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Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict ruled out with hip injury


CINCINNATI — Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers with a hip injury.

Burfict appeared to injure his hip late in the third quarter of the Bengals’ loss to the Chiefs last Sunday and immediately went to the locker room. He did not return and was quickly ruled out.

Burfict has played in only three games this season. He missed the first four games of the season while surviving a suspension for a violation of the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy. He has not played a full season since 2013 due to injuries and suspensions.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Burfict since his return. He was fined $112,000 by the NFL for two plays against the Steelers that the league defined as unnecessary roughness. He also missed several tackles in the blowout loss to the Chiefs.

“He hasn’t played as well as he has in the past,” said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis on Wednesday.

Lewis declined any followup questions on Burfict.

“I don’t want to talk about Vontaze. It’s not relevant,” he said.

The Bengals will also be without linebacker Nick Vigil, running back Giovani Bernard, wide receiver John Ross, cornerback Darqueze Dennard and tight end Tyler Kroft this weekend. Burfict will likely be replaced by Hardy Nickerson or Vincent Rey.



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Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Kwon Alexander tore ACL


Pro Bowl linebacker Kwon Alexander, who left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns just before halftime with a right knee injury, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Alexander underwent an MRI on Monday to confirm the diagnosis.

Alexander suffered the injury with 18 seconds left in the first half of the Bucs’ 26-23 victory Sunday. He was blitzing quarterback Baker Mayfield and planted his foot, going down without contact. Players on both teams immediately knelt down. Alexander was able to leave the field under his own power.

“He said to us before we left out there for halftime, he was like, ‘Never take anything for granted,'” Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said Sunday. “We see the passion he plays with. We see the heart he puts in the locker room. We are going to have his back just like we had his back today.

“I love Kwon. We’re going to miss him, and I know he is going to make an amazing comeback. That’s just the type of person that he is, and his work ethic has been strong since he’s been here.”

The timing couldn’t be worse for Alexander, who is set to become a free agent next season and has been trying to negotiate a new contract.

The Bucs are now razor-thin at linebacker. Rookie Jack Cichy, who stepped into Adarius Taylor‘s strongside spot (Taylor slid over to Alexander’s middle spot), also left with a knee injury and did not return. Last year’s starting strongside linebacker, Kendell Beckwith, is still recovering from ankle surgery after an offseason car accident.

The team did re-sign linebacker Devante Bond this week to provide more depth. Bond had been waived after suffering a foot injury during the preseason and received an injury settlement.



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Neiron Ball, former Oakland Raiders LB, in medically induced coma after aneurysm


Former Oakland Raiders linebacker Neiron Ball is in a medically induced coma after a brain aneurysm ruptured Sept. 16, the team said Tuesday.

Ball, 26, was diagnosed while at Florida with a rare, congenital condition called an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), in which the brain’s blood vessels get tangled and rupture. He underwent emergency surgery after physicians discovered a brain bleed prior to his sophomore year, and he sat out the 2011 season.

However, once he resumed playing football, he continued to excel for the Gators and was selected by the Raiders in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. He played six games for the Raiders in 2015 and rose to a starting role, before a knee injury derailed his career.

Doctors had told Ball and his family that it was unlikely his AVM would recur, and that football presented no specific danger in Ball’s case.

The Aneurysm and AVM Foundation, which according to The Mercury News spoke to Ball’s family, tweeted: “We believed Neiron’s #AVM was obliterated, that doesn’t seem to be the case as he developed an aneurysm which burst. His family asks for continued prayers.”





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Ex-Browns LB Mychal Kendricks signing 1-year deal with Seahawks


Linebacker Mychal Kendricks, released by the Cleveland Browns following charges of insider trading, is signing a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Kendricks pleaded guilty last week to the charges. A sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 24.

Kendricks, who signed a one-year contract with the Browns in June after winning a Super Bowl title last season with the Eagles, used tips from an acquaintance to make about $1.2 million in illegal profits on four major trading deals, federal prosecutors said.



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Leonard Floyd has hand surgery; Chicago Bears hope LB returns for Week 1


Chicago Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd, the team’s top edge rusher, had surgery Sunday to repair a fracture in his right hand.

