) The Latest on the NFL's new policy requiring players to stand if they are on the field during the national anthem but permitting them to stay in the locker room if they prefer (all times local):

---

4 p.m.

Denver Broncos union representative Matt Paradis says that while he wishes players were consulted on the new national anthem policy, NFL owners have every right to introduce new rules.

Paradis says that ''they are the employers, so if they want to create a stipulation, we'll go from there.''

Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe agrees with the league's new mandate for players to stand for ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' or stay inside the locker room.

Wolfe says: ''That's probably the best way to do it. The NBA's been doing it for 20 years and they haven't had an issue.''

---

2:45 p.m.

Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster shrugged his shoulders when asked about the NFL's new policy on national anthem protests, saying in a way, players are powerless.

Foster says: `If the team says, `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut. You can fight the resistance on that one but, same as we can't smoke marijuana because it's illegal in certain states, it's the same issue.''

The guard says, ''you have to adhere to the rules and if not, they'll find a way to get you up out of there.''

The Steelers botched an attempt last fall to stay out of the national anthem flap by remaining in the tunnel during a game in Chicago.

Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a graduate of West Point who did three tours in Afghanistan before joining the NFL, found himself on the field when the anthem began playing and turned to face the flag. His teammates remained in the tunnel, leading to the stark image of Villanueva standing alone while his teammates remained out of sight 20 yards away.

Villanueva and the rest of the Steelers apologized for what they called a miscommunication.

---

12:45 p.m.

NFL owners have approved a new policy aimed at ending the firestorm over national anthem protests, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

The decision was announced Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the league's spring meeting in Atlanta.

In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team - not the players. The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.

The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue - which has reached all the way to the White House.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Ex-Bills guard Incognito in custody after gym disturbance

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) Veteran NFL guard Richie Incognito has been taken into custody for psychiatric examination after an incident at a Florida gym.

Boca Raton police say they received a call Wednesday from a gym patron about a disturbance and as a result took Incognito into custody under Florida's Baker Act, which allows for involuntary psychiatric commitment for people seen as a danger to themselves or others.

Incognito announced earlier this year that he was retiring after 11 seasons in the NFL, the last three with the Buffalo Bills. But the Bills released him from their reserved/retired list on Monday, leaving open the possibility he could sign with another team.

The 34-year-old four-time Pro Bowl selection has had a series of troubles. He spent 18 months out of the league after a Miami Dolphins bullying scandal. Earlier this year, he used Twitter to fire his agent.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

No pressure not a good thing for Matthews and the Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Clay Matthews is learning new playbook terminology this spring under a new defensive coordinator, though his overall goals haven't changed.

It's more important than ever for the Green Bay Packers' long-haired linebacker to get to the quarterback.

The Packers didn't add a potential game-changing edge rusher in free agency or via the draft. They focused on another defensive priority and replenished the cornerback position with veteran Tramon Williams and draft picks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson.

That leaves Matthews and Nick Perry as leaders of a pass rush that had trouble getting consistent pressure last year.

''Well, I wasn't surprised with the first two picks. ... But obviously, you look at the depth at the outside linebacker position, and it's not that great,'' Matthews said. ''That's not a slight to the guys who are behind Nick and myself, but you look around the league, a lot of times they're rotating in pass rushers.''

The Packers had veteran Julius Peppers in the mix on the edge a couple seasons ago, but he returned to Carolina in 2017. Second-year player Kyler Fackrell and veteran Ahmad Brooks, who combined for 4 + sacks, were the primary backups outside.

Matthews and Perry each missed time last season with injuries. With a lack of production from the bench, getting fresh blood seemed to make sense.

Matthews said he understands that signings don't always go as planned for the front office. There are only so many draft picks to make. The salary cap limits spending.

''I'm happy with the picks they made, and at the same time it does show ... their confidence in Nick and myself, as well as the guys we have,'' Matthews said. ''At some time I'm sure it will be addressed, but for the time being the guys we have here are the guys who have to hold up their end of the bargain.''

It would help if Fackrell and second-year player Vince Biegel became more productive. Biegel missed the first seven games last season because of a foot injury.

''The biggest gains we've always made have been from our returning players, particularly the second, third year players,'' coach Mike McCarthy said after the draft about outside linebacker depth.

The pass rush could get more productive if other areas of the defense also improve.

Tighter pass coverage could give edge rushers more time to get to the quarterback. Green Bay also hopes to get more push up front from free agent signee Muhammad Wilkerson, who has 44 1/2 career sacks.

He joins Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry on the line, which should be the strength of new coordinator Mike Pettine's defense. Pettine was the New York Jets' defensive coordinator in Wilkerson's first two years in the league in 2011-12.

''Everybody's learning, some of the wording is a little different from back years ago when I was with Pettine,'' Wilkerson said. ''We're all getting through it.''

Matthews knows that Pettine wants to be aggressive, though there is plenty of time to figure out exactly what role he'll play this fall. It's quite possible that it doesn't change much after Matthews showed the flexibility to play both outside and inside the last few years.

Pettine replaced Dom Capers, who was fired after the 7-9 season. Capers had been Matthews' only defensive coordinator since the linebacker entered the league in 2009.

''Like I said, someone needed to fall on the knife. I think it's all done to get better results, and that's exactly what we're here for,'' Matthews said. ''In the new defense we're getting ready to hit this season strong and, like I said, hold up our end of the bargain.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Dolphins' Tannehill back at practice after missing 2017

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Ryan Tannehill dropped back to pass and the pocket quickly collapsed, making it just like old times.

An onrushing end merely waved as he went by because Wednesday's drills involved no contact, which spared Tannehill a blow. Instead, he scooted away on his reconstructed left knee toward the sideline and encountered a linebacker, who also pulled up at the last moment.

The hits will come soon enough, but for now Tannehill is healthy and optimistic about leading a turnaround by the Miami Dolphins.

He's practicing this week for the first time since a torn left ACL in training camp ended his 2017 season before it began. A serious injury to the same knee forced him to miss the final four games in 2016, meaning he hasn't played in nearly 18 months.

''It was a long year, some dark times,'' Tannehill said, speaking publicly for the first time since he was hurt last August.

Tannehill has received medical clearance without limitations and isn't even wearing a knee brace this week, although he plans to wear one in games.

''It's purely to prevent what started the whole train wreck,'' he said.

Tannehill said his return to practice stirred painful memories of watching workouts last year while sitting inside the team complex, his injured leg in a brace and propped on a chair.

''It feels amazing to be back out there,'' he said. ''It has been a lot of work to put a helmet back on and step on the grass again. I was just telling the guys, I can remember sitting in the cafeteria looking through the glass like a little kid that's not allowed to go outside and play.''

Also back were linebacker Raekwon McMillan and cornerback Tony Lippett, both of whom missed the entire 2017 season because of injuries. The entire roster was on hand, although 35-year-old running back Frank Gore was on the field only briefly and won't be involved in drills much this spring to keep him healthy.

Tannehill, a starter since his rookie season in 2012, has never played in the postseason. But he and the Dolphins are optimistic he can regain the form he showed in 2016, when he enjoyed the best stretch of his career and helped put the team in playoff contention before his injury.

''I feel like I kind of went on a run there,'' Tannehill said. ''I felt like I was finally starting to play really good football, being in command of the offense and understanding what we were trying to accomplish with every play call.''

With Jay Cutler as an emergency replacement for Tannehill, the Dolphins slipped to 6-10 last year. Gase is so confident about Tannehill that they didn't draft a quarterback last month.

''It's great to have him back out there,'' Gase said. "As long as we don't have a setback, I feel good. We're in a good place. I've seen him move around just as well as he ever has.''

Newcomer Josh Sitton, a four-time Pro Bowl guard, offered an endorsement of his new QB after just two practices together. Sitton took particular note of one strike Tannehill threw.

''He rolled out after a play action and was running to his left,'' Sitton said. ''I thought, `That's pretty impressive.'''

Tannehill didn't miss a game in his first four NFL seasons, enduring 212 sacks behind a leaky line without serious injury. He said he's not worried about his knee holding up, and won't be thinking about it on the field.

The knee probably won't be tested with contact until the preseason in August.

''I'm never eager to get hit,'' Tannehill said with a chuckle. ''I'd be sadistic. But I don't think about it any different than I would any other season going into a new season. It's a physical game, and I love that.''

---

More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine

Read more

Stand or stay out of sight: NFL takes on anthem protesters

ATLANTA (AP) NFL owners approved a new policy Wednesday aimed at quelling the firestorm over national anthem protests sparked by Colin Kaepernick and polarized by President Trump, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the change was approved unanimously by the owners at their spring meeting in Atlanta, but even that was up for debate.

The head of the San Francisco 49ers - Kaepernick's former team - said his franchise abstained from the vote. CEO Jed York said he wasn't comfortable with a process that didn't directly involve the players.

''I want to work with my team to make sure everything we do is about promoting the right types of social justice reform and getting to a better America,'' York said.

The NFL Players Association said it wasn't consulted about the new policy and would challenge any changes that violate the collective bargaining agreement.

Clearly, Goodell and most owners just want to put the issue behind them.

''We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,'' the commissioner said. ''We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.''

In the surest sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team - not the players. That could be a way to avoid legal challenges from the players' union, since fines against a team would not be subject to collective bargaining.

The league did say teams could impose their own workplace rules for those who fail to show respect for the flag and anthem, but didn't say what those policies might be. Because the new policy is a change in the terms and conditions of employment that was not collectively bargained, any attempts to fine individual players who continue to protest in public would surely be opposed by the union.

The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue - which made it all the way to the White House.

Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team.

Trump turned the debate into a campaign issue , saying the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.'' The NFL hasn't gone that far, but Kaepernick has yet to land another job and one of his former teammates and fellow protesters, safety Eric Reid, is also out of work.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL.

While the owners touted the change as a compromise that everyone should get behind, the union expressed immediate skepticism.

''The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new `policy,''' the NFLPA said in a statement. ''NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.''

The statement added, ''The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL's Management Council John Mara (co-owner of the New York Giants) about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.''

York said he intended to meet with his players to discuss the change.

''They know I will stand up for them. I've stood up for them in past, I will stand up for them in the future,'' York said. ''I hope we can have a good, respectful conversation: Is it the best policy for us to write a check to the league (for further on-field protests) or can we find a better way to use this money.''

The NFL started requiring players to be on the field for the anthem in 2009 - the year it signed a marketing deal with the military. But owners sent a bit of a convoluted message with the new policy, appeasing those who feel the national anthem must be treated with reverence, while allowing some sort of conduit for players to protest as long as they stay out of the public eye.

York said other initiatives were in the works, including a suspension of all concessions sales during the national anthem .

''If we want to be sacrosanct, if we want to honor the flag, we've got to make sure we go through a litany of things,'' he said. ''We're not going to force people to stand in their seats, but we're certainly going to make sure we're not profiting during that two or three minutes of time during the game.''

Steelers guard Ramon Foster shrugged his shoulders when asked about the new policy, saying the owners will always hold an upper hand over the players.

''If the team says `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut,'' Foster said. ''You can fight the resistance on that one, but same as we can't smoke marijuana because it's illegal in certain states, or it's legal in certain states, it's the same issue. You have to adhere to the rules and if not, they'll find a way to get you up out of there.''

Goodell took a more conciliatory path. He insisted the league met with countless players over the last year to get their input on the fractious anthem debate anthem, which some have even pointed to as a major reason for the NFL's declining TV ratings.

''We think that we've come up with a balanced process, procedure and policy that will allow those players who feel they can't stand for the anthem to stay in the locker room,'' the commissioner said. ''There's no penalty for that, but we're going to encourage all of them to be on field. We'd like for all of them to be on the field and stand at attention.''

Goodell was asked who would get to decide what actions would be considered disrespectful to the anthem or the U.S. flag.

''Well, I think the general public has a very strong view of what respect for the flag is and that moment,'' he said. ''We have language in our policy that talks about that, standing attention, hats off and focused. And I think the general arbiter will the clubs and the league and we'll work with our players to get their viewpoint also.''

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

Associated Press Writer George Henry in Atlanta and AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

The Latest: Steelers' Foster says players powerless

ATLANTA (AP) The Latest on the NFL's new policy requiring players to stand if they are on the field during the national anthem but permitting them to stay in the locker room if they prefer (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster shrugged his shoulders when asked about the NFL's new policy on national anthem protests, saying in a way, players are powerless.

Foster says: `If the team says, `this is what we're doing,' and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut. You can fight the resistance on that one but, same as we can't smoke marijuana because it's illegal in certain states, it's the same issue.''

The guard says, ''you have to adhere to the rules and if not, they'll find a way to get you up out of there.''

The Steelers botched an attempt last fall to stay out of the national anthem flap by remaining in the tunnel during a game in Chicago.

Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a graduate of West Point who did three tours in Afghanistan before joining the NFL, found himself on the field when the anthem began playing and turned to face the flag. His teammates remained in the tunnel, leading to the stark image of Villanueva standing alone while his teammates remained out of sight 20 yards away.

Villanueva and the rest of the Steelers apologized for what they called a miscommunication.

---

12:45 p.m.

NFL owners have approved a new policy aimed at ending the firestorm over national anthem protests, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

The decision was announced Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the league's spring meeting in Atlanta.

In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team - not the players. The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.

The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue - which has reached all the way to the White House.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL owners adopt new policy to address anthem protests

ATLANTA (AP) NFL owners approved a new policy Wednesday aimed at addressing the firestorm over national anthem protests sparked by Colin Kaepernick and polarized by President Trump, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the change was approved unanimously by the owners at their spring meeting in Atlanta, but even that was up for debate.

The head of the San Francisco 49ers - Kaepernick's former team - said his franchise abstained from the vote. CEO Jed York said he wasn't comfortable with a process that didn't directly involve the players.

''I want to work with my team to make sure everything we do is about promoting the right types of social justice reform and getting to a better America,'' York said.

The NFL Players Association said it wasn't consulted about the new policy and would challenge any changes that violate the collective bargaining agreement.

Clearly, Goodell and most owners just want to put the issue behind them.

''We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,'' the commissioner said. ''That's all personnel, and to make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That's something that we think we owe. We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.''

In the surest sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team - not the players. That could be a way to avoid legal challenges from the players' union, since fines against a team would not be subject to collective bargaining.

The league did say teams could impose their own workplace rules for those who fail to show respect for the flag and anthem, but didn't say what those policies might be. Because the new policy is a change in the terms and conditions of employment that was not collectively bargained, any attempts to fine individual players who continue to protest in public would surely be opposed by the union.

The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue - which made its way to the White House.

Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team.

Trump turned the debate into a campaign issue , saying the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.'' The NFL hasn't gone that far, but Kaepernick has yet to land another job and one of his former teammates and fellow protesters, safety Eric Reid, is also out of work.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL.

While the owners touted the change as a compromise that everyone should get behind, the union expressed immediate skepticism.

''The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new `policy,''' the NFLPA said in a statement. ''NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.''

The statement added, ''The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL's Management Council John Mara (co-owner of the New York Giants) about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.''

York said he intended to meet with his players to discuss the change.

''They know I will stand up for them. I've stood up for them in past, I will stand up for them in the future,'' York said. ''I hope we can have a good, respectful conversation: Is it the best policy for us to write a check to the league (for further on-field protests) or can we find a better way to use this money.''

The owners sent a bit of a convoluted message with the new policy - appeasing those who feel the national anthem must be treated with reverence, while allowing some sort of conduit for players to protest as long as they stay out of the public eye.

''We've spent a lot of time, not just at this meeting, but really over the last year discussing the issue of the anthem and working with our players to make sure we could get to a place where all the different viewpoints could be respected,'' said Art Rooney II, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. ''Obviously, we want to continue to work with our players and make sure they feel that their point of view has been respected.

''I think the fact that those who are not comfortable standing for the anthem have the right to stay off the field - so we're not forcing anybody to stand who doesn't feel that way about particular subjects - but those who are on the field are going to be asked to stand.''

Goodell said the league met with countless players over the last year to get their input on the anthem controversy.

''We think that we've come up with a balanced process, procedure and policy that will allow those players who feel they can't stand for the anthem to stay in the locker room,'' the commissioner said. ''There's no penalty for that, but we're going to encourage all of them to be on field. We'd like for all of them to be on the field and stand at attention.''

Goodell was asked who would get to decide what actions would be considered disrespectful to the anthem or the U.S. flag.

''Well, I think the general public has a very strong view of what respect for the flag is and that moment,'' he said. ''We have language in our policy that talks about that, standing attention, hats off and focused. And I think the general arbiter will the clubs and the league and we'll work with our players to get their viewpoint also.''

Mark Murphy, president of the Green Bay Packers, tried to put a positive light on the fractious debate, which some have even pointed to as a major reason for the NFL's declining TV ratings.

He noted that players and teams have started working together to address social justice issues within their communities.

''If you look back at last fall, it was difficult for all of us within the league,'' Murphy said. ''But one of the real positives that came out of it was the improved relationship between management and the players. We want that to continue to move forward.''

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

Associated Press Writer George Henry contributed to this report.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Dolphins' Tannehill back at practice after missing 2017

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Ryan Tannehill is back on the field with the Miami Dolphins and says he's not thinking about his surgically repaired left knee.

Tannehill is practicing this week for the first time since a torn left ACL in training camp ended his 2017 season before it began. A serious injury to the same knee forced him to miss the final four games in 2016, which means he hasn't played in nearly 18 months.

Speaking publicly Wednesday for the first time since he was hurt last August, Tannehill said he's not worried about his knee or getting hit. He has received medical clearance without limitations and isn't even wearing a knee brace this week.

Tannehill says the toughest part about being sidelined was missing the day-to-day grind with his teammates.

---

More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine

Read more

NFL owners adopt new policy to address anthem protests

ATLANTA (AP) NFL owners approved a new policy Thursday aimed at addressing the firestorm over national anthem protests sparked by Colin Kaepernick and polarized by President Trump, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the change was approved unanimously by the owners at their spring meeting in Atlanta, but it was met with immediate skepticism by the players' union.

''We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,'' Goodell said. ''That's all personnel, and to make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That's something that we think we owe. We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.''

In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team - not the players.

The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.

The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue - which has reached all the way to the White House.

Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team.

President Trump turned the anthem protests into a campaign issue , saying the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.'' The NFL hasn't gone that far, but Kaepernick has yet to land another job and one of his former teammates and fellow protesters, safety Eric Reid, is also out of work.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL.

While the owners touted the change as a compromise and noted it was approved unanimously, the players' union made it clear it was not part of the discussions.

''The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new `policy,''' the NFLPA said in a statement. ''NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.''

The statement added, ''The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL's Management Council John Mara (co-owner of the New York Giants) about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.''

The NFL was reportedly considering whether to assess a 15-yard penalty against any player who took a knee or conducted any other protest during the anthem.

Another possible option would have been to change up the pregame routine entirely, keeping teams in their respective locker rooms until after the anthem had played. That is the protocol long followed by college football, preventing anthem protests from being carried out on the field.

In the end, the owners sent a bit of a convoluted message - appeasing those who feel the national anthem must be treated with reverence, while allowing some sort of conduit for players to protest as long as they stay out of the public eye.

''We've spent a lot of time, not just at this meeting, but really over the last year discussing the issue of the anthem and working with our players to make sure we could get to a place where all the different viewpoints could be respected,'' said Art Rooney II, owner of the Pittburgh Steelers. ''Obviously, we want to continue to work with our players and make sure they feel that their point of view has been respected. I think the fact that those who are not comfortable standing for the anthem have the right to stay off the field - so we're not forcing anybody to stand who doesn't feel that way about particular subjects - but those who are on the field are going to be asked to stand.''

Goodell said the league met with countless players over the last year to get their input on the anthem controversy.

''We think that we've come up with a balanced process, procedure and policy that will allow those players who feel they can't stand for the anthem to stay in the locker room,'' the commissioner said. ''There's no penalty for that, but we're going to encourage all of them to be on field. We'd like for all of them to be on the field and stand at attention.''

Goodell was asked who would get to decide what actions would be considered disrespectful to the anthem or the U.S. flag.

''Well, I think the general public has a very strong view of what respect for the flag is and that moment,'' he said. ''We have language in our policy that talks about that, standing attention, hats off and focused. And I think the general arbiter will the clubs and the league and we'll work with our players to get their viewpoint also.''

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

Associated Press Writer George Henry contributed to this report.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL awards 2019 draft to Nashville, home of Tennessee Titans

ATLANTA (AP) The NFL draft is heading to Music City.

League owners awarded the 2019 draft to Nashville during their annual spring meetings on Wednesday, clearly impressed with the city's turnout for events such as the NHL Stanley Cup Final and a party to unveil redesigned uniforms for the Tennessee Titans.

''You're now on the clock,'' NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell quipped to the Nashville contingent, led by Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.

The draft was held in New York City from 1965-2014, but the league has been moving it to different cities in recent years, looking to bolster its profile even higher.

Chicago was the site in 2015-16, Philadelphia hosted in 2017 and this year's draft was held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas , home of the Dallas Cowboys.

''It has become one of the most anticipated events of the year,'' Goodell said. ''It's one of the events we're continually focused on (to determine) how we can to be more effective, larger and frankly, an opportunity for our fans to engage in football during the offseason. We had a great experience in Dallas this year. They did a wonderful job.''

Now, Nashville will be hosting for the first time .

''It's a big day for Nashville,'' Strunk said. ''Being entrusted with one of the league's premier gatherings is an honor and a responsibility that we take seriously.''

Nashville was chosen over several other bids, including a combined one from Cleveland and Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Northeast Ohio group remains hopeful to land the 2020 draft, which would coincide with the league's centennial.

''The Hall of Fame in partnership with the Cleveland Browns, the Cleveland Sports Commission and Visit Canton stand ready to host the NFL draft in 2020 should we be selected,'' said Hall president and CEO David Baker. ''In the meantime, the Hall and the entire Canton region remains focused on preparing for the once-in-every-other-lifetime opportunity in 2020 to celebrate the NFL's Centennial in Canton, the birthplace of the league.''

Nashville's bid was boosted by tens of thousands of people turning out last year for a party that shut down a big section of downtown when the Predators played for the Stanley Cup. Also, some 20,000 turned out on a cold night in April to see the Titans' new uniforms and attend a free concert by Florida Georgia Line.

The city hosted the 2003 NHL entry draft, the 2014 Women's Final Four and the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.

''As we all know, Nashville has a well-deserved reputation as a city that loves the big stage, loves the big party and, more importantly, knows how to throw a big party,'' Strunk said.

---

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Berea, Ohio, contributed to this report.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL owners adopt new policy to address anthem protests

ATLANTA (AP) NFL owners have approved a new policy aimed at addressing the firestorm over national anthem protests, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

The decision was announced Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the league's spring meeting in Atlanta.

In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team - not the players. The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.

The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue - which has reached all the way to the White House.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Zack Martin misses first of Cowboys' offseason practices

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Two-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin missed the first session of the Dallas Cowboys' voluntary offseason practices and wasn't expected to take part Wednesday while working on a contract extension.

Martin, an All-Pro in 2014 and 2016, was on site doing off-field work Tuesday.

Martin is in the fifth year of his rookie contract at a salary of $9.4 million. The Cowboys drafted him out of Notre Dame with the 16th overall pick in 2014. He has started all 67 games in the regular season and playoffs for the Cowboys.

''He's one of the best players we have,'' Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. ''He represents everything we want. We want him to be here for a long, long time. But there's a business side to this, and we all understand that.''

Andrew Norwell, an All-Pro last season for the Carolina Panthers, signed a five-year contract in March with the Jacksonville Jaguars for $66 million.

Read more

NFL awards Super Bowl to Arizona (2023), New Orleans (2024)

ATLANTA (AP) The Super Bowl is headed back to New Orleans for the 11th time and will make its fourth stop in Arizona.

NFL owners voted unanimously on both sites Wednesday at the league's annual spring meeting in Atlanta, which will host the 2019 Super Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The 2023 title game will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, while New Orleans' Mercedes-Benz Superdome will host in 2024.

Saints owner Gayle Benson, whose husband Tom Benson passed away in March, appreciated that the vote took only 60 seconds to complete. She attributed the quick tally to New Orleans' unique culture.

''It's different from any other city that we have around,'' she said. ''We just have so many things to offer - the food, the culture, the hotels. We've got it all. It should be (there) every year.''

This will be eighth time the game is held at the 43-year-old Superdome, more than any other stadium. Its most recent Super Bowl was in 2013, which is remembered for the power going out during the second half , resulting in a 34-minute delay.

The retractable roof stadium in suburban Phoenix previously held the Super Bowl in 2008 and 2015 .

''We're thrilled by the unanimous vote and we look forward to making this the most fan-friendly Super Bowl in the history of Super Bowls and bigger and better than any Super Bowl,'' Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said.

Both teams have major stadium renovations planned. Benson said the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will soon begin an overhaul. Bidwill work has already begun on University of Phoenix Stadium.

''Yes, we've already completed a number of renovations, but $100 million worth of renovations will be done by the Super Bowl by 2023,'' Bidwill told The Associated Press.

After this season's game in Atlanta, the next three Super Bowls will be held at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium (2020), Raymond James Stadium in Tampa (2021) and the new Hollywood Park stadium in Los Angeles (2022).

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL awards 2019 draft to Nashville, home of Tennessee Titans

ATLANTA (AP) The NFL draft is heading to Music City.

League owners awarded the 2019 draft to Nashville during their annual spring meetings on Wednesday, clearly impressed with the city's turnout for events such as the NHL Stanley Cup Final and a party to unveil redesigned uniforms for the Tennessee Titans.

''You're now on the clock,'' NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell quipped to the Nashville contingent, led by Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.

The draft was held in New York City from 1965-2014, but the league has been moving it to different cities in recent years, looking to bolster its profile even higher.

Chicago was the site in 2015-16, Philadelphia hosted in 2017 and this year's draft was held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas , home of the Dallas Cowboys.

''It has become one of the most anticipated events of the year,'' Goodell said. ''It's one of the events we're continually focused on (to determine) how we can to be more effective, larger and frankly, an opportunity for our fans to engage in football during the offseason. We had a great experience in Dallas this year. They did a wonderful job.''

Now, Nashville will be hosting for the first time .

''It's a big day for Nashville,'' Strunk said. ''Being entrusted with one of the league's premier gatherings is an honor and a responsibility that we take seriously.''

Nashville's bid was boosted by tens of thousands of people turning out last year for a party that shut down a big section of downtown when the Predators played for the Stanley Cup. Also, some 20,000 turned out on a cold night in April to see the Titans' new uniforms and attend a free concert by Florida Georgia Line.

The city hosted the 2003 NHL entry draft, the 2014 Women's Final Four and the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.

''As we all know, Nashville has a well-deserved reputation as a city that loves the big stage, loves the big party and, more importantly, knows how to throw a big party,'' Strunk said.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL awards Super Bowl to Arizona (2023), New Orleans (2024)

ATLANTA (AP) The NFL has awarded future Super Bowls to Arizona and New Orleans.

The decision was made Wednesday at the league's annual spring meeting in Atlanta, which will host the 2019 Super Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The 2023 title game will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, while the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans will be host in 2024.

This will be eighth time the game is held at the 43-year-old Superdome, more than any other stadium. Its most recent Super Bowl was in 2013, which is remembered for the power going out during the second half , resulting in a 34-minute delay.

The retractable roof stadium in suburban Phoenix previously held the Super Bowl in 2008 and 2015 .

After this season's game in Atlanta, the next three Super Bowls will be held at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium (2020), Raymond James Stadium in Tampa (2021) and the new Hollywood Park stadium in Los Angeles (2022).

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL awards the 2019 draft to Nashville, home of the Titans

ATLANTA (AP) The 2019 NFL draft will be held in Nashville.

The home of the Tennessee Titans was selected Wednesday during the league's spring meetings in Atlanta. Nashville will be hosting the draft for the first time.

The draft was held in New York City from 1965-2014, but the league has been moving it to different cities in recent years.

Chicago was the site in 2015-16, Philadelphia hosted in 2017 and this year's draft was held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas .

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

"Sunday Night Football" sets TV ratings record

NEW YORK (AP) America has spoken: NFL over ''American Idol.''

For the seventh consecutive year, NBC's ''Sunday Night Football'' has topped the season's television ratings, as measured by Nielsen. That edges the six straight years for Fox's ''American Idol'' (2005-06 through 2010-11).

The football games averaged 18.2 million TV viewers in 2017, a 29 percent margin over the runner-up, ''Thursday Night Football'' on CBS.

Fred Gaudelli, who produces the broadcasts, credits the scheduling of headline games each Sunday night - NBC did not flex any contests from daytime to night time last season - as well as the NFL's hold on sporting America.

''One of the things that has allowed `Sunday Night Football' to achieve this record is that when the NFL decided to take its marquee prime-time game off Monday and put it on Sunday, they would do all in their power to make sure Sunday nights would become successful,'' Gaudelli says. ''The flex schedule, the marquee matchups, week in and week out.

''This is now the 13th season for `Sunday Night Football,' and the NFL has maintained that commitment, and that is a major reason why people are not tired of tuning into the prime-time game after a full day of football on Sunday.

''It's usually an outstanding attraction and there are big stars in the game ... combined with all the people who work on the show, people want to make sure they are not skipping watching the game.''

They aren't. While all sports ratings are declining, NBC's remain at the top for its Sunday prime-time programming.

The network also tracks what it calls Total Audience Delivery, including digital viewers. That number, which measures average minute viewing across broadcast and digital, was 18.4 million.

Of course, as Gaudelli notes, Americans are in a transition period in their viewing habits, watching how and when they want to watch.

''A lot of viewing has gone to the computer to the tablet and to the phone, and there's still not any exact measurement of how many people truly are watching,'' he says. ''Our ratings may have declined, but not nearly at the rate of the rest of prime-time TV has declined.''

That being said, sports in general and the NFL in particular have a huge edge over other programming. In this day of instantaneous social media information and feedback, if you aren't watching the action live, you're behind the game.

''In the era we are now living in, live is so much of a bigger deal than it has ever been before,'' Gaudelli says.

''Everyone is tuned into it at the same time, and the national conversation probably is a little greater because live is kind of its own animal right now.

''And there's the tremendous drama that comes with the NFL.''

When NBC got back into the NFL business, it wisely went with a news-oriented studio show. The advantage of televising a Sunday night game is obvious. The network could respond to the stories of the day, something the jockfest daytime shows don't attempt.

That approach not only has brought critical praise, but eyeballs and ears for ''Football Night in America'' and ''Sunday Night Football.'' The pregame show is the highest rated of any network's.

''We try to tell compelling stories and use an innovative approach,'' Gaudelli says. ''But we're also trying to satisfy the hunger of the football fan. I know they appreciate that.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Broncos' Shane Ray far from ready to concede job to new kid

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Everywhere he looks at the moment Broncos linebacker Shane Ray spots motivation.

Denver selecting another pass rusher in Bradley Chubb with the No. 5 overall pick? Fuel.

Not having his fifth-year option picked up by the team? More incentive.

Being bashed on social media following an injury-riddled 2017 season? Added drive.

Not that long ago, Ray was all the rage - a first-round pick out of Missouri to play alongside Von Miller. But another pass-rusher has suddenly soared in popularity in Chubb, whose selection on draft night had Miller hooting and hollering .

Ray gets it. He takes it all in stride. He's trying to, anyway.

''For somebody to come and just try to shove me to the side, I'm not that type of player,'' Ray said after a team workout Tuesday. ''I'm going to come out here and continue to be what my coaches know that I can be, my teammates, and I'm not going to let the outside people try to characterize who I am and what's going to happen for this team.

''I've got to focus on being me. I've got to focus on coming out here and having a great season, and helping my team and securing my future, wherever it is.''

Ray insisted he understands why Broncos boss John Elway and the team balked at picking up his option. Last season wasn't what he envisioned, either. He broke his left wrist in July, underwent three surgeries that caused him to miss the opening six games. He had one sack over the next eight contests before going back on injury reserve.

His fifth-year option - $9.23 million - would have been worth more than the four-year, $9,118,894 rookie contract he signed after the Broncos selected him with the 23rd overall pick in 2015. Ray, who recently turned 25, has started just 15 games in three NFL seasons, collecting 13 sacks and recovering two fumbles.

''Do you invest $9 million in a guy who had three wrist surgeries the year prior? You know, maybe not?'' Ray said. ''I can't blame John for that, and I can't focus on that. That's not something I'm going to allow to mess up my focus or my commitment to the team.''

On draft night, Ray said he, too, cheered the selection of Chubb, even if it was direct competition. Ray also vowed to teach Chubb the tricks of the pass-rushing trade. After all, that's what DeMarcus Ware did for him.

So far, Ray's been impressed by Chubb.

''He's taking notes from me, Von, Shaq (Barrett), the coaches,'' Ray said. ''He's going to develop into a great player because of that.''

One thing: Ray will be standing in his way of a starting role.

''It's going to be hell of a fight,'' Ray said, ''for somebody to come and take what I've worked so hard for my whole life.''

While Ray's wrist continues to heal - he's not allowed to do push-ups or bench press yet - Ray spent the offseason increasing his leg strength. He's beefed up from 219 pounds to around 247.

''I haven't been this big in three years,'' Ray said. ''It's a nice additional weight I felt I needed ... playing the run, just getting into the backfield and moving guys around.''

Broncos coach Vance Joseph can almost sense a hungry Ray, who's trying to hold off Chubb and prove he's worth a lucrative new deal.

''You're going to have to go out and earn your keep in this league,'' Joseph said. ''If you earn it, you keep it. He understands that. So, Shane has been in a great mood. ... I've been proud of how Shane's handled those things because obviously he reads the papers and what you guys write about that stuff.''

He's not reading this: What's being said on social media. He's tuned it out after a series of exchanges with his Twitter followers during the draft weekend.

''It's stressful, when you've got all these other things to worry about in life and have other people that are trying to bash you every moment they get,'' Ray explained. ''I don't have time for it.''

Ray had a solid rookie season that included a pair of tackles and a forced fumble in the Broncos' win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50. In 2016, he posted eight sacks.

''Last year, I wasn't the same me due to injury,'' Ray said. ''For people holding that against me, hey, it is what it is. I don't care. ... Focus on you and eliminate the outside noise and life will be a lot easier.''

---

AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Jets' Donahue says 30-day stay in rehab was 'life-changing'

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Dylan Donahue feels fortunate to have a second chance.

At football. And, most of all, at life.

The New York Jets linebacker knew he needed to make some major changes this offseason after making a decision that nearly cost him everything.

The 25-year-old Donahue was arrested and charged with drunken driving early on Feb. 26 after police say he drove the wrong way in the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey and collided with a jitney bus, injuring four people.

''I'm a firm believer in God,'' Donahue said after practice Tuesday. ''I was born and raised Christian and I believe that He saved me and the other people that were involved.''

Donahue ''definitely'' considered the incident a wake-up call, and soon after checked himself into a substance-abuse treatment facility in Jacksonville, Florida, after his second DUI arrest in less than a year. Donahue, a fifth-round pick last year out of West Georgia, had another DUI arrest in his hometown of Billings, Montana, on May 9, 2017 - 10 days after he was drafted by the Jets.

''That was a major factor in why I decided to go down for treatment,'' he said.

Donahue spent 30 days at an in-patient facility, working to become sober.

''It was very enlightening,'' he said. ''I went through a lot. ... I think it was a life-changing experience. So, it was very awakening and life-changing this offseason.''

He fully embraced the idea of going to rehab, something he hadn't previously considered.

''It wasn't necessarily a scary experience,'' Donahue said. ''I was honestly kind of excited because I was ready to make some life changes.''

Donahue also sought out former Jets teammate Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who spoke openly last season about his recovery from alcohol abuse. The tight end, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, detailed his own steps to Donahue and gave him hope that he, too, could make drastic positive changes.

''He actually helped a lot,'' Donahue said. ''Seeing someone else do it, especially someone on the same team as you, that definitely built my confidence.''

Donahue says he has cut out alcohol from his life, and has seen noticeable changes.

''My mind feels a lot clearer,'' he said. ''I'm able to remember things a lot better and think a lot clearer. Physically, too. I've gained a little bit of weight and last year, that was kind of a problem for me, keeping on the weight. So, there's a lot of benefits.''

He declined to discuss how much of a problem alcohol was for him. He also chose to not talk about details of the car accidents since they're legal matters. The second-year linebacker could also face discipline by the NFL as part of its personal conduct policy.

When Donahue went for treatment, the Jets publicly stood by him and said he had a support system with the team when he returned. That was a relief to Donahue, who was uncertain as to how the Jets would deal with the situation.

''I think anyone worries when something like that happens,'' he said, ''so, yeah, I was definitely worried.''

He acknowledged that he was surprised by how many people stood by him during that time.

''In situations like that, you really find out who your friends are,'' he said. ''It was a definite wakeup call.''

Donahue is back with his teammates on the practice field, looking to become a contributor on New York's defense.

He played in only four games last season after tearing a ligament in his right elbow while blocking on a punt return late in overtime against Jacksonville on Oct. 1. He had season-ending surgery and said the elbow is now healthy.

''He's got his head down,'' coach Todd Bowles said. ''He's working. He's working on some personal things, obviously, that he told you guys (about). He's just working hard every day trying to get the system down and we'll see what comes of it when everything comes to a head.''

Donahue knows he needs to re-establish trust with his family, friends, teammates and coaches - and it will take time. His father, Mitch, played for Denver and San Francisco during a four-year NFL career, so he knows he needs to make the most of this opportunity.

Both on and off the field.

''It's definitely more motivation,'' Donahue said. ''This has been my dream since I watched my Dad play in the NFL since I was born, so to get another chance at it means the world to me.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Chargers tight end Hunter Henry tears ACL during practice

LOS ANGELES (AP) Chargers tight end Hunter Henry tore an anterior cruciate ligament during practice, likely sidelining him for next season.

The team announced the injury on its Twitter account on Tuesday. It did not specify which knee or how the injury occurred.

Hunter, a second-round pick in 2016, had 45 receptions for 579 yards and four TDs last season for the Chargers, who finished 9-7. For his career, he has 81 catches for 1,057 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Hunter was expected to see a bigger role after the team decided not to bring back longtime star Antonio Gates.

The Chargers also signed tight end Virgil Green as a free agent from Denver last month.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL discussing possible steps to deal with anthem protests

ATLANTA (AP) The NFL approved a new owner for the Carolina Panthers, passed a rule to eject players who hit with their helmets, and took steps to spice up the kickoff.

Still to be resolved: a much more contentious issue.

What to do, if anything, about players who kneel during the national anthem?

''We recognize with our visibility and the interest itself that it's taken a life of its own,'' Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Thursday.

''We ask the world, `Don't turn your head. Look at us. Wait a minute. Look at the NFL. Look at everything we're doing.' And then when we have some issues we've got to work through, we realize we've asked you to look.

''Let's do as good as we can do.''

At their annual spring meeting, league owners welcomed David Tepper to their ranks by signing off on his record $2.2 billion deal to purchase the Panthers from disgraced team founder Jerry Richardson, who abruptly decided to sell after the NFL began investigating alleged sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

During a brief news conference in which he took only a handful of questions, Tepper immediately made a bit of news by seeming to imply he would be willing to listen to offers for a new stadium from other cities in North and South Carolina. The team has made no secret of its desire to replace 22-year-old Bank of America Stadium, and its lease runs only through the upcoming season.

''What's the name of the team? Carolina Panthers. It's going to be the Carolina Panthers,'' Tepper said. ''And that means this team has to have some kind of presence in the Carolinas and last time I saw, how many are there? That's right, there's two of them.''

But Tepper, a hedge fund owner who is worth a reported $11 billion, also reiterated several times that the largest city in the Carolinas is the ''logical place for this team.''

''As far as a new stadium, you're asking me too much and the only thing I have a market on now is lack of knowledge,'' he said. ''I'll learn a lot more in the future.''

Tepper's purchase was the first order of business at the luxury hotel in Atlanta's tony Buckhead neighborhood.

That was the easy part.

As a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tepper was already familiar to the league's owners and his approval was a mere formality. The vote was unanimous.

Anthem protests are a much thornier issue.

''We certainly want to make and will make a thought-out, deliberate decision,'' said Jones, who has made it clear he opposes kneeling during the anthem and was one of the few people to speak with reporters in the hotel lobby after the meeting broke up. ''Whatever we do, let's put the focus on what the NFL's about and that's playing football.''

The owners began discussing the issue - which has reached all the way to the White House - and will talk more before wrapping up their meetings Wednesday.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team.

President Trump turned the anthem protests into a campaign issue , saying the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.'' The NFL hasn't gone that far, but Kaepernick has yet to land another job and one of his former teammates and fellow protesters, safety Eric Reid, is also out of work.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL .

''I think there's certainly resolve and I can assure the issue is getting the very best of every owner and the very best look at all our constituencies with an eye first and foremost to our fans. That's No. 1,'' Jones said.

''We know our fans want us to zero in on football, and they don't want to think about or think that we're thinking about anything other than football.''

The NFL was reportedly considering whether to assess a 15-yard penalty against any player who takes a knee or conducts any other protest during the anthem.

Another possible option would be to change up the pregame routine, keeping teams in their respective locker rooms until after the anthem has played.

That is the protocol long followed by college football, preventing anthem protests from being carried out in its stadiums.

The new kickoff rules are aimed at making the high-speed play a bit safer and perhaps more exciting.

Players on the kickoff team can't get a running start, while eight of the return team's 11 players must start out in a 15-yard zone near midfield, forcing them to run down the field alongside the coverage players. That will make the play more like a punt and should improve safety.

Wedge blocks - two blockers teaming up on the same player - will also be banned. In addition, any kick that hits the ground in the end zone will be an automatic touchback.

The new rules will be re-evaluated in 2019 to determine their effectiveness, but the league doesn't want to eliminate kickoffs altogether.

''It's part of the game,'' said Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay, head of the league's competition committee. ''If we can make plays more competitive and safer, we should do it.''

In another attempt to improve safety, any player who initiates contact with his helmet is subject to ejection after an in-game video review that will be decided in New York.

Al Riveron, the league's head of officiating, said a foul can be called regardless of where on the body - not just the head or neck area - that one player hits another with his helmet. The rule is not position-specific, so offensive players will be subject to the same criteria as defensive players.

''This is about eliminating unnecessary use of the helmet,'' Riveron said.

If a player is ejected, Riveron and his staff in New York will use network camera angles to determine if the ejection is necessary. He promised that games will not become ''an ejection fest'' every week.

''Immediately when I learn in New York that there's an ejection, I will ask the network to give me everything you've got,'' Riveron said. ''I will take a look at it, I will rule on it and I will say yes, he's ejected, (or) no, leave him in the game.'''

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL unanimously approves Tepper's $2.2b purchase of Panthers

ATLANTA (AP) The new owner of the Carolina Panthers is committed to keeping the team in the Carolinas.

And Charlotte is clearly his preferred choice.

But David Tepper left a bit of wiggle room on his first day as owner of the team.

The NFL unanimously approved Tepper's $2.2 billion purchase of the team from Jerry Richardson on Tuesday, leading to immediate questions about the new owner's thoughts on replacing 22-year-old Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

''What's the name of the team? Carolina Panthers. It's going to be the Carolina Panthers,'' Tepper said. ''And that means this team has to have some kind of presence in the Carolinas and last time I saw, how many are there? That's right, there's two of them.''

Tepper seemed to be implying that he might consider other cities in North and South Carolina if efforts to build a new stadium in Charlotte fall through. The lease with Bank of America Stadium runs for only one more season.

But Tepper reiterated several times that the largest city in the Carolinas is the best place for the team.

''There is a logical place for this team, and it's Charlotte,'' he said. ''And far as a new stadium, again, you're asking me too much and the only thing I have a market on now is lack of knowledge. I'll call it stupidity, so I've got that down. I'll learn a lot more in the future.''

Tepper's purchase was the first order of business at the league's spring meeting in Atlanta. He was quickly approved after passing muster with the owners' finance committee during a morning session.

''We congratulate David and welcome him to the NFL,'' Commissioner Roger Goodell said.

Tepper is paying an NFL-record price to buy the team from Jerry Richardson, the team's founder and only owner since the Panthers entered the league in 1995.

Richardson abruptly announced he was selling the team last December after coming under investigation from the league for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. The probe is ongoing.

Tepper is the founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, with a reported net worth of $11 billion. Already familiar to the league as a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, his purchase was quickly approved.

Tepper said he plans to formally take over the team in July.

In the meantime, he reserved judgment on both a new stadium and those who are running the football side of things, most notably general manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera.

''I do think they have a great team down there right now,'' Tepper said. ''The biggest thing I can do is have a great appreciation of how stupid I am. Sometimes, it's better to do nothing than to do something.''

Bank of America will be the NFL's seventh-oldest stadium after Los Angeles opens its new facility for the Rams and Chargers , and the Raiders complete their move from Oakland to Las Vegas .

That has raised the prospect of the Panthers seeking another home if they can't get a new stadium of their own.

Tepper touched on the idea of bringing a Major League Soccer team to Charlotte, which could improve the financial viability of a new stadium. The city was passed over in MLS' latest round of expansion.

''The first thing I care about is winning. The second thing I care about is winning. And the third thing I care about is?'' he said, waiting for the media to give the obvious answer. ''That's on and off the field. That includes charity aspect, community aspect and how you make a community better. So you win a lot of ways, and I don't like losing in any way.''

Rivera said he looks forward to working with the new owner.

''He has a sense and a feel for football and he has been around it,'' the coach said. ''Eventually I know we will sit down and talk some football and talk about this team.''

While the owners were approving Tepper, the new-look Panthers were holding their first organized workouts some 250 miles away in Charlotte.

''For a lot of people, I am sure they are ready for some closure and for that transition to start,'' tight end Greg Olsen said. ''I think this transition has been inevitable for a little while since it was announced that the team would be sold. I think for a lot of people in the building, the players, the team, just to put all of this to rest and move forward in the new direction that the team is going with.''

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte contributed to this report.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Bridgewater looks sharp, healthy in practice with Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Teddy Bridgewater rolled right, kept moving and then zipped a pass down the field on the run.

If his first practice of organized team activities with the New York Jets was a test of his health and confidence, the quarterback passed in a big way. And so did his surgically repaired left knee.

''It feels great,'' a smiling Bridgewater said Tuesday.

Bridgewater missed most of the past two seasons after suffering a gruesome, career-threatening injury in August 2016 while with the Minnesota Vikings. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and dislocated the knee joint on a non-contact play that had many wondering if he'd ever play again.

The comeback trail took a positive turn late last season, when he threw two passes - one was intercepted - in a game for the Vikings. But Minnesota moved on from the former Louisville star, who was a first-round pick in 2014, and allowed him to become a free agent.

After signing with the Jets in March, Bridgewater is moving on from his painful past.

''I'm just focused on the now and what's ahead of me,'' he said. ''I'm happy to be here. We have a great team, a group of young guys who are anxious to continue to make noise in this league. That's very exciting to be a part of.''

It was uncertain as to how much Bridgewater would be able to do at the start of OTAs, but the quarterback wasn't limited at all despite having his left knee wrapped. It was an encouraging performance as he worked behind incumbent starter Josh McCown with the first-team offense in team drills.

''He moved well today,'' coach Todd Bowles said.

His throws were mostly sharp, and he scrambled around the field several times - showing some flashes of the playmaking ability that made him a Pro Bowl selection in his second season in 2015.

''I've been working with the training staff,'' Bridgewater said. ''We've been making some great progress. The goal is to get better each day. That's our primary focus right now. That's my focus as an individual goal, and we're going to continue to just make those strides.''

Bridgewater adds an interesting element to what will be a must-see quarterback competition, that now won't include Christian Hackenberg after he was traded to Oakland for a conditional seventh-round draft pick Tuesday.

New York took Sam Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft last month and the former USC star has already been anointed by many as the franchise quarterback of the future - and maybe of right now.

In his first OTAs practice, the 20-year-old Darnold looked like, well, a rookie. He overthrew a few passes in team drills and had a few throws picked off in the 7-on-7 period. Darnold also fumbled a snap, but it was no cause for alarm.

''It's Day 1,'' Bowles said. ''First time going up against a different defense and putting the offense against 11 guys over there.''

McCown was solid as the starter last season, instilling a leadership presence and having a career year while throwing for 2,926 yards and 18 touchdowns before missing the three games with a broken left wrist. But, he'll turn 39 on July 4 and is clearly not part of the Jets' long-term plans.

Bridgewater, however, is still just 25 and could give both McCown and Darnold a run for the starting job. Or, perhaps play well enough this summer to be a trade chip for New York.

''Control what you can control,'' Bridgewater said. ''My primary focus is to be the best teammate I can be, be the best-caliber player I can be to help the New York Jets win football games. We're going to continue to push each other in that room, motivate each other and it's going to trickle down the line with everyone in this locker room.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL discussing possible steps to deal with anthem protests

ATLANTA (AP) The NFL approved a new owner for the Carolina Panthers, passed a rule to eject players who hit with their helmets, and took steps to spice up the kickoff.

Still to be resolved: a much more contentious issue.

What to do, if anything, about players who kneel during the national anthem?

''We recognize with our visibility and the interest itself that it's taken a life of its own,'' Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. ''We ask the world, `Don't turn your head. Look at us. Wait a minute. Look at the NFL. Look at everything we're doing.' And then when we have some issues we've got to work through, we realize we've asked you to look.

''Let's do as good as we can do.''

At their annual spring meeting on Thursday, league owners welcomed David Tepper to their ranks by signing off on his record $2.2 billion deal to purchase the Panthers from disgraced team founder Jerry Richardson.

During a brief news conference in which he took only a handful of questions, Tepper immediately made a bit of news by seeming to imply he would be willing to listen to offers for a new stadium from other cities in North and South Carolina. The team has made no secret of its desire to replace 22-year-old Bank of America Stadium, and its lease runs only through the upcoming season.

''What's the name of the team? Carolina Panthers. It's going to be the Carolina Panthers,'' Tepper said. ''And that means this team has to have some kind of presence in the Carolinas and last time I saw, how many are there? That's right, there's two of them.''

But Tepper, a hedge fund owner who is worth a reported $11 billion, also reiterated several times that the largest city in the Carolinas is the ''logical place for this team.''

''As far as a new stadium, again, you're asking me too much and the only thing I have a market on now is lack of knowledge,'' he said. '' I'll learn a lot more in the future.''

Tepper's purchase was the first order of business at the luxury hotel in Atlanta's tony Buckhead neighborhood.

That was the easy part.

As a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tepper was already familiar to the league's owners and his approval was a mere formality. The vote was unanimous.

Anthem protests are a much thornier issue.

''We certainly want to make and will make a thought-out, deliberate decision,'' said Jones, who has made it clear he opposes kneeling during the anthem and was one of the few people to speak with reporters in the hotel lobby after the meeting broke up. ''Whatever we do, let's put the focus on what the NFL's about and that's playing football.''

The owners began discussing the issue - which has reached all the way to the White House - and will talk more about the matter when they wrap up their meetings Wednesday.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system. Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team.

President Trump turned the anthem protests into a campaign issue, saying the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.'' The NFL hasn't gone that far, but Kaepernick has yet to land another job and one of his former teammates and fellow protesters, safety Eric Reid, is also out of work.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL.

''I think there's certainly resolve and I can assure the issue is getting the very best of every owner and the very best look at all our constituencies with an eye first and foremost to our fans. That's No. 1,'' Jones said. ''We know our fans want us to zero in on football, and they don't want to think about or think that we're thinking about anything other than football.''

The NFL was reportedly considering whether to assess a 15-yard penalty against any player who takes a knee or conducts any other protest during the anthem. Another possible option would be to change up the pregame routine, keeping teams in their respective locker rooms until after the anthem has played.

That is the protocol long followed by college football, preventing anthem protests from being carried out in its stadiums.

The new kickoff rules are aimed at making the high-speed play a bit safer and perhaps more exciting.

Players on the kickoff team can't get a running start, while eight of the return team's 11 players must start out in a 15-yard zone near midfield, forcing them to run down the field alongside the coverage players. That will make the play more like a punt and should improve safety.

Wedge blocks - two blockers teaming up on the same player - will also be banned. In addition, any kick that hits the ground in the end zone will be an automatic touchback.

The new rules will be re-evaluated in 2019 to determine their effectiveness, but the league doesn't want to eliminate kickoffs altogether.

''It's part of the game,'' said Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay, head of the league's competition committee. ''If we can make plays more competitive and safer, we should do it.''

In another attempt to improve safety, any player who initiates contact with his helmet is subject to ejection after an in-game video review that will be decided in New York.

Al Riveron, the league's head of officiating, said a foul can be called regardless of where on the body - not just the head or neck area - that one player hits another with his helmet. The rule is not position-specific, so offensive players will be subject to the same criteria as defensive players.

''This is about eliminating unnecessary use of the helmet,'' Riveron said.

If a player is ejected, Riveron and his staff in New York will use network camera angles to determine if the ejection is necessary. He promised that games will not become ''an ejection fest'' every week.

''Immediately when I learn in New York that there's an ejection, I will ask the network to give me everything you've got,'' Riveron said. ''I will take a look at it, I will rule on it and I will say yes, he's ejected, (or) no, leave him in the game.'

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Rodgers, Packers gets used to new faces and playbook tweaks

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Aaron Rodgers' eventful offseason included a trip to India to see the spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and a pit stop to watch his girlfriend, race car driver Danica Patrick, at Daytona.

He also purchased a minority stake in the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks.

This week, it's back to the practice field for the two-time NFL MVP.

On-field offseason workouts have started for the Green Bay Packers. They are especially important for a team that has had a lot of change since the end of a 7-9 season.

New general manager Brian Gutekunst cut longtime receiver Jordy Nelson; signed veteran tight end Jimmy Graham; and drafted three receivers all 6-foot-3 or taller. Former Packers assistant Joe Philbin is back as offensive coordinator. The playbook got a thorough review.

''Change can be really good ... any time you're in a situation where you've had the same type of things going on for a number of years, it's nice to change it up in some positions, yeah,'' Rodgers said at Lambeau Field after practice.

Not to say that the loss of Nelson, a salary cap casualty, didn't hurt. Nelson was a team leader. He was especially close to Rodgers, and fellow receivers Randall Cobb and Davante Adams.

''Honestly, it has nothing to do with this football team. He's a good dude, and we built up a really good relationship over these last four years,'' said Adams, who has assumed the role of the Packers' No. 1 receiver.

As for the playbook, Adams calls the changes more a fine-tuning of what's worked in the past.

''It's kind of more of a mentality of how we're attacking people. I love it,'' Adams said. ''As long as we keep to it, keep working at things and clean everything up, it's going to be more dangerous (than) it's been in the past.''

At the very least, the Packers hope they are in much better shape than 2017, when the offense struggled with Rodgers sidelined much of the season by a broken collarbone. After several weeks of classroom work, they were eager to take what they've learned out on the field.

''There's a little bit of an `It's-about-time feel to it,''' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said before practice.

In Philbin, McCarthy brought a reassuring presence back to the coaching staff.

Philbin was offensive coordinator from 2007-11 before leaving to take the Miami Dolphins head coaching job. He was the coordinator when Rodgers took over the starting job in 2008, and when the Packers won the Super Bowl two seasons later.

Rodgers calls Philbin a ''fantastic teacher'' who commands a room. Philbin said Rodgers is processing the game in his mind even faster now compared to when he last coached him in 2011.

Rodgers also remains a master at preparation. There is no better role model for backups Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer.

''From a preparation standpoint, he's been excellent, both in the quarterback room and the unit room. He's obviously got an outstanding command of what we're doing, what we want to do,'' Philbin said.

Off the field, he'll get back to cheering on his girlfriend this weekend. Patrick is driving her final race at the Indy 500 on Sunday.

Rodgers said he watched from pit road for a while when Patrick was at Daytona in February. He's hoping that Patrick can take the checkered flag at the Brickyard.

''She's had a lot of success at Indy over the years,'' Rodgers said. ''I think several top 10s, hoping she goes out with a bang.''

NOTES: Asked about the possibility of the Packers adding receiver Dez Bryant, who was cut by the Cowboys, Rodgers said, ''Well, we like young receivers. So I'm assuming that's the way they're going to keep going. I don't know why you'd cut Jordy and bring in Dez, but he's a talented player.'' Besides taking three receivers in the draft, the Packers also have returnees Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis competing for more targets. ''He's going to end up somewhere'' Rodgers said about Bryant. ''If he ends up here, we'd obviously welcome him with open arms and get him up to speed as quick as possible.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL discussing possible steps to deal with anthem protests

ATLANTA (AP) The NFL approved a new owner for the Carolina Panthers, passed a rule to eject players who hit with their helmets, and took steps to spice up the kickoff.

Still to be resolved: a much more contentious issue.

What to do, if anything, about players who kneel during the national anthem?

At their annual spring meeting on Thursday, league owners welcomed David Tepper to their ranks by signing off on his record $2.2 billion deal to purchase the Panthers from disgraced team founder Jerry Richardson.

During a brief news conference in which he took only a handful of questions, Tepper immediately made a bit of news by seeming to imply he would be willing to listen to offers for a new stadium from other cities in North and South Carolina. The team has made no secret of its desire to replace 22-year-old Bank of America Stadium, and its lease runs only through the upcoming season.

''What's the name of the team? Carolina Panthers. It's going to be the Carolina Panthers,'' Tepper said. ''And that means this team has to have some kind of presence in the Carolinas and last time I saw, how many are there? That's right, there's two of them.''

But Tepper, a hedge fund owner who is worth a reported $11 billion, also reiterated several times that the largest city in the Carolinas is the best place for the team.

''There is a logical place for this team, and it's Charlotte,'' he said. ''And far as a new stadium, again, you're asking me too much and the only thing I have a market on now is lack of knowledge. I'll call it stupidity, so I've got that down. I'll learn a lot more in the future.''

Tepper's purchase was the first order of business at the league's spring meeting in Atlanta.

That was the easy part. As a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tepper was already familiar to the league's owners and his approval was a mere formality.

The vote was unanimous.

Anthem protests are a much thornier issue, of course.

''We certainly want to make and will make a thought-out, deliberate decision,'' said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has made it clear he opposes kneeling during the anthem. ''Whatever we do, let's put the focus on what the NFL's about and that's playing football.''

The owners began discussing the issue - which has reached all the way to the White House - and will talk more about the matter when they wrap up their meetings Wednesday.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system. Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team.

President Trump turned the anthem protests into a campaign issue during a special U.S. Senate election in Alabama, saying the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during ''The Star-Spangled Banner.'' The NFL hasn't gone that far, but Kaepernick has yet to land another job and one of his former teammates and fellow protesters, safety Eric Reid, is also out of work.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL.

''I think there's certainly resolve and I can assure the issue is getting the very best of every owner and the very best look at all our constituencies with an eye first and foremost to our fans. That's No. 1,'' Jones said. ''We know our fans want us to zero in on football, and they don't want to think about or think that we're thinking about anything other than football. That's certainly is my take on the spirit of the group.''

The NFL was reportedly considering whether to assess a 15-yard penalty against any player who takes a knee or conducts any other protest during the anthem. Another possible option would be to change up the pregame routine, keeping teams in their respective locker rooms until after the anthem has played.

That is the protocol long followed by college football, preventing anthem protests from being carried out in its stadiums.

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Raiders counting on rebound season from Amari Cooper

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Amari Cooper's upward career trajectory took a major detour last season when a combination of drops, injuries and overall poor play plagued him all season.

After topping 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first two seasons in the NFL for Oakland, Cooper didn't even reach 700 yards last season in a fall that was emblematic of the Raiders descent from 12 wins in 2016 to just six a year ago.

That all contributed to the move to bring Jon Gruden back for a second stint as coach and Gruden made it clear earlier in the offseason that fixing Cooper would be a priority and that he expected him to be a focal point of the offense.

''It was cool. Obviously as a receiver, you want to go out there and make plays for your team and win,'' Cooper said Tuesday. ''So for him to say that, it really meant a lot to me. I'm just ready to come out here and work and prove that I deserve to have those opportunities.''

Cooper was on a star track after being drafted fourth overall by the Raiders in 2015. He had 72 catches for 1,070 yards as a rookie and then 83 receptions for 1,153 yards in year two, becoming the third player to start his career with back-to-back seasons with at least 70 catches and 1,000 yards receiving after Odell Beckham Jr. and Marques Colston.

But he took a major step backward last season when he had just 48 catches for 680 yards with nearly one-third of that production (210 yards) coming in a Thursday night win over Kansas City. Cooper had more than 70 yards receiving just one other time all season, when he gained 87 of his 115 yards on a single catch in the season finale.

Cooper caught just 50 percent of his 96 targets last season for the third-worst mark in the NFL last season, according to SportRadar.

''I wouldn't say it was great,'' Cooper said. ''Definitely some things I need to work on coming into this year and some things that I have been working on so that I can be better on for this season.''

Holding onto the ball will be a big key. He dropped three passes in the opener and five in the first four weeks, according to SportRadar, to get his season off on the wrong track. He reduced those as the season went on, but was unable to perform consistently as the Raiders offense struggled as a whole with Derek Carr at quarterback.

But drops have been a recurring problem for Cooper in his career with his 30 dropped passes since entering the league in 2015 ranking worst in the NFL. The Raiders have 135 as a team in that span, also ranking last in the league and a priority for Gruden to fix.

''Sometimes the quarterback throws the ball in there early. Maybe he didn't take the proper drop. Sometimes the receiver might lack concentration. There's a lot of reasons. You have to catch the football,'' Gruden said.

''We have to catch the ball better. We have to improve. Our receivers have to rise up, play better than they've ever played. We've made changes there in this core and they have to obviously take the torch and run with it.''

Cooper is part of an offense that should maximize his talent this year. In 11 years as a coach, Gruden had a 1,000-yard receiver every season, including two in 2001. The Raiders also bolstered their receiving group by signing Jordy Nelson to replace the departed Michael Crabtree and adding a deep threat in Martavis Bryant, whose game-breaking speed should create more opportunities underneath.

Having two talented receivers by his side also should allow Cooper more opportunities to play from the slot, where his deft footwork and route running should make him a difficult matchup.

''We have a whole lot of plays even right now this early,'' Cooper said. ''We have something for everything. Every defensive look, we can audible to something to get in the right play for any defense.''

