Steelers rookie Okorafor ready to fill in if necessary

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Munchak revels in projects such as Chukwuma Okorafor. The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach loves few things more than taking raw talent, particularly talent with an unconventional background, and turning into something far more substantial.

The list of Munchak’s protégés includes starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army officer who did three tours in Afghanistan before starting his NFL career. Ditto Matt Feiler, who went undrafted after a career at Division II Bloomsburg, but has forged a path from practice squad flyer to dependable reserve.

Now it may be Okorafor’s turn. The rookie third-round pick practiced at right tackle with the starters on Wednesday with Marcus Gilbert still dealing with a knee injury and Feiler — who has made five straight starts in Gilbert’s place — dealing with a pectoral issue.

It’s uncertain whether Feiler will be ready to play on Sunday when the Steelers (7-2-1) visit Denver (4-6), leaving Okorafor as the next best option to line up across from Broncos star linebacker Von Miller.

All the 21-year old Okorafor — who was born in Nigeria and spent a portion of his childhood there before moving to the United States at age 12 — may have to do is find a way to keep a six-time Pro Bowler who already has 10 sacks this season from disrupting Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

No pressure or anything.

“He’s know what he’s doing,” Okorafor said on Wednesday. “Got to just keep on watching film and keep playing.”

Roethlisberger, for his part, doesn’t expect Okorafor or Feiler or whoever might be at right tackle to be able to handle Miller by himself.

“Nobody can really block Von Miller to tell you the truth, so we’ll have to put a couple guys over there,” Roethlisberger said.

“We are not going to be crazy and make one guy do it. We’ll have to put a couple guys over there because he and (Bradley) Chubb are pretty special.”

Maybe, but the Steelers like what they’ve seen from Okorafor, whom they took with the 92nd overall pick in the draft after a solid career at Central Michigan. The 6-foot-6, 320-pounder is big but athletic and carved out a role as a blocking tight end in running situations. There’s never any doubt when Okorafor is in the game. Because he wears No. 76, he’s required to check in with the referees when he reports. That won’t happen if he simply lines up next to right tackle David DeCastro.

He’s more than happy to enjoy his anonymity and do his job, one that is far different than what he envisioned when the phone rang in April with the Steelers on the other end. Munchak, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman in his own right, likes to turn his players into students of the game. Okorafor is doing his best to be a sponge.

“No offense to my coach back in college, but like it’s kind of a whole new level of looking at plays, looking at your technique and every single play,” Okorafor said.

Okorafor hardly considers himself the same player he was six months ago, a tribute to Munchak’s approach. Quick to use his sense of humor to get a player’s attention, Munchak has taken a bit of a more professorial approach with Okorafor. It’s working. Okorafor watches film and admits he’s stunned at how far he’s come in six months, all of it a tribute to Munchak.

“Coach Munch knows what he’s doing, he knows how to train guys,” Okorafor said. “Every guy plays differently and takes coaching a different way. You can’t force the same type of coaching on every single guy and think it’s going to work.”

It’s one of the reasons the Steelers have ripped off six straight wins, five of them with Feiler making the first starts of his NFL career in place of Gilbert. Pittsburgh kept humming along anyway. The expectations won’t change if Okorafor jogs into the huddle with the starters in Denver.

“He’s got all the tools, he’s just young,” DeCastro said. “I remember being a rookie and the game was fast. There was a lot going on and there’s things I didn’t know back then that I learned and experienced and made my life easier. Just got to come in there and play fast when he has to, take care and pick him up when we can.”

NOTES: DE Stephon Tuitt (elbow) did not practice. … LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle) was a full participant. … Roethlisberger, CB Joe Haden and C Maurkice Pouncey were given the day off.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Report: Saints near deal with TE Cook

Report: Saints near deal with TE Cook

Free

Report: Saints near deal with TE Cook

Free agent tight end Jared Cook is close to a contract agreement with the New Orleans Saints, NFL Network reported Thursday.

Cook turns 32 next month but has been productive in stints with the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers, St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans.

The Saints had a hole at tight end with Benjamin Watson opting for retirement. Last spring, the Saints made a run at free agent Jimmy Graham, but he landed in Green Bay.

Cook had 68 receptions for 896 yards and six touchdowns with the Raiders in 2018.

