Thurman Thomas reflects back as Bills set to retire No. 34

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Thurman Thomas was in the midst of getting taped up before a Bills game at Chicago during his rookie season in 1988 when the running back recognized the unmistakable voice of one of his teenage idols, Walter Payton.

“I can still hear it,” Thomas recalled, before attempting to imitate Payton. “Yeah, a high-pitched voice like that: ‘Where’s that little No. 34?'”

Thomas certainly knew who Payton was, given the Bears’ just-retired star running back was one of two people who inspired him to wear No. 34 since high school. The other was Oilers running back Earl Campbell, whom Thomas grew up rooting for in Houston; all three are Pro Football Hall of Famers now.

What shocked him was someone such as Payton knowing Thomas even existed, never mind taking the time to search him out before the opening kickoff.

“He’s walking in and everybody stopped, and it was just like, ‘Holy crap, it’s Walter Payton,'” Thomas said. “I’m still trying to figure out how he knew me. I mean, I’m in Buffalo. I’m a rookie. And he comes in and it’s, ‘Where’s 34?’

“And I’m like, ‘I’m over here.'”

It won’t be difficult to spot 34 at halftime of Buffalo’s home game against New England on Monday night. That’s when Thomas will become the third Bills player — joining former teammates quarterback Jim Kelly and defensive end Bruce Smith — to have his number retired.

For all he accomplished during a 13-year Hall of Fame career, in which he was voted NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 1991 and led the league in yards from scrimmage from 1989-92, Thomas considers this one of his most notable achievements.

“The more I get closer to it, the more and more I feel like these butterflies are coming into my stomach,” he added. “And I’ve never really felt that way about a lot of things. But, definitely, this is one of them.”

Thomas would have preferred being honored during an afternoon game rather than a prime-time spectacle.

“I’m not Bruce,” he said, making a joke at the expense of Smith, who had his No. 78 retired during a night game in 2016.

His one concern is how the rebuilding and offensively challenged Bills, who have managed just 81 points in a 2-5 record, might fare against Tom Brady and the Patriots (5-2), who have won 31 of the past 36 meetings between the AFC East rivals.

“I just wish we could have a better record,” he said.

These are certainly not the Bills of Thomas’ 12-season tenure, which included Buffalo playing in four consecutive Super Bowls, losing them all.

He previously suggested the Bills might have been cursed for cutting him, Smith and Hall of Fame receiver Andre Reed after the 1999 season. What followed was a 17-year playoff drought, which finally ended last year.

Perhaps, Thomas said, his mere presence might spur the Bills to be competitive. Bills veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams certainly hopes so.

Williams and his wife treated Thomas and his wife to dinner last week, during which Thomas cited Williams as saying: “Hey, we’re going to do whatever we can to make that night even more special.”

Williams didn’t deny being additionally motivated because of Thomas.

“That’s the plan, right?” Williams said. “Sure, anybody who knows him, and knows the kind of guy he is, and what he meant and means to this franchise, I think it should motivate you.”

The outcome is almost secondary to Thomas, who was busy reflecting back on a career in which his number has already been retired at high school and college.

He was motivated to succeed at Oklahoma State once he began sharing the backfield with another eventual Hall of Famer, Barry Sanders.

“He kept me on my heels. I couldn’t make any mistakes,” he said. “If we ran 10 sprints, I ran 11.”

If it wasn’t for Thomas tearing a left knee ligament before his junior season, he wouldn’t have elected to return for his senior year, when he met his wife, Patti, who just happened to be from Buffalo. Some eight months later, the Bills selected him in the second round.

His voice cracks with emotion when reminded no Bills player will ever wear No. 34 again. And no, Thomas said, no one should expect him to suit up one last time.

“I’ve been asked that question a lot this week. Oh my gosh, I’m like, ‘People, I’m 52 years old. There’s no way in hell I can get out there and do this,” he said, before a brief pause.