NOTES: The Raiders traded a conditional seventh-round pick to the New York Jets for quarterback Christian Hackenberg, a second-round pick in 2016 who has never taken a snap in the NFL. ... Edge rusher Khalil Mack remains out of the voluntary offseason program while seeking a long-term contract. ... S Obi Melifonwu, a second-round pick in 2017, remains sidelined by a hip injury and Gruden said he's not close to returning. ''I haven't seen much of Obi except in the training room,'' Gruden said.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Patriots take field for OTA with no Brady, no Gronk

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Seven-on-seven drills.

Playbook run-throughs.

Pretending that everything is normal.

It's all part of the New England Patriots getting ready for the regular season.

Three months after losing the Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Patriots held their second organized team activity on Tuesday - without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.

Coach Bill Belichick declined to comment on the absence of two of his biggest stars, and their teammates claimed to be too focused on their own jobs to worry about who wasn't there.

''It's been really hard to get accustomed to a new team and learn everybody's name,'' rookie Danny Etling, a seventh-round draft choice who hopes to follow Brady as New England's starting quarterback, said when asked if he had communicated with the three-time NFL MVP yet. ''I'm just really focused on getting to know everybody.''

Asked if he knew Brady's name, Etling smiled.

''Yeah, I know Tom,'' he said. ''He's a pretty great quarterback, probably the greatest of all time.''

Tuesday's practice was not mandatory, and Brady and Gronkowski were among more than a half-dozen other players who skipped it. Belichick said he would only comment on the players who were there.

Brady, who will turn 41 in training camp, was reportedly in the area with his personal guru and trainer instead of Gillette Stadium, and Gronkowski was said to have joined him.

Both players had quarreled with the Patriots this offseason over their contracts, with the Pro Bowl tight end dangling the possibility of retiring before informing the team last month that he will return.

Brady's dissatisfaction reportedly stems from a below-market contract - two years, $41 million - and talk of speeding up the plan for Jimmy Garoppolo to succeed him as the starter. Garoppolo was traded to San Francisco, which gave him a contract that guarantees him more than $60 million in the first two years.

Brian Hoyer, who was brought in to be the backup, said Brady's absence was not a distraction.

''I'm focused on myself. My teammates - we are all focused on getting better each day. That's all we can do. I don't think it's a distraction in any way at all.''

Without Brady, Hoyer got the chance to run drills with the starting unit on Tuesday and said it was beneficial.

''I look at it as a great opportunity to be out there, to be the guy who is in charge in the huddle, especially for quarterbacks, there's nothing like being out there simulating plays against the defense,'' he said. ''Even 10 years in, you're always learning new things.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Helmet hits will lead to ejections under new NFL rule

ATLANTA (AP) The NFL has passed a new rule for this season that says any player who initiates contact with his helmets is subject to ejection after an in-game video review that will be decided in New York.

Al Riveron, the league's head of officiating, said a foul can be called regardless of where on the body - not just the head or neck area - that one player hits another with his helmet. The rule is not position-specific, so offensive players will be subject to the same criteria as defensive players.

''This is about eliminating unnecessary use of the helmet,'' Riveron said Tuesday at the NFL spring meetings.

If a player is ejected, Riveron and his staff in New York will use network camera angles to determine if the ejection is necessary. He promised that games will not become ''an ejection fest'' every week.

''Immediately when I learn in New York that there's an ejection, I will ask the network to give me everything you've got,'' Riveron said. ''I will take a look at it, I will rule on it and I will say yes, he's ejected, (or) no, leave him in the game.

''Play will stop, and we will expedite it. That's why we won't have the referee come over and we're not going to get the replay official involved,'' Riveron said. ''The only way the replay official will be involved is he will call it and immediately tell the command center, we have an ejection on `No. 22 White.'''

Atlanta Falcons CEO Rich McKay, the head of the league's competition committee, said the league had conference calls and a webinar with every coaching staff in the league last week to tell them to begin teaching a new, safer technique.

McKay said the rule passed after the league looked at tens of thousands of examples on film to determine how to reduce concussions. Contact that's made by leading with the helmet no longer has a place in the NFL.

''We have always learned don't put your neck at risk and everything else,'' he said. ''Now we've taken it a step further and said that we need to teach it out of the game and put a rule in and get it out of the game.''

The rule applies to linemen, too. They can no longer lower their helmets to initiate contact.

''It's a culture change, and it's something that we take full responsibility'' for, Riveron said. ''Prior to training camp we will have position-specific videos done by head coaches such as offensive line play, defensive line play, defensive backs, linebackers, special teams, runners. Why? Because this rule is all-inclusive for all players in all parts of the field.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Jets trade QB Hackenberg to Raiders for 2019 7th-round pick

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Christian Hackenberg spent his final day with the New York Jets much as he did in his first two seasons.

As a spectator.

The Jets traded the 23-year-old quarterback to the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday for a conditional seventh-round draft pick next year, ending Hackenberg's tenure with the team before he ever took a regular-season snap.

''Some players, it takes a while for them to get going,'' said coach Todd Bowles, who announced the trade after his post-practice news conference was delayed for two hours as the deal was being completed.

''We did everything we could to try to help him as best we could,'' Bowles added. ''Sometimes it just works out somewhere else.''

Hackenberg was a second-round pick out of Penn State in 2016, but never played a regular-season snap for the Jets. The 23-year-old quarterback was clearly No. 4 on New York's depth chart, behind veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater and first-rounder Sam Darnold.

''We've got three quarterbacks and obviously we drafted Sam in the first (round),'' Bowles said. ''We like Teddy and we like Josh. We just had one too many to get all of them reps.''

Hackenberg stood back and merely watched as McCown, Bridgewater and Darnold took their snaps during 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 team drills during the first practice of organized team activities. Hackenberg threw during position drills, but that was it - and, as it turned out, that was by design.

''We held him out today because we had things in the works,'' Bowles said, ''in case something happened.''

Hackenberg joins a quarterbacks room with the Raiders that includes Derek Carr, EJ Manuel and Connor Cook. Oakland coach Jon Gruden worked with Hackenberg for his ''Gruden's QB Camp'' series before the 2016 draft, so he has some familiarity with the young signal caller.

With the Jets, Hackenberg was considered a project when he entered the league and has been an enigma so far in the NFL. His mechanics have been the subject of much debate and criticism.

So, he went back to the basics this offseason, working on shortening his motion and trying to become more efficient. After two years with no results, Hackenberg was asked a few hours before the trade why it took so long to take that step.

''I don't know,'' he said. ''I think there were some times where I threw it really good throughout my first two years here. That was the frustrating part for me, is the ups and downs and not knowing why, if that makes sense, and not really getting any information from anybody on how to fix that and how to address it.''

That immediately raised some eyebrows, and came off as a veiled shot at the Jets' coaching staff.

''No, I don't put the blame on anyone,'' Hackenberg said. ''I think my thing is I'm happy I got the opportunity and someone stepped up outside of me to help me give me the tools to do it. So, being able to take that by my control, if that makes sense, being able to handle that and do it myself, I think is really cool.''

Bowles insisted that Hackenberg's critical comments had nothing to do with the deal.

''No, Hack's a great guy,'' Bowles said. ''He's 23 years old - he should want to play. He's a competitor, so I understand.''

After last season ended, Hackenberg sat down with Jeremy Bates, the Jets' quarterbacks coach and new offensive coordinator, about things the youngster needed to work on. Hackenberg acknowledged that he developed ''some inefficiencies, some bad habits'' and discussed shortening his throwing motion.

Hackenberg met with former NFL quarterbacks coach David Lee and went over several things before Lee pointed him in the direction of personal coach Jeff Christensen. The two worked together for 60-plus sessions since the end of January in Chicago, Los Angeles and Kansas City with other NFL QBs such as EJ Manuel and Kevin Hogan.

''For the first time in a long time, right now, I feel that I have a solid foundation from a fundamentals standpoint,'' Hackenberg said. ''And the cool thing is, it only started about two months ago and it's only going to keep on getting better and better and better. So, I'm excited about it.''

But it won't be with the Jets, and Hackenberg will go down as one of the biggest draft disappointments in recent team history. New York spent a second-round pick on a player who never took a snap - and one who was considered, at one time, a possible future franchise quarterback.

''Any time a pick doesn't work out, I guess you can look at it as a waste,'' Bowles said. ''But when a pick does work out, it's not a waste. You learn lessons from everything you do in life. It's not just football and draft picks, so if anybody's got a four-leaf clover up their butt and that's going to work out every time, please let me know that person because it didn't work out here.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Jags begin on-field work with Bortles 'ahead of everyone'

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Between wrist surgery, signing a $54 million contract and nearly getting robbed, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles had quite the start to the offseason.

His next phase probably won't create as much buzz, but it's much more important to the team's success in 2018.

Bortles opened organized team activities Tuesday behind a revamped offensive line and with three new passing targets - all part of a plan to improve an offense that featured the league's top rushing attack last season.

''I have always believed that when your quarterback is ahead of everyone, and the rest of the offense has to catch up, that is a pretty good thing,'' coach Doug Marrone said. ''You don't want the quarterback trying to catch up to the rest of the offensive players. I think that Blake is in a good spot as far as what he knows of the offense, what we want to do. It's just another year.

''I think that's why you see those quarterbacks that stay in these systems for a long period of time and play for a long period of time that do such a good job.''

Bortles threw for 3,687 yards, with 21 touchdowns and a career-low 13 interceptions in 2017. He was at his best in the postseason, throwing for 594 yards and three scores without a turnover.

Interceptions and fumbles were among Bortles' biggest faults during his first three years in the league. He limited them down the stretch last season and eliminated them in the playoffs, helping the Jaguars reach the AFC championship game.

''You want to have that every game,'' said Bortles, who had surgery to repair a partially torn ligament in his right wrist in late January. ''Just wanting to make sure that no matter what I did I gave us a chance to win. I knew that if I didn't turn the ball over we're going to have a chance to win every game. That should be and it is my mindset every single game we play. I think it was only heightened in the playoffs to make sure I wasn't the reason we couldn't win the game.''

The Jaguars rewarded Bortles with a three-year contract that included $26.5 million guaranteed, making him the team's starter for at least the next two seasons.

''The contract stuff doesn't really change anything about how I think or how I approach every day,'' he said.

The biggest difference, he said, is having continuity. The Jaguars returned their entire coaching staff, giving Bortles and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett a solid foundation to start from during OTAs.

''We talked about it this morning: Kind of taking it to the next level,'' said Bortles, who didn't have the freedom to audible early last season. ''He kind of gave me the green light to go ahead ... as far as what you're doing versus all the different looks and not just running the play called, (but) getting yourself in the best play possible.''

Bortles will have a much different supporting cast to work with in 2018.

Donte Moncrief and rookie DJ Chark replaced receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins stepped in for longtime starter Marcedes Lewis.

Moncrief and Chark are expected to bring more speed to Jacksonville's offense, which coaches are counting on to help loosen up defenses and create more room for bruising running back Leonard Fournette. The addition of All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell should help, too.

Bortles will use the next few months to build a rapport with those newcomers. If it includes any dinners, Bortles probably will be sure to lock his truck.

Bortles had his wallet stolen and pickup truck nearly hijacked earlier this month from teammate Brandon Linder's driveway during an offensive line dinner. An 18-year-old Jacksonville man was arrested and charged with auto theft, auto burglary and trespassing.

Bortles left his keys inside his unlocked truck, but other vehicles parked around it prevented the man from driving away.

''He checked my truck out a little bit and left it nice and clean for me,'' joked Bortles, who has since teamed up with local police to help prevent automobile burglaries. ''It was all right. ... Glad to be back playing football, running around. It feels good to kind of be back to some familiarity.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Eagles release starting linebacker Mychal Kendricks

PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia Eagles have released starting linebacker Mychal Kendricks after six seasons with the team.

The cost-cutting move announced on Tuesday came after linebacker Paul Worrilow went down with a knee injury on the first day of organized team activities. Kendricks was due to earn $5.85 million in base salary this year with a $7.6 million cap hit. He started 13 games in the regular season and three more in the playoffs last season as the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

Kendricks, a second-round pick in 2012, averaged 56 tackles per season. He had three interceptions, six forced fumbles and 14 sacks.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Broncos new QB Keenum gets first taste of Denver's defense

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) One thing that Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch all quickly learned in Denver was that nothing comes easy against the Broncos' ''No Fly Zone'' secondary at practice.

It's something opposing quarterbacks discover on game day.

Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward are no longer here, but Chris Harris Jr., Darian Stewart, Justin Simmons and Bradley Roby remain.

On Tuesday, Case Keenum got his first taste of that stellar defensive backfield that still uses the moniker following Ward's dismissal last year and Talib's trade to the Rams this offseason.

When asked what it was like facing the merry band of pass snatchers in his first 11-on-11 drills since signing with Denver two months ago, Keenum feigned ignorance of the stellar secondary's sobriquet.

''Is that their nickname? Is that what they're called?'' Keenum asked. ''Is it? OK. Well, it's good to know. Yeah, they're talented. They're a talented squad. And I think ... going against good, it makes you better.''

When the full pads come out and summer comes around, Keenum will get a pass from the Broncos' bevy of pass rushers, donning a different color jersey to signal he's off-limits to the likes of Von Miller, Shane Ray, Bradley Chubb and Shaq Barrett.

He won't get any favors, though, from the No Fly Zone, which has both perturbed and polished Broncos QBs and offensive coordinators since the group formed during Manning's tenure and helped them win a Super Bowl.

Facing these defensive backs will surely chagrin and sharpen Keenum, too.

''I think competition not only within positions and yourself, but against the defense, coming out here and competing here every day against the No ... Fly ... Zone ... it's going to be really good,'' Keenum said, slowing down to pronounce the nickname right.

''I'm excited. It's fun competition. Those guys are really good.''

Keenum signed a two-year, $36 million free agent deal in Denver after leading the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC championship game.

The Broncos, who held QB competitions each of the first two seasons following Manning's retirement, quickly declared Keenum their starter and said Lynch and Chad Kelly would vie for the backup job. This week they added former Colorado State QB Nick Stevens to the mix.

This marks the first time Keenum has entered an offseason program as the established starter since joining the league as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Houston in 2012.

''It's been fun to watch,'' coach Vance Joseph said. ''It's good for our football team. It's good for our coaches.''

''Yeah, it feels different,'' Keenum said. ''It feels good. I like it. I like competing and I like knowing my place and knowing my role. There's some comfort to that and I think that puts different things at ease and lets you go out there and play, lets you cut it loose. It's nice.''

Keenum is 20-18 in six seasons with the Vikings, Rams and Texans and is coming off his best season yet, one in which he went 11-3 as Minnesota's starter after a knee injury sent Sam Bradford to the sideline.

He checked in Monday night at No. 51 in the NFL's Top 100 - 43 spots better than Kirk Cousins, his successor in Minneapolis who signed a groundbreaking, fully guaranteed, three-year, $84 million deal this spring.

''Yeah, that was cool,'' Keenum said of his ranking. ''It's something that's voted on by our peers, so it definitely means a lot to me. I'm looking to build on that and move forward with these guys here.''

Notes: Five players were sidelined at the start of OTAs: T Jared Veldheer (foot), G Ron Leary (knee), TE Troy Fumagalli (sports hernia), WR Jordan Taylor (hips) and DT Clinton McDonald (shoulder). ... With Veldheer out, Billy Turner lined up at right tackle. T Menelik Watson moved inside to RG, sharing snaps with Connor McGovern. ... RB De'Angelo Henderson practiced a week after he was hit by a drunken driver.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Read more

Jets trade QB Hackenberg to Raiders for 7th-round pick

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets have traded quarterback Christian Hackenberg to the Oakland Raiders for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.

Jets coach Todd Bowles announced the move Tuesday in his post-practice news conference.

Hackenberg was a second-round pick out of Penn State in 2016, but never played a regular-season snap for the Jets. The 23-year-old quarterback was clearly No. 4 on New York's depth chart, behind veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater and first-rounder Sam Darnold.

Hackenberg revamped his mechanics during the offseason, working with personal coach Jeff Christensen. Hackenberg didn't throw a pass during team drills Tuesday because the teams were working on the deal.

Hackenberg said he was frustrated at times during his first two seasons because he didn't get enough feedback on how to address his issues while with the Jets. He joins Derek Carr, EJ Manuel and Connor Cook in the Raiders' quarterbacks room.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Titans lean heavily on young receivers under new coaches

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans seem confident that their young wide receivers will quickly make an impact this year.

Injuries limited Corey Davis in his rookie year last season and Tajae Sharpe missed his second consecutive season after re-injuring his right foot . Taywan Taylor, the third-round pick a year ago, had his production fall off after a promising start. Rishard Matthews is the lone true veteran going into his seventh NFL season.

So far, the Titans have added only a pair of veteran receivers that have a combined 59 NFL catches: Michael Campanaro and Nick Williams.

''After your rookie year, you've just got to go,'' first-year Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. ''We're counting on Corey, we're counting on Taywan, we're counting on Tajae and all of the guys.''

A vote of confidence or simply expectations, Davis said it doesn't matter to the receivers.

''We're going to come out here, and we're going to do our job to the best of our ability,'' Davis said. ''Rishard's a competitor, Tajae, Taywan, we're all going to come out here and compete day in and day out.''

Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk fired coach Mike Mularkey despite the franchise winning its first playoff game in 14 years. Tennessee replaced him with Vrabel , who hired Matt LaFleur from the Los Angeles Rams as his offensive coordinator. The primary reason for the moves were to get more out of quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Titans' offense, which ranked 23rd in the NFL averaging only 224.4 yards passing per game.

Eric Decker, who led the receivers with 54 catches last season, wasn't brought back. Of the returnees, Matthews has been the team's top receiver since signing as a free agent in 2016. Sharpe has the most production of the other receivers after starting 10 of 16 games as a rookie with 41 catches for 522 yards.

''We're all starting with clean slates,'' Sharpe said. ''The new coaching staff, they weren't with us last year, so we all just have to prove ourselves. We just want to come back out here and compete and get one percent better every day and just keep working.''

The Titans' biggest hope for offensive improvement rests on Davis developing into the No. 1 receiver he was drafted to be. The 6-foot-3, 209-pound Davis struggled with injuries as a rookie with offseason ankle surgery limiting him until the final week of the team's offseason program, then he hurt a hamstring a week into training camp. That sidelined him for five games , and Davis finished with 34 catches for 375 yards starting nine of 11 games.

He showed flashes of potential but didn't catch his first touchdown pass until the postseason. That was a one-handed grab for his first TD in the Titans' divisional loss at New England, and he added his second in the fourth quarter of the rout.

''It's a lot of injuries, up and down, but this year's going to be different,'' Davis said. ''Just got to stay healthy and go out and ball.''

Fully healthy, Davis, Matthews, Sharpe and Taylor spent time working out with Mariota in March. Even while learning a new offense, Davis said he believes he's ready to take advantage of a full offseason and be Tennessee's No. 1 receiver. The game has slowed down for Davis, and now he's busy building his timing with the quarterback he calls Ocho.

Mariota said the second year for any player in the NFL is almost like a sigh of relief.

''You understand the situation, you understand what's expected of you,'' Mariota said. ''Everything's not brand new, so I mean I can't speak for him. But I think as you get older and as you continue to build up your years, the surroundings, the organization, everything just feels a little more comfortable.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

---

Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Read more

Roethlisberger will "try to help" Rudolph adjust to NFL

PITTSBURGH (AP) Ben Roethlisberger insists he has no problem with the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting Mason Rudolph.

That his comments during a radio appearance shortly after the Steelers took the former Oklahoma State star in the third round of the draft - when Roethlisberger openly wondered why the team drafted a quarterback when he plans to be around a good while longer - were made in jest.

''I think people took some things into a context that I was going to be mean or rude,'' Roethlisberger said on Tuesday as the AFC North champions began organized team activities. ''That was not it at all.''

As if to prove a point, Roethlisberger went out of his way to praise Rudolph when the two shared a field together.

They didn't exactly bro-hug or trade jokes, but the 36-year-old Roethlisberger did what he says he's done throughout his 14-year career. A suggestion here. A comment there.

During one drill, Roethlisberger even found himself playing the de facto center as he whipped the ball underhand to the 22-year-old who may - or may not - being Roethlisberger's eventual replacement.

''I have never been the type to be rude or mean to other quarterbacks,'' Roethlisberger said.

''I've had a lot of quarterbacks through here that have been younger than me that I've tried to help any way that I can. I'll continue to do that.''

The Steelers raised some eyebrows when they traded up to select Rudolph with the 76th overall pick in the draft, the highest the organization has taken a quarterback since making Roethlisberger the 11th overall selection in 2004.

Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert said in the aftermath the Steelers had Rudolph rated equally with the first quarterbacks chosen in the first round, but declined to get into specifics about whether the team views Rudolph as Roethlisberger's eventual replacement.

Roethlisberger expressed surprise during a radio appearance earlier this month, rhetorically asking why Pittsburgh used a third-round pick on a quarterback when there were players at other positions who could make a more immediate impact.

Roethlisberger stressed that wasn't a slight at Rudolph and he is more than happy to help Rudolph get comfortable. When Rudolph threw high and hard to fullback Roosevelt Nix, Roethlisberger offered a bit of advice.

''I pulled him aside and said `You'll learn quickly every throw doesn't have to be the hardest throw you can make,''' Roethlisberger said.

''You don't have to put every throw on guy's chests as hard as you can. That's a great opportunity for a nice easy touch pass. Just trying to instill things like that.''

Rudolph has been deferential from the minute he became a Steeler, stressing it was his job to learn how to play in the NFL and not Roethlisberger's job to teach him.

Roethlisberger didn't hesitate when asked if there's anything that stood out about Rudolph during their initial workout.

''He has a big arm,'' Roethlisberger said. ''Seems to understand the offense. Seems to not have any issues in the huddle. So I thought he did really well.''

Any potential ''controversy'' - be it real or imagined - remains far off at best. Rudolph is in the mix of a three-man race to be Roethlisberger's primary backup. Landry Jones has held the job for each of the past three seasons, with 2017 fourth-round pick Josh Dobbs serving as the third stringer last fall.

The Steelers will only carry three quarterbacks out of camp. Given the lengths the Steelers went to draft him, Rudolph figures to be a lock for one of the two spots behind Roethlisberger, with the emphasis on ''behind.''

For how long remains the central question. Roethlisberger took two months during the 2017 offseason before deciding to return.

He announced his intention to be back in 2018 in a quiet locker room after the Steelers were upset by Jacksonville in the divisional round.

Asked what made him flip from saying he was year to year to hinting he could play beyond the contract that expires in the spring of 2020 and Roethlisberger remained somewhat vague.

He likes the offensive line in front of him - all of whom are signed through this season - and the skill-position talent that surrounds him in the huddle.

Oh, and Randy Fichtner has taken over as offensive coordinator after Todd Haley's deal wasn't renewed in January.

Pressed on specifics and Roethlisberger offered little while also somewhat contradicting himself in the process.

''Take it one year at a time and just feeling what you have left in the tank,'' he said.

Which - for now - appears to be quite a bit.

NOTES: For the second straight spring, All-Pro RB Le'Veon Bell was not in attendance as OTAs began. Bell has yet to sign his one-year, $14.1 million franchise tender. ... Injured LB Ryan Shazier (spinal surgery) watched practice from a golf cart.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Favre says he went to rehab 3 times to fight addictions

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Retired quarterback Brett Favre says he made three trips to rehabilitation centers during his Hall of Fame career to fight his dependence on painkillers and alcohol.

Favre told Sports Illustrated he took as many as 14 Vicodin at one time during the 1995 season in Green Bay. Favre won the first of his three consecutive Most Valuable Player awards that season.

''It is really amazing, as I think back, how well I played that year,'' Favre said. ''That was an MVP year for me. But that year, when I woke up in the morning, my first thought was, `I gotta get more pills.'''

Favre said his issues with pills caused him to spend 28 days at a center in Rayville, Louisiana, in the early 1990s. Favre also says he spent 28 days in rehab ''strictly for drinking'' in 1998. The story also mentions a previously reported 72-day stint at a Kansas City rehab center in the mid-1990s to get off Vicodin.

''When I drank, I drank to excess,'' Favre said. ''So when I went in the second time, to the place in Kansas, I remember vividly fighting them in there. They said drinking was the gateway drug for me, and they were right, absolutely right, but I wouldn't admit it. I will never forget one of the nurses. I had it all figured out. I fought with this nurse all the time. I would not admit the drinking problem. At the end, she said to me, `You'll be back.'

''I was back. 1998. Guess who was waiting there when I walked in - that same nurse.''

The Packers, through a spokesman, declined comment. The front office and coaching staff has turned over several times over the last 20 years.

Favre played in the NFL from 1991-2010 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

---

Information from: Sports Illustrated (www.si.com )

Read more

Chiefs TE Harris suspended 1 game by NFL for drug violation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Kansas City Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris was suspended one game without pay by the NFL on Tuesday for violating its substance abuse policy.

Harris pleaded guilty in March in Bates County, Missouri, to one count of marijuana possession and one count of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. He was sentenced to two days in jail, fined $500 and given two years' probation along with 80 hours of community service.

Harris must also complete an NFL drug program.

The 26-year-old Harris has been the backup to Travis Kelce, though he's been relatively disappointing ever since the Chiefs drafted the college basketball player out of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He's played four seasons in Kansas City, and last season set career highs with 18 catches and 224 years.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL unanimously approves Tepper's $2.2b purchase of Panthers

ATLANTA (AP) The new owner of the Carolina Panthers is committed to keeping the team in the Carolinas.

And Charlotte is his clearly his first choice.

But David Tepper left a bit of wiggle room on his first day as owner of the team.

The NFL unanimously approved Tepper's $2.2 billion purchase of the team from Jerry Richardson on Tuesday, leading to immediate questions about the new owner's thoughts on replacing 22-year-old Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

''What's the name of the team? Carolina Panthers. It's going to be the Carolina Panthers,'' Tepper said. ''And that means this team has to have some kind of presence in the Carolinas and last time I saw, how many are there? That's right, there's two of them.''

Tepper seemed to be implying that he might consider other cities in North and South Carolina if efforts to build a new stadium in Charlotte fall through. The lease with Bank of America Stadium runs for only one more season.

Tepper also reiterated several times that the largest city in the Carolinas is the best place for the team.

''There is a logical place for this team, and it's Charlotte,'' he said. ''And far as a new stadium, again, you're asking me too much and the only thing I have a market on now is lack of knowledge. I'll call it stupidity, so I've got that down. I'll learn a lot more in the future.''

Tepper's purchase was the first order of business at the league's spring meeting in Atlanta. He was quickly approved after passing muster with the owners' finance committee during a morning session.

''We congratulate David and welcome him to the NFL,'' Commissioner Roger Goodell said.

Tepper is paying an NFL-record price to buy the team from Jerry Richardson, the team's founder and only owner since the Panthers entered the league in 1995.

Richardson abruptly announced he was selling the team last December after coming under investigation from the league for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. The probe is ongoing.

Tepper is the founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, with a reported net worth of $11 billion. Already familiar to the league as a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, his purchase was quickly approved.

Tepper said he plans to formally take over the team in July.

In the meantime, he reserved judgment on both a new stadium and those who are running the football side of things, most notably general manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera.

''I do think they have a great team down there right now,'' Tepper said. ''The biggest thing I can do is have a great appreciation of how stupid I am. Sometimes, it's better to do nothing than to do something.''

Bank of America will be the NFL's seventh-oldest stadium after Los Angeles opens its new facility for the Rams and Chargers, and the Raiders complete their move from Oakland to Las Vegas.

That has raised the prospect of the Panthers seeking another home if they can't get a new stadium of their own.

Tepper touched on the idea of bringing a Major League Soccer team to Charlotte, which could improve the financial viability of a new stadium. The city was passed over in MLS' latest round of expansion.

''The first thing I care about is winning. The second thing I care about is winning. And the third thing I care about is?'' he said, waiting for the media to give the obvious answer. ''That's on and off the field. That includes charity aspect, community aspect and how you make a community better. So you win a lot of ways, and I don't like losing in any way.''

Rivera said he looks forward to working with the new owner.

''He has a sense and a feel for football and he has been around it,'' the coach said. ''Eventually I know we will sit down and talk some football and talk about this team.''

While the owners were approving Tepper, the new-look Panthers were holding their first organized workouts some 250 miles away in Charlotte.

''For a lot of people, I am sure they are ready for some closure and for that transition to start,'' tight end Greg Olsen said. ''I think this transition has been inevitable for a little while since it was announced that the team would be sold. I think for a lot of people in the building, the players, the team, just to put all of this to rest and move forward in the new direction that the team is going with.''

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte contributed to this report.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Giants taking a chance on Josh Mauro despite PED suspension

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) When a new coach comes in, it's always interesting to see who lines up with the first-team units.

One of the surprises for the New York Giants was seeing Josh Mauro at defensive end during the first practice at organized team activities this week.

Mauro knows the 3-4 system that is being installed by new defensive coordinator James Bettcher. The drawback is that the five-year veteran is not going to be on the field when new coach Pat Shurmur and the Giants open the season at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He will be starting a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The NFL handed down the suspension days after the 27-year-old Mauro signed a one-year contract with the Giants. The team knew it was coming before signing him.

''They have confidence in me,'' Mauro said. ''They are giving me an opportunity here. I just want to give them everything I have to return that favor. It means a lot to me and I want to give them everything I have.''

Mauro has accepted responsibility for using the drug. He purchased an over-the-counter supplement and didn't know it contained a banned substance. A trace amount of it was found in a test. It was not present in a test a week later.

Mauro, who released a statement after the suspension explaining what happened, wants everyone to know that he is not a cheater.

''Once you step away from this game all you have is your name,'' Mauro said. ''You can have your accomplishments, your stats, whatever else, individual or team successes you've had, but it's just important for me to let everyone know the circumstances beyond that.''

Mauro could be a key player for Bettcher, who coached him for three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. Along with linebacker Kareem Martin, he can explain the new system to his teammates.

He also doesn't see a team that was 3-13 last season.

''There are a lot of positives up here,'' the former Stanford product said. ''This is probably the toughest division (NFC East) in the NFL, so there are a lot of opportunities to play great teams. And just this city, it's the ultimate football city.''

Mauro may train with the Giants and participate in training camp. Once his suspension starts, he cannot be with the team unless he is getting treatment for an injury.

Mauro, who started 26 games for the Cardinals with 75 tackles and two sacks, plans to meet with the staff before the suspension starts to get a workout routine.

While they traded Jason Pierre-Paul in the offseason, the Giants have depth at the end spot with Olivier Vernon, Kerry Wynn, Romeo Okwara and Avery Moss. They are heavy at the tackle spots with Damon Harrison, Dalvin Thompson, Robert Thomas and rookie draft picks RJ McIntosh and B.J. Hill.

NOTES: The Giants signed veteran receiver Russell Shepard, who has played five seasons in the NFL. He was released by the Carolina Panthers last week. To make room on the 90-man roster, first year cornerback Tim Scott was released. He played in one game last season.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Rams' Kelly pleads guilty, charge could be dropped in a year

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Los Angeles Rams sixth-round draft pick John Kelly has pleaded guilty and agreed to pay court costs but will have his misdemeanor drug charge dismissed if he avoids trouble for a year.

Kelly was cited for possession of Schedule VI and University of Tennessee linebacker Will Ignont was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia last fall after Knoxville police found 4.6 grams of marijuana and a glass pipe during a traffic stop.

Tennessee law defines marijuana as a ''Schedule VI'' drug.

Kelly, a running back from Tennessee, pleaded guilty Tuesday but will have the charge dropped in a year if he avoids trouble in a judicial diversion program.

Ignont's case also will be dismissed if he avoids trouble for a year, performs 24 hours community service and pays court costs.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL unanimously approves Tepper's $2.2b purchase of Panthers

ATLANTA (AP) The NFL has unanimously approved a $2.2 billion deal to sell the Carolina Panthers to the David Tepper.

The league announced the completion of the purchase Tuesday during its spring meeting in Atlanta. It was the first order of business after Tepper was approved by the owners' finance committee during a morning session.

Tepper is paying an NFL-record price to buy the team from Jerry Richardson, the team's founder and only owner since the Panthers entered the league in 1995.

Richardson abruptly announced he was selling the team last December after coming under investigation from the league for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

Tepper is the founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, with a reported net worth of $11 billion. Already familiar to the league as a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, his purchase was quickly approved.

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Panthers have new face at top, new faces on field this year

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) While NFL owners were busy unanimously approving the sale of the Carolina Panthers to hedge fund owner David Tepper in Atlanta, his new team was taking the field for the first time together this season 250 miles away in Charlotte.

Tepper inherits a team that will have a noticeably new look for 2018.

Sure, many of the veteran core players including Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen, Ryan Kalil and Kawann Short are back, but Carolina has an unusually high influx of new players this offseason via free agency, trades and the NFL draft following a year in which they lost in the first round of the playoffs to New Orleans.

The Panthers replaced all-time leading rusher Jonathan Stewart with free agent C.J. Anderson from the Broncos and added three wide receivers. They acquired Torrey Smith in a trade with the Super Bowl champion Eagles, signed free agent Jarius Wright and drafted D.J. Moore from Maryland in the first round.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera hopes free agent Russ Cockrell and second-round pick Donte Jackson provide long-term stability at cornerback while Da'Norris Searcy can fill the shoes of Kurt Coleman at safety. Carolina also invested $28 million in free agent defensive tackle Dontari Poe to replace Star Lotulelei.

''We wanted some veteran guys who have a feel for what it takes,'' Rivera said Tuesday.

That includes Smith and Anderson, who recently won Super Bowls.

It's early yet, but Rivera likes what he's seen from the newcomers.

''I feel very comfortable about the veteran guys that we brought it and now it's about the young guys,'' Rivera said. ''Not just this year's rookie class but last year's rookie class. A group of those guys have got to step up.''

Tepper stepped up and bought the Panthers last week for an NFL-record $2.2 billion in cash, setting the stage for a new era to begin in Carolina.

The hedge fund owner was formerly a minority owner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, although he will have to sell that share now that he is running the Panthers. His agreement to purchase the team ended a five-month search for new ownership after franchise founder Jerry Richardson announced he was selling amid allegations of improper sexual and racial behavior at the team's headquarters in Charlotte.

''For a lot of people I am sure they are ready for some closure and for that transition to start,'' Olsen said. ''... I think this transition has been inevitable for a little while since it was announced that the team would be sold. I think for a lot of people in the building, the players, the team, just to put all of this to rest and move forward in the new direction that the team is going with.''

Rivera said he's met Tepper a couple of times in passing and presented a formal presentation to him - and other potential owners - during the bidding process.

He likes that Tepper has been around the NFL as a part owner.

''He has a sense and a feel for football and he has been around it,'' Rivera said. ''... Eventually I know we will sit down and talk some football and talk about this team.''

Meanwhile, Newton was the on the field throwing during the first day of OTAs. He missed all of the spring workouts last year because of surgery on his right shoulder.

Rivera said having a healthy Newton for these camps is essential because he sets the tone and tempo for the team during practice. He also said it is ''critical'' that he has a chance to get on the same page with his new group of receivers.

''I am excited about having him out here and throwing the ball and developing that'' chemistry, Rivera said.

Newton is in the midst of learning a new offensive system.

Norv Turner replaced Mike Shula as offensive coordinator this offseason. Shula was Newton's coordinator since 2013 and had a close relationship with him. Rivera said at first Newton was nervous about the change, but has now started to settle down.

The quarterback seemed relaxed Tuesday, running and smiling and trading his normal barbs with linebacker Thomas Davis after big plays.

''I think Cam gets that Norv is here to help,'' Rivera said.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Eagles QB Carson Wentz back on the field for start of OTAs

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Carson Wentz was back on the field throwing passes less than six months after knee surgery ended his season.

The Pro Bowl quarterback wore a brace on his surgically repaired left knee and tossed passes to assistant coaches and ballboys as the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles kicked off organized team activities on Tuesday. Wentz isn't medically cleared to participate with the rest of the team.

''I'm just learning how to trust it, trust your knee, trust your movement, all of those things,'' he said. ''That comes over time.''

Nick Foles stepped in after Wentz went down, leading the Eagles to their first NFL title since 1960. Foles was the Super Bowl MVP in a 41-33 victory over the Patriots and would be the starter if Wentz isn't ready for the season opener on Sept. 6 against the Falcons.

''Anytime you're rehabbing, you have to be careful,'' Wentz said. ''Trust what the trainers and doctors are saying and be smart with it.''

Linebacker Paul Worrilow injured his knee during practice and had to be carted off the field. There was no immediate word on the extent of his injury.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Favre says he went to rehab 3 times to fight addictions

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Retired quarterback Brett Favre says he made three trips to rehabilitation centers during his Hall of Fame career to fight his dependence on painkillers and alcohol.

Favre told Sports Illustrated he took as many as 14 Vicodin at one time during the 1995 season in Green Bay. Favre won the first of his three consecutive Most Valuable Player awards that season.

''It is really amazing, as I think back, how well I played that year,'' Favre said. ''That was an MVP year for me. But that year, when I woke up in the morning, my first thought was, `I gotta get more pills.'''

Favre said his issues with pills caused him to spend 28 days at a center in Rayville, Louisiana, in the early 1990s. Favre also says he spent 28 days in rehab ''strictly for drinking'' in 1998. The story also mentions a previously reported 72-day stint at a Kansas City rehab center in the mid-1990s to get off Vicodin.

''When I drank, I drank to excess,'' Favre said. ''So when I went in the second time, to the place in Kansas, I remember vividly fighting them in there. They said drinking was the gateway drug for me, and they were right, absolutely right, but I wouldn't admit it. I will never forget one of the nurses. I had it all figured out. I fought with this nurse all the time. I would not admit the drinking problem. At the end, she said to me, `You'll be back.'

''I was back. 1998. Guess who was waiting there when I walked in - that same nurse.''

Favre played in the NFL from 1991-2010 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

---

Information from: Sports Illustrated (www.si.com )

Read more

Favre says he went to rehab 3 times to fight addictions

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre says he made three trips to rehabilitation centers during his career to fight his dependence on painkillers and alcohol.

Favre told Sports Illustrated he took as many as 14 Vicodin at one time during the 1995 season in Green Bay. The former Packers star said ''that year, when I woke up in the morning, my first thought was, `I gotta get more pills.'''

Favre says his issues with pills caused him to spend 28 days at a center in Rayville, Louisiana, in the early 1990s. Favre also says he spent 28 days in rehab ''strictly for drinking'' in 1998. The story also mentions a previously reported 72-day stint at a Kansas City rehab center in the mid-1990s to get off Vicodin.

---

Information from: Sports Illustrated (www.si.com )

Read more

NFL helmet maker helping curb soldiers' head injuries

The creator of the innovative football helmet that performed best in NFL testing the last two years is taking its concussion-reducing technology from the playing field to the battlefield.

VICIS, maker of the Zero1 football helmet, is partnering with the U.S. Army to research ways to reduce head injuries in the military through a development grant announced Tuesday.

The Seattle-based company will replace foam pads in existing Army and Marine Corps combat helmets with liner technology developed for its Zero1 football helmet, said VICIS CEO and co-founder Dave Marver.

''This aligns with our mission and it allows us to protect those who have signed up to protect us,'' Marver told The Associated Press. ''The technology remains in development, but it's very promising and we're hopeful it will make a big difference in the lives of our servicemen and women.''

Today's combat helmets are designed primarily for ballistic protection and shielding from gunfire and shrapnel. But a 2013 Congressional Research Service report showed that four out of every five traumatic brain injuries in the military are caused by blunt impact in training and other non-deployed settings.

''The main thing is the current combat helmets are ... not optimized for blunt impact protection and that's what football helmets are designed to do, protect against blunt impact,'' Marver said. ''And so what we're doing rather than working to replace the shell of the combat helmet, which is good at ballistic protection, we're actually replacing the inner padding, which is currently just foam.''

Marver said medical staff at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle first reached out to him in 2016 after hearing about the work his company was doing with the Seattle Seahawks and asked if VICIS could adapt its technology to improve combat helmets.

''We founded the company to build a better football helmet, but fundamentally our strength as a company is developing these impact-mitigating structures,'' Marver said. ''And the military initiative kind of came about organically because the Army reached out to us to see if we could take this football helmet technology and improve the combat helmet. So, most startup companies you have to stay focused and get your initial product out, but we felt so strongly about the need to better protect warfighters.''

Marver assembled a team of engineers to work on the military project, and ''I would say it's going to take a year or two before this would potentially reach warfighters and be deployed.''

Introduced last year, the Zero1 is the first football helmet to account for rotational as well as linear impact. Scientific studies have indicated that rotational impact has more correlation with concussions.

Laboratory testing showed that the VICIS Zero 1 models of 2017 and 2018 rate best for player safety. Last month the NFL for the first time banned a number of helmets that were deemed inferior to many of the 34 helmets the NFL and the players' union examined.

The Zero1 also ranked first in this year's Virginia Tech varsity football helmet ratings.

''VICIS has demonstrated great results in their football helmets, and we look forward to continuing those types of results with the unique blunt impact requirements of combat helmets,'' said project manager Benjamin Fasel, a mechanical engineer at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

In 2017, 75 players on 18 NFL teams used the helmet. About 200 players representing all 32 NFL teams are expected to use the lighter Zero1 this season, as are players from more than 80 colleges and 500 high schools, Marver said.

Several retired military advisers will provide input for VICIS's combat helmet initiative, including Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Navy Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff and Air Force Gen. Charles Wald, who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 1970 but embarked on a 35-year military career instead of playing professional football.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Read more

Cardinals release cornerback Marcus Williams

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Cardinals have released cornerback Marcus Williams.

Monday's move comes after the team acquired cornerback Jamar Taylor in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.

Taylor enters summer workouts as the favorite to win the starting cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson.

Williams signed with the Cardinals on April 19. He played with the New York Jets and Houston Texans the last four seasons.

The move makes room for Taylor on the 90-man roster. Arizona sent a 2020 sixth-round pick to the Browns for Taylor.

---

More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Jets sign fourth-rounder TE Chris Herndon to 4-year deal

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets have signed tight end Chris Herndon, their fourth-round draft pick, to a four-year contract.

The team announced the signing Monday, the day before organized team activities were to begin.

Quarterback Sam Darnold, the No. 3 overall selection, is the only player among the Jets' six-man draft class who remains unsigned.

Herndon had 86 catches for 1,048 yards and seven touchdowns in four seasons at Miami. He injured a knee late in the season and has been limited this spring with the Jets, who hope he'll be completely healthy when training camp begins in late July.

The 6-foot-4, 253-pound Herndon is one of six tight ends currently on New York's roster, joining Eric Tomlinson, Jordan Leggett, Neal Sterling, Clive Walford and Bucky Hodges.

---

More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

'Pay the man': Rams back DT Aaron Donald in latest absence

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Aaron Donald is skipping another set of offseason workouts while his contract negotiations with the Los Angeles Rams drag on into their second year.

The All-Pro defensive tackle's teammates would like to see this standoff resolved before it has any chance to impact their promising season.

''Hey man, pay the man,'' cornerback Marcus Peters said. ''You win the MVP? Come on now.''

The NFL's Defensive Player of the Year was back home in Pittsburgh while the Rams began voluntary organized team activities at their training complex Monday. He also skipped the start of their offseason program in April.

He is missing the first steps in the assembly of a potentially impressive defense. Peters joined the Rams in the offseason along with fellow star cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh - but they haven't yet teamed up with Donald, who turns 27 on Wednesday.

''Aaron is a vet, man,'' Talib said. ''He's going to take care of his own business. What's his business is his business.''

Donald is due to make $6.89 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract, and the Rams theoretically could keep him for three additional years under a franchise tag. But he has been one of the NFL's top defensive linemen since his career began in 2014, and the Rams' front office has claimed it is eager to sign Donald to a long-term contract.

''It's kind of where it's been,'' coach Sean McVay said of the Rams' negotiation with Donald. ''We're in constant dialogue and communication with his representation. It is something that we want to get resolved. As far as a timetable, don't really have any dates on that. I don't expect Aaron to be here until we get a resolution to that.''

These negotiations still appear to be civil and respectful, despite their abnormal length. Donald has expressed little public frustration with the Rams' reticence to write the check he is seeking, while McVay and general manager Les Snead have scrupulously avoided any public criticism of the tactics that have kept Donald away from his teammates.

''He and I have had good dialogue,'' McVay said. ''I spoke with him last week. This feels a lot different than last year. Certainly anytime that you have something where the team comes together, to have a player that's as important as he is here, you would prefer that. But it is voluntary. We understand that, and we have a lot of respect and understanding for what's going on.''

Donald also skipped most of last year's offseason activities in his lengthy quest for a contract befitting his talent and accomplishments. That holdout lasted through training camp and the entire preseason while he attempted to land a new contract likely to make him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.

He missed the Rams' season opener after reporting to the team one day before the game. Donald still was named the NFL's top defensive player despite appearing in only 14 games while Los Angeles roared to the NFC West title and the franchise's first postseason appearance in 13 years.

Donald matched his career high with 11 sacks last year while causing continual havoc to opponents' offensive lines and running games.

Although Donald clearly doesn't need the offseason program to thrive, particularly heading into his second season in coordinator Wade Phillips' scheme, he's missing out on the chance to bond with his teammates while working out his dynamic with Suh. The duo could be one of the NFL's most intimidating combinations this fall after Suh chose the Rams from among several suitors for his free-agent services.

The Rams' new defensive players finished their first day with new respect for McVay's offense, which took Los Angeles from worst to first in the NFL in scoring last year.

''We got an introduction to that McVay offense, and it's crazy,'' Talib said. ''There's a bunch of movement, a bunch of speed on it. You've got to have your eyes in the right place.''

The Rams' mandatory minicamp doesn't begin until June 12, following three weeks of voluntary workouts.

---

More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cardinals release cornerback Marcus Cooper

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Cardinals have released cornerback Marcus Cooper.

Monday's move comes after the team acquired cornerback Jamar Taylor in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.

Taylor enters summer workouts as the favorite to win the starting cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson.

Cooper signed with the Cardinals on April 19. He played with the New York Jets and Houston Texans the last four seasons.

The move makes room for Taylor on the 90-man roster. Arizona sent a 2020 sixth-round pick to the Browns for Taylor.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

"Pay the man": Rams back DT Aaron Donald in latest absence

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Aaron Donald is skipping another set of offseason workouts while his contract negotiations with the Los Angeles Rams drag on into their second year.

The All-Pro defensive tackle's teammates would like to see this standoff resolved before it has any chance to impact their promising season.

''Hey man, pay the man,'' cornerback Marcus Peters said. ''You win the MVP? Come on now.''

Donald was back home in Pittsburgh while the Rams began voluntary organized team activities at their training complex Monday. He also skipped the start of their offseason program in April.

He is missing the first steps in the assembly of a potentially impressive defense. Peters joined the Rams in the offseason along with fellow star cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh - but they haven't yet teamed up with Donald, who turns 27 years old Wednesday.

''Aaron is a vet, man,'' Talib said. ''He's going to take care of his own business. What's his business is his business.''

Donald is due to make $6.89 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract, and the Rams theoretically could keep him for three additional years under a franchise tag. But he has been one of the NFL's top defensive linemen since his career began in 2014, and the Rams' front office has claimed it is eager to sign Donald to a long-term contract.

Donald also skipped most of last year's offseason activities in his lengthy quest for a contract befitting his talent and accomplishments. That holdout lasted through training camp and the entire preseason while he attempted to land a new contract likely to make him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.

He missed the Rams' season opener after reporting to the team one day before the game. Donald still was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year despite playing in only 14 games while the Rams roared to the NFC West title and his first postseason appearance.

He matched his career high with 11 sacks while causing continual havoc to opponents' offensive lines and running games.

Although Donald clearly doesn't need the offseason program to thrive, particularly heading into his second season in coordinator Wade Phillips' scheme, he's missing out on the chance to bond with his teammates while working out his dynamic with Suh. The duo could be one of the NFL's most intimidating combinations this fall after Suh chose the Rams from among several suitors for his free-agent services.

The Rams' new defensive players finished their first day with new respect for the coach Sean McVay's offense, which took Los Angeles from worst to first in the NFL in scoring last year.

''We got an introduction to that McVay offense, and it's crazy,'' Talib said. ''There's a bunch of movement, a bunch of speed on it. You've got to have your eyes in the right place.''

The Rams' mandatory minicamp doesn't begin until June 12, following three weeks of voluntary workouts.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL: Patricia's past not subject to personal conduct policy

DETROIT (AP) The NFL has determined sexual assault allegations against Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia from 1996 are not subject to its personal conduct policy.

''The allegations occurred well before his affiliation with the NFL,'' the league said Monday after completing its review of the Lions' interviewing process.

Patricia has said he was falsely accused of allegations that resurfaced in a Detroit News report . The accuser did not testify and the case was dismissed. He and a friend were indicted 22 years ago by a Texas grand jury on one count each of aggravated sexual assault. They were accused of assaulting a woman on South Padre Island.

''I was innocent then,'' Patricia said earlier this month, a day after the newspaper report. ''And, I am innocent now.''

The Lions have said a pre-employment background check did not reveal the incident and they are standing by Patricia.

The NFL review determined the Lions were appropriate and thorough during the interview process. The league said Patricia did not mislead anyone with the Lions and adds he was under no league or other requirement to raise the issue.

''We determined that the Lions handled the interview process in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner and fully and appropriately complied with all applicable employment laws,'' the league said. ''As we learned from both Mr. Patricia and the Lions, the matter was not part of his employment interview process for job opportunities outside of or within the NFL.''

The Lions hired Patricia in February after firing Jim Caldwell. The former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offensive lineman was hired by the Patriots in 2004. Patricia became one of Bill Belichick's top assistants, serving as defensive coordinator from 2012 through last season.

''For 14 years in our organization, Matt conducted himself with great integrity and is known to be an outstanding coach, person and family man,'' Belichick said earlier this month. ''We have always been confident in Matt's character and recommended him highly to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at http://twitter.com/larrylage

Read more

Incognito becomes a free agent after being cut by Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Richie Incognito's playing days might not be over after all.

The veteran guard is free to resume his career after the Buffalo Bills released him from their reserve/retired list on Monday.

The move represents the latest twist in what's become an unsettling offseason for Incognito. He now becomes a free agent some six weeks after abruptly announcing he was retiring on his Twitter account.

Incognito did not reply to a voicemail and text message left with him by The Associated Press.

He has also not posted any messages on Twitter since April 15, three days after the Bills placed him on the reserve/retired list.

The Bills did not provide a reason for the decision to release Incognito in announcing the move in a one-sentence statement.

General manager Brandon Beane last month sidestepped questions regarding Incognito by saying he's focusing on players on the roster. Beane did say Incognito would have to seek the NFL's permission to be reinstated should he desire to come out of retirement.

Incognito cited health concerns as one of the reasons he was retiring. He was also unhappy with taking a pay cut in restructuring the final year of his contract with Buffalo this offseason.

The 34-year-old Incognito has 11 seasons of NFL experience, including the past three with Buffalo. He earned three of his four Pro Bowl selections in Buffalo, and was part of a line that helped the Bills lead the NFL in yards rushing in both 2015 and `16.

The Bills provided Incognito a second chance at resuming his career after he spent 18 months out of football following his role in the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal.

Incognito was suspended for the final eight games of the 2013 season, when the Dolphins were thrust into the national spotlight after offensive lineman Jonathan Martin abruptly quit the team amid accusations he was being bullied. An NFL investigation determined Incognito and two other Dolphins offensive linemen persistently harassed Martin.

In February, Martin was detained and questioned by Los Angeles police after posting a threatening note on his Instagram account. Martin's post showed a shotgun and specifically mentioned Incognito, former teammate Mike Pouncey as well as a private Los Angeles prep school Martin once attended. Martin wrote suicide and revenge were the only options for a victim of bullying.

This offseason, Incognito was also the subject of an NFL investigation after Jacksonville defensive end Yannick Ngakoue accused the Bills player of making racist slurs during the Jaguars' 10-3 win over Buffalo in an AFC wild-card playoff game in January. The NFL has not announced whether it has completed its investigation. Ngakoue said he and Incognito cleared the air after they were AFC teammates at the Pro Bowl in January.

Incognito caused another stir this offseason. A week before retiring, Incognito fired his agent, David Dunn, in a post on Twitter.

Incognito also played three-plus seasons in St. Louis, which drafted him in 2005. He played in college at Nebraska but left after being suspended. He then transferred to Oregon, though he never played for the Ducks.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL: Patricia's past not subject to personal conduct policy

DETROIT (AP) The NFL says sexual assault allegations against Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia from 1996 are not subject to its personal conduct policy.

The league says Monday it has completed its review of the team's interviewing process.

Patricia has said he was falsely accused of allegations that resurfaced earlier this month in a Detroit News report . The accuser did not testify and the case was dismissed.

The Lions have said a pre-employment background check did not reveal the incident and they are standing by Patricia.

The NFL says the Lions were appropriate and thorough during the interview process. It says Patricia did not mislead anyone with the Lions and adds he was under no league or other requirement to raise the issue.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Incognito becomes a free agent after being cut by Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Richie Incognito's playing days might not be over after all.

The veteran guard is free to resume his career after the Buffalo Bills released him from their reserve/retired list on Monday. The move came six weeks after Incognito abruptly announced he was retiring on his Twitter account.

The NFL Players Association confirmed Incognito's intentions by announcing he had contacted the union of his plans to retire. Incognito cited health concerns as one of the reasons he was retiring. He was also unhappy with taking a pay cut in restructuring the final year of his contract with Buffalo this offseason.

Incognito immediately becomes a free agent available to sign with any team. The 34-year-old Incognito has 11 seasons of NFL experience, including the past three with Buffalo.

The Bills provided Incognito a second chance at resuming his career after he spent 18 months out of football following his role in the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Goodell details NFL's stance on sports gambling after ruling

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says Congress should enact uniform standards for any states that plan to legislate sports betting.

Goodell detailed the league's position in a statement Monday that reiterated the NFL's stance that legalized sports gambling in the United States should be governed by federal law rather than state law. The Supreme Court ruled last week to strike down a 1992 law that barred most state-authorized sports gambling.

In suggesting four core principles that should be maintained for any form of legalized sports betting, Goodell stressed that leagues can ''protect our content and intellectual property from those who attempt to steal or misuse it.'' He also said guidelines must provide substantial consumer protections; ensure fans will have access to official, reliable league data; and that law enforcement will have the resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary ''to protect our fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad.''

After emphasizing the importance of protecting the integrity of his sport, Goodell noted the NFL has been planning for the potential of legalized sports gambling in states other than Nevada.

''(We) are prepared to address these changes in a thoughtful and comprehensive way, including substantial education and compliance trainings for our clubs, players, employees and partners,'' he said. ''These efforts include supporting common sense legislation that protects our players, coaches and fans and maintains public confidence in our games.''

The NFL has long opposed any forms of gambling on its games, though it has approved the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas in 2020, and has strong ties to fantasy football, which is not tied to the Supreme Court decision.

Many sports leagues have expressed concerns about the varied betting rules each state could pass, where bets could be placed, and who would be overseeing them.

Those leagues also believe they are entitled to an ''integrity fee.'' The easiest way to arrange for a cut of the proceeds would be negotiating with Congress rather than deals with individual states. If it passed a nationwide bill, Congress could require casinos, tracks or state governments to share some of their revenue with the sports leagues - or pay the integrity fees, designed to cover the costs of policing betting.

---

AP Writer Wayne Parry contributed.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Raiders sign draft picks Brandon Parker, Nick Nelson

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders have signed third-round tackle Brandon Parker and fourth-round cornerback Nick Nelson to rookie contracts.

The moves announced Monday leave only third-round defensive end Arden Key unsigned among the Raiders' nine draft picks.

Parker was selected 65th overall after playing four seasons at North Carolina A&T. He started all 48 games of his career at left tackle and was a three-time FCS All-American.

Nelson was drafted 110th overall. He played two seasons at Hawaii before playing his final college season at Wisconsin. Nelson led the nation and set a school record with 21 passes defensed last season for the Badgers. He had 42 passes defensed in his career but no interceptions.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Giants CB Eli Apple trying to make the most of second chance

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Eli Apple is vowing to mend his ways after being given a second chance by the New York Giants.

The 22-year-old cornerback who was the 10th pick in the 2016 draft on Monday promised to be a better player, a better person, and a better teammate as the Giants start a rebuilding process under new coach Pat Shurmur after a 3-13 season.

It was a year Apple would like to forget, both on and off the field. He started only seven games, was inactive for four and was suspended for the final game of the schedule after getting into an argument with the coaching staff. The Ohio State product also got in a beef with Landon Collins that ended with the star safety calling him a cancer.

It was ugly and highlighted a year in which Apple dealt with a crisis at home: His mother had brain surgery.

''Was I embarrassed? Of course,'' Apple said after the Giants held a two-hour practice at the first of their 10 organized team activities. ''Nobody wants to go out the way I went out. I mean, it was all over the place, so of course.

Many wondered whether the Giants would want Apple back after his second season, one that many had forecast would provide a great leap forward for him.

What changed, though, was the Giants shaking up things after last season. Dave Gettleman was hired to replace Jerry Reese as general manager and Shurmur replaced interim coach Steve Spagnuolo, who had taken over when Ben McAdoo was fired in early December.

One of the first things Gettleman did was tell him everyone was starting with a clean slate.

''I'm just going to fine tune everything, come in with a different attitude and just be positive out there on the field, and just do everything that I can to make myself better as a player, and everybody else better as a team,'' Apple said.

There is no doubt Apple needs to improve. He finished with 49 tackles and two fumble recoveries last season. He did not have an interception and has only one in two seasons.

The Giants showed some faith in him by releasing veteran Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie in the offseason.

Apple said he's trying to mature and improve how he communicates with coaches and teammates. He said he has patched up his relationship with Collins.

Despite all the problems, Apple said his confidence was not shaken. He admits being blindsided by all the attention he got. His goal this season is to work hard, be positive and try to be on an even keel.

''Maybe I got a little too confident a little bit in thinking I was going to make a big step,'' he said. ''It's about just taking it day by day and continuing to be patient, and just know my time's going to come.''

For now, Apple has an idea who he is.

''I think I'm a 22 year-old guy, just ready to get to work and continue to work hard and just build on that,'' he said.

NOTES: Shurmur threw out the first pitch at the Mets game with Arizona on Sunday. It was short and wide toward the visitors dugout. It was not as bad as the 50 Cent mode , but it was not good.

''Yeah, well, I was wasting a pitch'' Shurmur quipped, adding he has a new appreciation for baseball while insisting he did not have a case of jitters. ''That's what I was doing, like some good pitchers might.

''There are certain things that you try to not redo.'' ... First-round draft pick and new father Saquon Barkley showed some deft moves off the field when asked about combining football and family life.

''It actually kind of sucks a little bit - well that came off wrong at first,'' he said. ''It kind of sucks because I'm not with my daughter as much as I would love to be because obviously training camp, rookie minicamp, OTAs and then I had to go to L.A. for the Rookie Premiere. But I get to see her this weekend, so that is going to be great to be able to hold her again.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and -http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Redskins rookie Guice learning about pro life, Alex Smith

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Washington Redskins rookie Derrius Guice is learning there is plenty to learn about his new professional football life.

In the days since selected late in the second round of last month's NFL draft, the running back attended the team's rookie minicamp and the four-day NFLPA's Rookie Premiere event in California. The latter is designed to help players understand the business and marketing side of their new career.

''It was very tiring. A lot of long days,'' Guice said. ''In the end, a lot of it will pay off. Something all the rookies need going into the NFL.''

Guice already went through plenty. Various controversies- some over maturity concerns for the 20-year-old player, others possibly mere unfounded rumors - caused a draft slide to the 59th overall spot. That hasn't kept Guice down nor kept him from maintaining focus.

''I'm handling everything, man. I'm just ready to get to the season,'' Guice said.

Other parts of his football education come from his new teammates, such as quarterback Alex Smith and tight end Vernon Davis. The two veterans are each 34 years old, which means they began their career when Guice was in elementary school.

The three were among players and team officials at the Army-Navy Country Club for the annual Redskins Charity Golf Classic on Monday morning. As the former LSU standout finished his session with local reporters, Guice spotted Davis.

''How old was I when you got in the league?'' the rookie joked.

Standing a few steps away, Davis laughed and responded, ''Six? Seven?''

The tight end might have the timeline wrong - Davis was selected sixth overall in the 2006 draft when Guice was 10 - but the age-gap point remains. Guice and the other first-year players have already been around the veterans for some informal workouts. Three weeks of Organized Team Activities (OTA) begin Tuesday.

''Just getting out there with the vets. It's always different than just practicing with the rookies,'' Guice said. ''When you're out there with the guys who are out there like Vernon, who is 34, has been in the league since I was 10. Just getting out there with those guys and seeing how they help their bodies stay clean and young throughout the years. Them training you how to be professional inside and outside the building.''

Guice isn't the only one on the roster learning about Smith. Washington acquired the 13-year veteran in a stunning trade with Kansas City in January.

''He's a very smart guy,'' Guice said of Smith, who led the NFL with 104.7 QB-rating last season. ''He's willing to help the rookies. He's not one of those guys who, if the rookie messes up, is like get him out of there. He's willing to help you and work with you.''

As for the passing part, Guice said, ''(Alex) has an arm, yeah.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

ESPN Deportes to televise 2019 Super Bowl in Spanish

NEW YORK (AP) Next season's Super Bowl from Atlanta will be televised in Spanish by ESPN Deportes.

The NFL and CBS, which has English rights to the telecast on Feb. 3, 2019, reached agreement Monday with ESPN Deportes. That channel televised Super Bowl 50.

ESPN Deportes also presents weekly ''Monday Night Football'' games in Spanish throughout the NFL regular season, and televises a wild-card playoff game.

''The NFL's Hispanic fan base is fast-growing and passionate,'' says Amanda Herald, the NFL's vice president, media strategy and business development. ''We're excited to have ESPN Deportes on board again to televise the League's biggest event and deliver the game to millions of Spanish speaking fans.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Goodell details NFL's stance on sports gambling after ruling

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says Congress should enact uniform standards for any states that plan to legislate sports betting.

Goodell detailed the league's position in a statement Monday that reiterated the NFL's stance that legalized sports gambling in the United States should be governed by federal law rather than state law. The Supreme Court ruled last week to strike down a 1992 law that barred most state-authorized sports gambling.

Goodell says the standards should give sports leagues the right ''to protect our content and intellectual property from those who attempt to steal or misuse it.'' Goodell also wants law enforcement to be able to ''protect our fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad.''

