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  • Jerry Jones insists there's no evidence against RB Elliott
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, July 25, 2017

    OXNARD, Calif. -- Jerry Jones opened training camp by declaring war on the NFL in the ongoing investigation into domestic violence allegations against running back Ezekiel Elliott.

    • The NFL ended its yearlong investigation into domestic violence accusations brought against Elliott by a former girlfriend.

      The Columbus (Ohio) attorney's office dropped the case because of "conflicting and inconsistent" information. Elliott has maintained his innocence all along.

      ESPN has reported that Elliott should brace for a one- or two-game suspension.

      But Jones let it be known at the start of training camp that Elliott did nothing wrong and he should not be punished.

      It was a clear message to the NFL that Jones is ready to fight if he is indeed suspended.

      "There's nothing. ... I have reviewed everything as you know. ... There is absolutely nothing, not one thing, that I've seen that has anything to do with domestic violence," Jones said. "I don't want to answer any more. But I've seen nothing."

      Jones was absolute in his comments, just as he was a year ago.

      He has long maintained that the NFL had no cause and no case.

      The only thing that has changed recently is the NFL has completed its report. Elliott and the NFL Players Association have submitted "a final response" to the league.

      Jones claims he has seen the report. Nothing has changed his mind.

      "I found nothing since we were standing here this time last year," Jones said. "And I knew everything in that report, I knew that this time last year. Those are their concerns because you need to get this stuff behind you."

      Jones not only declares that nothing happened but that there is not a discrepancy among the participants.

      "My opinion is there is not even an issue of 'he said, she said,'" Jones said. "There is not even an issue there."

      The NFL doesn't need a court conviction or even a court case to levy discipline against a player for conduct detrimental to the league.

      The league has taken a long time investigating this case to make sure it gets it right after so many past mistakes.

      According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the league "wants to pin something" on Elliott as a lesson for his repeated mistakes in judgment.

      But Jones is not going to let it happen without a fight.

      And he is seemingly not going to let his upcoming induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame get in the way of his battle with the NFL over Elliott.

      He brought up the New England Patriots as an example of a team that overcame the distraction of Tom Brady's four-game suspension last season and went on to win the Super Bowl.

      Seemingly, the bigger lesson for Jones comes from Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who admittedly regretted not fighting the NFL sanctions and penalties from the Deflategate controversy.

      "I don't want to in any way speculate," Jones said. "I don't know that there's anything I could say that might influence, but I don't want anything I've said over the last week to be interpreted as a feeling or a speculation about his status, relative to a suspension. It shouldn't be. It should be just reflective as what I am here and what I know."

  • LB Smith has Cowboys optimistic
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, July 25, 2017

    OXNARD, Calif. -- Linebacker Jaylon Smith is practicing with the Dallas Cowboys after missing all of last season with a knee injury suffered in his final football game at Notre Dame.

    • Smith will still be limited, but he is excited and ready to go, just as is owner Jerry Jones who compared him to watching a No. 1 draft pick for the first time.

      "It feels great," Smith said Monday. "Last year I was kind of a spectator just in the beginning stages of rehab. Now I'm in the mix and playing football.

      "The plan is to work hard and every day. It varies as far as the scheduling. I'm just doing everything that they allow me to do."

      Smith said his latest EMG test showed improvement in the nerve regeneration.

      What are the next steps?

      "Just constant growth," Smith said. "Everything we've done we've started off slowly and gradually progressed, and it's always gotten better. I don't anticipate that stopping."

      He said he has no limitations, but just rust.

      "When you take a year off there's some little work, ins and outs that you have to get back used to coming off an injury, but I feel like myself," Smith said.

      While Jones is hoping for the best, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli doesn't know what to expect.

      "No, other than I know he's a very talented and terrific college football player," Marinelli said. "I know his talent level, his character and how much he works at it. The next step is to start to get in Wednesday. He's never been in an NFL practice. This will be his first chance. I just take everything day by day, see how he does progress and give him a little bit more each day, and just coach him, coach him."

  • Cowboys owner Jones puts NFL on notice
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, July 25, 2017

    OXNARD, Calif. -- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones opened training camp by declaring war on the NFL in the ongoing investigation into domestic violence allegations against star running back Ezekiel Elliott.

    • The NFL has ended its year-long investigation into the accusations brought against Elliott by a former girlfriend.

      The Columbus (Ohio) attorney's office dropped the case because of "conflicting and inconsistent" information. Elliott has maintained his innocence all along.

      ESPN has reported that Elliott should brace for a one- or two-game suspension.

      But Jones let it be known at the start of training camp that Elliott did nothing wrong and he should not be punished.

      It was a clear and present message to the NFL that Jones is ready to fight if he is indeed suspended.

      "There's nothing ... I have reviewed everything as you know. There is absolutely nothing, not one thing, that I've seen that has anything to do with domestic violence," Jones said. "I don't want to answer any more. But I've seen nothing."

      Jones was absolute in his comments, just as he was a year ago. He has long maintained that the NFL had no cause and no case.

      The only thing that has changed recently is the NFL has completed its report. Elliott and the NFL Players Association have submitted "a final response" to the league.

      Jones claims he has seen the report. Nothing has changed his mind.

      "I found nothing since we were standing here this time last year," Jones said. "And I knew everything in that report, I knew that this time last year. Those are their concerns because you need to get this stuff behind you."

      Jones not only claims that nothing happened, but that there is not a discrepancy among the participants.

      "My opinion is there is not even an issue of 'he said, she said,'" Jones said. "There is not even an issue there."

      The NFL doesn't need a court conviction or even a court case to levy discipline against a player for conduct detrimental to the league.

      The league has a taken a long time investigating this case to make sure it gets it right after so many past mistakes.

      According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the league "wants to pin something" on Elliott as a lesson for his repeated mistakes in judgement.

      But Jones is not going to let it happen without a fight.

      And he is seemingly not going to let his upcoming induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame get in the way of his battle with the NFL over Elliott.

      He brought up the New England Patriots as an example of a team that overcame the distraction of quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension last season and went on to win the Super Bowl.

      Seemingly, the bigger lesson for Jones comes from Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who admittedly regretted not fighting the NFL sanctions and penalties from the Deflategate controversy.

      "I don't want to in any way speculate," Jones said. "I don't know that there's anything I could say that might influence, but I don't want anything I've said over the last week to be interpreted as a feeling or a speculation about his status, relative to a suspension. It shouldn't be. It should be just reflective as what I am here and what I know."

      ROOKIE TO WATCH

      --CB Chidobe Awuzie will start out at outside cornerback with hopes of breaking into the starting lineup. He will also be given reps at nickel, but could eventually be competing with Jeff Heath for the starting spot at strong safety. The Cowboys want to find a way to get him on the field.

  • Hali's social media rant over playing time with Chiefs bothers Reid
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid didn't take umbrage with linebacker Tamba Hali venting his frustration last week.

    • Reid, however, took issue with the 33-year-old Hali taking his message to social media.

      "We don't want him doing it through the social media part of it," Reid said. "If you have a problem, let's talk about it.

      "One thing you love about Tamba is he loves to play. I can't tell you he's getting any younger. I can't tell you that. But I do love the fact he bugs on you that he wants to play. As coaches, we have to make the decision and so we make the decision whether he plays seven plays or 27 plays or 47 plays. That's what we do.

      "Is a player always going to be happy about that? No. That's not how it works. But do I love the fact he loves to play? Yeah. He's going to be 50 years old and probably still tweeting out those things that he wants to get in his plays."

      Hali didn't hold back as he unleashed a firestorm on Twitter Saturday, questioning if he was still "needed in KC anymore." He also lowered the boom on teammates for skipping organized team activities on a podcast.

      "I'm not going to shy from it -- I think it's important, especially if you're on our team and you're one of our leaders -- that you should be always there," Hali said on Arrowheads Abroad Podcast. "I don't want to say names, but I've been there for (12 years) and I haven't missed one offseason with the Chiefs."

      Hali lamented competing on just seven plays during the team's playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. His role had been reduced dramatically last season when he started just two games and finished with 34 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

  • Chargers to work out Griffin III
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    Free agent quarterback Robert Griffin III is scheduled to work out for the Los Angeles Chargers on Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

    • Griffin has spent the offseason training in Florida with former Cleveland Browns assistant coach Pep Hamilton.

