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  • 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.

  • Bengals CB Pacman Jones suspended one 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."

      Jones will be eligible to return to the team's active roster on Monday, Sept. 11, the day after the Bengals' season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. He is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games.

      Jones may appeal this decision within three days.

      A 10-year veteran and one-time Pro Bowler, Jones totaled 66 tackles, one interception, seven passes defensed and one forced fumble in 16 games last season.

  • Panthers sign OG Turner to four-year extension
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, July 21, 2017

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

    • 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).

      "Any time you're able to secure someone like Trai, a two-time Pro Bowler and a staple of our offensive line, you're very fortunate," interim general manager Marty Hurney said in a statement. "The offensive line is a key to the team's success and Trai is a very integral part of that. We're extremely excited to have Trai under contract for the next five seasons."

      A third-round draft choice by the Panthers in 2014 out of LSU, the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Turner has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons. Dating to his rookie season, he has started 38 consecutive games along the line for Carolina, including three games at right tackle in 2016 due to injuries.

      Turner's blocking efforts helped the Panthers rank in the top-10 in rushing yards per game in each of his three seasons, including No. 2 in 2015.

      During the 2015 season, Turner provided protection for quarterback Cam Newton to earn the NFL's MVP award and was part of an offensive unit that set team records with an NFL-leading 500 points and 59 touchdowns and gain a team-record 357 first downs en route to an appearance in Super Bowl 50.

      "Beyond excited today!! Thank you to Mr. Richardson and the Panther family, I'll be a Panther for 4 more years!!!" Turner wrote on Twitter after agreeing to the deal Thursday.

  • Megatron Returns? Lions prez thinks Johnson ready
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, July 21, 2017

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

    • Team president Rod 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 optimisic outlook comes on the same day the Lions announced an ambassador role for Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, who retired at age 31 unexpectedly almost 18 years ago.

      Johnson, now 31, was in the middle of a eight-year, $132 million deal he signed in March 2012 when he walked away. The Lions reportedly demanded a reimbursement of bonus money paid with the total over $1 million.

      The Lions were charged $12.9 million in dead money for Johnson's salary in 2016 and moved on via free agency, retaining Golden Tate and signing free agent Marvin Jones from the Cincinnati Bengals. The Lions spent their third-round pick in April on wide receiver Kenny Golladay.

      Jones is represented by Bus Cook, who helped usher quarterback Brett Favre out of an abbreviated retirement. Other prominent players have returned from a year away from the game, most recently running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch was traded from the Seahawks to the Oakland Raiders in the offseason after deciding he wanted to play another season. Lynch sat out the entire 2016 season.

  • Jets sign first-rounder Adams
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, July 21, 2017

    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.

      Adams also offers plenty of intangibles. He comes from a football family -- he is the son of George Adams, who was the New York Giants' first-round pick in 1985 -- and was viewed as one of LSU's leaders.

      "He checks all the boxes for us," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "We think we got a real good football player."

      Adams is happy to be headed to an area he and his family know very well.

      "I'm a city guy," Adams said. "My mom's from Yonkers, New York. My sister's from Jersey. My pops played (for) the Giants. So I think I have the right people surrounding me to help me get through my new life in the Big Apple. So I'm excited."

  • Chiefs sign first-round pick QB Mahomes
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, July 21, 2017

    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.

      The 21-year-old Mahomes is expected to back up starter Alex Smith, who is playing out the final year of his contract.

      Mahomes frequently showcases the rocket arm and raw potential that enticed the Chiefs in making him their quarterback of the future. He also illustrates at times what he still must learn at the pro level.

      At Texas Tech, Mahomes could use his arm strength to fire the ball through almost any window or use his legs to extend a play until the defense broke down.

      Mahomes threw for 5,052 yards, with 41 touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions, during his final season at Texas Tech. Over his three seasons, he played in 32 games (29 starts) and threw for 11,252 yards, 93 touchdowns and 29 interceptions.