Goodell also is seeking consumer protections as well as fan access to official and reliable league data. He said the NFL would support ''common-sense legislation that protects our players, coaches and fans and maintains public confidence in our games.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cowboys WR Terrance Williams arrested on intoxication charge

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrance Williams was arrested on a charge of public intoxication early Saturday after police responded to an accident involving his car and found Williams riding an electric bicycle on a road near his home.

Police in the Dallas suburb of Frisco said Williams' Lamborghini left a roadway and struck a light pole near the team's practice facility around 4:45 a.m. Saturday. Police say the driver had left the scene. Officers found Williams while investigating the crash.

Williams was released from jail on bond on the misdemeanor intoxication charge.

In a statement released by his attorney, Williams said an officer he had met previously arrested him without performing a sobriety test. Williams said he was returning to the scene on a scooter to meet a tow truck driver.

The attorney, Chip Lewis, disputed the police account of Williams' vehicle hitting a light pole.

''Terrance did not hit a light pole and there was no light pole even near the vehicle,'' Lewis said. ''Secondly, his arrest was wholly unrelated to the traffic accident.''

Williams said he veered into the center median to avoid a collision when a man driving a vehicle in front of him hit his brakes. The two exchanged insurance information and a neighbor drove Williams home, where the receiver said he called for a tow truck.

''I have always been an upstanding citizen and handled the situation the best way I know how,'' Williams said. ''I apologize if I should have handled it a little bit differently.''

The 28-year-old Williams was expected to miss all the offseason workouts after breaking his right foot in January and having surgery. The Cowboys released Dez Bryant in a cost-cutting move while signing two free agents and drafting two more receivers.

The Cowboys declined to comment.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cowboys WR Terrance Williams arrested on intoxication charge

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrance Williams has been arrested on a charge of public intoxication after police responded to an accident involving his car and found Williams riding an electric bicycle on a road near his home.

Police in the Dallas suburb of Frisco say Williams' Lamborghini left a roadway and struck a light pole near the team's practice facility around 4:45 a.m. Saturday. Police say the driver had left the scene. Officers found Williams while investigating the crash.

Williams was released from jail on bond on the misdemeanor intoxication charge.

The 28-year-old Williams was expected to miss all the offseason workouts after breaking his right foot in January and having surgery. The Cowboys released Dez Bryant in a cost-cutting move while signing two free agents and drafting two more receivers.

The Cowboys and Williams' agent didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Browns send CB Taylor to Cardinals for 2020 draft pick

CLEVELAND (AP) Jamar Taylor's trade to Arizona is official.

Cleveland traded another of their starting quarterbacks to the Cardinals on Saturday for a sixth-round draft pick in 2020. The teams agreed to the swap on Friday and had to work out final details before it was announced.

The Browns previously shopped Taylor and finally worked out a deal with the Cardinals, who will likely start him opposite star Patrick Peterson.

Taylor's departure seemed destined when the Browns signed several defensive backs in free agency and selected Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft.

Taylor started 15 games last season on the other side of the field from Jason McCourty, who was traded to New England in March for a 2018 seventh-round pick.

The 27-year-old Taylor was acquired by the Browns in 2016 from Miami. He had three interceptions in 2017.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Jets sign third-rounder DL Nathan Shepherd to 4-year deal

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets have signed defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd, the team's third-round draft pick out of Fort Hays State , to a four-year deal worth the slotted amount of $3.4 million.

The 6-foot-4, 315-pound native of Ontario, Canada, was the first Division II player selected in this year's draft.

Shepherd began his college career at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia in 2011 and became a starter after redshirting his freshman season. He then left school for financial reasons and worked various jobs for the next two years before walking on to Fort Hays State's team in Kansas.

He was the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association defensive player of the year as a senior and finished his three-year career at Fort Hays with 168 tackles, including 27 for loss, and 10 sacks.

The announcement Friday leaves the Jets with just two unsigned draft picks: quarterback Sam Darnold, the No. 3 overall selection; and tight end Chris Herndon, a fourth-rounder.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Houston teams; athletes offer support after school shooting

HOUSTON (AP) Rockets star Chris Paul is among many in the Houston sports world offering condolences to the families affected by an area school shooting that left 10 people dead.

Paul says: ''It's tough, man. It's scary that that's become the norm here. We've got to do something about it.''

The shooting in Santa Fe, which is about 30 miles from downtown Houston, comes after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February.

Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who has two school-aged daughters and was with the Astros at training camp in Florida at the time of the Marjory Stoneman shooting, expressed anger that these shootings continue to occur.

He says: ''It's heartbreaking, another senseless act of violence in our schools. We'll copy/paste this answer for the next time something happens because we feel like there's something happening on a routine basis that's idiotic and terrible and miserable. I hope we can somehow find a way to get past it for one, offer our condolences to the people affected and more importantly figure out a way to stop this madness.''

The Astros issued a statement Friday offering prayers to those affected by the shooting. They added that they'd hold a moment of silence in their honor before Friday night's game against Cleveland and that the Texas flags at Minute Maid Park would be flown at half-staff.

Astros pitcher Lance McCullers, who said he is working on a plan to help a student who was among the 10 people wounded in the attack, says something has to change to stop this from happening again.

He says: ''I just feel like there's got to be some sort of solution. My heart goes out to the families and the kids who shouldn't even have to worry about something like that.''

The Houston Texans also issued a statement sending condolences to the victims and thanking first responders and law enforcement who helped in the wake of the attack.

Read more

AP Source: Cardinals finalizing deal for CB Jamar Taylor

PHOENIX (AP) The Arizona Cardinals are finalizing a trade that would bring cornerback Jamar Taylor from the Cleveland Browns, two people with knowledge of the situation said Friday.

The people, who sought anonymity because the trade had not been officially announced, said the deal was expected to be completed Friday.

The trade would help fill a significant need for the Cardinals - a cornerback to play opposite Patrick Peterson. The Browns would receive a sixth-round draft pick.

The impending deal was first reported by NFL.com's Ian Rappaport.

The 27-year-old Taylor played the last two seasons with the Browns, with three interceptions and 23 passes defensed in 31 games. He played his first three NFL seasons with Miami after being drafted in the second round out of Boise State. He was acquired by Cleveland in a draft-day trade in 2016.

Taylor was a team captain but the Browns have been shopping him since before the draft. New general manager John Dorsey has completely overhauled Cleveland's secondary and Taylor would be the sixth player he's traded since taking over the team in December.

Taylor's fate was sealed when the Browns drafted Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward with the No. 4 overall pick last month.

Finding a second cornerback to play opposite Peterson has been a perennial issue for the Cardinals. With Peterson one of the best in the game, teams often didn't even try passing in his direction, instead targeting the other defender. Arizona didn't address the position in the draft until the sixth round, when they selected Chris Campbell out of Penn State.

The team drafted Brandon Williams out of Texas A&M in the third round in 2016 but the converted running back often has struggled when given opportunities.

New Cardinals coach Steve Wilks is a former defensive backs coach with the Carolina Panthers. He was defensive coordinator there a year ago.

---

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Raiders sign first-round pick Kolton Miller

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders have signed first-round draft pick Kolton Miller to a rookie contract.

The deal announced Friday gives the Raiders six of their nine draft picks under contract.

The Raiders traded down five spots to select Miller 15th overall last month to be their left tackle of the future.

Miller played three seasons at UCLA, appearing in 31 games with 23 starts at both left and right tackle over his career. He is being groomed on the left side in Oakland, where he is expected to eventually take over the job from starter Donald Penn.

The Raiders have three unsigned draft picks remaining in third-rounders Brandon Parker and Arden Key, and fourth-rounder Nick Nelson.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP Source: Cardinals finalizing deal for CB Jamar Taylor

PHOENIX (AP) A person with knowledge of the situation says the Arizona Cardinals are finalizing a trade that would bring cornerback Jamar Taylor from the Cleveland Browns.

The person, who sought anonymity because the trade had not been officially announced, said the deal was expected to be completed later in the day Friday.

The trade would help fill a significant need for the Cardinals - a cornerback to play opposite Patrick Peterson.

The 27-year-old Taylor played the last two seasons with the Browns, with three interceptions and 23 passes defensed in 31 games. He played his first three NFL seasons with Miami after being drafted in the second round out of Boise State.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP source: Cowboys' Gregory seeks return after yearlong ban

DALLAS (AP) Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory is seeking reinstatement to the NFL after missing the 2017 season over multiple violations of the league's substance-abuse policy, a person with direct knowledge of the application said Friday.

Gregory's application should be received by the league office within days in hopes that he will be reinstated in time for training camp in late July, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of privacy stipulations in the drug policy.

The NFL's policy says those involved in the process will work to help Commissioner Roger Goodell rule within 60 days of receiving the application. The league declined to comment.

The 25-year-old Gregory last played in the 2016 regular-season finale, when the former Nebraska standout had his first career sack at the end of his second season. He was suspended before Dallas' playoff loss , his third suspension of the season.

Gregory slid to the Cowboys at the end of the second round in 2015 because of off-field concerns that included a positive test for marijuana at the NFL combine.

The Cowboys have backed Gregory's attempt to return to the field, with several teammates writing letters of recommendation to the NFL as part of the application process. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones, whose recent second-round gambles in the draft haven't paid off, has praised Gregory's character repeatedly during the pass rusher's absence.

''I'm very aware of how hard he's working to get back in the league and get back on the field,'' Jones said last week. ''It's concerning that he needs to be in a team environment and needs to be a part of the regime of preparing to actually compete and so all of that will be a challenge for him, but very do-able.''

Gregory was considered one of the best pass rushers in his draft, and there was promise early with a strong rookie training camp. Gregory vowed that he wanted to make good on his word to Jones that he could control his issues with marijuana.

But he only made it through one season, and didn't have a sack while missing four games with an ankle injury.

The first suspension was announced in February 2016, and he was away from the team during training camp while in rehab. The second suspension came seven months later. Gregory remained with the team while serving the 14-game ban before playing in the final two games.

The yearlong suspension kept Gregory from participating in club activities and banned him from team facilities except for sessions with the person in charge of his treatment.

''We're still thinking about him and hoping he gets everything done the right way off the field and then good things will happen for him,'' executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said last week. ''If that happens, then we all know what kind of player he can be.''

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Seahawks sign draft picks Shaquem Griffin and Tre Flowers

RENTON, Wash. (AP) The Seattle Seahawks continued to lock up their 2018 draft class by signing linebacker Shaquem Griffin and cornerback Tre Flowers to rookie contracts Thursday.

Third-round pick Rasheem Green is now Seattle's lone unsigned draft pick. Griffin and Flowers were both selected in the fifth round.

The Seahawks also signed free agent linebacker Dadi Nicolas and wide receiver Keenan Reynolds. Defensive ends Marcell Frazier and Noble Nwachukwu were waived to make room on the 90-man roster.

Nicolas was a sixth-round pick of Kansas City in 2016 and appeared in 11 games, mostly on special teams. He suffered a patellar tendon injury late in his rookie season and missed all of 2017.

Reynolds was a sixth-round selection by Baltimore in 2016. He transitioned to wide receiver after being a star quarterback at Navy. He spent his rookie season on the Ravens practice squad and was with Washington's practice squad for part of 2017.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Reuben Foster's ex-girlfriend testifies she lied about abuse

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) The former girlfriend of Reuben Foster testified at a preliminary hearing Thursday that she lied to police when she said the San Francisco 49ers linebacker attacked her, allegations that led to a domestic violence case against him.

Elissa Ennis testified she lied because she wanted retribution after Foster tried to end their relationship, saying she was angry ''and I wanted to end him.'' When asked by prosecutor Kevin Smith if Foster ever hit her, Ennis replied, ''No, sir. Not once.''

Foster was arrested after Ennis told police he dragged her by her hair, physically threw her out of their house, and punched her in the head eight to 10 times in February. He has been charged with domestic violence with an allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury, forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime, and possession of an assault weapon. Foster pleaded not guilty last week.

Ennis subsequently issued a statement through her attorney saying her injuries, including a ruptured eardrum, were the result of a fight with another woman.

Prosecutors have said they will continue to pursue the case even if Ennis does not cooperate with the investigation. The prosecution said Ennis' testimony couldn't be trusted given inconsistencies throughout.

Judge Nona Klippen said she will rule Wednesday on whether the case should continue to trial.

Ennis, who testified against the advice of her attorney, said in court Thursday that she wanted to testify to ''do the right thing.''

She said Foster broke up with her after she got into the fight with another woman during a road rage incident in San Francisco. A 22-second video clip of that fight was presented as evidence in the case.

Ennis said she initially wanted to sue Foster. ''It was all about the money,'' she said.

Ennis also testified that she stole more than $8,000 in cash from Foster, two Rolex watches and designer clothing.

During cross examination by Foster's attorney Joshua Bentley, Ennis said she went to jail in 2011 for falsely accusing an ex-boyfriend of domestic violence.

If convicted of all charges, Foster could face up to 11 years in prison. Foster remains a member of the 49ers although the team hasn't allowed him to participate in the offseason program while his case is ongoing.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Green Bay Packers sign CB Jackson, OLB Burks

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers have signed second-round pick Josh Jackson and third-rounder Oren Burks of Vanderbilt.

Jackson, a cornerback, was taken with the 45th overall pick in last month's draft. His signing comes two days after the Packers signed first-round pick Jaire Alexander, a cornerback from Louisville.

The 6-foot, 196-pound Jackson led the country with eight interceptions as a senior for the Hawkeyes, returning two for touchdowns. He and Alexander are expected to improve a Green Bay secondary that allowed 30 touchdown passes last season, tied for the second-highest total of any team.

Burks is a linebacker.

Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst announced the signings Thursday.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Knock, knock: Browns there; team set for HBO's 'Hard Knocks'

CLEVELAND (AP) Ready or not, the Cleveland Browns are getting their close-up.

Coming off a historic, dismal 0-16 season, the Browns have been chosen to appear on HBO's popular ''Hard Knocks'' series that gives NFL fans a behind-the-scenes look at training camp.

The Browns have turned down previous opportunities to be on the award-winning series. But with renewed optimism around Cleveland following the recent draft, and the selection of quarterback Baker Mayfield, the team is granting HBO unlimited access to its upcoming camp.

Cleveland is the 13th franchise to participate in ''Hard Knocks,'' which began in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were featured last summer.

Although they've won only one game the past two seasons under coach Hue Jackson, the Browns see the show as a possibility to highlight some of their younger players and put a positive spin on their rebuild.

And for HBO, Mayfield's quest to win the starting job is just one of several juicy story lines.

''NFL Films has always been exceptional at bringing fans closer to the game and they do an outstanding job with every show they produce, including HBO's Hard Knocks,'' Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said. ''We have been asked multiple times about being featured on Hard Knocks, and we really felt like it was our turn this year and the timing was right. We want to be great partners in this league, and we also recognize Hard Knocks gives fans a special opportunity to learn more about our team and players.''

HBO's cameras are certain to focus on Mayfield, the brash Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma the Browns chose over other quarterbacks. Mayfield is expected to back up Tyrod Taylor this season, but their competition could make for the kind compelling TV that has made the series a must-watch for football junkies.

A 30-person film crew will be at the team's training facility in Berea to record more than 2,000 hours of footage for the five-segment series that will debut Aug. 7.

The Browns have some good young players who are not well known outside Cleveland. But ''Hard Knocks'' will give national exposure to budding stars like defensive end Myles Garrett, Mayfield and safety Jabrill Peppers and give the network a chance to tell the well-documented story of former Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon, who has missed most of the past three seasons because of drug suspensions.

Mayfield has experience in front of the cameras. He was recently featured in a recent documentary series as he prepared for the draft, and feels the Browns can make ''Hard Knocks'' a positive experience.

''For me looking at it, and us as a team, I'd say it can be good if you handle it right. I'll just say that,'' he said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. ''If you think about it as a way to get on camera and try to show off and do certain things and handle it the wrong way then that can be very negative, it can be a distraction. But if you use it as a sense of, `OK, I got to block out everything else and just focus on playing ball,' then that can be a great thing for us.''

Jackson and Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams have both been on ''Hard Knocks'' - Jackson with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013 and Williams with the Los Angeles Rams in 2016.

''Being able to bring our fans in so they can get to know our players and our organization in a different way will be a huge positive for us,'' Jackson said. ''I want people to see how much our players and coaches care, how hard they work and how badly they want to win for Cleveland. This will be a great opportunity for our team.''

Browns general manager John Dorsey had reservations about the series, but feels the team is equipped to handle the added scrutiny.

''Once we sat down and talked about it as an organization, I feel a lot better and understand why the time is right,'' said Dorsey, who has been overhauling the team since being hired in December. ''Hue and I both feel like this team is in a good place and that we are in the process of building something that will lead to success.''

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Broncos add Colorado State QB Nick Stevens to roster

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) John Elway has changed his mind about adding another quarterback to the Denver Broncos' roster.

The Broncos signed undrafted free agent Nick Stevens of Colorado State on Thursday, three weeks after Elway said he wouldn't bring in a fourth passer for offseason workouts.

After bypassing QBs in the NFL draft last month, notably Josh Allen and Josh Rosen with the fifth overall pick, Elway said he was satisfied with the group he had.

Free agent Case Keenum was declared the starter when he signed with Denver in March and last month Elway said Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly will compete for the backup role this summer.

''We are not going to bring another one in for OTAs,'' Elway said on April 28 after wrapping up his 10-member draft class without adding another quarterback.

Yet, for the second consecutive year the Broncos have added a local QB.

Last year, it was Kyle Sloter of Northern Colorado, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad after getting cut by Denver. Sloter, who split snaps with Trevor Siemian and Lynch in training camp, later was elevated to the Vikings' 53-man roster.

In four years at Fort Collins, Stevens threw for 8,554 yards with 70 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. He completed 61.9 percent of his passes.

The Broncos will enter the third phase of organized team activities next week when the offense lines up against the defense for the first time.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Read more

Raiders sign free agent G Cameron Hunt

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders have signed free agent guard Cameron Hunt.

The team waived center Alex Officer on Thursday to make room on the roster.

Hunt originally signed with Denver as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon last May. He spent the 2017 preseason with the Broncos and was later signed to San Francisco's practice squad in November.

Officer was signed as an undrafted free agent earlier this month.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Titans claim offensive lineman John Theus off waivers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have added an offensive lineman, claiming John Theus off waivers from the New Orleans Saints.

The Titans waived defensive lineman Antwaun Woods on Thursday to clear a roster spot.

San Francisco drafted the 6-foot-6, 303-pound Theus out of Georgia in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. He played four games at right tackle as a rookie, then spent most of last season with Carolina. The Panthers released Theus, and New Orleans claimed him off waivers in late February.

Theus played both right and left tackle in college at Georgia.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

Read more

Green Bay Packers sign 2nd-round pick Josh Jackson

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers have signed second-round draft pick Josh Jackson from Iowa.

Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst announced the cornerback's signing on Thursday.

Jackson was taken with the 45th overall pick in last month's draft, and his signing comes two days after the Packers signed first-round pick Jaire Alexander, a cornerback from Louisville.

The 6-foot, 196-pound Jackson led the country with eight interceptions as a senior for the Hawkeyes, returning two for touchdowns.

He and Alexander are expected to improve a Green Bay secondary that allowed 30 touchdown passes last season, tied for the second-highest total of any team.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Jags, Vikings to hold joint practices before preseason game

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings, teams that fell one victory shy of the Super Bowl last season, will hold joint practices in August.

The teams announced the venture Thursday. They will practice Aug. 15-16 together at Minnesota's new, sprawling practice facility in the Twin Cities suburb of Eagan. They will play a preseason game Aug. 18.

It will be Jacksonville's third set of joint practices since coach Doug Marrone took over in 2017. The Jaguars practiced at New England and hosted Tampa Bay during training camp last year.

The Jaguars and Vikings came up just short of the Super Bowl, which was played in Minneapolis. Jacksonville led the Patriots by 10 points in the fourth quarter before losing 24-20 in the AFC championship game. Minnesota lost 38-7 at eventual champion Philadelphia in the NFC title game, failing to become the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Knock, knock: Browns there; team set for HBO's 'Hard Knocks'

CLEVELAND (AP) Ready or not, the Cleveland Browns are getting their close-up.

Coming off a historic, dismal 0-16 season, the Browns have been chosen to appear on HBO's popular ''Hard Knocks'' series, which gives NFL fans a behind-the-scenes look at training camp.

The Browns have turned down previous opportunities to be on the award-winning series. But with renewed optimism around Cleveland following the recent draft, and the selection of quarterback Baker Mayfield, the team is granting HBO unlimited access to its upcoming camp.

Cleveland is the 13th franchise to participate in ''Hard Knocks,'' which began in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were featured last summer.

Although they've won only one game the past two seasons under coach Hue Jackson, the Browns see the show as a possibility to highlight some of their younger players and put a positive spin on their rebuild.

And for HBO, Mayfield's quest to win the starting job is just one of several juicy story lines.

''NFL Films has always been exceptional at bringing fans closer to the game and they do an outstanding job with every show they produce, including HBO's Hard Knocks,'' Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said. ''We have been asked multiple times about being featured on Hard Knocks, and we really felt like it was our turn this year and the timing was right. We want to be great partners in this league, and we also recognize Hard Knocks gives fans a special opportunity to learn more about our team and players.''

HBO's cameras are certain to focus on Mayfield, the brash Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma the Browns chose over other quarterbacks. Mayfield is expected to back up Tyrod Taylor this season, but their competition could make for the kind compelling TV that has made the series a must-watch for football junkies.

A 30-person film crew will be at the team's training facility in Berea to record more than 2,000 hours of footage for the five-segment series, which will debut Aug. 7.

The Browns have some good young players who are not well known outside Cleveland. But ''Hard Knocks'' will give national exposure to budding stars like defensive end Myles Garrett, Mayfield and safety Jabrill Peppers and give the network a chance to tell the well-documented story of former Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon, who has missed most of the past three seasons because of drug suspensions.

Jackson and Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams have both been on ''Hard Knocks'' - Jackson with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013 and Williams with the Los Angeles Rams in 2016.

''Being able to bring our fans in so they can get to know our players and our organization in a different way will be a huge positive for us,'' Jackson said. ''I want people to see how much our players and coaches care, how hard they work and how badly they want to win for Cleveland. This will be a great opportunity for our team.''

Browns general manager John Dorsey had reservations about the series, but feels the team is equipped to handle the added scrutiny.

''Once we sat down and talked about it as an organization, I feel a lot better and understand why the time is right,'' said Dorsey, who has been overhauling the team since being hired in December. ''Hue and I both feel like this team is in a good place and that we are in the process of building something that will lead to success.''

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP Source: Browns to be featured on HBO's 'Hard Knocks'

CLEVELAND (AP) If any team knows hard knocks, it's the Cleveland Browns.

And so fresh off a historic, dismal 0-16 season, the team has agreed to appear on HBO's popular ''Hard Knocks'' series, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press.

The Browns have renewed optimism following the recent draft. After turning down the chance to be on the behind-the-scenes series several times, the team will allow HBO unlimited access to its upcoming camp.

An official announcement will be made later Thursday, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team hasn't revealed its decision.

Cleveland is the 13th franchise to participate in ''Hard Knocks,'' which began in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were featured last summer.

HBO's cameras are certain to focus on Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, the brash Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma recently selected first overall. Mayfield is expected to sit behind Tyrod Taylor this season, but their competition could make for the kind of compelling TV that has made the series a must-watch for football junkies.

Browns general manager John Dorsey had expressed reservations about appearing on the series. Dorsey has been busy remolding Cleveland's roster since arriving in December and is now comfortable the team is in a better position to handle any distractions.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP Source: Browns to be featured on HBO's 'Hard Knocks'

CLEVELAND (AP) A person familiar with the decision says the Cleveland Browns will appear on HBO's ''Hard Knocks'' this season.

Coming off a historic 0-16 season, the Browns were chosen after declining the opportunity several times, said the person who spoke Thursday to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The official announcement will be made later.

The Browns have renewed optimism following the recent draft and are granting HBO unlimited access to its upcoming camp.

Cleveland is the 13th franchise to participate in ''Hard Knocks,'' which began in 2001. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were featured last summer.

HBO's cameras are certain to focus on Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, the brash Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma recently selected first overall. Mayfield is expected to sit behind Tyrod Taylor this season, but their competition could make for the kind compelling TV that has made the series a must-watch for football junkies.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Seahawks sign first-round pick Rashaad Penny to rookie deal

RENTON, Wash. (AP) The Seattle Seahawks signed first-round pick running back Rashaad Penny to his rookie contract Wednesday.

The Seahawks have now signed six of their nine draft picks. Offensive tackle Jamarco Jones (fifth round) and quarterback Alex McGough (seventh round) signed earlier this week.

Penny was taken with the 27th overall selection. His contract is for four years with a team option for a fifth.

Penny was one of the elite running backs in college football last season as he became a full-time starter for the first time. He led the nation with 2,248 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns for San Diego State. Penny rushed for at least 200 yards in each of the final five games to close out the 2017 season and had 13 rushing TDs during the stretch.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Raiders sign draft picks Hurst, Ateman to rookie deals

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders have signed fifth-round defensive tackle Maurice Hurst and seventh-round receiver Marcell Ateman to rookie contracts.

The deals announced Wednesday give the Raiders five of their nine draft picks under contract.

Hurst was drafted 140th overall out of Michigan after being selected as an All-American last season. He had 5+ sacks as an interior rusher and led all nose tackles and defensive tackles with 49 total quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. He slipped to the fifth round because of concern over a heart condition that got him sent home from the combine.

Ateman was drafted 228th overall. He had 146 catches for 2,466 yards and 13 touchdowns at Oklahoma State.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Stability gives Bears' defense a sharper sense of confidence

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Cornerback Prince Amukamara appreciated the give and take with new Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy at Tuesday's practice.

For the defense, as non-contact organized team activities began there was a lot of taking - and then they really gave it to Nagy and his fledgling offense.

''He's an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn't really talk stuff to because he's a defensive coach,'' Amukamara said. ''And it's like Nagy's offense, so if I get a pick or something ... I like to talk stuff to him.''

The idea for the defense since offseason started was maintaining continuity with players and with coaches, even while the head coach had changed.

The addition of a few new pieces hasn't hurt, and now defensive players believe they have what's needed to improve on last year when they ranked 10th overall.

And Nagy is also a believer, even if he and offensive players are getting kidded at practice from Amukamara or defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

''Right now there's a trust from one another because they've been together,'' Nagy said. ''There's that experience factor, which is good. And they believe what they've got going on with Vic's system.

''When you have that, that's always good. So they just kind of want to grow from any mistakes they made last year, different areas of the game they can improve on, and that's what they're doing right now.''

Linebacker Danny Trevathan pointed to the retention of Fangio as a key. Fangio re-signed after his bid to become head coach was denied following Fox's firing.

''I was excited to have Vic back,'' Trevathan said. ''I was kind of nervous about him leaving. I feel like I really wanted him back.

''He's one of our leaders and he's one of the guys we can go to for calls and advice on things.''

Keeping the entire starting secondary together was also important. The Bears could have lost starting cornerback Kyle Fuller or his good friend Amukamara as free agents, but retained both.

Amukamara pointed to Seattle's ability to keep Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor together as an example of what familiarity can do for a secondary.

''So when you have that continuity and the language stays the same, meaning the plays, it just becomes second nature,'' Amukamara said. ''Guys play faster. Guys know what to expect.

''They know how teams are going to attack them and all that is a recipe for success.''

Although intact, the Bears secondary has problems to correct. They've made a franchise record low of eight interceptions each of the last three seasons.

''I think personally on the back end it's our job to take the ball away,'' Amukamara said. ''I think we had our opportunities last year and just needed to capitalize on them.

''And I would say that for the most part, just taking the ball away, I think we did a great job last year. I think we were (third) at forcing fumbles and recovering them. So I think this year, just catching them, intercepting it.''

One change the defense did make is drafting inside linebacker Roquan Smith in the first round to challenge Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski for playing time.

Trevathan realizes Smith threatens his job security, but also thinks the extra speed and depth is something the defense lacked..

''We got the right guy to fit our defense,'' Trevathan said. ''He's working his tail off and he fits in with our linebacker group.''

Nagy appreciated Smith's quickness defending one pass play on the outside.

A forced turnover a few minutes later had the defense chortling, while Nagy had to address his offense.

''We like that because that's the kind of defense we are,'' Trevathan said. ''We're going to be in your face making plays, but at the same time we're having fun and we're all getting better at the same time.''

NOTES: Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch returned to practice after suffering an ankle injury at the April 17-19 minicamp. . After offseason surgery, right guard Kyle Long was able to participate in the offense's installation, but did not take part in scrimmage. Nagy said it's likely Long will stay at right guard. Last year some thought had been given to playing Long at left guard. ... Wide receiver Allen Robinson is still sidelined while rehabbing a torn ACL. Nagy called Robinson ''ahead of the game'' with his recovery.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Willson with Detroit after growing up across the border

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) When you play for the Detroit Lions, you can be from Canada and still be considered local.

Luke Willson, a tight end who signed with the Lions two months ago after five seasons with Seattle, is from Windsor, Ontario, right across the Detroit River from the Motor City. He grew up a Lions fan, although that's not his only motivation to play well after returning to the area.

''I was a big Barry Sanders guy. When I was a kid, it was kind of like the Herman Moore, Barry Sanders,'' Willson said this week. ''I was a youngster, but I've always kind of, you know, liked the Lions growing up. But that being said I think it's important for me to establish a divide. Yeah it was my childhood team, but I'm here to do a job.''

It's been a fairly quiet offseason for the Lions where free agency is concerned, but Willson was an interesting pickup, especially after Detroit cut ties with tight end Eric Ebron. A former first-round draft pick, Ebron became a target for Lions fans for dropping passes, but he did provide production that Detroit needs to replace. He caught 186 passes over the past four years, including 53 for 574 yards and four touchdowns last season.

In five seasons with Seattle, the 6-foot-5 Willson never had more than 22 catches, but the Seahawks have had other tight ends to throw to like Jimmy Graham and Zach Miller, so Willson may be capable of more.

''I really try to pride myself on being able to do whatever they ask,'' Willson said. ''You know, my first year we had Zach Miller, I was more the down-the-seam tight end, and Zach got hurt and you know, I had to quickly learn to be more the hand-down type guy. I think that's kind of benefited me in my career because I feel comfortable doing whatever they ask me to do.''

Willson said at this stage of the offseason, it's too early to tell what exactly his role will be with the Lions.

''I'm here to do whatever the coaches ask me and right now, you know with all the CBA rules, it's personally just about getting better each day,'' he said. ''A lot of individual stuff for me that I can get better and just showing the coaches what I can do, and then from there they'll decide what role I'll be playing this year.''

Despite the proximity to the U.S., Willson said the quality of high school football where he grew up wasn't great. He played on a summer team he likened to AAU basketball. He ended up playing college football at Rice, and he was drafted by the Seahawks in the fifth round in 2013.

He has carved out a decent NFL career for himself since then, and now he has a chance to come back and play close to home - although it sounds like he'll be living on the Detroit side of the river now.

''Got to shield myself from those Canadian taxes, man,'' he said. ''Come on, now. Can't be doing that. Can't be doing that.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

---

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Read more

Titans add veteran wide receiver Nick Williams to roster

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have agreed to terms with veteran wide receiver Nick Williams.

The Titans announced the deal Wednesday.

The 5-foot-10, 184-pound Williams has played 22 games in his career with the Atlanta Falcons over the past three seasons and Washington in 2013. He has 28 catches for 263 yards and two touchdowns.

His best season came in 2015 with Atlanta when Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur was the Falcons quarterbacks coach. Williams caught 17 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. LaFleur was quarterbacks coach with Washington when Williams was signed as a free agent.

Williams caught 43 passes for 588 yards in 42 games at Connecticut where he also returned kicks and punts scoring four touchdowns.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

Read more

Bills will retire Thurman Thomas' No. 34 on Oct. 29

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills plan to retire Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas' No. 34 jersey Oct. 29 when they host the New England Patriots.

Thomas will become the third player to have his number retired. The Bills retired quarterback Jim Kelly's No. 12 in 2001 and defensive end Bruce Smith's No. 78 in 2016.

Thomas, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, played for the Bills from 1988-99 and was a part of four straight AFC championship teams. He spent his final season with the Miami Dolphins.

Thomas was named the NFL's most valuable player in 1991. He's the only player in NFL history to lead the league in yards from scrimmage for four straight seasons.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Panthers: Signed agreement to sell NFL team to David Tepper

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers are off the market.

The Panthers announced Wednesday they have signed a ''definitive agreement'' to sell the team to David Tepper, the founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management.

The deal is subject to NFL approval.

League owners will meet next week in Atlanta, where they are expected to vote on the purchase. Since Tepper already has been vetted by the league as a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the approval process is not expected to run into any snags.

The transaction is expected to close in July, the team announced.

Tepper, who has been a minority owner of the Steelers since 2009, said Wednesday in a release that he's thrilled to become the next owner of the Panthers.

''I have learned a great deal about the community and the team over the past several months and look forward to becoming part of the Carolinas,'' said Tepper, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh. ''I want to thank Jerry Richardson and the other Panthers partners for all they have done to establish and develop the NFL in the Carolinas. It has been a remarkable 25-year journey and I promise to build upon the Panthers' success on the field and in the community.''

Tepper has a net worth of more than $11 billion, according to Forbes.

He is paying an NFL-record $2.2 billion to purchase the team, according to two people familiar with the situation. The people spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the team didn't release the selling price of the franchise.

The release didn't mention if Tepper plans to move the team or keep it in Charlotte.

Jerry Richardson, the team's founder and only owner, abruptly announced he was selling the team last December after coming under investigation from the league for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

That investigation is ongoing.

Richardson, who rarely comments to the media, said in the release that bringing the expansion Panthers and the NFL to the Carolinas in 1993 was enormously fulfilling for him, his wife, Rosalind, and all of the team's partners.

''We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support over the last 25 years,'' Richardson said. ''You have taken the Panthers into your hearts and made them part of this warm and supportive community.''

Richardson has had a strong relationship with the Rooney family in Pittsburgh through the years and is familiar with Tepper.

''I look forward to turning the stewardship of the Panthers over to David Tepper,'' Richardson said. ''I have enjoyed getting to know him in this process and am confident that he will provide the organization with great leadership in both its football and community initiatives. I wish David and his family the very best as they enter this exciting new phase of their lives.''

Tepper will have full ownership of the team. He'll need to sell his ownership stake in the Steelers once he becomes the Panthers owner.

Richardson had owned 48 percent of the franchise and the Panthers had several minority owners under the previous regime.

Tepper is expected to be more outspoken that the relatively recluse Richardson, who hasn't granted an interview with the media in more than a decade.

Tepper once criticized President Donald Trump before the election, calling him ''demented, narcissistic and a scumbag.''

A noted philanthropist, Tepper told CNBC's Squawk Box the day before the presidential election that Trump ''masquerades as an angel of light, but he is the father of lies.''

Tepper disputed Melania Trump's claim that her husband was a generous, giving person in a campaign appearance. He contended Trump did not give money in the wake of some New York-area disasters.

''During Sandy, the big Sandy benefit, the big 9/11 benefit, not one dime. Not one dime! You can't tell me this is a charitable, generous person,'' Tepper said on Squawk Box in November 2016.

Tepper went on to say, ''One thing I do with my wife, this is a thing called the Golden Rule. It has nothing to do with investments-nothing to do with investments. It says do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And that's not being done with Trump - not at least on the good side. It just was a turning point. That's my upbringing. I can't help it. I can't take it anymore. And when you lie about that stuff and you lie about fundamental beliefs.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Panthers: Signed agreement to sell NFL team to David Tepper

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers are off the market.

The Panthers announced Wednesday they have signed a ''definitive agreement'' to sell the team to David Tepper, the founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management.

The deal is subject to NFL approval.

League owners will meet next week in Atlanta, where they are expected to vote on the purchase. Since Tepper already has been vetted by the league as a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the approval process is not expected to run into any snags.

The transaction is expected to close in July, the team announced.

Tepper, who has been a minority owner of the Steelers since 2009, said Wednesday in a release that he's thrilled to become the next owner of the Panthers.

''I have learned a great deal about the community and the team over the past several months and look forward to becoming part of the Carolinas,'' said Tepper, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh. ''I want to thank Jerry Richardson and the other Panthers partners for all they have done to establish and develop the NFL in the Carolinas. It has been a remarkable 25-year journey and I promise to build upon the Panthers' success on the field and in the community.''

Tepper has a net worth of more than $11 billion, according to Forbes.

He is paying an NFL-record $2.2 billion to purchase the team, according to two people familiar with the situation. The people spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the team didn't release the selling price of the franchise.

The release didn't mention if Tepper plans to move the team or keep it in Charlotte.

Jerry Richardson, the team's founder and only owner, abruptly announced he was selling the team last December after coming under investigation from the league for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

That investigation is ongoing.

Richardson, who rarely comments to the media, said in the release that bringing the expansion Panthers and the NFL to the Carolinas in 1993 was enormously fulfilling for him, his wife, Rosalind, and all of the team's partners.

''We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support over the last 25 years,'' Richardson said. ''You have taken the Panthers into your hearts and made them part of this warm and supportive community.''

Richardson has had a strong relationship with the Rooney family in Pittsburgh through the years and is familiar with Tepper.

''I look forward to turning the stewardship of the Panthers over to David Tepper,'' Richardson said. ''I have enjoyed getting to know him in this process and am confident that he will provide the organization with great leadership in both its football and community initiatives. I wish David and his family the very best as they enter this exciting new phase of their lives.''

Tepper will have full ownership of the team. He'll need to sell his ownership stake in the Steelers once he becomes the Panthers owner.

Richardson had owned 48 percent of the franchise and the Panthers had several minority owners under the previous regime.

Tepper is expected to be more outspoken that the relatively recluse Richardson, who hasn't granted an interview with the media in more than a decade.

Tepper once criticized President Donald Trump before the election, calling him ''demented, narcissistic and a scumbag.''

A noted philanthropist, Tepper told CNBC's Squawk Box the day before the presidential election that Trump ''masquerades as an angel of light, but he is the father of lies.''

Tepper disputed Melania Trump's claim that her husband was a generous, giving person in a campaign appearance. He contended Trump did not give money in the wake of some New York-area disasters.

''During Sandy, the big Sandy benefit, the big 9/11 benefit, not one dime. Not one dime! You can't tell me this is a charitable, generous person,'' Tepper said on Squawk Box in November 2016.

Tepper went on to say, ''One thing I do with my wife, this is a thing called the Golden Rule. It has nothing to do with investments-nothing to do with investments. It says do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And that's not being done with Trump - not at least on the good side. It just was a turning point. That's my upbringing. I can't help it. I can't take it anymore. And when you lie about that stuff and you lie about fundamental beliefs.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Panthers: Signed agreement to sell NFL team to David Tepper

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers are off the market.

The Panthers announced Wednesday they've signed a ''definitive agreement'' to sell the team to David Tepper, the founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management.

The deal is subject to NFL approval.

League owners will meet next week in Atlanta, where they are expected to vote on the purchase. Since Tepper has already been vetted by the league as a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the approval process is not expected to run into any snags.

The transaction is expected to close in July, the team announced.

Tepper, who has been a minority owner of the Steelers since 2009, said in a release Wednesday that he's thrilled to become the next owner of the Panthers.

''I have learned a great deal about the community and the team over the past several months and look forward to becoming part of the Carolinas,'' said Tepper, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh. ''I want to thank Jerry Richardson and the other Panthers partners for all they have done to establish and develop the NFL in the Carolinas. It has been a remarkable 25-year journey and I promise to build upon the Panthers' success on the field and in the community.''

Tepper has a net worth of more than $11 billion, according to Forbes.

He is paying an NFL-record $2.2 billion to purchase the team, according to two people familiar with the situation. The people spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the team didn't release the selling price of the franchise.

The release didn't mention if Tepper plans to move the team or keep it in Charlotte.

Jerry Richardson, the team's founder and only owner, abruptly announced he was selling the team last December after coming under investigation from the league for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

That investigation is ongoing.

Richardson, who rarely comments to the media, said in the release that bringing the expansion Panthers and the NFL to the Carolinas in 1993 was enormously fulfilling for him and his wife Rosalind and all of the team's partners.

''We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support over the last 25 years,'' Richardson said. ''You have taken the Panthers into your hearts and made them part of this warm and supportive community. We want to thank all of our past and present players, coaches and staff for their hard work in making the Panthers a great success both on the field and in the community. The personal relationships we have enjoyed have been very meaningful to us.''

Richardson has had a strong relationship with the Rooney family in Pittsburgh through the years and is familiar with Tepper.

''I look forward to turning the stewardship of the Panthers over to David Tepper,'' Richardson said. ''I have enjoyed getting to know him in this process and am confident that he will provide the organization with great leadership in both its football and community initiatives. I wish David and his family the very best as they enter this exciting new phase of their lives.''

Tepper will have full ownership of the team. He'll need to sell his ownership stake in the Steelers once he becomes the Panthers owner.

Richardson had owned 48 percent of the franchise and the Panthers had several minority owners under the previous regime.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Panthers: Signed agreement to sell NFL team to David Tepper

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers say they've signed a ''definitive agreement'' to sell the team to David Tepper, the founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management.

The deal is subject to NFL approval. The Panthers said in a release the transaction is expected to close in July.

Tepper, who has been a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2009, said in a release Wednesday that he's thrilled to have been selected to be the next owner of the Panthers.

The 60-year-old Tepper says he'll ''build upon the Panthers' success on the field and in the community.''

The release didn't mention if Tepper plans to move the team or keep it in Charlotte.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Titans agree to terms on deal with linebacker Rashaan Evans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans now have three of their four draft picks under contract with linebacker Rashaan Evans, the No. 22 pick overall out of Alabama, agreeing to terms.

The Titans announced the deal Tuesday.

The 6-foot-3 Evans played in 53 games at Alabama, where he had 15 sacks and 152 tackles. He was a full-time starter as a senior, helping the Crimson Tide win the national championship. The Titans traded up three spots to select Evans.

The Titans already have deals with their fifth-round pick, safety Dane Cruikshank, and sixth-round selection, quarterback Luke Falk.

Linebacker Harold Landry of Boston College, the team's pick in the second round, is the team's last unsigned selection from the smallest draft class in franchise history.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

Read more

Lions acquire Bisnowaty off waivers from Giants

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions have acquired offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty off waivers from the New York Giants.

The Lions also announced Tuesday they have signed safety Tracy Walker, their third-round draft pick this year, and waived offensive lineman Brett Kendrick.

Bisnowaty played in one game for the Giants last season. New York drafted him on the sixth round in 2017.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

Read more

49ers claim CB Goodwin off waivers, cut WR Carter

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers have claimed cornerback C.J. Goodwin off waivers from the New York Giants and waived receiver DeAndre Carter.

The 49ers also signed undrafted rookie free agent defensive lineman Blaine Woodson to a three-year deal Tuesday after he took part in this month's rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.

Goodwin originally signed with Pittsburgh as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014 and spent most of his first two seasons on the practice squad.

He played 26 games over two seasons with Atlanta with 12 tackles and two passes defensed. He also played two games late last season with Arizona and was claimed off waivers by the Giants on May 1.

Woodson had 21 1/2 tackles for loss in five seasons at Delaware.

Carter spent last season on San Francisco's practice squad.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Coach Steve Wilks, Cardinals back rookie after recent arrest

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Christian Kirk took the field Tuesday for the first time since a report surfaced about his arrest in the months before the team chose him in the second round of the NFL draft.

Kirk ran routes, caught passes and took part in special teams work. He was not made available to reporters.

But head coach Steve Wilks was asked about Kirk following Tuesday's full-team mini-camp practice at the Cardinals facility and he said the team knew about the arrest.

''We did our own independent research on it, and we felt very good about the information we received,'' Wilks said. ''That's why we moved forward and really drafted him. And as I stated before, we want to bring in great character guys, and I think Christian is one of those guys.''

Kirk, 21, who is from nearby Scottsdale and who played his college ball at Texas A&M, was arrested the night of Feb. 3 outside the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament on charges of disorderly conduct and property damage. According to police, Kirk was with a group that was intoxicated and throwing rocks at cars.

Wilks said he believes the matter will be resolved in a couple of months.

''With it still being an ongoing legal issue, I'm not going to go into it any further than that,'' Wilks said.

NOTES: Wilks mentioned the strong practice performances of RB David Johnson, who is coming off a dislocated wrist injury that cut short his 2017 season in Week 1, and rookie first-round pick QB Josh Rosen. ''Some of his timing and his throws with the quarterback and the tight ends I thought were right on point,'' Wilks said. ... QB Mike Glennon came off the field early in practice with a trainer. Wilks said Glennon had a stomach problem. The coach expects him to be on the field Wednesday.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP sources: Tepper to buy Panthers for record $2.2 billion

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers are being sold for an NFL-record $2.2 billion.

Hedge fund manager David Tepper has agreed to buy the Panthers from team founder Jerry Richardson, two people familiar with the situation said Tuesday. The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not yet announced the sale.

The purchase is subject to a vote at the NFL owners meeting next week in Atlanta.

Richardson announced in December he was selling the team amid an NFL investigation into sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. That decision came after a report by Sports Illustrated detailing Richardson's alleged misconduct.

The league's investigation into the allegations is still ongoing.

The price tag is the most ever paid for an NFL franchise, eclipsing the $1.4 billion the Pegula family paid to purchase the Buffalo Bills in 2014.

Ben Navarro, the founder and CEO of Sherman Financial Group, was considered Tepper's biggest competitor in the bid to purchase the Panthers. He conceded Tuesday that he'd lost the bid.

''My family and I are grateful to have had the opportunity to be included as a potential buyer of one of the premier assets in all of the Carolinas - the Panthers football team,'' Navarro said in an email to The Associated Press. ''It would have been a privilege to become the stewards of this iconic franchise to ensure its home remains in the Carolinas where it belongs, to establish a new era of leadership and excellence on and off the field, and to leverage the team's NFL platform to further our quest to help all children gain access to a great education.''

Tepper's plans on whether the team will remain in Charlotte for the long-term future remain unclear.

The Panthers are tied to their downtown stadium through the 2018 season because of an agreement with the city. After that a new owner is free to extend the lease to the stadium, build a new stadium or possibly move the team.

Moving the Panthers out of Charlotte would seem to a longshot.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he would prefer to keep the team in Charlotte where it has been successful. The Panthers have been one of the NFL's best supported teams with only two non-sellout games since the team began playing its home games in Charlotte in 1996.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Tepper, 60, is a part owner of the Steelers and founder and president of Appaloosa Management, a global hedge fund based in Miami.

Because he holds a 5 percent stake in the Steelers, Tepper's finances already have been vetted by the league, meaning it wouldn't take much for NFL owners to approve the sale. However, Tepper would have to sell his minority ownership stake of the Steelers, per league rules.

Forbes listed Tepper's net worth at $11.4 billion in February 2017.

Tepper is known for his philanthropy.

He donated $55 million to Carnegie Mellon University's business school in 2013. Tepper graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, where the Tepper School of Business is named after him.

Richardson was the first and only majority of the Panthers. He became only the first former player since George Halas to become an NFL owner when he was awarded an expansion franchise in 1993. Richardson promised fans at the time the Panthers would win a Super Bowl ''within 10 years.'' Carolina has reached the Super Bowl twice, including in 2015, but has never won.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Packers sign first-round draft pick Jaire Alexander

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers have signed first-round draft pick Jaire Alexander, a cornerback from Louisville.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst announced the deal Tuesday.

The Packers selected Alexander last month with the 18th overall pick . Alexander had a team-high five interceptions as a sophomore in 2016 before a knee injury limited him to six games last season. He also was a kick returner at Louisville.

Green Bay is hoping the additions of Alexander and second-round pick Josh Jackson of Iowa can boost a secondary that has been hit hard by injuries. The Packers allowed 30 touchdown passes last season, tied for the second-highest total of any team .

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP sources: Tepper to buy Panthers for record $2.2 billion

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers are being sold for an NFL-record $2.2 billion.

Hedge fund manager David Tepper has agreed to buy the Panthers from team founder Jerry Richardson, two people familiar with the situation said Tuesday. The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not yet announced the sale.

The purchase is subject to a vote at the NFL owners meeting next week in Atlanta.

Richardson announced in December he was selling the team amid an NFL investigation into sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. That decision came after a report by Sports Illustrated detailing Richardson's alleged misconduct.

The league's investigation into the allegations is still ongoing.

The price tag is the most ever paid for an NFL franchise, eclipsing the $1.4 billion the Pegula family paid to purchase the Buffalo Bills in 2014.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Tepper, 60, is a part owner of the Steelers and founder and president of Appaloosa Management, a global hedge fund based in Miami.

Because he holds a 5 percent stake in the Steelers, Tepper's finances already have been vetted by the league, meaning it wouldn't take much for NFL owners to approve the sale. However, Tepper would have to sell his minority ownership stake of the Steelers, per league rules.

Forbes listed Tepper's net worth at $11.4 billion in February 2017.

Tepper is known for his philanthropy.

He donated $55 million to Carnegie Mellon University's business school in 2013. Tepper graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, where the Tepper School of Business is named after him.

Richardson was the first and only majority of the Panthers. He became only the first former player since George Halas to become an NFL owner when he was awarded an expansion franchise in 1993. Richardson promised fans at the time the Panthers would win a Super Bowl ''within 10 years.'' Carolina has reached the Super Bowl twice, including in 2015, but has never won.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP sources: Tepper to buy Panthers for record $2.2 billion

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers are being sold for an NFL-record $2.2 billion.

Hedge fund manager David Tepper has agreed to buy the Panthers from team founder Jerry Richardson, two people familiar with the situation said Tuesday. The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not yet announced the sale.

The purchase is subject to a vote at the NFL owners meeting next week in Atlanta.

Richardson announced in December he was selling the team amid an NFL investigation into sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. That decision came after a report by Sports Illustrated detailing Richardson's alleged misconduct.

The league's investigation into the allegations is still ongoing.

The price tag is the most ever paid for an NFL franchise, eclipsing the $1.4 billion the Pegula family paid to purchase the Buffalo Bills in 2014.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Tepper, 60, is a part owner of the Steelers and founder and president of Appaloosa Management, a global hedge fund based in Miami.

Because he holds a 5 percent stake in the Steelers, Tepper's finances already have been vetted by the league, meaning it wouldn't take much for NFL owners to approve the sale. However, Tepper would have to sell his minority ownership stake of the Steelers, per league rules.

Forbes listed Tepper's net worth at $11.4 billion in February 2017.

Tepper is known for his philanthropy.

He donated $55 million to Carnegie Mellon University's business school in 2013. Tepper graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, where the Tepper School of Business is named after him.

Richardson was the first and only majority of the Panthers. He became only the first former player since George Halas to become an NFL owner when he was awarded an expansion franchise in 1993. Richardson promised fans at the time the Panthers would win a Super Bowl ''within 10 years.'' Carolina has reached the Super Bowl twice, including in 2015, but has never won.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP sources: Tepper to buy Panthers for record $2.2 billion

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers are being sold for an NFL-record $2.2 billion.

Hedge fund manager David Tepper has agreed to buy the Panthers from team founder Jerry Richardson, people familiar with the situation said on Tuesday. The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not yet announced the sale.

The purchase is subject to a vote at the NFL owners meeting next week in Atlanta.

The price tag is the most ever paid for an NFL franchise, eclipsing the $1.4 billion the Pegula family paid to purchase the Buffalo Bills in 2014.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Tepper, 60, is a part owner of the Steelers and founder and president of Appaloosa Management, a global hedge fund based in Miami.

Because he holds a five percent stake in the Steelers, Tepper's finances have already been vetted by the league, meaning it wouldn't take much for NFL owners to approve the sale. However, Tepper would have to sell his minority ownership stake of the Steelers, per league rules.

Forbes listed Tepper's net worth at $11.4 billion in February of 2017.

He donated $55 million to Carnegie Mellon University's business school in 2013.

Richardson was the first and only majority of the Panthers. He became only the first former player since George Halas to become an NFL owner when he was awarded an expansion franchise in 1993. Richardson promised fans at the time the Panthers would win a Super Bowl ''within 10 years.'' Carolina has reached the Super Bowl twice, including in 2015, but has never won.

Richardson announced in December he was selling the team amid an NFL investigation into sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. That decision came after an explosive report by Sports Illustrated detailing Richardson's alleged misconduct.

The league's investigation into the allegations is still ongoing.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP sources: Tepper to buy Panthers for record $2.2 billion

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) People familiar with the situation say hedge fund manager David Tepper has agreed to buy the Carolina Panthers from team founder Jerry Richardson for a record $2.2 billion.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the team has not yet announced the sale. The purchase is subject to a vote at the NFL owners meeting next week in Atlanta.

Richardson announced in December he was selling the team amid an NFL investigation for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

The $2.2 billion eclipses the $1.4 billion the Pegula family paid to purchase the Buffalo Bills in 2014.

Tepper, 60, is a part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and founder and president of Appaloosa Management, a global hedge fund based in Miami.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Settlement reached in Giants, Manning memorabilia fraud case

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) Three sports memorabilia collectors who accused New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning of providing bogus ''game-worn'' equipment that was sold to unsuspecting fans settled their lawsuit against the Super Bowl-winning quarterback on Monday, days before the case was scheduled to go to trial.

A spokesman for the defendants, a group that included Manning, the Giants, two equipment managers and Steiner Sports, the company with whom Manning is under contract to provide game-worn jerseys and helmets for sale, said Monday night a settlement had been reached to resolve the claims. Details were not given.

Plaintiffs Eric Inselberg, Michael Jakab and Sean Godown had sought triple the amount of their alleged losses - which totaled less than $20,000 combined - for buying two helmets billed as worn by Manning. They also had sought punitive damages, and claimed in court filings they would produce evidence that would ''show that Manning engaged in a pattern of knowingly providing items to Steiner Sports that he misrepresented as having been game-used when he knew they were not.''

Manning and the Giants had denied the allegations and characterized the suit as ''inflammatory and baseless'' in court filings.

Jury selection was to have begun this week, but a death in the family of one of the attorneys had pushed that back to next Monday.

An attorney for the plaintiffs confirmed the settlement Monday night.

Inselberg filed the lawsuit in 2014. The suit claimed two helmets purchased by Inselberg and the two other plaintiffs - including one purportedly used by Manning during the Giants' 2007-2008 Super Bowl season - were bogus. Inselberg alleged photographic experts using a technique called ''photomatching'' could not find evidence that the helmets were ever used in games.

The Giants and Manning contend photomatching is unreliable because it does not take into account that helmets are routinely reconditioned during or after a season, the evidence of which might be found on the inside of the helmet and not the outside.

The stakes were raised in the lawsuit in April 2017 when Inselberg's attorneys filed court documents that contained emails between Manning and equipment manager Joseph Skiba, who also was a defendant in the lawsuit. In one email, Manning asks Skiba to get ''2 helmets that can pass as game used.''

The email does not refer to the two helmets at issue in the lawsuit, but Inselberg alleged it indicates a pattern of fraud.

When the emails went public last year, Manning angrily denied any wrongdoing. In a court filing this month, Manning's attorney wrote that the email was intended to ask Skiba for two game-used helmets that would ''satisfy the requirement of being game-used.''

''Manning never instructed Joe Skiba to create any fraudulent memorabilia,'' attorney Robert Lawrence wrote. ''Rather, Manning believed that if he asked Joe Skiba for his helmets, he received his game-used helmets and that the helmets he received from Skiba were his game-used helmets.''

In the same court filing, Manning's lawyer accused Inselberg of being ''engaged in a decades-long memorabilia scheme'' in which he obtained, without permission, game-used Giants equipment, including Manning's, from Skiba and Skiba's brother, Ed, as well as a local dry cleaner.

Read more

The Latest: Settlement reached in Giants, Manning fraud case

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) The Latest on the trial in a lawsuit accusing New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning of selling bogus memorabilia (all times local):

10:15 p.m.

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit that claimed New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning provided bogus ''game-worn'' equipment that was sold to unsuspecting collectors.

Jury selection was to have begun this week in New Jersey.

A spokesman for the defendants, who included Manning, the Giants and the team's equipment managers, says a confidential settlement was reached on Monday.

Manning and the team had denied the allegations.

An attorney for the plaintiffs didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

---

2:15 p.m.

A trial has been delayed in a lawsuit accusing New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning of selling bogus ''game-worn'' equipment to unsuspecting collectors.

Jury selection was to have begun this week, but a death in the family of one of the attorneys pushed that back to next Monday.

Three plaintiffs say they bought two of the allegedly fraudulent helmets from Steiner Sports, which has a contract with Manning to provide the game-used equipment. They claim they will provide evidence that Manning and the Giants' equipment staff have been defrauding collectors for years.

In court filings, Manning and the team have denied the allegations and have characterized the lead plaintiff as a scam artist who has sold bogus memorabilia himself over the years.

---

3 a.m.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin in New Jersey in a lawsuit accusing the New York Giants and quarterback Eli Manning of knowingly selling bogus ''game-worn'' equipment to unsuspecting collectors.

It's set to get underway Monday in Bergen County.

Eric Inselberg and two other plaintiffs say they bought two helmets from Steiner Sports, which has a contract with Manning to provide game-used jerseys and helmets for sale.

Inselberg says the helmets weren't game-used, and that emails show Manning engaged in a pattern of deceiving collectors.

In court filings, Manning and the team have denied the allegations and have characterized Inselberg as a scam artist who sold fake memorabilia himself over a span of several years.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, the Giants and Manning didn't return messages seeking comment Sunday night.

Read more

Jets claim OT Garcia off waivers from Pats; K Rose waived

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets have claimed offensive tackle Antonio Garcia off waivers from the New England Patriots and waived kicker Nick Rose.

Garcia was a third-round draft pick of the Patriots last year out of Troy, but did not play because he was dealing with blood clots in his lungs. New England placed him on the reserve/non-football injury list in September and waived him last Friday.

The 6-foot-6, 302-pound Garcia told reporters in March that he was cleared to return to football. He will add depth to the Jets' offensive line.

The Jets had claimed Rose off waivers from the Los Angeles Chargers last month. New York also has Cairo Santos on its roster and signed Taylor Bertolet last week after he was a tryout during rookie minicamp.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cardinals aware of Christian Kirk arrest before draft

PHOENIX (AP) The Arizona Cardinals say they were aware before they drafted him that wide receiver Christian Kirk had been arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and property damage.

Azcentral.com reported the arrest and the Cardinals' reaction to it.

The arrest occurred outside the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament on Feb. 3. Scottsdale police said Kirk was with a group that was intoxicated and throwing rocks at cars.

Azcentral.com quoted a Cardinals spokesman as saying that team officials spoke to Kirk at length about the incident and it is the team's understanding that the matter ''will be resolved in the near future.'' The case is pending and the team spokesman said there would be no further comment.

The Cardinals drafted Kirk in the second round. He was a standout at Saguaro High in Scottsdale and played at Texas A&M.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Lions sign 3 free agents, waive Lewis, Barnes

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions have signed wide receiver Deontez Alexander, tight end Marcus Lucas and cornerback Josh Okonye.

The team announced the moves Monday. The Lions also waived wide receiver Kyle Lewis and waived-injured tight end Brandon Barnes.

Alexander played two seasons at Franklin College of Indiana. He had 114 receptions for 2,133 yards and 33 touchdowns.

Lucas entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Carolina in 2014. He was on the practice squad for Oakland and Indianapolis last season.

Okonye played last season at Purdue as a graduate transfer. He spent the previous four seasons at Wake Forest.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

Read more

Saints add 4 players, waive 4 others after rookie camp

METAIRIE, La. (AP) New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis says the club has signed four players and waived four players following a recent rookie camp that also included veterans who were offered tryouts.

Loomis says the Saints have signed defensive tackle Jay Bromley, linebacker KeShun Freeman, offensive lineman Michael Ola and fullback Ryan Yurachek.

Linebacker Adam Bighill, offensive lineman Daronte Bouldin, and defensive backs Rickey Jefferson and Bradley Sylve have been waived.

Freeman is a rookie out of Georgia Tech and Yurachek a rookie out of Marshall.

Bromley was a 2014 third-round draft choice by the New York Giants who's played in 55 regular-season games, including 16 last season.

Ola has appeared in 31 games with the Chicago Bears, San Diego-Los Angeles Chargers, Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

49ers sign 6th-round safety Marcell Harris to rookie deal

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers signed sixth-round safety Marcell Harris to a four-year deal.

The deal announced Monday means the Niners have six of their nine draft picks already signed.

Harris was drafted 184th overall last month out of Florida. He played in 37 games in five years and registered 102 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and three passes defensed.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Raiders sign 5th-round pick Johnny Townsend to rookie deal

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders have signed fifth-round pick Johnny Townsend to a four-year contract.

The team also announced deals Monday with undrafted free agent safety Dallin Leavitt and long snapper Drew Scott. Both players took part in this month's rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.

Townsend, a punter, was selected 173rd overall by the Raiders in last month's draft to replace the released Marquette King. He played in 44 games over his four-year career at Florida, averaging 46.2 yards per punt with 90 of his 240 punts being placed inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

Townsend finished his collegiate career as Florida's all-time leading punter in yards and punts, and ranks first in SEC history in career punting average.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Broncos running back Henderson recovering from auto accident

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Denver Broncos running back De'Angelo Henderson is recovering from minor shoulder and ankle injuries he sustained over the weekend when his Jeep was hit by a driver fleeing police in a stolen vehicle.

KCNC-TV in Denver reported that a 36-year-old woman was in custody after she allegedly struck several vehicles while evading police Saturday night in Parker, Colorado, sending four people to the hospital, where they were held overnight.

Henderson discussed the crash on his Instagram page Monday and called it ''the most traumatic event I've probably ever had to deal with.'' He thanked the Parker Police Department and South Metro Fire Rescue as well as the doctors who treated him at Parker Adventist hospital.

He said he was ''T-boned, airborne, flipped, and rolled'' in the accident but was able to get himself out of his damaged Jeep and suffered only ''minor injuries with a few scrapes and bruises.''

''I'm very grateful and humbled to be alive,'' Henderson wrote. ''... My thoughts and prayers are with the other victims and I hope they are all safe and doing well.''

Team spokesman Patrick Smyth said Henderson was back at team headquarters Monday preparing for next week's on-field work in which the offense and defense will square off for the first time this offseason.

Henderson will compete with Devontae Booker and rookie Royce Freeman for carries in the Broncos' backfield this season.