      The former Heisman Trophy winner and 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year completed 59.2 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and three interceptions in five games last season for the Browns. Griffin led the club to its only win -- over the Chargers on Christmas Eve -- but was released March 10 after Cleveland acquired quarterback Brock Osweiler in a trade with the Houston Texans.

      Griffin, 27, would join a crowded quarterback room in Los Angeles, which is led by Philip Rivers and includes Kellen Clemens, Mike Bercovici and Eli Jenkins.

      The former second overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Washington Redskins has now been released by two teams. He spent four seasons in Washington but lost his job to Kirk Cousins and did not play a down in 2015.

  • NFL notebook: Cowboys cut Whitehead after reported arrest
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    The Dallas Cowboys cut Lucky Whitehead on Monday hours after police in Virginia announced that the wide receiver/kick returner is facing misdemeanor petit larceny charges stemming from an arrest in June.

    • The move came despite Whitehead's agent, Dave Rich, telling NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport that his client was not in Virginia at the time of the incident. Rapoport reported that he reviewed Whitehead's flight records from the day he was reportedly arrested, with Whitehead flying out of Dulles International Airport in Washington to Dallas only six hours after his arrest.

      "It sounds like (the Cowboys) didn't buy it or they simply decided, as to be the case with players who aren't a lock to make the team, they decided it was not worth it to wait and see was he telling the truth and was he not," Rapoport said on Inside Training Camp Live. "But this would explain why Whitehead, his agent and the Cowboys had no idea about the arrest or the hearing that he missed until earlier today when it was reported."

      Whitehead, 25, was arrested and charged with shoplifting/petit larceny under $200, a misdemeanor, on June 22 in Prince William County, Va. He then failed to appear for a court hearing on July 6, resulting in the arrest warrant being issued, according to Prince William County General Court records.

      The Cowboys were not aware of Whitehead's arrest until the news was first reported by TMZ Sports and confirmed by the Dallas Morning News and ESPN.

      "First time I heard it was coming off the practice field," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday.

      --John Elway, the general manager and executive vice president of football operations for the Denver Broncos, agreed to a five-year contract extension through 2021, the team announced.

      Financial terms were not disclosed by the club for Elway, who has seen the Broncos record the second-most overall wins (73) in the NFL since 2011. Denver has captured five AFC West titles and reached the Super Bowl on two occasions during that stretch, with the highlight of Elway's tenure as general manager coming in 2015 as the Broncos posted a 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

      "We're pleased to reach an agreement on a five-year contract with John to continue leading our football operations," team president and CEO Joe Ellis said. "During these last six seasons, John's clearly established himself as one of the best general managers in all of sports. He's demonstrated impressive football instincts, a strong business acumen and a consistent ability to build competitive teams."

      Elway played for Denver from 1983 to 1998 during a Hall of Fame career that was capped with consecutive Super Bowl titles.

      --Quarterback Andrew Luck will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list after offseason surgery, but the Indianapolis Colts expect him to be ready for the regular season in September.

      Luck enters his sixth season with health concerns after issues with the franchise quarterback's shoulder lingered since 2015. He underwent surgery for an injury he confirmed originated in September 2015 in a game at Tennessee, about six weeks before he went down with a lacerated kidney in a game against the Denver Broncos.

      In January, echoing statements made by owner Jim Irsay, Luck said he did not plan offseason surgery. Irsay announced via Twitter two weeks later that Luck underwent surgery.

      In May, coach Chuck Pagano offered few details on Luck but described his recovery as positive and said Luck was "doing great." General manager Chris Ballard said Monday that Luck is not injured, but he is focused on building strength in the shoulder.

      --The Minnesota Vikings placed running back Latavius Murray on the physically unable to perform list as training camp got underway.

      Murray, 27, is still recovering from offseason right ankle surgery. He reported to camp at Minnesota State University in Mankato. Murray spent the past four seasons playing for the Oakland Raiders before signing a three-year, $15 million deal -- $8.55 million guaranteed -- with Minnesota as a free agent. He missed all of spring drills after his March 22 ankle surgery.

      Murray was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015 after rushing for 1,066 yards and six touchdowns with the Raiders. He has rushed for 2,278 yards and 20 touchdowns (12 in 2016) in 45 games (31 starts).

      The Vikings also announced defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was placed on the non-football injury list as he tries to move past the nerve issues caused by his right knee surgery last September. Floyd played in last year's season opener against the Tennessee Titans and then underwent knee surgery.

      --Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Adolphus Washington pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of improperly carrying a concealed firearm.

      Washington, 24, was arrested on July 9 at a water park in the Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville.

      According to the police report, Washington was arrested after he "reached for and displayed a gun while sitting inside his vehicle, just feet away from officers."

      A pre-trial hearing for Washington is set for Aug. 1, according to the Hamilton County Municipal Criminal and Traffic Court.

      --Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman is a hero after saving a man from choking on his food at a restaurant airport.

      Freeman was enjoying his meal inside an Austin, Texas, airport Sunday before reporting to training camp later this week. At a table nearby at the Salt Lick Taco Bar, Freeman told the Chicago Tribune that he noticed a man who appeared to be in distress. The man, Marcus Ryan, stood up quickly with a look of grave concern across his face.

      Freeman said an older woman unsuccessfully tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver on Ryan. The 6-foot, 236-pound linebacker then jumped into action.

      "I've never done the Heimlich before," Freeman told the Tribune. "I don't think I've had any training or anything. My mom's a nurse, and she had talked about it. So I just did what I heard you should do. I guess it worked."

      --Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff is employing tunnel vision this week in hopes of signing star running back Devonta Freeman to a long-term contract.

      Dimitroff's stated goal is locking up Freeman before veterans arrive for training camp Thursday.

      "I've always said that I think it's going to be a fairly expeditious negotiation, but you never know," Dimitroff said. "I'd love it to happen."

      Freeman, scheduled to earn $1.8 million in 2017, which is the final year of his rookie contract, was reportedly offered a five-year contract worth between $7 million and $8 million per season. Among running backs, only franchise-tagged Le'Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers ($12.2 million) is scheduled to make more than $8 million in 2017.

      --Safety David Bruton Jr. announced his retirement from the NFL after multiple concussions during his eight-year career.

      Burton, who turned 30 on Sunday, told ESPN's Jeff Legwold that his six concussions along with a loss of passion to prepare for the game brought the longtime special teams captain of the Denver Broncos to his decision.

      Bruton, who graduated from Notre Dame before entering the NFL in 2009, is back in school at the University of Colorado-Denver. He plans to become a physical therapist in his post-football life.

      Bruton's 2016 season with the Washington Redskins came to an end after he suffered a concussion in the fourth game. He was released by the Redskins in December and had a workout with the Baltimore Ravens that "did not go well at all, because I just didn't have it in me anymore to do it."

  • Broncos give Elway 5-year contract extension
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    John Elway, the general manager and executive vice president of football operations for the Denver Broncos, has agreed to a five-year contract extension through 2021, the team announced on Monday.

    • Financial terms were not disclosed by the club for Elway, who has seen the Broncos record the second-most overall wins (73) in the NFL since 2011. Denver has captured five AFC West Division titles and reached the Super Bowl on two occasions during that stretch, with the highlight of Elway's tenure as general manager coming in 2015 as the Broncos posted a 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

      "We're pleased to reach an agreement on a five-year contract with John to continue leading our football operations," team president and CEO Joe Ellis said. "During these last six seasons, John's clearly established himself as one of the best general managers in all of sports. He's demonstrated impressive football instincts, a strong business acumen and a consistent ability to build competitive teams.

      "There's no doubt John means a great deal to the Broncos, our fans and the entire community. It was important for us to reach this long-term agreement, and we're all excited to now turn our full attention toward the 2017 season."

      Elway was quick to return to the compliment.

      "I appreciate the trust and confidence that Joe has shown in me," the 57-year-old Elway said. "Pat Bowlen has always put outstanding leadership in place, and I'm grateful for the support Joe gives us to compete for championships each and every year.

      "This is a special place, and the Broncos are home to me. While there's still a lot of work to be done, I'm excited about the future of this team and this organization."

      Elway played for Denver from 1983-1998 during a Hall of Fame career that was capped with consecutive Super Bowl titles.

      He was drafted No. 1 overall by the then-Baltimore Colts, who traded him to Denver.

  • Bills DT Washington pleads not guilty to weapons charge
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Adolphus Washington pleaded not guilty on Monday to a misdemeanor charge of improperly carrying a concealed firearm.