Bears head coach Matt Nagy confirmed the surgery to reporters Monday at Halas Hall, adding that the procedure “went well.”

“We’re staying optimistic for Green Bay,” Nagy said, expressing hope that Floyd would be on the field for the Bears’ regular-season opener against the rival Packers.

Nagy described the fracture as on Floyd’s index and middle finger. It occurred on a cut block late in the first quarter of the Bears’ preseason game against the Broncos; Floyd hit the ground and injured his hand as he braced himself.

“[He was] just unlucky,” Nagy said.

“I talked to him,” Bears defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris added. “I think Leonard’s going to be fine. He’s going to come back and rush his butt off.”

Floyd, the ninth overall pick in the 2016 draft, has played only 22 combined games in the past two seasons due to injuries.

With three weeks to go before the start of the regular seaso, the Bears are testing their depth at the outside linebacker position. Floyd’s backup Aaron Lynch has a hamstring injury and hasn’t played in the preseason. The other backups at the position are Kasim Edebali, Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving.



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Former Tennessee Volunteers LB A.J. Johnson signs with Denver Broncos following rape acquittal


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos signed linebacker A.J. Johnson on Monday, less than three weeks after Johnson was acquitted of aggravated rape charges on July 27.

Johnson, who last played in a game in 2014 at the University of Tennessee, was added to the Broncos roster on Monday and participated in the team’s afternoon practice. He was suspended from the Tennessee football team in November 2014 after rape charges were filed against him and his former Vols teammate Michael Williams.

Johnson was not selected in the 2015 NFL draft and has not played since.

“A.J. hasn’t had the opportunity to play football for the last three years while resolving a serious legal matter,” Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway said in a statement. “We’ve had several conversations with him since he’s been cleared and have become very familiar with his background and character. Our organization is confident A.J. is ready to move forward and resume his playing career.”

The Broncos released linebacker Stansly Maponga to make room for Johnson on the roster.

“It was a three-year legal battle for this young man, he was cleared in June,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said after Monday’s practice. “He wants to play football again. We talked to a lot of his coaches … everyone spoke highly of him, so we’ll see … we’ll see how he fits in.”

Johnson and Williams were indicted in February 2015 after a woman said both men raped her during a party at Johnson’s apartment in the early morning hours of Nov. 16, 2014. Johnson and Williams were suspended from the team less than 48 hours after the party and never played for Tennessee again.

Johnson was a three-time All-SEC selection from 2011-14. He was a four-year starter in Knoxville whose 425 tackles ran second among any Volunteer since the school started keeping track of the statistic in 1970.

In 46 career games at Tennessee, he had 30½ tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception, 11 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He posted double digits in tackles 23 times.

After a jury of seven women and five men found Johnson and Williams not guilty, Johnson said, “I just knew God was going to take care of it.”

The Broncos listed the 6-foot-2 Johnson at 243 pounds, but he said at his trial last month that he weighs 255 as he sought to revive his dream of playing in the NFL.

“We’ll see, it’s been three years since he’s actually played football,” Joseph said. “At that time three years ago, he was a serious prospect … we’ll see, he’s been here for three or four hours.”

First-year Broncos wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni was on the Tennessee coaching staff during Johnson’s time at the school. Joseph’s cousin, Terry Joseph, was also an assistant coach on that Tennessee staff.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.



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Mike Zimmer says Vikings not trading LB Anthony Barr


EAGAN, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer chose to move up his media availability a day to address an apparent report involving linebacker Anthony Barr and a trade.

“I was made aware of an erroneous report about Anthony Barr,” Zimmer said Friday. “Anthony is my guy. No. 1, we are unequivocally not trying to trade Anthony. He was my first draft pick we have ever had with me. He’s helped this defense go from 32nd or 31st or whatever it is to being pretty good, and so there’s no, none whatsoever, truth to that rumor.”

It was not immediately clear what report Zimmer was referencing. Barr, a first-round pick in 2014, is a three-time Pro Bowl selection.