“Maybe,” Thomas said, breaking into a smile, “for 1 yard or something like that on the goal line.”

___

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NFL notebook: Bengals release LB Burfict

NFL notebook: Bengals release LB Burfict

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was released by

NFL notebook: Bengals release LB Burfict

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was released by the Cincinnati Bengals after seven seasons, the team confirmed Monday.

“As we continue to build our roster for the 2019 season, we felt it best to give both the team and Vontaze a fresh start,” head coach Zac Taylor said in a statement.

Burfict, 28, had two seasons remaining on a $33.2 million contract extension, but releasing him results in a cap charge of only $1.8 million.

Burfict appeared 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.

–Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata went to great lengths — rather heights — to announce his retirement.

The 13-year-NFL veteran posted a heartfelt message along with a photo on Instagram showing him standing atop Mount Kilimanjaro holding a banner that read, “I’m retiring from the NFL on top.”

“Just a man standing on top of the world with a heart full of gratitude. Thank you Lord for letting play the game I love for 13 unforgettable years,” read the social media post by Ngata, a 35-year-old who played for the Philadelphia Eagles last season.

–New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said that he traded star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. because the Cleveland Browns made an offer that was impossible to pass up.

“We didn’t sign him to trade him, but things changed,” he said. “Frankly, what changed is another team made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.”

The trade last Wednesday ended months of speculation that Beckham was on his way out of New York. After signing Beckham to a five-year, $95 million contract in 2018, the Giants saw their season spiral downward.

–Adrian Peterson is officially back with Washington after the Redskins announced his signing.

Multiple outlets reported last Wednesday that Peterson agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal.

Peterson rushed for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games for the Redskins last season. He signed late in training camp after Derrius Guice sustained a torn ACL.

–Free agent wide receiver Jordy Nelson will visit the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday, ESPN reported.

The New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs reportedly are among other teams interested in Nelson. He became available last week when the Oakland Raiders released him following their trade for former Pittsburgh Steelers star wideout Antonio Brown and the acquisition of Tyrell Williams in free agency.

–Kansas City agreed to sign cornerback Bashaud Breeland to a three-year contract, ESPN reported.

Breeland, 27, played seven games with Green Bay last season, starting five, after originally agreeing to a three-year, $24 million free agent deal with the Carolina Panthers last March. That agreement was nixed because of a failed physical (foot).

–Running back and kick returner Ameer Abdullah signed a one-year deal with Minnesota.

Abdullah, 25, was Minnesota’s primary kick returner for the final seven games of last season after he was claimed off waivers from Detroit. He returned 10 kicks for 258 yards, with a long of 33.

–Philadelphia announced a one-year deal with veteran strong safety Andrew Sendejo.

Sendejo spent the past eight seasons with Minnesota. The 31-year-old became a free agent earlier this month when the Vikings declined the $5.5 million 2019 option on his contract.

–Washington signed free agent offensive tackle Ereck Flowers to a one-year, $4 million deal, according to multiple reports.

Flowers was the ninth overall selection by the Giants in 2015 but didn’t pan out as an impact lineman and was released last October. He finished last season with Jacksonville, where he started the final seven games of the season.

–ESPN apparently is trying to convince Peyton Manning to join the “Monday Night Football” broadcast team.

The Hollywood Reporter revealed that ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro and content chief Connor Schell flew to Denver a week ago to meet with the future Hall of Fame quarterback. It’s unclear if 42-year-old Manning is interested in assuming the analyst role.

–The investigation into allegations of battery against Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill remains open.

Steve Howe, district attorney in Johnson County, Kan., acknowledged in a written statement that his office “has received numerous requests for information” about the status of the investigation into Hill but could provide no additional details.

Hill, 25, has not been charged with any crimes but is under investigation for an alleged battery incident involving a juvenile, according to multiple published reports. The Kansas City Star reported that Hill’s 3-year-old son sustained a broken arm in the incident.