    • Washington, 24, was arrested on July 9 at a water park in the Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville.

      According to the police report, Washington was arrested after he "reached for and displayed a gun while sitting inside his vehicle, just feet away from officers."

      A pre-trial hearing for Washington is set for Aug. 1, according to the Hamilton County Municipal Criminal and Traffic Court.

      Washington, who is not required to appear in court, will not miss the 8:45 a.m. practice scheduled that day at the Bills' St. John Fisher training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., according to the Buffalo News.

      "I believe the charges are factually and legally inappropriate," Washington's attorney, Clyde Bennett, told ESPN. "I don't believe that Mr. Washington committed any crimes. That is why we have filed a motion to dismiss. Our intent and plan is to have the charges against him dismissed."

      Bennett told ESPN that he believes the charge against Washington is not appropriate because his client was not stopped by the police and was rather "one of many patrons" in the parking lot. The attorney also said Washington's weapon was "open and obvious" because he was driving a three-wheeled vehicle with an open top.

      The Bills released a statement after Washington's arrest, saying "since it is a pending legal matter, we will have no further comment."

      Buffalo selected the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Washington, a Cincinnati native, in the third round of the 2016 draft out of Ohio State. He played in 15 games with 11 starts last season, recording 21 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

      Washington was suspended by Ohio State for its Fiesta Bowl win in January 2016 after he was cited for solicitation of prostitution in Columbus, Ohio. The charges were dismissed conditionally after completing a program.

  • Cowboys release Whitehead after reported arrest
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    The Dallas Cowboys cut Lucky Whitehead on Monday hours after police in Virginia announced that the wide receiver/kick returner is facing misdemeanor petit larceny charges stemming from an arrest in June.

    • The move came despite Whitehead's agent, Dave Rich, telling NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport that his client was not in Virginia at the time of the incident. Rapoport reported that he reviewed Whitehead's flight records from the day he was reportedly arrested, with Whitehead flying out of Dulles International Airport in Washington to Dallas only six hours after his arrest.

      "It sounds like (the Cowboys) didn't buy it or they simply decided, as to be the case with players who aren't a lock to make the team, they decided it was not worth it to wait and see was he telling the truth and was he not," Rapoport said on Inside Training Camp Live. "But this would explain why Whitehead, his agent and the Cowboys had no idea about the arrest or the hearing that he missed until earlier today when it was reported."

      Whitehead, 25, was arrested and charged with shoplifting/petit larceny under $200, a misdemeanor, on June 22 in Prince William County, Va. He then failed to appear for a court hearing on July 6, resulting in the arrest warrant being issued, according to Prince William County General Court records.

      The Cowboys were not aware of Whitehead's arrest until the news was first reported by TMZ Sports and confirmed by the Dallas Morning News and ESPN.

      "First time I heard it was coming off the practice field," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday.

      Garrett said at the time that the team was gathering information on the incident and did not deny that Whitehead could be released.

      "We will do what's in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys," Garrett told reporters at training camp in Oxnard, Calif.

      The shoplifting arrest reportedly came in connection with a theft from a convenience store.

      Whitehead was asked about the charges at camp.

      "I didn't even know about that," he told reporters. "I don't know what's going on."

      Whitehead's next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 10, according to court records.

      Whitehead made headlines last week when his dog, Blitz, was kidnapped and was briefly held for ransom. He announced the next day on social media that the dog was returned unharmed.

      The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Whitehead served as the team's punt and kickoff returner and combined for nine catches and 64 yards in 30 games over his first two NFL seasons. He also rushed 20 times for 189 yards and caught nine passes for 64 yards.

      Whitehead's legal trouble is just the most recent -- or at least the latest to come to light -- for the Cowboys in recent months.

      Running back Ezekiel Elliott was involved in an altercation on July 16 at a club in Dallas where a man was punched. The Dallas Police Department suspended its investigation of the alleged assault, citing a lack of witnesses and an inability to contact the victim.

      Elliott also is awaiting possible punishment from the NFL stemming from an alleged domestic violence incident a year ago in Columbus, Ohio.

      Multiple sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter last week that Elliott could face a one- or two-game suspension, but the NFL denied it made a decision on a course of disciplinary action.

      In other off-the-field incidents, Cowboys linebacker Damien Wilson was arrested July 4 on charges of assault with a deadly weapon; cornerback Nolan Carroll was arrested May 29 and charged with driving under the influence; defensive end David Irving was suspended by the NFL on June 28 for four games for violating the league's drug program; and rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis also was arrested with a jury trial scheduled to begin Monday in Michigan.

  • Falcons in rush to sign RB Freeman
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff is employing tunnel vision this week in hopes of signing star running back Devonta Freeman to a long-term contract.

    • Dimitroff's stated goal is locking up Freeman before veterans arrive for training camp Thursday.

      "I've always said that I think it's going to be a fairly expeditious negotiation, but you never know," Dimitroff said. "I'd love it to happen."

      Freeman, scheduled to earn $1.8 million in 2017, which is the final year of his rookie contract, was reportedly offered a five-year contract worth between $7 million and $8 million per season. Among running backs, only franchise-tagged Le'Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers ($12.2 million) is scheduled to make more than $8 million in 2017.

      Dimitroff also confirmed rookie pass rusher Takkarist McKinley will be limited to start training camp. McKinley had surgery to repair a torn labrum in March, and his expected recovery time was four to six months.

      Freeman's agent said during Super Bowl Media Night that Freeman should be paid "like the elite back he is."

      The 25-year-old Freeman started all 16 regular-season games in 2016, leading the Falcons with 1,079 rushing yards to go with 462 receiving yards on 54 receptions. Freeman had 13 total touchdowns.

      Freeman has 3,175 yards from scrimmage the past two seasons.

  • Ex-Broncos S Bruton retires due to concussions
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    Safety David Bruton Jr. announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday after multiple concussions during his eight-year career.

    • Burton, who turned 30 on Sunday, told ESPN's Jeff Legwold that his six concussions along with a loss of passion to prepare for the game brought the longtime special teams captain of the Denver Broncos to his decision.

      "I'm burnt out, definitely worry about my health," Bruton said. "Another season was cut short by a concussion (in 2016) -- that's six. I'm a guy who likes to use his brain. Especially back in school, I need as many brain cells as possible with all these science classes. It came down to health, and I've definitely had my time in the league. I'm ready to move on."

      Bruton, who graduated from Notre Dame before entering the NFL in 2009, is back in school at the University of Colorado-Denver. He plans to become a physical therapist in his post-football life.

      Bruton also plans to work with the Broncos' training staff during this summer's camp.

      "Physical therapy is definitely something I've always wanted to do," Bruton told ESPN. "To see the people who enjoy doing it, who are good at it, and seeing the reward they get with working with people who work so hard to get back to normal life -- it's so rewarding."

      Bruton's 2016 season with the Washington Redskins came to an end after he suffered a concussion in the fourth game. He was released by the Redskins in December and had a workout with the Baltimore Ravens that "did not go well at all, because I just didn't have it in me anymore to do it."

      Bruton was a fourth-round pick by Denver in 2009 and spent seven years with the Broncos. He was part of their Super Bowl 50 team after the 2015 season but did not play in the win over the Carolina Panthers due to a fractured fibula. He played 108 games in his NFL career -- 104 with the Broncos.

      Bruton later posted on Instagram: "After 8 years in the NFL, I am calling it a day in the league. I want to thank everyone who helped me along the way. This decision did not come easy being that I've done this for so long and my love for the game, but it comes to an end for everyone and mine is on July 24, 2017. Thank you to my family, friends, Pat B., the Bowlen Family, the Broncos, the Redskins and the fans. It's been a hell of a ride and a lot of stories to pass down to future ball players."

  • QB Luck on Colts PUP list to open camp
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    Quarterback Andrew Luck will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list after offseason surgery, but the Indianapolis Colts expect him to be ready for the regular season in September.

    • Luck enters his sixth season with health concerns after issues with the franchise quarterback's shoulder lingered since 2015. He underwent surgery for an injury he confirmed originated in September 2015 in a game at Tennessee, about six weeks before he went down with a lacerated kidney in a game with the Denver Broncos.

      "We sat down after that year and felt like rehab was the way to go and I think that was the absolute correct decision," Luck said. " We did some awesome things and then this year happened obviously and what transpired through this year and sat down after this year and decided that maybe it was time to do surgery on it."