He has 39-plus catches in seven of the past eight seasons.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles bring back DE Curry

Eagles bring back DE Curry

Defensive end Vinny Curry

Eagles bring back DE Curry

Defensive end Vinny Curry returned to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, agreeing to a deal following one season away from the team.

Curry played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.

Curry, 30, was released by the Buccaneers in March in a cap-savings move. Tampa shaved $8 million off of its 2019 cap in the transaction.

Curry won the Super Bowl with the Eagles two years ago and helps add depth to a defensive line that subtracted Michael Bennett (via trade to the New England Patriots) and Haloti Ngata (retirement).

Curry had 21 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2018, his only season with Tampa Bay, after winning the Super Bowl with the Eagles.

Curry turns 31 on June 30. He spent the first six seasons of his career in Philadelphia, where he produced 22 quarterback sacks.

–Field Level Media

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Saints WR Meredith agrees to $2.1M pay cut

Saints WR Meredith agrees to $2.1M pay cut

Saints WR Meredith agrees to $2.1M pay cut

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Cameron Meredith agreed to a pay cut that saves the team $2.3 million in cap space for the upcoming season.

Meredith’s new base salary is $1.3 million, down from the $3.4 million deal he signed last year. But his cap hit is now $4.15 million, down from $6.45 million.

A knee injury limited Meredith, 26, to just six games in the 2018 season. He caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown last season. He has 86 catches and five touchdowns in his three-year career.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Cards sign DT Philon to two-year deal

Report: Cards sign DT Philon to two-year deal

Report: Cards sign DT Philon to two-year deal

The Arizona Cardinals have reached a two-year deal with free agent defensive lineman Darius Philon, the NFL Network reported Thursday.

The deal is worth $10 million — $12 million with incentives — with $5 million guaranteed, according to the report.

The 6-foot-1, 300-pound tackle was drafted by the Chargers in the sixth round of the 2015 draft. Philon, 25, played in all 16 games with the Chargers last season, starting 13, recording four sacks, 33 tackles and a forced fumble.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Kraft reportedly wants to block alleged video release

NFL notebook: Kraft reportedly wants to block alleged video release

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is

NFL notebook: Kraft reportedly wants to block alleged video release

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is seeking to suppress video evidence that authorities assert support the solicitation of prostitution charges filed against him, ESPN reported Wednesday.

Per the report, a motion was filed Wednesday by Kraft’s attorneys with intentions to make sure the video, which he said has been described as “graphic and damning,” never is released. The report calls the motion a “warning shot” to prosecutors that Kraft’s team will challenge that police had probable cause even to collect the video as evidence.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that prosecutors offered to defer prosecution for Kraft and the two dozen other men arrested in the case, but any defendant who accepts the offer must admit that there is enough evidence to lead to a conviction at trial, along with other stipulations. CNN reported Wednesday Kraft will reject the offer.

Kraft entered a not guilty plea after being charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at a day spa in Jupiter, Fla. The 77-year-old billionaire is alleged to have twice visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in January and received sex acts in exchange for money.

–Much of the New York Giants’ top brass — including head coach Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator Mike Shula and senior vice president of player personnel Chris Mara — took Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins to dinner Tuesday night, then studied his on-field drills at the Buckeyes’ Pro Day the following day.

Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network summed up the action: “Strong workout for Haskins. Improved foot quickness, excellent anticipation and pace on the ball.”

Haskins could be the choice if New York is ready to try to draft the replacement for Eli Manning with the No. 6 overall pick, but there could be competition as other quarterback-needy teams assess their draft positions. Haskins said he would soon meet with the Oakland Raiders (who hold the No. 4 pick), the Denver Broncos (No. 10), the Miami Dolphins (No. 13) and the Washington Redskins (No. 15).

–Also in Columbus, potential No. 1 overall pick Nick Bosa did not participate in on-field drills after performing well in drill work at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine.

He said he had meetings scheduled with the San Francisco 49ers, who hold the No. 2 pick, and the Giants. He also interviewed with all the top teams at the combine, including Arizona, which picks first. Bosa had 29 tackles for loss, including 17.5 sacks, in 29 career games for the Buckeyes.

–Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin told Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle that “more surgeries (are) on the way, most likely,” while the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo cited a source in saying that Baldwin will meet with Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia in early April about a potential sports hernia.

Baldwin, 30, missed two games in September with a knee injury and a shoulder problem arose later in the campaign. He had surgeries to address both issues this offseason.

–The Tampa Bay Buccaneers added two women as assistant coaches, making them the first full-time female coaches in team history and making the Bucs the first NFL team with two female coaches on staff. Maral Javadifar will take on the role as assistant strength and conditioning coach as Lori Locust will be an assistant defensive line coach.

–Quarterback Trevor Siemian has agreed to a reported one-year deal worth $2 million with the New York Jets. Siemian spent all of last season on Minnesota’s active roster, although he did not play as Kirk Cousins’ backup after the Vikings acquired him in a trade with Denver last March. Siemian, 27, started 24 games for the Broncos over the 2016 and ’17 seasons, passing for 5,686 yards and 30 touchdowns against 24 interceptions.

–The Minnesota Vikings, in search of help at offensive guard, announced the signing of Josh Kline, who was released last week by the Tennessee Titans. The deal is for three years and $15.75 million, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. … The Chicago Bears re-signed punter Patrick O’Donnell and backup quarterback Tyler Bray.

–Field Level Media

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Buccaneers add two women to coaching staff

Buccaneers add two women to coaching staff

The Tampa

Buccaneers add two women to coaching staff

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers added two women as full-time coaches Wednesday.

Maral Javadifar will take on the role as assistant strength and conditioning coach and Lori Locust as assistant defensive line coach, making them the first full-time female coaches in Buccaneers history and making the team the first in the NFL with two female coaches on staff.

“I know how hard it can be to get that first opportunity to coach at the highest level of professional football,” Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said in a team statement. “Sometimes, all you need is the right organization to offer up the opportunity.

“The Glazer family and our general manager, Jason Licht, were extremely supportive of my decision, and I know Maral and Lori will be great additions to my coaching staff.

“I have known Lori going back to my days at Temple University and I’ve seen firsthand just how knowledgeable and passionate she is about this game. I was equally impressed with Maral’s background in performance training and physical therapy and I know she will be a valuable asset to our strength and conditioning program.”

Javadifar most recently worked as a physical therapist at Avant Physical Therapy in Seattle, after completing her sports physical therapy residency at Virginia Commonwealth University last August.

Javadifar played basketball at Pace University in New York City. A native of Queens, N.Y., she earned a degree in molecular biology from Pace, before getting a doctor of physical therapy degree from New York Medical College.

Locust was working as the defensive line coach for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football during the league’s inaugural season this year.

In 2018, Locust served as a defensive coaching intern for the Baltimore Ravens during the team’s training camp and, from 2017-18, worked as a defensive line/linebackers coach and co-special teams coordinator of the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks of the National Arena League.

Locust worked as an assistant coach from 2010-18 at her high school alma mater, Susquehanna Township High School in Harrisburg, Pa. She also was an assistant coach with the Central Penn Piranha, a semi-professional team in Harrisburg from 2013-16, the DMV Elite semi-pro team from 2016-18 and the Keystone Assault of the Women’s Football Alliance from 2017-18.

Locust began her coaching career following four years as a player in women’s semi-pro football. She attended Temple University.

–Field Level Media

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Jets to bring in QB Siemian on 1-year deal

Jets to bring in QB Siemian on 1-year deal

Quarterback Trevor Siemian

Jets to bring in QB Siemian on 1-year deal

Quarterback Trevor Siemian has agreed to a one-year deal with the New York Jets, his agent said on social media Wednesday.

Siemian, expected to provide an experienced backup to second-year pro Sam Darnold in 2019, will earn $2 million, with another potential $1 million in incentives, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported. The Jets also have 2017 third-rounder Davis Webb, who has yet to attempt an NFL pass.

Siemian spent all of last season on Minnesota’s active roster, although he did not play as Kirk Cousins’ backup after the Vikings acquired him in a trade with Denver last March.

Siemian, 27, started 24 games for the Broncos over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, passing for 5,686 yards and 30 touchdowns against 24 interceptions.

He was a seventh-round pick out of Northwestern in 2015 and appeared in one game, without a pass attempt, as a rookie in Denver.

