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DAVIE, Fla. — Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was downgraded from questionable to doubtful for Sunday’s game vs. the New York Jets because of a left thumb injury that he sustained during practice this week.

Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to start for Tagovailoa.

The Dolphins elevated rookie practice squad quarterback Reid Sinnett to the active roster for the first time this season, another sign that Tagovailoa is expected to be inactive Sunday. Sinnett would serve as Fitzpatrick’s backup in his first NFL game.

Tagovailoa jammed the thumb on his left throwing hand on a teammate’s helmet during Wednesday’s practice, which limited him throughout the week, although he was seen throwing and practicing every day.

Dolphins Brian Flores initially said Thursday morning he wasn’t “too worried” about Tagovailoa’s thumb but Friday he noted he would have to watch his effectiveness in practice film before deciding if he could play Sunday.

Clearly, Flores didn’t like what he saw, and the Dolphins are leaning toward giving Tagovailoa time to rest the thumb.

Fitzpatrick started the first six Dolphins games this season, putting together a 3-3 record and generally performing well before Flores surprisingly elevated Tagovailoa to be the starter beginning in Week 8 vs. the Los Angeles Rams. Tagovailoa has gone 3-1 as a starter since taking over, but he was benched in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Denver Broncos due to performance.

The expectation was that Tagovailoa would return to the starting lineup for a chance to rebound this Sunday, but the thumb injury spoiled that opportunity. Now Fitzpatrick, who just turned 38 this week, will try to get the 6-4 Dolphins an important win against the 0-10 Jets as they try to remain in thick of the AFC playoff picture.

Since Tagovailoa is a left-handed passer, any injury to his left thumb makes it difficult to consistently throw the ball accurately. Flores also mentioned earlier this week that every player responds differently to injuries.

“I can’t say specifically for Tua or any player on exactly what they can play through or not play though,” Flores said. “I know he’s a tough kid. He wants to play, and we’ll see how this goes.”

For Tagovailoa, his chance to rebound from a poor showing will have to wait. Attention turns toward how long it takes for Tagovailoa to rehab his thumb and return to play. It’s worth noting the Dolphins brought in quarterback Jake Rudock, who spent parts of 2019 and 2020 on the team’s practice squad, for a visit Friday.

In the meantime, it’s FitzMagic time.

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So far, so good: A healthy Jadeveon Clowney is key to Browns’ defensive success – Cleveland Browns Blog

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BEREA, Ohio – On the first day of Browns minicamp last week, Jadeveon Clowney lined up with the other linemen for a series of sprinting conditioning drills.

Clowney, just six months removed from knee surgery, exploded off the line before nearly tracking down the pair of teammates in front of him who’d taken off several seconds earlier.

“I’ve been training extremely hard this offseason, so I kind of already have a feel of where I was coming here,” Clowney said following the second day of minicamp. “I felt great coming in, and I feel great now.”

Of the many moves the Browns made this offseason, signing Clowney to a one-year deal worth up to $10 million could prove to be the one that elevates Cleveland’s ceiling the most in 2021.

Due in large part to injuries, Clowney, 28, has yet to live up to the billing of being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. But the talent and potential for Clowney to be a difference-maker off the edge remains. Especially considering that he’ll now be lining up opposite Myles Garrett, one of the preeminent pass-rushers in the league and a former No. 1 overall pick himself.

“Very athletic and very fast,” Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods said of Clowney. “Offenses, they are going to have to make a choice of who they are going to chip and where they are going to slide the protection to. [Clowney] will be a great complement [to Garrett], and we’ll also be able to move those guys around just to try to create some favorable matchups.”

Coming off their first playoff appearance since 2002, the Browns prioritized upgrading the defense around Garrett and Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward. Cleveland’s offense surged down the stretch last season, fueling the Browns to their first playoff victory in 26 years. The defense, however, lagged at times, and in the playoff loss in Kansas City, it was unable to come up with the game-changing play or stop even after quarterback Patrick Mahomes exited the game.