      In January, echoing statements made by owner Jim Irsay, Luck said he did not plan offseason surgery. Irsay would announce via Twitter two weeks later that Luck underwent surgery.

      In May, head coach Chuck Pagano offered few details on Luck but described his recovery as positive and said Luck was "doing great."

      General manager Chris Ballard said Monday that Luck is not injured, but focused on building strength in the shoulder.

      "We're exactly where I thought we'd be at this time," Ballard said.

      Irsay defended Luck's decision and contradicted former GM Ryan Grigson's statements on the severity of the injury. Per Irsay, Luck was mentally drained by the weekly process of getting ready for each regular-season game because of the treatment and rehab involved in keeping his shoulder game-ready.

      "He worked really hard," Irsay said in the offseason while preaching patience with Luck in his return to the field this summer. "We are not going to be rushing him. "We are going to make sure, obviously, that the shoulder has to be ready and the doctors are going to give full approval before he starts putting real reps on it and that sort of thing."

      Even though Irsay and the Colts were aware of Luck's shoulder issues, he was signed to a five-year, $122.7 million contract that runs through the 2021 season. He was guaranteed $44 million at signing.

      Ballard would not say Luck is a definite for Week 1 of the regular season against the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 10.

  • Bears LB Freeman saves man from choking
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman is a hero after saving a man from choking on his food at a restaurant airport.

    • Freeman was enjoying his meal inside an Austin, Texas, airport Sunday before reporting to training camp later this week.

      At a table nearby at the Salt Lick Taco Bar, Freeman told the Chicago Tribune that he noticed a man who appeared to be in distress. The man, Marcus Ryan, stood up quickly with a look of grave concern across his face.

      "Like he had forgotten something and was about to go running for it," Freeman told the newspaper. "But then he went around the table and started to look a little frantic. I'm thinking, 'Man, this is odd. Maybe one of his kids walked off and he can't find his kid or something?'"

      Freeman said an older woman unsuccessfully tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver on Ryan.

      The 6-foot, 236-pound linebacker then jumped into action.

      "I grabbed him and tried to squeeze the life out of him," Freeman said of using the life-saving maneuver. "You've got to push in and up. So I did that and he started throwing up what he was choking on. I asked him if he was all right and he shook his head like 'No!'

      "I grabbed him again and hit him again with it (Heimlich). And when I put him down the second time, his eyes got big. He was like, 'Oh, my god! I think you just saved my life, man!' It was crazy."

      After Ryan regained his composure, the pair posed for a photo, which Freeman tweeted and wrote: "CRAZY!! Just saved my guy Marcus Ryan's life by using the Heimlich maneuver in the middle of the Austin airport! WOW Mom would be proud haha."

      Freeman played four seasons for the Indianapolis Colts before signing a three-year $12 million contract with the Bears in 2016. He led the Bears with 110 tackles last season despite being suspended four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.

      "I've never done the Heimlich before," Freeman told the Tribune. "I don't think I've had any training or anything. My mom's a nurse, and she had talked about it. So I just did what I heard you should do. I guess it worked.

      "A real good story, man. I was trying to save all my energy for training camp. And here I had to go rush up on this guy like I'm about ready to make a tackle. Whatever it takes."

  • Vikings place RB Murray on PUP list
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    The Minnesota Vikings placed running back Latavius Murray on the physically unable to perform list on Monday as training camp got underway.

    • Murray, 27, is still recovering from offseason right ankle surgery. He reported to camp at Minnesota State University in Mankato.

      Murray spent the past four seasons playing for the Oakland Raiders before signing a three-year, $15 million deal -- $8.55 million guaranteed -- with Minnesota as a free agent. He missed all of spring drills following his March 22 ankle surgery.

      Murray was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015 after rushing for 1,066 yards and six touchdowns with the Raiders. He has rushed for 2,278 yards and 20 touchdowns (12 in 2016) in 45 games (31 starts).

      The Vikings also announced defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was placed on the non-football injury list as he tries to move past the nerve issues caused by his right knee surgery last September.

      Floyd played in last year's season opener against the Tennessee Titans and then underwent knee surgery.

      Minnesota also placed rookie linebacker Shaan Washington on the PUP list.

      Head coach Mike Zimmer said Sunday he also expects quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to be placed on the PUP list.

      Bridgewater is still recovering from a devastating left knee injury just before the start of the regular season last year. He dislocated his left knee and tore the ACL during a practice on Aug. 30.

  • Browns sign first-round pick Peppers
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, July 24, 2017

    The Cleveland Browns announced Sunday that they signed first-round pick defensive back Jabrill Peppers, one day before rookies are scheduled to report.

    • The four-year deal is worth about $10.3 million, including about a $5.6 million signing bonus, according to Cleveland.com, which reported that the holdup in reaching an agreement was guaranteed money in the fourth year of the contract.

      Peppers, the 25th overall pick out of Michigan, missed some time in the spring with an undisclosed injury, but he is penciled in as the starting strong safety. He may be used as a kick returner as well.

      Peppers begins his career in Stage One of the NFL's drug program because of a diluted sample at the league's Scouting Combine.

  • Cowboys' Jones reiterates support for RB Elliott
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, July 23, 2017

    Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reiterated his support for Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday in the year-old allegations of domestic violence against the star running back.

    • Elliott's status with the NFL remains a major question as the league closes an investigation into the alleged 2016 incident in Columbus, Ohio.

      "I found nothing since we were standing here at this time last year," Jones told reporters on the first day of training camp in Oxnard, Calif. "I knew everything in that report. I knew that this time last year.

      "I have reviewed everything and there is absolutely nothing -- not one thing -- that had anything to do with domestic violence.

      "My opinion is there is not even an issue of 'he said, she said.' There is not even an issue there."

      Elliott's accuser issued a statement Saturday in a social media post without mentioning his name.

      "Exactly 1 year ago today my life changed forever," she wrote. "Loving someone as much as I did, putting my all in no matter what happened. I finally got the strength to be the strong woman I was and got myself out of a very toxic relationship. Ladies never think you're too in love or too scared to leave because at one point that was me. There's plenty of opportunities out there for you. Love yourself first. Speak up and stop domestic violence."

      The woman accused Elliott of domestic violence on five separate occasions from July 17 to July 22, 2016. Elliott was never arrested or charged and he has maintained his innocence, previously saying the woman was not his girlfriend but a "female acquaintance."

      In July 2016, Elliott was questioned by authorities and he was cleared of any legal wrongdoing after the Columbus city prosecutor's office determined there wasn't enough substance to pursue charges after a lengthy investigation. But the NFL began its own probe and declined a status update in January and again in February during Commissioner Roger Goodell's state of the league address in Houston.

      Multiple sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter last week that Elliott could face a one- or two-game suspension, but the NFL denied it made a decision on a course of disciplinary action. Schefter tweeted that Elliott is "bracing for a short suspension. Maybe one game, maybe two games."

      Elliott, the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Ohio State, rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns as a rookie last season, leading the NFL in rushing yards.

  • Cardinals have Johnson and Johnson backfield again
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, July 22, 2017

    GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Running back Chris Johnson, who signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals just before the start of training camp, said he was considering offers from at least two other teams before deciding to stay in Arizona for a third straight season. He indicated he had reason to believe he will see more playing time with the Cardinals than anyone else, even though he's behind David Johnson on the team depth chart.

    • "Even though I said I wanted to go somewhere where I could possibly start or play more, I just feel like this year might be a little different," Chris Johnson said. "Just a thought in my mind. That relationship I've got with B.A. (Bruce Arians) and the things me and him talk about made me feel it might be a little different."

      Arians said he has plans to use more of a two-back system this season and that Johnson and Johnson would be his main tandem.

      "We've always wanted to have some two-back stuff," Arians said. "We've had it in the plan every year and one of the two gets hurt all the damn time. But we'll have some two-back stuff with he (Chris Johnson) and David back there. Same with Kerwynn (Williams) and Andre (Ellington) - all those guys have that position flexibility of being able to play receiver and running back."

  • NFL notebook: O.J. welcome at Pro Football Hall of Fame
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, July 22, 2017

    Convicted felon O.J. Simpson, who was granted parole by the Nevada Board of Prisons this week and eligible for release Oct. 1, will remain on the invitation list to attend the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies.