–Field Level Media

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Seahawks WR Baldwin staring at third offseason surgery

Seahawks WR Baldwin staring at third offseason surgery

Seahawks WR Baldwin staring at third offseason surgery

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin underwent shoulder and knee surgeries after last season, but his medical problems might not all be fixed.

He told Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle on Wednesday that “more surgeries on the way, most likely,” while the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo cited a source to report that Baldwin is scheduled to meet with Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia in early April about a potential sports hernia.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL Scouting Combine late last month that Baldwin was expected to be ready for the start of the 2019 season, but another surgery could change expectations.

Baldwin, 30, missed two games in September with the knee injury, which bothered him even before the start of the season. His shoulder problem arose later in the campaign.

In 13 regular-season games last season, Baldwin caught 50 passes for 618 yards and five touchdowns. Baldwin had three receptions for 32 yards in a playoff defeat to the Dallas Cowboys in January. He is entering his ninth season with Seattle.

He was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

–Field Level Media

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Bears re-sign punter, backup QB

Bears re-sign punter, backup QB

The Chicago Bears

Bears re-sign punter, backup QB

The Chicago Bears re-signed two players Wednesday — starting punter Patrick O’Donnell and reserve quarterback Tyler Bray.

O’Donnell, 28, has been the team’s punter for the past five seasons after being selected in the sixth round of the 2014 draft out of the University of Miami. He has a franchise-best career average of 44.9 yards per punt and set the team’s single-season record of 47.0 in 2017.

O’Donnell averaged 45.0 yards last season on 62 attempts, tying a career high with 28 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Bray, 27, spent much of the 2018 season on the practice squad in his first season in Chicago and figures to go to camp as the third-stringer. He spent his first five NFL seasons with the Chiefs, appearing in one game and attempting one pass.

–Field Level Media

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Vikings sign OG Kline

Vikings sign OG Kline

The Minnesota Vikings, in search of help at offensive guard, announced

Vikings sign OG Kline

The Minnesota Vikings, in search of help at offensive guard, announced the signing of Josh Kline, who was released last week by the Tennessee Titans.

The deal is for three years and $15.75 million, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Kline started all 46 of his games at right guard in his three seasons with Tennessee, which reportedly wanted him to take a pay cut before he entered the second season of a four-year, $26 million contract extension.

Kline joins Danny Isidora as the only guards on the Vikings’ roster with regular-season experience. Minnesota previously released guard Mike Remmers, and guards Tom Compton and Nick Easton moved on in free agency.

Kline, 29, spent his first three NFL seasons with New England (2013-15), making 18 starts in 33 regular-season games.

–Field Level Media

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Haskins’ Pro Day gives Giants something to chew on

Haskins' Pro Day gives Giants something to chew on

There is plenty of buzz

Haskins’ Pro Day gives Giants something to chew on

There is plenty of buzz about the New York Giants potentially selecting Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the sixth pick in the NFL Draft. The team’s biggest decision-makers received up-close looks in recent days.

Much of the team’s top brass — including head coach Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator Mike Shula, senior vice president of player personnel Chris Mara — took Haskins to dinner Tuesday night and then studied his on-field drills at the Buckeyes’ Pro Day on Wednesday.

Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network summed up the action: “Strong workout for Haskins. Improved foot quickness, excellent anticipation and pace on the ball.”

Haskins could be the choice if New York is ready to try to draft the replacement for Eli Manning, but there could be competition as other quarterback-needy teams assess their draft position. Haskins said he would soon meet with the Oakland Raiders (who hold the No. 4 pick), the Denver Broncos (No. 10), the Miami Dolphins (No. 13) and the Washington Redskins (No. 15).

“All my NFL friends tell me it’s not how early you go, it’s where you go,” Haskins told ESPN on Wednesday.

Haskins is widely considered one of the top two quarterbacks available, along with Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, a potential No. 1 overall pick. Haskins’ best features are his pocket-passing skills, decision-making and arm strength, while Murray has electrifying athleticism (and quite a good arm, too).

Haskins ran an official 5.04-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He hoped to counter criticism of his straight-line speed with quick footwork at the Pro Day.