To counter, the Browns signed John Johnson III, arguably the top safety on the free-agent market this offseason. They also utilized their first two draft picks for cornerback Greg Newsome II and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, bolstering their budding young core. Cleveland also landed several other veteran free agents, including defensive tackle Malik Jackson, nickelback Troy Hill and linebacker Anthony Walker, all of whom are projected to start.

The addition of Clowney, however, is what potentially gives this Browns defense the upside to become a top-five unit in the league after finishing just 19th in defensive efficiency last season.

Garrett, who was leading the league in sacks and forced fumbles in 2020 before contracting COVID-19 in late November, is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year contender and will continue to see double-teams. As a result, Clowney — doubled-teamed more than any defender other than Michael Bennett and Za’Darius Smith since 2018, according to ESPN Stats & Information — should face the fewest double-teams of his career. And, as a tandem wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks, they could have the domino effect of making life easier on the rest of Cleveland’s revamped defense as well.

“I wouldn’t say it would be very fun to go up against them,” said quarterback Baker Mayfield. “That duo creates a lot of stuff for a lot of other people on the back end. Obviously, we have a lot of guys who are very talented, so it is not just those two, but they do add a special dynamic when it comes down to offensive scheming, that you have to worry about those two guys.”

Of course, for that to come to fruition, Clowney will have to stay healthy. His NFL career began with a microfracture surgery on his right knee. He missed half of last season for Tennessee with a torn meniscus in his left knee. He’s suffered various injuries in between.

But Clowney is already showing that he’s healthy again — and, in turn, that he could be the piece to take the Cleveland defense to another level.



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‘More rejuvenated than ever,’ Cameron Jordan key to Saints’ life after Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints Blog

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MOBILE, Ala. — New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan took pride in being the only active player inducted into the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame on Wednesday, while crediting the “OGs” he shared the stage with — Reggie Wayne, Patrick Surtain Sr., Joe Staley and Fred Taylor.

But Jordan, who ranks second in Saints history with 94.5 career sacks through 10 seasons, is more focused on unfinished business than being reflective.

“I’m more hungry now than ever,” said Jordan, who pointed out that he and his father, former Minnesota Vikings great tight end Steve Jordan, have a total of 23 seasons and 12 Pro Bowl selections between them with zero Super Bowls.

“So this is something that I’m chasing,” said Jordan, who turns 32 in July. “Year [11] is really Year 1 starting back up again. Ten years behind me, ten years ahead of me. … I’m more rejuvenated than ever before.”

Jordan has to lead that charge now. With Drew Brees retiring and the Saints releasing longtime punter Thomas Morstead this offseason, Jordan is now the longest-tenured player in New Orleans.

When Jordan arrived as a first-round draft choice out of Cal in 2011, he was joining an established Super Bowl winner loaded with superstar talent. At the time, it felt like a matter of “how soon and how many” titles he would win in New Orleans.

Now, it has become a glaring “if” after so many gut-wrenching playoff exits. And Jordan has to help the Saints shape a new identity without Brees at the helm for the first time in 16 years.

It’s a role he has grown to embrace.

“This has been my same role the last seven years since we had that big excavation back in ’14,” Jordan said, referring to the Saints parting ways with defensive standouts Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer, Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins, before Jenkins returned in 2020. “Guys were looking up to me, and then I didn’t know how to truly handle it. I was just young enough where I was trying to figure out my own way as well.

“But then the last seven years, it’s been the young bucks coming in … and they’re looking to learn and take everything from you in terms of the knowledge that you have to give. You have to be able to disperse that knowledge and you have to be able to push them.”

First-round draft choice Payton Turner, a fellow defensive end who was on hand for Jordan’s ceremony, said he definitely sees Jordan as a face of the franchise after watching him thrive on TV for years and then seeing how much respect Jordan has from everyone in the building.

“You can tell that he’s got that aura around him, just kind of that leader’s mentality,” Turner said. “I think that’s been really good for me to be around.”