    • Asked whether Simpson will be welcome after he is released from prison, Hall of Fame officials told ESPN's Jeff Legwold: "All Hall of Famers are invited to attend the annual enshrinement."

      Simpson, 70, was unanimously granted parole on Thursday in Lovelock, Nev., after serving almost nine years of a 33-year sentence for his 2008 conviction on armed robbery charges.

      Simpson is a Hall of Fame running back who was enshrined in 1985. He would be eligible to attend the annual enshrinement weekend once any parole restrictions related to travel are lifted.

      The Hall of Fame's bylaws stipulate that only a player's on-field achievements in football are considered as the criteria for enshrinement, thus Simpson's bust remains on display in Canton, Ohio. Simpson has not attended a Hall of Fame ceremony since his enshrinement in 1985.

      --Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will not play in the Hall of Fame Game against the Dallas Cowboys in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 3.

      Linebacker Karlos Dansby also may not play in the game.

      "I doubt Karlos plays," Arians told reporters. "We'll see."

      In addition, Arians said linebacker Jarvis Jones has a vessel injury in his quad and is listed as day-to-day.

      --Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey will have his left hip examined next week and hopes to be cleared to join his teammates for the start of training camp.

      Pouncey, the anchor to the Miami Dolphins offensive line since 2011, has not practiced since November, missing all but five games last season due to the hip injury.

      Pouncey will get the hip examined one more time before the start of camp when the first practice begins July 27.

      The 27-year-old Pouncey has suffered no setbacks with his hip rehabilitation since going on injured reserve in December and both the player and the team are "confident" the exam will yield positive findings, those familiar with the situation told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

  • Cardinals' stars won't play in HOF game
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, July 22, 2017

    GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Larry Fitzgerald will ultimately end up in Canton, Ohio and he'll be there this Aug. 3 as well for the Hall of Fame Game when the Arizona Cardinals meet the Dallas Cowboys. But Arizona's longtime star wide receiver won't be playing in the game.

    • Neither will Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, for that matter.

      Head coach Bruce Arians said both of his two prized players on offense will be withheld from playing in the exhibition game along with perhaps a few other important veterans just to be safe.

      "We'll see. We'll see how it goes," Arians said Saturday as his team assembled for the first full-squad workouts of training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium.

      Arians has especially been playing it safe when it comes to protecting Palmer, who turns 38 in December and is entering his 15th NFL season. He convinced the quarterback to drastically minimize the number of passes he threw throughout the spring and remainder of the offseason and only plans to get him any real work in two of the club's five preseason games overall.

      "Yeah, Game 3 is the biggest one," the coach said. "I think he played two quarters, if that, last year. We'll see how it goes, but my plan right now is to play him a little bit more in Game 3 and Game 4 and none in Game 5 probably."

      Palmer didn't begin ratcheting up his throwing program until about a month ago when he invited a handful of teammates to join him for informal workouts near his home in Southern California. The extra time off helped him immensely, he said, adding his body and mind feel completely refreshed.

      "You just feel better," he said Saturday. "You feel like you have more zip, more velocity. You feel like you can go out and throw 150 balls in practice, which I'm not going to do. But it just feels different. ... I don't think I felt that way coming into camp last year."

      Palmer said he is thankful that Arians and others urged him to pull back the reins on his normal offseason program. It felt a little strange at first, he said, but he's glad he did it based on how he feels today.

      "I've been playing so long, you get so engrained to throwing through March, April, May and June," he said. "And to not do it, it's just odd. It just feels like something's wrong. But like I said, I listened to experts like coach Arians. I mean, he's had a number of different quarterbacks, guys he coached, guys he didn't coach, that he talked to me about. Saving throws and not overworking or over doing it.

      "I'm fortunate to play for a guy like him who's a quarterback expert."

      Palmer isn't sure how long he plans to continue to play. The 2017 season could be it or he could decide to come back and play at least one more season and beyond. He's under contract through 2018.

      "I don't know," he said. "I've never put a number on it. When I got drafted I never said, 'I hope I get to this year.' You never think you'll get past 15 years. That's just a crazy number to think about. But if you look at today's game, there still quite a few guys playing (at an older age).

      "I'm just excited to be here. I'm excited for training camp. I think when you really start dreading training camp, that's a good first sign, but we'll see."

      ROOKIE TO WATCH

      --WR Chad Williams: The third-round pick out of Grambling turned heads in the spring when he was promoted to the veteran's field for workouts during minicamp and didn't crawl into a shell upon making mistakes and getting screamed at by the coaches. His maturity and confidence was singled out at the start of camp by both quarterback Carson Palmer and head coach Bruce Arians, who added, "He's in a tough (position) room right now but if he continues to make that progress, we can really count on him."

  • Dolphins C Pouncey might be ready for camp
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, July 22, 2017

    Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey will have his left hip examined next week and hopes to be cleared to join his teammates for the start of training camp.

    • Pouncey, the anchor of the offensive line since 2011, has not practiced since November, missing all but five games last season due to the hip injury.

      Pouncey will get the hip examined one more time before the start of camp when the first practice begins July 27.

      The 27-year-old Pouncey has suffered no setbacks with his hip rehabilitation since going on injured reserve in December and both the player and the team are "confident" the exam will yield positive findings, those familiar with the situation told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

      The Dolphins hope the findings by doctors means Pouncey could avoid going on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp.

      Pouncey sustained the injury in a 2016 preseason game and missed the first four games of the season.

      The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Pouncey has not played a 16-game season since 2012, his second year in the NFL. He has required surgery on both hips.

  • O.J. Simpson still welcome at Pro Football Hall of Fame
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, July 22, 2017

    Convicted felon O.J. Simpson, who was granted parole by the Nevada Board of Prisons this week and eligible for release Oct. 1, will remain on the invitation list to attend the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies.

    • Asked whether Simpson will be welcome after he is released from prison, Hall of Fame officials told ESPN's Jeff Legwold: "All Hall of Famers are invited to attend the annual enshrinement."

      Simpson, 70, was unanimously granted parole on Thursday in Lovelock, Nev., after serving almost nine years of a 33-year sentence for his 2008 conviction on armed robbery charges.

      Simpson is a Hall of Fame running back who was enshrined in 1985. He would be eligible to attend the annual enshrinement weekend once any parole restrictions related to travel are lifted.

      The Hall of Fame's bylaws stipulate that only a player's on-field achievements in football are considered as the criteria for enshrinement, thus Simpson's bust remains on display in Canton, Ohio. Simpson has not attended a Hall of Fame ceremony since his own enshrinement in 1985.

      Simpson rushed for 11,236 yards in an 11-year NFL career and was the first running back in league history to top 2,000 rushing yards in a season with 2,003 yards in 1973 for the Buffalo Bills. He is the only player to rush for 2,000 yards in a 14-game season.

      Simpson was convicted in 2008 of an armed robbery involving two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room. He served the minimum sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center, about 90 miles northeast of Reno, Nev.

      In 1995, Simpson was acquitted in the killings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

      Connie Bisbee, chairman of the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners, referenced the 1995 trial during Thursday's hearing, saying the board had received hundreds of letter of support and opposition regarding Simpson's release. She specifically noted that case was not relevant to Thursday's hearing and would not be considered when determining whether Simpson would be paroled because he had been acquitted.

      Simpson was a highly popular figure prior to the brutal knife-slashing killings in 1994 but he was infamous after the verdicts despite being found not guilty.

      Simpson was a college football star at USC and was perhaps the top running back in the NFL in the 1970s while starring for the Bills.

  • Cardinals hope LB Bucannon (ankle) can play in opener
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, July 21, 2017

    The Arizona Cardinals placed linebacker Deone Bucannon on the physically unable to perform list, the team announced Friday.

    • Bucannon underwent surgery on his right ankle in May on the heels of missing the final three games of the regular season.

      Coach Bruce Arians is hopeful that Bucannon can return for the season opener.

      "Deone is close," Arians said. "He's getting there. I think he's a little bit ahead of schedule. We have our fingers crossed. The first game is his due date, so to speak. Hopefully, we'll have him ready to play."

      Bucannon had 89 tackles in 13 games last season. He has posted more than 80 tackles in each of his three NFL seasons and has five sacks, four recoveries and one interception.

      Haason Reddick, who is the team's first-round pick, has taken first-team reps in Bucannon's absence.

      Linebacker Jarvis Jones was placed on the active/non-football injury list with a tweaked quadriceps during the conditioning run on Friday. Jones could miss a few days of work, Arians said.