–Field Level Media

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Rams, QB Bortles agree to one-year deal

Rams, QB Bortles agree to one-year deal

The Los Angeles Rams added

Rams, QB Bortles agree to one-year deal

The Los Angeles Rams added an experienced backup quarterback Monday, agreeing with former Jacksonville Jaguars starter Blake Bortles on a one-year contract.

Financial terms were not announced by the team.

Bortles, 26, gives the defending NFC champions an experienced starter behind Jared Goff as the team moves on from former backup Sean Mannion, who is an unrestricted free agent.

Bortles spent the first five seasons of his NFL career in Jacksonville, starting 73 of his 75 games and leading the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game after the 2017 season. The New England Patriots won 24-20.

The Jaguars gave Bortles a three-year, $54 million contract last year, but he went 3-9 and was benched for Cody Kessler. Jacksonville signed free agent Nick Foles last week and released Bortles.

Bortles, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, has completed 59.3 percent of his career passes for 17,646 yards with 103 touchdowns and 75 interceptions. The Jaguars made the playoffs once in his five seasons.

–Field Level Media

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Vikings bring back RB/KR Abdullah

Vikings bring back RB/KR Abdullah

Running back and kick returner Ameer Abdullah has signed with

Vikings bring back RB/KR Abdullah

Running back and kick returner Ameer Abdullah has signed with the Minnesota Vikings, the team announced Monday.

He will come back to the Vikings on a reported one-year deal.

Abdullah, 25, was Minnesota’s primary kick returner for the final seven games of last season after he was claimed off waivers from the Detroit Lions. He returned 10 kicks for 258 yards, with a long of 33.

He rushed only one time last season, that coming with the Lions. He caught one pass for 10 yards with the Vikings.

Abdullah’s best season came in his rookie year in 2015, when he gained 780 total yards (597 rushing, 183 receiving) and scored three touchdowns after being a second-round pick of the Lions.

–Field Level Media

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Investigation into Chiefs WR Hill continues

Investigation into Chiefs WR Hill continues

Investigation into Chiefs WR Hill continues

The investigation into allegations of battery against Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill remains open.

Steve Howe, the district attorney in Johnson County, Kan., acknowledged in a written statement Monday that his office “has received numerous requests for information” about the the status of the investigation into Hill but could provide no additional details.

“While we understand the public’s concern, the investigation is still ongoing. It would be irresponsible to make definitive ‘official’ statements before the investigation is complete,” according to the statement.

The 25-year-old Hill has not been charged with any crimes.

Hill is under investigation for an alleged battery incident involving a juvenile, according to multiple published reports. The Kansas City Star reported that Hill’s 3-year-old son suffered a broken arm in the incident.

The report from police in Overland Park, Kan., where Hill lives, is dated March 14. It is unclear if the incident occurred that day.

Overland Park police also responded to the same address on March 5 to investigate a report of child abuse or neglect. Hill’s name is listed on the report.

His fiancee, Crystal Espinal, is listed on the March 14 report under the category of “others involved.” The Star reported that Espinal is pregnant with twins and that she is the mother of the 3-year-old whose arm was broken.

Hill reportedly choked and punched Espinal when she was pregnant in December 2014. Hill was arrested and dismissed from the Oklahoma State football team.

Hill later pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation and received three years’ probation.

The Chiefs issued the following statement last week regarding Hill:

“The club is aware of the investigation involving Tyreek Hill,” the Chiefs said in a statement to The Kansas City Star. “We’re in the process of gathering information and have been in contact with the league and local authorities. We’ll have no further comment at this time.”

–Field Level Media

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Bengals release LB Burfict after seven seasons

Bengals release LB Burfict after seven seasons

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict

Bengals release LB Burfict after seven seasons

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was released by the Cincinnati Bengals after seven seasons, the team confirmed on its website Monday afternoon.