Jordan is well aware that he has to keep delivering at an elite level on the field, too. And he insists that he still has plenty left in the tank despite his disappointing production in 2020 (just 7.5 sacks after a career-high 15.5 in 2019).

Jordan said part of the issue last season was how much he pressed while having zero sacks in the first three weeks. But he said he relaxed, reset and “loved the way I played” during the second half of the season.

Jordan has talked for years about studying the list of great defensive linemen who thrived in their 30s.

“You talk about Calais Campbell [who], after he turned 30, had his best year,” Jordan said. “Brandon Graham having his best years after he turned 30. I’ve talked to Bruce Smith and I’ve looked at Mike Strahan’s careers. These are the years where they really made strides for a push-off of being great. It’s like 30 to that 34, 35 era, that you see not only the combination of that physical talent but … [also] the wisdom play in. And that’s what I’ve really been excited about.”

Jordan also believes that the Saints’ defense is ready to become the team’s driving force while either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill takes over at quarterback.

Led by veterans such as Jordan and linebacker Demario Davis, as well as the emergence of young players such as CB Marshon Lattimore, DT David Onyemata and safeties Marcus Williams and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, New Orleans’ defense has quietly become a huge reason for the team’s success over the past four years (four straight NFC South titles and the league’s best regular-season record over that span).

The Saints rank top five in the NFL in both yards and points allowed since Week 3 of the 2017 season. They rank No. 1 in run defense — which has long been one of Jordan’s underrated specialties.

“I truly believe if we have a couple more turnovers on the defensive side, our offense will be nice — but we hopefully don’t need them,” Jordan said. “We hope we’re able to continue the defensive legacy we’ve been building the last three years.”

Jordan, who spent Tuesday afternoon hosting a pair of youth football camps, has also long embraced his role as a community leader.

He has a prolific track record of community appearances on his “days off” during the season and recently joined an initiative focused on anti-racism and community engagement training for New Orleans police officers.

“I love my role here, I love how I’ve been embraced here,” Jordan said. “And I love finding love here — you know, I found my wife here, made kids here, connections. When you think about the community and what I’ve tried to do here for the last decade, it’s been nothing short of God’s work. The way that I’ve been blessed, I try to go out and bless other people.”



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Pittsburgh Steelers release guard David DeCastro, agree to terms with Trai Turner

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The Pittsburgh Steelers announced on Thursday that they released six-time Pro Bowl guard David DeCastro.

DeCastro was released with a non-football injury designation.

The Steelers later agreed to terms with former Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner on a one-year deal, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The 31-year-old DeCastro has been battling ankle issues and is evaluating whether surgery is required, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, adding that retirement is a strong option for him.

He didn’t participate in minicamp recently. When asked a week ago about DeCastro, coach Mike Tomlin said, “If I thought injury circumstances or reasons why people were not participating were significant, I would share them with you.”

DeCastro was in the final year of his contract with a $14.2 million cap hit. Releasing him saves the Steelers $8.75 million in cap space. He was the Steelers’ first-round pick (24th overall) in the 2012 draft.

“David was without a doubt one of the premier offensive linemen during his time with us,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “He helped us win a lot of football games, but it was David’s consistency, reliability and professionalism that stood out more than anything else. We wish him the best moving forward in his career.”

DeCastro missed the first two games of 2020 with lingering knee issues but appeared in 13 of Pittsburgh’s final 14 games.

With DeCastro’s release, the Steelers will have one returning starter on the offensive line: Chukwuma Okorafor, who is likely moving from last season’s spot on the right side to left tackle. Kevin Dotson also started for DeCastro a few times last season, but he’s slated to be the left guard.

The Los Angeles Chargers released Turner in March after first attempting to trade him. Turner, 28, was limited to nine games last season because of a groin injury, but he said recently he was “back at 100 percent.”

Turner had no guaranteed money left on a four-year, $45 million extension he signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2017.

Turner was selected to five Pro Bowls in his first six NFL seasons. Chosen in the third round of the 2014 draft by Carolina, he has played in 93 career games with 89 starts.

ESPN’s Brooke Pryor and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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