  • NFL notebook: Pacman Jones suspended 1 game
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, July 21, 2017

    Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones has been suspended one game for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, the league announced Friday.

    • Jones, 33, was arrested Jan. 3 on a felony charge of harassment with a bodily substance and misdemeanor charges of assault, disorderly conduct and obstructing official business as a result of an altercation with a security guard at a Cincinnati hotel.

      The Cincinnati prosecutor dropped the felony charge and in May and Jones entered a plea of guilty to obstruction of official business stemming from the incident. The state court imposed a sentence of time served (two days' confinement) and court fees.

      The NFL explained in a letter to Jones that it considered the "extensive video documentation of the tone, tenor and nature of your interactions with law enforcement at the site of your arrest, during transportation to the jail, and during the booking process. As you acknowledged, your post-arrest words and actions reflected poorly on you and your family, the Cincinnati Bengals football club, and the NFL. While it is our understanding that appropriate apologies have been publicly extended, they do not completely negate your behavior and admission of culpability for the underlying conduct."

      --The Carolina Panthers signed Pro Bowl offensive guard Trai Turner to a four-year contract extension, the team announced.

      The 24-year-old Turner is now under contract with Carolina through the 2021 season. He was entering the final year of his rookie contract.

      The extension is worth $45 million with $20.5 million guaranteed, according to the Charlotte Observer. The deal includes a $15 million signing bonus.

      The $11.25 million per-year average makes Turner the NFL's third highest-paid guard behind Cleveland's Kevin Zeitler ($12 million) and Oakland's Kelechi Osemele ($11.7 million).

      --The Kansas City Chiefs signed their first-round draft pick, quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, to a four-year rookie contract.

      All of Kansas City's six draft picks are now under contract ahead of the Chiefs' training camp starting next week.

      Mahomes' deal is worth $16.4 million with a $10 million signing bonus and a fifth-year option, according to the Kansas City Star.

      The Chiefs traded up from the 27th pick in April's NFL Draft to take Mahomes out of Texas Tech with the 10th overall selection.

      --First-round pick Jamal Adams signed a four-year rookie deal with the New York Jets.

      The LSU safety, projected as a top-5 pick by NFLDraftScout.com, Adams was the No. 6 pick in April. His agreement is worth $22.3 million and includes a fifth-year team option.

      When business opened Friday, the third overall pick -- Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas of the 49ers -- and fifth selection (Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis of the Titans) remained unsigned.

      Adams, known for his hard-hitting skills in coverage, should provide an immediate upgrade on Calvin Pryor, the incumbent strong safety who underperformed and was traded to the Cleveland Browns.

      --Detroit Lions legendary running back Barry Sanders has returned to the team nearly two decades after his sudden departure.

      The Hall of Famer, now 49, will be a "brand ambassador," team president Rod Wood told The Detroit News.

      "We've thankfully, the last couple years, had an unofficial relationship with him," Wood told the newspaper. "This year, we formalized it. You described it well, it's kind of a brand ambassador. He'll be going on road trips, showing up for suite visits, he'll be at the Taste of the Lions event, and just interacting with our fans on behalf of the team.

      "It's a formal agreement. I worked with Barry and his agent to put something together that works for both of us. It's not a football role. It's more of a marketing, business role."

      --Might Calvin Johnson be seriously considering the invitation to training camp extended by the Lions?

      Wood sounds confident that Johnson might join the Lions after the team sent a formal invitation. Johnson retired before the 2016 season and said recently that he walked away because the franchise was not close to reaching the Super Bowl.

      "As I said on WJR (Radio), we had a very nice, cordial exchange," Wood said of his discussion with the receiver known as Megatron. "I'm hoping he comes. I'm not going to say anymore beyond that. I do have confidence it'll work out ultimately."

      The optimistic outlook comes on the same day the Lions announced an ambassador role for Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.

  • NFL Camp openers: Troubled Cowboys must now focus on the field
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, July 21, 2017

    OXNARD, Calif. -- After a disruptive offseason, the Dallas Cowboys' full roster is due to check into the Marriott Residence Inn here for training camp Saturday (July 22) and they can narrow their focus to addressing key issues on the field.

    • To do so they must put aside thoughts regarding:

      --Running back Ezekiel Elliott's alleged assault, investigation of which was suspended Wednesday.

      --Linebacker Damien Wilson's Fourth of July arrest with two charges of aggravated assault, which hardly helped him after a paint-ball incident sidelined him for the first two weeks of last year.

      --Defensive end David Irving's suspension for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's policy on the use of performance-enhancing drugs. He won't be eligible to return to the Cowboys' roster until Oct. 2.

      --Defensive back Jourdan Lewis' court case in Michigan next week regarding an alleged misdemeanor domestic violence incident in March. Lewis was a third-round draft pick this year out of Michigan and was the Big 10 Defensive Back of the Year.

      On the bright side, team owner Jerry Jones will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the first week of August.

      Meanwhile, back on the field, among the most important battles during camp will be that at left guard between Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper.

      Green was supposed to be the heir at right tackle, but was not able to stay healthy the last two seasons. They moved La'el Collins from guard to right tackle and kicked Green inside where he will compete with the former Arizona Cardinals first-round pick.

      Cooper joined the Cowboys during last season's playoff run, but did not appear in the divisional round loss to the Green Bay Packers.

      He was the seventh overall pick in 2013 by the Cardinals, but he was dealt to the New England Patriots for Chandler Jones last season. He was eventually released by New England and claimed by the Cleveland Browns, for whom he played in five games with three starts.

      The Browns released Cooper on Christmas Eve and he joined the Cowboys on Jan. 4 with the hopes of turning a free look into a longer-term relationship.

      Now with his fourth team in two years, he will be a key focus of attention during this training camp.

      THE FACTS:

      TRAINING CAMP: Oxnard, Calif.

      HEAD COACH: Jason Garrett

      7th full season as Cowboys/NFL head coach

      59-48 overall; 1-2 postseason

      THE BREAKDOWN

      2016 finish: 1st NFC East (13-3)

      2016 STATISTICS

      TOTAL OFFENSE: 376.7 (5th)

      RUSHING: 149.8 (2nd)

      PASSING: 226.9 (23rd)

      TOTAL DEFENSE: 343.9 (14th)

      RUSHING: 83.5 (1st)

      PASSING: 260.4 (26th)

      2017 PRESEASON SCHEDULE

      All times Central

      Aug. 3, Arizona, at Canton (Thu), 7:00

      Aug. 12, at L.A. Rams (Sat), 8:00

      Aug. 19, INDIANAPOLIS (Sat), 6:00

      Aug. 26, OAKLAND (Sat), 7:00

      Aug. 31, at Houston (Thu), 7:00

      UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

      QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Dak Prescott. Backups - Kellen Moore, Cooper Rush, Zac Dysert.

      Prescott was a rookie third-string quarterback a year ago at this time. He was a fourth-round developmental quarterback for the future. But that was before he took advantage of injuries and had the best rookie season of any quarterback in NFL history. It was enough to win rookie of year honors ahead of running back teammate Ezekiel Elliott and send the team's all-time leading passer Tony Romo into retirement and the broadcast booth. The Cowboys don't believe there will be a sophomore slump because Prescott didn't trick his way to success with athleticism. He ran the offense. He threw to open receivers. He also has an uncanny worth ethic, attention to detail, leadership and professionalism. He will only get better. Moore was slated to be the backup last year before an injury early in training camp. The Cowboys have confidence he can handle the job behind Prescott. Rush is likely a practice-squad option.

      RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- Ezekiel Elliott, FB Keith Smith. Backups - Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, Jahad Thomas.

      Ellliott led the league in rushing as a rookie with 1,631 yards. There is no reason why he can't do more and be better in 2017 as the Cowboys plan to give him more touches in the passing game. The only concern with Elliott is his off-field troubles and whether he might be suspended a few games. But if he plays 16 games, look for him to challenge Eric Dickerson's NFL rushing record of 2,105 yards. McFadden still has something left in the tank is the perfect backup to Elliott. Morris will only stick if Elliott gets suspended. He is not suited to be the third running back. The hope is for Rod Smith to continue to develop as the third running back because he can play on special teams. Keith Smith made a smooth transition from linebacker to fullback last year. He should be even better and more comfortable in 2017.

      TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Jason Witten. Backups - Geoff Swaim, James Hanna, Rico Gathers, Conner Hamlet.