  • Lions hire Hall of Fame RB Sanders as 'brand ambassador'
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, July 21, 2017

    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."

      Sanders' agent, J.B. Bernstein, said the Lions have been pursuing an increased post-career role for Sanders.

      "The Lions have always made an effort, every single season since Barry retired," Bernstein told the Detroit News. "Granted, the first couple seasons were to get him to come back and play. But once those first couple seasons passed, there hasn't been a year they haven't reached out to Barry to make sure they include him in everything from alumni games to events in the community.

      "The opportunity to have this relationship with the team has always been there for him. The Fords, everybody from the top on down, they've always wanted to have Barry involved as much as possible. Now, we're getting to the point where he has some significant time to allocate to the team and we're excited about it."

      Sanders stunned the organization and the NFL by retiring at the age of 31 after 10 seasons shortly before the start of the 1999 training camp.

      Sanders, drafted third overall in 1989 out of Oklahoma State, topped 1,000 yards in each of his 10 seasons, including 2,053 yards during the 1997 campaign. His 15,269 yards are the most in franchise history and third all-time behind Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton.

      The Lions icon was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year of eligibility.

      At this year's Super Bowl, Sanders said he met with Wood and general manager Bob Quinn shortly after they were hired by the organization.

      "I had good meetings with both of them, joked with Quinn about how similar Detroit is to Boston," Sanders said. "Pretty early on, I had a chance to talk with them and they said the door is always open. They definitely made me welcome and at home."

  • NFL notebook: O.J. Simpson granted parole
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, July 20, 2017

    Former football star and convicted felon O.J. Simpson was granted parole on Thursday in Lovelock, Nev., after serving almost nine years of a 33-year sentence on robbery charges.

    • The four-person parole board unanimously voted to release Simpson. By virtue of the decision, the 70-year-old Simpson could be out of prison as early as Oct. 1.

      David Smith, spokesman for the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners, explained the rationale for granting Simpson's parole in a media conference after the hearing.

      "Mr. Simpson had no prior or minimal criminal conviction history," Smith said. "He had a positive institutional record. He had participated in a program specifically to address his behavior that led to his incarceration. He has a stable release plan and community and family support, and the victim in this case testified in support of Mr. Simpson's release."

      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.

      --The Carolina Panthers released offensive tackle Michael Oher after he failed a physical. Oher, a first-round pick in the 2009 draft, has been in the NFL concussion protocol since last September.

      Oher has started all 110 NFL games in which he participated, but he played in just three games last season.

      He had three years remaining on his contract, but as part of his injury protection benefits, the 31-year-old Oher is guaranteed $900,000.

      The move to release Oher was made by interim general manager Marty Hurney, who was hired Wednesday. Oher defended former Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman after Gettleman was fired Monday.

      --Dallas Cowboys rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis will stand trial next week on one charge of domestic violence.

      The 21-year-old Lewis was charged with the misdemeanor in March after a late-night altercation with a woman who was his girlfriend at the time. The woman told police that Lewis grabbed her by the neck and held her to the floor before leaving the apartment they shared.

      Lewis contends that any contact he had with the woman was in a bid to leave the apartment.

      --Michael Vick apologized for saying earlier this week that quarterback Colin Kaepernick should cut his hair in a bid to alter his image.

      Appearing on "The Dan Patrick Show" on Thursday, Vick said he was "truly sorry" for the comments he made two days prior during an appearance on FS1's "Speak For Yourself."

      "At the end of the day, what I said, I should have never said. I think it was taken out of context in regards to what I was trying to convey, but I only want to help Kaepernick," Vick said Thursday. "I'm not a general manager, I'm not the guy who makes the decisions on getting him signed, and I'm truly sorry for what I said. I think I should have used a better choice of words. Obviously his afro has nothing to do with him being signed and I wasn't trying to relay that message. It was more so about helping him at the end of the day. In all my interviews, all I have ever tried to do is help him and talk positive."