“As we continue to build our roster for the 2019 season, we felt it best to give both the team and Vontaze a fresh start,” said Bengals first-year head coach Zac Taylor in a statement. “Vontaze has been a good player here — the team appreciates that, and I know a lot of fans appreciate that — but our focus is on the future. Our goal is to build a successful team for the upcoming season, and we felt that making this change now was best for everyone.”

Burfict had two seasons remaining on a $33.2 million contract extension, but releasing him results in a cap charge of only $1.8 million.

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 Taylor.

Later on Monday, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweeted Burfict may be of interest to the Oakland Raiders, who reportedly are already hosting fellow free-agent linebackers Manti Te’o and Aaron Lynch.

Burfict had 298 tackles in his first two seasons with the team and played in every game.

Burfict, 28, was an undrafted free agent signee with Cincinnati after an All-America career at Arizona State.

A poor performance at the NFL Scouting Combine — he ran a 5.09 40-yard dash and reportedly failed a drug test — coupled with concerns about his temperament and decision-making on and off the field left Burfict looking for work after the 2012 draft.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles add veteran S Sendejo

Eagles add veteran S Sendejo

The Philadelphia Eagles agreed to a

Eagles add veteran S Sendejo

The Philadelphia Eagles agreed to a one-year deal with veteran strong safety Andrew Sendejo, the team announced Monday.

Sendejo spent the past eight seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. He became a free agent earlier this month when the Vikings declined the $5.5 million 2019 option on his contract.

Sendejo, 31, only played in five games last season due to a groin injury. He had 27 tackles.

Sendejo intercepted six passes and recovered three fumbles in 93 games (58 starts) for the Vikings. He also played in two games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2010.

The Eagles figure to use Sendejo as the third safety in the defense with Malcolm Jenkins set as the starting strong safety.

–Field Level Media

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Redskins sign OT Flowers

Redskins sign OT Flowers

The Washington Redskins signed

Redskins sign OT Flowers

The Washington Redskins signed free-agent offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, the team announced Monday.

Flowers was signed to a one-year, $4 million deal, according to multiple reports.

Flowers was the ninth overall selection by the New York Giants in 2015 but didn’t pan out as an impact lineman. The Giants released him last October.

Flowers finished last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars and he started the final seven games of the season.

Overall, Flowers has playing 59 games (55 starts) during his four seasons.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Chiefs to sign ex-Packers CB Breeland

Report: Chiefs to sign ex-Packers CB Breeland

The Kansas

Report: Chiefs to sign ex-Packers CB Breeland

The Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to sign cornerback Bashaud Breeland to a three-year contract, ESPN reported on Monday.

The 27-year-old Breeland played seven games with the Green Bay Packers last season, starting five, after originally agreeing to a three-year, $24 million free-agent deal with the Carolina Panthers last March. That agreement was nixed because of a failed physical (foot).

A former fourth-round pick of the Washington Redskins, Breeland has played in 67 career games (63 starts), collecting 10 interceptions and 64 passes defensed while forcing seven fumbles in five NFL seasons.

The Chiefs have spent much of this month remaking their defense, which ranked 31st in total yards allowed per game (405.5) last season. The team released veteran stalwarts in safety Eric Berry and pass-rushing linebacker Justin Houston, and the Chiefs also traded defensive end Dee Ford to San Francisco. In free agency, the Chiefs have added safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Alex Okafor.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Bengals release LB Burfict

Reports: Bengals release LB Burfict

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was informed

Reports: Bengals release LB Burfict

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was informed he would be released by the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, according to multiple reports.

He had two seasons remaining on a $33.2 million contract extension, but releasing him results in a cap charge of only $1.8 million.

Burfict managed 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 first-year coach Zac Taylor.

Burfict had 298 tackles in his first two seasons with the team and played in every game.

Burfict, 28, was an undrafted free agent signee with Cincinnati after an All-America career at Arizona State.