“You put me in any playbook, I’ll make it work,” Haskins said. “So, to be able to show off-platform throws, moving to my left, moving to my right, being able to move off spot and still be accurate, is what I wanted to show because during the season I had a couple of throws that I missed that I still remember and I worked on all offseason.

“I definitely felt like I did a good job with that.”

Haskins threw for 4,831 yards in his lone season as a starter at Ohio State, working almost exclusively from the pocket.

Said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay: “He’s the most natural passer in this year’s draft class.”

–Field Level Media

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Report: Kraft’s team seeks to suppress evidence

Report: Kraft's team seeks to suppress evidence

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is seeking to suppress

Report: Kraft’s team seeks to suppress evidence

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is seeking to suppress video evidence that authorities assert support the solicitation of prostitution charges filed against him, ESPN reported Wednesday.

ESPN investigative reporter T.J. Quinn said a motion filed Wednesday by Kraft’s attorneys is intended to make sure the video, which he said has been described as “graphic and damning,” never is released. He added it is a “warning shot” to prosecutors that Kraft’s team will challenge that police had probable cause even to collect the video as evidence.

That news comes after a source told CNN on Wednesday that Kraft will reject a conditional plea deal offered by Florida prosecutors to settle the case.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday afternoon that prosecutors offered to defer prosecution for Kraft and the two dozen other men arrested in the case, but any defendant who accepts the offer must admit that there is enough evidence to lead to a conviction at trial.

Additionally, any defendant who accepts the deal must complete an education course about prostitution, perform 100 hours of community service, be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and pay court costs, according to the Journal.

Mike Edmondson, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, told CNN the offer was standard for first-time offenders, and that none of the people charged had accepted as of Wednesday morning.

Kraft entered a not guilty plea after being charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at a day spa in Jupiter, Fla. The 77-year-old billionaire is alleged to have twice visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in January and received sex acts in exchange for money.

Jupiter police have said Kraft was caught on surveillance video on both occasions, Jan. 19 and Jan. 20.

Kraft is scheduled to be arraigned March 28 in Palm Beach County, Fla.

The charges came in a police sting that law enforcement said was aimed at stopping human trafficking through massage parlors in Florida.

If Kraft chooses to go to trial and is convicted, he could receive one year in jail, a $5,000 fine and 100 hours of community service. Edmondson told CNN, however, that those misdemeanor charges generally result in no more than a 60-day sentence in county jail.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Patriots owner Kraft to reject plea deal

Report: Patriots owner Kraft to reject plea deal

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft will reject

Report: Patriots owner Kraft to reject plea deal

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft will reject a conditional plea deal offered by Florida prosecutors on charges of soliciting prostitution, sources told CNN on Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday afternoon that prosecutors offered to defer prosecution for Kraft and the two dozen other men arrested in the case, but any defendant who accepts the offer must admit that there is enough evidence to lead to a conviction at trial.

Additionally, any defendant who accepts the deal must complete an education course about prostitution, perform 100 hours of community service, be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and pay court costs, according to the Journal.

Mike Edmondson, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, told CNN the offer was standard for first-time offenders, and that none of the people charged had accepted as of Wednesday morning.

Kraft entered a not guilty plea after being charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at a day spa in Jupiter, Fla. The 77-year-old billionaire is alleged to have twice visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in January and received sex acts in exchange for money.

Jupiter police have said Kraft was caught on surveillance video on both occasions, Jan. 19 and Jan. 20.

Kraft is scheduled to be arraigned March 28 in Palm Beach County, Fla.

The charges came in a police sting that law enforcement said was aimed at stopping human trafficking through massage parlors in Florida.

If Kraft chooses to go to trial and is convicted, he could receive one year in jail, a $5,000 fine and 100 hours of community service. Edmondson told CNN, however, that those misdemeanor charges generally result in no more than a 60-day sentence in county jail.

–Field Level Media

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Bosa focuses on meetings at Ohio State Pro Day

Bosa focuses on meetings at Ohio State Pro Day

Ohio State held

Bosa focuses on meetings at Ohio State Pro Day

Ohio State held its Pro Day on Wednesday, and defensive end Nick Bosa was there just to talk.

Bosa, the potential No. 1 pick in next month’s NFL draft, did not participate with the rest of the Buckeyes’ pro hopefuls after performing well in drill work at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine.