Henderson was the star of training camp last summer but was buried on the depth chart behind C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles and Booker last season, when he had just seven carries and two catches, one of which went for a touchdown.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Read more

Dive play: Browns coach jumping into Lake Erie for charity

CLEVELAND (AP) Hue Jackson's shuddering season with the Cleveland Browns will include one last chill.

The coach is keeping his promise and plans to jump into Lake Erie on June 1 in an event for charity and hopefully wash away two long, losing seasons.

Jackson announced Monday on the team's Twitter account that he will take a dip into the chilly waters in a few weeks. As the Browns were staggering toward a winless 2017 season, Jackson vowed that if the team didn't improve on its 1-15 record from the previous year that he would take the plunge.

Well, the Browns made history as the second NFL team to go 0-16 and now it's time for Jackson to pay up.

And get wet.

Jackson pledged that for every Browns employee that joins him in the water he will donate $100 to his foundation, which combats human trafficking in Northeast Ohio. Jackson said his goal is to raise $15,000.

Jackson and his wife, Michelle, began the Hue Jackson Foundation last summer.

The team did not reveal any other details for the private event.

Despite going 1-31 in his two seasons, Jackson kept his job and now he's hoping his splashdown can symbolize a new beginning for the Browns.

''I'm hoping to also cleanse ourselves of all the losing for the past two seasons by jumping in,'' he said.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Dive play: Browns coach jumping into Lake Erie for charity

CLEVELAND (AP) Browns coach Hue Jackson is keeping his promise to jump into Lake Erie.

Jackson announced Monday that he will take a dip into the chilly waters on June 1 for charity. Last season, Jackson vowed that if the Browns didn't improve on their 1-15 record from 2016 that he would plunge into the lake.

Well, Cleveland went 0-16 and Jackson isn't backing away.

Jackson pledged that for every Browns employee that joins him in the plunge he will donate $100 to his foundation, which combats human trafficking in Northeast Ohio. Jackson said his goal is to raise $15,000.

Jackson and his wife, Michelle, began the foundation last summer.

On a video posted on the team's Twitter account, Jackson said in addition to raising money he's hoping the jump will ''cleanse ourselves of all the losing for the past two seasons.''

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Trial delayed in Giants, Eli Manning memorabilia fraud case

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) A trial has been delayed in a lawsuit accusing New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning of selling bogus ''game-worn'' equipment to unsuspecting collectors as part of a long-running scam.

Jury selection was to have begun this week, but a death in the family of one of the attorneys pushed that back to next Monday. The trial is expected to last about four weeks.

Barring a last-minute settlement, the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback could take the witness stand to defend himself against the explosive allegations. Manning and Giants co-owner John Mara are on a list of potential witnesses for the trial.

Manning and the team have denied the claims and have characterized lead plaintiff Eric Inselberg as a scam artist who sold fake memorabilia himself over a span of several years. Manning's attorneys also have described Inselberg's lawsuit as ''inflammatory and baseless,'' and they have accused Inselberg's attorneys of using underhanded tactics to whip up a media frenzy against their client.

Inselberg filed the lawsuit in 2014. It says that two helmets purchased by Inselberg and two other plaintiffs - including one purportedly used by Manning during the Giants' 2007-2008 Super Bowl season - were bogus. Inselberg says photographic experts using a technique called ''photomatching'' could not find evidence that the helmets were ever used in games.

The Giants and Manning contend photomatching is unreliable because it does not take into account that helmets are routinely reconditioned during or after a season, the evidence of which might be found on the inside of the helmet and not the outside.

The stakes were raised in the lawsuit in April 2017 when Inselberg's attorneys filed court documents that contained emails between Manning and equipment manager Joseph Skiba, who is also a defendant in the lawsuit. In one email, Manning asks Skiba to get ''2 helmets that can pass as game used.''

The email does not refer to the two helmets at issue in the lawsuit, but Inselberg alleges it indicates a pattern of fraud. In a court filing last week, Inselberg's attorneys wrote they would introduce evidence during the trial that would ''show that Manning engaged in a pattern of knowingly providing items to Steiner Sports that he misrepresented as having been game-used when he knew they were not.''

When the emails went public last year, Manning angrily denied any wrongdoing. In a court filing this month, Manning's attorney wrote that the email was intended to ask Skiba for two game-used helmets that would ''satisfy the requirement of being game-used.''

''Manning never instructed Joe Skiba to create any fraudulent memorabilia,'' attorney Robert Lawrence wrote. ''Rather, Manning believed that if he asked Joe Skiba for his helmets, he received his game-used helmets and that the helmets he received from Skiba were his game-used helmets.''

In the same court filing, Manning's lawyer accused Inselberg of being ''engaged in a decades-long memorabilia scheme'' in which he obtained, without permission, game-used Giants equipment, including Manning's, from Skiba and Skiba's brother, Ed, as well as a local dry cleaner.

Read more

Law professor takes up appeal for ex-NFL player's killer

GRETNA, La. (AP) A law professor is taking up the appeal of the man convicted of manslaughter in the 2016 road-rage shooting death of former NFL running back Joe McKnight.

Loyola University's Dane Ciolino tells the New Orleans Advocate that he already has law students working on 56-year-old Ronald Gasser's appeal, which he has taken up pro bono. He said the appeal will focus on the trial court judge's decision to permit jurors to hear testimony about Gasser's arrest for an alleged road rage incident at the same intersection years prior.

Ciolino says the admission of reports of the prior incident was ''indefensible'' and tainted the trial.

Gasser was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The trial court judge rejected his motion to reconsider his sentence last week.

---

Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com

Read more

It's a Mother's Day engagement for Taraji P. Henson

LOS ANGELES (AP) Taraji P. Henson got more than a card on Mother's Day.

The 47-year-old ''Empire'' actress got engaged to former Super Bowl star Kelvin Hayden.

Henson posted a photo on Instagram showing off her diamond ring. She says the day started with a Cartier love bracelet before the 34-year-old corner back dropped to his knee. She wrote, ''I said yes y'all!''

Henson has a 24-year-old son from a previous relationship.

Hayden intercepted a pass for a 56-yard touchdown when the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17 during the Super Bowl played in 2007. He also played for Atlanta and finished his NFL career with the Bears in 2014.

Read more

Trial on tap in Giants, Eli Manning memorabilia lawsuit

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday in a New Jersey memorabilia dealer's lawsuit that accuses New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning of conspiring with the team's equipment staff to sell bogus ''game-used'' helmets to unsuspecting collectors as part of a long-running scam.

Barring a last-minute settlement, the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback could take the witness stand to defend himself against the explosive allegations as early as next week.

Manning and the team have denied the claims, and have characterized lead plaintiff Eric Inselberg as a scam artist who sold fake memorabilia himself over a span of several years. Manning's attorneys also have described Inselberg's lawsuit as ''inflammatory and baseless,'' and have accused Inselberg's attorneys of using underhanded tactics to whip up a media frenzy against their client.

Inselberg filed the lawsuit in 2014. It says that two helmets purchased by Inselberg and two other plaintiffs - including one purportedly used by Manning during the Giants' 2007-2008 Super Bowl season - were bogus. Inselberg says photographic experts using a technique called ''photomatching'' could not find evidence that the helmets were ever used in games.

The Giants and Manning contend photomatching is unreliable because it does not take into account that helmets are routinely reconditioned during or after a season, the evidence of which might be found on the inside of the helmet and not the outside.

The stakes were raised in the lawsuit in April 2017 when Inselberg's attorneys filed court documents that contained emails between Manning and equipment manager Joseph Skiba, who also is a defendant in the lawsuit. In one email, Manning asks Skiba to get ''2 helmets that can pass as game used.''

The email does not refer to the two helmets at issue in the lawsuit, but Inselberg alleges it indicates a pattern of fraud. In a court filing last week, Inselberg's attorneys wrote they would introduce evidence during the trial that would ''show that Manning engaged in a pattern of knowingly providing items to Steiner Sports that he misrepresented as having been game-used when he knew they were not.''

When the emails went public last year, Manning angrily denied any wrongdoing. In a court filing this month, Manning's attorney wrote that the email was intended to ask Skiba for two game-used helmets that would ''satisfy the requirement of being game-used.''

''Manning never instructed Joe Skiba to create any fraudulent memorabilia,'' attorney Robert Lawrence wrote. ''Rather, Manning believed that if he asked Joe Skiba for his helmets, he received his game-used helmets and that the helmets he received from Skiba were his game-used helmets.''

In the same court filing, Manning's lawyer accused Inselberg of being ''engaged in a decades long memorabilia scheme'' in which he obtained, without permission, game-used Giants equipment, including Manning's, from Skiba and Skiba's brother, Ed, as well as a local dry cleaner.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, the Giants and Manning didn't return messages seeking comment Sunday night.

Read more

Trial on tap in Giants, Eli Manning memorabilia lawsuit

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday in a New Jersey memorabilia dealer's lawsuit that accuses New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning of conspiring with the team's equipment staff to sell bogus ''game-used'' helmets to unsuspecting collectors as part of a long-running scam.

Barring a last-minute settlement, the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback could take the witness stand to defend himself against the explosive allegations as early as next week.

Manning and the team have denied the claims, and have characterized lead plaintiff Eric Inselberg as a scam artist who sold fake memorabilia himself over a span of several years. Manning's attorneys also have described Inselberg's lawsuit as ''inflammatory and baseless,'' and have accused Inselberg's attorneys of using underhanded tactics to whip up a media frenzy against their client.

Inselberg filed the lawsuit in 2014. It says that two helmets purchased by Inselberg and two other plaintiffs - including one purportedly used by Manning during the Giants' 2007-2008 Super Bowl season - were bogus. Inselberg says photographic experts using a technique called ''photomatching'' could not find evidence that the helmets were ever used in games.

The Giants and Manning contend photomatching is unreliable because it does not take into account that helmets are routinely reconditioned during or after a season, the evidence of which might be found on the inside of the helmet and not the outside.

The stakes were raised in the lawsuit in April 2017 when Inselberg's attorneys filed court documents that contained emails between Manning and equipment manager Joseph Skiba, who also is a defendant in the lawsuit. In one email, Manning asks Skiba to get ''2 helmets that can pass as game used.''

The email does not refer to the two helmets at issue in the lawsuit, but Inselberg alleges it indicates a pattern of fraud. In a court filing last week, Inselberg's attorneys wrote they would introduce evidence during the trial that would ''show that Manning engaged in a pattern of knowingly providing items to Steiner Sports that he misrepresented as having been game-used when he knew they were not.''

When the emails went public last year, Manning angrily denied any wrongdoing. In a court filing this month, Manning's attorney wrote that the email was intended to ask Skiba for two game-used helmets that would ''satisfy the requirement of being game-used.''

''Manning never instructed Joe Skiba to create any fraudulent memorabilia,'' attorney Robert Lawrence wrote. ''Rather, Manning believed that if he asked Joe Skiba for his helmets, he received his game-used helmets and that the helmets he received from Skiba were his game-used helmets.''

In the same court filing, Manning's lawyer accused Inselberg of being ''engaged in a decades long memorabilia scheme'' in which he obtained, without permission, game-used Giants equipment, including Manning's, from Skiba and Skiba's brother, Ed, as well as a local dry cleaner.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, the Giants and Manning didn't return messages seeking comment Sunday night.

Read more

Chuck Knox, former Rams, Seahawks, Bills coach, dies at 86

Chuck Knox, the former NFL coach who took the Los Angeles Rams to three straight NFC championship games and also led the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills, has died. He was 86.

The Rams and Seahawks said Sunday that Knox died Saturday night.

''He established a winning culture and a legacy that will never be forgotten, being the only coach to lead the Rams to five consecutive double-digit-win seasons,'' the Rams said in a statement. ''The memories and accomplishments that Coach Knox left behind will continue to inspire us and Rams fans. We hold his family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.''

Called ''Ground Chuck,'' for his run-first offenses, Knox was the NFL coach of the year in 1973, 1980 and 1984, winning the award with all three teams he coached. He went 186-147-1 during 22 seasons as an NFL head coach, including two stints with the Rams. He won five straight NFC West titles from 1973-77, and he returned in 1992 for the franchise's final three seasons in Los Angeles before its move to St. Louis.

Hall of Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood posted a picture on Twitter thanking Knox for his trust and ''allowing us to make our way to Canton.''

''Chuck Knox was one of the most influential men in the early days of my career,'' Youngblood wrote. ''Great coach and an even better man.''

Knox left the Rams in 1978 for the Buffalo Bills. After five seasons, he took over the Seahawks in 1983 and immediately led the franchise to its first playoff berth and the AFC title game. He spent nine seasons with Seattle.

''His presence projected an external toughness, but merited instantaneous respect by the genuine care and concern he held for his players,'' the Seahawks said in a statement. ''He was one of the great influencers not only in football, but in life.''

Knox is the only coach to be enshrined in the Seahawks ''Ring of Honor.'' He was revered in Seattle for turning the young franchise into a contender in the AFC West for most of his tenure.

Current Seattle coach Pete Carroll tweeted Sunday that Knox was, ''A true Seahawks legend and a man who had a great impact on so many.''

Knox was a two-way tackle at Juniata College in his native Pennsylvania, serving as a captain on the school's undefeated 1953 team. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Juniata. He was a high school assistant at Tyrone and then head coach at Ellwood City before moving on to Wake Forest and Kentucky.

Knox considered at one-time returning to Juniata as a history professor and was working on a master's degree at Penn State before deciding coaching was where he should be.

''During that time, I thought what I really wanted to do was coach and not go into the academic area,'' Knox told the AP in a 2005 interview. ''I know I made the right choice. It's what I wanted to do.''

Knox entered professional football in the AFL with the New York Jets as offensive line coach in 1963, and played a key role in the recruitment of quarterback Joe Namath. He remained with the Jets until 1966, and was then offensive line coach with the Detroit Lions from 1967-1972.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Chuck Knox, former Rams, Seahawks, Bills coach, dies at 86

Chuck Knox, the former NFL coach who took the Los Angeles Rams to three straight NFC championship games and also led the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills, has died. He was 86.

The Rams and Seahawks said Sunday that Knox died Saturday night.

''He established a winning culture and a legacy that will never be forgotten, being the only coach to lead the Rams to five consecutive double-digit-win seasons,'' the Rams said in a statement. ''The memories and accomplishments that Coach Knox left behind will continue to inspire us and Rams fans. We hold his family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.''

Called ''Ground Chuck,'' for his run-first offenses, Knox was the He was the NFL coach of the year in 1973, 1980 and 1984. He went 186-147-1 during 22 seasons as an NFL head coach, including two stints with the Rams. He won five straight NFC West titles from 1973-77, and he returned in 1992 for the franchise's final three seasons in Los Angeles before its move to St. Louis.

The Pennsylvania native left the Rams in 1978 for the Buffalo Bills. After five seasons, he took over the Seahawks in 1983 and immediately led the franchise to its first playoff berth and the AFC title game. He spent nine seasons with Seattle.

''His presence projected an external toughness, but merited instantaneous respect by the genuine care and concern he held for his players,'' the Seahawks said in a statement. ''He was one of the great influencers not only in football, but in life.''

Knox was a two-way tackle at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, serving as a captain on the school's undefeated 1953 team. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Juniata. He was a high school assistant at Tyrone and then head coach at Ellwood City before moving on to Wake Forest and Kentucky.

Knox entered professional football in the AFL with the New York Jets as offensive line coach in 1963, and played a key role in the recruitment of quarterback Joe Namath. He remained with the Jets until 1966, and was then offensive line coach with the Detroit Lions from 1967-1972.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Former Seahawks, LA Rams coach Chuck Knox dies at 86

SEATTLE (AP) Chuck Knox, the veteran NFL coach who led the Seattle Seahawks for nine years and took the Los Angeles Rams to three straight NFC championship games, has died. He was 86.

Knox died Saturday evening, the Seahawks confirmed Sunday.

Knox went 186-147-1 during 22 seasons as an NFL head coach, including two stints with the Rams. He won five straight NFC West titles from 1973-77, and he returned in 1992 for the franchise's final three seasons in Los Angeles before its move to St. Louis.

The Pennsylvania native left the Rams in 1978 for the Buffalo Bills. After five seasons, he took over the Seahawks in 1983 and immediately led the franchise to its first playoff berth and the AFC title game.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Shurmur: Collins shouldn't talk about Flowers situation

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) New York Giants coach Pat Shurmur thinks Landon Collins should just speak for himself.

The Giants safety recently made headlines with radio comments that teammate Ereck Flowers was ''unhappy'' the team signed Patriots left tackle Nate Solder. The move effectively flipped Flowers to right tackle.

''That's not for Landon to talk about,'' Shurmur said Saturday at the rookie minicamp. ''I think the important thing is, let's let Ereck talk for Ereck when he gets here, and we'll worry about that later. But really, I don't think our players should be talking about another player's situation.''

Flowers has been the starting left tackle the past three seasons after the Giants took him with the ninth pick overall in the 2014 draft. The Giants recently declined to pick up the fifth-year option of Flowers' contract for $12.5 million in 2019.

First-year general manager Dave Gettleman signed Solder in March. Flowers hasn't shown up to the team's voluntary workouts this spring.

But Shurmur said he's been in touch with Flowers.

''It's our understanding that he's in good shape,'' Shurmur said. ''I can't wait for him to be here. I've mentioned it in the past, there were some things that he did last year that were really good, and I look forward to him getting here at some point and working with him.''

After wrapping up rookie minicamp this weekend, the Giants will take the field as a full team for the first time at OTAs on May 21-22. They have mandatory minicamp June 12-14.

''We'll see when he gets here,'' Shurmur said. ''We'll talk about it then. We're communicating with him. There's been times when Odell (Beckham Jr.) hasn't been here and we've communicated with him, so we're looking forward to him being here. We feel like we're a better team with him here than without him.''

NOTES: R.J. McIntosh has been a spectator for the on-field portion of rookie minicamp. The fifth-round selection out of Miami says he's being treated for a minor medical condition he didn't want to discuss. He says he expects to be back on the field for minicamp in June.

Read more

Titans' top draft pick gets personal time with coach Vrabel

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Titans rookie linebacker Rashaan Evans has gotten an up-close view of how Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel works on the practice field.

''It's intense I would say that,'' Evans said Saturday after a rookie minicamp session. ''But I think that's the good part about playing linebacker for Vrabel. He's very specific about things that he wants, and I feel that's what makes great linebackers. And once again, I'm just honored to be able to be coached by him and looking forward to continue to be coached by him.''

The Titans brought their four-man draft class along with 22 undrafted rookies and 21 players here on a tryout basis to Nashville on Thursday for minicamp that wraps up Sunday. Only the four draft picks spoke to reporters Saturday.

Vrabel spent part of the individual period working with the linebackers, a position he played 14 years in the NFL before going into coaching. The first-year Titans coach has said he plans to spend time with linebackers, but he had a specific reason for being with the group. Vrabel wanted to show the linebackers a specific coverage being installed.

''But I try to get around to all the groups,'' Vrabel said. ''I try to see what everybody's doing, just like I try to get in the meeting rooms and see what's going on and help coach this team and help our assistant coaches reach their guys.''

Evans is the Titans' top draft pick this year at No. 22 overall out of Alabama , a player Tennessee traded up three spots to grab. The smallest draft class in franchise history also includes outside linebacker Harold Landry taken at No. 41 overall in the second round, fifth-round pick defensive back Dane Cruikshank and quarterback Luke Falk taken in the sixth round.

When the rookies arrived, the Titans handed them a playbook and an iPad with meetings Thursday night before hitting the field Friday. Vrabel wants to see which players can execute what they've learned without making the same mistake twice. For some rookies, the playbook is a lot to take in.

''The playbook is very big,'' said Cruikshank who played at Arizona. ''That's not a lie. The playbook is very big, so it's been an adjustment. But I'm looking forward to it. I love football. This is what I do. This is my profession, and I'm putting everything into it.''

Falk is among the players being asked to do something very different from college at Washington State. The Titans are putting him under center taking snaps after playing predominantly shotgun at Washington State where the former walk-on set school and Pc-12 Conference career records including 14,486 yards passing and 119 touchdown passes.

Asked how many snaps he took under center in college, Falk said 35.

''It's just a different system,'' Falk said. ''I think with repetition and perfect repetition and keep pounding at it every day, eventually I'm going to get it.''

Landry, the Boston College linebacker who had been predicted to be drafted in the first round, said the small rookie class has bonded quickly. He's looking forward to Monday when the rookies can start working with the veterans in the team's offseason program.

''I'm here happy to get coached by Coach Vrabel, Coach (Shane) Bowen,'' Landry said.

WHAT'S IN A NAME

When former Titans quarterback Vince Young announced Landry as Tennessee's second round pick at the draft, Young misspoke and called him ''Honor'' Landry. Asked about that again, Landry said he definitely received a bunch of texts calling him ''Honor.'' ''I'm here, you know it all worked out, so it is what it is,'' Landry said. ''It was a fun moment. But I'm here. It's all good.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Read more

Lions sign undrafted OL Brett Kendrick of Tennessee

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions have signed offensive lineman Brett Kendrick, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Tennessee.

The Lions announced the move Saturday. They also waived safety Anthony Sherrils.

Sherrils was one of 16 other undrafted free agents the Lions announced Friday that they had signed. The others were: linebackers Al-Rasheed Benton and Chad Meredith; cornerbacks Amari Coleman, Antwuan Davis, Mike Ford and Chris Jones; defensive linemen Josh Fatu and JoJo Wicker; tight end DeAndre Goolsby; wide receivers Kyle Lewis, Brandon Powell and Teo Redding; offensive linemen John Montelus and Beau Nunn; and punter Ryan Santoso.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

Read more

Chad Kelly has chance to win Broncos backup QB job

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Not even the signing of free agent Case Keenum could keep the Broncos from staging yet another quarterback competition this offseason.

This time it's a battle for the backup job.

After bypassing a quarterback in a draft that was deep on passing prospects, general manager John Elway declared that Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly would duke it out for the No. 2 job.

That served as a vote of confidence in Lynch, his 2016 first-round pick who hasn't been able to win the starting job, and a golden opportunity for Kelly, ''Mr. Irrelevant'' in 2017 as the last player picked in the draft.

''With Paxton, we still think he is young. We are not kicking him to the curb. He can still develop. When we drafted him two years ago, we knew it was going to take some time,'' Elway said. ''Paxton is going to compete with Chad for that backup spot. We are not going to bring another one in for OTAs.''

That marked the first time Elway had publicly mentioned Kelly as having a chance to win a roster spot a year after missing his entire rookie season while recovering from wrist and knee surgeries.

''I thought of it as, OK, perfect, I can get more reps,'' Kelly said Saturday after serving as the only quarterback during a 90-minute walkthrough that capped the Broncos' three-day rookie orientation. ''I just look at it as another opportunity to get better each and every day and each and every rep.''

Kelly's offseason work habits have resulted in a reshaped body.

Kelly said ''eating a lot of spinach and chicken paid off instead of fried food. ... I came here and knew I needed to move around and get back to my old playing weight back in early college and high school. So, I'm kind of feeling I can move around and so some things with my legs but also be powerful in throwing the ball.''

Kelly has impressed both on and off the field.

''Well, I've been proud of Chad overall,'' coach Vance Joseph said. ''I mean, he's been here every day. He's worked his butt off. And he's changed his body. Last year he was a little tubby kid. He is really lean now. He's eating right. He's working hard. He's definitely put the work in.

''And he's throwing the ball really well right now.''

So much so that bare hands are a bad idea for receivers, suggested tight end Jake Butt.

''He can rip that thing now,'' said Butt, who also sat out his rookie season. ''You've definitely got to wear gloves. He'll be spinning that bad boy pretty tough. He's learning the offense, he's taking leadership, he's doing a great job.''

Joseph insisted Lynch was handling himself fine, too.

In March, the Broncos declared Keenum the starter as soon as he signed. In April, they said Lynch would have to beat out Kelly for the backup job.

''I think Paxton's done a good job, also,'' Joseph said. ''I think for Paxton and for our football team, it's been a weight off all of our backs to have a starting quarterback and have everyone's role defined from Day 1.''

He said that allows Lynch to ''relax and get better each day and not worry about a competition.''

Joseph suggested Lynch could learn how to handle adversity from Keenum.

''Case has been through some ups and downs throughout his career. So, he can learn from Case on how to handle those things,'' Joseph said. ''And it takes time to be an NFL quarterback. And you would hope with Case being here, he can sit back and relax and get better as a quarterback and not worry about being the guy right now and just compete to be our backup.''

---

For more NFL coverage: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Read more

Shurmer: Collins shouldn't talk about Flowers situation

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) New York Giants coach Pat Shurmer thinks Landon Collins should just speak for himself.

The Giants safety recently made headlines with radio comments that teammate Ereck Flowers was ''unhappy'' the team signed Patriots left tackle Nate Solder. The move effectively flipped Flowers to right tackle.

''That's not for Landon to talk about,'' Shurmer said Saturday at the rookie minicamp. ''I think the important thing is, let's let Ereck talk for Ereck when he gets here, and we'll worry about that later. But really, I don't think our players should be talking about another player's situation.''

Flowers has been the starting left tackle the past three seasons after the Giants took him with the ninth pick overall in the 2014 draft. The Giants recently declined to pick up the fifth-year option of Flowers' contract for $12.5 million in 2019.

First-year general manager Dave Gettleman signed Solder in March. Flowers hasn't shown up to the team's voluntary workouts this spring.

But Shurmer said he's been in touch with Flowers.

''It's our understanding that he's in good shape,'' Shurmer said. ''I can't wait for him to be here. I've mentioned it in the past, there were some things that he did last year that were really good, and I look forward to him getting here at some point and working with him.''

After wrapping up rookie minicamp this weekend, the Giants will take the field as a full team for the first time at OTAs on May 21-22. They have mandatory minicamp June 12-14.

''We'll see when he gets here,'' Shurmer said. ''We'll talk about it then. We're communicating with him. There's been times when Odell (Beckham Jr.) hasn't been here and we've communicated with him, so we're looking forward to him being here. We feel like we're a better team with him here than without him.''

NOTES: R.J. McIntosh has been a spectator for the on-field portion of rookie minicamp. The fifth-round selection out of Miami says he's being treated for a minor medical condition he didn't want to discuss. He says he expects to be back on the field for minicamp in June.

Read more

Lions sign undrafted OL Brett Kendrick of Tennessee

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions have signed offensive lineman Brett Kendrick, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Tennessee.

The team announced the move Saturday, a day after announcing the signing of 16 other undrafted free agents. The Lions announced Friday that they'd signed five 2018 draft picks - offensive linemen Frank Ragnow and Tyrell Crosby, running back Kerryon Johnson, defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand and fullback Nick Bawden.

Other undrafted free agents with the Lions include: linebackers Al-Rasheed Benton and Chad Meredith; cornerbacks Amari Coleman, Antwuan Davis, Mike Ford and Chris Jones; defensive linemen Josh Fatu and JoJo Wicker; tight end DeAndre Goolsby; wide receivers Kyle Lewis, Brandon Powell and Teo Redding; offensive linemen John Montelus and Beau Nunn; punter Ryan Santoso; and safety Anthony Sherrils.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

Read more

1 hurt in propane tank explosion at Chicago's Soldier Field

CHICAGO (AP) A man has been treated for smoke inhalation after a propane tank exploded during an event at Chicago's Soldier Field.

The Chicago Tribune reports the Saturday afternoon incident occurred at a tent where the 60-year-old man was working. It sent smoke billowing into the air and prompted officials to urge people to evacuate.

A police spokesman says the man is in good condition at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. No other injuries have been reported.

Eighteen-year-old Dyamond Jones was volunteering at the Autism Speaks Walk at Soldier Field when he said he saw a small grease fire start on a grill inside a food tent. He says the tent went up in flames right before he heard something explode. Jones says ''everybody was just running.''

The injured man was not identified.

Read more

Bills sign linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to 4-year deal

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills have signed first-round draft pick Tremaine Edmunds of Virginia Tech to a four-year deal.

The team announced the signing of the linebacker Saturday. Buffalo traded up to the 16th selection to get Edmunds. He had 109 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 2017.

That leaves the Bills with two of eight draft picks unsigned: Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen (first round) and Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (third round).

Read more

Texans' Reid says time with brother gave him jump start

HOUSTON (AP) Justin Reid used to frequent his older brother's house to watch NFL game film and study game preparations.

The Texans rookie safety was at Stanford then, and the visits gave him a behind-the-scenes look at the NFL life of his older brother, Eric Reid, who was thriving with the San Francisco 49ers. On Friday afternoon, Justin Reid was looking forward to calling his brother back in the Bay Area to talk about Day 1 of his own NFL journey with Houston.

Earlier this week, the NFL players union filed a non-injury grievance on behalf of Eric Reid, now a free agent after five seasons in San Francisco, including a Pro Bowl rookie season in 2013. Eric Reid has been a strong supporter of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016 became the first player to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

Last week, Eric Reid filed a collusion claim similar to one filed by Kaepernick in 2017 where several league owners and executives were deposed, including Texans owner Bob McNair.

Justin Reid said he he hasn't had a lot of time to digest his feelings on his brother's decisions - but he supports all of them.

''I'm proud of my brother and supportive of everything he does, the same way I support all of my family members,'' Justin Reid said. ''If they believe what they're doing is right, then they should do it.''

Asked to describe for NFL owners what kind of person his older brother is, Justin Reid vouched for him, emphatically.

''You should just hold a conversation with him,'' Justin Reid said. ''I won't speak for Eric, I'll let him deliver his own message. But if you held a conversation with him, then you'd really understand what he's standing for.''

The Texans used their first draft pick on Justin Reid, selecting him 68th overall in the third round. He is expected to compete with Andre Hal at free safety next to strong safety Tyrann Mathieu, who played alongside Eric Reid at LSU.

Coach Bill O'Brien praised Justin Reid for his size, speed and smarts. Reid raised eyebrows at the NFL combine with a 40-yard dash time of 4.40 seconds, second-fastest among safeties.

''He's a guy that's a versatile guy who can do some different things for us, help us on special teams and obviously, help us on defense,'' O'Brien said. ''He just got here, so we'll see how he does in our system.''

Reid is hoping that his experience of living vicariously through his brother over the past few years will help him adjust to the NFL. He said he feels like he's coming into the league with the mentality of a third-year veteran. He said he watched the Texans' most recent five games from last season and has been studying the playbook to enter camp as prepared as possible.

''I kind of have a feel for how this process goes before having even gone through it,'' Reid said. ''It's still different going through it myself for the first time, but it is nice for having that rough road map and having a feel for how these things go.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cardinals sign drafts picks Edmonds, Campbell, Cunningham

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals signed fourth-round pick Chase Edmonds and two other draft choices to four-year contracts Friday.

Edmonds, the former Fordham running back selected 134th overall, set school and Patriot League career records with 5,862 rushing yards, 74 touchdowns, 67 rushing touchdowns and 7,374 all-purpose yards.

Arizona also signed cornerback Chris Campbell and offensive lineman Korey Cunningham. Campbell, from Penn State, was taken in the sixth round, and Cunningham, from Cincinnati, in the seventh.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Chargers coach Lynn to get college degree 26 years later

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) Anthony Lynn left Texas Tech in 1992 for a life in the NFL, he was only six class hours shy of earning his degree.

Although he won two Super Bowl rings as a running back before beginning a coaching career that eventually put him in charge of the Los Angeles Chargers last season, Lynn never forgot about missing his college graduation.

On Saturday, the Chargers' 49-year-old head coach will take that long-delayed walk to get his diploma when he receives his bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies at UNLV.

''Football has always been my No. 1 priority, and sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad,'' the Chargers' head coach said Friday after running a workout with their rookies and undrafted free agents. ''But I chose football over education. I thought, at some point, `No more excuses. Just go back and get it done.'''

While he led the Chargers to a 9-7 record last season, Lynn was also hitting the books. He spent the past 18 months completing his coursework while simultaneously navigating his first head coaching job.

Lynn didn't say much about his studies to his Chargers assistants or players, but he strategized like any good coach to manage his workload. With the help of a counselor, Lynn used a five-week down period in last summer's schedule to line up his daily educational goals and deadlines for the following year.

''It requires you to be a master planner,'' Lynn said with a grin.

He recently completed his 30-page capstone research project about the challenges and pitfalls facing athletes as they make the transition into post-competitive life. After starting out with the goal of learning more about the mental health of athletes with head injuries, Lynn eventually took 30 hours of online classes in subjects such as sociology, public health and psychology.

''Mental health is broader than what I thought,'' Lynn said. ''Things like identity crisis. Things like boredom with athletes post-career, and how that can lead to other sicknesses that are sometimes fatal. So that's probably the biggest thing I learned.''

The seeds of Lynn's return were planted in 2014 while he was on Rex Ryan's staff with the New York Jets. Dave Szott, Lynn's good friend and a former Jets lineman who became a coach and executive with the club, finished his degree 15 years after leaving Penn State with the encouragement of his own wife, Andrea.

''I remember she looked at me and said, `Coach, you should do the same,''' Lynn recalled. ''`There's no reason why you shouldn't do that, no excuses.' And that just gave me a little push and inspired me to go back, or at least investigate it.''

Lynn put it off for a couple of years while he moved with Ryan to Buffalo and attempted to land his own head coaching job. He eventually connected with an educational firm that has expertise in such endeavors, and he committed to his studies in earnest in 2017.

''I said, `You know what? It's now or never,''' Lynn recalled with a smile. ''And then I become a head coach.''

But with the Chargers' encouragement, Lynn decided to continue his educational pursuits. He did most of his coursework remotely, but also went to UNLV recently for face-to-face discussions with his professors.

Lynn also was motivated by his highly educated children. His daughter, Danielle, is receiving her master's degree in business administration from the University of North Texas next week. His son, D'Anton, a former Penn State defensive back, will miss the graduation ceremony at UNLV because he'll be at work with the Houston Texans in his new job as an assistant coach.

''They were happy,'' Lynn said. ''I'm not the butt of the jokes anymore when I go to one of their graduations. They would always say stuff like, `That's why you didn't graduate.' I'd talk about how hard I work. `That's why you didn't graduate.'''

Lynn wasn't planning to participate in UNLV's graduation ceremony until he realized what it could mean to other athletes, coaches and professionals facing similar educational challenges. His mother and daughter will be in attendance in Las Vegas along with Chargers owner Dean Spanos and his wife, Susie.

''I decided to walk, because if it could inspire one person, then it's worth it,'' Lynn said. ''Dave Szott inspired me. Maybe if I inspire one, then it's worth it.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Redskins' Doug Williams keeps an eye out for HBCU talent

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Reggie Barlow called Doug Williams to talk about a couple of his Virginia State players as potential rookie camp invites for the Washington Redskins.

Williams was convinced, so he gave receiver Zac Parker a shot.

Parker is one of a handful of players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities the Williams-led Redskins front office invited to rookie-camp tryouts. The group joined two undrafted free agent signings, Grambling running back Martez Carter and Southern cornerback Danny Johnson, on the field Friday trying to earn a job from a team with a reputation for giving HBCU products a look this time of year.

Williams, a Grambling star who also coached there twice, isn't the only NFL executive looking to HBCUs for talent. But Washington's senior vice president of player personnel and his scouts continue to invite several players from places like his alma mater, Southern, Texas Southern, Norfolk State and Alabama A&M in the hopes of adding depth to the roster.

''HBCUs, they might get looked down on a little bit more as maybe not a big school, but we have talent for sure,'' Parker said. ''As you can see: Doug Williams went to an HBCU. He's the prime example of it.''

His legacy as a Super Bowl MVP quarterback is common knowledge for Carter given his time at Grambling and for Johnson, who grew up in Louisiana not far from Williams' hometown. The name Doug Williams has value at places like Grambling and Southern - ''He's in history,'' Carter said - and his reputation as an executive precedes him even for players 40 years younger.

''He just goes out and finds talent,'' said Johnson, who performed in front of Williams and about 15 other scouts at Southern's pro day. ''Regardless of what school you went to - small school, big school - he makes a way for everybody to get a chance.''

Parker, fellow receivers Norlando Veals from Alcorn State and Darvin Kidsy from Texas Southern, defensive linemen Richardson Johnson from Howard and Chris Lee from Norfolk State and tight end Dillon Beard from Southern were all brought in by the Redskins from HBCUs to try out at rookie camp.

Williams doesn't believe he's unearthing any secrets, though his presence in the Redskins' front office has already had an impact in hitting on one undrafted free agent from an HBCU. The team signed defensive lineman Anthony Lanier out of Alabama A&M two years ago, and he's now considered one of their best young prospects on that side of the ball.

Lanier picked the Redskins over several other interested teams because of Williams, who saw him play in college and complimented his game.

Carter and Johnson are trying to overcome the same long odds Lanier did to make the 53-man roster and appreciate the chance Williams and the Redskins are giving them.

''He knows how hard it is for guys like us at HBCUs to get notoriety and he knows how hard it is for guys to stand out due to all the big schools that surround us and kind of drown us out,'' said Carter, who at 5-foot-7 rushed for 854 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. ''Just by him giving me the opportunity, it means a lot to me and I won't take it for granted.''

Even though he was a first-round pick, largely because of then-Tampa Bay offensive coordinator and eventual Washington coach Joe Gibbs showing interest, Williams doesn't take his own path for granted and just wants to bring in the best players possible.

''It's not about a certain school, it's prospects,'' Williams said. ''We send the scouts to where there are prospects. It just so happens Danny and Martez were prospects at Grambling and at Southern.''

Now that they're Redskins prospects, Carter and Johnson feel a certain responsibility to prove to Williams he was right for signing them.

''I'm standing on some big shoulders,'' Carter said. ''By him giving us this chance, it's a confidence boost. He sees something in us that other teams don't, obviously. He was a great athlete himself, so we just want to stand up to his standards.''

NOTES: Coach Jay Gruden said G Arie Kouandjio is getting a second opinion on what is feared to be a torn quadriceps muscle. Washington re-signed G Shawn Lauvao last week before Kouandjio's injury that was first reported by NBC Washington. ... The Redskins confirmed first-round pick Daron Payne's first name is spelled without an apostrophe after he was known as Da'Ron at Alabama. ... Geron Christian, an offensive tackle out of Louisville selected in the third round, is the team's only unsigned draft pick.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Rosen says focus all football on first day in Cardinals camp

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Josh Rosen jogged onto the field as an Arizona Cardinal for the first time on Friday and took a moment to reflect.

''When I stepped in the huddle,'' the young quarterback said, ''I kind of looked at the guys and I'm like, `This is pretty cool.'''

Rosen was the center of attention, as usual, on the first day of Cardinals rookie minicamp, starting out slowly but finishing with a crisp performance capped by a long TD pass to fellow rookie and camp roommate Christian Kirk.

Although he may have to wait awhile, Rosen is the Cardinals' quarterback of the future after the team traded up five spots to take him No. 10 overall in the draft. He's already signed his contract with Arizona.

After Friday's workout, he talked about how he's approaching his new job and even touched on how he deals with being such a lightning rod for criticism - mainly centering on his personality and often from people who don't really know him.

''You ignore it,'' Rosen said. ''It's only hard if you make it hard. If you're Googling your name every other day and trying to like reach out to people, yeah, you can make it harder on yourself. But as far as I know if you keep your phone limited to messages and calls and you don't read too much. The only thing that matters are the guys in the building and that's what I'm trying to keep it at right now.''

He said he's had a couple of conversations with Larry Fitzgerald, the 14-year veteran who is among the most-admired players in the game for his behavior on and off the field.

''He's probably one of the greatest to ever do it,'' Rosen said. ''So I'm just trying to emulate every little thing he does, how he approaches the game as such a professional. There's a lot to take from it.''

He's also heard from Sam Bradford, the player signed to be Arizona's opening-day quarterback next season. Bradford offered to help in any way with Rosen's development.

''I think it speaks to him as a person how he's willing to sort of embrace the competition but also embrace sort of the team aspect,'' Rosen said. ''And I'm the same way. Regardless of starter or backup, I want the Arizona Cardinals to do the best possible, because I want to be in the Super Bowl. If that means for this year the best way to do that is to have Sam start, then so be it. But I'm helping, I'm going to push him every single day and likewise I would hope he would do the same thing with me.''

The most important thing for him to show on his first day, Rosen said, was ''demeanor.''

''Even if I don't know what's going on, at least act like I know what's going on,'' he said. ''... Be confident, be firm, snap the ball, get back and do it again.''

In truth, new Cardinals coach Steve Wilks is impressed with how quickly Rosen is picking up the offense of coordinator Mike McCoy.

''Phenomenal,'' Wilks said. ''The guy's extremely smart. We said that from Day 1. He's picking up the offense. He's doing a great job there, taking control of the huddle and getting everybody in line. No questions about that from the standpoint of his leadership.''

Although Rosen said that nine teams - later amended to three to reflect the QBs selected ahead of him - made big mistakes on draft night, Wilks said, ''I don't think he's out to try to prove anything to anyone.

''He's being his own person. We have accepted him for the person that he is and the player that he is. I don't think we have a problem at all. We've had our talks and it's all about football and staying focused and really concentrating on that.''

Rosen, Wilks like to say, ''is wired different, and I like that.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Colts sign top draft pick, 8 others before rookie mini-camp

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) First-round choice Quenton Nelson is one of nine draft picks who have signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

The announcement came Friday, the same day Indy opened its rookie mini-camp.

Nelson was selected No. 6 overall and is expected to start immediately at left guard.

The Colts also signed two of their four second-round picks - defensive ends Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis.

Running backs Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins, receivers Daurice Fountain and Deon Cain and linebackers Matthew Adams and linebacker Zaire Franklin also agreed to deals.

Terms were not immediately available.

Indy still has two unsigned draft picks, linebacker Darius Leonard and guard Braden Smith.

The Colts also signed free agent receiver Kasen Williams, claimed defensive end Rakeem Nunez-Roches off waivers from Kansas City and waived outside linebacker Josh Perry and receiver DeAndre Smelter.

Williams played in 10 games and made two starts over the past two seasons with Cleveland and Seattle. He has 10 receptions fo4 92 yards and one carry for five yards in his career.

The 6-foot-3, 307-pound Nunez-Roches played in 34 career games and started 16 in three seasons with the Chiefs. Last year, he started 11 times and finished with a career-high 24 tackles. He had 23 tackles, five tackles for loss and one sack in 2016.

Those moves follow signings earlier this week of free agent offensive linemen Austin Howard, a 6-7, 300-pound tackle who started 88 career games with four different teams, and 6-5, 236-pound defensive end Chris McCain, who has 34 tackles and seven sacks in his four-year career.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Pats' McDaniels: No promises came with decision to return

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) In his first public comments since he declined at the last minute to accept the Indianapolis Colts' head coaching position, Josh McDaniels denied Friday that he'd made any deal to succeed Bill Belichick as coach of the New England Patriots.

McDaniels listed several reasons for remaining in New England as Belichick's offensive coordinator - some personal, some football-related. But he said his job is no different than it was before his near-departure for Indianapolis.

''No, I mean my role is the same,'' McDaniels said when asked if he'd received any assurances of becoming the Patriots' next coach. ''Look, I think if you're here, you have an opportunity to work with and for some of the best people in our game, maybe some of the best people that have ever done those things in our game. So I just feel like it's a great opportunity to be here in my role.''

That role will continue to be calling plays and working with quarterback Tom Brady.

''Whatever happens in the future's going to happen,'' he said. ''I'll be happy with whatever that is.''

McDaniels and the rest of the Patriots' assistants spoke to reporters at Gillette Stadium on Friday for the first time since New England's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Feb. 4.

The Colts thought they had hired McDaniels two days later, tweeting out a welcome and even scheduling a news conference for the next day. Instead, McDaniels, who was coach of the Denver Broncos from 2009-10, changed his mind and returned to the Patriots for his 10th season as offensive coordinator.

''You know there's a lot that goes into those things and it can be very complicated,'' he said. ''I've stated again and again that I definitely want to be a head coach again. At the same time, I love being here.

''This is where my kids are born and raised and we've made a pretty special life here and that's not an easy thing to leave. There's a lot to consider, and certainly leaving here I don't take lightly ever. ... It was a difficult process and I'm very happy with the decision that we made.''

While McDaniels returns to his old role, linebackers coach Brian Flores' duties will expand. Although he won't have the title of defensive coordinator, Flores will call the plays. This isn't a new situation for Belichick's staff: Matt Patricia, who left to become coach of the Detroit Lions in January, called plays from 2009-11 before getting the defensive coordinator title in 2012.

The Patriots ranked 29th in yards allowed per game (366) but were fifth in points allowed (18.5) last season.

Flores doesn't anticipate making a personal stamp on the defense just because he'll be calling the plays.

''I think there's a long history of this defense. Bill's been here for a number of years, so I would say we're going to continue to play defense like we've played for the last 18 seasons since he's been here,'' Flores said. ''My role in that is no different than any other coach on the team. We're trying to put something together here and do whatever helps us win, you know. You can call it a personal imprint, but it's a team imprint. ... We're trying to build to be as good as we can be.''

Notes: The Patriots released OL Tony Garcia on Thursday. Garcia, a third-round pick in the 2017 draft out of Troy, spent last season on the reserve/non-football injury list. ... New England also signed 2018 fifth-round draft pick LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, sixth-round draft picks LB Christian Sam and WR Braxton Berrios and seventh-round picks QB Danny Etling, DB Keion Crossen and TE Ryan Izzo. Terms of the contracts were not announced. In addition, the Patriots signed nine rookie free agents.

---

More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Roquan Smith puts focus on football at Bears rookie camp

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith appreciated the chance to display his speed on the field Friday at rookie minicamp.

At least for a while, it let him leave behind an unwanted distraction. A man was arrested Thursday for breaking into Smith's car at the University of Georgia and taking several items, including a Bears-issued iPad containing a playbook.

''Everything happens for a reason,'' Smith said. ''I learned from it, I'm just grateful of the police in Athens and also in Summerville for doing what they did.''

Smith, drafted No. 8 overall, reported several items taken from his car over the weekend including the iPad and jerseys from the Rose Bowl and national championship game.

According to Athens-Clarke County police, Georgia student Landyn Shane Durham was charged Thursday with felony suspicion of entering an automobile in relation to the incident. Although the iPad wasn't recovered, the Bears were able to wipe out the information on it.

Asked if the team issued him a new iPad, Smith added, ''I should be having one pretty soon.''

Smith would have rather been in the spotlight for his play and not for leaving his iPad/playbook in a car.

''Oh well things change, you just live and you learn and you just have to grow,'' he said. ''I feel like it's all just part of growing up.''

It created an unexpected situation for new Bears coach Matt Nagy to address at rookie camp.

''It's a wakeup call to all the guys that you always want to take care of your stuff as much as you can,'' Nagy said. ''Some stuff is out of your control. I thought he did a great job of handling the situation and thanking people for helping him, and it's unfortunately a part of life but he handled it the right way. He's a great kid and hopefully it doesn't happen again.''

On the field, Smith's introduction to pro football has been what he anticipated.

''It's ball,'' Smith said. ''There's no school and everything like that. It's just pretty much ball. I actually love it. You just focus on ball. You're just here with your teammates. And you can just be the best possible you can be.

''You don't have many distractions, unless you have some.''

The Bears used Smith in practice at left inside linebacker, a spot where Jerrell Freeman played before being released in the offseason. Smith will be competing for a starting spot with third-year linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski.

The defensive emphasis is on speed, and it's an area the Bears bolstered in the draft with Smith and also his new roommate, fourth-round linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe of Western Kentucky.

The Butkus Award winner last year, Smith didn't come in talking about being a starter or Pro Bowl player. He said he'll play special teams if asked.

''Just because you're the No. 8 pick in the draft doesn't mean you just walk into this thing,'' Nagy said. ''You've got to earn it. We've made that clear to everybody on this team.

''Competition is great. He's going to be a great teammate, he's going to ask questions and he's going to realize that it does need to be earned.''

Smith initially enjoyed what he saw of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's scheme.

''He blitzes backers, he puts them in the best possible situation to make plays,'' Smith said. ''Just those two things, they alone are pretty good.''

Nagy also left an impression on rookies.

''The energy is the big thing you notice,'' Iyiegbuniwe said. ''He hates pessimistic people, loves to be optimistic, good vibes, and all the players will tell you that's what they get from him.''

Iyiegbuniwe was one of six draft picks to sign just before the camp, leaving only Smith unsigned among draft picks.

NOTES: The Bears looked at second-round pick James Daniels of Iowa at both guard and center. Second-round wide receiver Anthony Miller of Memphis participated on a limited basis while coming back from a foot injury. ... There are 70 players in the camp, including undrafted free agents, tryout participants and veteran invitees like former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. ... As a former participant in such a camp, Nagy gave some advice to his young players. ''So the biggest thing is to have no regrets,'' Nagy said. ''For all of these guys when they're out here, I don't care if you were drafted, I don't care if you were a free agent. When you're out here these next three days leave it all out there on the field.''

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Josh Allen thrown for loss (of words) at meeting Jim Kelly

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The only time Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen ever felt rattled on his first day of practice was shortly after the session ended Friday.

That's when coach Sean McDermott escorted the first-round pick to the sideline and introduced him to Jim Kelly in what became a meeting of the team's hopeful future and legendary past.

''I'm still shaking from meeting him,'' Allen said.

Though Allen grew up in central California and played college at Wyoming, the 21-year-old is very aware of who Kelly is and what he means to Buffalo.

''It's all on the wall,'' Allen said, pointing the four AFC Championship banners the Kelly-led teams won from 1990-'93.

Allen also knows how tough Kelly is in his ongoing battle with cancer.

''I can't say anything else but he's a special man. He's been through a lot,'' he said. ''And to be in the spirits that he is and to come out here and show support for the Buffalo Bills, that just shows to me how much he means to Buffalo and Buffalo means to him. It's awesome.''

Kelly made a surprise visit for the start of two-day rookie minicamp some six weeks after his latest operation to have cancer removed from his jaw.

Kelly walked with a cane and had difficulty speaking. He raised his right thumb while he and Allen posed for pictures. Said Kelly: ''It's the best thing I can do: Thumbs up.''

The Bills are pinning their hopes on Allen to fill what's been their most unsettled position since Kelly retired following the 1996 season.

Buffalo traded up five spots in the draft order to select him with the No. 7 pick two weeks ago. Allen became just the fourth quarterback selected by Buffalo in the first round, and first chosen in the top 10 of the draft order.

He joins a team once again shuffling starters after Tyrod Taylor was traded to Cleveland in March despite helping Buffalo to a 9-7 finish and end a 17-year playoff drought.

At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Allen is a raw, but strong-armed and athletic quarterback. He was a two-year starter at Wyoming, where he completed 365 of 649 for 5,066 yards with 44 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

Allen was knocked for his relatively low completion percentage of 56.2 and mechanics, something he spent working on this offseason.

McDermott isn't providing any guarantees in saying Allen will compete for the starting job with offseason free-agent addition A.J. McCarron and second-year player Nathan Peterman.

''We've got a plan in place for all of our players, and in this case Josh, in terms of bringing them along at the right pace,'' McDermott said.

Allen threw a few wobbly or high passes to his right. He was far more accurate with passes to his left and over the middle. Allen showed off his strong arm, by completing several deep passes, including one to rookie seventh-round pick Austin Proehl.

He was also intercepted once during one-on-one drills. His hard, high pass over the middle slipped through receiver William Scott's hands and to a defensive back.

''I felt like I've made a lot of strides,'' Allen said. ''I felt like I put the ball where it needed to be most of the time. Obviously, there's some throws that I would like back. But as we progress through this rookie minicamp and through the rookie developmental period, I plan to improve every day.''

He was pleased in learning how Kelly was overheard praising a few of his throws.

Allen said Kelly first contacted him by text in welcoming him to Buffalo the day after being drafted.

''Hopefully, in the near future we can keep that relationship going,'' Allen said. ''Any rookie that can develop a mentorship with a former quarterback like Jim Kelly, it's going to be huge.''

NOTES: The Bills signed fourth-round pick, Weber State cornerback Taron Johnson. That leaves their top-three selections unsigned, including third-round pick, Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. ... The Bills also signed 12 undrafted free agents including Arizona guard Gerhard De Beer, who is from South Africa. He was a Pac-12 discuss throwing champion and made the switch to football. ... Also signed were defensive linemen Mat Boesen (TCU) and Mike Love (South Florida), linebacker Corey Thompson (LSU), cornerbacks Ryan Carter (Clemson) and Levi Wallace (Alabama), running back Keith Ford (Texas A and M), receivers Robert Foster (Alabama) and Cam Phillips (Virginia Tech), offensive linemen Ike Boettger (Iowa) and Mo Porter (Baylor), and Penn State kicker Tyler Davis.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Redskins' Doug Williams keeps an eye out for HBCU talent

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Reggie Barlow called Doug Williams to talk about a couple of his Virginia State players as potential rookie camp invites for the Washington Redskins.

Williams was convinced, so he gave receiver Zac Parker a shot.

Parker is one of a handful of players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities the Williams-led Redskins front office invited to rookie-camp tryouts. The group joined two undrafted free agent signings, Grambling running back Martez Carter and Southern cornerback Danny Johnson, on the field Friday trying to earn a job from a team with a reputation for giving HBCU products a look this time of year.

Williams, a Grambling star who also coached there twice, isn't the only NFL executive looking to HBCUs for talent. But Washington's senior vice president of player personnel and his scouts continue to invite several players from places like his alma mater, Southern, Texas Southern, Norfolk State and Alabama A&M in the hopes of adding depth to the roster.

''HBCUs, they might get looked down on a little bit more as maybe not a big school, but we have talent for sure,'' Parker said. ''As you can see: Doug Williams went to an HBCU. He's the prime example of it.''

His legacy as a Super Bowl MVP quarterback is common knowledge for Carter given his time at Grambling and for Johnson, who grew up in Louisiana not far from where Williams' hometown. The name Doug Williams has value at places like Grambling and Southern - ''He's in history,'' Carter said - and his reputation as an executive precedes him even for players 40 years younger.

''He just goes out and finds talent,'' said Johnson, who performed in front of Williams and about 15 other scouts at Southern's pro day. ''Regardless of what school you went to - small school, big school - he makes a way for everybody to get a chance.''

Parker, fellow receivers Norlando Veals from Alcorn State and Darvin Kidsy from Texas Southern, defensive linemen Richardson Johnson from Howard and Chris Lee from Norfolk State and tight end Dillon Beard from Southern were all brought in by the Redskins from HBCUs to try out at rookie camp.

Williams doesn't believe he's unearthing any secrets, though his presence in the Redskins' front office has already had an impact in hitting on one undrafted free agent from an HBCU. The team signed defensive lineman Anthony Lanier out of Alabama A&M two years ago, and he's now considered one of their best young prospects on that side of the ball.

Lanier picked the Redskins over several other interested teams because of Williams, who saw him play in college and complimented his game.

Carter and Johnson are trying to overcome the same long odds Lanier did to make the 53-man roster and appreciate the chance Williams and the Redskins are giving them.

''He knows how hard it is for guys like us at HBCUs to get notoriety and he knows how hard it is for guys to stand out due to all the big schools that surround us and kind of drown us out,'' said Carter, who at 5-foot-7 rushed for 854 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. ''Just by him giving me the opportunity, it means a lot to me and I won't take it for granted.''

Even though he was a first-round pick, largely because of then-Tampa Bay offensive coordinator and eventual Washington coach Joe Gibbs showing interest, Williams doesn't take his own path for granted and just wants to bring in the best players possible.

''It's not about a certain school, it's prospects,'' Williams said. ''We send the scouts to where there are prospects. It just so happens Danny and Martez were prospects at Grambling and at Southern.''

Now that they're Redskins prospects, Carter and Johnson feel a certain responsibility to prove to Williams he was right for signing them.

''I'm standing on some big shoulders,'' Carter said. ''By him giving us this chance, it's a confidence boost. He sees something in us that other teams don't, obviously. He was a great athlete himself, so we just want to stand up to his standards.''

NOTES: Coach Jay Gruden said G Arie Kouandjio is getting a second opinion on what is feared to be a torn quadriceps muscle. Washington re-signed G Shawn Lauvao last week before Kouandjio's injury that was first reported by NBC Washington. ... The Redskins confirmed first-round pick Daron Payne's first name is spelled without an apostrophe after he was known as Da'Ron at Alabama. ... Geron Christian, an offensive tackle out of Louisville selected in the third round, is the team's only unsigned draft pick.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Falcons sign veteran defensive tackle Terrell McClain

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms on a deal with free-agent defensive tackle Terrell McClain, who started two games for the Washington Redskins in 2017.

The 29-year-old McClain was released by the Redskins on April 30.

McClain, a third-round draft pick by Carolina in 2011, has started in 29 of 74 games with five teams. His longest stint was with the Dallas Cowboys from 2014-16. He had 20 tackles and two sacks with the Redskins last season.

Defensive tackle was an area of need for Atlanta, which lost starter Dontari Poe, who signed as a free agent with Carolina. The Falcons selected Deadrin Senat from South Florida in the third round of the NFL draft to compete at the position.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cowboys rookie Vander Esch takes big step on improbable path

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Ask Leighton Vander Esch about his improbable path from eight-man high school football to first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys, and the rookie linebacker is quick with a retort of never being fazed by brighter lights or bigger cities.

Ask the former Boise State walk-on what he does to relax, and Vander Esch stares silently as his smile grows.

''Uh,'' he said Friday, the first day of rookie minicamp. ''I don't even know.''

Maybe that helps explain his rise to Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year and his showing at the combine and other workouts that stood out to new Dallas linebackers coach Ben Bloom. The Cowboys drafted Vander Esch 19th overall two weeks ago.

''It's kind of hard for me to relax, honestly,'' said Vander Esch, who signed an $11.8 million, four-year deal later Friday. ''At this point, expectations are so high there's no time to relax. There's no days off. You've just got to keep trucking away.''

Linebacker was one of the primary needs for Dallas going into the draft because of Sean Lee's history of injuries, Jaylon Smith's continuing recovery from a serious college knee injury and Anthony Hitchens' departure in free agency.

The Cowboys hadn't drafted a linebacker in the first round since Bobby Carpenter 12 years ago in almost the same spot (18th). Carpenter didn't get a second contract, leaving Dallas after four years in a career that ended after seven seasons. He never had more than 37 tackles.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is already talking rotation with Lee, Smith and Vander Esch for two spots. If Lee stays healthy, that's more likely to mean shared time between Vander Esch and Smith, a second-round pick in 2016.

Smith didn't play as a rookie while recovering from the devastating injury during his final game at Notre Dame and was inconsistent last season, particularly early in the year when he was playing more than expected after Hitchens injured a knee in the preseason.

''We're going to play the best guys,'' Bloom said. ''Everybody linebacker in the room has the ability to play at least two positions. We'll get the best guys on the field and they'll be asked to have multiple positions.''

Lee's best fit is weakside linebacker, but he's missed at least one game because of injury in seven of his eight seasons. The only exception was his All-Pro year in 2016.

Vander Esch considers himself a middle linebacker and flatly denied a report from before the draft that a neck injury sustained at Boise had prompted some NFL teams to downgrade him on draft boards. Regardless, the Cowboys weren't one of those teams.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones likes to compare Vander Esch to Rolando McClain, a first-round flameout in Oakland who had the best year of his career in 2014 in helping the Cowboys to just their second playoff win since their last Super Bowl title following the 1995 season.

Size would be a good place to start with that connection. McClain was 6-foot-4, same as Vander Esch, with an almost identical listed weight. The rookie is listed at 256.

''There's always pressure to perform,'' Vander Esch said. ''Obviously this is the biggest level now so there's even more of it. You've just got to relax yourself and go out and do what you do.''

After helping Salmon River High School in Riggins, Idaho, to a pair of state titles, Vander Esch walked on at Boise, about 150 miles south of his hometown. After a redshirt year, he progressed fast enough to bypass his senior season and enter the draft.

''You've got to be able to adapt quick no matter what,'' Vander Esch said. ''You've got to able to take on anything and not worry about it, not stress yourself out, not get all flustered with it.''

With his focus so much on football, Vander Esch didn't mind getting flustered over a question about what he does for fun.

NOTES: DT Maliek Collins is likely out until training camp after breaking a bone in his left foot Thursday during offseason workouts at the team's practice facility. He is expected to have his second surgery on that foot since January. The first procedure was for a stress reaction that bothered him last season, although he didn't miss any games. ... WR Terrance Williams, who broke a bone in his right foot in January, has been working on the side with trainers. Coach Jason Garrett said his recovery is on schedule, which likely means a return at training camp.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Lindsay willing to play any role to latch on with Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The fieriness of undrafted rookie running back Phillip Lindsay will be put on the backburner.

Not for long, just for now.

The former Colorado standout known as the ''Tasmanian Devil " for his relentless motor is all ears these days in the Denver Broncos' meeting room.

''I have to get in where I fit in. Right now, that's learning and listening and being quiet,'' Lindsay said on the first day of rookie orientation Friday. ''My place is to listen to the veterans and coaches and take what they want and establish it on the football field.''

That also means lining up wherever the Broncos want him to line up. He's willing to return kickoffs and punts, play special teams, become a situational running back, even line up as a slot receiver.

Anything to make this roster. He's got a solid chance especially given this: At least one rookie college free agent has made the Broncos' active roster out of training camp in 13 of the last 14 years, including Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris in 2011.

''I'm just going to showcase everything,'' Lindsay said.

Being from Denver, Lindsay gets asked all the time by his fellow rookies about his city. He's sort of Denver's first ambassador, along with rookie offensive lineman Sam Jones, who's a sixth-round pick out of Arizona State and also hails from the Mile High City.

''A lot of times they think (Denver) is just cold,'' Lindsay said. ''Now, they get to see it's dry, it's hot. It's beautiful.''

It didn't take long for Lindsay to have his first welcome-to-pro-football moment by simply walking into the locker room.

''It's like, `Dang, it's really here,''' Lindsay said. ''Now it's time for me to go and seize the moment.''

While with the Buffaloes, Lindsay was an integral piece of the offense as he recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. The 5-foot-8, 190-pound running back brought an edge and intensity to the backfield, but didn't get selected in the recent draft.

Still, he feels like he landed in a good situation with his hometown team. Lindsay joins a backfield that counts Devontae Booker as its veteran after severing ties with C.J. Anderson. Royce Freeman was drafted in the third round out of Oregon to play a big role as well.

Lindsay and Freeman - two Pac-12 tailbacks Jones saw plenty of while at Arizona State.