A poor performance at the NFL Scouting Combine — he ran a 5.09 40-yard dash and reportedly failed a drug test — coupled with concerns about his temperament and decision-making on and off the field left Burfict looking for work after the 2012 draft.

–Field Level Media

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GM Gettleman: Giants ‘couldn’t refuse’ offer for OBJ, defends Manning

GM Gettleman: Giants 'couldn't refuse' offer for OBJ, defends Manning

New

GM Gettleman: Giants ‘couldn’t refuse’ offer for OBJ, defends Manning

New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said Monday that he traded star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. because the Cleveland Browns made an offer that was impossible to pass up.

“This was purely a football decision,” Gettleman told reporters in his first public comments since trading the three-time Pro Bowler Beckham for two draft picks and safety Jabrill Peppers. “Odell was a tremendous talent making him a valuable asset … With football being the ultimate team sport, we turned that fact into three assets.”

The trade last Wednesday ended months of speculation that Beckham was on his way out of New York. After signing Beckham to a five-year, $95 million contract in 2018, the Giants saw their season spiral downward.

“We didn’t sign him to trade him, but things changed,” Gettleman said. “Frankly, what changed, is another team made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.”

The Browns sent the Giants a first-round pick and a third-round pick along with Peppers.

Gettleman said he didn’t seek the Browns as trade partners. He conceded he called the Buffalo Bills after their failed attempt to acquire another disgruntled star wideout, Antonio Brown, failed, however.

“I completely understand why people would debate the merits of this deal. This trade really won’t be able to be fully evaluated until we get further down the road. We did not enter this decision to trade Odell lightly,” Gettleman added.

Gettleman wasn’t eager to share his plan for the team, though.

“Very honestly, it’s not my responsibility to tell you guys what I’m doing,” he told reporters. “That’s not my job. That’s not my responsibility. Trust me, we’ve got a plan. You’ve got to be patient. Everyone wants the answers now. Over time, you’ll see it.”

Part of that plan that concerns some fans and critics includes Gettleman’s apparent continued trust in longtime starting quarterback Eli Manning, who has won two Super Bowls with New York but whose performance has dipped over the past few seasons (8-23 record as starter since 2017).

Manning, 38, recently received a $5 million bonus amid an upcoming draft with the Giants holding two first-round picks, including the No. 6 overall selection. But Gettleman defended his veteran quarterback to reporters on Monday.

“This narrative that Eli is overpaid and can’t play is a crock,” Gettleman said, per NJ.com. “At the end of the day, you have to say, ‘Gettleman is out of his mind’ or ‘he knows what he is talking about when he evaluates players.’ That’s really where it’s at. I’m OK if you disagree with me.”

–Field Level Media

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Report: Ex-Raiders WR Nelson to visit Seahawks

Report: Ex-Raiders WR Nelson to visit Seahawks

Free agent wide

Report: Ex-Raiders WR Nelson to visit Seahawks

Free agent wide receiver Jordy Nelson will visit the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

The New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs are among other teams interested in Nelson, per the report.

The veteran receiver became available last week when the Oakland Raiders released him following their trade for former Pittsburgh Steelers star wideout Antonio Brown and acquisition of former Los Angeles Chargers deep threat Tyrell Williams in free agency.

Nelson signed a two-year, $14.2 million deal last spring with Oakland. The Raiders already had paid him a $3.6 million roster bonus for 2019.

Nelson, who turns 34 in May, has been released in consecutive offseasons after the Green Bay Packers let him go last spring. He had 63 catches for 739 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games (14 starts) last season.

Nelson had 97 grabs for 1,257 yards and a league-high 14 scores in 2016 while coming off a torn ACL, but he posted just 53 catches for 482 yards in 2017, marking a career-low 9.1 yards per catch. In 10 career seasons, he has 613 catches for 8,587 yards and 72 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Report: ESPN meets with Manning about ‘MNF’ job

Report: ESPN meets with Manning about 'MNF' job

ESPN

Report: ESPN meets with Manning about ‘MNF’ job

ESPN apparently is trying to convince Peyton Manning to join the “Monday Night Football” broadcast team.