“I just trust the people who advise me. They told me it was unimportant,” Bosa told the NFL Network about Pro Day. “I’m here to meet all the teams that want to meet with me, and that’s what’s really important. I’m just doing what I’m told.”

He said he had meetings scheduled later Wednesday with the San Francisco 49ers, who hold the No. 2 pick, and the New York Giants, who pick sixth. He interviewed with all the top teams at the combine, including Arizona, which picks first.

Bosa said he will have further discussions with the Cardinals, who might otherwise be focusing on Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray. Either way, Bosa is expected to be in high demand at the top of the draft.

“I have a lot of visits coming up, so my next three weeks are super busy, flying all over the place, meeting with teams,” he said.

His message to those teams?

“Just how much I love the game and how much I want to continue to get better,” he said.

“Obviously, there is a lot of doubt with how long it has been since I played. But I have played this game my whole life and I have put on film the player that I am, and if the film isn’t good enough, I don’t know what else I could have done.”

His junior season ended early because of a bilateral core muscle injury. He had 29 tackles for loss, including 17.5 sacks, in 29 career games for the Buckeyes.

Bosa (6-foot-4, 266 pounds) put up 29 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press at the combine, had a 33.5-inch vertical and ran a 4.79 40-yard dash. All those numbers were better than what his brother, Joey, a Los Angeles Chargers defensive end, did at the combine before being selected No. 3 overall by the franchise in the 2016 draft.

He said when he’s not meeting with teams across the country, he’s training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with his brother. But he doesn’t brag about the combine results.

“I was not the happiest my with 40 anyway,” he said. “So there is no trash talk at all.”

Bosa told ESPN he would love to play with edge rusher Dee Ford, acquired by the San Francisco 49ers in a trade this month with the Kansas City Chiefs.

“He played a bunch with my brother,” Bosa said. “I’ve seen him a lot.”

–Field Level Media

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Manziel confident he can still play ‘at any level’

Manziel confident he can still play 'at any level'

As he

Manziel confident he can still play ‘at any level’

As he prepares to launch his latest comeback attempt, Johnny Manziel remains confident that he can still play quarterback “at any level anywhere.”

“My confidence level is high,” Manziel said Tuesday in Memphis at an introductory press conference with his newest employer, the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football. “I believe I still have a unique skill set and still have the ability to play at any level anywhere.”

Rejected by the NFL and banned by the Canadian Football League for his on-field struggles and off-field issues, the 26-year-old signed a standard player contract with the upstart AAF last weekend and was claimed off waivers by last-place Memphis.

Express coach Mike Singletary said he is eager to work with the former Texas A&M star, who earned the nickname “Johnny Football” while winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy.

“Our guys are excited, our team is excited, and I feel that many of the people here in Memphis are excited,” said Singletary, a Hall of Fame linebacker who is known as a strict, by-the-book boss.

Manziel, who sought treatment for alcohol abuse and anger management in the past, might be an interesting match with Singletary’s authoritarian style.

“I’ve done a lot of soul searching and a lot of looking at myself in the mirror and coming to the realization that when I’m on a football field and on a team, my life is substantially better,” Manziel said.

Manziel could see his first AAF action on Sunday when Memphis hosts the Birmingham Iron. The Express lost starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger to an ankle injury last weekend.

“In my eyes and in my mind, I believe I’m here for a reason,” Manziel said. “This is a great fit for me.”

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Raiders, LB Burfict agree to deal

Reports: Raiders, LB Burfict agree to deal

Vontaze Burfict's time as a

Reports: Raiders, LB Burfict agree to deal

Vontaze Burfict’s time as a free agent apparently was very short-lived.

One day after Burfict was released by the Cincinnati Bengals, the only NFL team for which he has played, the linebacker agreed to a one-year deal Tuesday with the Oakland Raiders, multiple media outlets reported.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the contract is worth $5 million including incentives.

Burfict managed to play in only 43 games in the past five seasons, encountering repeated head injuries — seven documented concussions — and three suspensions.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Burfict amassed more than $4 million in on-field conduct fines. He was suspended by the NFL to start both the 2016 and 2017 seasons for violation of player-safety policies and in 2018 for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

He was a physical force for the Bengals in the middle of Marvin Lewis’ defense, but when the Bengals parted with Lewis, a change at linebacker was expected under new head coach Zac Taylor.