''I'm excited to wear the same jersey as him and Phil now, instead of having them run all over our defense,'' Jones said. ''We can run all over somebody else.''

Lindsay impressed the Broncos brass and coaching staff at his pro day by turning in a time of 4.39 seconds in his 40-yard dash. He also shined at the Shrine Game, where he drew some comparisons to New England running back James White.

''But I don't want to be like anybody else,'' Lindsay said. ''I want to be like Phillip Lindsay, establishing myself with special teams and getting into the playbook as a running back. ... I'm happy to be a part of the team and I'm ready to get things going.''

NOTES: Jones said he's been learning the playbook under the tutelage of Broncos OL Connor McGovern. ''Definitely a leg up going into camp,'' Jones said. ... WR DaeSean Hamilton of Penn State was wearing big glasses that would've made LB Von Miller proud. ''I took notices of the type of glasses that he wears,'' said Hamilton, a fourth-round selection. ''I like really fancy glasses, big glasses.'' ... David Williams, a seventh-round pick out of Arkansas, said of the wide-open running back competition: ''It's actually a great situation. If it was me in college, I'd go to this school - if it was a school - because the situation is so good.'' ... LB Keishawn Bierria, a sixth-round pick from Washington, on learning the playbook: ''It's a lot. But that's why we have the vets. We have the vets to lean on. They'll also serve as teachers for us, too. The more time we spend with them and get knowledge from them, it will be a lot easier.'' ... ILB Josey Jewell, a fourth-round pick out of Iowa, is fond of his nickname The Outlaw. ''It happened in college and hopefully it keeps going,'' Jewell said.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Hubbard's career changed in dodgeball, led him to Bengals

CINCINNATI (AP) Sam Hubbard was engrossed in a dodgeball game during his high school gym class when Ohio State coach Urban Meyer walked through the door. A lot of heads turned, including his.

And his sports career took a very different turn.

Hubbard doesn't recall anything about the dodgeball game, other than the unexpected visit that changed so much. Hubbard went from an aspiring Notre Dame lacrosse player to a Buckeye football star and now a draft pick for his hometown team, the Cincinnati Bengals .

''I've had a winding journey to get here, and a lot of fun stories,'' the third-round pick said Friday as rookie camp opened.

The 6-foot-5 defensive end was committed to playing lacrosse for Notre Dame - he was a midfielder on Moeller High School's team - when Meyer showed up at gym class during his junior year. Hubbard also was a safety on the football team. Meyer was on a routine recruiting trip to see several prospects, and Hubbard's gym teacher was Moeller's football coach.

''Everyone in class was staring,'' Hubbard said. ''To have Urban Meyer walk into your class was unexpected.''

Hubbard's coach mentioned him as a potential Buckeye. Meyer watched Moeller's game film and took note of him along with the others. Eventually, Ohio State offered a football scholarship and Hubbard changed paths, heading two hours up the road to Columbus instead of South Bend.

There were several more unexpected changes ahead.

The Buckeyes tried him at linebacker and tight end before deciding he'd be best as a defensive end, a position he'd never played. Hubbard was totally out of his element, but grew into the position, adding weight while learning what it takes to tackle an elusive running back and take down a quarterback.

He'd hoped to get drafted by the Bengals, but thought there was little chance of things working out so perfectly. That might have been the biggest surprise of all.

On Friday, he walked into their football-shaped locker room, heading past Andy Dalton's locker on the right and Carlos Dunlap's on the left, to find the one with his name and No. 94. Then he was off to an adjoining practice field, a short trek that felt surreal after all those years rooting for the Bengals.

''It's insane,'' he said. ''To come in here and see the locker, the helmet, to put on the jersey and go out on the field - it was a special moment.''

He'll get a chance to work his way into the Bengals' defensive line rotation as a rookie and become part of those big rivalry games he followed so closely as a youth - Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are on the schedule in four months.

Chase Big Ben around the field?

''Ha!'' he said. ''I don't want to get ahead of myself, but that's obviously the end goal. I've got to learn the playbook first and make a good first impression.''

Hubbard knows the franchise's history of futility as well as anyone. The last time the Bengals won a playoff game was the 1990 season, five years before he was born. He attended Bengals games regularly as a youth. He knows about their run of five straight first-round losses from 2011-15, an NFL record for playoff futility.

Hubbard was in the stands at Paul Brown Stadium for one of their worst moments. Carson Palmer tore ligaments in his left knee when he was hit on his first pass against the Steelers on Jan. 8, 2006. Pittsburgh pulled away to a 31-17 win in the opening-round playoff game.

''That one's burned in my head,'' he said.

DRAFT PICK SIGNINGS

The Bengals signed four of their 11 draft picks at the start of rookie camp: fifth-round picks CB Davontae Harris and DT Andrew Brown, and seventh-round picks QB Logan Woodside and G Rod Taylor.

COME ON DOWN

The Bengals also signed 10 undrafted free agents for rookie camp: WR Devonte Boyd, Nevada-Las Vegas; DE Gaelin Elmore, East Carolina; OT Austin Fleer, Colorado Mesa; RB Quinton Flowers, South Florida; TE Jordan Franks, Central Florida; S Trayvon Henderson, Hawaii; LB Junior Joseph, Connecticut; RB Ray Lawry, Old Dominion; DE Ja'Von Rolland-Jones, Arkansas State; and LB Chris Worley, Ohio State.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL: Bills acted properly in team president's resignation

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The NFL has determined the Buffalo Bills acted properly in the aftermath of team president Russ Brandon's resignation amid allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a female employee.

The league released a statement Friday saying it will take no further action against the Bills. The league determined the team ''addressed the matter in a timely, thorough and appropriate manner.''

The statement comes a week after the NFL wouldn't rule out launching an investigation in announcing it planned to contact the Bills to discuss the reasons behind Brandon's abrupt departure.

Brandon resigned May 1 after spending 20 years working up the Bills' executive ranks. He also spent the past three years serving as president of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, who also are owned by Terry and Kim Pegula.

Two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that Brandon's resignation came after he was confronted about the relationship by the Pegulas. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because it is an internal matter, and the Pegulas did not provide a reason when announcing they accepted Brandon's resignation.

Brandon told the AP he had contemplated stepping down from the job for some time, and felt the timing was right following the conclusion of the NFL draft. He did not respond to follow-up questions regarding the alleged relationship.

The NHL last week consulted with the Sabres and determined Brandon's resignation was a club matter.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Ridley enjoys 'more freedom' at Falcons rookie minicamp

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Even with temperatures in the mid-80s for the opening day of the Falcons rookie minicamp, wide receiver Calvin Ridley wore long sleeves under his red No. 18 jersey.

He just couldn't resist.

It's a freedom that was never allowed for skill position players in Ridley's college career under Alabama coach Nick Saban.

''Oh man, I didn't get to wear this in college so I had to do it,'' Ridley said. ''Coach really didn't like us to wear long sleeves and I had to do it. I had to try.''

As an NFL first-round draft pick , Ridley was enjoying some new-found flexibility during his first practice as a professional.

''I can have my shirt out a little bit,'' he said, holding the bottom of his jersey. ''I don't have to tuck my shirt in.''

Long sleeves? Shirt untucked?

Sorry coach Saban, but there's more.

At times on Friday, Ridley even took off his helmet.

''It's a little different to take my helmet off all the time,'' Ridley said, smiling while recalling his days under Saban's strict watch. ''A little more freedom. It's cool, though.''

Ridley may have felt like a rebel while catching passes in his first Falcons practice, but soon his old college rules will become a distant memory. The young wide receiver may quickly shed the long sleeves when the full Falcons roster is together for mandatory minicamp in June and training camp in July.

Besides, there are more important matters in Ridley's mind. He must learn the Falcons playbook as he tries to prove he can join veteran receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu as another top target for quarterback Matt Ryan .

On Friday, Ridley may have been too eager to show he can meet expectations that come with being a first-round draft pick.

Ridley acknowledged he was ''just very excited'' and may have tried to move too fast while running plays with other draft picks and 27 undrafted rookies participating in the camp.

On the first play following a water break, Ridley ran a crossing route over the middle and had the ball fall to the ground off his hands. He appeared to turn up field before securing the ball.

''I want to play fast and I've got to slow it down a little bit to learn better and get comfortable, and I'm going to be fine,'' he said.

Coach Dan Quinn said it's a common first-day scenario for rookies.

''Like most of the guys, they want to do right so well, they want more reps, more turns to get rolling,'' Quinn said. ''It's a good lesson. Stay in the moment of this play. That's not uncommon for any of them.''

The Falcons expect Ridley to make an immediate impact as another playmaker on an offense that suffered a decline in 2017 after leading the NFL in scoring in 2016. He finished his college career ranked second on the Alabama records, behind Amari Cooper, for catches and TD catches.

Ridley is the only unsigned player among Atlanta's six draft picks. He said he is leaving the contract negotiations to his agents.

''I'm just letting my people work,'' he said. ''... I'm worried about football.''

NOTES: Russell Gage, one of two sixth-round picks , was listed as a wide receiver in the NFL draft, but he worked at cornerback on Friday. ''Just to make sure where we're going to put him,'' Quinn said. Gage played both positions at LSU and will move back to offense when the minicamp continues on Saturday. Quinn said he may work other players at more than one position.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Suspect in break-in at NFL star's home waives extradition

FARMINGTON, Maine (AP) A third suspect wanted in connection with a burglary at the home of New England Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowsi has waived extradition from Maine, where he's in custody.

The Sun Journal reports that Maine prosecutors declined to prosecute 26-year-old Shane Denn on charge of driving without a license and giving a false name to police. Instead, they proceeded Friday with extradition.

Denn will remain in jail in Farmington until Massachusetts police retrieve him.

Two other men, Eric Tyrrell and Anthony Almeida, have pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with the February break-in. The burglary happened while Gronkowsi was away at the Super Bowl.

Denn also was wanted in connection with several other attempted robberies in Massachusetts.

---

Information from: Sun-Journal, http://www.sunjournal.com

Read more

Panthers sign running back Kenjon Barner from Eagles

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers have signed free-agent running back Kenjon Barner from the Philadelphia Eagles to a one-year contract.

Financial terms were not available Friday.

Barner is expected to compete as a third-down back and returner. A day earlier, the Panthers placed third-down back Fozzy Whittaker on injured reserve with a knee injury.

The 29-year-old Barner was drafted by Carolina in the sixth round in 2013 draft. He spent one season with the Panthers before being traded to Philadelphia in 2014.

Barner played in 13 games with one start last season with the Super Bowl champions. He ran for 57 yards on 16 attempts with one touchdown.

Carolina also signed third-round draft choice safety Rashaan Gaulden and seventh-round draft choice linebacker Andre Smith.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Barkley tries to temper Giant expectations as minicamp opens

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) When it comes to football, Saquon Barkley has a knack for doing what might sound impossible.

Whether it's his freakish feats in the weight room, or his game-breaking plays during a three-year career at Penn State (during which he scored a school-record 53 touchdowns), the 6-foot, 233-pounder earned another distinction when he was selected second overall by the Giants in the draft last month instead of a quarterback.

In a QB-driven league where an every-down back is an endangered species, Barkley was the highest running back drafted in more than a decade.

The next hurdle for the Bronx, New York, native? Tempering expectations that he'll become the Giants' hometown hero.

''I don't see them,'' Barkley said. ''I know a lot of people try and set expectations for me. No offense to you guys, but I set my own expectations.''

Which will start by using the same mentality he's always had.

''I have to believe in myself, set goals for myself, set expectations for myself and continue to work for those goals every single day,'' Barkley said. ''Just to continue to come in, be humble. I don't want to be that guy that thinks he is a high draft pick and that he has it all. Nothing is given to you. Everything is earned. You have to have that mindset that you have to work every single day. Learn every single day. Be a student of the day, learn from the guys and the coaches. The Elis (Manning) and the Odells (Beckham Jr.) on the field and off the field. Just work. Hard work got me here.''

Like the highest running back taken since Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush in 2006, Barkley is more of a do-everything player than a conventional running back, returning kicks, including two for touchdowns last season, one of which was 98 yards.

Citing Ezekiel Elliott and Le'Veon Bell as examples, Barkley talked about how valuable versatile running backs can be.

''I am not a guy that just lines up in the back field and is going to bang his head, bang his head, bang his head,'' he said. ''I am a guy that is willing to do anything for his team. Whether it be a kick returner or a punt returner, running down on kickoffs, lining up in the slot, running a dummy play or a fake play, whatever it takes. I want to be an athlete, not just a running back. Obviously, I play the running back position, but I want to be an all-around guy and an all-around player.''

While coach Pat Shurmer senses the Giants drafted a quick study, he knows Barkley has to dive into the playbook before he can truly assess that.

''He needs to be everything he thinks he can be and then we'll worry about that (expectations) later,'' Shurmer said, adding: ''I'm certainly high on Saquon . If you ask him, he'll tell you he wants to learn what he's doing and compete at a high level and regardless of what my expectations are for him.''

The expectation among fans and some in the media is that Barkley makes an immediate impact, which would result in a potent offense featuring wide receivers Beckham and Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram, as long as 37-year-old Eli Manning can return to his two-time Super Bowl MVP form.

For now, Barkley, along with the other players at the Giants' three-day rookie minicamp this weekend, will get the first taste of what NFL practices are like, and what it's like to not only be an NFL player but a New York Giant.

''We're going to put them through the paces for three days here and try and teach them,'' Shurmer said. ''I think what's important is and I've talked to the staff, I've talked to our current players, we want to teach our rookies the right way from the very beginning - here is your iPad, here is your locker, here is where you need to be, here is how you need to dress, here are the fields, `please' and `thank-you' work, push in your chair. We want to really train these guys in the New York Giants' way and I think it's every facet of their life and then, certainly what is most obvious, football.''

A mentality to which the well-polished Barkley is looking forward.

''It is an honor to play for this franchise. Right when you walk in the building, you see the four Lombardi Trophies and you already know what the standard is for this team and this program,'' Barkley said. ''I am just happy to be a part of it.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Pats' McDaniels: No promises came with decision to return

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) In his first public comments since he declined at the last minute to accept the Indianapolis Colts' head coaching position, Josh McDaniels denied Friday that he'd made any deal to succeed Bill Belichick as coach of the New England Patriots.

McDaniels listed several reasons for remaining in New England as Belichick's offensive coordinator - some personal, some football-related. But he said his job is no different than it was before his near-departure for Indianapolis.

''No, I mean my role is the same,'' McDaniels said when asked if he'd received any assurances of becoming the Patriots' next coach. ''Look, I think if you're here, you have an opportunity to work with and for some of the best people in our game, maybe some of the best people that have ever done those things in our game. So I just feel like it's a great opportunity to be here in my role.''

That role will continue to be calling plays and working with quarterback Tom Brady.

''Whatever happens in the future's going to happen,'' he said. ''I'll be happy with whatever that is.''

McDaniels and the rest of the Patriots' assistants spoke to reporters at Gillette Stadium on Friday for the first time since New England's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Feb. 4.

The Colts thought they had hired McDaniels two days later, tweeting out a welcome and even scheduling a news conference for the next day. Instead, McDaniels, who was coach of the Denver Broncos from 2009-10, changed his mind and returned to the Patriots for his 10th season as offensive coordinator.

''You know there's a lot that goes into those things and it can be very complicated,'' he said. ''I've stated again and again that I definitely want to be a head coach again. At the same time, I love being here.

''This is where my kids are born and raised and we've made a pretty special life here and that's not an easy thing to leave. There's a lot to consider, and certainly leaving here I don't take lightly ever. ... It was a difficult process and I'm very happy with the decision that we made.''

While McDaniels returns to his old role, linebackers coach Brian Flores' duties will expand. Although he won't have the title of defensive coordinator, Flores will call the plays. This isn't a new situation for Belichick's staff: Matt Patricia, who left to become coach of the Detroit Lions in January, called plays from 2009-11 before getting the defensive coordinator title in 2012.

The Patriots ranked 29th in yards allowed per game (366) but were fifth in points allowed (18.5) last season.

Flores doesn't anticipate making a personal stamp on the defense just because he'll be calling the plays.

''I think there's a long history of this defense. Bill's been here for a number of years, so I would say we're going to continue to play defense like we've played for the last 18 seasons since he's been here,'' Flores said. ''My role in that is no different than any other coach on the team. We're trying to put something together here and do whatever helps us win, you know. You can call it a personal imprint, but it's a team imprint. ... We're trying to build to be as good as we can be.''

---

More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Rudolph: In Pittsburgh to learn, not 'bother' Roethlisberger

PITTSBURGH (AP) Mason Rudolph started wearing the No. 2 while playing high school football in South Carolina. He kept it during his record-breaking career at Oklahoma State, where he left as the program's all-time winningest quarterback.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers let him know No. 2 was available when he reported for rookie minicamp, he jumped at the chance.

The two-time defending AFC North champions raised eyebrows when they traded up to grab Rudolph in the third round of the draft - with general manager Kevin Colbert stressing the team had given Rudolph a first-round grade. Rudolph is well aware that he's second on the depth chart - and more likely third - behind Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones.

''I'm looking forward to embracing my role now on this team and learning,'' Rudolph said Friday after finishing his first practice as a pro along with the other rookies and first-year players.

And just in case Rudolph needed a reminder about his status, Roethlisberger provided a few in recent weeks when he expressed surprise the team used such a high pick on a quarterback when the 36-year-old two-time Super Bowl winner plans to play until he's nearing his 40s.

Rudolph didn't take it personally and pointed out Roethlisberger sent him a text on Thursday wishing him luck.

''I think the media got kind of twisted around a little bit,'' Rudolph said of Roethlisberger's comments to both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and 93.7 The Fan radio in Pittsburgh. ''I think he's a competitor. He's a Hall of Fame quarterback and he's a competitive guy and that's what I would expect.''

Then again, so is Rudolph. Save for the first 10 games of his prolific career at Oklahoma State, Rudolph has been the starting quarterback for whatever team he was on since his sophomore year of high school. Waiting until the third round while five of his peers went ahead of him- including college rival Baker Mayfield - is something Rudolph admits he'll carry with him for a long time.

He may need something to keep the fire burning as he spends this fall (and perhaps several others) on the sideline with a clipboard or a headset during games.

''I'm here to prove myself,'' Rudolph said. ''That's the way I approach every facet of my life. But I don't feel like I've got to prove anything to anyone other than these coaches and my teammates.''

Rudolph received new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner's playbook about a week ago, one he's tried to split up into parts so he's not overwhelmed by its volume.

There will be adjustments along the way. He worked almost exclusively out of the shotgun at Oklahoma State while running coach Mike Gundy's ''Air Raid'' offense. Though he's spent the last several months doing a crash course on working under center, there were a couple of missed exchanges on Friday.

At one point, when a play didn't go as crisply as Rudolph liked, he asked Fichtner if he could run it again. It wasn't a surprise to rookie wide receiver James Washington, a teammate of Rudolph at Oklahoma State and a second-round pick by the Steelers, taken 16 selections ahead of his good friend.

''He's a perfectionist,'' Washington said. ''He doesn't like things sloppy. I mean if it's sloppy he's going to redo it. That's something that will help him.''

Washington also isn't concerned about Rudolph taking a backseat for now. They both knew what they were getting when coach Mike Tomlin called him two weeks ago to say they're coming to the Steelers. This isn't a rebuilding project. Pittsburgh is built to win now.

Barring injuries, Washington will be asked to make more of an immediate impact than Rudolph. That doesn't mean Rudolph is going to lose his patience.

''He's a strong-minded guy,'' Washington said. ''He doesn't care about the hype. He's just another guy looking for a job.''

And Rudolph understands his job is to soak up what he can from whomever he can and not let egos or agendas or anything else get in the way.

''I'm sure when we get in this building, in this (quarterback) room ... we're going to be friends and I'm going to let (Roethlisberger) do his thing,'' Rudolph said. ''I'm going to try and pick up what I can from him but not bother him.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Josh Allen thrown for loss (of words) at meeting Jim Kelly

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Rookie quarterback Josh Allen says the only time he became rattled during his first Buffalo Bills practice was when he was introduced to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.

The first-round draft pick says Friday he was ''shaking'' while standing beside Kelly in a meeting of Bills quarterbacks past and present.

Allen says he hopes to one day have his name included in the same sentence with Kelly, who guided the Bills to four consecutive AFC championships in the early 1990s.

The Bills traded up five spots to select the Wyoming quarterback with the No. 7 pick two weeks ago.

Kelly made a surprise visit for the start of two-day rookie minicamp some six weeks after his latest operation to have cancer removed from his jaw.

Kelly walked with a cane and had difficulty speaking. He raised his right thumb while he and Allen posed for pictures. Said Kelly: ''It's the best thing I can do: Thumbs up.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

49ers sign 5th-round pick D.J. Reed Jr.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers have signed cornerback D.J. Reed Jr. to a four-year contract.

The team announced the deal with the fifth-round pick on Friday.

Reed was selected 142nd overall last month out of Kansas State. He played in 24 games in two years in college and registered 122 tackles, five tackles for loss, seven interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 32 passes defensed.

He also returned 26 kickoffs for an average of 32.2 yards per return and one touchdown. He averaged 14.9 yards per punt return in college as well.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Buffalo Bills keeping training camp in Rochester

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills are keeping their training camp at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer says Friday he's been assured by the NFL team there are no plans to make a change. The Bills have four years left on the current agreement.

Questions were raised over the future of the camp's location since the resignation of team president Russ Brandon this month. Brandon attended St. John Fisher and brought the Bills camp there from Fredonia in 2000 in a move to expand the fan base.

Bills President Kim Pegula calls the Rochester area an important market for the team. Preparations are already underway for camp at St. John Fisher this summer.

Read more

Colts sign top draft pick, 8 others before rookie mini-camp

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) First-round choice Quenton Nelson is one of nine draft picks who have signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

The announcement came Friday, the same day Indy opened its rookie mini-camp.

Nelson was selected No. 6 overall and is expected to start immediately at left guard.

The Colts also signed two of their four second-round picks - defensive ends Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis.

Running backs Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins, receivers Daurice Fountain and Deon Cain and linebackers Matthew Adams and linebacker Zaire Franklin also agreed to deals.

Terms were not immediately available.

Indy still has two unsigned draft picks, linebacker Darius Leonard and guard Braden Smith.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Giants sign 3 of 6 draft picks, start rookie minicamp

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The New York Giants have signed three of their six draft picks and 11 undrafted free agents.

The team announced the signings of guard Will Hernandez, the second-round pick from Texas-El Paso and linebacker Lorenzo Carter, the third-round choice from Georgia. The Giants also signed quarterback Kyle Lauletta, a fourth-round selection from Richmond.

Saquan Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick from Penn State, is among the three picks that remain unsigned.

The Giants opened a three-day rookie minicamp on Friday.

Read more

Jaguars sign 4 draft picks, including 4th-rounder Richardson

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed four of their seven draft picks, including fourth-rounder Will Richardson.

The Jaguars announced Thursday they also signed sixth-round quarterback Tanner Lee, seventh-round punter Logan Cooke and seventh-round linebacker Leon Jacobs.

Richardson, who is expected to compete with veteran Jermey Parnell at right tackle, was the 129th overall pick. He started 32 games in three seasons at North Carolina State.

Richardson's contact is worth $2,742,682, including a signing bonus of $327,682.

Lee's deal is worth $2,507,141 with a signing bonus of $92,141.

Cooke's contract is worth $2,531,623 with a signing bonus of $71,623. Jacobs' deal is similar.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

QB Blake Bortles, Jaguars teammates thwart suspected thief

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was picked without being on the field.

Bortles had his wallet stolen from his pickup truck Wednesday night in a bizarre robbery at teammate Brandon Linder's home.

Joseph Arthur Horton, 18, was charged with auto theft, auto burglary and trespassing, according to Duval County jail records.

Jaguars guard Chris Reed told police he was walking up Linder's driveway for a gathering when he saw someone inside Bortles' truck, according to the arrest report. Reed said he didn't think anything of it and went inside. Surveillance video from Linder's home showed someone getting inside Bortles' truck and removing the quarterback's wallet that was later found in the driveway. Bortles told police nothing appeared to have been taken.

Surveillance video showed Horton sitting behind the wheel of the truck, starting it and moving it back and forth. But since there were numerous cars in the driveway, the truck could not be driven away. Horton got out and looked around before walking into the house.

A few minutes later, Linder asked him who he was, the report said. The man answered ''Joe'' and walked upstairs. Due to the large number of people in the house, Linder said he didn't think anything was suspicious. A short time later, Linder found Horton upstairs, and when no one knew who he was, he called police.

Bortles, Linder and Reed stayed with Horton until officers arrived, the report said.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Bears sign 6 of 7 draft picks

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears have signed six of their seven draft picks, leaving Georgia linebacker and No. 8 overall selection Roquan Smith as the only one left.

The Bears signed Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels (second round) and Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller (second round), Western Kentucky linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe (fourth round), Delaware defensive lineman Bilal Nichols (fifth round), Utah linebacker Kylie Fitts (sixth round) and Georgia receiver Javon Wims (seventh round).

Chicago announced the moves on Thursday. The Bears start rookie minicamp on Friday.

---

More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cardinals sign first-round pick Josh Rosen

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have signed first-round pick Josh Rosen to a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth.

Terms of the deal with the former UCLA quarterback weren't disclosed Thursday.

Rosen was the 10th overall pick in the draft. He completed 712 of 1,170 passes for 9,340 yards and 59 touchdowns at UCLA.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Panthers sign 5 draft picks

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Panthers signed five of their eight draft picks.

The team announced Thursday they have signed second-round draft choice cornerback Donte Jackson, fourth-round draft picks tight end Ian Thomas and defensive end Marquis Haynes, fifth-round selection linebacker Jermaine Carter and seventh-round draft choice defensive tackle Kendrick Norton.

Terms of the contracts were not released.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Bills sign 4 of 8 draft picks before start of rookie camp

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills have signed four of eight draft picks in preparing to open their annual rookie minicamp.

The Bills on Thursday signed both fifth-round selections, Jacksonville State safety Siran Neal and Virginia Tech guard Wyatt Teller. The Bills also signed their final two draft picks, Clemson receiver Ray-Ray McCloud and North Carolina receiver Austin Proehl.

The moves leave Buffalo with its top four selections unsigned, including Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Both were first-round selections.

All eight of Buffalo's draft picks are expected to be in attendance Friday for the start of the two-day rookie camp.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

Read more

Titans agree to terms with Dane Cruikshank, QB Luke Falk

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have agreed to terms with half their draft class in reaching deals with defensive back Dane Cruikshank and quarterback Luke Falk.

The Titans announced the deals Thursday.

Cruikshank was selected in the fifth round after being a two-year starter at Arizona, and he finished with 135 tackles, five interceptions and a forced fumble over 25 games.

Tennessee wrapped up its four-pick draft by taking Falk in the sixth round. He went from a walk-on at Washington State to setting a handful of Pac-12 passing records, finishing with 14,486 yards passing and 119 touchdowns. He started 40 games and threw for at least 300 yards in 30 games and posted seven comeback victories in the fourth quarter.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

Read more

Lions waive running back Tion Green

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions have waived running back Tion Green.

Green appeared in five games last season for Detroit, rushing for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 42 carries. Green was an undrafted rookie last year out of Cincinnati.

Detroit has tried to revamp its running game this offseason, signing running back LeGarrette Blount and drafting running back Kerryon Johnson in the second round.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

Read more

Lions' Patricia says he was 'falsely accused' of assault

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia said Thursday he was ''falsely accused'' in a 1996 sexual assault allegation that resurfaced this week, and he indicated that the matter has not been an issue as he has climbed from job to job in the years since.

Patricia held a brief news conference one day after a Detroit News report that he and a friend were indicted 22 years ago by a Texas grand jury on one count each of aggravated sexual assault. They were accused of assaulting a woman on South Padre Island. The accuser did not testify and the case was dismissed.

''I was innocent then, and I am innocent now,'' Patricia said.

The Lions said Wednesday night that a pre-employment background check did not turn up the incident. The team said Patricia was 21 at the time and on spring break in Texas. The Lions said they were standing by Patricia.

An NFL spokesman said Thursday the league ''will review the matter with the club to understand the allegations and what the club has learned.''

Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford, general manager Bob Quinn and president Rod Wood were at Thursday's news conference but did not speak.

''I'm here to defend my honor and clear my name. Twenty-two years ago, I was falsely accused of something very serious,'' Patricia said . ''There were claims made about me that never happened. While I'm thankful on one level that the process worked, and the case was dismissed, at the same time, I was never given the opportunity to defend myself.''

Patricia took a few questions but did not provide details about the day in question.

''I was falsely accused of something that I did not do,'' he said.

The Detroit News, citing a March 1996 story in the Brownsville (Texas) Herald, said Patricia and a friend were accused of entering the hotel room where the woman was sleeping and sexually assaulting her. The men were arrested later that night and released on bond, according to the story and court records.

The indictment came that August, but the case was eventually dismissed. The Detroit News posted a motion to dismiss from January 1997, which said the alleged victim did not feel she could ''face the pressures or stress of a trial.''

Patricia's first NFL coaching job was as an assistant with the New England Patriots in 2004, and he remained with them through last season, when he was the defensive coordinator. He was hired by the Lions in February to replace Jim Caldwell.

Before joining the Patriots, Patricia worked as a graduate assistant in 1996 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his alma mater. That was before he spent two years working as an aeronautical engineer. Patricia was an assistant coach at Amherst and a graduate assistant at Syracuse before moving on to the NFL.

''I've interviewed for a lot of jobs,'' Patricia said. ''Interviewing for jobs in engineering right after the situation happened, it was never an issue, it never came up as anything, because it was dismissed, and I was innocent, so it just has never been part of any process that I've been involved with.''

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the team wasn't aware of the legal case and expressed support for Patricia.

''For 14 years in our organization, Matt conducted himself with great integrity and is known to be an outstanding coach, person and family man,'' Belichick said in a statement. ''We have always been confident in Matt's character and recommended him highly to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

---

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Read more

Raiders release quarterback Josh Johnson

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders have released quarterback Josh Johnson.

The team announced the move on Thursday to cut Johnson and go down to three quarterbacks on the roster. Johnson was signed this offseason to compete for a backup spot with EJ Manuel and Connor Cook behind starter Derek Carr.

Johnson has played in 29 games with five starts over his 10-year career. He has completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 1,042 yards, five touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Ex-NFL player: Police fabricated evidence for gun charge

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) A former NFL linebacker's career was cut short after authorities in New Jersey fabricated evidence linking him to a gun used in a shooting, the player alleged in a lawsuit filed this week.

The Elizabeth police department and Union County prosecutor's office ''willfully ignored and were deliberately indifferent to overwhelming evidence'' that Khaseem Greene hadn't provided the weapon used in a shooting outside a nightclub in Elizabeth in December 2016, Greene says in the suit.

The Kansas City Chiefs released Greene in May of last year, the day charges against him were reported.

Two months later, a gun charge against Greene was dropped after an audio recording surfaced of the accused shooter telling detectives he lied about Greene's involvement in the shooting.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the police and prosecutor's office of ''simultaneously manufacturing and fabricating false evidence in order to charge Plaintiff with a crime he did not commit.''

A spokesman for the county prosecutor's office declined comment Thursday. A message left at the Elizabeth police department wasn't immediately returned.

The 29-year-old Greene is an Elizabeth native who was a Big East defensive player of the year while at Rutgers. He appeared in a total of 25 games for the Chicago Bears in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, starting six games at linebacker.

The lawsuit charges numerous counts including civil rights violations, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, negligence and defamation. It seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, including for past and future economic loss.

It also seeks the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the Elizabeth police department.

According to the lawsuit, the man charged with the shooting, a career criminal with more than 20 prior arrests and six felony convictions, admitted he lied about getting the gun from Greene during an interview with police after his arrest in late December 2016.

Nevertheless, authorities went ahead and charged Greene, citing surveillance video that allegedly showed Greene handing the gun to the man. No such video existed, the lawsuit alleges.

Greene last August said the legal trouble has been ''probably the toughest time of my life'' and has been ''very hard emotionally and mentally.''

''People started looking at me differently and accusing me of being this thug, this monster, and all of it was false,'' he said by phone.

The suit names the Elizabeth Police Department and the Union County Prosecutor's Office as well as individuals in both offices.

Read more

Falcons reach agreement with DT Senat before rookie minicamp

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with third-round draft pick Deadrin Senat, a defensive tackle from South Florida.

The deal leaves only the team's first-round pick, wide receiver Calvin Ridley of Alabama, unsigned before Friday's opening of a two-day rookie minicamp.

Of the team's six draft picks, Senat may have the clearest path to a starting job. There is an opening at defensive tackle after free agent Dontari Poe signed with NFC South rival Carolina.

On Wednesday, the team announced agreements with four draft picks: cornerback Isaiah Oliver, running back Ito Smith, wide receiver Russell Gage and linebacker Foye Oluokun.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cardinals sign deaf fullback Coleman to 1-year deal

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have signed fullback Derrick Coleman to a one-year contract.

Coleman is the first deaf player on offense to play in the NFL and he has spent four seasons in the league. He has played in 47 games since joining the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted rookie free agent out of UCLA.

Coleman played in all 16 games with the Atlanta Falcons last season with a career-high 16 special teams tackles. He spent the previous three years with Seattle, appearing in 31 games.

The Cardinals' previous coach, Bruce Arians, did not use a fullback in his system but new coach Steve Wilks and his offensive coordinator Mike McCoy do.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Gase says he's comfortable with Miami's backup QB situation

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase says he likes his revamped roster, and that includes the quarterbacks who will compete this summer to back up Ryan Tannehill.

The Dolphins decided against drafting a quarterback , which leaves holdover David Fales and veteran newcomer Brock Osweiler to battle for the No. 2 job. Miami also signed veteran Bryce Petty as further insurance last week.

Gase, speaking Thursday before the start of a rookie minicamp, said he'd be comfortable turning to Fales or Osweiler this season if Tannehill were sidelined by an injury.

''If I wasn't, we'd have somebody else here,'' Gase said.

Bringing in an emergency replacement wouldn't be necessary, Gase said. Last year he coaxed Jay Cutler out of retirement after Tannehill suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss the entire season.

''There's a lot of confidence as far as the guys we have,'' Gase said.

Osweiler signed a one-year contract in March after going 0-4 as the Denver Broncos' starter last season. Gase was an assistant with the Broncos when Osweiler was a young reserve for them in 2012-14.

Gase said a conversation with Osweiler convinced him a reunion would be wise.

''Just hearing him and where he was mentally and what he wanted to accomplish and how he wanted to get his career rolling again ... everybody in the building liked him, and I felt good about it,'' Gase said.

Fales had only two career completions before getting an extended tryout in the Dolphins' 2017 finale against Buffalo, when he went 29 for 42 for 265 yards with one score and one interception.

''I was impressed with some of the things he did in that game,'' Gase said. ''Sometimes he makes plays and you're not really sure how he did it.''

Matt Moore wasn't re-signed this offseason after seven years as the backup quarterback. The importance of the job is magnified because Tannehill has suffered two serious left injuries in the past 18 months, but he has been working out and cleared for offseason practices.

''I see a guy who is very confident,'' Gase said. ''He's really smooth with what we're doing in throwing sessions. He looks good to me.''

The Dolphins went 6-10 last season and then parted with three players with Pro Bowl resumes: defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh , center Mike Pouncey and receiver Jarvis Landry. There were financial reasons, and Gase also wanted a change in culture on a team that was undisciplined and wildly inconsistent in 2017.

Gase believes the addition of such veterans as Frank Gore, Danny Amendola and Robert Quinn represents an upgrade.

''You look at how the group gets along,'' Gase said. ''How do they work together? Do they push each other? Are they all pulling the same direction? Do you have guys who are going to quit on you or push forward when things get hard?

''The way we're assembled right now, I like our makeup.''

---

More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine.

Read more

Giants release former starting running back Paul Perkins

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Running back Paul Perkins was released by the New York Giants on Thursday with a non-football injury.

Perkins suffered a pectoral injury before the start of the team's offseason conditioning program and subsequently underwent surgery.

A fifth-round draft choice from UCLA in 2016, Perkins played in 25 regular-season games with five starts. He also started the 2016 NFC wild-card loss at Green Bay. He had 153 carries for 546 yards with a long run of 22 yards; and 23 receptions for 208 yards, with a long catch of 67 yards.

Perkins did not score a touchdown in his Giants career.

He likely would not have been a starter in the upcoming season after New York drafted Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Lions' Patricia says he was 'falsely accused' of assault

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia said Thursday he was ''falsely accused'' in a 1996 sexual assault allegation that resurfaced this week, and he indicated that the matter has not been an issue as he has climbed from job to job in the years since.

Patricia held a brief news conference one day after a Detroit News report that he and a friend were indicted 22 years ago by a Texas grand jury on one count each of aggravated sexual assault. They were accused of assaulting a woman on South Padre Island. The accuser did not testify and the case was dismissed.

''I was innocent then, and I am innocent now,'' Patricia said.

The Lions said Wednesday night that a pre-employment background check did not turn up the incident. The team said Patricia was 21 at the time and on spring break in Texas. The Lions said they were standing by Patricia.

An NFL spokesman said Thursday the league ''will review the matter with the club to understand the allegations and what the club has learned.''

Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford, general manager Bob Quinn and president Rod Wood were at Thursday's news conference but did not speak.

''I'm here to defend my honor and clear my name. Twenty-two years ago, I was falsely accused of something very serious,'' Patricia said . ''There were claims made about me that never happened. While I'm thankful on one level that the process worked, and the case was dismissed, at the same time, I was never given the opportunity to defend myself.''

Patricia took a few questions but did not provide details about the day in question.

''I was falsely accused of something that I did not do,'' he said.

Patricia's first NFL coaching job was as an assistant with the New England Patriots in 2004, and he remained with them through last season, when he was the defensive coordinator. He was hired by the Lions in February to replace Jim Caldwell.

Before joining the Patriots, Patricia worked as a graduate assistant in 1996 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his alma mater. That was before he spent two years working as an aeronautical engineer. Patricia was an assistant coach at Amherst and a graduate assistant at Syracuse before moving on to the NFL.

''I've interviewed for a lot of jobs,'' Patricia said. ''Interviewing for jobs in engineering right after the situation happened, it was never an issue, it never came up as anything, because it was dismissed, and I was innocent, so it just has never been part of any process that I've been involved with.''

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the team wasn't aware of the legal case and expressed support for Patricia.

''For 14 years in our organization, Matt conducted himself with great integrity and is known to be an outstanding coach, person and family man,'' Belichick said in a statement. ''We have always been confident in Matt's character and recommended him highly to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

---

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Read more

Police: 3rd suspect in break-in at NFL star's home caught

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Massachusetts police say a third suspect has been arrested in connection with a burglary at Rob Gronkowsi's house while the New England Patriots star was away at the Super Bowl.

Foxborough Police Chief William Baker said Thursday that 26-year-old Shane Denn was arrested by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office in Maine. Further details weren't immediately available.

Baker says authorities will seek to have Denn extradited to Massachusetts.

Two other men, Eric Tyrrell and Anthony Almeida, have pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with the February break-in.

Authorities earlier recovered an Apple watch, a Rolex watch and rare coins allegedly stolen from one of Gronkowski's roommates.

Three handguns belonging to the roommate have not been recovered.

Denn also was wanted in connection with several other attempted robberies in Massachusetts.

Read more

Lions' Patricia says he was 'falsely accused' of assault

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia said Thursday he was ''falsely accused'' in a 1996 sexual assault allegation that resurfaced this week, and he indicated that the matter has not been an issue as he has climbed from job to job in the years since then.

Patricia held a brief news conference one day after a Detroit News report that he and a friend were indicted 22 years ago by a Texas grand jury on one count each of aggravated sexual assault. They were accused of assaulting a woman on South Padre Island. The accuser did not testify and the case was dismissed.

''I was innocent then, and I am innocent now,'' Patricia said.

The Lions said Wednesday night that a pre-employment background check did not turn up the incident. The team said Patricia was 21 at the time and on spring break in Texas. The Lions said they were standing by Patricia.

An NFL spokesman said Thursday the league ''will review the matter with the club to understand the allegations and what the club has learned.''

Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford, general manager Bob Quinn and president Rod Wood were at Thursday's news conference but did not speak.

''I'm here to defend my honor and clear my name. Twenty-two years ago, I was falsely accused of something very serious,'' Patricia said . ''There were claims made about me that never happened. While I'm thankful on one level that the process worked, and the case was dismissed, at the same time, I was never given the opportunity to defend myself.''

Patricia took a few questions but did not provide details about the day in question.

''I was falsely accused of something that I did not do,'' he said.

Patricia's first NFL coaching job was as an assistant with the New England Patriots in 2004, and he remained with them through last season, when he was the defensive coordinator. He was hired by the Lions in February to replace Jim Caldwell.

Before joining the Patriots, Patricia worked as a graduate assistant in 1996 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his alma mater. That was before he spent two years working as an aeronautical engineer. Patricia was an assistant coach at Amherst and a graduate assistant at Syracuse before moving on to the NFL.

''I've interviewed for a lot of jobs,'' Patricia said. ''Interviewing for jobs in engineering right after the situation happened, it was never an issue, it never came up as anything, because it was dismissed, and I was innocent, so it just has never been part of any process that I've been involved with.''

The Patriot did not respond to a message seeking comment.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

---

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Read more

Ex-NFL player: Police fabricated evidence for gun charge

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) A former NFL linebacker's career was cut short after authorities in New Jersey fabricated evidence linking him to a gun used in a shooting, the player alleged in a lawsuit filed this week.

The Elizabeth police department and Union County prosecutor's office ''willfully ignored and were deliberately indifferent to overwhelming evidence'' that Khaseem Greene hadn't provided the weapon used in a shooting outside a nightclub in Elizabeth in December 2016.

The Kansas City Chiefs released Greene in May of last year, the day charges against him were reported.

Two months later, a gun charge against Greene was dropped after an audio recording surfaced of the accused shooter telling detectives he lied about Greene's involvement in the shooting.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the police and prosecutor's office of ''simultaneously manufacturing and fabricating false evidence in order to charge Plaintiff with a crime he did not commit.''

A spokesman for the county prosecutor's office declined comment Thursday. A message left at the Elizabeth police department wasn't immediately returned.

The 29-year-old Greene is an Elizabeth native who was a Big East defensive player of the year while at Rutgers. He appeared in a total of 25 games for the Chicago Bears in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, starting six games at linebacker.

The lawsuit charges numerous counts including civil rights violations, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, negligence and defamation. It seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, including for past and future economic loss.

It also seeks the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the Elizabeth police department.

According to the lawsuit, the man charged with the shooting, a career criminal with more than 20 prior arrests and six felony convictions, admitted he lied about getting the gun from Greene during an interview with police after his arrest in late December 2016.

Nevertheless, authorities went ahead and charged Greene, citing surveillance video that allegedly showed Greene handing the gun to the man, Jason Sanders. No such video existed, the lawsuit alleges.

Greene last August said the legal trouble has been ''probably the toughest time of my life'' and has been ''very hard emotionally and mentally.''

''People started looking at me differently and accusing me of being this thug, this monster, and all of it was false,'' he said by phone.

The suit names the Elizabeth Police Department and the Union County Prosecutor's Office as well as individuals in both offices.

Read more

Lions' Patricia says he was 'falsely accused' of assault

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia says he was ''falsely accused'' in a 1996 sexual assault allegation that resurfaced this week.

Patricia held a brief news conference Thursday, a day after a Detroit News report that he and a friend were indicted 22 years ago by a Texas grand jury, on one count each of aggravated sexual assault for an alleged incident involving a woman on South Padre Island. The accuser did not testify and the case was dismissed.

The Lions said Wednesday night that a pre-employment background check did not turn up the incident. The team said it was standing by Patricia.

Owner Martha Firestone Ford, general manager Bob Quinn and president Rod Wood were at Thursday's news conference but did not speak.

An NFL spokesman says the league will review the matter with the team.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

Read more

The Latest: Prosecutors: No comment on ex-NFL LB lawsuit

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) The Latest on the lawsuit filed by former NFL linebacker Khaseem Greene against authorities in New Jersey (all times local):

12:55 p.m.

Prosecutors in New Jersey have declined to comment on a lawsuit filed by a former NFL linebacker who says he was wrongfully charged by authorities.

Khaseem Greene filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging police and prosecutors manufactured evidence to pursue a gun charge against him even after another man admitted lying about Greene's involvement in a shooting outside a nightclub in Elizabeth in December 2016.

The suit names the Union County Prosecutor's Office and the Elizabeth Police Department. The prosecutor's office declined to comment, and the police department did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The gun charge against Greene was dropped last July after an audio recording surfaced of the other man telling detectives he lied about getting the weapon from Greene.

---

9:05 a.m.

A former NFL linebacker says in a lawsuit that police and prosecutors in New Jersey knew a shooter had lied about getting a weapon from the player, but charged him anyway.

A gun charge against Khaseem Greene was dropped in July after an audio recording surfaced of the other man telling detectives he lied about Greene's involvement in a shooting outside a nightclub in Elizabeth in December 2016.

The Kansas City Chiefs released Greene the day charges against him were reported.

The other man's admission came the day he told detectives Greene was involved. But it wasn't included in a criminal complaint that alleged Greene was seen on camera handing him a gun.

The suit, filed Tuesday, names the Elizabeth Police Department, and the Union County Prosecutors Office. Messages seeking comment left with the agencies weren't immediately returned.

Read more

Tessitore, Witten, McFarland, Salters on ESPN 'MNF' crew

NEW YORK (AP) Joe Tessitore calls his new gig at ESPN a ''legacy job.''

Jason Witten notes he's joining ''another iconic franchise.''

Booger McFarland says it's ''the pinnacle of what we do.''

They are the three new voices who will work ESPN's Monday night games this season.

Tessitore has been one of the network's top announcers for 16 years on boxing, college football and basketball, including calling the College Football Playoff semifinals the past two years. It will be his first NFL assignment.

''I am very conscious of that lineage,'' says Tessitore, who at 46 is the oldest member of what he calls ''a young, vibrant crew.''

''When I got the call that I would be doing this, my first reaction was remembering when I was a kid watching Frank Gifford, Dandy Don (Meredith) and Howard Cosell. Everybody back then watched `Monday Night Football' and `Wide World of Sports' and Howard Cosell doing boxing. I did a Cosell imitation that had my grandfather, who didn't speak English, laughing his tail off.''

Witten, one of the sport's finest tight ends for 15 seasons and a likely Hall of Famer, retired from the Dallas Cowboys earlier this month to move into the booth.

Tessitore believes Witten will be a natural as he and McFarland replace Jon Gruden as analysts. Gruden, of course, is back coaching in the league with Oakland.

''We had a lot of candidates, and at the end of the audition process we all were saying, `This is very obvious,''' Tessitore says of Witten.

''He has such an upside that this is a guy who could be the next generation's face and voice of the NFL. He's smart, respected, even beloved by coaches, and has a tremendously high football IQ. Jason has a little of all the traits and characteristics of the great ones. Most importantly, he is wholly authentic.''

Witten will be in the broadcast booth with Tessitore. McFarland, who won two Super Bowls as a player and has been an analyst for ESPN and SEC Network for four years, will be the first field-level analyst for ''Monday Night Football.'''

The idea is for the effervescent McFarland to give a viewpoint from near the trenches - exactly where he spent nine pro seasons as a defensive lineman.

McFarland's wit and enthusiasm will be apparent from the outset of the broadcasts; ESPN's first telecast will be Thursday night, Aug. 16 with the Jets at the Redskins in the preseason.

''I am going to use a strange word to describe Booger as an announcer: nimble,'' Tessitore says. ''He's dynamic, a huge personality and presence. You can't have a cookie-cutter type of analyst and Booger is far from that - he's a guy who you can turn on the red light for the broadcast and he's ready to go.''

Tessitore replaces Sean McDonough, who returns to doing college football.

Lisa Salters is the only holdover, returning for her seventh season as the sideline reporter.

Tessitore recognizes the platform he and his new sidekicks will have. Their first regular-season game will be the nightcap of the opening Monday night doubleheader, the Rams at the Raiders (and Gruden).

''The college game lends itself to every game being its own story, the pageantry and the storytelling attached to it,'' Tessitore says. ''In the NFL, each game is a continuation of a well-told narrative that everyone is following.

''It's like this is our weekly story, part of a book we've all been continuously reading, and each week we're on to the next chapter.''

He also realizes that simply calling a game for three hours or longer isn't what his new job should be about. There's much more to it.

''There's a vision of when we land in town we begin to create content for fans who can go to the app and hear what we have to say about the upcoming games or what's happening in the league,'' he says. ''We also want to have more content made available pre-game and postgame.

''I've become so football-obsessed, it has become ridiculous.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Ex-NFL player: Police fabricated evidence for gun charge

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) Authorities manufactured evidence to pursue a gun charge against a former NFL linebacker even after another man admitted lying about getting a weapon from the player, a lawsuit alleges.

The Elizabeth police department and Union County prosecutor's office ''willfully ignored and were deliberately indifferent to overwhelming evidence'' that Khaseem Greene hadn't provided the weapon used in a shooting outside a nightclub in Elizabeth in December 2016.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the defendants of ''simultaneously manufacturing and fabricating false evidence in order to charge Plaintiff with a crime he did not commit.''

Greene is an Elizabeth native who was a Big East defensive player of the year while at Rutgers. He appeared in a total of 25 games for the Chicago Bears in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, starting six games at linebacker.

The lawsuit charges numerous counts including civil rights violations, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, negligence and defamation. It seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, including for past and future economic loss.

It also seeks the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the Elizabeth police department.

According to the lawsuit, the man charged with the shooting, a career criminal with more than 20 prior arrests and six felony convictions, admitted he lied about getting the gun from Greene during an interview with police after his arrest in late December 2016.

Nevertheless, authorities went ahead and charged Greene, citing surveillance video that allegedly showed Greene handing the gun to the man, Jason Sanders. No such video existed, the lawsuit alleges.

A gun charge against Greene was dropped in July 2017 after an audio recording surfaced of Sanders telling detectives he lied about Greene's involvement in the shooting.

The Kansas City Chiefs released Greene in May of last year, the day charges against him were reported.

Greene last August said the legal trouble has been ''probably the toughest time of my life'' and has been ''very hard emotionally and mentally.''

''People started looking at me differently and accusing me of being this thug, this monster, and all of it was false,'' he said by phone.

The suit names the Elizabeth Police Department and the Union County Prosecutor's Office as well as individuals in both offices.

Messages seeking comment left with the agencies weren't immediately returned.

Read more

Tessitore, Witten, McFarland, Salters on ESPN 'MNF' crew

Three new voices will work ESPN's Monday night games this NFL season: play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore, analysts Jason Witten and Booger McFarland.

Tessitore has been one of the network's top announcers for 16 years on boxing, college football and basketball, including calling the College Football Playoff semifinals the past two years. It will be his first NFL assignment.

Witten, one of the sport's finest tight ends and a likely Hall of Famer, retired from the Dallas Cowboys last week to move into the booth.

McFarland won two Super Bowls as a player and has been an analyst for ESPN and SEC Network for four years. He will be ''Monday Night Football's'' first field-level analyst.

Tessitore replaces Sean McDonough, who will return to doing college football. With Jon Gruden back in coaching with the Raiders, Witten and McFarland move into the analysis roles.

Lisa Salters is the only holdover, returning for her seventh season as the sideline reporter.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Ex-NFL player says police knew gun charge was based on lie

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) A former NFL linebacker says in a lawsuit that police and prosecutors in New Jersey knew a shooter had lied about getting a weapon from the player, but charged him anyway.

A gun charge against Khaseem Greene was dropped in July after an audio recording surfaced of the other man telling detectives he lied about Greene's involvement in a shooting outside a nightclub in Elizabeth in December 2016.

The Kansas City Chiefs released Greene the day charges against him were reported.

The other man's admission came the day he told detectives Greene was involved, but it wasn't included in a criminal complaint that alleged Greene was seen on camera handing him a gun.

The suit, filed Tuesday, names the Elizabeth Police Department and the Union County Prosecutor's Office. Messages seeking comment left with the agencies weren't immediately returned.

Read more

Lions coach Matt Patricia denies 1996 assault allegation

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia maintained his innocence and his new team said it supported him after a 1996 sexual assault allegation resurfaced Wednesday night.

The Detroit News reported that Patricia and a friend of his were indicted 22 years ago by a Texas grand jury, on one count each of aggravated sexual assault for an alleged incident involving a woman on South Padre Island. The accuser did not testify and the case was dismissed 10 months later.

''As someone who was falsely accused of this very serious charge over 22 years ago, and never given the opportunity to defend myself and clear my name, I find it incredibly unfair, disappointing, and frustrating that this story would resurface now with the only purpose being to damage my character and reputation,'' Patricia said in a statement issued by the Lions. ''I firmly maintain my innocence, as I have always done.''

The Lions hired Patricia after last season to replace Jim Caldwell as coach. He had previously been an assistant with the New England Patriots.

The Lions said a ''standard pre-employment background check'' did not turn up the incident. But the team said it was standing by Patricia.

''We have spoken to Coach Patricia about this at length as well as the attorney who represented him at the time,'' the Lions said in a statement attributed to owner Martha Firestone Ford, general manager Bob Quinn and president Rod Wood. ''Based upon everything we have learned, we believe and have accepted Coach Patricia's explanation and we will continue to support him.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Lions coach Matt Patricia denies 1996 assault allegation

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia maintained his innocence and his new team said it supported him after a 1996 sexual assault allegation resurfaced Wednesday night.

The Detroit News reported that Patricia and a friend of his were indicted 22 years ago by a Texas grand jury, on one count each of aggravated sexual assault for an alleged incident involving a woman on South Padre Island. The accuser did not testify and the case was dismissed 10 months later.

''As someone who was falsely accused of this very serious charge over 22 years ago, and never given the opportunity to defend myself and clear my name, I find it incredibly unfair, disappointing, and frustrating that this story would resurface now with the only purpose being to damage my character and reputation,'' Patricia said in a statement issued by the Lions. ''I firmly maintain my innocence, as I have always done.''

The Lions hired Patricia after last season to replace Jim Caldwell as coach. He had previously been an assistant with the New England Patriots.

The Lions said a ''standard pre-employment background check'' did not turn up the incident. But the team said it was standing by Patricia.

''We have spoken to Coach Patricia about this at length as well as the attorney who represented him at the time,'' the Lions said in a statement attributed to owner Martha Firestone Ford, general manager Bob Quinn and president Rod Wood. ''Based upon everything we have learned, we believe and have accepted Coach Patricia's explanation and we will continue to support him.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Lions coach Matt Patricia denies 1996 assault allegation

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia is maintaining his innocence after a 1996 sexual assault allegation against him resurfaced Tuesday night.

The Detroit News reported that Patricia and a friend of his were indicted 22 years ago by a Texas grand jury, on one count each of aggravated sexual assault for an alleged incident involving a woman on South Padre Island. The accuser did not testify and the case was dismissed 10 months later.

In a statement issued by the Lions, Patricia said he was ''falsely accused'' and he found it ''incredibly unfair, disappointing, and frustrating that this story would resurface now.''

The Lions hired Patricia after last season to replace Jim Caldwell as coach. They said a pre-employment background check didn't disclose the incident, but they believe Patricia's explanation and support himp.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

Read more

Johnson trades Chiefs red for Raiders silver and black

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Derrick Johnson has been the enemy in Oakland for 13 years, tormenting the Raiders while wearing red for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Johnson has traded sides in the fierce AFC West rivalry, joining the Raiders as the veteran anchor at middle linebacker in a defense that is being rebuilt this offseason.

''It was different, I don't want to say weird, but it's different to put on the silver and black - even shirt - because we haven't put on jerseys and helmets and all of that stuff yet,'' Johnson said Wednesday. ''Even to put on the shirt, it was different for me. But you know what, when we got in the middle of the field, when you talk ball and you start running around, tossing the football around and calling plays and going over backs, I'm very familiar to that. So, that went out of my mind really fast.''

Johnson has been one of the better linebackers in the league during his career but was allowed to leave Kansas City earlier this offseason as the team tried to get younger. The 35-year-old Johnson is a four-time Pro Bowler and the career tackles leader for the Chiefs.

He had options about where to play this year but ultimately opted to join the Raiders, where he will take over the spot at middle linebacker that NaVorro Bowman held after joining Oakland midway through last season.

Johnson said the enthusiasm of coach Jon Gruden and the linebacker-friendly scheme of coordinator Paul Guenther were what made his decision to sign with the Raiders.

''The main reason I'm still playing ball and chasing a championship ring just because I believe I have a lot left in the tank,'' he said. ''That's the only reason I'm back. When I get to a point where I'm like, man, I'm hanging on, I'll get out, I'll get out of the NFL. But right now, and I expressed this to Coach Gruden, I wasn't interested in some type of rebuilding atmosphere. As soon as I said that, he had that look in his eye like, you're talking about the sense of urgency to win. That's exactly right.''

Johnson has appeared in 182 games with 169 starts since being drafted in the first round in 2005. He piled up 1,262 tackles to easily shatter the Chiefs franchise record, had 27+ sacks and picked off 14 passes, returning four of them for touchdowns.

He had a career-best 179 tackles in 2011, when he was voted the Chiefs' team MVP.

Johnson accumulated his impressive stats despite missing part of two seasons with ruptured Achilles tendons. He returned from the first one as good as ever, earning his most recent Pro Bowl trip in 2015, but the second seemed to finally take a step out of his legs last season.

Johnson said he feels much healthier now than he did at this time a year ago.

''This offseason I was working out and I was like, man, it's a lot different from last year coming off an injury,'' he said. ''My burst is back, it's better than ever and it's a good feeling because it's going to help me make plays, it's going to help me be explosive, and the longer you're out from your season-ending injury, it usually gets better and it helps you out mentally. This will be my second season out from my last Achilles injury. I was healthy last year. I'm even better this year because I got a really good offseason training that I really didn't get to do last year because I was coming off of the injury.''

The Raiders need an anchor in the middle of their defense. Bowman fared well in that role after being signed last October following his release by San Francisco. There was interest in bringing him back for a second season but the two sides couldn't agree on a price.

Oakland didn't address that need at linebacker in this year's draft until the sixth round with the pick of Washington linebacker Azeem Victor.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Chiefs promote Borgonzi to director of football operations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Chiefs have promoted Mike Borgonzi to director of football operations and Ryan Poles to assistant director of player personnel as part of a series of front-office moves made following the NFL draft.

Chiefs general manager Brett Veach also announced Wednesday that Chris Shea has been promoted to football operations counsel and Ryne Nutt has taken over as the director of college scouting. Ryne Nutt, Trey Koziol and Jason Lamb have also been promoted from their scouting duties.

Veach kept things largely status quo in the front office after taking over for the fired John Dorsey last summer, but the promotions signal that he is pleased with the personnel that he inherited.

Veach also announced the hiring of Mike Bradway from the Philadelphia Eagles as assistant director of player personnel and Greg Castillo from the New Orleans Saints as a college scouting coordinator.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Eagles sign running back Matt Jones and all 5 draft picks

PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia Eagles have signed running back Matt Jones to a two-year contract and also agreed to terms on four-year deals with all five of their draft picks.

Jones was a third-round pick by the Washington Redskins in 2015. He had 950 yards rushing and six touchdowns while averaging 3.9 yards per carry in two seasons with the Redskins. He played for the Colts in 2017 and only carried five times. After Indianapolis selected two running backs in the draft, Jones was cut on May 1.

Jones will get a chance to earn a roster spot with the Super Bowl champions in a crowded backfield that includes Jay Ajayi, veteran Darren Sproles and Corey Clement.

The rookies agreeing to deals were: tight end Dallas Goedert, cornerback Avonte Maddox, defensive end Josh Sweat and offensive linemen Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

49ers sign OL Mike Person to 1-year deal

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers have signed offensive lineman Mike Person to a one-year deal.

The team announced the deal Wednesday to bring back a player originally drafted by San Francisco in 2011. Person was inactive his entire rookie season for the 49ers after being drafted in the seventh round.

Person has gone on to play 43 games over the past six seasons, spending time on rosters with Seattle, the Rams, Atlanta, Kansas City and Indianapolis. Person played 12 games with four starts for the Colts last season.

Person started 14 games at center for Atlanta in 2015 when current Niners coach Kyle Shanahan was offensive coordinator for the Falcons.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Steelers sign 5th round pick, RB Jaylen Samuels

PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed rookie running back Jaylen Samuels to a four-year contract.

The team announced the deal Wednesday, less than two weeks after the AFC North champions selected Samuels in the fifth round. Samuels is the first of Pittsburgh's seven 2018 draft picks to sign.

Samuels did a little bit of everything during his career at North Carolina State. He set a school record with 202 receptions and is second on the school's all-time list with 47 touchdowns. Samuels filled a variety of roles for the Wolfpack, working out of the backfield as a running back and occasionally lining up at tight end and wide receiver.

The Steelers will welcome rookie and first-year players during a minicamp this weekend.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Raiders lineman Donald Penn won't be charged after LA probe

LOS ANGELES (AP) Oakland Raiders offensive tackle Donald Penn will not be charged with a crime after an investigation into an alleged domestic-violence incident last month in Los Angeles.

The city attorney's spokesman Frank Mateljan said Wednesday that there wasn't enough evidence to bring charges against the 35-year-old Penn.

Mateljan said the case was based on an alleged incident in April between Penn and his wife. He didn't have additional details.

Penn, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, played for the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before joining the Raiders in 2014. He signed a two-year, $21 million contract extension in 2017.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Falcons agree to terms with 4 draft picks, including Oliver

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with four of their six draft picks, including cornerback Isaiah Oliver, a second-round pick from Colorado.

The Falcons also announced they have agreed to terms with running back Ito Smith, a fourth-round pick, and their two sixth-round picks, wide receiver Russell Gage and linebacker Foye Oluokun.

The Falcons have not announced deals with wide receiver Calvin Ridley, the first-round selection from Alabama, and defensive tackle Deadrin Senat, a third-round pick from South Florida.

Senat is expected to compete for a starting job after Dontari Poe signed as a free agent with NFC South rival Carolina.

Atlanta's rookie mini-camp is scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Agents: Mark Ingram didn't use PED, reviewing options

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Representatives for Mark Ingram say the Saints running back did not test positive for a performance enhancing drug and is weighing options for challenging his four-game suspension.