  • T Oher released by Panthers
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, July 20, 2017

    The Carolina Panthers released offensive tackle Michael Oher on Thursday after he failed a physical.

    • Oher, a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, has been in the NFL concussion protocol since last September.

      Oher has started all 110 NFL games in which he participated, but he played in just three games last season.

      After his release, Oher tweeted, "The Brain is a scary thing. You have to be careful with it."

      He had three years remaining on his contract, but as part of his injury protection benefits, the 31-year-old Oher is guaranteed $900,000.

      The Panthers saved $1.69 million toward the salary cap by releasing Oher.

      "The most important thing is his health," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said on the team's website. "Michael's health always came first. We were not going to force the issue. Michael understood and we expressed that to him."

      The move to release Oher was made by interim general manager Marty Hurney, who was hired Wednesday.

      Oher defended former Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman after Gettleman was fired Monday.

  • O.J. Simpson granted parole
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, July 20, 2017

    Former football star and convicted felon O.J. Simpson was granted parole on Thursday in Lovelock, Nev., after serving almost nine years of a 33-year sentence on robbery charges.

    • The four-person parole board unanimously voted to release Simpson. By virtue of the decision, the 70-year-old Simpson could be out of prison as early as Oct. 1.

      Simpson simply lowered his head and whispered "Thank you" after receiving the news.

      David Smith, spokesman for the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners, explained the rationale for granting Simpson's parole in a media conference after the hearing.

      "Mr. Simpson had no prior or minimal criminal conviction history," Smith said. "He had a positive institutional record. He had participated in a program specifically to address his behavior that led to his incarceration. He has a stable release plan and community and family support, and the victim in this case testified in support of Mr. Simpson's release."

      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.

      "I've spent nine years making no excuses about anything. I am sorry that things turned out the way they did," Simpson said in his closing remarks Thursday. "I had no intent to commit a crime. ... I've done my time. I'd just like to get back to my family and friends -- believe it or not, I do have some real friends -- and I tried to be helpful to everybody."

      Appearing as inmate No. 1027820, Simpson was accompanied by lawyer Malcolm LaVergne, prison caseworker Marc La Fleur, close friend Tom Scotto, sister Shirley Baker and daughter Arnelle Simpson.

      Simpson said at the time of his arrest that he was attempting to retrieve his own personal sports memorabilia that was stolen from him sometime in the mid-1990s.

      By receiving parole, Simpson noted that he wished to repair relationships that have been affected by his time in prison and feels he'll adapt well in everyday life.

      "Well, you know, I do have four kids," Simpson said. "I've missed a lot of time with those kids -- like 36 birthdays with my children. ... My reputation has always been that I'm open to the public, I'm open to everybody. Right now, I'm at the point in my life where I can spend as much time with my children and my friends.

      "... Wherever I've been there's been a crowd. That's not new to me. ... I'm pretty easily approachable. I've dealt with it all my life, and I don't foresee any problem dealing with the public now, at all."

      Arnelle Simpson choked back tears as she pleaded her father's case before the parole board.

      "He's like my best friend and my rock," she said. "And as a family, we recognize that he is not the perfect man, but he is the man and the father that speaks to his overall character, which is to be positive no matter what.

      "... On behalf of my family, his friends, we just want him to come home."

      Bruce Fromong, a victim in the robbery case, spoke in favor of Simpson's release. He said on the day of the robbery, "Simpson was misguided."

      "He was misled about what was going to be there that day," Fromong said of the robbery day. "O.J. never held a gun on me. "O.J. is my friend, always has been, and I hope will remain my friend."

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

      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 Simpson had been acquitted.

      He was a highly popular figure prior to the brutal knife-slashing killings in 1994 but the Pro Football Hall of Famer 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 Buffalo Bills.

  • Vick apologizes for Kaepernick comments
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, July 20, 2017

    Michael Vick apologized for saying earlier this week that quarterback Colin Kaepernick should cut his hair in a bid to alter his image.