The move to Oakland would reunite Burfict with Paul Guenther, the Raiders’ defensive coordinator who served in the same position with the Bengals from 2014-17.

Burfict had two seasons remaining on a $33.2 million contract extension he signed with the Bengals, but by releasing him, Cincinnati sustained a cap charge of only $1.8 million.

Burfict, 28, was an undrafted free agent signee with Cincinnati after an All-America career at Arizona State. He had 298 tackles in his first two seasons with the Bengals and played in every game.

–Field Level Media

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Rams, LB Matthews agree on two-year deal

Rams, LB Matthews agree on two-year deal

Rams, LB Matthews agree on two-year deal

After 10 seasons in Green Bay, linebacker Clay Matthews is returning home to Southern California.

The six-time Pro Bowl selection and Packers franchise leader in career sacks is joining the Los Angeles Rams as a free agent. Matthews made the news public with a new profile picture on his Twitter profile: him sporting the No. 52 in a Rams uniform.

The Rams then tweeted that they have indeed agreed on a two-year deal with Matthews. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported the deal is worth a maximum of $16.75 million — less than other offers for Matthews, per Garafolo, but family considerations and a shot at a championship outweighed the increased money from other clubs.

A Southern California native born in Northridge, Matthews starred in college at USC before the Packers selected him with the 26th overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft. He quickly made a name for himself with both his level of play and his famed sack celebrations.

He had 10 sacks as a rookie, making the 2009 All-Rookie Team. He had a career-high 13.5 the following year, a season which ended with the Packers defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

In all, Matthews has 83.5 sacks in his career, though his production has slowed in recent seasons. He has not had double-digit sacks since registering 11 in 2014, the fifth of his six Pro Bowl seasons.

The Rams, the NFC champions last season, aren’t exactly hurting for pass rushers. Reigning two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks last season. The team also re-signed edge rusher Dante Fowler to a one-year contract earlier this month. The team acquired him in a trade-deadline deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

–Field Level Media

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QB McCarron signs with Texans

QB McCarron signs with Texans

The Houston Texans

QB McCarron signs with Texans

The Houston Texans bought themselves a veteran insurance policy for starting quarterback Deshaun Watson, signing AJ McCarron to a contract Tuesday.

Shortly after reports broke of a deal being finalized, McCarron tweeted a photo of himself signing a contract in the Texans offices.

Houston NFL reporter John McClain tweeted the deal is worth $3 million.

According to the Texans’ official website, Watson was the only quarterback on the active roster at the time of signing.

A 2014 fifth-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals after a decorated career at Alabama, McCarron spent the first four seasons of his career with the Bengals, showing flashes of potential when asked to fill in for Andy Dalton. But after filing a grievance against the club and being granted free agency in February 2018, McCarron has become a bit of a journeyman.

In March 2018, he signed a two-year, $10 million contract with Buffalo. But on Sept. 2 of last year, a week before the beginning of the season, the Bills traded McCarron to Oakland in exchange for a 2019 fifth-round pick. He played in two games with the Raiders last season, completing 1 of 3 passes for 8 yards.

Then last week, with the 28-year-old McCarron set to count $5 million against the cap in 2019, the Raiders cut him. He is 87 of 136 for 928 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in his career.

Brandon Weeden and Joe Webb backed up Watson last season, but one would never know it looking at statistics. The only player on the team other than Watson to throw a pass all of last season was wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (and he was 0 for 1).

In his second season in the NFL, Watson threw for 4,165 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions and ran for another 551 yards with five scores on the ground in 2018. But his tendency to run with the ball and seeming fearlessness of getting hit has led to many anxious moments in Houston.

He reportedly played with a broken rib and partially collapsed lung against the Cowboys in Week 5. He also missed half of his rookie season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee during practice.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Cowboys sign WR Cobb for 1 year, $5M

Report: Cowboys sign WR Cobb for 1 year, $5M

Report: Cowboys sign WR Cobb for 1 year, $5M

The Dallas Cowboys and wide receiver Randall Cobb agreed to terms Tuesday on a one-year deal, the team announced Tuesday.

