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Arbitrator denies Green Bay Packers’ attempt to recoup part of Martellus Bennett’s signing bonus

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Green Bay Packers didn’t get much out of Martellus Bennett on the field, and they won’t be getting anything back from his bank account.

The team’s attempt to recoup signing bonus money through a grievance filed late last year was turned down by an independent arbitrator on Tuesday, Packers president Mark Murphy confirmed to ESPN at the NFL scouting combine.

Murphy said the Packers can appeal to a panel, and they will discuss whether to do so.

The Packers gave Bennett a $6.3 million signing bonus as part of a three-year, $21 million contract signed last March. He played in only seven games before the Packers released him with the designation that he failed to disclose a medical condition. ESPN first reported in November that the team filed a grievance against Bennett.

Bennett was inactive for one game because of a shoulder injury before the Packers released him. He later said he received medical opinions from multiple doctors saying that he needed surgery. Bennett also disputed that he withheld any injury information and claimed that Green Bay’s medical staff forced him to play.

The New England Patriots then claimed Bennett off waivers, and he played in two games before he went on injured reserve.

Murphy said the arbitrator’s decision was based in part on Bennett being claimed off waivers.

“The key issue was the fact that the Patriots picked up his contract,” Murphy said Tuesday.

The Packers now must count the remaining $4.2 million of Bennett’s pro-rated signing bonus on their 2018 salary cap.

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New Orleans Saints rule out Michael Thomas, Marquez Callaway

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METAIRIE, La. — Michael Thomas and Marquez Callaway have officially been ruled out for Week 8 as the New Orleans Saints‘ receiving corps continues to get thinner by the week.

Emmanuel Sanders also remains on the reserve-COVID list, meaning New Orleans will be without three of its top four wide receivers Sunday at the Chicago Bears.

All three could be back as early as next weekend’s critical showdown with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football, however.

Thomas has been sidelined since Week 1 because of a high ankle sprain, a team disciplinary action and a hamstring injury that he suffered last week. But he returned to practice on a limited basis both Thursday and Friday this week.

Callaway, meanwhile, suffered an ankle injury during his breakout performance last weekend while Thomas and Sanders were out. The undrafted rookie caught eight passes for 75 yards in New Orleans’ 27-24 win over the Carolina Panthers. Callaway also practiced on a limited basis Thursday and Friday.

In their absence, the Saints should continue to rely heavily on running back Alvin Kamara, tight end Jared Cook and receivers Tre’Quan Smith and Deonte Harris in the passing game. They could also call up practice squad receivers Austin Carr, Juwan Johnson and/or Tommylee Lewis.

The Saints (4-2) have actually won three straight games despite their depleted WR corps, with Drew Brees and the passing offense finding a better rhythm by the week. They converted 12 of 14 third-down attempts and never punted in last week’s win over Carolina.

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Source — Minnesota Vikings linebacker Todd Davis tests positive for COVID-19

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EAGAN, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings placed Todd Davis on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday after the veteran linebacker tested positive for the coronavirus, a league source told ESPN.

Davis was the second Vikings player this week to go on the reserve/COVID-19 list; the team designated rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler on Wednesday. It remains unclear whether Dantzler has COVID-19 or came into close contact with someone infected with the virus.

The Vikings are now in intensive league protocols, according to coach Mike Zimmer, who said the team can still have walk-throughs, practices and virtual meetings.

Dantzler did not show up on the final injury report, so his status for Sunday’s game in Green Bay is in question. If not positive for COVID-19 or a high-risk contact, the rookie would need two negative test results taken within 24 hours of each other to be eligible to play.

Minnesota is down to Kris Boyd, Mark Fields and rookies Jeff Gladney and Harrison Hand at cornerback for the Green Bay game after Holton Hill (foot) and Mike Hughes (neck) were ruled out for Week 8. The Vikings placed Hughes on injured reserve on Friday; he will be on the list for a minimum of three weeks.

League sources told ESPN this week that Hughes’ neck injury, suffered in the first half of the Atlanta game on Oct. 18, might lead to him being shut down for the season. Hughes has been limited to 3½ games in 2020 after an ACL tear his rookie season held him to 20 games from 2018 to 2019.

“It’s been difficult,” Zimmer said. “He hasn’t had much time on the field [with] the knee, the neck. It’s been one thing after another with him, unfortunately. He’s a good kid, he wants to play. … He’s just been hurt.”

While running back Dalvin Cook is expected to play in Green Bay after injuring his groin in Week 5, his status was changed to questionable shortly after the Vikings publicly announced the final injury report. Cook, a full participant in Friday’s practice, was not initially given an injury designation, and when asked about how the running back performed in practice this week, Zimmer said, “Good. He should be ready to go,” while noting Cook would likely have his normal workload.

The Packers already know they won’t have running back Aaron Jones and cornerback Kevin King, and they are still not sure who will kick for them on Sunday against the Vikings.

Mason Crosby, who has the longest active streak of consecutive games played among kickers (214 games), has an injury to his left calf (non-kicking leg) and his back. He did not practice Wednesday and Thursday but did some limited work Friday and is listed as questionable.

Rookie Nick Vogel is waiting in the wings if needed. Punter JK Scott also has worked on field goals this week, but he is the regular holder and the Packers don’t have a backup listed on their depth chart.

ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.

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Cleveland Browns’ Odell Beckham Jr. says ACL tear ‘really tough,’ promises to be back soon

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In his first comments since suffering a season-ending knee injury, Cleveland Browns star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. thanked his fans while admitting the setback was “really f—ing tough.”

“I really don’t have many words right now definitely not the right ones at least,” Beckham posted Friday on his Instagram story.

“I couldn’t tell u why this happened, this one doesn’t make much sense, it’s not for me to question , but I believe God truly has a plan and is using me for it. Ton of emotions flowing.. just taking some ME time, some time to heal. Thank u all for the Luv… be back soon”

Beckham tore the ACL in his left knee on Baker Mayfield‘s first throw Sunday against Cincinnati. Mayfield’s pass was underthrown and picked off. Beckham injured the knee trying to make the tackle.

The Browns placed Beckham on injured reserve this week, officially ending his season.

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