      Witten remains the fixture at tight end -- even in his 15th season at the ripe old age of 35. He's not the same Pro-Bowl regular as he was in the past, but remains effective and a trusted weapon on third down. He showed no signs of slowing down with 69 catches for 673 yards and three touchdowns in 2016. He remains a team leader and has a knack for getting open in the middle of the field. The Cowboys are still searching for answers behind Witten with Swaim and Hanna coming off injuries and Gathers still adjusting to football in his second year after playing basketball in college. Swaim is the best combination blocker and receiver of the backups. Hanna plays more of a H-back than in-line tight end. Gathers has the size and hands, but still doesn't understand the nuance of the game.

      WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams. Backups - Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Lucky Whitehead, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown, Andy Jones, Lance Lenoir, Uzoma Nwachukwu, Brian Brown.

      Beasley led the Cowboys in catches and yards last year with 75 for 833. Look for him to continue to have a big role in the offense. He has a knack for getting open in the slot and proved to be quarterback friendly for rookie Dak Prescott in the middle of the field. Bryant caught just 50 passes for 796 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns. He missed three games with a hairline fracture on his knee that affected his numbers. Look for him to get back to his old production in 2017 because he is healthy and coming off his first full offseason for the first time in two years. Williams will continue to reprise his role as the starter opposite Bryant, but is the third option behind Bryant and Beasley. He is still the team's best deep threat and has good chemistry with Prescott. Prescott had a 124.6 passer rating when targeting Williams last year, per Pro Football Focus. Butler was inconsistent last year and will have to step up to make the roster with Jones and Brown vying for his spot. Whitehead has already been surpassed on paper by Switzer as the primary backup to Beasley in the slot and the primary returner. Switzer is a natural in the slot.

      OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Tyrone Smith, LG Jonathan Cooper, C Travis Frederick, RG Zack Martin, RT Lael Collins. Backups - G Joe Looney, T Emmett Cleary, G/T Chaz Green, G/T Byron Bell, G/T Dan Skipper, G Ruben Carter, G Nate Theaker, T Clay Dubord.

      The only real question on the offensive line is at guard where Cooper, a former first-round bust in Arizona, will try to secure the spot made vacant by the departure of Ron Leary in free agency and the moving of Collins to tackle. Cooper will be challenged by Green, who made the switch from tackle and Bell, a former starter in Carolina and Tennessee. The good news is that Collins looks like he will have a smooth transition from guard to tackle where he will replace the retired Doug Free. Collins played tackle at LSU and was considered a first-round talent coming out of college only to drop in the draft because of an off-field issue. No team will have four starters with the pedigree of the Cowboys when you add in former first-round picks and perennial Pro Bowlers in left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and guard Zack Martin.

      DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - DLE Tyrone Crawford, DLT Maliek Collins, NT Cedric Thornton, DRE DeMarcus Lawrence. Backups - DE Benson Mayowa, DE David Irving, DT Richard Ash, DE Taco Charlton, DE Charles Tapper, DE Lenny Jones, DE Damontre Moore, DT Stephen Paea, DT Jordan Carrell, DT Joe Ivy, DE Zach Wood, DT Woody Baron, DE Lewis Neal.

      The Cowboys have numbers on the line. They just don't have any special players, at least not this year. They drafted Charlton in the first round to hopefully solve that problem. The team had just 36 sacks last year. They need to find a way to get to the quarterback. Charlton will be part of the rotation as will Tapper, Irving, Lawrence, Crawford and Mayowa on the outside. Irving has the most promise after a strong close in 2016, but he will miss the first four games with an NFL suspension for a banned supplement. Lawrence is most concerning following back surgery for the second straight offseason. Collins may be the most talented of the interior guys and they are hoping he continues to build momentum after a strong rookie season. He showed a lot of promise as a pass rusher with five sacks. Thornton and Paea should hold down the nose tackle position with a push from the rookies Ivy and Carrell.

      LINEBACKERS: Starters - WLB Sean Lee, MLB Anthony Hitchens, SLB Damien Wilson. Backups - SLB Kyle Wilber, MLB Mark Nzeocha, MLB Jaylon Smith, Justin Durant, WLB John Lotulelei, WLB Joseph Jones, WLB Lucas Wacha, SLB Darnell Leslie, SLB Keenan Gilchrist.

      The Cowboys are putting all their hopes on Smith coming up big in 2017. He missed all of last season with a college knee injury and has dealt with nerve damage. He is still wearing a brace for drop foot, but the Cowboys believe he is ready to have a big impact. He is cleared to play and will open training camp with no limitations. Smith is needed because Lee remains the only proven difference-maker in the front seven. And he is coming off the best season of his career, recording 174 tackles and 12 tackles for loss while making All-Pro for the first time. The Cowboys know what they are getting in Lee. He just needs some help. They are hoping against hope he will get some impactful help from Smith. The versatile Hitchens will play in the middle if Smith is not ready. He will also compete with Wilson at strong-side linebacker. Of course, Wilson's availability is in question after a July 4 arrest for aggravated felony assault. Durant was signed Thursday as the Cowboys prepared to report.

      DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Nolan Carroll, RCB Orlando Scandrick, SS Jeff Heath, FS Byron Jones. Backups - CB Anthony Brown, S Robert Blanton, CB Chido Awuzie, CB Jordan Lewis, S Xavier Woods, S Jamiell Showers, S Kavon Frazier, CB Marquez White, CB Leon McFadden, CB Duke Thomas, CB Sammy Seamster.

      The Cowboys purposefully overhauled their secondary in the offseason, letting safeties Barry Church and JJ Wilcox and cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne walk in free agency. They signed Carroll as a free agent and added Awuzie and Lewis at the top the draft. Scandrick remains the team's best cornerback, but they have added new blood and more physicality to the unit. Awuzie could make an impact at cornerback or compete with Heath for the starting spot at safety opposite Jones. Lewis will also vie for playing time as a rookie. Heath has shown a knack for making plays on special teams and creating turnovers during his brief time on defense. The Cowboys are giving him a chance to earn the starting spot.

      SPECIAL TEAMS: K Dan Bailey, P Chris Jones, LS L.P. Ladouceur, KOR Lucky Whitehead, PR Ryan Switzer.

      What more needs to be said about the team's specialists? Bailey, Jones and Ladouceur remain among the best at what they do in the league. Bailey made 25 of 30 field goals playing through a back injury last year. He is healthy and should be back to his perfect self in 2017. Jones continues to be solid, averaging 45.7 yard per punt last year. The Cowboys need to be better on returns and that's why they drafted Switzer. He will replace Whitehead on punt returns and could add kickoff returns to his duties.

  • NFL camp openers: Cards must address O-Line, not age
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, July 21, 2017

    GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When the Arizona Cardinals' entire roster reports for training camp here Friday (July 21), attention must turn away from age-related questions about 64-year-old head coach Bruce Arians and soon-to-be 38-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer.

    • And, as long as he is productive and healthy, the team must celebrate its luck for having wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald when he turns 34 next month.

      Arizona's attention now must focus on the field, not the calendar.

      One might would assume the key there could be competition for the No. 2 cornerback job, which figures to be a battle between Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams -- unless a veteran free agent is brought in to upset the apple cart.

      But that position figures to get sorted out rather quickly, however, with a healthy Bethel having the inside track on the gig.

      That leaves starting right guard on the offensive line as the real key battle heading into camp, and as often as Arians has indicated that it will be second-year pro Evan Boehm's job to lose entering the preseason, it's important to remember that Boehm was drafted as the team's center of the future.

      This year, the Cardinals drafted a potential a third-round steal, Pittsburgh's Dorian Johnson, who will get every opportunity to prove he can win the right-guard position. Either way, Johnson projects as the long-term answer at right guard, which should make it more than an interesting camp battle.

      Also on the offensive side, the Cardinals re-signed running back Chris Johnson Thursday, one day before the full squad reports.