The Hollywood Reporter revealed Monday that ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro and content chief Connor Schell flew to Denver a week ago to meet with the future Hall of Fame quarterback. It’s unclear if Manning, who retired after leading the Broncos to a Super Bowl win in 2016, is interested in assuming the analyst role.

This is believed to be at least the second overture the network has made to Manning, 42.

Once Jon Gruden announced last winter that he was leaving the broadcast booth to return to coaching, ESPN reportedly reached out to Manning before hiring Jason Witten. After being criticized for his performance as an analyst, Witten decided to return to the Dallas Cowboys and reclaim his tight end position.

Manning is well-known to television audiences for his endeavors off the field, working as a pitchman for insurance, pizza and credit cards. He also has done some work for ESPN, analyzing quarterbacks for ESPN+.

If Manning declines to join ESPN, the network likely will go with a team of play-by-play man Joe Tessitore and analyst Booger McFarland, according to author Jim Miller, who wrote a book about the network.

“They’re going to have a two-man booth unless somehow Peyton changes his mind,” Miller said earlier this month on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast. “They have a relationship with Peyton because of the ESPN+ show right now and Peyton has thought about this, but if you’re Peyton, what’s the upside?”

“I believe from everything I’ve heard it’s going to be the two of them (Tessitore and McFarland) and the only third possibility would be Peyton. Peyton is the only reason to pull up a third chair. If they start auditioning people and bringing somebody else in as a third that isn’t Peyton, I’d be surprised and I’d ask, why?”

–Field Level Media

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Peterson officially back with Redskins

Peterson officially back with Redskins

Adrian Peterson is officially back

Peterson officially back with Redskins

Adrian Peterson is officially back with the Washington Redskins after the team announced his signing on Tuesday.

Multiple outlets reported last Wednesday that Peterson agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal with Washington.

Peterson rushed for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games for the Redskins last season after signing late in training camp following Derrius Guice’s torn ACL.

The 1,000-yard campaign was the eighth of Peterson’s career, topped by his memorable 2,097-yard season with the Minnesota Vikings in 2012, when he fell 8 yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s all-time mark set in 1984.

The seven-time Pro Bowler ranks eighth in NFL history with 13,318 rushing yards and would pass three more players — Jerome Bettis (13,662), LaDainian Tomlinson (13,684) and Curtis Martin (14,101) — with another 1,000-yard season.

Peterson, who turns 34 on Thursday, is tied with Jim Brown for fifth all-time with 106 career rushing scores. He needs five more to pass Walter Payton for fourth.

Peterson also had 272 receptions for 2,223 yards and six touchdowns during his 149-game career.

–Field Level Media

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Cowboys host WR Cobb

Cowboys host WR Cobb

Cowboys host WR Cobb

Free agent wide receiver Randall Cobb is visiting the Dallas Cowboys on Monday.

According to multiple reports, Cobb’s scheduled visit will take place at The Star, Dallas’ posh team headquarters in Frisco, Texas. The Cowboys could use Cobb for his ability to operate out of the slot after losing Cole Beasley to the Buffalo Bills in free agency.

A 2011 second-round pick who spent eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Cobb has 470 career receptions and 41 touchdowns but was dogged by soft-tissue injuries last season.

Cobb turns 29 in August and reportedly drew interest last season from the New England Patriots. The Patriots also were involved in the bidding last week for Beasley.

A hamstring injury limited Cobb to a nine games in 2018, and he recorded 38 receptions for 383 yards and two touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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McIlroy jumps to No. 4 in world rankings

McIlroy jumps to No. 4 in world rankings

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy jumped

McIlroy jumps to No. 4 in world rankings

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy jumped two spots to No. 4 in the official world rankings on Monday, a day after claiming his first win in more than a year at The Players Championship.