    • Appearing on "The Dan Patrick Show" on Thursday, Vick said he was "truly sorry" for the comments he made two days prior during an appearance on FS1's "Speak For Yourself."

      "At the end of the day, what I said, I should have never said. I think it was taken out of context in regards to what I was trying to convey, but I only want to help Kaepernick," Vick said Thursday. "I'm not a general manager, I'm not the guy who makes the decisions on getting him signed, and I'm truly sorry for what I said. I think I should have used a better choice of words.

      "Obviously his afro has nothing to do with him being signed and I wasn't trying to relay that message. It was more so about helping him at the end of the day. In all my interviews, all I have ever tried to do is help him and talk positive."

      Vick tweeted a clarification of his comments on Wednesday before electing to take a more personal route the following day.

      Kaepernick also took to Twitter in his response to the former NFL quarterback. The 29-year-old tweeted out a definition of Stockholm syndrome, where the victim comes to identify with and bond with their kidnappers.

      Kaepernick made headlines in 2016 when he kneeled during the national anthem to protest injustices against African Americans and minorities around the United States. It has now been over four months since the former starter became a free agent.

      Commissioner Roger Goodell has disputed claims teams are ostracizing Kaepernick.

      Kaepernick, who opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March, visited with the Seattle Seahawks in May. The Seahawks ended up signing backup quarterback Austin Davis on June 5, closing out any possibility of Kaepernick joining the team.

      Kaepernick passed for 2,241 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions while fumbling a career-worst seven times with the 49ers last season. He also ran for 468 yards and two touchdowns.

      In six NFL seasons, Kaepernick has passed for 12,271 yards with 72 touchdowns and 30 interceptions, adding another 2,300 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.

      Kaepernick started the 2016 campaign as the 49ers' backup behind Blaine Gabbert before taking over as the starter on Oct. 16.

      With Kaepernick under center, the 49ers lost nine straight and 10 of 11 overall to finish the season with the second-worst record in the NFL at 2-14.

  • Cowboys CB Lewis to stand trial for domestic violence
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, July 20, 2017

    Dallas Cowboys rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis will stand trial next week on one charge of domestic violence.

    • Lewis and his attorney made it clear that they intend to fight the charge during a pretrial hearing on Thursday morning.

      "Some cases have to be tried," Lewis' attorney John Shea said, via ESPN. "This is one of them."

      The 21-year-old Lewis was charged with the misdemeanor in March after a late-night altercation with a woman who was his girlfriend at the time. The woman told police that Lewis grabbed her by the neck and held her to the floor before leaving the apartment they shared.

      Lewis contends that any contact he had with the woman was in a bid to leave the apartment.

      The trial will begin Monday in the 15th district court in Ann Arbor, Mich. Shea said he hopes the trial will be finished by the end of the day Tuesday.

      The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Lewis, who was selected by Dallas in the third round of the NFL draft, was the Big 10 defensive back of the year in 2016 with Michigan.

  • Chargers believe new home brings new direction
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, July 20, 2017

    COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The Chargers have shed San Diego for Los Angeles. Now if they can just ditch their recent run of mediocre -- at best -- football.

    • After winning nine games in two seasons, the Chargers are upbeat about a new direction in a new location.

      With an offense that could wound rivals in various ways, a defense that features admirable pass-rushers and a head coach with a motivational edge, the Chargers are pumped.

      "I think anything that is new is exciting," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "What's the atmosphere going to be like at the first home preseason game? What's the training camp site (like). All those things. Anything new is always exciting. The unknown."

      The Chargers know what they will get from Rivers and that's always something to lean on: he threw for at least 4,000 yards in eight of his last nine seasons. Entering his 14th year, Rivers seems rejuvenated as well, after the slow digestion of leaving San Diego -- the only place he's played -- for Los Angeles.

      "We will find that new normal moving up the road," Rivers said.