Barr, who has expanded his role to include work with the defensive line during camp, did not participate in team drills on Thursday. When asked about his absence, Barr deferred to the coaching staff.

“There was a reason for that,” Barr said. “I’m not able to discuss that. Any questions about that, talk to the head man.”

Zimmer said the absence was the result of a minor injury.

“He had a tweak yesterday, and we kept him out of practice for a while,” Zimmer said. “He should be out there today.”

Earlier this week, Minnesota re-signed wide receiver Stefon Diggs through the 2023 season. Barr is the Vikings’ last big-name pending free agent who has yet to receive a contract extension and has remained mum on any details about when a new deal might get done.

“I’ve said all I have to say about that,” Barr said. “Like I said earlier, I’m just here to continue to get better, work hard and continue to grow with this team.”

Upon squashing the trade rumor, Zimmer doubled down on wanting to have Barr in his defense beyond this season.

“We’re trying to get him signed,” Zimmer said. “Hopefully we can. That’s between upstairs [front office] and his people. We’d love to have him here. Like I said, he’s my guy, first guy I drafted. I want him to get the best deal he can possibly get, but in a selfish way, I want him to be here, too.”



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Green Bay Packers LB Jake Ryan has torn ACL


Green Bay Packers linebacker Jake Ryan has a torn ACL, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Ryan, who was slated to start at inside linebacker, was carted off from practice with the injury. It is likely he will miss the 2018 season.

The injury occurred during an 11-on-11 drill late in Sunday’s practice. Ryan, 26, pounded his fist on the ground as he received medical attention.

The injury will accelerate the need for rookie third-round pick Oren Burks to play a bigger role on defense. Also, defensive back Quinten Rollins has worked at inside linebacker in the sub packages, and the Packers are high on undrafted rookie linebacker Greer Martini of Notre Dame.

Ryan, a fourth-round pick of the Packers in 2015, started 12 games last season, finishing with 79 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack. He has appeared in 43 games (27 starts) in his three seasons in Green Bay.

ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.



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NFL suspends San Francisco 49ers LB Reuben Foster 2 games


San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster was fined and suspended two games by the NFL for violating the league’s conduct and substance abuse policies.

Foster issued a statement that said: “I accept the League’s decision and am sorry that my mistakes have hurt my team. I have a responsibility to the 49ers, our fans and our community, and I am committed to learning from this situation and making better choices in the future. The support I have received over the last five months has been humbling, and I do not take it for granted.”

In June, Foster pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge related to possession of an illegal weapon, stemming from a Feb. 11 incident in Los Gatos, California.

Foster was sentenced to 232 hours of community service and two years of probation in which he is barred from the possession of any guns or ammunition. He also must pay $235 in total fines and surrender the weapon that brought the charge, a Sig Sauer 516.

Foster’s plea brought to an end a tumultuous offseason in which he at one time faced four charges, three of which were originally charged as felonies.

Soon after the season, Foster was arrested twice in the span of about a month: once in January in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor, and another in Los Gatos, California, which involved two charges related to domestic violence and the weapons charge.

His plea brought resolution to the most serious of those two arrests, as it was the final charge remaining from his Feb. 11 arrest in Los Gatos.

Elissa Ennis, Foster’s former girlfriend, initially accused Foster of domestic violence before she recanted her story a couple of days after her initial complaint. She then testified under oath at the preliminary hearing on May 17 that she lied about Foster hitting her and that the injuries she showed to authorities were the result of a fight she was in on the night of Feb. 10.

Judge Nona L. Klippen dismissed the two charges related to domestic violence on May 23, citing a lack of evidence against Foster. On that same day, Klippen reduced the weapons charge to a misdemeanor on the basis that the weapon had been purchased legally in Alabama, and though it wasn’t legal in California, it hadn’t been used to commit a crime.

The marijuana charge Foster faced in Alabama was also dismissed on May 25 after he completed a diversion course and was asked to pay a $100 bail bond fee.

Foster entered the league as a first-round pick in 2017 after he failed a drug test at the NFL scouting combine when his urine sample was found to be diluted. That, in addition to his offseason legal issues, could factor in to any potential league punishment.