Dustin Johnson tied for fifth at TPC Sawgrass to maintain his slim margin at the top over England’s Justin Rose, who managed to tie for eighth after rallying to make the cut. Brooks Koepka is No. 3, followed by McIlroy, who has steadily moved up since entering the year ranked eighth. He has yet to finish worse than a tie for sixth place in six events in 2019.

No. 5 Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau both moved down a spot, and were followed by Italy’s Francesco Molinari, Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele and Spain’s Jon Rahm in the top 10.

England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Australia’s Jason Day moved past Tiger Woods, who dropped to No. 13 following his T30 at The Players.

Former No. 1 Jordan Spieth missed the cut and continued his slide, falling another five spots to No. 30. He has three missed cuts and has not finished better than T35 in nine events since the second leg of last season’s FedEx Cup Playoffs.

The top 50 features 23 Americans and eight Englishmen.

–Phil Mickelson, who dropped a spot to No. 21 with his missed cut, has committed to the PGA Tour’s new stop in at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minn., this summer. The July 4-7 event outside of Minneapolis takes place three weeks after the U.S. Open and two weekends before the British Open.

In a statement, Mickelson said the event was a “perfect slot” for his schedule.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles DL Ngata goes out on top — of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Eagles DL Ngata goes out on top -- of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Eagles DL Ngata goes out on top — of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata went to great lengths – rather heights – to announce his retirement.

The 13-year-NFL veteran posted a photo on Instagram Monday morning showing him standing atop Mount Kilimanjaro holding a banner that read, “I’m retiring from the NFL on top.”

“Just a man standing on top of the world with a heart full of gratitude. Thank you Lord for letting play the game I love for 13 unforgettable years,” his social media post read, in part.

Ngata, 35, was a two-time All-Pro who played in five Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.

The No. 12 overall selection by the Ravens in the 2006 NFL Draft, he spent nine seasons with the Ravens, followed by three seasons in Detroit and one in Philadelphia. In seven of his nine campaigns in Baltimore, the Ravens were in the top five in the league in run defense.

Ngata played in 180 career games (174 starts) and had 519 tackles (63 for loss), 91 quarterback hits, 32.5 sacks, five interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Saints sign OL Easton for four years, $24M

Reports: Saints sign OL Easton for four years, $24M

Reports: Saints sign OL Easton for four years, $24M

The New Orleans Saints are signing former Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Nick Easton to a four-year, $24 million deal, multiple outlets reported late Sunday evening.

According to ESPN, the Saints view Easton as their starting center moving forward, after three-time Pro Bowler Max Unger retired on Saturday.

Easton, 26, missed all of 2018 after having surgery to repair a neck injury sustained during training camp. He was locked in as the starter at left guard, where he started the first 12 games of 2017 before fracturing his ankle and ending the year on injured reserve.

Per STATS LLC, Easton hasn’t allowed a sack in 23 career games (17 starts), though he did commit 12 penalties in as many games in 2017.

An undrafted rookie out of Harvard in 2015, he spent time on the Ravens’ and 49ers’ rosters before earning a spot in Minnesota.

–Field Level Media

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AAF roundup: Perez leads Iron to wild win over Fleet

AAF roundup: Perez leads Iron to wild win over Fleet

Playing just miles

AAF roundup: Perez leads Iron to wild win over Fleet

Playing just miles from his childhood home in Chula Vista, Calif., Luis Perez threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns and set up the game-winning field goal as the Birmingham Iron survived the San Diego Fleet on Sunday, 32-29.

Perez, a former professional bowler who began playing quarterback in college and spent the 2018 preseason with the Los Angeles Rams, threw touchdowns of 13, 83 and 23 yards before driving the Iron in range for a 44-yard field goal attempt, which former Chargers kicker Nick Novak hit to win on the final play. Perez also ran for 28 yards and threw two interceptions.