      Hopefully, it comes with a different ending when the curtain draws on the regular season as it's been two straight years that the Chargers have finished in the AFC West cellar.

      Among the other black marks the team loaded into the moving van was this gem: despite having a quarterback as keen as Rivers, the Chargers have missed the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons.

      Someone might yell "rewrite" this close to Hollywood and Rivers is all for that.

      "We're coming off two tough years," Rivers said. "But it's a team that fully expects to win a lot of football games. I'm really looking forward to it."

      The NFL's crystal ball might show the Chargers as a sleeper. While the Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders get first billing in the division, L.A. could shake things up.

      Like fresh head coach Anthony Lynn, that fan base is new to the Chargers. But there seems to be a sense of optimism throughout the organization that the Chargers and L.A. could be a meeting that gets off on the right, and winning, foot.

      TOP THREE TRAINING CAMP GOALS

      --Stabilize the offensive line. The Chargers have been trying to fix this shortcoming for seemingly ever. This year they will likely be introducing three new starters from the previous season's opening day. Just where the big bodies will land -- rookies Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp will be in the mix -- on a line's that far from set will be interesting. Matt Slauson, last year's center, could end up at guard.

      --Find a nickel defensive back. The Chargers seem to be pretty solid with their starting cornerbacks in Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett, both with Pro Bowls on their resumes. But with the opposing offenses going to multiple wideouts the majority of the time, which Bolt will fill the void in the slot? Among those to vie for the position will be Trovon Reed and Trevor Williams from last year's team. But keep an eye on Desmond King, a fifth-round pick, too.

      --Finding a kicker. Some teams bring a summer kicker in just to be a camp leg. That's not the case with the Chargers as they want to push Josh Lambo to another level. Or be impressed enough by free agent Younghoe Koo to go a different direction. Lambo has the leg strength, but his wobbly accuracy is a concern for a squad that was dreadful with special teams last year.

      PROJECTED CAMP DEPTH CHART

      QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Philip Rivers. Backups - Kellen Clemens, Mike Bercovici, Eli Jenkins.

      RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Melvin Gordon. Backups - FB Derek Watt, Branden Oliver, Kenneth Farrow, Andre Williams, Kenjon Barner, Austin Ekeler.

      TIGHT ENDS: Starters -- Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry. Backups - Sean McGrath, Jeff Cumberland, Asante Cleveland, Sean Culkin.

      WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams. Backups - Mike Williams, Dontrelle Inman, Travis Benjamin, Isaiah Burse, Andre Patton, Mitchell Page, Artavis Scott, Jamaal Jones, Geremy Davis, Da'Ron Brown.

      OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Russell Okung, LG Matt Slauson, C Spencer Pulley, RG Forrest Lamp, RT Joe Barksdale. Backups - C Max Tuerk, G Donavon Clark, G Dan Feeney, G Brett Boyko, T Sam Tevi, G/T Chris Hairston, T Tyreek Burwell, G/T Kenny Wiggins, C Dillon DeBoer.

      DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - DLE Melvin Ingram, DT Corey Liuget, NT Brandon Mebane, DRE Joey Bosa. Backups - NT Ryan Carrethers, DT Damion Square, DT Caraun Reid, DE Jerry Attaochu, DE Darius Philon, DT Tenny Palepoi, DT Kaleb Eulls, DE Isaac Rochell, DE Christopher Landrum, DE Chris McCain.

      LINEBACKERS: Starters - WLB Korey Toomer, MLB Denzel Perryman, SLB Jatavis Brown. Backups - OLB Joshua Perry, OLB Kyle Emanuel, ILB Nick Dzunbar, OLB James Onwualu, OLB Mike Moore, OLB Nigel Harris.

      DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Jason Verrett, RCB Casey Hayward, FS Dwight Lowery, SS Jahleel Addae. Backups - CB Trevor Williams, S Darrell Stuckey, CB Craig Mager, S Adrian McDonald, S Adrian Phillips, S Tre Boston, CB Desmond King, CB Ryan Reid, CB Trovon Reed, CB Brandon Stewart, CB Michael Davis, S Dexter McCoil, S Rayshawn Jenkins, CB Brad Watson.

      SPECIAL TEAMS: K Josh Lambo, K Younghoe Koo, P Drew Kaser, P Toby Baker, LS Mike Windt, KOR Isaiah Burse, PR Isaiah Burse.

  • Raiders open camp with championship goals
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, July 20, 2017

    ALAMEDA, Calif. -- A year ago, the Oakland Raiders were the popular choice as a breakthrough team, having gone from 3-13 to a competitive 7-9 in their first season under head coach Jack Del Rio.

    • The Raiders made that pick look pretty smart. They went 12-4, earning their first playoff appearance in 14 seasons.

      Taking that big step -- and knowing that the Raiders could have conceivably won the division and reached the AFC title game had it not been for a Week 16 broken fibula sustained by quarterback Derek Carr -- big things are expected in 2017.

      How big?

      Anything less than challenging the New England Patriots for AFC and NFL supremacy will be considered a disappointment.

      With that as a backdrop, the Raiders report to training camp in Napa on July 28 with their first practice the following day. It's Super Bowl or bust for a home fan base that is hoping for a going-away present before the franchise departs to a new stadium in Las Vegas in 2020.

      The schedule is brutal, but there are no excuses -- not with foundation piece players on both sides of the ball. Carr is newly crowned as the NFL's highest paid player (per season) by virtue of a five-year, $125 million contract. Defensive end Khalil Mack is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

      Del Rio understands the expectations and welcomes them, but his goals will be incremental in training camp and the preseason.

      "Just go out there and try and get a little bit better every day," Del Rio said. "You have lofty goals, down-the-road kind of goals, but it's about the work you put in every day. That's the process of becoming a really good football team. That's what we'll be about."

      In terms of health, there should be no major concerns as camp opens. Carr played without limitations in the off-season and looks to be at full strength. He promises his outlook won't be any different in terms of daily improvement.

      "When we came in here, and our situation wasn't very pretty, all we cared about was busting our tail, outworking everybody, competing our tails off and doing it with class and honor," Carr said. "We respect all our opponents but we fear nobody. It didn't happen overnight. It's something we had to work on.

      "Super Bowl teams, all championship teams, have that quiet confidence. Some are less quiet than others, but they definitely have that characteristic.

      TOP THREE TRAINING CAMP GOALS

      --Improve coverage and communication in secondary. Blown coverages were routine as the Raiders gave up an NFL-high 61 pass plays of 20 yards or more and were tied with Tampa Bay with a league-worst 16 plays of 40 yards or more. To fix the problem, the Raiders drafted cornerback Gareon Conley and safety Obi Melifonwu with their first two picks and hired John Pagano as an assistant head coach who will tackle the communication issues.

      --Develop an interior pass rush. Despite the presence of Khalil Mack as one of the NFL's premier edge players, the Raiders had only 25 sacks. Eleven came from Mack and seven from strong-side linebacker Bruce Irvin. The Raiders hope Mario Edwards Jr., a base end who slides inside in the nickel, can provide a middle push, and they'll also look to develop third-round pick Eddie Vanderdoes of UCLA.

      --Successfully integrate Marshawn Lynch and Jared Cook to the offense. Lynch came out of retirement to join his hometown team and participated in the offseason program to get up to speed. He'll be brought along deliberately as the Raiders look to replace the 788 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns of departed free agent Latavius Murray. Cook, in theory, gives Carr his first legit middle of the field threat as a tight end; getting that combo going will only enhance Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree on the outside.

      PROJECTED CAMP DEPTH CHART

      QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Derek Carr. Backups -- Connor Cook, EJ Manuel.

      RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- Marshawn Lynch, FB Jamize Olawale. Backups -- Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Taiwan Jones, Elijah Hood, John Crockett.

      TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Jared Cook. Backups -- Lee Smith, Clive Walford, Gabe Holmes, Pharaoh Brown, Cooper Helfet, Ryan O'Malley.

      WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper. Backups -- Seth Roberts, Cordarrelle Patterson, K.J. Brant, Keon Hatcher, Johnny Holton, Jayden Mickens, Isaac Whitney, Ishmael Zamora.

      OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Donald Penn, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Rodney Hudson, RT Gabe Jackson, RT Marshall Newhouse. Backups -- T Austin Howard, G/C Jon Feliciano, T David Sharpe, T Chauncey Briggs, T Jylan Ware, T Ian Silberman, G Denver Kirkland, G Omi Omiole, G Jordan Simmons.

      DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- RDE Mario Edwards Jr., LDT Darius Latham, NT Justin Ellis, LDE Khalil Mack. Backups - DE/DT Denico Autry, DE/DT Jihad Ward, DE Branden Jackson, DE Jimmy Bean, DE Fadol Brown, DE Chris Casher, DT Eddie Vanderdoes, DT Paul Boyette, DT Treyvon Hester.

      LINEBACKERS: Starters -- SLB Bruce Irvin, MLB Cory James, WLB Jelani Jenkins. Backups -- OLB Tyrell Adams, OLB Shilique Calhoun, OLB Najee Harris, MLB Ben Heeney, MLB Marquel Lee, OLB LaTroy Lewis, OLB Nicholas Morrow, OLB Brady Sheldon, OLB Xavier Luster-Woodson, OLB/DE James Cowser.

      DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB David Amerson, RCB Sean Smith, SS Karl Joseph, FS Reggie Nelson. Backups -- CB Gareon Conley (nickel), S Obi Melifonwu, CB TJ Carrie, CB Kenneth Durden, CB Antonio Hamilton, CB Chris Humes, CB Dexter McDonald, CB/S Keith McGill, CB Breon Borders, S Anthony Cioffi, S Ricky Jefferson, S Marcus McWilson.

      SPECIAL TEAMS: K Sebastian Janikowski, K Giorgio Tavecchio, P Marquette King, LS Jon Condo, PR Jalen Richard, KOR Cordarrelle Patterson.

  • Steelers, Bell play tag as training camp looms
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, July 20, 2017

    PITTSBURGH -- The biggest story of the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason had some closure -- for this year, at least -- when star running back Le'Veon Bell declined a long-term contract and decided to play the 2017 season on the $12.12 million franchise tag.

    • The next decision for Bell is whether he reports to training camp and be with his teammates during the preseason. Until he signs his franchise tender -- he had not by Wednesday morning (July 17) -- he is under no obligation to participate in training camp.

      The risk, of course, is Bell is out $12.12 million if he sustains an injury while training on his own. Bell will have $12.12 million guaranteed when he signs the tender.

      For instance, if the Steelers did not use the tag on him again next year and he hit free agency, his earning power would be much diminished if he suffers another major injury. Bell would just be cutting down on the risk by not showing up to camp for a while.

      Whatever Bell decides, the issue theoretically shouldn't be a hindrance to the team this season. Once Bell reports he'll be a professional and do his job to the best of his ability. It's in his best interests to do that.

      Even with Bell on the books for $12.12 million this year, the Steelers have $15.5 million in salary cap space to sign other veterans. The Steelers want to extend defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. They've also expressed an interest in signing left tackle Alejandro Villanueva to a long-term deal.

      Villanueva is an exclusive rights free agent and is under team control for two more years. Like Bell, Villanueva still hasn't signed his tender. Unlike Bell, Villanueva showed up for OTAs and minicamp.

      It would be far from ideal for the star running back and the left tackle to be no-shows for training camp, but it's not like either player has much choice. They have to report before the regular season begins unless they want to forfeit paychecks.