Paul Bobbitt and David Jones of VIP Sports Management say Ingram was using a substance that is permitted by the NFL with a ''proper use exemption.''

Ingram's agents did not specify which substance Ingram used.

The NFL's drug policy does not merely ban performance enhancing drugs, but also certain legal substances which have been known to skew drug test results.

The NFL announced Ingram's suspension on Tuesday.

Bobbitt and Jones say Ingram has challenged the NFL's decision through arbitration, and that his legal team will consider further options after reviewing the arbitrator's recent ruling.

Last season, Ingram rushed for a career-high 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns to go with 416 yards receiving.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Some items stolen from top Bears draft pick's car recovered

CHICAGO (AP) Police say several items have been returned after they were stolen from Chicago Bears first-round draft pick Roquan Smith's car in Georgia, but not his Bears-issued iPad.

Athens-Clarke County Police public information officer Epifanio Rodriguez tells the Chicago Tribune a fingerprint found in the linebacker's car identified the suspect and detectives recovered some of the property, but not the iPad.

The Bears said Monday that they remotely wiped the password-protected tablet.

Rodriguez says Smith was ''ecstatic'' when detectives notified him. Rodriguez says authorities expect to obtain arrest warrants soon and charges will be filed in the case.

Smith called police Saturday to report the thefts, including his Georgia helmet and Georgia Bulldogs jerseys.

---

Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

Read more

Jets' Darnold using high-tech training that could help QBs

NEW YORK (AP) Sam Darnold zipped pass after pass down the field, knowing each one of them counted.

Literally.

The New York Jets rookie quarterback was at his old stomping grounds of San Clemente High School in California last month, just a few weeks before being the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft , tossing ''smart'' footballs equipped with computer chips calculating his every throw.

It was high-tech training that Darnold and Jordan Palmer, his mentor and a former NFL quarterback, believe will help him - as well as other signal callers around the country - improve skills through unique and meticulous data.

Darnold and Palmer are serving as advisory staff members for Wilson, which makes the official balls used by the NFL. The Chicago-based company has been incorporating technology and performance-based data with its Wilson X Connected Football, which debuted two years ago. Now, Darnold and Palmer are helping develop the next-generation version that will enhance film sessions and, possibly, on-field production.

''I think it's really cool to come out here with Wilson and give them my feedback on what it really takes to be a quarterback and what I'm looking for in this data,'' Darnold said in a video provided by Wilson, ''and help kind of build the prototype that is going to push this game to the next level.''

Wilson hopes to have the 2.0 version of its Connected Football technology available for a wide release to college and pro teams later this year. In the meantime, the company is gathering feedback from some players and coaches at both levels, including Darnold and Palmer.

''Before this technology, it was really just based on the eye, the naked eye,'' Darnold said, ''being able to look at the film and based on a throw, you might look at your feet, your hips or something like that, to tell you what might have happened, what might have gone wrong.

''Now with this technology, it gives us hard evidence, hard data to be able to look back on and figure out exactly what happened and what might have gone wrong and what we can improve on and keep improving as a quarterback.''

Darnold's involvement with the Wilson technology began over a year ago when he was working with Palmer, who played in the NFL for parts of eight seasons and has become one of the country's elite quarterback trainers. One of the biggest criticisms of Darnold at USC before last season was a glaring flaw in his mechanics: an elongated motion with which he'd drop his right arm a bit when he wanted to air out a pass.

After one of Palmer's buddies told him about the first-generation Wilson X Connected ball, he decided to use it - and it confirmed his theory.

''I knew kind of how to fix it because it's really just retraining muscle memory,'' Palmer said in a phone interview. ''I knew that, but to try to get it to where it was digestible and understandable, where I could prove definitively that he shouldn't do that, I just needed data to back that up.''

Palmer set up receivers in different spots on a field and had Darnold throw to them to see what distance Darnold lowered his arm more than normal.

''He didn't do it on every throw,'' Palmer said. ''We determined around 32 yards was when he felt like he needed to rip it, so he would drop the ball a little bit lower.''

Meanwhile, the Wilson football was gathering results from four data points: spin (RPMs), spiral efficiency, velocity and time of release - when Darnold's left hand came off the ball as he was starting to throw to when the ball left his fingertips.

''What we determined is that it's the same velocity, same spiral efficiency and the same spin, but the time of release was slower when he dropped it,'' said Palmer, whose older brother Carson played quarterback for 15 NFL seasons. ''So, it was basically like, `OK, so you have a slowed release and you're not gaining any velocity on this.' So, that was eye-opening to where he went, `Wow. So, let's go ahead and fix this.'''

Darnold and Palmer kept training with the football and used the data to fine-tune the mechanics of one of the most highly touted players in the country . The two were then asked by Wilson to help the still-developing training system get even better. While it wasn't immediately certain if Darnold will use the upcoming advanced technology with the Jets during the NFL season, he and Palmer have continued during the offseason to give their thoughts and suggestions on the new product.

''It's really kind of a peek into the garage,'' Palmer said.

The chip inside the new Wilson Connected ball has higher-caliber sensors than the original, and the system is being designed to work within a team environment.

''You can record up to 18 balls at one given time and you go through practice like normal and you'll be able to download all of this data that goes to a spreadsheet,'' Wilson Labs engineer Dan Hare explained. ''From there, they can choose to import it into their video systems or review it with an analytics group or on their own.''

The new Wilson Connected Football System will also provide information based around play timing. That includes snap-to-release times and snap-to-target times, which will help perfect individual routes on offense.

''You look at this information and say, `Hey, based on my quarterback and what he can do, this is what my wide receiver needs to do in order to be in the right spot at the right time to get the ball fluidly,''' Hare said. ''If your starting quarterback goes down, your second guy comes up and they're all on the same page about exactly what timing they need to hit.''

Palmer is thrilled to huddle up with Darnold to help Wilson develop technology that he believes could potentially be ''game-changing'' for the sport - particularly quarterbacks.

''We're like in the construction phase of this in terms of putting it together, yet, we're still able to help the No. 3 pick in the draft get way better,'' Palmer said. ''Typically, you have to wait for the final version to come out for anybody to even understand it and use it, so the fact that it's being this helpful this early and we still have a lot of really cool things we're going to figure out ahead of us is exciting.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

49ers' Foster pleads not guilty in domestic violence case

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges stemming from allegations that he attacked his then-girlfriend in their home in February.

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for May 17, at which point Foster's former girlfriend, Elissa Ennis, may testify under oath.

Ennis has recanted the allegations that led to the domestic violence case. Foster has been charged with domestic violence with an allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury, forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime, and possession of an assault weapon.

The 28-year-old woman initially told police that Foster dragged her by her hair, physically threw her out of their house, and punched her in the head eight to 10 times. She later issued a statement through her attorney saying her injuries were the result of a fight with another woman.

Prosecutor Jim Dermertzis has said the district attorney's office will continue to prosecute the case against Foster even if Ennis does not cooperate with the investigation.

If convicted of all charges, Foster could face up to 11 years in prison. Foster remains a member of the 49ers although the team hasn't allowed him to participate in the offseason program while his case is ongoing.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Chiefs claim TE Ellis off waivers in series of roster moves

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Chiefs were awarded tight end Alex Ellis off waivers from the New Orleans Saints and released defensive tackle Stefan Charles as part of a series of roster moves Tuesday.

Kansas City also waived backup running back Akeem Hunt with a failed physical designation; signed rookie free agents Step Durham, Tejan Koroma, Robert McCray, Malik Reaves and Jordan Smallward; and waived Prince Charles Iworah, Devondre Seymour, Brandon Shippen and Nelson Spruce.

The Chiefs have been searching for a blocking tight end to complement Travis Kelce. Ellis made the league as an undrafted free agent with Jacksonville before spending part of last season with the Saints.

Hunt appeared in 15 games last season, primarily as a kick returner, before going on injured reserve with an ankle injury in January. He also had eight carries for 23 yards.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

2 former employees file discrimination suit against Lions

DETROIT (AP) Two former Detroit Lions employees have filed suit against the team, claiming they were fired because of racial and age discrimination.

The Detroit Free Press reports Tuesday that the former employees say they experienced disparaging comments because of their race. Robert Yanagi and Michael Richardson filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court last month, seeking damages of over $25,000.

Yanagi, 58, is of Japanese descent. He was the team's director of video operations. Richardson, a 52-year-old African-American, was an assistant video director.

The Lions said because the report involved ongoing litigation, it would be inappropriate for them to comment. The suit also names the NFL as a defendant.

According to the suit, Richardson complained to the Lions' human resources department last December about being subjected to racist comments by an employee in the team's scouting department, as well as ''disparate treatment'' by an employee of the operations department.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .

---

Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

Read more

Saints' Ingram suspended 4 games for NFL substance violation

NEW ORLEANS (AP) The NFL says New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has been suspended for the first four regular season games of 2018 because of a violation of the league's performance enhancing drug policy.

The league has not released details about whether Ingram has tested positive for a performance enhancing drug or simply a banned masking agent.

The league says Ingram will be eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games, and will be eligible to play in his first regular season game after the Saints visit the New York Giants on Sept. 30.

Ingram and his representatives at VIP Sports Management have not commented on the test results or whether Ingram will appeal.

Last season, Ingram rushed for a career-high 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns to go with 416 yards receiving.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Washington Redskins re-sign veteran guard Shawn Lauvao

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) The Washington Redskins have re-signed Shawn Lauvao as they look to fill a hole at starting left guard.

The team announced the deal Tuesday. Lauvao spent the past four seasons with Washington, starting all 41 of his appearances.

Lauvao, 30, re-signed almost two months into free agency. The Redskins did not draft a guard, though coach Jay Gruden floated the idea of moving swing tackle Ty Nsekhe to that spot.

Arie Kouandjio, Tyler Catalina and Kyle Kalis are the other internal options along with Lauvao and Nsekhe to start at left guard.

---

More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Saints' Ingram suspended 4 games for NFL substance violation

NEW ORLEANS (AP) The NFL says New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has been suspended for the first four regular season games of 2018 because of a violation of the league's performance enhancing drug policy.

The league has not released details about whether Ingram has tested positive for a performance enhancing drug or simply a banned masking agent.

The league says Ingram will be eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games, and will be eligible to play in his first regular season game after the Saints visit the New York Giants on Sept. 30.

Ingram and his representatives at VIP Sports Management have not commented on the test results or whether Ingram will appeal.

Last season, Ingram rushed for a career-high 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns to go with 416 yards receiving.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Tony Dungy next inductee into Buccaneers Ring of Honor

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Super Bowl-winning Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy is the next inductee into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ring of Honor.

The Bucs made the announcement Tuesday, saying Dungy will be honored at a halftime ceremony during the club's nationally televised home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 24.

Dungy won a Super Bowl as a player with the Steelers in 1978. He coached the Bucs from 1996-2001, compiling 54-42 regular-season record and transforming a struggling franchise into a championship contender.

His .563 winning percentage with Tampa Bay is the best in club history. The Bucs made the playoffs four times, including 1999, when they reached the NFC championship game. He was fired after the 2001 season, and his replacement, Jon Gruden, led Tampa Bay to its only Super Bowl title the following year.

Gruden was inducted into the Ring of Honor last season. The Bucs have not made the playoffs since 2007 and haven't won a postseason game since their 2002 Super Bowl run.

Dungy, meanwhile, went on have a highly successful run from 2002 to 2008 as coach of the Indianapolis Colts, winning the Super Bowl capping the 2006 season.

The coach, who still lives in Tampa, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

Dungy will be the 13th inductee into the Ring of Honor, a group that includes Hall of Famers Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, as well as former coach John McKay, Doug Williams, and the late Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

Read more

Jenkins named Browns new chief operating officer

CLEVELAND (AP) Longtime Cleveland Browns executive David Jenkins has been named the team's chief operating officer.

Jenkins is entering his 15th season with the franchise, staying with Cleveland despite numerous front-office overhauls. Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam cited Jenkins' ''performance and leadership'' in placing him in charge of the team's business operations.

Jenkins has spent the past three seasons as the team's executive vice president and the past five as its chief financial officer. He will remain its primary government relations contact.

The Browns are exploring the possibility of a major redevelopment at their downtown stadium. The long-term plans could include an extensive remodeling of FirstEnergy Stadium or a new facility.

Jenkins will oversee operations including financial management, revenue generation, stadium operations, legal, information technology, business analytics and administration.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

49ers release offensive lineman Zane Beadles

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers have released offensive lineman Zane Beadles.

The 49ers also announced Monday that fourth-round defensive lineman Kentavius Street has signed his rookie contract.

Beadles was replaced as the starting left guard after one game last season because of the acquisition of Laken Tomlinson. Beadles then started the final four games of the season at right tackle.

GM John Lynch called Beadles a ''consummate professional'' and says he hopes his release in May gives him the opportunity to sign somewhere else.

Beadles started 21 games in two seasons with San Francisco. He hasn't missed a game in eight seasons with Denver, Jacksonville and the 49ers.

Street was drafted 128th overall and is expected to miss the season recovering from knee surgery.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Seahawks sign 5 tryout players following rookie camp

RENTON, Wash. (AP) The Seattle Seahawks have signed five tryout players following their rookie minicamp, highlighted by wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow.

Seattle announced the roster moves Monday. Stringfellow started his college career at Washington before being dismissed from the team and finishing at Mississippi. Stringfellow caught 46 passes for 716 yards and six touchdowns in his final year at Ole Miss. He was originally signed by Miami before being released and spent part of last year on the New York Jets practice squad.

Seattle also signed free safety Tevon Mutcherson, center Marcus Henry, and tackles Nick Callender and Avery Young. Mutcherson played collegiately at Central Florida with Seahawks Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin, and spent part of last season with Houston.

Seattle released wide receivers Ka'Raun White and Taj Williams, linebackers Jason Hall and Paul Dawson, and center Brad Lundblade.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Raiders sign former Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders have officially signed free agent linebacker Derrick Johnson to a one-year contract.

Coach Jon Gruden had said last week the sides agreed to terms and the contract became official on Monday. Oakland waived defensive back Darius Hillary to make room on the roster.

The Raiders also signed three players following tryouts at rookie minicamp over the weekend. Oakland gave deals to former Texas running back Chris Warren, Michigan fullback Henry Poggi and tight end Paul Butler from California of Pennsylvania.

Oakland cut running back Elijah Hood, defensive lineman Joby Saint Fleur and fullback Nick Sharga. Hood was a seventh-round pick last year and played one game as a rookie.

The 35-year-old Johnson spent his first 13 NFL seasons with the rival Kansas City Chiefs and will likely fill the role at middle linebacker that NaVorro Bowman played the second half of last season.

Johnson is a four-time Pro Bowler and the career tackles leader for the Chiefs. He appeared in 182 games with 169 starts since being drafted in the first round in 2005. He has 1,262 tackles, 27+ sacks and 14 interceptions in his career.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Former Broncos RB Anderson signs 1-year deal with Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Former Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson has signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers.

Anderson played for five years for the Broncos before being released in April. He has run of 3,051 yards in his five-year NFL career, fumbling only three times in 693 carries. He also had 103 catches for 859 yards and four touchdowns.

Anderson has been to one Pro Bowl in 2014 and ran for 90 yards and a touchdown in Denver's 24-10 win over the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. He was an undrafted free agent when Denver signed him in 2013 after he played two seasons for California in college.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Harbor seal that made mostly wrong Super Bowl picks dies

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) A harbor seal that gained some fame by making annual Super Bowl picks usually incorrectly has died at a Connecticut aquarium.

The 35-year-old seal was named Orange and had been at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk since 2005. The aquarium said Monday that Orange had been undergoing treatment for cancer.

Orange was the aquarium's oldest seal. She was found stranded as a pup in 1982 and was rehabilitated at the National Aquarium in Baltimore before moving to Connecticut.

For the past seven years she would predict a Super Bowl winner by swimming to the window of her tank and putting her nose on a picture of the helmet of one of the two competing teams. She was right only twice: the New England Patriots in 2017 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018.

Read more

Michael Griffin signs 1-day contract, retires with Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Michael Griffin says his 10-year NFL career was a blessing that lasted far longer than some of his former teammates at the University of Texas.

The two-time Pro Bowl safety officially ended that career Monday by signing a one-day contract with the Tennessee Titans and retiring with the franchise that drafted him with the 19th pick overall in 2007. Griffin, who wore No. 33 in his career, retired at the age of 33.

''I can't say enough, thank y'all, just thank y'all,'' Griffin said at a news conference inside the team's indoor practice field. ''That's probably all I can say is just thank y'all because it's a blessing, and I'm so thankful to have that opportunity for the last nine years to play for this organization.''

Griffin started 10 games as a rookie and played 141 games over nine seasons with Tennessee, including 103 straight between 2007 and 2013. He remains the franchise's all-time leader in tackles by a safety with 912. Griffin also had 25 interceptions, seven sacks, 11 forced fumbles and six fumble recovers with his best season in 2008 with seven interceptions.

Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk thanked Griffin for his nine seasons with the Titans and wished him the best in retirement.

''He was such a dependable player for us during his time here, missing only three games over nine seasons, and he was always among our leading tacklers,'' Strunk said in a statement. ''His play earned him two Pro Bowl selections and the respect of his teammates. Michael also was invested in our community, finding ways to make a difference.''

The Titans released Griffin in February 2016 when he was tied with Corey Graham of Buffalo for the most games played by a safety in the NFL between 2007 and 2015. Griffin signed with Minnesota but didn't play a game. He then signed with Carolina and started six of 13 games with the Panthers in 2016. He finished his career starting 134 of 154 games played in 10 seasons.

Griffin spent the 2017 season working out in case a team called and finished his degree at Texas. He said even when he was with the Vikings and Panthers he always felt he remained a Tennessee Titan.

''I was always cheering my guys on, always texting them if someone went down, ask how they were doing, keep their heads up, if someone was released whatever it may be,'' Griffin said. ''I always stayed in contact with those guys.''

Titans linebackers Brian Orakpo and Wesley Woodyard and defensive linemen Jurrell Casey and DaQuan Jones were on hand for Griffin's announcement.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

---

Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Read more

Cardinals release QBs Doughty, Torgersen

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have released Brandon Doughty and Alek Torgersen, two quarterbacks they claimed off waivers a month ago.

The drafting of Josh Rosen and signing of Princeton's Chad Kanoff as an undrafted rookie free agent leaves the team with enough quarterbacks to get through the three-day rookie minicamp that starts Friday. The Cardinals also have veterans Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon.

Doughty and Torgersen became available to the Cardinals after being released on April 5, Doughty by the Miami Dolphins and Torgersen by the Detroit Lions.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Vikings sign WR Chad Beebe, son of ex-Bills player Don Beebe

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings have signed four players who took part in their rookie minicamp, including wide receiver Chad Beebe, the son of former Buffalo Bills wideout and folk hero Don Beebe.

Beebe led Northern Illinois last season with an average of 14.9 yards per reception. His father was a wide receiver and special teams player on all four of Buffalo's Super Bowl teams .

The Vikings also signed cornerback Craig James (Southern Illinois), fullback Johnny Stanton (UNLV) and linebacker Brett Taylor (Western Illinois) from their camp last weekend.

Long snapper Nick Dooley, wide receiver Armanti Foreman, defensive tackle Caushaud Lyons and fullback Kamryn Pettway were waived Monday by the Vikings to make room on the 90-man roster. Foreman and Pettway were signed a week ago as undrafted free agents.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP Source: Saints release tight end Coby Fleener

METAIRIE, La. (AP) A person familiar with the decision says the New Orleans Saints have released veteran tight end Coby Fleener.

The person spoke to The Associated Press Monday on condition of anonymity because the roster move has not been announced.

Fleener has played two seasons for New Orleans, with whom he signed a five-year, $36 million free-agent contract in 2016 - two seasons after the Saints had traded away star tight end Jimmy Graham.

The 6-foot-6, 251-pound Fleener caught 72 passes for 926 yards and five touchdowns in 27 games with the Saints before his 2017 season was cut short by a Week 12 concussion.

With Fleener's departure, the Saints most accomplished tight ends are Benjamin Watson, Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui.

Fleener began his NFL career in 2012 Indianapolis. In 2014, he was among Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's top targets, with 774 yards and eight touchdowns receiving.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Ryan happy to have record extension signed before camp

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Matt Ryan pulled out his secret weapons to seal the five-year contract extension that made him the NFL's highest-paid player.

Ryan brought his infant twin boys, Marshall and John, to Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank's office on Friday, when the deal was signed.

''Tough negotiators,'' a smiling Ryan said Monday.

The twins, born on April 8 following a complicated pregnancy for Ryan's wife, Sarah, and the new contract are reasons for Ryan to have an optimistic new focus on his future.

The extension announced on Thursday is worth at least $100 million , a league record, and could be worth as much as $150 million.

Ryan has been the figurehead of the Falcons during their most successful 10-year run in franchise history. He says he sees the contract as an incentive for the future instead of a reward for leading the team to six playoff seasons, including the Super Bowl run in 2016, when he was named NFL MVP.

''We've had some really good teams,'' Ryan said. ''But I think the best is in front of us and that's what has me so excited about my future here and our future as an organization, that we have a lot of really good pieces in place.''

Ryan said when he was drafted in 2008 it was his hope ''to be the quarterback that a franchise leans on for a long time, 15, 20 years. That's kind of still where my head is at.''

Before the extension, Ryan, who turns 33 on May 17, could have been a free agent after the 2018 season.

The threat of Ryan entering free agency could have been the biggest story of training camp. That was a distraction Ryan and the Falcons were eager to avoid.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff described the extension as ''our primary focus this offseason.''

Now Ryan can focus on football instead of finances as he prepares for the 2018 season.

''I'm happy with the timing of it,'' Ryan said. ''I think the organization is very happy with the timing of it. Certainly when we get back to training camp it's 100 percent about football. ... I always felt confident it was going to get done in a smooth way and in a timely manner and I feel like it did.''

There was little question the Falcons would keep Ryan, who has helped to reshape the perception of the franchise.

Before the Ryan era, the Falcons had only eight playoff seasons in 42 years, and none in back-to-back years. With Ryan, the Falcons have made the playoffs in six of 10 years, including the 2016 Super Bowl run.

The contract extension brings continued stability for an offense that also returns wide receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu and running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Dimitroff gave the offense a boost by making wide receiver Calvin Ridley its first-round draft pick last month.

Like Jones, Ridley is from Alabama.

''I guess I'm an honorary Alabama quarterback now,'' Ryan said. ''... I'm very excited about Calvin coming here.''

Ryan's new deal topped the total compensation of the $84 million, three-year guaranteed deal that quarterback Kirk Cousins received from the Minnesota Vikings.

Someday, Ryan will be able to show his twins a photo taken by the Falcons of the day they were in the room when he signed the extension.

''It was a special day for our family,'' he said. ''I was excited that they were there. That will always be a great memory for us but also a really cool picture for me to be able to show them when they get older. They won't remember it, but I'll tell them I was OK at one point.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

49ers release offensive lineman Zane Beadles

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers have released offensive lineman Zane Beadles.

The 49ers announced the move Monday to cut ties with their opening day starter at left guard from a year ago.

Beadles was replaced in the starting lineup after one game because of the acquisition of Laken Tomlinson. Beadles then started the final four games of the season at right tackle.

General manager John Lynch called Beadles a ''consummate professional'' and says he hopes his release in May gives him the opportunity to sign with another team.

Beadles played 32 games with 21 starts in two seasons with San Francisco. He hasn't missed a game in eight seasons with Denver, Jacksonville and the 49ers.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Raiders sign former Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders have officially signed free agent linebacker Derrick Johnson to a one-year contract.

Coach Jon Gruden had said last week the sides agreed to terms and the contract became official on Monday. Oakland waived defensive back Darius Hillary to make room on the roster.

The 35-year-old Johnson spent his first 13 NFL seasons with the rival Kansas City Chiefs and will likely fill the role at middle linebacker that NaVorro Bowman played the second half of last season.

Johnson is a four-time Pro Bowler and the career tackles leader for the Chiefs. He appeared in 182 games with 169 starts since being drafted in the first round in 2005. He has 1,262 tackles, 27+ sacks and 14 interceptions in his career.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Players' union files grievance on behalf of Eric Reid

The NFL players' union has filed a non-injury grievance on behalf of free agent safety Eric Reid.

The NFLPA cites one team appearing ''to have based its decision not to sign a player based on the player's statement that he would challenge the implementation of a club's policy prohibiting demonstration'' during the national anthem.

League policy does not prohibit demonstrating during the anthem. Referring to the labor agreement with the league, the union notes that NFL rules supersede any conflicting club rules.

The union also says ''at least one club owner has asked pre-employment interview questions about a player's intent to demonstrate. We believe these questions are improper, given league policy.''

That team reportedly is the Cincinnati Bengals.

Considered one of the top safeties in the league, Reid played out his contract with San Francisco last season. He has been a strong supporter of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016 became the first player to kneel during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

Kaepernick wasn't signed for the 2017 season following his release in San Francisco. Reid continued the quarterback's protests.

Reid last week filed a collusion claim similar to one filed by Kaepernick last year. The union announced Monday that it filed its grievance and was seeking an arbitrator to hear the case.

Kaepernick deposed several league owners and executives, including Commissioner Roger Goodell, in his grievance. Reid is using the same attorneys as Kaepernick.

When NFL owners met in March, they didn't hold lengthy discussions on anthem protocol. But they are expected to do so at their spring meetings in Atlanta on May 21-22.

In March, Goodell was asked about Reid, one of the better players at his position in the NFL, not having a job.

''I've said this repeatedly to you: The 32 teams make individual decisions on the players who are going to best help their franchises,'' Goodell said. ''Those are decisions they have to make. They do that every day in the best interest of winning. Teams make those decisions. I'm not directly involved with that.''

Last month, Kaepernick praised Reid for continuing to make a stand for social justice when the quarterback was presented an Amnesty International award in Amsterdam.

''Eric introducing me for this prestigious award brings me great joy,'' Kaepernick said. ''But I am also pained by the fact that his taking a knee, and demonstrating courage to protect the rights of black and brown people in America, has also led to his ostracization from the NFL when he is widely recognized as one of the best competitors in the game and in the prime of his career.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Players' union files grievance on behalf of Eric Reid

The NFL players' union has filed a non-injury grievance on behalf of free agent safety Eric Reid.

The NFLPA cites one team appearing ''to have based its decision not to sign a player based on the player's statement that he would challenge the implementation of a club's policy prohibiting demonstration'' during the national anthem.

League policy does not prohibit demonstrating during the anthem. Referring to the labor agreement with the league, the union notes that NFL rules supersede any conflicting club rules.

The union also says ''at least one club owner has asked pre-employment interview questions about a player's intent to demonstrate. We believe these questions are improper, given league policy.''

Considered one of the top safeties in the league, Reid played out his contract with San Francisco last season. He has been a strong supporter of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016 became the first player to kneel during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Giants release 5 players before start of rookie minicamp

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The New York Giants have released five players, but only one who saw action in a regular-season game last season.

The Giants announced the moves Monday, four days before the start of a rookie minicamp.

Released were safety Ryan Murphy, guard Damien Mama, receiver Canaan Severin, running back Terrell Watson, and punter Austin Rehkow.

Murphy played in the final three contests in 2017 and had one tackle on special teams.

Mama was signed on Dec. 12 off the Chiefs' practice squad and was inactive for the last three games. Severin was in training camp and on the practice squad for a week. He signed a reserve/futures contract on Jan. 1, the same day Rehkow was signed.

Watson was signed by the Giants on Jan. 24.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and -http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Georgia Southern honors NFL player killed by drunken driver

STATESBORO, Ga. (AP) Georgia Southern University has honored Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson, an alumnus killed by a drunken driver in February.

News outlets report Jackson's parents, Wesley and Mary Jackson, were presented with his honorary bachelor of science degree during Saturday's commencement ceremony. Wesley Jackson yelled ''Georgia'' as they left the stage, and was met by a ''Southern'' from the crowd.

The 26-year-old and his Uber driver, 54-year-old Jeffrey Monroe, were killed in Indiana when authorities say they were struck by 37-year-old Manuel Orrego-Savala. Authorities say Orrego-Savala was living in the U.S. illegally and didn't have a license.

Jackson was an Atlanta native who walked on to Georgia Southern's football team. He was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie in 2015, and joined the Colts later that year.

---

This story corrects the team's name to Indianapolis Colts, not Indiana Colts

Read more

Georgia Southern honors NFL player killed by drunken driver

STATESBORO, Ga. (AP) Georgia Southern University has honored Indiana Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson, an alumnus killed by a drunken driver in February.

News outlets report Jackson's parents, Wesley and Mary Jackson, were presented with his honorary bachelor of science degree during Saturday's commencement ceremony. Wesley Jackson yelled ''Georgia'' as they left the stage, and was met by a ''Southern'' from the crowd.

The 26-year-old and his Uber driver, 54-year-old Jeffrey Monroe, were killed in Indiana when authorities say they were struck by 37-year-old Manuel Orrego-Savala. Authorities say Orrego-Savala was living in the U.S. illegally and didn't have a license.

Jackson was an Atlanta native who walked on to Georgia Southern's football team. He was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie in 2015, and joined the Colts later that year.

Read more

Georgia Southern honors NFL player killed by drunken driver

STATESBORO, Ga. (AP) Georgia Southern University has honored Indiana Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson, an alumnus killed by a drunken driver in February.

News outlets report Jackson's parents, Wesley and Mary Jackson, were presented with his honorary bachelor of science degree during Saturday's commencement ceremony. Wesley Jackson yelled ''Georgia'' as they left the stage, and was met by a ''Southern'' from the crowd.

The 26-year-old and his Uber driver, 54-year-old Jeffrey Monroe, were killed in Indiana when authorities say they were struck by 37-year-old Manuel Orrego-Savala. Authorities say Orrego-Savala was living in the U.S. illegally and didn't have a license.

Jackson was an Atlanta native who walked on to Georgia Southern's football team. He was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie in 2015, and joined the Colts later that year.

Read more

Raiders sign 2nd-round pick P.J. Hall

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) ��� The Oakland Raiders have signed second-round defensive tackle P.J. Hall.

The team announced its second draft pick signing out of nine picks on Sunday.

Hall was selected 57th overall out of FCS-level Sam Houston State. He had 284 tackles, 42 sacks, nine forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one interception and a school-record 14 blocked kicks in 56 games

Oakland had previously signed sixth-round linebacker Azeem Victor.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Jets sign sixth-rounders Nickerson, Fatukasi

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets have signed their last two sixth-round draft picks in cornerback Parry Nickerson and defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi.

The signings Sunday leave just three of the Jets' six selections without contracts: quarterback Sam Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick; third-rounder Nathan Shepherd, a defensive lineman from Fort Hays State; and fourth-rounder Chris Herndon, a tight end from Miami.

Running back Trenton Cannon, a sixth-rounder from Virginia State, was signed Friday.

Nickerson had 18 interceptions in 48 games at Tulane and is expected to contribute in the secondary and on special teams. Fatukasi had 14 sacks in 48 games at UConn and will add depth to the Jets' defensive line.

New York also announced it signed undrafted rookie linebackers Frankie Luvu and Anthony Wint, and waived cornerback Reggie Hall and defensive tackle Lord Hyeamang.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Suit alleging Manning sold bogus memorabilia nears trial

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) A New Jersey memorabilia dealer who claims New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning conspired with the team's equipment staff to sell bogus ''game-used'' helmets to unsuspecting collectors as part of a long-running scam could get a chance to make his case in court next month.

A jury in New Jersey is scheduled to be selected May 14.

Attorneys for the two-time Super Bowl champion have attacked the allegations in Eric Inselberg's lawsuit as ''inflammatory and baseless,'' and have accused Inselberg's attorneys of using underhanded tactics to whip up a media frenzy against their client.

The lawsuit has encompassed four years, two courts and thousands of pages of documents, and has featured more than a little acrimony between the two sides as one of the NFL's oldest and most-revered franchises has had to defend allegations that conjure up the seamy side of the sports memorabilia business.

Attorneys representing Inselberg, Manning, the team and an equipment manager named in the suit didn't respond to requests for comment last week.

Inselberg filed the suit in 2014 and accused Manning and the team of doctoring jerseys, helmets and other equipment to make it look as though they had been used during play. He was among a group of memorabilia dealers accused of selling counterfeit jerseys following an FBI sting.

Though the case against Inselberg eventually was dropped, he said in court papers that he wanted the Giants to be held accountable for the lies that led to his indictment and ruined his business.

The dispute boiled over in April 2017 when Inselberg's attorneys filed court documents that contained emails between Manning and equipment manager Joseph Skiba, including one in which Manning asks Skiba to get ''2 helmets that can pass as game used.''

In the furor after the emails became public, Manning, who is known for his even-tempered demeanor, angrily denounced the allegations, saying, ''I have done nothing wrong and I have nothing to hide, and I know when this is done everyone will see it the same way.''

Manning didn't return a message left with a spokesperson last week.

In a request to the judge to impose sanctions on Inselberg's attorneys, Manning's attorneys wrote that the emails were provided during the normal exchange of information that occurs in all civil cases and were labeled confidential.

They also argued the emails showed Manning carrying out the terms of his personal services contract with Steiner Sports, under which he provided them with two game-used helmets and two game-used jerseys after each season.

The email in question ''was intended by Mr. Manning to be a request for his game-used helmets that were in the possession of the Giants' equipment staff, consistent with Mr. Manning's intentions and practices for other years as corroborated by the other email exchanges,'' they wrote.

Read more

Raiders sign 6th round pick Azeem Victor

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders have signed sixth-round linebacker Azeem Victor to a four-year contract.

The team announced its first draft pick signing of the year on Saturday.

Victor was selected 216th overall out of Washington. He played in 44 games in college with 197 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, one interception, 10 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

---

More AP NFL: pro32.ap.org and twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Alcoholics Anonymous founding document sells for $2.4M

LOS ANGELES (AP) ��� The founding document of Alcoholics Anonymous, known to adherents as the "Big Book," sold at auction Saturday for $2.4 million to billionaire and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.

The auction house Profiles in History announced the sale of the manuscript with handwritten notes from the group's founding fathers.

Irsay told The Associated Press he plans to build a special display for the manuscript and display it for several months a year at Alcoholics Anonymous' headquarters in New York. He says he attempted to buy the manuscript when it was up for auction several years ago, and he is thrilled at the opportunity to share it publicly.

Irsay said he considers himself a steward for the manuscript, which he said he may also send out on tour so it can be seen by more people.

"I've held it. I've looked through it. It is absolutely mind-blowing," he said. "It was just a miracle to see this thing live."

Irsay, who was clearly excited about obtaining the manuscript during a telephone interview, said he considered remaining anonymous about purchasing the manuscript, but wanted to go public to try to relieve the stigma of alcoholism and addiction.

"The only way we stay sober is to give it away," Irsay said.

"I think it'll help a lot of people," he said. "That's the reason I'm doing it."

He said he attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting 25 years ago, and marvels at the reach of the organization and what its founders built.

It is the third time the 161-page typed document has been sold. It sold in 2007 for $850,000 and for $1.6 million in 2004. Saturday's auction was delayed by a dispute with Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

The manuscript includes notes and scribbles from one of AA's founders, William Wilson, more commonly known as "Bill W."

Wilson's widow Lois owned the papers after his death in 1971, and she passed them on to her friend Barry Leach. Alcoholics Anonymous said Leach signed and notarized a letter in 1979 saying the manuscript would belong to the organization after his death. He died in 1985, but the manuscript did not make its way to Alcoholics Anonymous, which did not know about the notarized letter at the time.

Its ownership history in the ensuing years is not entirely clear until 2004, when Sotheby's auctioned it for $1.6 million. Then it sold to Roberts in 2007.

A website devoted to the auction describes the manuscript as a "Bible to millions" that has sold 30 million copies since 1939, been translated into 43 languages and has been ranked by the Library of Congress as a top non-fiction book that shaped America.

"We are thrilled this most historic manuscript has sold and hope it will be exhibited for the world to see the manuscript that has saved the lives of millions of people," Profiles in History founder Joe Maddalena said.

---

Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP.

Read more

Alcoholics Anonymous founding document sells for $2.4M

LOS ANGELES (AP) The founding document of Alcoholics Anonymous, known to adherents as the ''Big Book,'' sold at auction Saturday for $2.4 million to billionaire and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.

The auction house Profiles in History announced the sale of the manuscript with handwritten notes from the group's founding fathers.

Irsay told The Associated Press he plans to build a special display for the manuscript and display it for several months a year at Alcoholics Anonymous' headquarters in New York. He says he attempted to buy the manuscript when it was up for auction several years ago, and he is thrilled at the opportunity to share it publicly.

Irsay said he considers himself a steward for the manuscript, which he said he may also send out on tour so it can be seen by more people.

''I've held it. I've looked through it. It is absolutely mind-blowing,'' he said. ''It was just a miracle to see this thing live.''

Irsay said he considered remaining anonymous about purchasing the manuscript, but wanted to go public to try to relieve the stigma of alcoholism and addiction.

''The only way we stay sober is to give it away,'' Irsay said.

''I think it'll help a lot of people,'' he said. ''That's the reason I'm doing it.''

He said he attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting 25 years ago, and marvels at the reach of the organization and what its founders built.

It is the third time the 161-page typed document has been sold. It sold in 2007 for $850,000 and for $1.6 million in 2004. Saturday's auction was delayed by a dispute with Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

The manuscript includes notes and scribbles from one of AA's founders, William Wilson, more commonly known as ''Bill W.''

Wilson's widow Lois owned the papers after his death in 1971, and she passed them on to her friend Barry Leach. Alcoholics Anonymous said Leach signed and notarized a letter in 1979 saying the manuscript would belong to the organization after his death. He died in 1985, but the manuscript did not make its way to Alcoholics Anonymous, which did not know about the notarized letter at the time.

Its ownership history in the ensuing years is not entirely clear until 2004, when Sotheby's auctioned it for $1.6 million. Then it sold to Roberts in 2007.

A website devoted to the auction describes the manuscript as a ''Bible to millions'' that has sold 30 million copies since 1939, been translated into 43 languages and has been ranked by the Library of Congress as a top non-fiction book that shaped America.

''We are thrilled this most historic manuscript has sold and hope it will be exhibited for the world to see the manuscript that has saved the lives of millions of people,'' Profiles in History founder Joe Maddalena said.

---

Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP.

Read more

49ers sign 3 draft picks to contracts

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers have signed three of their draft picks to four-year contracts.

The team announced Saturday that third-round defensive back Tarvarius Moore and seventh-rounders Richie James Jr. and Jullian Taylor have all signed contracts.

Moore was drafted 95th overall out of Southern Mississippi. He played 26 games in college with 104 tackles, five interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and 12 passes defensed.

Taylor was taken 223rd overall as a defensive tackle out of Temple. He had 52 tackles, including 11 for loss, in 20 games in college.

James was taken 240th as a receiver out of Middle Tennessee State. He had 244 catches for 3,261 yards and 23 TDs in 31 games.

---

More AP NFL: pro32.ap.org and twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Shepherd, Fatukasi could make big impact on Jets' D-line

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Nathan Shepherd jumped off the defensive line, got into the New York Jets' backfield and saw Sam Darnold standing just a few feet away.

Then, the third-round draft pick put on the brakes.

''Oh, I stayed away from him,'' a smiling Shepherd said of Darnold on Saturday during rookie minicamp. ''No sir. You see the red (jersey) and you turn the other way.''

Quarterbacks are off-limits to contact in NFL practices, so would-be sack-happy defenders such as Shepherd need to tread lightly - especially when the No. 3 overall pick and future of the franchise is in the pocket.

But games are another story, of course, and the Jets will be counting on Shepherd and fellow rookie Folorunso Fatukasi to help make Sundays miserable for opposing offenses. New York went big in the draft - after taking Darnold in the first round - by adding heft to its defensive line.

Over 630 pounds worth.

Shepherd is a 6-foot-4, 315-pounder from Fort Hays State. Fatukasi, a sixth-rounder from UConn, is 6-3 and 318.

''Same size, different players,'' coach Todd Bowles said last week after the draft.

Shepherd and Fatukasi could get plenty of opportunities to play as rookies. Bowles said both can play nose tackle and spell Leonard Williams at defensive end, and the Jets will have them slotted for certain roles depending on what defensive scheme they want to use.

They might also be able to help offset the loss of Muhammad Wilkerson, who was cut during the offseason and has since signed with Green Bay. The Jets still have Williams and Steve McLendon on their defensive line, as well as Mike Pennel, Xavier Cooper and Henry Anderson, who was acquired in a draft-day deal with Indianapolis.

''I think that whatever the opportunity the Jets have for me is going to be more than enough for me,'' Shepherd said. ''If they need help in a certain area, then I would certainly feel honored that they would come and look to me for that.''

Boosting a pass rush that has struggled to consistently get to the quarterback the last few seasons might be one.

''We'll see,'' Bowles said of Shepherd. ''We expect him to have an impact as a defensive lineman, but sacks come differently for different people. As long as he does what he is supposed to do, which we're sure he will, we'll get better and we'll see where the pass rush is and if the sacks come.''

Shepherd is a study in patience and perseverance . The native of Ontario, Canada, redshirted his first season at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and then became a starter before leaving school for financial reasons.

Shepherd worked several side jobs for the next two years, dreaming of returning to football someday while fighting to keep motivated every day.

''Yeah, most mornings,'' he said. ''You're thinking, `OK, I've got to go to work and this check isn't really doing anything to improve my life today, that I can see.' So, that was difficult, but you've just got to keep the dream alive and know that you're that much closer.''

Shepherd landed at Fort Hays State in Kansas in 2015, became a starter and was the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association defensive player of the year as a senior. He finished his three-year career at Fort Hays with 168 tackles, including 27 for loss, and 10 sacks.

Now, he's in the NFL - something he's still trying to grasp.

''I was fortunate enough to be able to keep my same number, so I'll be No. 97,'' he said. ''I have my jersey from college, so I think when I take that picture of my college jersey and my pro jersey, that moment will sink in for me.''

For Fatukasi, this marks sort of a homecoming. He grew up in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, New York, and ended up going to UConn. He went through three coaching changes while he was there but thrived despite the constant turnover.

He had 45 tackles, including 7+ for losses, as a senior and was tied for second on the Huskies with four sacks. Fatukasi finished his college career with 168 tackles and 14 sacks in 48 games while playing several positions on UConn's defensive line.

''Having three different head coaches - and if you include the interim head coach, it's four - and having a various amount of defenses, I've kind of been all over,'' Fatukasi said.

That versatility will be valuable for the Jets, who tend to move players around on the line to keep them fresh. Both Shepherd and Fatukasi could quickly find themselves part of that rotation, but they first need to get adjusted to playing in the NFL.

''I had to quickly get off the high of being drafted,'' Fatukasi said, ''and realize there's still a lot of work to be done.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Chiefs open 3-day rookie minicamp after D-filled draft

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Turns out there were enough bodies on offense for the Kansas City Chiefs to practice after all.

The Chiefs opened a three-day rookie minicamp on Saturday after selecting six defensive players in last week's draft, though one of them - defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie - is expected to transition to offensive guard. But with 14 rookie free agents and another 43 players in for tryouts, there were plenty of bodies to make up an offensive, defensive and special teams unit.

Don't sleep on the unknown guys, either.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid pointed out that just a few years ago, an unheralded wide receiver named Albert Wilson impressed him during the same weekend. Wilson hung around for the next phase of the offseason program, survived training camp and ultimately made the Kansas City roster.

This past offseason, Wilson signed a $24 million, three-year deal with the Miami Dolphins.

''Albert just made about $8 million,'' Reid said with a smile, ''so there's been a few. You invite them to the next phase and the next and eventually they make the roster.''

Still, it's the draft picks that will draw the most attention this weekend.

The Chiefs didn't have a first-round pick, so they used their initial selection on Ole Miss pass rusher Breeland Speaks in the second round. Speaks is expected to push last year's second-round pick, Tanoh Kpassgnon, for playing time right out of the gate opposite standout linebacker Justin Houston.

''I did get the playbook,'' Speaks said. ''My first reaction was, `I can do this.' I looked at a few defenses we installed today and went over those and know those by heart already.''

With two third-round picks, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach continued to shore up his defense. He grabbed 315-pound run-stuffer Derrick Nnadi out of Florida State and then Clemson hybrid linebacker Dorian O'Daniel, both of whom could also factor into the starting rotation this fall.

The Chiefs were thin along the defensive front, even after signing Xavier Williams in free agency and retaining Rakeem Hunez-Roches as a restricted free agent. And with the expected departure of erstwhile pass rusher Tamba Hali, and injury woes to Dee Ford, finding another linebacker was paramount.

McKenzie, the son of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, was also in attendance, as were fellow sixth-round pick Tremon Smith and Texas A&M safety Armani Watts, who could be the steal of the draft.

Watts dropped to the fourth round after concerns about his workouts at the combine, but the four-year starter said he had bulked up in the hopes that it would help him out. Instead, it only slowed him down and already Watts has reverted to his lean, fast playing weight.

The Chiefs are hopeful that he factors into the defense right away.

Star safety Eric Berry is returning from a season-ending Achilles tendon injury, and reliable safety Ron Parker was released in a cost-saving move. That leaves plenty of questions at the back of the defense.

''It's a little bit different for those safeties,'' Veach said, ''because they are like the quarterbacks of the defense where they have to line up people and make the calls and adjustments. That is no different than any safety, even if you draft them in the first round.

''Breeland is someone who we feel can come in and help us right away. Derrick, Dorian and Armani can certainly do some different things while he grows and understands the system a little bit better.''

UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS

The Chiefs signed 14 rookie free agents on Saturday, including former Kansas State wide receiver Byron Pringle. The local product left school a year early and has intriguing size at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, but he needs to showcase better hands than he did playing just down the road.

The Chiefs also signed RBs Darrell Williams and J.D. Moore from LSU; OL Ryan Hunter (Bowling Green), Jimmy Murray (Holy Cross) and Devondre Seymour (Southern Illinois); TE Blake Mack (Arkansas State); WR Elijah Marks (Northern Arizona); QB Chase Litton (Marshall); DB Arrion Springs (Oregon) and D'Montre Wade (Murray State); LBs Ben Niemann (Iowa) and Raymond Davison (California); and DT Dee Liner (Arkansas State).

BERRY'S BROTHER

The Chiefs also had 43 players on tryouts during the three-day rookie minicamp, including DB Elliott Berry. The undrafted rookie from Tennessee is the younger brother of the Chiefs' star safety, Eric Berry.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Shaquem Griffin ready to have focus on football in Seattle

RENTON, Wash. (AP) The number was different on Friday - No. 49 instead of No. 18. So were the colors, trading black and gold for dark blue and white.

The effort and excitement from Shaquem Griffin? That remained the same.

''We had to slow him down on some stuff early. In the walkthrough he was going too hard. We had to chill him out a little bit,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

The next chapter of Griffin's football career got underway with the first day of Seattle's three-day minicamp for rookies. In a way, it was a welcome return to normalcy for Griffin after months where the focus was strictly on what he's overcome missing his left hand and whether he would be given a chance in the NFL.

For one afternoon -even if it was simply in shorts, his new jersey and a helmet - Griffin could just be a football player.

''It's kind of fun to be honest. I was ready to get back to football. I'm pretty sure all the guys that are here were ready to get back to football,'' Griffin said. ''When you're away from football, you have to do all the drills and the combine and the pro day. The only thing you are really here to do is play football. So when you get a chance to go to the draft and that part is over with, and you get signed on to a team and you're ready to go, now it's back to everything you've been doing to get to this point and that's play football.''

The day was filled mostly with basics, as Griffin and the rest of Seattle's draft class and rookie free agent signings learned how Carroll runs things in Seattle. Considering how the past week has been, even the mundane fundamentals were welcomed by Griffin.

Outside of the quarterbacks drafted in the first round, there was no bigger story in the draft than where Griffin would go. He was a star in college at Central Florida and deserving of a shot in the NFL, especially after stealing the spotlight with his performance at the scouting combine.

It was Seattle that eventually gave Griffin his NFL chance, drafting him in the fifth round and reuniting him with his twin brother Shaquill, who was drafted by the Seahawks in 2017 and became a starting cornerback in his rookie season. But with the pick came an avalanche of requests and attention for Griffin and the Seahawks to filter. And in the grand scheme, Griffin is still a draft pick that must find a role as a weakside linebacker and special teams contributor.

''It's extremely important for that turn to occur,'' Carroll said. ''It's been a great story, it will always be a great story, but right now he's got work to do and he's got focus he's got to generate. He's got a lot of people tugging on him and for all of the right reasons and all of that, but I know that he's very determined and we are to help him in his pursuit of making the club and making a spot and all of that. He's like everybody else, he's got to compete like everybody.''

Carroll did note that Griffin seemed to have a little better understanding of what he was going to face arriving for the rookie minicamp likely thanks to some tips from his brother. While this weekend is just three days of creating the foundation, the next step for Griffin will come later this month when the Seahawks move into the next phases of their offseason program and integrate more of the rookie class.

''"It's been a whirlwind but that's over with,'' Griffin said. ''It's time for us to get to work and make sure I give high competition. Make sure I get a chance for the coaches to see who I am. Make sure I can do my best to make sure I can make my players better and help anybody I can.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Raiders' Hurst happy to turn focus from heart to football

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) After months of questions about the health of his heart sent him tumbling down the draft board until being taken by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round, Maurice Hurst was happy to get on the practice field and turn the conversation to football.

Hurst took part in his first practice as a pro Friday when the Raiders opened their rookie minicamp with three promising pass rushers they hope can bolster their defense.

''Just trying to get all of that stuff behind me, try to get people to stop talking about it,'' Hurst said. ''You know, some sort of issue or all of those kinds of things - just try to move past that and focus on playing football and just having fun out there.''

Hurst was one of the most productive defensive players in the country last season at Michigan. He had 5+ sacks as an interior rusher and led all nose tackles and defensive tackles with 49 total quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.

Hurst was sent home from the combine after a heart issue was detected. Hurst said it was something he has dealt with for a long time and hadn't impacted him on the field. He said he has been cleared by doctors at Harvard and Michigan but that didn't prevent every team passing on a player projected as a first-rounder until the Raiders got him at 140th overall.

''I'm not going to answer any more health questions on Hurst,'' coach Jon Gruden said. ''I realize there are a lot of ghost stories out there about unnamed sources that have their opinion on why we shouldn't have drafted him. This man played at Michigan. I know the head coach there. They've looked after him carefully. We're happy to have him in any round, and I'm excited for him and I'm really excited for him because he's an Oakland Raider and he's a great kid. I hope you just judge him on the field. He's been cleared medically and I'll just leave it at that.''

The additions of Hurst, second-round defensive tackle P.J. Hall and third-round defensive end Arden Key give the Raiders help on a defensive front that has ranked near the bottom of the NFL in sacks in recent years despite the presence of edge rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

The Raiders have the second fewest sacks in the NFL the past two seasons with just 56 - one more than the last-place New York Jets. Nearly two-thirds of those sacks have come from Mack (21 1/2) and Irvin (15), as the edge players have gotten almost no help from the inside rushers.

''It was a major priority,'' Gruden said. ''It's a commodity that's hard to find. I've heard a lot of critics have talked about the risk involved. There is risk involved with every pick.''

While Hurst faced questions about his health, Hall and Key had other concerns.

Hall had 42 sacks and 86 1/2 tackles for loss in his college career, but that came at the FCS level for Sam Houston State instead of against top-flight competition.

Gruden called Hall and Hurst the top two interior rushers in the draft, a position of major need after Oakland had just 1 1/2 sacks last year from players playing inside full-time.

Key proved himself at the highest level of college football for LSU in the SEC. He had 11 sacks in 2016 and 20 overall in three seasons in college, but he has had off-field problems and checked himself into rehab last spring.

If Oakland can get production out of those three players, that should go a long way in improving a defense that has been a weakness for the team in recent years.

''We all work together,'' Key said. ''We have edge rushers that can get to the quarterback and the quarterback steps up. Inside guys get the sack. We have inside guys that get to the quarterback and make the quarterback roll out, the edge rushers get the sack. So we all work together.''

NOTES: Fourth-round pick CB Nick Nelson sat out as he heals from a knee injury. ... The Raiders signed undrafted TE Marcus Baugh, WR Saeed Blacknall, LB Jason Cabinda, C Alex Officer, K Eddy Pineiro and FB Nick Sharga.

---

More AP NFL: pro32.ap.org and twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Auburn star Carlson ready as Vikings turn to rookie kicker

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) Daniel Carlson's career-best field goal at Auburn was 56 yards. His confidence range indoors reaches 65. During pre-draft training in the high altitude of his home state Colorado, he said, even a 75-yard kick was makeable.

The Minnesota Vikings were so enamored with that strong leg they used a fifth-round pick on the 6-foot-5, 213-pound Carlson, a bold enough move to suggest he'll be the place kicker this season and not incumbent Kai Forbath.

No matter how big of a boom Carlson delivers on the ball, though, what matters the most is how accurate he can be from those less-impressive and more-critical distances. The shorter kicks that the Vikings have seen missed too many times over the past five years.

''I'm a 6-foot-5 kicker, which is pretty rare. That does help having those long levers to hopefully get a couple touchbacks and some longer kicks here and there,'' Carlson said. ''But at the end of the day it's the kicks inside of 50 that really are going to make or break a season or make or break you.''

The Vikings re-signed Forbath in March. In 25 games since he replaced the struggling Blair Walsh, Forbath has missed eight extra points. He also pulled a couple of 39-yard field goals wide in 2017. Though he came through down the stretch with several important makes, including three field goals in the playoff game win over New Orleans, Forbath clearly didn't gain the full trust of the coaching staff and front office.

''The whole objective right now at this point is to create the most competitive 90-man roster that you can, regardless of position,'' general manager Rick Spielman said last weekend after making Carlson the 167th overall selection.

When the Vikings drafted Walsh in the sixth round in 2012, they released reliable incumbent Ryan Longwell the day after the rookie minicamp was complete. The same scenario played out in 2013 with punter Jeff Locke, a fifth-round pick, and his outspoken predecessor, Chris Kluwe. For now, the Vikings have said they'll keep the competition open. Still, a fifth-rounder is a high price for a specialist.

''Kai's done really good this spring,'' coach Mike Zimmer said. ''So we're just going to let them go out there and kick.''

Carlson made all 198 extra points he attempted in college, albeit from 20 yards and not 33 yards, to set an SEC record. He went 92 for 114 on field goals. Factor in a strong performance at the Senior Bowl in January, and the Vikings were interested. They sent special teams coordinator Mike Priefer to Auburn for one of five private workouts Carlson conducted after the scouting combine, and Carlson and Priefer immediately hit it off.

Carlson was one of the eight draftees among 66 players assembled by the Vikings for workouts this weekend, including 31 players invited on a tryout basis.

The 17 college free agents signed earlier this week included cornerback Holton Hill from Texas and linebacker Hercules Mata'afa of Washington State, considered two of the top undrafted players. Among the unsigned prospects aiming to follow the lead of Marcus Sherels in 2010 and Adam Thielen in 2013, as tryout players who earned a contract after the rookie minicamp and eventually made the team, are safety Mackenro Alexander of Iowa State, the twin brother of Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander; Northern Illinois wide receiver Chad Beebe, the son of former Buffalo Bills standout Don Beebe; and quarterback Matt Linehan from Idaho, the son of former Vikings and current Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

None of these players, even first-round cornerback Mike Hughes, carry the potential to impact the Vikings in 2018 as much as Carlson.

''I knew what I was coming into, and I'm excited to get to work,'' said Carlson, a three-time Lou Groza Award finalist and the SEC special teams player of the year for the last two seasons. ''Hopefully, I'll prove to these coaches and the rest of this team that I deserve to be here.''

Make those high-pressure kicks, and they'll quickly develop that respect.

''You kind of figure it out with a little maturity and handling those big moments,'' Carlson said, ''but I think as a kicker that's what we're supposed to live for.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Raiders agree to deal with LB Derrick Johnson

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders agreed to a one-year deal Friday with veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson to bolster the middle of their defense.

Coach Jon Gruden said Johnson adds a presence to the defense that was needed.

''He brings us status at a critical position,'' Gruden said. ''He's got a great history in this league, been productive under a lot of different coaches, different schemes. He understands the AFC West and certainly understands this rivalry. I'm really excited to add him to our team.''

The 35-year-old Johnson spent his first 13 NFL seasons with the rival Kansas City Chiefs and will likely fill the role at middle linebacker that NaVorro Bowman played the second half of last season.

Johnson has been one of the better linebackers in the league during his career but was allowed to leave Kansas City earlier this offseason as the team tried to get younger.

Johnson is a four-time Pro Bowler and the career tackles leader for the Chiefs.

He appeared in 182 games with 169 starts since being drafted in the first round in 2005. He piled up 1,262 tackles to easily shatter the franchise record, had 27+ sacks and picked off 14 passes, returning four of them for touchdowns.

He had a career-best 179 tackles in 2011, when he was voted the Chiefs' team MVP.

Johnson piled up his impressive stats despite missing part of two seasons with ruptured Achilles tendons. He returned from the first one as good as ever, earning his most recent Pro Bowl trip in 2015, but the second seemed to finally take a step out of his legs this past season.

He had 48 tackles in 15 games last season but slowly lost playing time to younger teammates in the middle of the Kansas City defense.

The Raiders need an anchor in the middle of their defense. Bowman fared well in that role after being signed last October following his release by San Francisco. There was interest in bringing him back for a second season but the two sides couldn't agree on a price.

Oakland didn't address that need at linebacker in the draft until the sixth round last week with the pick of Washington linebacker Azeem Victor.

The Raiders also waived linebacker Cory James with a failed physical designation and cut defensive lineman Armonty Bryant with a non-football illness.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Seahawks release Cliff Avril; injury cost him most of 2017

SEATTLE (AP) Defensive end Cliff Avril was released by the Seattle Seahawks on Friday with a failed physical designation due to a neck injury that cost him most of the 2017 season.

Avril's release was expected and likely means the end of a 10-year career during which he was a standout player for the Seahawks and the Detroit Lions.

Avril was injured in Week 4 last season while trying to chase down Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The back of Brissett's foot caught Avril in the chin as he lunged to make the tackle. Avril was seen shaking his arms and flexing his hands after the impact.

While the play looked innocuous, Avril's head snapped back violently and he suffered a neck injury. Avril never revealed the specific diagnosis for his injury but coach Pete Carroll repeatedly called it a serious situation. Avril had neck surgery following the season.

Carroll praised Avril after Seattle concluded the first day of its rookie minicamp.

''He's been a great leader. He's been a bit of a statesman for us. He always says the right thing, stands for the right stuff and been a really high character guy that you can always count on,'' Carroll said. ''A great competitor in the program. I love him and would like to keep him connected with our club as long as we can because he's just exactly what you hope to represent you. He's had a great career with us.''

Avril arrived in Seattle before the 2013 season and instantly helped transform the Seahawks defense into one of the best in recent memory. He was part of a rotation at first but became a full-time starter in 2014. His best season came in 2016 when Avril had a career-high 11 + sacks and was voted to the Pro Bowl for the only time in his career.

Avril spent five seasons in Detroit before coming to Seattle. He was a third-round pick out of Purdue and suffered through a 0-16 season in his rookie year with the Lions. He became a standout in Detroit but experienced his greatest team success in Seattle, helping the team win the Super Bowl in his first season with the Seahawks. He made a return trip to the championship game with the team the following year.

''Thank you 12s for making the last 5 years in Seattle so amazing!'' Avril wrote in a post on Instagram . ''Your cheers on Sundays are unmatched, and you guys are by far the best fans in the NFL! Most importantly, I appreciate and value the lifelong friendships I've made. You all have supported my family, my foundation (the Cliff Avril Family Foundation), and I throughout my entire tenure, and I could not have asked for more! THANK YOU to the entire Seahawk organization as well as my teammates. You all made me a Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl Champ! I am forever grateful.''

Releasing Avril will save Seattle about $6 million against the salary cap. But the Seahawks will also be faced with replacing another productive standout from a defense that had already seen the departures of Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman earlier this offseason.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Confident Darnold hits Jets practice field for first time

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Todd Bowles chuckled for a moment and then just couldn't resist the urge to break from his normally low-key, stoic public persona.

The New York Jets coach had just been asked what his initial impressions were of first-round pick Sam Darnold at rookie minicamp Friday - and Bowles went wild. Well, sort of.

''He was great! I want him to play right now!'' a smiling Bowles shouted while slamming his left hand on the lectern for emphasis .

It was stunning. And made a room filled with wide-eyed reporters laugh.

Bowles has never been one to make bold declarations, especially after just one practice. So the coach jokingly mocked the question - while providing a video and sound clip like he never has before.

Then again, Bowles and the Jets are hoping Darnold someday develops into the type of quarterback the likes of which this franchise has rarely, if ever, seen.

''He was good,'' Bowles said, still smiling. ''Obviously, we threw the ball around a little bit and he's going to be getting better.''

Darnold was the No. 3 overall pick in the draft last week , surprisingly ''dropping'' into the Jets' lap after being rumored as a potential top overall selection for several months. Instead, Cleveland went with Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and the Giants took Penn State running back Saquon Barkley at No. 2.

That meant the team that has been craving a franchise quarterback since the glory days of Joe Namath had its guy: the 20-year-old Darnold, a could-be savior from USC who could soon be shouldering the pressure of leading the Jets out of a seven-year playoff drought.

The kid who oozes California cool knows all about it.

''Yeah, I embrace it, but I understand every single day that it's a process,'' Darnold said before his first practice of rookie camp. ''You've got to come in here and earn respect. I'm not going to come in here and demand it.''

Darnold is fresh-faced, has a terrific head of reddish-blond hair, and should make for a target of companies looking for celebrity endorsers or magazines searching for a cover-boy athlete. Make no mistake, though, he's got an unrelenting competitive streak and lives and breathes football.

Just moments after meeting with an overflow crowd of media armed with cameras and lots of questions, Darnold was back at his makeshift stall in the middle of the Jets' locker room, studying his playbook.

''Just coming in here and understanding the position that I'm in - I'm a rookie,'' Darnold said. ''I understand that. But at the same time, I understand that I'm a quarterback and that I've got to be a leader on the field and off it, as well.''

Darnold will have a chance to win the starting job this summer. His main competition, of course, will be Josh McCown, the soon-to-be 39-year-old veteran who was the starter for most of last season.

The Jets also have Teddy Bridgewater, still working his way back from a serious knee injury nearly two years ago, and Christian Hackenberg, a second-rounder in 2016 who has yet to see the field in a regular-season game.