      THE FACTS:

      TRAINING CAMP: University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, AZ

      HEAD COACH: Bruce Arians

      5th season as Cardinals/NFL head coach

      42-24-1 overall; 1-2 postseason

      THE BREAKDOWN

      2016 finish: 2nd NFC West (7-8-1)

      STATISTICS

      TOTAL OFFENSE: 366.8 (9th)

      RUSHING: 108.3 (18th)

      PASSING: 258.5 (9th)

      TOTAL DEFENSE: 305.2 (2nd)

      RUSHING: 94.9 (9th)

      PASSING: 210.3 (4th)

      2017 PRESEASON SCHEDULE

      All times Pacific/Mountain

      Aug. 3, Dallas, at Canton (Thu), 5:00

      Aug. 12, OAKLAND (Sat), 7:00

      Aug. 19, CHICAGO (Sat), 7:00

      Aug. 26, at Atlanta (Sat), 4:00

      Aug. 31, at Denver (Thu), 6:00

      UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

      QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Carson Palmer. Backups -- Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert, Trevor Knight.

      Most of the pundits seem more than ready to write off Palmer two years removed from an MVP-type season. He welcomes the critics and has said his love for the game won't let anything or anyone detract him from finishing what he started in Arizona. If his teammates can protect him and give him time in an offense that is evolving, the Cardinals can be a playoff team. If he takes as many hits as he did a year ago -- more than 100 -- this team could be toast. Stanton is a decent quarterback and Gabbert's addition is intriguing, especially now that he's working with a quarterback guru in Arians. But for the Cardinals to go anywhere this season, they need an aging Palmer to be at his absolute best as well as upright.

      RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- David Johnson. Backups -- Andre Ellington, Kerwynn Williams, Chris Johnson, Elijhaa Penny, T.J. Logan, James Summers.

      The sky appears to be the limit for David Johnson, who desperately wants to reach 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in 2017. He almost achieved both a year ago during his breakout season when he led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage and touchdowns scored. Arians wants Johnson to get around 30 touches a game, which could either be a real game-changer for the Cardinals or a major detriment if the third-year pro can't handle the load or gets hurt trying to carry it. Behind him, the depth might have been enhanced with the re-signing of Chris Johnson. Aside from that, it is middle of the road, although in Penny the team has a David Johnson-like threat, albeit an inexperienced one. Logan, a rookie, is a speed burner who should show flashes from week to week.

      TIGHT ENDS: Starter. -- Jermaine Gresham. Backups -- Troy Niklas, Ifeanyi Momah, Hakeem Valles, Ricky Seals-Jones, Steven Wroblewski.

      Gresham is the only real sure thing at this position and his value was rewarded with a nice multi-year contract extension in the offseason. He may have to have a career season to help make this group shine because there isn't a lot behind him to make very many opponents nervous. Niklas is a perfect specimen, but he can't stay healthy. Former basketball standout Ifeanyi Momah looked like he was on the rise until injuries caught up to him, too. Valles has seen most of his action on special teams. If general manager Steve Keim is going to make a few of his regular free-agent veteran camp additions, this is a position he might want to address.

      WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, J.J. Nelson. Backups -- Aaron Dobson, Jaron Brown, Chad Williams, Brittan Golden, Jeremy Ross, Kris Hogan, Larry Clark, Marquis Bundy, Carlton Agudosi.

      Fitzgerald, at 33, led the league in receptions a year ago with 107 and judging from how he looked in offseason workouts and minicamps, there's no reason to think he's all of a sudden going to fall of the face of the earth. No one works harder or is more prideful than Fitzgerald, which will once again serve him well entering his 14th season. There is elite speed to burn behind him in fellow regulars John Brown and J.J. Nelson, especially now that Brown appears to be over the illness that sapped much of his strength in 2016. The depth here is better than average with targets such as Jaron Brown, Golden and veteran addition Dobson. Plus, the team drafted a high-potential talent in Williams, whom many in the organization believe can replace Fitzgerald in a year or two.

      OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT D.J. Humphries, LG Mike Iupati, C A.Q. Shipley, RG Evan Boehm, RT Jared Veldheer. Backups -- T Will Holden, G/C Cole Toner, C Tony Bergstrom, G Dorian Johnson, T John Wetzel, G Kaleb Johnson, T Ulrick John, T Givens Price, C/G Daniel Munyer, C Lucas Crowley, T Jonathan McLaughlin.

      There are no guarantees this unit overall will either sink the Cardinals or help allow them to get back into the playoffs. One thing is certain -- no position group will likely be more scrutinized on this team than this bunch, which will feature multiple moving pieces. It's been decided that the starting tackles will switch sides and there likely will be a heated competition to see who ultimately will start at right guard. Boehm gets the early nod, but will be challenged by top-rated rookie prospect Dorian Johnson from Pitt. Shipley held his own a year ago despite his smallish size and in Bergstrom, the Cardinals now have veteran depth in case Shipley's play should dip.

      DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LDE Robert Nkemdiche, NT Corey Peters, RDT Frostee Rucker. Backups -- DE Ed Stinson, NT Xavier Williams, DT Josh Mauro, DT Rodney Gunter, NT Olsen Pierre, DE Tasini Pasoni.

      This was considered one of the team's biggest strengths a year ago, but with the loss of Calais Campbell to free agency, there naturally are going to be questions. Nkemdiche can silence those concerns if he plays up to his potential and hype, which never showed last season as a rookie for various reasons. Peters and Rucker are serviceable veterans, but aren't spring chickens and their durability might become an issue. Fortunately for the Cardinals, there is rising young depth behind them in players such as Gunter and Stinson and a real coaching favorite in do-everything workhorse Mauro, the most underrated guy on the entire defense.

      LINEBACKERS: Starters -- SOLB Chandler Jones, SILB Karlos Dansby, RILB Haasan Reddick, WOLB Markus Golden. Backups -- OLB Jarvis Jones, MLB Deone Bucannon, MLB Gabe Martin, OLB Kareem Martin, ILB/OLB Alani Fua, MLB Scooby Wright, MLB Tre'Von Johnson, OLB Capi Cap, MLB Zaviar Gooden, OLB Alex Bazzie.

      In Chandler Jones and Golden, the Cardinals have the makings of one of the best outside pass-rushing duos in the NFC if not the entire league. Golden (12.5) and Jones (11) combined for 23.5 sacks last year in their first season together and those numbers should climb in 2017. Dansby is back on his third tour of duty with the Cardinals and the hope is the 35 year old can still play at a high level this season. Bucannon, the team's starting money 'backer, will begin camp on the physically unable to perform list, meaning Reddick, the team's first-round pick out of Temple, will be thrust into first-team service whether he's ready or not. The coaches believe he's more than capable. The depth here is stable and will be heavily counted upon in special teams play in addition to backup duty.

      DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Patrick Peterson, RCB Justin Bethel, FS Tyrann Mathieu, SS Antoine Bethea. Backups -- CB Brandon Williams, CB Jumal Rolle, FS Budda Baker, SS Tyvon Branch, CB Rudy Ford, S/CB Harlan Miller, CB Elie Bouka, S Ironhead Gallon, CB Ronald Zamort, CB Sojourn Shelton, CB Daniel Gray, CB Gump Hayes, CB Ryan Lewis.

      If this group wants to be known as the most important component of the entire team once again -- as it was two years ago when the Cardinals went 13-3 on their way to the NFC Championship -- a lot has to happen. For starters, they need to make sure the No.2 cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson can be an effective, shutdown force and not be the weakest link. Bethel has the inside track on the job, but if he falters, it could end up going to Williams, the second-year pro. The team might also look outside for veteran help as it did last season. Mathieu, meanwhile, must stay healthy and return as the game-changing, ball-hawking disruptor he was in 2015. Branch is there in case he doesn't. The veteran Bethea was added to replace Tony Jefferson, a significant free-agent loss, and in Baker, a second-round pick this year, the Cardinals have a nice blend of experience and young athleticism on the back end. Rolle, Bouka, Miller and Ford provide decent depth and tons of speed.

      SPECIAL TEAMS: K Phil Dawson, P Richie Leone, P Matt Wile, LS Aaron Brewer, KOR T.J. Logan, PR Patrick Peterson.

      This unit underperformed so badly, the Cardinals decided to blow it up and start over. Gone is young kicker Chandler Catanzaro and in is the steady veteran Dawson. Gone are punters Drew Butler and Ryan Quigley and now there will be a battle for the job between Wile and Leone. Brewer is back at long snapper after the team had to make changes there, too, and look for a new kickoff returner as well in rookie Logan, who might be one of the fastest players in the league. The Cardinals are hoping someone emerges as a reliable punt returner, but until that happens, Peterson will remain the safety anchor. He hasn't broken a return since his rookie year when he returned four punts back for touchdowns. But his sure hands make him the logical No.1 punt returner for now.