Former Cleveland Browns first-round pick Trent Richardson had 23 touches for 90 yards and two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, to extend his league lead to 10. No other AAF player has more than six scores. San Diego quarterback Mike Bercovici, who spent the 2018 preseason with the Chargers, finished 17 of 34 for 311 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Commanders 37, Legends 6

The San Antonio defense intercepted host Atlanta quarterback Aaron Murray three times, returning one for a score, in a dominating victory.

Derron Smith, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, capped the scoring with an 87-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter. Zack Sanchez, a 2016 fifth-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, and De’Vante Bausby, who played in six games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, also had interceptions. The Commanders, who moved to 4-2, also scored on a 79-yard punt return by Greg Ward Jr.

Murray, a former Georgia star whom the Kansas City Chiefs drafted in the fifth round in 2014, finished 30 of 41 for 215 yards with the three picks and a touchdown as the Legends fell to 2-5. Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside, a 2017 seventh-round pick by the Bengals, went 17 of 23 for 164 yards and two scores.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Steelers add former Rams LB Barron

Report: Steelers add former Rams LB Barron

Report: Steelers add former Rams LB Barron

The Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with linebacker Mark Barron, ESPN reported Sunday.

Barron was recently released by the Los Angeles Rams after 4 1/2 seasons with the organization.

Barron had 60 tackles in 2018 while being limited to 12 games due to an ankle injury. He also had one sack and one forced fumble.

The 29-year-old Barron has nine career sacks, eight interceptions five forced fumbles in 104 games (93 starts) over seven NFL seasons.

Barron spent his first 2 1/2 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

–Field Level Media

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McIlroy hangs on to win The Players by one over Furyk

McIlroy hangs on to win The Players by one over Furyk

McIlroy hangs on to win The Players by one over Furyk

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy marshalled the luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and clutch play down the stretch, to finish at 16-under par and capture a one-shot victory over American Jim Furyk on Sunday at The Players Championship on the demanding TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

McIlroy finished with an erratic 2-under 70 over the final 18 holes that featured six birdies, a bogey and a double bogey. But with the rest of the field also struggling, it was enough for the win.

McIlroy took the lead for good with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th. A nervy swing on the par-3 17th, with its famed island green led to a par; he then ripped a driver off the tee on the closing hole, found the middle of the fairway, hit the green in regulation and two-putted for the victory.

The 48-year-old Furyk put a charge through the chilled and wind-swept gallery with a 67 that included a 3-foot putt for birdie on the closing hole. That putt allowed Furyk the clubhouse lead for about an hour as he made a bid to become the oldest winner of the event.

Eddie Pepperell of England and Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela each fired 66s to finish in a tie for third at 14 under, with World No. 1 Dustin Johnson (69), Brandt Snedeker (69), and England’s Tommy Fleetwood (73) tied for fifth another stroke back.

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan (67), Justin Rose of England (68), Brian Harman (70), and Australia’s Jason Day (72) finished tied for eighth at 11-under par.

The win was McIlroy’s first since last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and the 15th of his PGA Tour career. Eight of McIroy’s PGA Tour victories have come when he trailed entering the final round and he has now posted top-10 finishes in six of seven starts this season.

McIlroy started the day at 14 under, tied with Fleetwood, a shot off the pace set after 54 holes by Spain’s Jon Rahm.

Rahm struggled early on with bogeys on three of his first four holes, righted the ship for a while but ended his chances with a double bogey on the watery 17th and finished tied for 12th at 11 under after a 76.

Defending champion Webb Simpson tied for 16th at 10 under after a 68 in the final round, while Tiger Woods finished in a tie for 30th at 6-under par upon carding a 69 on Sunday.

The PGA Tour moves back down the Florida coast to Palm Harbor next week for the Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Resort.

–Field Level Media

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