''We're giving him every chance,'' Bowles said of Darnold. ''He's going to learn it as he goes. He might get the (first-team) reps as he goes, but we'll make that determination through preseason and see where we are at the end of it. But we're not holding him back.

''We're not rushing him, at the same time, but we're not holding him back at all.''

Darnold was given a small chunk of the playbook to run through during rookie camp, with the team keeping things relatively simple to start.

There were some ups - a few beautifully placed long throws - and some downs - two botched snaps and an interception on a tipped pass - while getting in his first on-field practice since late December.

''It's a combination of being nervous,'' Darnold said, ''but at the same time, I think it's more relief than anything just because I haven't been with a team, I haven't been inside the pocket for a long time.''

While Bowles' response to what he saw from Darnold was intentionally over the top, there's no doubt many Jets fans hope the rookie is under center in Week 1 - and for years to come.

Until then, though, Darnold is going about his business the only way he knows how.

''Consistency, I think is the biggest thing,'' Darnold said. ''I'm just going to come in here and be consistent every single day. Do what I need to do: lift, eat right, get with coach (Jeremy) Bates, get with Josh and Teddy, learn everything that is installed that day. Just go about it, it's a daily process that I go through. If I treat every single day like it's the most important day, I think that's really where my success comes from.''

NOTES: The Jets waived RB Akeem Judd. ... The team announced it signed RB Trenton Cannon, a sixth-round draft pick out of Virginia State. ... New York signed seven undrafted free agents: Oklahoma FB Dimitri Flowers, Auburn OL Austin Golson, Jacksonville State CB Reggie Hall, Columbia DL Lord Hyeamang, Auburn OL Darius James, University of British Columbia G Dakoda Shepley, and Texas Tech DL Mychealon Thomas.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Three top Packers picks get started, 'hard work' ahead

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) For a host of rookies, the road to a spot on the Green Bay Packers' roster began on Friday. While what they did during the first of two post-draft rookie orientation camp practices won't decide their fates, coach Mike McCarthy believes a good start is vital for them all.

All eyes were on the team's top two draft pick, Jaire Alexander, a cornerback from Louisville, and Josh Jackson, a cornerback from Iowa. The practices included 11 draft picks, 14 undrafted free-agent signees, a handful of players who spent time on the practice squad last season and about a dozen tryout players.

''This is a great opportunity for these guys - and they realize it. It's a unique opportunity, if you just look at the statistics in the National Football League,'' said McCarthy, whose draft-and-develop team has long relied on rookies. ''This is a very important two days, because you have an opportunity to make your roster better. And the better your 90-man roster is, the more competitive offseason program (is). Going into training camp, that's the goal.''

Alexander, Jackson and third-round pick Oren Burks, a linebacker from Vanderbilt, are joining a defense that finished last season ranked 26th in scoring defense (24.0 points allowed per game) and 22nd in yards allowed (348.9). Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was replaced after nine seasons by Mike Pettine.

While overwhelmed at times with the sliver of the playbook they learned earlier in the day, all three were excited.

''It was quite an experience. It was like, `Man, I'm finally here. I'm at Green Bay,''' Alexander said. ''There was a lot of hard work put into it, I can tell you that much.''

Added Jackson: ''This is what you came here to do. This is what you went through the whole process for, to play football. For me, I'm happy for football again. I love the game and I'm just excited to be here.''

After finishing last season 23rd against the pass (236.8), 28th in third-down defense (allowing a 42.8 percent conversion rate) and 31st in red-zone defense (allowing a 65.2 percent touchdown rate), the Packers are counting on Alexander and Jackson to be ready.

The team brought back veteran cornerbacks Tramon Williams, who played for Pettine in Cleveland after spending his first eight NFL seasons in Green Bay, and Davon House, but McCarthy and Pettine want a deep, faster rotation at corner. Alexander and Jackson, along with 2017 second-round pick Kevin King, should provide that.

''I wanted to come out and show them who they drafted, give them a glimpse of who they drafted,'' Alexander said. ''Obviously, there's still work to be done but I'm definitely looking forward to working on that.''

Some of the work Alexander and Jackson got came against three rookie wide receivers - fourth-round pick J'Mon Moore, fifth-rounder Marquez Valdes-Scantling and sixth-rounder Equanimeous St. Brown - in the first of what figure to be many battles to come.

''(I) just want to go up against them. Compete, get the best out of them, and they can get the best out of me,'' Moore said. ''See what they've got and sharpen each other.''

Notes: The Packers signed two of their 11 draft picks, getting deals done with punter JK Scott and long-snapper Hunter Bradley. . The team released incumbent punter Justin Vogel, who set a franchise record for net punting average last season (41.6 yards per punt).

---

More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org

Read more

Chiefs' new offensive lineman is son of biggest rival's boss

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Reggie McKenzie kept telling his son that if his Oakland Raiders were going to draft him last week, it would require making the switch from mammoth defensive tackle to bruising offensive guard.

Turns out the general manager's counterparts in Kansas City had the same idea.

So when the elder McKenzie, sitting in the Oakland draft room, saw Chiefs general manager Brett Veach calling him, a wry smile crossed his face. The most bitter of AFC West rivals were trading up to take Kahlil McKenzie in the sixth round - with every intention of flipping him to offense.

''I told him, `It's your conspiracy. You did this,''' Kahlil McKenzie recalls telling his pop, himself a longtime NFL linebacker before becoming a front-office exec. ''He always wanted me to play offensive line. He said I could play the position a lot different, somebody that knows what defensive linemen are going to do and somebody who can move a lot better than a lot of offensive linemen.''

The Chiefs are gambling on precisely the same line of thinking.

McKenzie drew plenty of interest at defensive tackle when he declared for the draft after his junior season at Tennessee. But when the Chiefs showed up at his pro day, they worked him out at guard, and he merely outperformed three other traditional offensive line prospects.

His athleticism and measurables - including his stout trunk and huge lower body - also project nicely to the interior of the offensive line, where McKenzie's raw power would best be displayed.

''This kid is going to look like a first-round pick. He's an impressive looking player,'' Veach said. ''He's a draftable talent just as a defensive lineman and he would certainly be on an NFL roster this coming fall if he just played defensive line. But when you watched him at his pro day, he just had such a good workout at guard. It looked natural to him.''

McKenzie played both sides of the offensive line in high school, but he was stuck at defensive tackle by the Vols out of necessity. His production wound up keeping him there for three seasons.

Still, one has to wonder what he could have been had he played offensive line all this time.

''The kid has tremendous physical gifts,'' Veach said, ''and again, I don't know exactly how long this will take because he hasn't played offensive line a long time.''

The task of turning him into a blocker begins Saturday when the Chiefs open a three-day rookie minicamp. McKenzie is expected on the field along with the rest of the Kansas City draft class - all defensive players that are planning to stay on that side of the ball.

''All the things and traits you look at with him, you could see that this kid might have a shot as an offensive guard,'' said Chiefs area scout Pat Sperduto, who has watched McKenzie the last few years, and was able to draw comparisons to at least two success stories.

J.R. Sweezy was a standout linebacker and defensive end at North Carolina State, Sperduto said, before becoming a solid offensive guard with the Seahawks and Buccaneers. Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers spent time as a defensive lineman at Army before becoming a standout NFL left tackle.

McKenzie also had the same team-first attitude as Sweezy and Villanueva when it came to the switch.

''I said, `What if we drafted you as an offensive guard?' He said, `I'd be willing to do anything. I just want to play football. I want to be a good player in the league,''' Sperduto said.

Even if it happened to be for his father's biggest rival.

''I got a text from Charles Woodson. He said, `Your son has to retire. There's no way he's going to put that red helmet on his head,''' Reggie McKenzie said. ''Part of me felt that way, but in all seriousness, it's a good opportunity for him, and I was hoping that he landed at a spot that will kind of grow him to that position. He can play D-tackle but he probably could be special on the offensive line.''

Kahlil McKenzie certainly thinks so. He brashly predicted that he's going to eventually help the Chiefs ''whoop up'' on the Raiders, along with everybody else in the NFL.

''My dad's happy for me. The rest of the family, they're happy as well,'' he said. ''It's just going to make for a lot more family rivalries. We're a competitive family at nature. We compete at everything we do. This just adds one more ripple into that.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Vikings to turn off lights at night for neighbors

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings are turning off the lights at the team's new practice facility south of Minneapolis after neighbors complained about the glow.

The Eagan building's north side is nearly 100 feet (30.5 meters) high and lights up with the team's Norseman logo and the words ''Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center - Home of the Minnesota Vikings.''

The NFL team will turn off the lights on the north side of the building between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., said Jeff Anderson, team spokesman. The shut-off time will be moved to about midnight when the team hosts night events such as high school games.

The team is ''listening to the community,'' Anderson said.

The other three sides of the facility will remain lit every night, he said.

The Vikings moved into the 277,000-square-foot complex in March. The area includes an indoor practice facility, the team's headquarters and an outdoor stadium.

Mendota Heights residents complained about the lights last month.

City officials found the building complied with city code when it received an initial complaint about the lights in February, said Tom Garrison, Eagan spokesman.

''Brightness levels are the same as other wall signage in Eagan,'' Garrison said.

The new solution was an ''internal team decision,'' said Lester Bagley, the Vikings' executive vice president of public affairs.

''We'd like to be collaborative and compromise,'' Bagley said.

Resident Nancy Commerford said the decision will help make her street feel less like a circus.

''If I wake up in the middle of the night now I won't see the lights,'' Commerford said. ''Having them compromise like this makes my day.''

The team expects the change to occur this weekend.

Read more

AP source: Raiders agree to deal with LB Derrick Johnson

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders have agreed to a one-year deal with veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson to bolster the middle of their defense.

A person familiar with the move said the two sides agreed to a contract Friday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the signing had not been announced. NFL Network first reported the deal.

The 35-year-old Johnson spent his first 13 NFL seasons with the rival Kansas City Chiefs and will likely fill the role at middle linebacker that NaVorro Bowman played the second half of last season.

Johnson has been one of the better linebackers in the league during his career but was allowed to leave Kansas City earlier this offseason as the team tried to get younger.

Johnson is a four-time Pro Bowler and the career tackles leader for the Chiefs.

He appeared in 182 games with 169 starts since being drafted in the first round in 2005. He piled up 1,262 tackles to easily shatter the franchise record, had 27+ sacks and picked off 14 passes, returning four of them for touchdowns.

He had a career-best 179 tackles in 2011, when he was voted the Chiefs' team MVP.

Johnson piled up his impressive stats despite missing part of two seasons with ruptured Achilles tendons. He returned from the first one as good as ever, earning his most recent Pro Bowl trip in 2015, but the second seemed to finally take a step out of his legs this past season.

He had 48 tackles in 15 games last season but slowly lost playing time to younger teammates in the middle of the Kansas City defense.

The Raiders need an anchor in the middle of their defense. Bowman fared well in that role after being signed last October following his release by San Francisco. There was interest in bringing him back for a second season but the two sides couldn't agree on a price.

Oakland didn't address that need at linebacker in the draft until the sixth round last week with the pick of Washington linebacker Azeem Victor.

The Raiders also waived linebacker Cory James with a failed physical designation and cut defensive lineman Armonty Bryant with a non-football illness.

---

More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Confident Darnold hits Jets practice field for first time

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Todd Bowles chuckled for a moment and then just couldn't resist the urge to break from his normally low-key, stoic public persona.

The New York Jets coach had just been asked what his initial impressions were of first-round pick Sam Darnold at rookie minicamp Friday - and Bowles went wild. Well, sort of.

''He was great! I want him to play right now!'' a smiling Bowles shouted while slamming his hand on the lectern for emphasis .

It was stunning. And made a room filled with wide-eyed reporters laugh.

Bowles has never been one to make bold declarations, especially after just one practice. So the coach jokingly mocked the question - while providing a video and sound clip like he never has before.

Then again, Bowles and the Jets are hoping Darnold someday develops into the type of quarterback the likes of which this franchise has rarely, if ever, seen.

''He was good,'' Bowles said, still smiling. ''Obviously, we threw the ball around a little bit and he's going to be getting better.''

Darnold was the No. 3 overall pick in the draft last week , surprisingly ''dropping'' into the Jets' lap after being rumored as a potential top overall selection for several months. Instead, Cleveland went with Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and the Giants took Penn State running back Saquon Barkley at No. 2.

That meant the team that has been craving a franchise quarterback since the glory days of Joe Namath had its guy: the 20-year-old Darnold, a could-be savior from USC who could soon be shouldering the pressure of leading the Jets out of a seven-year playoff drought.

The kid who oozes California cool knows all about it.

''Yeah, I embrace it, but I understand every single day that it's a process,'' Darnold said before his first practice of rookie camp. ''You've got to come in here and earn respect. I'm not going to come in here and demand it.''

Darnold is fresh-faced, has a terrific head of reddish-blond hair, and should make for a target of companies looking for celebrity endorsers or magazines searching for a cover-boy athlete. Make no mistake, though, he's got an unrelenting competitive streak and lives and breathes football.

Just moments after meeting with an overflow crowd of media armed with cameras and lots of questions, Darnold was back at his makeshift stall in the middle of the Jets' locker room, studying his playbook.

''Just coming in here and understanding the position that I'm in - I'm a rookie,'' Darnold said. ''I understand that. But at the same time, I understand that I'm a quarterback and that I've got to be a leader on the field and off it, as well.''

Darnold will have a chance to win the starting job this summer. His main competition, of course, will be Josh McCown, the soon-to-be 39-year-old veteran who was the starter for most of last season.

The Jets also have Teddy Bridgewater, still working his way back from a serious knee injury nearly two years ago, and Christian Hackenberg, a second-rounder in 2016 who has yet to see the field in a regular-season game.

''We're giving him every chance,'' Bowles said of Darnold. ''He's going to learn it as he goes. He might get the (first-team) reps as he goes, but we'll make that determination through preseason and see where we are at the end of it. But we're not holding him back.

''We're not rushing him, at the same time, but we're not holding him back at all.''

Darnold was given a small chunk of the playbook to run through during rookie camp, with the team keeping things relatively simple to start.

There were some ups - a few beautifully placed long throws - and some downs - two botched snaps and an interception on a tipped pass - while getting in his first on-field practice since late December.

''It's a combination of being nervous,'' Darnold said, ''but at the same time, I think it's more relief than anything just because I haven't been with a team, I haven't been inside the pocket for a long time.''

While Bowles' response to what he saw from Darnold was intentionally over the top, there's no doubt many Jets fans hope the rookie is under center in Week 1 - and for years to come.

Until then, though, Darnold is going about his business the only way he knows how.

''Consistency, I think is the biggest thing,'' Darnold said. ''I'm just going to come in here and be consistent every single day. Do what I need to do: lift, eat right, get with coach (Jeremy) Bates, get with Josh and Teddy, learn everything that is installed that day. Just go about it, it's a daily process that I go through. If I treat every single day like it's the most important day, I think that's really where my success comes from.''

NOTES: The Jets waived RB Akeem Judd. ... The team announced it signed RB Trenton Cannon, a sixth-round draft pick out of Virginia State. ... New York signed six undrafted free agents: Oklahoma FB Dimitri Flowers, Auburn OL Austin Golson, Jacksonville State CB Reggie Hall, Columbia DL Lord Hyeamang, University of British Columbia G Dakoda Shepley, and Texas Tech DL Mychealon Thomas.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Mayfield confident QB competition won't divide Browns

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Baker Mayfield intends to conquer, not divide.

Although drafted by the win-starved Cleveland Browns with the No. 1 overall pick to be their quarterback of the future, Mayfield said Friday he plans to be a leader from the outset even if he doesn't start as a rookie.

Tyrod Taylor is the team's presumptive opening-week starter against Pittsburgh, and while Mayfield intends to compete for the job in training camp, he won't allow personal ambition to get in the way of team goals.

He won't step on any toes.

''It's not about individuals,'' Mayfield said as the Browns opened their three-day rookie minicamp. ''They brought him and I in because we're both team-oriented guys. He's the starter, and all I can do is help us out. So it's not going to be something that separates the locker room. We're not going to be fighting over who's the man in the locker room.

''I'm a team-oriented guy and I just want to win.''

Mayfield's leadership and drive were part of the self-assured Oklahoma quarterback's appeal to the Browns, who believe - in time - he can turn around a team that has gone 1-31 the past two seasons.

The plan for now is for Taylor to start and Mayfield to learn while watching a quarterback who led the Buffalo Bills to their first playoff appearance in 18 years last season. The Browns traded for Taylor in March before they reached a consensus on taking Mayfield, who won a Heisman Trophy last season while losing some fans for objectionable on-field antics.

But Mayfield's a pro now, he claims more mature from his mistakes, and he's got a clean slate and a new set of priorities. At the top of his list: earning the trust of his teammates.

To do that, Mayfield intends to be himself, which means he'll go at it full throttle.

''I've got to continue my strengths, and leadership is one of them,'' he said. ''So when you talk about that, it's earning the respect of the veterans in the locker room. The guys who have been doing it for a while, I have to earn their respect. You can't talk about it and earn their respect. You have to go to work. You have to put the time in. You've got to learn the playbook, and then when you get your opportunity, you've got to show that you're there for a reason.''

Mayfield said he met Taylor when the QB stopped in while he was in quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese's office. Mayfield has been impressed with Taylor's commitment and openness.

''Everything I've heard, even when I went on my visit at the Bills, they said the same things about him, he's just an unbelievable guy,'' Mayfield said. ''You see that and then you see him up here, how often he's actually here, it's very transparent who he is.''

Mayfield knows he has a lot to learn. He's been digging into Cleveland's playbook, so the X's and O's make sense when he's on the practice field. He intends to be physically and mentally fit by the time training camp opens in July.

In the meantime, he's learning about Cleveland while Cleveland learns about him.

On Thursday night, Mayfield and the team's other rookies had dinner with some Browns alumni, including Hall of Famer Jim Brown, quarterback Bernie Kosar and others. They were told about what it's like to play for a fan base longing to see the Browns win again.

''The one thing I keep hearing about is the loyalty of the fans,'' Mayfield said. ''I think about how they deserve a team that's winning, a team they can rally behind and that's what they'll do no matter what. This franchise is built on winning, they've been winning in the past and some of those guys set the tone. So right now we're trying to get back to that.''

NOTES: The Browns said their trade on Wednesday with Kansas City, swapping tight end Randall Telfer for Chiefs defensive end Dadi Nicolas, has been voided. The team did not provide any further details. Cleveland waived Telfer, a 2015 sixth-round draft pick.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Dolphins claim QB Bryce Petty after his release by Jets

MIAMI (AP) The Miami Dolphins have claimed quarterback Bryce Petty a day after he was waived by the New York Jets.

With Miami's move Friday, Petty joins veterans Brock Osweiler and David Fales in the competition for the backup job behind Ryan Tannehill.

Petty spent three seasons with New York after being selected in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. He played in 10 games for the Jets, throwing for 1,353 yards and four touchdowns with 10 interceptions, and went 1-6 as a starter.

Tannehill has suffered two major left knee injuries in the past 18 months and missed all of last season, but he is expected to be ready for offseason drills.

The Dolphins didn't take a quarterback in the draft. The Jets selected USC quarterback Sam Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Vikings sign 2nd-round draft pick OT Brian O'Neill

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings have signed offensive tackle Brian O'Neill, their second-round draft pick out of Pittsburgh.

The four-year deal was done Friday, before Vikings rookie minicamp began. They have three of their eight draft picks left unsigned: first-round cornerback Mike Hughes, fourth-round defensive end Jalyn Holmes, and fifth-round tight end Tyler Conklin.

O'Neill was the 62nd overall selection, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound converted tight end. He played in all 38 games over the last three seasons for the Panthers, forgoing his final year of eligibility to enter the draft. The Vikings lauded his athleticism but stressed the need for him to add strength. O'Neill is likely headed for a backup role this season behind starting tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Seahawks release Cliff Avril; injury cost him most of 2017

SEATTLE (AP) Defensive end Cliff Avril was released by the Seattle Seahawks on Friday with a failed physical designation due to a neck injury that cost him most of the 2017 season.

Avril's release was expected and could mean the end of a 10-year career during which he was a standout player for the Seahawks and the Detroit Lions.

Avril was injured in Week 4 last season while trying to chase down Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The back of Brissett's foot caught Avril in the chin as he lunged to make the tackle. Avril was seen shaking his arms and flexing his hands after the impact.

While the play looked innocuous, Avril's head snapped back violently and he suffered a neck injury. Avril never revealed the specific diagnosis for his injury but coach Pete Carroll repeatedly called it a serious situation. Avril had neck surgery following the season.

''Thank you 12s for making the last 5 years in Seattle so amazing!'' Avril wrote in a post on Instagram . ''Your cheers on Sundays are unmatched, and you guys are by far the best fans in the NFL! Most importantly, I appreciate and value the lifelong friendships I've made. You all have supported my family, my foundation (the Cliff Avril Family Foundation), and I throughout my entire tenure, and I could not have asked for more! THANK YOU to the entire Seahawk organization as well as my teammates. You all made me a Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl Champ! I am forever grateful.''

Avril arrived in Seattle before the 2013 season and instantly helped transform the Seahawks defense into one of the best in recent memory. He was part of a rotation at first but became a full-time starter in 2014. His best season came in 2016 when Avril had a career-high 11 + sacks and was voted to the Pro Bowl for the only time in his career.

Avril spent five seasons in Detroit before coming to Seattle. He was a third-round pick out of Purdue and suffered through a 0-16 season in his rookie year with the Lions. He became a standout in Detroit but experienced his greatest team success in Seattle, helping the team win the Super Bowl in his first season with the Seahawks. He made a return trip to the championship game with the team the following year.

Releasing Avril will save Seattle about $6 million against the salary cap. But the Seahawks will also be faced with replacing another productive standout from a defense that had already seen the departure of Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman earlier this offseason.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Seahawks' Cliff Avril released; injury cost him most of 2017

SEATTLE (AP) Defensive end Cliff Avril has been released by the Seattle Seahawks with a failed physical designation due to a neck injury that cost him most of the 2017 season.

Avril's release Friday was expected and could mean the end of a 10-year career during which he was a standout player for the Seahawks and the Detroit Lions.

Avril was injured in Week 4 against Indianapolis while trying to chase down quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The back of Brissett's foot caught Avril in the chin as he lunged to make the tackle. Avril was seen shaking his arms and flexing his hands after the impact.

While the play looked innocuous, Avril's head snapped back violently. Avril never revealed the specific diagnosis for his injury, but coach Pete Carroll repeatedly called it a serious situation. Avril had neck surgery following the season.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Vikings to turn off lights at night for neighbors

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings are turning off the lights at the team's new practice facility south of Minneapolis after neighbors complained about the glow.

The Eagan building's north side is nearly 100 feet (30.5 meters) high and lights up with the team's Norseman logo and the words ''Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center - Home of the Minnesota Vikings.''

The NFL team will turn off the lights on the north side of the building between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., said Jeff Anderson, team spokesman. The shut-off time will be moved to about midnight when the team hosts night events such as high school games.

The team is ''listening to the community,'' Anderson said.

The other three sides of the facility will remain lit every night, he said.

The Vikings moved into the 277,000-square-foot complex in March. The area includes an indoor practice facility, the team's headquarters and an outdoor stadium.

Mendota Heights residents complained about the lights last month.

City officials found the building complied with city code when it received an initial complaint about the lights in February, said Tom Garrison, Eagan spokesman.

''Brightness levels are the same as other wall signage in Eagan,'' Garrison said.

The new solution was an ''internal team decision,'' said Lester Bagley, the Vikings' executive vice president of public affairs.

''We'd like to be collaborative and compromise,'' Bagley said.

Resident Nancy Commerford said the decision will help make her street feel less like a circus.

''If I wake up in the middle of the night now I won't see the lights,'' Commerford said. ''Having them compromise like this makes my day.''

The team expects the change to occur this weekend.

Read more

Column: Time's up for cheerleaders/dancers at NFL, NBA games

ATLANTA (AP) This is not a rant against cheerleading.

That's a legitimate sport, played by elite athletes - men and women - who are worthy of admiration for their daring and skill.

There might even come a day when cheerleaders are competing for gold, silver and bronze at the Olympics.

None of which has anything to do with what happens on the sidelines of an NFL or NBA game.

Those are scantily clad performers are often leered at by fans - or, as we're learning, perhaps even worse.

The (hash)MeToo era is the perfect time to retire these objectified, chauvinistic relics (and, while we're at it, ditto for the barely clothed women who climb into the ring to tell us what round it is at boxing and MMA events).

''There is a misconception that cheerleading is just sideline dancing. This could not be further from the truth,'' said Savannah Parrot, an 11th-grade cheerleader at Niwot High School in Colorado. ''Cheerleaders are athletes. We compete in local, state, national and international competition and are evaluated on the difficult of our routines including advanced tumbling passes and intricate stunt sequences.

''If the NFL and NBA wanted to have cheerleaders,'' she went on to say, wise beyond her years, ''I have no doubt that qualified athletes would be honored to represent our sport.''

That's not what the NFL and NBA want, of course.

They're looking for attractive dancers showing lots of skin, apparently in the belief that sex is one of the best ways to keep fans entertained beyond the product on the field or court.

And, according to a report by The New York Times , cheerleaders from Washington's NFL team were forced to play an even seedier role behind the scenes.

During a 2013 trip to Costa Rica, they allege their passports were collected, they were asked to go topless for a calendar photo shoot that included male spectators, and they served as escorts for sponsors at a nightclub. The cheerleaders quoted in the report spoke on condition of anonymity because they signed confidentiality agreements.

The team said it's concerned by the allegations and conducting an investigation, but we all know where this is going. Already, team president Bruce Allen said many current and former cheerleaders are contradicting allegations in the report.

At least the NBA had the good sense to break from any pretense that these are cheerleaders, adorning their groups with names such as the Knicks City Dancers and Memphis Grizz Girls. These are dance groups, pure and simple, often performing sex-tinged routines that are a focal point of the between-game entertainment.

In the NFL, the dancers play a less-prominent role (the stadiums, after all, are much larger) but they're still passed off as cheerleaders, for no apparent reason. They are certainly not there to lead cheers. Their main purpose seems to be wiggling around as provocatively as possible for the men in the crowd, all while ignoring how many women are now in the stands.

This not-so-proud tradition that can largely be traced to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders becoming cultural icons in the 1970s, though it's worth noting that venerable franchises such as the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers don't have cheerleading squads.

It doesn't seem to have hurt their popularity or success on the field.

''It is way past time for the NFL and NBA to get rid of cheerleaders,'' said Jeffrey McCall, a professor of media studies at DePauw University in Indiana. ''Other pro sports such as hockey and baseball seem to manage without thinly clad women as part of the game-day experience.''

These faux cheerleaders look increasingly archaic when so many women are stepping forward to say enough's enough.

''Given today's concerns about sexual harassment and domestic violence, the NFL and NBA clearly have tin ears in this matter,'' McCall said. ''Cheerleaders at pro games don't really cheer and inspire fans or players anyway. They are simply ornaments.''

That should be offensive to all of us, but especially those who are actual cheerleaders.

Tens of thousands of athletes participate in this rapidly growing sport at competitions around the United States, which prompted Disney to build a new 8,000-seat arena at its Wide World of Sports complex in Florida for those type of events.

In 2016, the International Olympic Committee even recognized cheerleading as a provisional sport , the first step toward possibly claiming a spot at the Summer Games.

Of course, cheerleading also serves as a complement to sports such as football and basketball.

That's just fine, too.

''It is called cheerleading because their role is to lead the crowd in cheering for the team,'' said Shauna MacDonald, assistant director of the Gender & Women Studies Program at Villanova University. ''This, I think, can still be a positive and interesting purpose. Cheering is part of the ritual of sport, especially in North America, and having people to pep up the crowd and lead the cheers is a good thing.

''We know that this doesn't require cheerleading to look exactly as it does, because bands and pep squads also serve in these roles. In order for the culture of cheerleading to change, however, there would have to be some sweeping cultural shifts.''

There's no sign of it happening in the NFL or NBA.

Time's up for cheerleaders or dancers of whatever you want to call them.

---

Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

Read more

Panthers assistant coach Fuller resigns after investigation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Panthers have announced that defensive backs coach Curtis Fuller resigned following an investigation into complaints of inappropriate conduct.

Panthers spokesman Steve Drummond released a statement Friday that said ''after approaching Coach Fuller with the findings of an investigation into complaints of inappropriate conduct, we accepted his resignation.''

The 39-year-old Fuller joined the Panthers in 2013 as a coaching assistant after playing in the NFL.

He took over the secondary before the 2017 season.

The team has not yet named a replacement.

The move comes with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson still under investigation by the NFL for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Bills hire Morgan to take over as player personnel director

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills have hired Dan Morgan to take over as their player personnel director.

Morgan joins the Bills after spending the previous seven seasons working his way up the Seattle Seahawks' scouting ranks. He most recently served as Seattle's pro personnel director in overseeing the team's pro and advance scouting duties.

He replaces Brian Gaine, who left the Bills after just one season to return to Houston in January and become Texans general manager.

Morgan is a former NFL linebacker, who spent his entire seven-year NFL career playing for the Carolina Panthers from 2001-07. That makes him familiar with Bills general manager Brandon Beane, who spent 19 years with the Panthers before being hired by Buffalo a year ago.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Vikings bow to neighbors, to turn off lights at night

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings are turning off the lights at the team's new practice facility in Eagan after neighbors complained about the glow.

Spokesman Jeff Anderson says the NFL team will turn off the lights between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The shut-off time will be moved to about midnight when the team hosts night events such as high school games.

The team moved into the new building in March. The building's north side is nearly 100 feet high and is lit up with the team's Norseman logo and the words ''Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center - Home of the Minnesota Vikings.''

Mendota Heights residents complained about the lights last month. Anderson says the team is ''listening to the community.''

The team expects the change to occur this weekend.

----

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

4 charged in slaying linked to killing of ex-Packers player

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Four men are charged with murder and kidnapping in a slaying that police in Alabama say is linked to the killing of a former Green Bay Packers player.

Former Packers defensive lineman Carlos Gray was shot to death Monday in a killing sheriff's officials believe was linked to the drug trade. They say 21-year-old Darryl Thomas was found dead of bullet wounds the next day.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department says friends of the 25-year-old Gray believe Thomas killed him, and Thomas was killed in retaliation.

Capital murder charges were filed in Thomas' death Thursday against 27-year-old Aeriol Lasean Barbee of Hoover; 24-year-old Cortez Clark-Johnson of Center Point; 22-year-old Myzel Contest Arbuckle of Birmingham; and 21-year-old Jalen McIntyre of Pinson.

Records aren't available to show whether the men have lawyers.

Read more

Ivy Leaguers measure up for NFL personnel folks

NEW YORK (AP) They're not comparable to Power Five players, or even guys from the MAC, AAC or Mountain West. At least not on the football field.

In the classroom? That's no contest.

Work in such subjects as nuclear physics, applied and computational mathematics, or geological engineering help Ivy Leaguers stand out in the real world. For NFL personnel people, such a resume is impressive - yet means a lot less than how fast a player ran the 40, how many squats he can do, or his injury history.

That doesn't mean the eight Ivy League schools who play in FCS - and don't go to bowl games - get ignored by the pros. Indeed, there were 16 Ivies in the NFL last season, six starters. Two more were selected last weekend: Penn receiver Justin Watson in the fifth round by the Buccaneers, and Yale safety/linebacker Foye Oluokun in the sixth by the Falcons. A few others have been signed as undrafted free agents.

Among the dozen 2017 pros were Tampa Bay tight end Cameron Brate of Harvard and New England fullback James Develin of Brown. Brate had 48 receptions for a 12.3-yard average and six touchdowns as one of Jameis Winston's favorite targets with the Bucs. Develin merely has won two Super Bowls and made the Pro Bowl last season, as did 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk , who attended Harvard.

''It takes an incredibly driven and dedicated individual to excel at the highest levels of academia and athletic competition,'' says Robin Harris, executive director of the Ivy League. ''The Ivy League's unique approach allows our student-athletes to focus on reaching their fullest potential in both realms and prepares them for lifelong success, whether in their field of study or professional athletic opportunities.''

Oluokun hopes to seize his opportunity as a linebacker in Atlanta, though he's versatile enough to handle safety duties. At 6-1, 234, he's got the size, and can handle pass coverage.

Then again, when you can juggle a course load filled with the likes of macroeconomics, econometrics and European economic history, you probably can breeze through a playbook.

''I believe 100 percent it prepares you,'' Oluokun says of the schoolwork at Yale and the challenges of making the NFL. ''You have got to put in that work and there are really no shortcuts here, and if you get behind you need to catch up, and that's not easy. So if you make that mistake, you learn from it.

''At first thought I thought it might be stressful,'' he adds of being a student-athlete in the Ivy League, ''but it really is manageable if you approach it the right way. You have teachers who will help you out and you have tutors if you need them, or other students are kind of helping you out because they are in the same situation.''

Except that the great majority of football players from Yale, Penn, Columbia, Harvard, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth and Cornell are not heading to the NFL. Still, the true standouts get drafted, going back to 1949, when Penn's two-way lineman Chuck Bednarik went first overall to Philadelphia. All Bednarik eventually did was make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Ivies in the league last season were Brate; Develin; Juszczyk; Giants tight end Ryan O'Malley (Penn); Colts center Anthony Fabiano (Harvard); Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie (Brown); Browns center J.C. Tretter (Cornell); Seahawks long snapper Tyler Ott (Harvard); Browns tight end Seth DeValve (Princeton); Colts defensive tackle Caraun Reid (Princeton); Panthers center Greg Van Roten (Penn); Jets linebacker Josh Martin (Columbia); Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Harvard); Bills center Adam Redmond (Harvard); Bears tight end Ben Braunecker (Harvard); and Vikings guard Nick Easton (Harvard).

Two current head coaches, Dallas' Jason Garrett (Princeton) and Houston's Bill O'Brien (Brown) also are Ivy guys.

''The NFL is incredibly challenging for all players, especially rookies that have to make a big adjustment playing against professionals,'' says Princeton coach Bob Surace. ''I have been impressed by the talent level of the athletes in the Ivy League. More high school football players have turned down Power Five schools recently as they realize they can reach their athletic dreams and long-term career goals better in the Ivy League than any other conference.

''As important, we are having more players make NFL teams better because our players love to compete, they have outstanding work habits and a burning desire to achieve at the highest level in everything they do.''

Including, given the chance, in the NFL.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Vikings sign 4 draft picks: Carlson, Gossett, Aruna, Downs

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings have signed half of their draft class, securing rookie contracts with kicker Daniel Carlson, guard Colby Gossett, defensive end Ade Aruna and linebacker Devante Downs.

The four deals were signed on Thursday, the day before the team's rookie minicamp. Carlson was a fifth-round pick from Auburn. Gossett and Aruna were sixth-round selections from Appalachian State and Tulane, respectively. Downs was a seventh-round choice from California.

The four picks yet to sign contracts are first-round cornerback Mike Hughes (Central Florida), second-round offensive tackle Brian O'Neill (Pittsburgh), fourth-round defensive end Jalyn Holmes (Ohio State) and fifth-round tight end Tyler Conklin (Central Michigan).

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.pro32.ap.org

Read more

Jets waive quarterback Bryce Petty after 3 seasons

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets have waived quarterback Bryce Petty, parting ways with their 2015 fourth-round draft pick after three seasons.

The move Thursday comes a week after the Jets drafted USC quarterback Sam Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick.

New York currently has four quarterbacks on its roster, including Darnold, Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Hackenberg.

Petty played in 10 games with the Jets, including seven starts, and threw for 1,353 yards and four touchdowns with 10 interceptions. The former Baylor star started New York's final three games last season - all losses - after McCown was lost for the year with a broken left wrist.

Petty's lone win as a starter came in 2016, when he filled in for an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick at San Francisco and rallied New York from a 14-point deficit to a 23-17 overtime victory.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cowboys' Jason Witten retiring sans Super Bowl for TV job

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Jason Witten mostly held it together while announcing he was retiring after 15 years with the Dallas Cowboys to go into TV.

One wavering moment came when the tight end turned to owner Jerry Jones on a stage in front of his family, teammates and club employees in what normally serves as the dining room in the team's practice facility.

''The hardest part of this decision was knowing that I would never be able to hand you that Lombardi Trophy,'' Witten said during his 15-minute speech Thursday. ''I told you back in 2006 that I would not let you down. I hope that in your eyes, I held up my end of the bargain.''

Just days away from turning 36, Witten is leaving to be the analyst for ESPN's ''Monday Night Football'' telecast, a move the network confirmed after Witten's retirement announcement.

The decision by the franchise leader in games, catches and yards receiving is the same one friend and longtime teammate Tony Romo, the club passing leader in yards and touchdowns, made last year with CBS.

They joined the Cowboys together in 2003 - Witten a third-round pick out of Tennessee and Romo the undrafted quarterback three years from becoming the starter. They left without getting Dallas to an NFC championship game, and the Super Bowl drought for a franchise with five titles is at 23 years and counting.

''Jason has given so much to this team, to this franchise. He emptied the bucket here,'' Jones said, responding to a question about that missing Super Bowl after speeches by all three on stage: Witten, Jones and coach Jason Garrett.

''When I look at where we were with the great legacy of our fans that have had 56 years of being around some of the greatest people and names of players ever ... to me, no one has ever given more of himself and no one has ever made any bigger impact.''

The circumstances for Witten and Romo were different. The Cowboys were anticipating a 16th season, which would have been a club record, from their 11-time Pro Bowl player. Romo had lost his job to Dak Prescott while injured and was deciding last offseason whether to play elsewhere.

As recently as two weeks ago, Witten suggested he might play until he was 40 and said he ''absolutely'' was returning. He acknowledged the offer from ESPN changed things.

''In those moments, those other things didn't exist,'' said Witten, set to call the Cowboys' home game against Tennessee on Nov. 5. ''I was certain when I went through it that I wanted the blessing of Jerry and his family, an opportunity I have to stay around the game.''

Dozens lined Witten's walk from the entrance to the team's headquarters, down some stairs and a long hallway to the dining room.

His retirement ceremony, with Prescott and star running back Ezekiel Elliott watching from the same row, came not far from a huge picture of Witten's signature moment - a 2007 game when he ran nearly 30 yards and was tackled without a helmet after it was knocked off.

The Cowboys hung that picture over the entrance to their indoor practice field long before Witten pondered retirement. He spent two seasons walking under it.

''Whenever young kids come up to me and ask me, `How do you grow up and play for the Dallas Cowboys, and have that type of career?''' Witten said. ''My answer was always the same, the secret is in the dirt. I was never the most talented, never the flashiest, I relied on grit.''

Witten was also known for durability, holding club records for consecutive games (235) and starts (179). He missed one game, the fifth of his rookie season because of a broken jaw, and returned 23 days after rupturing his spleen in a preseason game to play the 2012 opener.

With 1,152 catches for 12,448 yards, Witten joins Tony Gonzalez as the only NFL tight ends with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards. His 15 seasons are tied for the most in Dallas with defensive end Ed ''Too Tall'' Jones, safety Bill Bates and late offensive lineman Mark Tuinei.

''He's one of the best and most complete tight ends ever to play this game,'' Garrett said. ''The stats and the credentials speak for themselves. They don't really begin to tell the story. Over the last 15 years, he's played virtually every play.''

Witten is third on the Cowboys' list with 68 touchdown catches. He trails Dez Bryant, released last month with 73 TDs, and Hall of Famer Bob Hayes (71).

Without Witten and Bryant, the Cowboys are missing their top two receivers from last year and essentially for the past six seasons. Among the tight ends left behind, only one has a catch in a regular-season game: Geoff Swaim with nine over three seasons.

The Cowboys are high on Blake Jarwin and hope that former Baylor basketball player Rico Gathers can develop after missing his entire second season with a concussion. Dallas drafted Stanford's Dalton Schultz in the fourth round last week.

''There's an old saying in pro football, the circus doesn't stay in town forever,'' Witten said. ''And when you're young, I think it takes on a meaning that when your opportunity comes, grab it. I've decided that the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of Dallas Cowboys.''

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Broncos decline fifth-year option on Shane Ray

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos declined to exercise outside linebacker Shane Ray's $9.23 million fifth-year option for 2019 on Thursday, a week after selecting North Carolina State pass rusher Bradley Chubb in the NFL draft.

Ray, the team's top pick in 2015, promised a big bounce-back season after the Broncos selected Chubb with the fifth overall draft pick, something he'll need if he's going to cash in as an unrestricted free agent next March.

Ray's fifth-year option would have been worth more than his four-year, $9,118,894 rookie contract he signed after the Broncos selected him with the 23rd overall pick in 2015 after his outstanding final season at Missouri in which he won SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Ray, who turns 25 in two weeks, has started just 15 games in three NFL seasons, collecting 84 tackles, 13 sacks and two fumble recoveries.

That production is similar to that of Shaq Barrett, an undrafted free agent from Colorado State who has 108 tackles, 11 sacks and seven forced fumbles over the past three seasons in Denver, where he started out as a practice squad player in 2014.

Barrett will make $2.914 million this season after the Broncos placed a second-round tender on him this offseason. By contrast, Ray's 2018 salary is $1.678 million.

Playing behind DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, Ray had a solid rookie season, one that culminated in a pair of tackles and a forced fumble in the Broncos' win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50.

In 2016, he posted eight sacks and 48 tackles and became the first player since Jacksonville's John Henderson in 2002 to collect three sacks in his first career start.

He looked primed for a breakout season last year following Ware's retirement, but he broke his left wrist in July, which required a series of surgeries and forced him to miss half the season. Unable to hit the weights, he dropped 17 pounds to 225 and essentially played with just one arm before electing for another surgery with two weeks left in the season. He finished with just one sack and 15 tackles.

Ray took to social media during the draft, promising to rebound from his injury-marred season. After a series of exchanges with his Twitter followers over the weekend, he posted, ''No more social media. I'm going dark'' with a peace sign emoji.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Read more

Saints add 4 undrafted rookies

METAIRIE, La. (AP) The New Orleans Saints have added four undrafted rookie free agents, including former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.

The roster moves have been posted on Thursday's NFL transactions list. They include the signings of 6-foot-4, 309-pound South Carolina guard Cory Helms; 6-foot Cincinnati defensive back Linden Stephens; and 6-4, 309-pound Minnesota tight end Nate Wozniak.

Barrett played in 14 games for Ohio State last season, completing 65 percent of his passes for 3,053 yards and 35 touchdowns. He also rushed for 798 yards and 12 TDs.

Stephens broke up a team-high eight passes and intercepted a pass as a Cincinnati senior last season.

Wozniak, a fifth-year Golden Gophers senior, had seven receptions for 104 yards in 2017.

Helms, a fifth-year Gamecocks senior, played guard and center last season.

The Saints have now signed six rookie free agents since Saturday evening's conclusion of this year's NFL draft.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cowboys' Jason Witten retiring sans Super Bowl for TV job

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Jason Witten mostly held it together while announcing he was retiring after 15 years with the Dallas Cowboys to go into TV.

One wavering moment came when the tight end turned to owner Jerry Jones on a stage in front of his family, teammates and club employees in what normally serves as the dining room in the team's practice facility.

''The hardest part of this decision was knowing that I would never be able to hand you that Lombardi Trophy,'' Witten said during his 15-minute speech Thursday. ''I told you back in 2006 that I would not let you down. I hope that in your eyes, I held up my end of the bargain.''

Just days away from turning 36, Witten is leaving to be the analyst for ESPN's ''Monday Night Football'' telecast, a move the network confirmed after Witten's retirement announcement.

The decision by the franchise leader in games, catches and yards receiving is the same one friend and longtime teammate Tony Romo, the club passing leader in yards and touchdowns, made last year with CBS.

They joined the Cowboys together in 2003 - Witten a third-round pick out of Tennessee and Romo the undrafted quarterback three years from becoming the starter. They left without getting Dallas to an NFC championship game; the Cowbyys won the last of their five Super Bowls in 1995.

''Jason has given so much to this team, to this franchise. He emptied the bucket here,'' Jones said, responding to a question about that missing Super Bowl after speeches by all three on stage: Witten, Jones and coach Jason Garrett.

''When I look at where we were with the great legacy of our fans that have had 56 years of being around some of the greatest people and names of players ever ... to me, no one has ever given more of himself and no one has ever made any bigger impact.''

The circumstances for Witten and Romo were different. The Cowboys were anticipating a 16th season, which would have been a club record, from their 11-time Pro Bowl player. Romo had lost his job to Dak Prescott while injured and was deciding last offseason whether to play elsewhere.

As recently as two weeks ago, Witten suggested he might play until he was 40 and said he ''absolutely'' was returning. He acknowledged the offer from ESPN changed things.

''In those moments, those other things didn't exist,'' said Witten, set to call the Cowboys' home game against Tennessee on Nov. 5. ''I was certain when I went through it that I wanted the blessing of Jerry and his family, an opportunity I have to stay around the game.''

Dozens lined Witten's walk from the entrance to the team's headquarters, down some stairs and a long hallway to the dining room.

His retirement ceremony, with Prescott and star running back Ezekiel Elliott watching from the same row, came not far from a huge picture of Witten's signature moment - a 2007 game when he ran nearly 30 yards and was tackled without a helmet after it was knocked off.

The Cowboys hung that picture over the entrance to their indoor practice field long before Witten pondered retirement. He spent two seasons walking under it.

''Whenever young kids come to me up and ask me, `How do you grow up and play for the Dallas Cowboys, and have that type of career?''' Witten said. ''My answer was always the same, the secret is in the dirt. I was never the most talented, never the flashiest, I relied on grit.''

Witten was also known for durability, holding club records for consecutive games (235) and starts (179). He missed one game, the fifth of his rookie season because of a broken jaw, and returned 23 days after rupturing his spleen in a preseason game to play the 2012 opener.

With 1,152 catches for 12,448 yards, Witten joins Tony Gonzalez as the only NFL tight ends with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards. His 15 seasons are tied for the most in Dallas with defensive end Ed ''Too Tall'' Jones, safety Bill Bates and late offensive lineman Mark Tuinei.

''He's one of the best and most complete tight ends ever to play this game,'' Garrett said. ''The stats and the credentials speak for themselves. They don't really begin to tell the story. Over the last 15 years, he's played virtually every play.''

Witten is third on the Cowboys' list with 68 touchdown catches. He trails Dez Bryant, released last month with 73 TDs, and Hall of Famer Bob Hayes (71).

Without Witten and Bryant, the Cowboys are missing their top two receivers from last year and essentially for the past six seasons. Among the tight ends left behind, only one has a catch in a regular-season game: Geoff Swaim with nine over three seasons.

The Cowboys are high on Blake Jarwin and hope that former Baylor basketball player Rico Gathers can develop after missing his entire second season with a concussion. Dallas drafted Stanford's Dalton Schultz in the fourth round last week.

''There's an old saying in pro football, the circus doesn't stay in town forever,'' Witten said. ''And when you're young, I think it takes on a meaning that when your opportunity comes, grab it. I've decided that the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of Dallas Cowboys.''

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cowboys' Jason Witten retiring sans Super Bowl for TV job

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Jason Witten mostly held it together while announcing he was retiring after 15 years with the Dallas Cowboys to go into TV.

One wavering moment came when the tight end turned to owner Jerry Jones on a stage in front of his family, teammates and club employees in what normally serves as the dining room in the team's practice facility.

''The hardest part of this decision was knowing that I would never be able to hand you that Lombardi Trophy,'' Witten said during his 15-minute speech Thursday. ''I told you back in 2006 that I would not let you down. I hope that in your eyes, I held up my end of the bargain.''

Just days away from turning 36, Witten is leaving to be the analyst for ESPN's ''Monday Night Football'' telecast, a move the network confirmed after Witten's retirement announcement.

The decision by the franchise leader in games, catches and yards receiving is the same one friend and longtime teammate Tony Romo, the club passing leader in yards and touchdowns, made last year with CBS.

They joined the Cowboys together in 2003 - Witten a third-round pick out of Tennessee and Romo the undrafted quarterback three years from becoming the starter. They left without getting Dallas to an NFC championship game.

''Jason has given so much to this team, to this franchise. He emptied the bucket here,'' Jones said, responding to a question about that missing Super Bowl after speeches by all three on stage: Witten, Jones and coach Jason Garrett.

''When I look at where we were with the great legacy of our fans that have had 56 years of being around some of the greatest people and names of players ever ... to me, no one has ever given more of himself and no one has ever made any bigger impact.''

The circumstances for Witten and Romo were different. The Cowboys were anticipating a 16th season, which would have been a club record, from their 11-time Pro Bowl player. Romo had lost his job to Dak Prescott while injured and was deciding last offseason whether to play elsewhere.

As recently as two weeks ago, Witten suggested he might play until he was 40 and said he ''absolutely'' was returning. He acknowledged the offer from ESPN changed things.

''In those moments, those other things didn't exist,'' said Witten, set to call the Cowboys' home game against Tennessee on Nov. 5. ''I was certain when I went through it that I wanted the blessing of Jerry and his family, an opportunity I have to stay around the game.''

Dozens lined Witten's walk from the entrance to the team's headquarters, down some stairs and a long hallway to the dining room.

His retirement ceremony, with Prescott and star running back Ezekiel Elliott watching from the same row, came not far from a huge picture of Witten's signature moment - a 2007 game when he ran nearly 30 yards and was tackled without a helmet after it was knocked off.

The Cowboys hung that picture over the entrance to their indoor practice field long before Witten pondered retirement. He spent two seasons walking under it.

''Whenever young kids come to me up and ask me, `How do you grow up and play for the Dallas Cowboys, and have that type of career?''' Witten said. ''My answer was always the same, the secret is in the dirt. I was never the most talented, never the flashiest, I relied on grit.''

Witten was also known for durability, holding club records for consecutive games (235) and starts (179). He missed one game, the fifth of his rookie season because of a broken jaw, and returned 23 days after rupturing his spleen in a preseason game to play the 2012 opener.

With 1,152 catches for 12,448 yards, Witten joins Tony Gonzalez as the only NFL tight ends with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards. His 15 seasons are tied for the most in Dallas with defensive end Ed ''Too Tall'' Jones, safety Bill Bates and late offensive lineman Mark Tuinei.

''He's one of the best and most complete tight ends ever to play this game,'' Garrett said. ''The stats and the credentials speak for themselves. They don't really begin to tell the story. Over the last 15 years, he's played virtually every play.''

Witten is third on the Cowboys' list with 68 touchdown catches. He trails Dez Bryant, released last month with 73 TDs, and Hall of Famer Bob Hayes (71).

Without Witten and Bryant, the Cowboys are missing their top two receivers from last year and essentially for the past six seasons. Among the tight ends left behind, only one has a catch in a regular-season game: Geoff Swaim with nine over three seasons.

The Cowboys are high on Blake Jarwin and hope that former Baylor basketball player Rico Gathers can develop after missing his entire second season with a concussion. Dallas drafted Stanford's Dalton Schultz in the fourth round last week.

''There's an old saying in pro football, the circus doesn't stay in town forever,'' Witten said. ''And when you're young, I think it takes on a meaning that when your opportunity comes, grab it. I've decided that the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of Dallas Cowboys.''

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Falcons QB Ryan agrees to 5-year, $150 million extension

ATLANTA (AP) Matt Ryan is the NFL's first $100 million man.

The Atlanta Falcons quarterback became the league's highest-paid player Thursday by agreeing to a five-year contract extension that could be worth as much as $150 million.

A person familiar with the deal, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the terms were not released, confirmed that Ryan is assured of receiving at least $100 million. That surpasses the total compensation of the $84 million, three-year guaranteed deal that quarterback Kirk Cousins received from the Minnesota Vikings.

If Ryan receives the full terms of the contract, he would receive an average of $30 million a year, also more than Cousin's $28 million yearly payout.

Cousins' stunning deal set the target for Ryan's negotiations with the Falcons, though it might be a short stay at No. 1.

The Green Bay Packers are trying to complete a new deal with their franchise quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, who will likely be looking to surpass Ryan's figure.

That's of no concern to the Falcons, who took care of their major offseason priority by locking up Ryan once his current deal expires after the 2018 season. He'll make $19.25 million in the final year of that contract.

''This extension was our primary focus this offseason,'' general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement. ''Matt has been a pillar of stability for this franchise for a decade, and it is a great feeling knowing that he will remain at our helm for five more years.''

Ryan was the third overall draft pick in 2008 and has been the Falcons' starting quarterback ever since. He has only missed two starts over the first decade of his career, passing for 41,796 yards with 260 touchdowns while begin voted to the Pro Bowl four times.

No quarterback has passed for more yards in the first 10 seasons of his career.

''It's hard to believe it's been 10 years already,'' said Ryan, who will turn 33 in a couple of weeks. ''While we have accomplished a lot, our goal remains what it was the day I got drafted, and that's to bring a championship to our city and fans.''

Ryan was the league MVP in 2016, guiding Atlanta to only the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. But the Falcons infamously squandered a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter, losing to the New England Patriots 34-28 in overtime.

This past season, the Falcons earned a wild-card berth and pulled off a first-round upset of the Rams in Los Angeles before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round.

The offense struggled at times under first-year coordinator Steve Sarkisian, though Ryan still managed to surpass 4,000 yards passing for the seventh year in a row. His touchdowns slipped significantly, however, going from a career-best 38 during his MVP season to just 20 - the lowest total since he was a rookie.

With the contract talks out of the way, Ryan looks forward to spending the rest of his career with the Falcons. He will be 38 at the end of the contract.

''We know there is a lot of work to do, but being able to ensure I can end my career where I started it, is something that I am very fortunate to be able to do,'' he said.

With Ryan entered the league, the Falcons were coming off a 4-12 season and had lost star quarterback Michael Vick, who was sentenced to federal prison for running a dogfighting operation and never played another game for Atlanta.

Ryan restored stability to the franchise, starting from his very first game and leading the Falcons to the first of five straight winning seasons. Until that streak, they had never finished above .500 in back-to-back years.

The Falcons have a 95-63 record with Ryan as their starting QB, winning NFC South titles in 2010, 2012 and 2016. They have made six playoff appearances, reaching the NFC championship game during the 2012 season.

''Matt has proven to be a leader for this franchise on and off the field, and we are fortunate to have him as our quarterback,'' Dimitroff said. ''Matt has guided us to a decade of success that is unmatched in franchise history, but we all know there is more to be accomplished, and we are confident we can get that done with Matt.''

It's been a big year for Ryan, both personally and professionally.

His wife, Sarah, delivered twin boys shortly after the season ended.

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Dolphins acquire DT Akeem Spence from Lions for draft pick

MIAMI (AP) Defensive tackle Akeem Spence has been acquired by the Miami Dolphins from the Detroit Lions for a late-round draft pick in 2019.

The Dolphins swung the deal announced Thursday to plug a hole created when they released five-time Pro Bowl tackle Ndamukong Suh for salary cap reasons. Spence will join a rotation at tackle that also includes Jordan Phillips, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor.

Spence has 41 starts in a five-year NFL career. He was with Tampa Bay in 2013-16, and started 11 games for the Lions last year. His career totals include 8+ sacks, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.

Spence was a fourth-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2013. He grew up in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

---

More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Redskins say they're concerned about cheerleader allegations

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) The Washington Redskins say they're concerned by allegations made by cheerleaders in a New York Times article about a trip to Costa Rica for a photo shoot in 2013.

Team president Bruce Allen said in a statement Thursday the organization is immediately looking into the situation. Allen says if the investigation shows any employees acted inappropriately, ''those employees will face significant repercussions.''

The New York Times reported the cheerleaders had their passports collected, were forced to be topless for a calendar photo shoot that included male spectators and were asked to be escorts for sponsors at a nightclub. The story, published Wednesday, quoted cheerleaders on condition of anonymity because they signed confidentiality agreements.

Allen says team officials have had dialogue with a number of current and former cheerleaders and have ''heard very different firsthand accounts that directly contradict many of the details'' of the article. Allen says the Redskins ''will continue to take all necessary measures to create a safe and respectful work environment for their cheerleaders.''

---

More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Falcons QB Ryan agrees to 5-year, $150 million extension

ATLANTA (AP) Quarterback Matt Ryan has become the NFL's highest-paid player, agreeing to a five-year contract extension worth a guaranteed $100 million with the Atlanta Falcons.

The team announced the deal Thursday.

A person familiar with the deal, which begins in 2019, says it is worth a maximum of $150 million - an average of $30 million a year. Of that, the person says Ryan is assured of collecting at least $100 million, surpassing the $84 million, three-year guaranteed contract that Kirk Cousins received from the Minnesota Vikings. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because financial terms of the deal were not released.

Ryan was the third overall draft pick in 2008 and has been the Falcons' starting quarterback ever since. He has only missed two starts over the first decade of his career, passing for nearly 42,000 yards with 260 touchdowns. He was the league MVP in 2016, guiding Atlanta to only the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

Ryan will turn 33 on May 17.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

QB Ryan agrees to 5-year contract extension with Falcons

ATLANTA (AP) Quarterback Matt Ryan has agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Atlanta Falcons.

The team announced the deal Thursday without revealing financial terms.

Ryan was the third overall draft pick in 2008 and has been the Falcons' starting quarterback ever since. He has only missed two starts over the first decade of his career, passing for nearly 42,000 yards with 260 touchdowns. He was the league MVP in 2016, guiding Atlanta to only the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

Ryan will turn 33 on May 17.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Redskins say they're concerned about cheerleader allegations

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) The Washington Redskins say they're concerned by allegations made by cheerleaders in a New York Times article about a trip to Costa Rica for a photo shoot in 2013.

Team president Bruce Allen said in a statement Thursday the organization is immediately looking into the situation. Allen says if the investigation shows any employees acted inappropriately, ''those employees will face significant repercussions.''

The New York Times reported the cheerleaders had their passports collected, were forced to be topless for a calendar photo shoot that included male spectators and were asked to be escorts for sponsors at a nightclub. The story, published Wednesday, quoted cheerleaders on condition of anonymity because they signed confidentiality agreements.

Allen says team officials have had dialogue with a number of current and former cheerleaders and have ''heard very different firsthand accounts that directly contradict many of the details'' of the article. Allen says the Redskins ''will continue to take all necessary measures to create a safe and respectful work environment for their cheerleaders.''

---

More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Dolphins acquire DT Akeem Spence from Lions for draft pick

MIAMI (AP) Defensive tackle Akeem Spence has been acquired by the Miami Dolphins from the Detroit Lions for an undisclosed 2019 draft pick.

The Dolphins swung the deal announced Thursday to plug a hole created when they released five-time Pro Bowl tackle Ndamukong Suh for salary cap reasons. Spence will join a rotation at tackle that also includes Jordan Phillips, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor.

Spence has 41 starts in a five-year NFL career. He was with Tampa Bay in 2013-16, and started 11 games for the Lions last year. His career totals include 8+ sacks, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.

Spence was a fourth-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2013. He grew up in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

---

More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine.

Read more

Cowboys' Jason Witten retiring, heading to ESPN

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Jason Witten is retiring after 15 years with the Dallas Cowboys, choosing the TV booth just as friend and longtime teammate Tony Romo did a year ago.

Witten says the ''time has come to pass the torch.''

Just days from turning 36, Witten walks away as the leader in games, catches and yards receiving for a franchise with five Super Bowl wins, but none since the 1995 season. He and Tony Gonzalez are the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards.

Witten is tied with Ed ''Too Tall'' Jones, Bill Bates and the late Mark Tuinei for most seasons by a Dallas player. He's the only one of those four without a Super Bowl.

Witten was flanked by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett as he announced the decision.

The Cowboys were anticipating a 16th season from Witten - and 15th straight as their starter. Last year, Romo had lost his job to Dak Prescott while injured and was deciding whether to continue his career with another team.

The Cowboys released Romo, the franchise passing leader, the same day of his CBS announcement in April 2017. After joining Dallas together in 2003, the pair never made it to the Super Bowl or an NFC championship game.

''There's not always a fairy-tale end,'' Witten said near the end of last season. ''I realize that.''

Just days from turning 36, Witten walks away as the leader in games, catches and yards receiving for a franchise with five Super Bowl wins, but none since the 1995 season.

Gonzalez is eligible for Pro Football Hall of Fame induction for the first time next year, which should be a good barometer for Witten's chances.

The decision by Witten, a third-round pick out of Tennessee, means the lead analyst job at three networks covering the NFL will be held by former players who spent their entire careers with the Cowboys. The other is Fox's Troy Aikman, who won three Super Bowls as quarterback in the 1990s.

The only Monday night game for the Cowboys is Nov. 5 at home against the Tennessee Titans.

While fighting back tears at times after the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention for yet another disappointing finish last season, Witten seemed intent on playing a 16th season.

Asked more recently about a report he had auditioned with ESPN, Witten went so far as to say he might play until he was 40 and declaring ''absolutely'' that he planned to return.

Less than two weeks later, he disappeared to ponder his future and let Jones address the ESPN report during a news conference that was supposed to be the introduction of first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch. The owner said the Cowboys were waiting for Witten to decide his future.

''I've lived a dream here the last 15 years with this organization, great ownership, great coaches and great opportunity,'' Witten said during one of his emotional moments after a Week 16 loss to Seattle last December that eliminated the Cowboys. ''Disappointed we couldn't get it done this year.''

While Witten is the only Dallas player with 1,000 catches (1,152), his career was defined more by durability and toughness than flashy stats. The 11-time Pro Bowler holds the Dallas record for consecutive games played and starts. His iconic moment came in 2007 when he ran nearly 30 yards and was tackled without a helmet after it was knocked off in a collision with two defenders. Witten only missed one game, the fifth of his career in 2003 because of a broken jaw.

When the team opened its new practice facility in 2016, a huge picture of Witten from that play hung over the players' entrance to the indoor practice field. It was the sort of gesture usually reserved for retired players. Witten spent two seasons walking under it.

In addition to 12,448 yards receiving, Witten is third on the Cowboys' all-time list with 68 touchdown catches. He trails Dez Bryant, who was released last month with 73 TDs, and Hall of Famer Bob Hayes (71).

Without Witten and Bryant, the Cowboys are missing their top two receivers from last year and essentially for the past six seasons.

Among the tight ends left behind, only one has a catch in a regular-season game: Geoff Swaim with nine over three seasons.

