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Ex-Lions coach Rick Forzano dies; gave Bill Belichick his start in NFL

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Former Detroit Lions, Connecticut and Navy coach Rick Forzano has died at the age of 90, the Lions announced Thursday.

Forzano coached the Lions in 1974 to 1976, compiling a 15-17 record as the team moved from Tiger Stadium to the Silverdome, but his tenure in Detroit is better known for helping to start the career of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Forzano briefly lived with Belichick’s family in 1959 after joining Navy as an assistant coach and asked 10-year-old Bill to break down film.

Years later, after Belichick spent a year as a staff assistant with the Baltimore Colts, Forzano gave the 23-year-old his first full-time NFL job in 1976, first as a special teams assistant and then as wide receivers and tight ends coach.

“Rick gave me a great opportunity here, because when I was with the Colts I didn’t have a position to coach, I didn’t really have a group of players that I was responsible for,” Belichick told NFL Films in Detroit in 2017. “When I came here, Rick gave me the opportunity with the tight ends. The opportunity to coach a position, that’s a big step for any coach, and that was an opportunity that Rick gave me that I probably wasn’t ready for, but I certainly appreciated the opportunity for it.”

Forzano also had future NFL head coaches Joe Bugel, Raymond Berry and Jerry Glanville on his staffs jn Detroit.

“It was a big part of my life and development and career, and I’ll always be appreciative of that opportunity, like I said, that was given to me by (then-owner William Clay) Ford and coach Forzano,” Belichick told the Detroit News in 2014.

After coaching, Forzano became a color analyst for football games on ABC and NBC, along with starting Rick Forzano Industries, which connects domestic and international companies to the United States military, government and automotive industries.

Forzano, from Akron, Ohio, graduated from Kent State in 1951. He coached in college at Wooster, Kent State, UConn and Navy. He was also an NFL assistant in St. Louis and Cincinnati.

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Burfict joins Raiders, says AB pairing ‘all positive’

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The Oakland Raiders have signed Vontaze Burfict to a one-year contract, a day after the veteran linebacker was released by the Cincinnati Bengals.

The deal is worth up to $5 million, according to NFL Network.

With the Raiders, the 28-year-old Burfict will reunite with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who held the same role with the Bengals from 2014 to 2017. He’ll also join forces with wide receiver Antonio Brown, and the two have a rocky history.

It started in the 2015 playoffs, when Burfict was suspended three games for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Brown during an AFC wild-card game. Brown ended up with a concussion and didn’t play for the Steelers for the rest of the postseason.

Then this past season, Brown caught a pass over the middle and was tackled by two Bengals defenders when Burfict flew in with his right elbow, connecting with the receiver’s upper body and head area. Brown was down on the turf for a few seconds and then was evaluated by the team on the sideline, before re-entering the game. Afterward, Brown called it a “nasty hit.”

The play, as well as another one during that game involving Steelers running back James Conner, led to $112,000 in fines that week for Burfict, who has been fined more than $415,000 in his career.

On a conference call with media after the deal was announced Tuesday, Burfict downplayed any lingering tension between the two players.

“We’re on the same team,” Burfict said. “It’s one goal. It’s all positive, man. He’s a great player. … I’m going to approach him just like I do all my other teammates. … There’s nothing negative here. We’re on the same team. We’re trying to win a championship here.

“Honestly, we might be the closest friends on the team, you know what I mean? So, just got to go along with it and I can’t wait to meet him.”

Brown, who was traded to Oakland earlier this month, tweeted later that the two had spoken.

Guenther’s ties to Burfict date back to the linebacker’s rookie season in 2012, when Guenther was his linebackers coach. Burfict had one of the best seasons of his career in 2013, when he made his only Pro Bowl.

Guenther took over as Cincy’s defensive coordinator in 2014, and he has been one of Burfict’s biggest supporters throughout his career, defending him publicly after several of the linebacker’s fines and suspensions. A source said that the Raiders inquired about trading for Burfict last year due to Guenther’s ties to him, but the Bengals said Burfict was not available.

Guenther clearly didn’t give up, as Burfict was in the Raiders’ facility and signed within 24 hours of his release from Cincinnati. Burfict told reporters that after his release from the Bengals he called his mom and then Guenther.

“He didn’t pick up. I think I called him seven times straight,” Burfict said, laughing.

Last season, Burfict had 33 tackles in seven games with the Bengals, but he missed several contests due to injuries, including a hip issue and two concussions toward the end of the season. He was suspended for the first four games of 2018 after violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

Asked about his health Tuesday, Burfict said he feels good.

“Some of the concussions, I passed the concussion protocol,” he said. “Sometimes the team actually told me to stay in the locker room, that I couldn’t go out there because the replay was bad. I can’t fight the trainers. I have to do what they say. Football is a dangerous sport like that, but I’m totally fine. I got my physical and I passed it, otherwise I wouldn’t be signing with the Raiders if I wasn’t good.”

Information from ESPN’s Katherine Terrell was used in this report.



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Texans sign QB McCarron to back up Watson

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HOUSTON — The Houston Texans on Tuesday signed AJ McCarron to be the team’s backup quarterback behind Deshaun Watson.

The deal is for one year and $3 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, confirming an NFL Network report.

McCarron will be an upgrade at quarterback for the Texans behind Watson, who was backed up by Brandon Weeden and Joe Webb III in 2018 and Tom Savage in his rookie season in 2017. Weeden and Webb are both free agents, and Weeden is not expected to re-sign in Houston.

McCarron, a former Alabama standout, has played in 12 NFL games, including seven for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015 when he took over for an injured Andy Dalton. In his career, McCarron has completed 64 percent of his passes for 928 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.



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Texans to make McCarron backup QB

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HOUSTON — The Houston Texans are finalizing a one-year, $3 million deal with quarterback AJ McCarron, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

McCarron will be the Texans’ backup quarterback behind Deshaun Watson. The deal was first reported by NFL Network.

McCarron will be an upgrade at quarterback for the Texans behind Watson, who was backed up by Brandon Weeden and Joe Webb III in 2018 and Tom Savage in his rookie season in 2017. Weeden and Webb are both free agents, and Weeden is not expected to re-sign in Houston.

McCarron, a former Alabama standout, has played in 12 NFL games, including seven for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015 when he took over for an injured Andy Dalton. In his career, McCarron has completed 64 percent of his passes for 928 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions.

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