The 49ers issued a statement saying that Foster will be eligible to participate in preseason games and practices. He will sit the first two regular-season games and be eligible to return to the active roster Sept. 17.

Information from ESPN’s Nick Wagoner was used in this report.



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Carolina Panthers LB Thomas Davis discusses suspension, ‘very open’ to playing in 2019


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is not backing off his assertion that his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs was over a substance he has been taking for years without penalty, but he is backing off plans to retire after the 2018 season.

Davis, 35, who on Thursday spoke to media for the first time since he learned of the suspension in April, said he is “very open” to the possibility of playing in 2019.

This came after he said in January, “this will definitely be my last year coming up.”

“It’s important for me to come out each and every day and show that I’m still capable of playing,” Davis said as the Panthers completed a three-day minicamp. “I think when you look at the body of work over the OTA and minicamp process and period, I have proven without a doubt that I can still come out and play the game.

“I’m still out here running around, moving just as fast as any of our young guys. That is somewhat how I judge myself. When we bring new people in, rather see how I stack up against them.”

Davis signed a one-year extension last year in training camp that took him through the upcoming season. He said at the time that would be his last contract, and then reiterated that after the season in an interview with NFL.com.

But the suspension that actually will force Davis to miss five weeks of being around his teammates — because Carolina has a bye in Week 4 — apparently made the three-time Pro Bowl selection rethink retirement.

“It’s tough for me to potentially be in the last season of my NFL career, to be faced with a four-game suspension, but I’m just going to take it in stride, take advantage of the time I do have here with my teammates,” Davis said. “We are going to go to training camp. We are going to have a good camp and just looking forward to that.”

Davis’ only comments about the suspension prior to Thursday came in a video he released on social media after being notified by the league.

He spoke to reporters on Thursday while hosting Kyleigh Dean, a 13-year-old in the “Make-a-Wish” program. Kyleigh was diagnosed at an early age with a rare disease — congenital generalized lipodystrophy — that is characterized by the near total loss of body fat.

“It definitely puts things in perspective,” Davis said. “As professional athletes, I feel we have a responsibility to younger kids. It’s important for us to always do things the right way. That’s one of the things I try to instill into my kids personally.”

That led to how Davis, the 2014 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year for his community work through his Defending Dreams Foundation, explains his suspension to kids that look up to him.

“I tell the truth,” Davis said. “I’m open and honest with kids about it. It definitely was something that was unintentional. It wasn’t something I was doing deliberately. Sometimes in life things happen that are totally out of your control. When you’re taking something that you’ve used for long, long periods of time, you don’t expect it to be any different results.

“Unfortunately, I had a different result the last time I used it than the other eight years I’ve used it.”

Davis said the illegal substance was the only PED he was using and he doesn’t use it anymore. He would not give the name of the substance because he is “good friends with the owner of the company.”

But Davis said he’s had several conversations with the manufacturer about what happened as he sought whether he could appeal the suspension. He ultimately came to the conclusion there was no sound basis for appeal.

“With the way the NFL drug testing policy is set up, you really don’t find out as a player until a month or two after you’ve actually failed a test,” Davis said. “It’s hard to go back and test that particular product that you’ve taken.

“I’m not saying it’s the league’s fault that I don’t know what product it was in. Ultimately, as I said in the video that I made, we’re responsible for what we put in our body as players. That’s something I have to know.”

Davis said the support from people such as Kyleigh, teammates, family members and the community of Charlotte has been “huge.”

“When you set a standard of always doing things the right way, people understand or know it wasn’t intentional,” Davis said. “That’s kind of the reaction I got from a local standpoint. I couldn’t be more excited to know people understand and believe in me.”

And Davis couldn’t have been more excited about hanging out with Kyleigh and showing her everything the defense does, including trash-talking with quarterback Cam Newton.

“I kind of laid the foundation early for Kyleigh when we came out here. … We talk trash to Cam all practice long,” said Davis, who talks more trash to the 2015 NFL MVP than anybody on the team. “He came up and tried to speak to her and she stuck to it.

“He asked, ‘Why are you so saucy?’ I absolutely loved that. That made my day.”



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