The Cowboys are high on Blake Jarwin and hope that former Baylor basketball player Rico Gathers can develop after missing his entire second season with a concussion. Dallas drafted Stanford's Dalton Schultz in the fourth round last week.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Cowboys' Jason Witten retiring, heading to ESPN

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Jason Witten is retiring after 15 years with the Dallas Cowboys, choosing the TV booth just as friend and longtime teammate Tony Romo did a year ago.

Witten says the ''time has come to pass the torch.''

Just days from turning 36, Witten walks away as the leader in games, catches and yards receiving for a franchise with five Super Bowl wins, but none since the 1995 season. He and Tony Gonzalez are the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards.

Witten is tied with Ed ''Too Tall'' Jones, Bill Bates and the late Mark Tuinei for most seasons by a Dallas player. He's the only one of those four without a Super Bowl.

Romo, the franchise passing leader, and Witten couldn't get to the Cowboys to an NFC championship game after joining the team together in 2003.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Warrant canceled for Jets' Anderson in Florida traffic case

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) An arrest warrant for New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson for skipping a court hearing stemming from an alleged Florida traffic violation has been rescinded.

Broward County court records show a judge cancelled the warrant Thursday, two days after it was issued. Details weren't immediately available and his attorney, Ed O'Donnell, didn't immediately return a call and email from The Associated Press.

The charge stems from a January incident in Sunrise, Florida, when Anderson was charged on nine counts. The original felony charge of fleeing and eluding police with lights and sirens active was reduced on April 7 to misdemeanor reckless driving.

Anderson set career highs with 63 catches, 941 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in 2017, his second NFL season.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL, union to host symposium on mental health on May 14

ATLANTA (AP) The NFL and the players' union will host a symposium on mental health on May 14.

Entitled ''Beyond The Physical: A Symposium on Mental Health in Sports,'' the forum will feature a series of panels with current and former NFL players as well as mental health organizations, caregivers, medical providers and media personalities. The aim is to raise awareness of mental health and promote a culture in which people, including athletes, are encouraged to seek help and support to achieve overall wellness.

Confirmed panelists include NFL wide receiver and co-founder of Project 375 Brandon Marshall; former NFL cornerback Asher Allen; former Pro Bowl running back Warrick Dunn; Atlanta Falcons senior director of player affairs Kevin Winston; and representatives from Active Minds, Mental Health America (MHA) of Georgia, the American Psychological Association, and Campaign to Change Direction.

''May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the NFL is pleased to partner with the NFLPA and Cigna to increase awareness and decrease the stigma around mental health ...'' said Dwight Hollier, the NFL's vice president of wellness and clinical services. ''This effort is especially important in light of the messages young athletes receive about toughness and the need to be strong all the time. Through our discussions with caregivers, athletes, professionals and others, we will shine a light on mental health in sports and discuss ways to support athletes and others on the journey toward total wellness.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Browns begin talks about long-term development, new stadium

CLEVELAND (AP) The Cleveland Browns are discussing long-term plans for a major downtown development project that could include major stadium renovations - or a new facility.

Owner Dee Haslam revealed to ESPN that the team has done some preliminary work by speaking to city officials and there has been positive feedback. She said any project could take 10 years to complete, and cautioned nothing has been decided.

''So I think it's really important to find out what's possible,'' she told ESPN. ''There could be a lot of great ideas that we might not be able to do because it's not feasible for one reason or another. I don't want to get the horse in front of the cart until we're knowledgeable enough to know, because we're not informed enough to know right now. But we do know that we have a desire to make a bigger impact on the future of Cleveland.''

As part of the process, the team is conducting an economic impact study with Cleveland State University. Haslam cited the development of the Gateway project, which includes Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena, as an example of how some of the city's under-used areas could be better developed.

FirstEnergy Stadium, which was built before the Browns returned as an expansion team in 1999, shares space along Lake Erie with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Great Lakes Science Center. But much of the area near those facilities is either underdeveloped or not used.

Haslam said the Browns will complete their lease, which runs through 2029. The team recently finished a $125 million renovation, paying $95 million of the cost.

Haslam insisted any discussion about a new stadium would be premature, and that any decision on the long-term future should be made by taxpayers.

''I have no idea at this point what's even feasible,'' Haslam said. ''Don't you think it's a good idea for us to learn and figure that out? I really do think that would be a decision by the people of Cleveland and the planners,'' she said. ''I think what we need to do is be part of the conversation.''

Haslam recently stepped down as the CEO of RIVR Media to concentrate on the Browns fulltime.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL to contact Bills regarding team president's resignation

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The NFL plans to contact the Buffalo Bills regarding team president Russ Brandon's abrupt resignation amid allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a female employee.

The league released a statement Thursday saying it will discuss the matter with the Bills and ''make a decision in the next few days about what, if any, further steps we will take.''

Brandon was also president of the Terry and Kim Pegula-owned Buffalo Sabres.

NHL spokesman Gary Meagher tells The Associated Press the league has determined Brandon's resignation is ''appropriately a club matter'' after consulting with Sabres officials.

Brandon resigned Tuesday after spending 20 years working up the Bills' executive ranks, and spending the past three years overseeing the Sabres.

Two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that Brandon's resignation came after he was confronted about the relationship by the Pegulas. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because it is an internal matter, and the Pegulas did not provide a reason when announcing they accepted Brandon's resignation.

Brandon told the AP he had contemplated stepping down from the job for some time, and felt the timing was right following the conclusion of the NFL draft. He did not respond to follow-up questions regarding the alleged relationship.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Bruce Arians joins CBS as NFL game analyst

NEW YORK (AP) Bruce Arians is joining CBS as an NFL game analyst.

Arians, a two-time winner of the AP's Coach of the Year award, retired as coach of the Arizona Cardinals in January. He will work with play-by-play announcer Greg Gumbel and analyst Trent Green in a three-man booth.

Arians won the top coaching award in 2012 filling in for Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who was recovering from battling leukemia. He also took the honor in 2014 when the Cardinals went 11-5.

''I always hoped that broadcasting would be an option after I retired from coaching as a way to stay involved with this great game,'' Arians said.

Arians won two Super Bowls as offensive coordinator with the Steelers. He first worked in the NFL in 1989 and also was a head coach at age 30 at Temple, working there from 1983-88.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Bruce Arians joins CBS as NFL game analyst

NEW YORK (AP) Bruce Arians is joining CBS as an NFL game analyst.

Arians, a two-time winner of the AP's Coach of the Year award, retired as coach of the Arizona Cardinals in January. He will work with play-by-play announcer Greg Gumbel and analyst Trent Green in a three-man booth.

Arians won the top coaching award in 2012 filling in for Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who was recovering from battling leukemia. He also took the honor in 2014 when the Cardinals went 11-5.

''I always hoped that broadcasting would be an option after I retired from coaching as a way to stay involved with this great game,'' Arians said.

Arians won two Super Bowls as offensive coordinator with the Steelers. He first worked in the NFL in 1989 and also was a head coach at age 30 at Temple, working there from 1983-88.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL to contact Bills regarding team president's resignation

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The NFL plans to contact the Buffalo Bills regarding team president Russ Brandon's abrupt resignation amid allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a female team employee.

The league released a statement Thursday saying it will discuss the matter with the Bills and ''make a decision in the next few days about what, if any, further steps we will take.''

Brandon resigned Tuesday after spending 20 years working up the Bills' executive ranks.

Two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that Brandon's resignation came after he was confronted about the relationship by team owners Terry and Kim Pegula. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because it is an internal matter, and the Pegulas did not provide a reason when announcing they accepted Brandon's resignation.

Brandon told the AP he had contemplated stepping down from the job for some time, and felt the timing was right following the conclusion of the NFL draft. He did not respond to follow-up questions regarding the alleged relationship.

Brandon was also president of the Pegula-owned NHL Buffalo Sabres. The NHL has not commented.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP source: Cowboys' Jason Witten retiring, heading to ESPN

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Jason Witten never even hinted that his 15th season with the Dallas Cowboys would be the tight end's last, suggesting as recently as two weeks ago he intended to return.

An offer from ESPN was too good to pass up.

A person with knowledge of the decision said Witten informed Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Thursday that he is retiring, choosing a role as lead analyst on ''Monday Night Football'' over standing alone as the longest-tenured player in the storied history of the franchise.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the decision hasn't been announced. Witten informed the team six days after ESPN's website cited sources it didn't identify in revealing Witten's plan.

The team announced a news conference for Thursday afternoon with Witten, Jones and coach Jason Garrett, but didn't specify a topic.

His move comes a year after friend and longtime teammate Tony Romo retired as the Cowboys' all-time passing leader to become the lead analyst at CBS.

This one was different, though. The Cowboys were anticipating a 16th season from Witten - and 15th straight as their starter. Last year, Romo had lost his job to Dak Prescott while injured and was deciding whether to continue his career with another team.

The Cowboys released Romo the same day of his CBS announcement in April 2017. After joining Dallas together in 2003, the pair never made it to the Super Bowl or an NFC championship game.

''There's not always a fairy-tale end,'' Witten said near the end of last season. ''I realize that.''

Just days from turning 36, Witten walks away as the leader in games, catches and yards receiving for a franchise with five Super Bowl wins, but none since the 1995 season.

Tony Gonzalez and Witten are the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards. Gonzalez is eligible for Pro Football Hall of Fame induction for the first time next year, which should be a good barometer for Witten's chances.

Witten, a third-round pick out of Tennessee, is tied with defensive end Ed ''Too Tall'' Jones, safety Bill Bates and the late offensive lineman Mark Tuinei for most seasons by a Dallas player.

The decision by Witten means the lead analyst job at three networks covering the NFL will be held by former players who spent their entire careers with the Cowboys. The other is Fox's Troy Aikman, who won three Super Bowls as quarterback in the 1990s.

The only Monday night game for the Cowboys is Nov. 5 at home against the Tennessee Titans.

While fighting back tears at times after the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention for yet another disappointing finish last season, Witten seemed intent on playing a 16th season.

Asked more recently about a report he had auditioned with ESPN, Witten went so far as to say he might play until he was 40 and declaring ''absolutely'' that he planned to return.

Less than two weeks later, he disappeared to ponder his future and let Jones address the ESPN report during a news conference that was supposed to be the introduction of first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch. The owner said the Cowboys were waiting for Witten to decide his future.

''I've lived a dream here the last 15 years with this organization, great ownership, great coaches and great opportunity,'' Witten said during one of his emotional moments after a Week 16 loss to Seattle last December that eliminated the Cowboys. ''Disappointed we couldn't get it done this year.''

While Witten is the only Dallas player with 1,000 catches (1,152), his career was defined more by durability and toughness than flashy stats. The 11-time Pro Bowler holds the Dallas record for consecutive games played and starts. His iconic moment came in 2007 when he ran nearly 30 yards and was tackled without a helmet after it was knocked off in a collision with two defenders. Witten only missed one game, the fifth of his career in 2003 because of a broken jaw.

When the team opened its new practice facility in 2016, a huge picture of Witten from that play hung over the players' entrance to the indoor practice field. It was the sort of gesture usually reserved for retired players. Witten spent two seasons walking under it.

In addition to 12,448 yards receiving, Witten is third on the Cowboys' all-time list with 68 touchdown catches. He trails Dez Bryant, who was released last month with 73 TDs, and Hall of Famer Bob Hayes (71).

Without Witten and Bryant, the Cowboys are missing their top two receivers from last year and essentially for the past six seasons.

Among the tight ends left behind, only one has a catch in a regular-season game: Geoff Swaim with nine over three seasons.

The Cowboys are high on Blake Jarwin and hope that former Baylor basketball player Rico Gathers can develop after missing his entire second season with a concussion. Dallas drafted Stanford's Dalton Schultz in the fourth round last week.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

This story has been corrected to 11-time Pro Bowl tight end.

Read more

AP source: Cowboys' Jason Witten retiring, heading to ESPN

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Jason Witten never even hinted that his 15th season with the Dallas Cowboys would be the tight end's last, suggesting as recently as two weeks ago that he intended to return.

The offer from ESPN was too good to pass up.

A person with knowledge of the decision said Witten informed Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Thursday that he was retiring, choosing a role as lead analyst on ''Monday Night Football'' over standing alone as the longest-tenured player in the storied history of the franchise.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the decision hasn't been announced. Witten informed the team six days after ESPN's website cited sources it didn't identify in revealing Witten's plan.

His move comes a year after friend and longtime teammate Tony Romo retired as the Cowboys' all-time passing leader to become the lead analyst at CBS.

This one was different, though. The Cowboys were anticipating a 16th season from Witten - and 15th straight as their starter. Last year, Romo had lost his job to Dak Prescott while injured and was deciding whether to continue his career with another team.

The Cowboys released Romo the same day of his CBS announcement in April 2017. After joining Dallas together in 2003, the pair never made it to the Super Bowl or an NFC championship game.

''There's not always a fairytale end,'' Witten said near the end of last season. ''I realize that.''

Just days from turning 36, Witten walks away as the leader in games, catches and yards receiving for a franchise with five Super Bowl wins, but none since the 1995 season.

Tony Gonzalez and Witten are the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards. Gonzalez is eligible for Pro Football Hall of Fame induction for the first time next year, which should be a good barometer for Witten's chances.

Witten, a third-round pick out of Tennessee, is tied with defensive end Ed ''Too Tall'' Jones, safety Bill Bates and late offensive lineman Mark Tuinei for most seasons by a Dallas player.

The decision by Witten means the lead analyst job at the top three networks covering the NFL will be held by former players who spent their entire careers with the Cowboys. The other is Fox's Troy Aikman, who won three Super Bowls as quarterback in the 1990s.

The only Monday night game for the Cowboys is Nov. 5 at home against the Tennessee Titans.

While fighting back tears at times after the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention for yet another disappointing finish last season, Witten seemed intent on playing a 16th season.

Asked more recently about a report that he had auditioned with ESPN, Witten went so far as to say he might play until he was 40 and declaring ''absolutely'' that he planned to return.

Less than two weeks later, he disappeared to ponder his future and let Jones address the ESPN report during a news conference that was supposed to be the introduction of first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch. The owner said the Cowboys were waiting for Witten to decide his future.

''I've lived a dream here the last 15 years with this organization, great ownership, great coaches and great opportunity,'' Witten said during one of his emotional moments after a Week 16 loss to Seattle last December that eliminated the Cowboys. ''Disappointed we couldn't get it done this year.''

While Witten is the only Dallas player with 1,000 catches (1,152), his career was defined more by durability and toughness than flashy stats.

The 11-time Pro Bowler holds the Dallas record for consecutive games played and starts. His iconic moment came in 2007 when he ran nearly 30 yards and was tackled without a helmet after it was knocked off in a collision with two defenders. Witten only missed one game, the fifth of his career in 2003 because of a broken jaw.

When the team opened its new practice facility in 2016, a huge picture of Witten from that play hung over the players' entrance to the indoor practice field. It was the sort of gesture usually reserved for retired players. Witten spent two seasons walking under it.

In addition to 12,448 yards receiving, Witten is third on the Cowboys' all-time list with 68 touchdown catches. He trails Dez Bryant, who was released last month with 73 TDs, and Hall of Famer Bob Hayes (71).

Without Witten and Bryant, the Cowboys are missing their top two receivers from last year and essentially for the past six seasons.

Among the tight ends left behind, only one has a catch in a regular-season game: Geoff Swaim with nine over three seasons.

The Cowboys are high on Blake Jarwin and hope that former Baylor basketball player Rico Gathers can develop after missing his entire second season with a concussion. Dallas drafted Stanford's Dalton Schultz in the fourth round last week.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

This story has been corrected to 11-time Pro Bowl tight end.

Read more

AP source: Cowboys' Witten retiring, heading to ESPN

FRISCO, Texas (AP) A person with direct knowledge of the decision says Jason Witten is retiring after 15 seasons, choosing the offer of lead analyst for ESPN's ''Monday Night Football'' over becoming the longest-tenured player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.

The 10-time Pro Bowl tight end informed Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of his plan to retire Thursday, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision hasn't been announced. Last week, the network's website cited sources it didn't identify in revealing Witten's plan on the second day of the NFL draft.

Just days from turning 36, Witten walks away as the leader in games, catches and yards receiving for a franchise with five Super Bowl wins, but none since the 1995 season. He and Tony Gonzalez are the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards.

Witten is tied with Ed ''Too Tall'' Jones, Bill Bates and the late Mark Tuinei for most seasons by a Dallas player.

---

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Arrest warrant issued for Jets' Anderson after court no-show

NEW YORK (AP) An arrest warrant was issued for New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson after he failed to appear for a court date in Florida.

According to Broward County court records , Anderson was due Tuesday morning for his arraignment stemming from a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving in January. Bond was set at $500 for Anderson.

Ed O'Donnell, Anderson's Florida-based attorney, did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment Wednesday night. According to several published reports, O'Donnell said he was never notified of a court date and planned to try to resolve the issue Thursday.

The charge stems from an incident in Sunrise, Florida, on Jan. 19 when Anderson was charged on nine counts. The original felony charge of fleeing and eluding police with lights and sirens active was reduced on April 7 to misdemeanor reckless driving - for which Anderson was due in court Tuesday, according to court records. A felony charge of threatening a public servant or family member had been dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

This is the latest legal trouble for Anderson, who was arrested last May at a Miami music festival and charged with felony resisting an officer with violence. Anderson's trial for that case is scheduled to begin on Aug. 6, in the middle of training camp for the Jets.

The league was investigating both incidents, and Anderson could face punishment from the NFL under its conduct policy.

Anderson set career highs with 63 catches, 941 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in his second NFL season. He was a bright spot in the team's 5-11 season and appeared on his way to a 1,000-yard campaign until starting quarterback Josh McCown went down with a broken left hand in Week 14.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Arrest warrant issued for Jets' Anderson after court no-show

NEW YORK (AP) An arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson after he failed to appear for a court date in Florida.

According to Broward County court records , Anderson was due Wednesday morning for his arraignment stemming from a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving in January. Bond was set at $500 for Anderson.

Ed O'Donnell, Anderson's Florida-based attorney, did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment. According to several published reports, O'Donnell said he was never notified of a court date and planned to try to resolve the issue Thursday.

The charge stems from an incident in Sunrise, Florida, on Jan. 19 when Anderson was charged on nine counts. The original felony charge of fleeing and eluding police with lights and sirens active was reduced on April 7 to misdemeanor reckless driving - for which Anderson was due in court Wednesday, according to court records. A felony charge of threatening a public servant or family member had been dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

This is the latest legal trouble for Anderson, who was arrested last May at a Miami music festival and charged with felony resisting an officer with violence. Anderson's trial for that case is scheduled to begin on Aug. 6, in the middle of training camp for the Jets.

The league was investigating both incidents, and Anderson could face punishment from the NFL under its conduct policy.

Anderson set career highs with 63 catches, 941 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in his second NFL season. He was a bright spot in the team's 5-11 season and appeared on his way to a 1,000-yard campaign until starting quarterback Josh McCown went down with a broken left hand in Week 14.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

LA Chargers exercise 5th-year option on RB Melvin Gordon

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Chargers have exercised their fifth-year contract option for 2019 on running back Melvin Gordon.

The Bolts announced the long-expected move Wednesday.

Gordon is a workhorse ball-carrier for the Chargers, who had one of the NFL's most productive attacks last season.

Gordon finished fifth in the NFL with 1,581 yards from scrimmage during the Chargers' relocation season, while his 1,105 yards rushing were seventh in the league.

The Wisconsin product was the 15th overall pick in the 2015 draft.

The Chargers chose prolific Northwestern running back Justin Jackson in the seventh round last week to provide depth behind Gordon and Austin Ekeler, who emerged as a surprisingly effective backup last season after signing as an undrafted free agent.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP source: Giants decline fifth-year option on OT Flowers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) A person with direct knowledge of the decision tells The Associated Press that the New York Giants have declined to pick up the fifth-year option of offensive tackle Ereck Flowers' contract.

The Giants would have been on the hook for $12.5 million in 2019 had the Giants exercised the option on the deal Flowers signed as the ninth pick overall in the 2014 draft.

The person spoke to The AP on the condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the move.

NFL.com was the first to report the decision.

Flowers has been the Giants' starting left tackle for the past three seasons, but he has been a disappointment.

General manager Dave Gettleman signed New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder as a free agent in March. The move meant that Flowers would play right tackle this upcoming season, but he has not showed up for the team's voluntary workouts this spring.

Flowers recently hired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent. Flowers' father had represented him. His future with the team remains uncertain.

In other moves, the Giants signed defensive tackle A.J. Francis and quarterback Alex Tanney. They also announced they had been awarded cornerback C.J. Goodwin off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals. Goodwin was released on Tuesday.

Goodwin has played in 28 regular-season games with one start for Atlanta and Arizona. He has 12 tackles (11 solo) and two passes defensed.

Francis has played in nine regular-season games over the past three seasons, including six for Washington last season. His most productive game was the 2017 season finale against the Giants, when he had six tackles.

Tanney spent last season on the Tennessee Titans' injured reserve list after breaking his left foot in the preseason finale. He has played in one NFL game, the Titans final game of the 2015 season. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown in a loss at Indianapolis.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders energized by offseason moves

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) When Emmanuel Sanders returned from vacation to start the Denver Broncos' offseason training program, he went straight to the team store and loved what he saw.

Hanging off the racks were No. 4 Case Keenum jerseys.

For the first time since Peyton Manning's retirement after Super Bowl 50, the Broncos entered their offseason training program certain of who will be under center after signing Keenum to a two-year, $36 million deal and declaring him the starter.

''I appreciate it, for sure,'' Sanders said Wednesday. ''This is the first time in two or three years that I'm not standing up here talking about a quarterback debate. I remember when I got out here, I went out to the team store and I saw Case Keenum jerseys . I was like, `Thank God, I don't have to deal with that again.'

''Case is our guy. We can go from there. We can work our butts off, try to gain chemistry and try to put up points.''

On the day he signed his contract, Keenum was named the starter by general manager John Elway, who also traded Trevor Siemian, who had beaten Paxton Lynch for the starting quarterback job each of the past two summers, to Minnesota.

After the draft last weekend, Elway reiterated two things about Lynch, whom he traded up to draft in the first round out of Memphis two years ago:

-He still believes he'll figure things out and become a starting NFL quarterback.

-He'll have to beat out Chad Kelly this offseason to win the backup job.

If he doesn't, it would mark the third straight summer that Lynch has failed to beat out a seventh-rounder for a job.

Sanders, who said he's healthy after being bothered by an ankle injury almost all of last season, is a big fan of Keenum and of the Broncos' decision to declare him the starter right away.

''He's a leader,'' Sanders said, adding that ''98 percent'' of his passes so far have been on target. ''He's confident in himself. He's one of those guys that when he steps into the huddle, he's that leader.

''You don't have to second-guess what his thought process is. We're going to complete this ball. We're going to keep the ball moving. I'm liking what I'm seeing from him so far.''

Sanders and Demaryius Thomas were loath last season to complain about it, but they were clearly affected by the turnstile at quarterback as the Broncos churned through Siemian, Lynch and Brock Osweiler during a 5-11 season.

''You can sit back and say we're all professional football players and you've got to deal with that situation, but at the same time, obviously you can't gain the same chemistry,'' Sanders said.

''You don't have the same mindset. You have to talk to two different quarterbacks. When you're going into individual routes, you have to go to one guy and then go with the next guy. You don't really gain that chemistry. You're not maximizing the opportunity.

''Now we're maximizing the opportunity, and hopefully it pays off.''

The Broncos also added some talent into their wide receiving depth, replacing free agent departures Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler III with draft picks Courtland Sutton of SMU and DaeSean Hamilton of Penn State.

Sanders, who also played at SMU, worked out with Sutton over the winter and was delighted when the Broncos picked him in the second round.

At 6-4 and 218 pounds, he's built like Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.

''D.T. is big,'' Sanders said, but Sutton ''looks like he belongs in the NBA. Working out with him, he has amazing feet. He's very fluid for being so big. I'm looking forward to getting him in here and just working. Hopefully he can come up with some big plays for us this year.''

At 6-1 and 205 pounds, Hamilton is closer to Sanders' size - 5-11, 180 - but still bigger.

''I'm going to teach those guys everything that I know,'' Sanders said. ''That's my job.''

Sanders, who is 31 years old and will make $8.25 million this season, said he's not concerned that the rookies will eventually unseat him.

''That's going to happen sooner or later,'' Sanders said. ''... All I can do is make plays every single day and show that if I become expendable here, just show some other team, hey, look, I still got it. I still got the juice.''

NOTES: The Broncos face a Thursday deadline to exercise OLB Shane Ray's fifth-year option at more than $9 million, which seems unlikely given that he's started 15 games in three seasons, missed most of last season with a wrist injury and watched Bradley Chubb fall to Denver with the fifth pick in the last week's NFL draft.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Read more

Jaguars decline to exercise 5th-year option on Dante Fowler

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars declined to exercise the fifth-year option in defensive end Dante Fowler's rookie contract.

The decision could mean Fowler, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft who had eight sacks last year, will become a free agent in 2019.

Executive vice president Tom Coughlin says ''we do like Dante and we feel that he's on the verge of having a great season. ... We want him to have a great season and earn a new long-term contract with us this year.''

Had the Jaguars picked up the option, they could have been on the hook for $14.2 million for Fowler in 2019. The contract would have been guaranteed only for injury. It would have been a huge risk to take on a backup to Pro Bowl pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue.

Fowler has 12 sacks in three seasons, plus two more in the 2017 postseason.

He missed his entire rookie year in 2015 after tearing a knee ligament during his first minicamp. He also has dealt with off-field problems, including hitting a man and throwing his groceries in a lake in 2017.

Fowler was arrested in Miami Beach in March 2016 and charged with misdemeanor counts of assault against a police officer and resisting arrest without violence. The charges were later dropped. That arrest came a little more than two weeks after a video surfaced showing Fowler refereeing a violent fight between his girlfriend and an ex-girlfriend.

He also has a long list of traffic violations, including several for speeding.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Giants sign QB Alex Tanney, defensive end A.J. Francis

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The New York Giants have added a veteran defensive tackle and another quarterback to compete for the backup job to Eli Manning.

The Giants on Wednesday announced the signing of defensive tackle A.J. Francis and quarterback Alex Tanney.

Francis has played in nine regular-season games over the past three seasons, including six for Washington last season. His most productive game was the 2017 season finale against the Giants, when he had six tackles.

The University of Maryland product has also played in games for Seattle and Miami.

Tanney spent last season on the Tennessee Titans' injured reserve list after breaking his left foot in the preseason finale. He has played in one NFL game, the Titans final game of the 2015 season. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown in a loss at Indianapolis.

Francis and Tanney were released on Monday.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Browns trade TE Telfer to Chiefs for DE Nicolas

CLEVELAND (AP) The Cleveland Browns traded tight end Randall Telfer to the Kansas City Chiefs for defensive end Dadi Nicolas.

A sixth-round pick in 2015, Telfer is the sixth veteran dealt by new Browns general manager John Dorsey, who continues to remold a team that has just one victory over the past two seasons.

Telfer started 19 games for Cleveland and was used primarily as a blocker. He caught five passes for 40 yards. After he was selected in 2015, Telfer sat out his rookie season while recovering from a foot injury.

Nicolas has history with Dorsey, who was Kansas City's GM from 2013-16. He selected the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Nicolas in the 2016 sixth round.

The 25-year-old Nicolas appeared in 11 games as a rookie, but injured his knee in the regular-season finale and sat out 2017.

Since joining the Browns in December, Dorsey has traded quarterbacks DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler, cornerback Jason McCourty and defensive tackle Danny Shelton.

The Browns also claimed linebacker Jermaine Grace off waivers from Indianapolis on Wednesday. The 6-1, 225-pounder signed with Atlanta last year as an undrafted free agent.

He appeared in five games on special teams with the Falcons and six with the Colts.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Authorities: Slaying possibly linked to killing of ex-Packer

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) A man whose bullet-riddled body was found dumped along a rural road in Alabama apparently was killed in retaliation for the slaying of a former Green Bay Packers player, authorities said Wednesday.

A statement from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department said Darryl Thomas, 21, of Center Point appeared to have been killed in retribution for the shooting death of former Packers defensive lineman Carlos Gray, 25.

Thomas' body was found along a road near Birmingham on Tuesday, the day after Gray's body was found in his home, also near Birmingham.

No charges were filed immediately in either death, but four suspects were in custody following Thomas' slaying and at least one was believed to have been a close friend of Gray, authorities said.

Gray, who played at North Carolina State University, signed with the Packers in 2014 and was living in Alabama after being released in 2015.

Authorities said Gray's girlfriend returned home from an outing to find him dead and called police. Officers discovered marijuana, scales, a handgun and an AK-47 rifle with a high-capacity magazine in the home, the statement said.

The next morning, according to authorities, deputies received a call about a reported kidnapping at a convenience store. A man who wasn't identified by police said he and Thomas had been abducted at gunpoint by several men. The man told officers he escaped at an intersection but that Thomas did not, officials say.

A passer-by later found Thomas' body along a dirt road, and authorities determined he had been shot more than once.

Police said murder charges and kidnapping charges were likely.

Read more

Jaguars decline to exercise 5th-year option on Dante Fowler

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars declined to exercise the fifth-year option in defensive end Dante Fowler's rookie contract.

The decision could mean Fowler, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft who had eight sacks last year, will become a free agent in 2019.

Executive vice president Tom Coughlin says ''we do like Dante and we feel that he's on the verge of having a great season. ... We want him to have a great season and earn a new long-term contract with us this year.''

Had the Jaguars picked up the option, they could have been on the hook for $14.2 million for Fowler in 2019. The contract would have been guaranteed only for injury. It would have been a huge risk to take on a backup to Pro Bowl pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue.

Fowler has 12 sacks in three seasons, plus two more in the 2017 postseason.

He missed his entire rookie year in 2015 after tearing a knee ligament during his first minicamp. He also has dealt with off-field problems, including hitting a man and throwing his groceries in a lake in 2017.

Fowler was arrested in Miami Beach in March 2016 and charged with misdemeanor counts of assault against a police officer and resisting arrest without violence. The charges were later dropped. That arrest came a little more than two weeks after a video surfaced showing Fowler refereeing a violent fight between his girlfriend and an ex-girlfriend.

He also has a long list of traffic violations, including several for speeding.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Steelers place LB Ryan Shazier on IR, ending 2018 season

PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers have placed linebacker Ryan Shazier on injured reserve for the 2018 season to give him more time to recover from spinal stabilization surgery.

The team made the move on Wednesday, which will open up a roster spot for the AFC North champions as they begin organized team activities later this month.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert ruled Shazier out for 2018 earlier this year. Shazier, injured in a game at Cincinnati last December, walked publicly for the first time in nearly five months when he strode onto the stage to announce Pittsburgh's first-round pick in last week's NFL draft.

The 25-year-old Shazier has remained active in the organization during his rehabilitation.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Browns trade TE Telfer to Chiefs for DE Nicolas

CLEVELAND (AP) The Cleveland Browns traded tight end Randall Telfer to the Kansas City Chiefs for defensive end Dadi Nicolas.

A sixth-round pick in 2015, Telfer is the sixth veteran dealt by new Browns general manager John Dorsey, who continues to remold a team that has just one victory over the past two seasons.

Telfer started 19 games for Cleveland and was used primarily as a blocker. He caught five passes for 40 yards. After he was selected in 2015, Telfer sat out his rookie season while recovering from a foot injury.

Nicolas has history with Dorsey, who was Kansas City's GM from 2013-16. He selected the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Nicolas in the 2016 sixth round.

The 25-year-old Nicolas appeared in 11 games as a rookie, but injured his knee in the regular-season finale and sat out 2017.

Since joining the Browns in December, Dorsey has traded quarterbacks DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler, cornerback Jason McCourty and defensive tackle Danny Shelton.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Falcons' Freeman encouraged by progress with injured knee

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) After struggling with a knee injury late last season, Devonta Freeman says he is on track to returning to the form that made him the NFL's highest-paid running back.

Freeman missed two games for the Atlanta Falcons last season following his second concussion in four months. Then a sprained right knee cut into his production in the last few games of 2017. The injury helped to keep him from his third straight season with 1,000 yards rushing. It also helped to stop the Falcons' bid for a return trip to the Super Bowl.

No offseason surgery was necessary, and Freeman said Wednesday his knee is feeling better.

''I'm able to do a lot of things I couldn't do back in January and February, running, cutting, sprinting, getting a little stronger,'' Freeman said.

Freeman said he's ''making harder cuts'' and ''sprinting a little faster'' in his offseason workouts .

He said he wants to be ''100 percent healthy'' for the team's minicamp in June and training camp in July.

''Be able to be ready for game one,'' he said.

Two straight Pro Bowl seasons earned Freeman a five-year, $41.25 million extension before the 2017 season. It was the top overall salary package for any NFL running back. Only Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell has a higher average salary.

Health problems quickly followed Freeman's big new deal.

He spent the last two weeks of the preseason in concussion protocol before suffering another concussion on the second play of Atlanta's 27-7 win over Dallas on Nov. 12. He missed the next two games but returned with three strong games, including a season-high 126 yards rushing at Tampa Bay on Dec. 18.

The knee injury helped to limit Freeman's production the rest of the season. He was held to a combined 59 yards rushing in the final two regular-season games and then managed only seven yards on 10 carries in a playoff loss to Philadelphia.

Following the season, Freeman said he feared he would need surgery on the right knee. No surgery was needed, so he has focused on rebuilding strength through his offseason program.

Freeman's health will be a key for Atlanta's offense, which led the league in scoring in 2016 before falling to mid-pack in the league last year. The Falcons will be closely watching Freeman's health, as top backup Tevin Coleman is entering the final year of his contract.

The Falcons selected running back Ito Smith from Southern Mississippi in the fourth round of last week's NFL draft. Smith is expected to replace Terron Ward as the team's third running back, behind Freeman and Coleman.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff said Smith was not drafted to be a safety net if the team can't re-sign Coleman.

''That's not what we're looking back,'' Dimitroff said Saturday. ''We're looking at him being a nice addition in that third position.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Authorities: Slaying possibly linked to killing of ex-Packer

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Alabama authorities say they've found the body of a man believed to have been killed in retaliation for the slaying of a former Green Bay Packers player.

Sheriff's officials tell area media 21-year-old Darryl Thomas appears to have been killed in retribution for the shooting death of former Packers defensive lineman Carlos Gray.

Thomas' body was found dumped along a road near Birmingham on Tuesday afternoon. That's less than a day after Gray's body was found in his home near Birmingham.

At least one of the suspects in Thomas' death is believed to have been a close friend of Gray.

No charges have been filed in either death.

The 25-year-old Gray signed with the Packers in 2014. He was living in Alabama after being released in 2015.

Read more

Unsigned safety Reid files collusion grievance against NFL

NEW YORK (AP) The NFL players' union says former San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid filed a grievance against the league, alleging that he remains unsigned as a result of collusion by owners.

Reid, a Pro Bowler in 2013, had joined former teammate Colin Kaepernick two seasons ago in kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

Kaepernick wasn't signed for the 2017 season following his release in San Francisco. Reid continued the quarterback's protests. The 26-year-old safety became a free agent this offseason when his rookie contract with the 49ers expired.

''Our union is aware that Eric Reid and his legal representatives filed a collusion claim, which will be heard through the arbitration process as spelled out in our collective bargaining agreement,'' the NFL Players Association said in a statement Wednesday. ''Our union supports Eric and we are considering other legal options to pursue.''

Kaepernick previously filed a collusion grievance that is in the discovery stage. He deposed several league owners and executives, including Commissioner Roger Goodell. Reid is using the same attorneys as Kaepernick.

A league spokesman said Wednesday: ''We are abiding by the confidentiality provision of the CBA and have no comment.''

In March, Goodell was asked about Reid, one of the better players at his position in the NFL, not having a job.

''I've said this repeatedly to you: The 32 teams make individual decisions on the players who are going to best help their franchises,'' Goodell said. ''Those are decisions they have to make. They do that every day in the best interest of winning. Teams make those decisions. I'm not directly involved with that.''

Last month, Kaepernick praised Reid for continuing to make a stand for social justice when the quarterback was presented an Amnesty International award in Amsterdam.

''Eric introducing me for this prestigious award brings me great joy,'' Kaepernick said. ''But I am also pained by the fact that his taking a knee, and demonstrating courage to protect the rights of black and brown people in America, has also led to his ostracization from the NFL when he is widely recognized as one of the best competitors in the game and in the prime of his career.''

--

More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Unsigned safety Reid files collusion grievance against NFL

NEW YORK (AP) The NFL players' union says former San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid filed a grievance against the league, alleging that he remains unsigned as a result of collusion by owners.

Reid had joined former teammate Colin Kaepernick two seasons ago in kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

Kaepernick wasn't signed for the 2017 season following his release in San Francisco. Reid continued the quarterback's protests. The 26-year-old safety became a free agent this offseason when his rookie contract with the 49ers expired.

''Our union is aware that Eric Reid and his legal representatives filed a collusion claim, which will be heard through the arbitration process as spelled out in our collective bargaining agreement,'' the NFL Players Association said in a statement Wednesday. ''Our union supports Eric and we are considering other legal options to pursue.''

Kaepernick previously filed a collusion grievance.

---

More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Titans agree to terms with safety Kendrick Lewis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have agreed to terms with safety Kendrick Lewis while waiving safety Denzel Johnson.

Lewis, 29, wasn't on an NFL roster last season but has made 81 career starts. He played six games with the Baltimore Ravens in 2016 before getting placed on injured reserve.

The 6-foot, 205-pound Lewis played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2010-13 and spent the 2014 season with the Houston Texans before a two-year stint with Baltimore. The Chiefs drafted him in the fifth round out of Mississippi.

Lewis' career totals include 228 tackles, nine interceptions, seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

---

More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Russ Brandon resigns as Bills, Sabres president

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Russ Brandon abruptly resigned his dual role as president of the NFL's Buffalo Bills and NHL's Buffalo Sabres after being confronted by the teams' owners regarding an alleged inappropriate relationship with a female employee, two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is an internal matter, and owners Terry and Kim Pegula did not provide a reason for accepting Brandon's resignation in a statement they released Tuesday.

The relationship in question first became apparent to a number of team employees during the Sabres' visit to New York for a game against the Rangers on Jan. 18, the people said. The trip included the team hosting a fan event at a bar the day before the game.

Kim Pegula will take over Brandon's roles overseeing the Bills, Sabres and Pegula Sports Entertainment, the company which controls the owners' numerous holdings.

In a text to The AP, Brandon said he has contemplated stepping down from the job for some time, and felt the timing was right after the conclusion of the NFL draft.

''My goal when the Pegulas purchased the franchise was to reach 20 years with the Bills, in which I achieved this past November,'' Brandon wrote.

''As grateful as I am for the amazing experience and the incredible people I've had the privilege to work with the past two decades, I am just as anxious for the professional opportunities that lie ahead,'' he added.

Brandon did not respond to follow-up questions regarding his relationship.

Brandon's departure comes after the Bills made a big splash in the first round of the draft by trading up to select both Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen with the seventh pick, and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds with the 16th pick. The new additions join a Bills team that went 9-7 and ended a 17-year playoff drought last season.

On Saturday, the last-place Sabres earned a boost by winning the NHL draft lottery and the right to the No. 1 pick for the third time in franchise history.

''We have a tremendous amount of confidence in the strong leadership team we have built within each of these entities over the last several years,'' the statement from the Pegulas read.

''We are excited about the direction of our teams, especially after this past weekend's NFL draft and NHL lottery results. Our focus remains on building championship teams on and off the field for our fans and community.''

Brandon most recently served as the Bills' managing partner, was the Sabres alternate on the NHL's board of governors and a member of the NFL's business ventures committee.

The timing of Brandon's exit comes at a time he was supposed to oversee the Bills' next big venture in determining their future home. Brandon was expected to lead the team's stadium search committee in deciding whether the Bills should continue playing at their current home or develop a new facility in downtown Buffalo.

He served in various roles with the Bills, involving both marketing and football decisions during a two-year stint as general manager from 2008-09.

He also took the lead in negotiating the Bills' most recent lease five years ago, which played a critical role in securing the franchise's long-term future in Buffalo especially following Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson's death in March 2014.

The lease included a strict non-relocation clause that included a $400 million penalty the team would be forced to pay if it considered moving before 2020.

Brandon also oversaw the Bills' eventual sale to the Pegulas, who completed their $1.4 billion purchase of the franchise in October 2014.

The Pegulas retained Brandon and elevated him to the role of managing partner. The Pegulas thought so highly of Brandon, the Sabres were added to his responsibilities after the team reached a mutual agreement to part ways with Ted Black in July 2015.

Brandon's resignation continues a large turnover of Bills executives who served under Wilson. Bruce Popko is the senior holdover and now becomes the top executive as chief operating officer of Buffalo-based Pegula Sports and Entertainment, which oversees the Pegulas' numerous holdings.

Brandon grew up in nearby Syracuse, New York, and began making his mark in Buffalo shortly after being hired by the Bills in 1997 to serve as the team's business development and marketing director.

He began by spearheading a campaign to transform them into a regional team by expanding the franchise's fan base to offset Buffalo's dropping population base.

That process began in 2000, when the team shifted training camp to Brandon's alma mater, St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester, to capitalize on the community's corporate and larger population base.

Later, the Bills boosted their presence across southern Ontario by negotiating a deal to begin playing annual regular-season games in Toronto starting in 2008. The ''Bills In Toronto'' series lasted through 2013 before the deal was placed on hold the following year and then terminated by the Pegulas.

Toronto-based media giant, Rogers Communications, paid the Bills $78 million to essentially lease eight games (five regular season and three preseason) during the initial five-year agreement. The price was almost double what the Bills were projected to generate if those games were played at their home facility.

The series also spurred a large bump in season-ticket purchases from across the border. By 2015, the Bills estimated southern Ontario fans accounted for about 18 percent of their season-ticket sales, surpassing their support from Rochester.

Not everything succeeded under Brandon, who drew criticism for a number of decisions, including failing to build a winner during his two-year stint as the Bills GM when Wilson elected to promote from within the organization after Marv Levy stepped down following a two-year tenure.

---

This story's third paragraph has been corrected to note the relationship first became apparent during the Sabres' visit to New York for a game against the Rangers on Jan. 18

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Vikings cornerback Terence Newman: 'This will be it for me.'

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Only time will tell how sweet Terence Newman's 16th season in the NFL turns out to be.

The oldest active defensive player in the league is almost certain, though, it will be his last.

''You have to figure out something else that you want to do, once you get to my age,'' Newman said on a conference call with Minnesota reporters on Tuesday, the day after re-upping with the Vikings. ''I think this will be my last year. No matter what happens, this will be it for me.''

Newman, who will turn 40 just five days before Minnesota's season opener, has given head coach Mike Zimmer and the Vikings plenty of value for the series of low-risk one-year contracts they have signed him to.

He has missed only one game in his first three seasons in purple, providing immeasurable guidance for the younger pupils in the secondary while capably playing as one of the top three cornerbacks on the team.

Newman has made 33 starts in three years, evolving into more of a situational player in the slot as Trae Waynes took hold of the outside spot opposite Xavier Rhodes.

Still, Newman was counted on in 2017 just as much in the nickel defense as Mackensie Alexander, who was given every opportunity to run with that role, but has not gained the coaching staff's full trust.

This will be Newman's 10th season under Zimmer, after stints together with Dallas and Cincinnati when Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for those teams. Don't expect some kind of farewell tour this fall, though, for the NFL's active career interceptions leader with 42.

''It's been a heck of a ride. I understand when it's time for me, and it's time for me,'' said Newman, who has played in two Pro Bowls but not a Super Bowl.

His career record in the playoffs is just 2-8. ''I'm not going to put anything on this or do anything special. I'm just going to go out and do the same things I've always done. That's go out and try to get better and try to help this team get better.''

Newman's first experience in a conference championship game came Jan. 21, when the Vikings lost 38-7 at Philadelphia.

He was set on returning, having come so close to a title, so a new deal was only a matter of working out the particulars between his agent and the team. Newman said a personal matter kept him from signing in time to arrive for the April 16 start of the offseason strength and conditioning program.

For now, he's focused on the 2018 season with the Vikings. The next phase of life can wait a few more months.

''I've got a lot of options, so that's good. I just will have to get to that point,'' he said. ''Who says I will do anything immediately after football? I may take my time and do some things that I haven't done in the last 15 years. Take my time and make a decision when I'm ready, I guess.''

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Jets re-sign linebacker David Bass

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets have re-signed linebacker David Bass, who spent last season with the team.

Bass tied for second on the Jets with 3+ sacks, and also had 33 tackles, 12 quarterback hits and seven tackles for losses. He'll provide depth on New York's defense and help the team's pass rush.

The 27-year-old Bass was a seventh-round draft pick of Oakland out of Missouri Western State in 2013. He has also spent time with Tennessee and Seattle.

Bass has nine career sacks and two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, in 64 NFL games.

---

More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Redskins to host Jets for 3 days of joint camp practices

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) The Washington Redskins will host the New York Jets this summer for three days of joint training camp practices.

The teams announced Tuesday that they will practice with each other at Washington's Bon Secours Training Center from Aug. 12 to 14, leading into their preseason game at FedExField on Aug. 16.

The practices, which will be free and open to the public, will mark the first time the Jets have held joint sessions with another team since they joined the Giants at SUNY Albany in 2005. Meanwhile, this will be the third set of joint practices in the last five years for the Redskins, who hosted New England in 2014 and Houston the following summer.

Jets coach Todd Bowles says the practices will be ''a nice change of pace for our players to face another team.'' Redskins coach Jay Gruden says similar sessions in the past have given his staff good opportunities to evaluate players in competitive situations.

Fans of both teams will be able to get a close look at Jets first-round pick Sam Darnold, who will compete for New York's starting quarterback job. Washington, whose new QB is Alex Smith, selected Alabama defensive tackle Da'ron Payne with the 13th overall pick.

---

More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Titans claim linebacker Gimel President off waivers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have claimed outside linebacker Gimel President off waivers.

President, whose first name is pronounced juh-MEEL, was waived Monday by the Houston Texans.

The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder played four games for the Texans last season and had two tackles. He spent most of the 2017 season with Houston's practice squad after signing with the Texans as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois.

He finished his college career at Illinois after playing three seasons for Auburn.

---

More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Russ Brandon resigns as Bills, Sabres president

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Russ Brandon abruptly resigned his dual role as president of the NFL Buffalo Bills and NHL Buffalo Sabres after being confronted by the teams' owners regarding an inappropriate relationship with a female employee, two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is an internal matter, and owners Terry and Kim Pegula did not provide a reason for accepting Brandon's resignation in a statement they released Tuesday.

The relationship in question first became apparent to a number of team employees in late December, when the Sabres were in New York City to play the Rangers at the NHL's Winter Classic, the people said.

Kim Pegula will take over Brandon's roles overseeing the Bills, Sabres and Pegula Sports Entertainment, the company which controls the owners' numerous holdings.

In a text to The AP, Brandon said he has contemplated stepping down from the job for some time, and felt the timing was right after the conclusion of the NFL draft.

''My goal when the Pegulas purchased the franchise was to reach 20 years with the Bills, in which I achieved this past November,'' Brandon wrote.

''As grateful as I am for the amazing experience and the incredible people I've had the privilege to work with the past two decades, I am just as anxious for the professional opportunities that lie ahead,'' he added.

Brandon did not respond to follow-up questions regarding his relationship.

Brandon's departure comes after the Bills made a big splash in the first round of the draft by trading up to select both Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen with the seventh pick, and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds with the 16th pick. The new additions join a Bills team that went 9-7 and ended a 17-year playoff drought last year.

On Saturday, the last-place Sabres earned a boost by winning the NHL draft lottery and the right to the No. 1 pick for the third time in franchise history.

''We have a tremendous amount of confidence in the strong leadership team we have built within each of these entities over the last several years,'' the statement from the Pegulas read. ''We are excited about the direction of our teams, especially after this past weekend's NFL draft and NHL lottery results. Our focus remains on building championship teams on and off the field for our fans and community.''

Brandon most recently served as the Bills managing partner, was the Sabres alternate on the NHL's board of governors and a member of the NFL's business ventures committee.

The timing of Brandon's exit comes at a time he was supposed to the Bills' next big venture in determining their future home. Brandon was expected to lead the team's stadium search committee in deciding whether the Bills should continue playing at their current home or develop a new facility in downtown Buffalo.

He served in various roles with the Bills, involving both marketing and football decisions during a two-year stint as general manager from 2008-09. He also took the lead in negotiating the Bills most recent lease five years ago, which played a critical role in securing the franchise's long-term future in Buffalo especially following late-Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson's death in March 2014.

The lease included a strict non-relocation clause that included a $400 million penalty the team would be forced to pay if it considered moving before 2020.

Brandon also oversaw the Bills' eventual sale to the Pegulas, who completed their $1.4 billion purchase of the franchise in October 2014.

The Pegulas retained Brandon and elevated him to the role of managing partner. The Pegulas thought so highly of Brandon, the Sabres were added to his responsibilities after the team reached a mutual agreement to part ways with Ted Black in July 2015.

Brandon's resignation continues a large turnover of Bills executives who served under Wilson. Bruce Popko is the senior holdover and now becomes the top executive as chief operating officer of Buffalo-based Pegula Sports and Entertainment, which oversees the Pegulas' numerous holdings.

Brandon grew up in nearby Syracuse, New York, and began making his mark in Buffalo shortly after being hired by the Bills in 1997 to serve as the team's business development and marketing director.

He began by spearheading a campaign to transform them into a regional team by expanding the franchise's fan base to offset Buffalo's dropping population base.

That process began in 2000, when the team shifted training camp to Brandon's alma mater, St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester, to capitalize on the community's corporate and larger population base.

Later, the Bills boosted their presence across southern Ontario by negotiating a deal to begin playing annual regular season games in Toronto starting in 2008. The ''Bills In Toronto'' series lasted through 2013 before the deal was placed on hold the following year and then terminated by the Pegulas.

Toronto-based media giant, Rogers Communications, paid the Bills $78 million to essentially lease eight games (five regular season and three preseason) during the initial five-year agreement. The price was almost double what the Bills were projected to generate if those games were played at their home facility.

The series also spurred a large bump in season-ticket purchases from across the border. By 2015, the Bills estimated southern Ontario fans accounted for about 18 percent of their season-ticket sales, surpassing their support from Rochester.

Not everything succeeded under Brandon, who drew criticism for a number of decisions, including failing to build a winner during his two-year stint as the Bills GM when Wilson elected to promote from within the organization after Marv Levy stepped down following a two-year tenure.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Russ Brandon resigns as Bills, Sabres president

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Russ Brandon abruptly resigned his dual role as president of the NFL Buffalo Bills and NHL Buffalo Sabres in a major shake-up for the teams' owners, Terry and Kim Pegula.

The Pegulas announced in a press release on Tuesday that they accepted Brandon's resignation Tuesday afternoon.

Kim Pegula will take over Brandon's roles overseeing the Bills, Sabres and Pegula Sports Entertainment, the company that controls the owners' numerous holdings. The Pegulas provided no reason for Brandon's departure after a 20-year tenure that started with the Bills.

In a text to The Associated Press, Brandon would only say he has contemplated stepping down from the job for some time, and felt the timing was right after the conclusion of the NFL draft.

''My goal when the Pegulas purchased the franchise was to reach 20 years with the Bills, in which I achieved this past November,'' Brandon wrote.

''As grateful as I am for the amazing experience and the incredible people I've had the privilege to work with the past two decades, I am just as anxious for the professional opportunities that lie ahead,'' he added.

Brandon's departure comes after the Bills made a big splash in the first round of the draft by trading up to select both Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen with the seventh pick, and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds with the 16th pick. The new additions join a Bills team that went 9-7 and ended a 17-year playoff drought last year.

On Saturday, the last-place Sabres earned a boost by winning the NHL draft lottery and the right to the No. 1 pick for the third time in franchise history.

''We have a tremendous amount of confidence in the strong leadership team we have built within each of these entities over the last several years,'' the statement from the Pegulas read. ''We are excited about the direction of our teams, especially after this past weekend's NFL draft and NHL lottery results. Our focus remains on building championship teams on and off the field for our fans and community.''

Brandon most recently served as the Bills managing partner, was the Sabres alternate on the NHL's board of governors and a member of the NFL's business ventures committee.

The timing of Brandon's exit is curious, given his role in overseeing both franchises as well as being responsible for heading the Bills' next big venture in determining their future home. Brandon was expected to lead the team's stadium search committee in deciding whether the Bills should continue playing at their current home or develop a new facility in downtown Buffalo.

He served in various roles with the Bills, involving both marketing and football decisions during a two-year stint as general manager from 2008-09. He also took the lead in negotiating the Bills most recent lease five years ago, which played a critical role in securing the franchise's long-term future in Buffalo especially following late-Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson's death in March 2014.

The lease included a strict non-relocation clause that included a $400 million penalty the team would be forced to pay if it considered moving before 2020.

Brandon also oversaw the Bills' eventual sale to the Pegulas, who completed their $1.4 billion purchase of the franchise in October 2014.

The Pegulas retained Brandon and elevated him to the role of managing partner. The Pegulas thought so highly of Brandon, the Sabres were added to his responsibilities after the team reached a mutual agreement to part ways with Ted Black in July 2015.

Brandon's resignation continues a large turnover of Bills executives who served under Wilson. Bruce Popko is the senior holdover and now becomes the top executive as chief operating officer of Buffalo-based Pegula Sports and Entertainment, which oversees the Pegulas' numerous holdings.

Brandon grew up in nearby Syracuse, New York, and began making his mark in Buffalo shortly after being hired by the Bills in 1997 to serve as the team's business development and marketing director.

He began by spearheading a campaign to transform them into a regional team by expanding the franchise's fan base to offset Buffalo's dropping population base.

That process began in 2000, when the team shifted training camp to Brandon's alma mater, St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester, to capitalize on the community's corporate and larger population base.

Rochester is centrally located between Buffalo and Syracuse. The Bills previously held camp at the far more rural Fredonia College, about a 45-minute drive south of Buffalo.

Later, the Bills boosted their presence across southern Ontario by negotiating a deal to begin playing annual regular season games in Toronto starting in 2008. The ''Bills In Toronto'' series lasted through 2013 before the deal was placed on hold the following year and then terminated by the Pegulas.

While the games in Toronto didn't sell out and lacked the vibrant atmosphere the Bills enjoy at Orchard Park, New York, the team benefited from playing in Canada's largest city and financial capital.

Toronto-based media giant, Rogers Communications, paid the Bills $78 million to essentially lease eight games (five regular season and three preseason) during the initial five-year agreement. The price was almost double what the Bills were projected to generate if those games were played at their home facility.

The series also spurred a large bump in season-ticket purchases from across the border. By 2015, the Bills estimated southern Ontario fans accounted for about 18 percent of their season-ticket sales, surpassing their support from Rochester.

Not everything succeeded under Brandon, who drew criticism for a number of decisions, including failing to build a winner during his two-year stint as the Bills GM when Wilson elected to promote from within the organization after Marv Levy stepped down following a two-year tenure.

Brandon eventually hired GM Buddy Nix and stepped aside to focus on overseeing the franchise while Wilson's health began to fail.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Chicago State hires former Bears, Notre Dame DT Zorich as AD

CHICAGO (AP) Former Chicago Bears and Notre Dame defensive tackle Chris Zorich has been hired as athletic director at Chicago State.

A Chicago product who was on Notre Dame's 1988 national championship team and played for the Bears from 1991-96, Zorich replaces interim AD Tracy Dildy. The school says he will start work on May 8.

The 49-year-old Zorich joins a school that has been hit hard by budget problems in recent years and is looking for two new basketball coaches. Chicago State let Dildy go following a 3-29 season. The school also parted with women's coach Angela Jackson, whose program endured a Division I record 59-game losing streak before beating Utah Valley on Feb. 8. Zorich most recently was AD at Prairie State, a community college in Chicago Heights.

Zorich ran into financial difficulties after his playing career. He was sentenced in 2013 to three years of probation following a federal tax evasion conviction.

Read more

AP source: Bills, Sabres president Brandon leaving teams

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) A person with direct knowledge of the decision tells The Associated Press that Buffalo Bills and Sabres president Russ Brandon is leaving his post in a major shake-up made by the teams' owners, Terry and Kim Pegula.

It was not immediately unclear whether Brandon is stepping down or being fired. An announcement is expected later Tuesday, the person said.

The person spoke to The AP on the condition of anonymity because the teams have not announced Brandon's departure.

Brandon spent 20 years with the Bills in various roles, from marketing to football decisions during a two-year stint as general manager from 2008-09. He also took the lead in negotiating the Bills most recent lease five years ago, which played a critical role in securing the franchise's long-term future in Buffalo especially following late-Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson's death in March 2014.

The lease included a strict non-relocation clause that included a $400 million penalty the team would be forced to pay if it considered moving before 2020.

Brandon also oversaw the Bills' eventual sale to the Pegulas, who competed their $1.4 billion purchase of the franchise in October 2014.

The Pegulas retained Brandon and elevated him to the role of managing partner upon completing their $1.4 billion purchase of the Bills in October 2014. The Pegulas thought so highly of Brandon, the Sabres were added to his responsibilities after the team reached a mutual agreement to part ways with Ted Black in July 2015.

Brandon most recently served as the Bills managing partner, was the Sabres alternate on the NHL's board of governors and a member of the NFL's business ventures committee.

The timing of Brandon's exit is curious, given his role in overseeing both franchises as well as being responsible for heading the Bills' next big venture in determining their future home. Brandon was expected to lead the team's stadium search committee in deciding whether the Bills should continue playing at their current home or develop a new facility in downtown Buffalo.

Brandon's departure continues a large turnover of Bills executives who served under Wilson. Bruce Popko is the senior holdover and now becomes the top executive as chief operating officer of Buffalo-based Pegula Sports and Entertainment, which oversees the Pegulas' numerous holdings.

Brandon grew up in nearby Syracuse, New York, and began making his mark in Buffalo shortly after being hired by the Bills in 1997 to serve as the team's business development and marketing director.

He began by spearheading a campaign to transform them into a regional team by expanding the franchise's fan base to offset Buffalo's dropping population base.

That process began in 2000, when the team shifted training camp to Brandon's alma mater, St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester, to capitalize on the community's corporate and larger population base.

Rochester is centrally located between Buffalo and Syracuse. The Bills previously held camp at the far more rural Fredonia College, about a 45-minute drive south of Buffalo.

Later, the Bills boosted their presence across southern Ontario by negotiating a deal to begin playing annual regular season games in Toronto starting in 2008. The ''Bills In Toronto'' series lasted through 2013 before the deal was placed on hold the following year and then terminated by the Pegulas.

While the games in Toronto didn't sell out and lacked the vibrant atmosphere the Bills enjoy at Orchard Park, New York, the team benefited from playing in Canada's largest city and financial capital.

Toronto-based media giant, Rogers Communications, paid the Bills $78 million to essentially lease eight games (five regular season and three preseason) during the initial five-year agreement. The price was almost double what the Bills were projected to generate if those games were played at their home facility.

The series also spurred a large bump in season-ticket purchases from across the border. By 2015, the Bills estimated southern Ontario fans accounted for about 18 percent of their season-ticket sales, surpassing their support from Rochester.

Not everything succeeded under Brandon, who drew criticism for a number of decisions, including failing to build a winner during his two-year stint as the Bills GM when Wilson elected to promote from within the organization after Marv Levy stepped down following a two-year tenure.

Brandon eventually hired GM Buddy Nix and stepped aside to focus on overseeing the franchise while Wilson's health began to fail.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

Raiders O-lineman Alexander suspended 4 games for PEDs

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Vadal Alexander has been suspended without pay for the first four games next season for a violation of the league policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The Raiders made the announcement Tuesday, attributing the information to the NFL. Alexander won't be eligible to play until an Oct. 7 road game against the Chargers. He can return to practice Oct. 1, a day after the Raiders host Cleveland.

The 24-year-old offensive guard played in 15 games for Oakland last season with four starts and has appeared in 24 games overall with nine starts in two NFL seasons.

A seventh-round draft pick in 2016 out of LSU, Alexander can take part in offseason workouts with the team, preseason practices and preseason games.

---

For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

AP source: Bills, Sabres president Brandon leaving teams

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) A person with direct knowledge of the decision tells The Associated Press that Buffalo Bills and Sabres president Russ Brandon is leaving his post in a major shake-up made by the teams' owners, Terry and Kim Pegula.

It was not immediately unclear whether Brandon is stepping down or being fired. An announcement is expected later Tuesday, the person said.

The person spoke to The AP on the condition of anonymity because the teams have not announced Brandon's departure.

Brandon spent 20 years with the Bills in various roles, from marketing to football decisions during a two-year stint as general manager from 2008-09. He also took the lead in negotiating the Bills most recent lease five years ago, which played a critical role in securing the franchise's long-term future in Buffalo especially following late-Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson's death in March 2014.

Brandon currently served as the Bills managing partner, was the Sabres alternate on the NHL's board of governors and a member of the NFL's business ventures committee.

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Read more

NFL draft a big draw, but not a record-setter

NEW YORK (AP) With someone walking onstage every few minutes to read a name off a piece of paper, the NFL draft wouldn't seem like a big television draw. Yet the 11.2 million people who watched this year made it the week's second most popular program.

The first round of the draft was shown on Fox, the NFL Network and several ESPN networks simultaneously. This year's assignment of college football players to NFL teams was particularly suspenseful, with a handful of quality quarterbacks waiting to be drafted, and little consensus ahead of time over how things were going to go.

Still, it wasn't quite as popular as the most-watched draft ever. That came in 2014 when another quarterback, in this case Johnny Manziel, was selected first by the Cleveland Browns. That draft reached 12.4 million people on Thursday, the Nielsen company said.

Coverage of the third day of the draft, when the players really start getting obscure, reached nearly 3 million and was the most ever, Nielsen said.

With ABC's ''Roseanne'' in repeats, CBS' ''The Big Bang Theory'' returned to the top of the ratings, reaching 11.8 million people.

CBS won the week in prime time, averaging 6.4 million viewers. ABC had 4.5 million, NBC had 4.4 million, Fox had 2.7 million, Univision had 1.6 million, ION Television had 1.3 million, Telemundo had 1.2 million and the CW had 1.1 million.

TNT was the most popular cable network, averaging 2.74 million viewers in prime time. Fox News Channel had 2.35 million, ESPN had 1.86 million, MSNBC had 1.75 million and USA had 1.45 million.

ABC's ''World News