The deal is worth $5 million, according to the NFL Network.

Cobb, 28, has been with the Green Bay Packers since they drafted him in the second round in 2011. He missed seven games last season due to concussion and hamstring injuries and caught just 38 passes for 383 yards and two touchdowns.

Cobb could replace the recently departed Cole Beasley and will give quarterback Dak Prescott another veteran target to pair with Amari Cooper, acquired midway through last season.

In 105 games with Green Bay, Cobb caught 470 passes for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns. Those totals rank sixth, 11th and 11th, respectively, in franchise history.

He made the Pro Bowl in 2014 with career highs in catches (91), receiving yards (1,287) and touchdowns (12).

Cobb helped the Packers knock the Cowboys out of the playoffs following the 2014 and 2016 seasons, catching a combined 15 passes for 178 yards in those two Green Bay wins.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Prosecutors reportedly make Kraft an offer

NFL notebook: Prosecutors reportedly make Kraft an offer

NFL notebook: Prosecutors reportedly make Kraft an offer

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft can have the solicitation of prostitution charges in Florida against him dropped, but there’s a catch.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that prosecutors have offered to defer prosecution for Kraft and the two dozen other men arrested in the case, but any defendant who accepts the offer must admit that there is enough evidence to lead to a conviction at trial.

Additionally, the defendant must complete an education course about prostitution, perform 100 hours of community service, be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and pay court costs, per the report.

Kraft entered a not guilty plea in late February after being charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at a day spa in Jupiter, Fla. The 77-year-old billionaire is alleged to have twice visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in January and received sex acts in exchange for money both times.

–In an interview with Sports Illustrated, running back Le’Veon Bell said he never intended to sit out the entire 2018 season.

Bell, who recently signed with the New York Jets as a free agent, told the outlet that his original plan was to miss only Week 1 of last season. But the running back had a change of mind as events played out with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Once he realized the Steelers could again put the franchise tag on him following the season, Bell continued to sit out, and never joined the team. He became a free agent after the season and received a four-year, $52.5 million deal from the Jets.

–Coveted quarterback Kyler Murray met with Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury near the Oklahoma campus, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The Cardinals own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and the Oklahoma product and Heisman Trophy winner is under heavy consideration as he is viewed as a solid fit for first-year coach Kingsbury’s offense.

Arizona took quarterback Josh Rosen 10th overall in last year’s draft but the team’s actions involving Murray may display a willingness to move on from Rosen.

–Tempted to join his brother with the Patriots, tight end Martellus Bennett said he will instead remain retired to focus on his creative work.

Michael Bennett was acquired by the Patriots from the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this month, sparking speculation the defensive lineman might soon be joined by his 32-year-old brother, who retired after being released by New England last offseason.

–The Carolina Panthers signed defensive end Bruce Irvin to a one-year contract reportedly worth up to $5 million in an effort to boost their pass rush after the retirement of Julius Peppers. The seven-year pro has 43.5 sacks, 277 tackles, 15 forced fumbles and three interceptions.

–The Dallas Cowboys and wide receiver Randall Cobb agreed to terms on a one-year deal, the team announced. The deal is worth $5 million, according to the NFL Network. Cobb, 28, has been with the Green Bay Packers since they drafted him in the second round in 2011. He missed seven games last season due to concussion and hamstring injuries and caught just 38 passes for 383 yards and two touchdowns.

–Defensive end Robert Quinn visited the Cowboys as a precursor to a potential swap with the Miami Dolphins, but reportedly left town without a deal pending. The Dolphins are willing to pay part of Quinn’s 2019 salary to help facilitate a trade of the pass rusher, according to NFL Network.

–Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad has been cleared for pre-draft workouts after he had to leave the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month when a heart issue was found during his physical. Prior to the combine, most outlets had pegged him as a late-round prospect.

–Kicker Dan Bailey re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings, agreeing to a one-year deal with a base value of $1 million, per reports. … The Patriots have reportedly re-signed punter Ryan Allen to a one-year deal. … The Detroit Lions have signed restricted free agent running back Malcolm Brown to an offer sheet, which the Los Angeles Rams have until Monday to match, according to multiple reports.

–Field Level Media

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