      Even with potential distractions looming, the Steelers should enter the season as strong contenders in the AFC. Bell will be joined by receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant to form a dynamic trio for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

      The offense should be among the best in the NFL. The big question for the Steelers as they get set to enter training camp is whether the defense will be up to the task.

      TOP THREE TRAINING CAMP GOALS

      --Test the rookie. Figure out if rookie T.J. Watt is ready, and if he is, let him get his feet wet as the starter at right outside linebacker. The Steelers played veteran James Harrison fewer than 50 percent of the snaps for the first half of the season and then turned him loose in the second half and the playoffs. If Watt is ready to start, it doesn't mean he has to play the majority of the snaps. It just means the Steelers can see what they have while not taxing the 39-year old Harrison early in the season. At the midway point, or later, the coaches can figure out if they want to ride one as the full-time starter or split time.

      --Get Cam Sutton ready. The Steelers desperately need a cornerback capable of playing in man coverage. They used a third-round pick on Sutton, and they need to get him as many snaps as possible to figure out if he can eventually supplant Will Gay at slot corner or Ross Cockrell at outside corner. Sutton might not earn a starting job in camp, but the Steelers can figure out if he will be an option later in the season by getting him plenty of exposure this summer.

      --Sort out receiver rotation. The Steelers' deepest position group is at receiver, where they have eight or nine players vying for five or six spots on the 53-man roster. Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Eli Rogers will make the team, barring injury or suspension. That leaves likely two spots for the following players: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates, Justin Hunter, Demarcus Ayers and Cobi Hamilton. Coates, Heyward-Bey, Hamilton and Ayers were on the active roster at times last season and all four finished the season there. Hunter was brought in as a free agent.

      PROJECTED CAMP DEPTH CHART

      UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

      QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Ben Roethlisberger. Backups -- Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs, Bart Houston.

      RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Le'Veon Bell. Backups -- Knile Davis, James Conner, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Terrell Watson, Tre Williams.

      TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Jesse James. Backups -- Xavier Grimble, David Johnson, Phazahn Odom, Scott Orndoff.

      WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers. Backups -- JuJu Smith-Schuster, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Demarcus Ayers, Justin Hamilton, Cobi Hamilton.

      OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Alejandro Villanueva, LG Ramon Foster, C Maurkice Pouncey, RG David DeCastro, RT Marcus Gilbert. Backups -- T Jerald Hawkins, C/G B.J. Finney, C/G Chris Hubbard, T Matt Feiler, C Mike Matthews, T Jake Rodgers, T Brian Mihalik, T Keavon Milton, C Kyle Friend, G Ethan Cooper.

      DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LE Cameron Heyward, NT Javon Hargrave, RE Stephon Tuitt. Backups -- DE Tyson Alualu, DE L.T. Walton, DE Nelson Adams, DE Christian Brown, DE Lavon Hooks, DE Francis Kallon, DE Johnny Maxey, NT Daniel McCullers, NT Roy Philon.

      LINEBACKERS: Starters -- ROLB James Harrison, ILB Ryan Shazier, ILB Vince Williams, LOLB Bud Dupree. Backups -- OLB T.J. Watt, OLB Anthony Chickillo, OLB Arthur Moats, OLB Keion Adams, OLB Farrington Huguenin, ILB Tyler Matakevich, ILB L.J. Fort, ILB Matt Galambos.

      DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Artie Burns, RCB Ross Cockrell, FS Mike Mitchell, SS Sean Davis. Backups -- CB Will Gay, CB Coty Sensabaugh, CB Senquez Golson, CB Brian Allen, CB Brandon Dixon, CB Greg Ducre, CB Mike Hilton, S Robert Golden, S Jordan Dangerfield, S Jacob Hagen, S Damion Stafford, S Terrish Webb.

      SPECIAL TEAMS: K Chris Boswell, P Jordan Berry, LS Colin Holba, KOR Knile Davis, PR Antonio Brown.