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Shanahan joins first Broncos practice in 11 years

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos rolled out the welcome mat Saturday for the winningest coach in franchise history, as Mike Shanahan attended his first Broncos practice since he was fired as head coach in 2008.

Shanahan, who was 146-91 (including playoffs) in 14 seasons as Broncos coach and a two-time Super Bowl winner, was fired by then-owner Pat Bowlen after the team’s 8-8 finish in 2008. Shanahan had attended several team functions through the years, including games, a ceremony to honor the Super Bowl winners and the dedication of the team’s fieldhouse, but this was the first time he had been at the team’s practice field since he was the coach.

He also attended Bowlen’s funeral last month.

“I was glad to have Mike here. I invited him. I’m glad he could come,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “I invited him for the spring work, and the schedules never matched up, but I was glad he was here. I think it was good he was here. Mike’s got a big part in the rich history of this franchise. He’s welcome to come here any time he wants.”

Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway and offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello also had hands in arranging the visit. Elway had talked extensively with Shanahan about a potential return in recent years, but it didn’t come to fruition.

Scangarello worked with Kyle Shanahan, Mike’s son, with both the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.

Shanahan arrived Saturday shortly after practice had started and quickly moved to his usual vantage point behind the team’s offense. He spoke with Elway and others during practice before going inside the team’s complex to see staff members who still remain from his time with the team.

Fangio, who said they go back “far as competitors, but not long as friends; we’ve gotten to know each other the last five, eight years,” stood with Shanahan and Elway during a special-teams period late in practice.

Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was on Shanahan’s staff from 1995 to 1999, and assistant offensive line coach Chris Kuper was a Shanahan draft pick in 2006. Trainer Steve Antonopulos, who will be Bowlen’s presenter for his Hall of Fame enshrinement next month, was also with the team during Shanahan’s entire tenure.



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Hall of Fame defensive end Chris Doleman dies at age 58

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Hall of Fame defensive end Chris Doleman has died after a battle with cancer, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced in a statement. He was 58.

“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Chris Doleman after a prolonged and courageous battle against cancer,” said David Baker, the Hall of Fame’s president and CEO. “I had the honor of getting to know him not only as a great football player but an outstanding human being. One of the honors of my life was witnessing Chris get baptized in the Jordan River during a Hall of Fame trip to Israel. The legacy of Chris Doleman will live forever in Canton, Ohio, for generations to learn from how he lived a life of courage and character.”

Doleman played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1985 to 1993 and ended his career with the club in 1999.

In 2018, he had surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Doleman, a first-round pick by the Vikings in the 1985 NFL draft, played for nine seasons in Minnesota before spending the 1994 and 1995 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and 1996-98 with the San Francisco 49ers. He wrapped up his career in Minneapolis as an eight-time Pro Bowler.

Doleman totaled 150.5 sacks, 22 coming during the 1989 season when he led the NFL, while adding eight interceptions and three touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

“The Minnesota Vikings express our deepest sympathies to Chris Doleman’s family and friends upon his passing,” the team said in a statement. “Chris was a great example for players past and present, as he embodied all the best characteristics of a Viking — resilience, toughness and a competitive spirit. Chris always carried himself with dignity and class. Vikings fans worldwide will greatly miss him.”

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Source — Bears land top CFL free agent Tre Roberson

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Cornerback Tre Roberson, viewed by many as the top Canadian Football League free agent this year, will sign with the Chicago Bears, a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Roberson, 27, who played for the Calgary Stampeders, chose the Bears over nine other offers.

He had seven interceptions and 41 tackles last season for Calgary, while also scoring two touchdowns. Roberson played his college ball at Illinois State.

The Bears are expected to give Roberson the largest CFL-to-NFL compensation since the Miami Dolphins signed defensive end Cameron Wake in 2009 to a reported four-year, $4.9 million deal.

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DeMaurice Smith outlines message for players ahead of NFLPA board meeting

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MIAMI — Super Bowl week could be a critical week for the NFL’s collective bargaining negotiations, with 30 NFLPA team player reps scheduled to meet with union leadership Thursday for an update. Part of the message NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith wants to send to his players is that, if they want to dig in their heels on any one issue — including the owners’ push for an expanded, 17-game regular season — they have to be willing to take it all the way.

Smith spoke Tuesday at an AFSCME rally of Florida state workers in downtown Miami, and he told ESPN he considered the rally an appropriate backdrop for his message to his constituents.

“I’m here with a group of people who are willing to take a labor action,” Smith said, indicating the chanting disgruntled state workers in the plaza behind him. “And people need to understand that it’s really easy to call for a work stoppage; it’s really hard to win one. So that’s why I started notifying players four years ago about saving their checks, making changes to their debt structure, and the reality is that if we want to hold out and get everything we want, that’s probably going to mean a two-year strike.”

That echoes the message Smith was delivering as he made his annual visit to each of the 32 teams this past season. He’s trying to make sure the NFL’s players understand the collective bargaining process and the ways in which they can and can’t exert leverage.

“I refuse to ever look at any part of a deal with a myopic focus,” Smith said. “Any collective bargaining deal is going to be a package of things. Is it going to be an agreement where you get 100% of everything you want? Probably not, and one of the reasons that we’re in a position of bargaining right now is because the league didn’t get everything they wanted in 2011. If they would have retained the unilateral right to increase games, my guess is we wouldn’t be talking about the possibility of an early deal.”

The owners approached the players early in 2019 about opening negotiations on a new CBA. The current one expires in March of 2021, so at the time there were still two seasons left to play before expiration. The two sides negotiated throughout the summer and fall and reached agreement on several key issues. Smith wouldn’t comment on specifics, but the proposed new deal would, according to multiple sources, include changes to the league’s drug policy and discipline policy. It would include benefits improvements for current and retired players. It would include changes to training camp rules, limiting the amount of contact teams can have in training camp practices as well as the amount of time coaches can keep them on the field. In short, there are portions of the new deal that would benefit the players if they were in place in time for the 2020 season.

But the issue of expanding the regular season remains a thorny one. The owners’ current proposal would not expand the regular season immediately but would give them the option to expand the season to 17 games at some point during the life of the deal. Expanded playoffs also remain a possibility, and a shortened preseason would go hand-in-hand with any expansion of the season. Throughout the negotiations, the two sides have argued over how much the players’ share of revenue (currently no less than 47%) would have to rise in order to get them to agree to expand the season.

But in recent days, some prominent players have spoken out against the idea of a 17-game season under any conditions, and as a result some of the optimism regarding the potential of reaching a new deal this offseason has begun to fade. Smith made it clear Tuesday that he would do whatever the players wanted him to do, and that they would ultimately have a chance to vote on any deal he and his executive committee negotiated and recommended to them.

“We have a democratic process where I insist that players get all the facts, that they actually make the decisions, that they approach this in a serious, somber, responsible way because that’s what player leaders before them have had to do,” Smith said. “We have a system where the minority and everybody is heard, but at the end of the day, making players vote on all of the issues, to me, has always been important.”

The meeting Thursday will include player reps from 30 of the 32 teams — all but the 49ers and Chiefs, who are preparing for Sunday’s Super Bowl. No vote is currently expected to be taken at that meeting, but the union hopes that everyone comes out of it with some idea of where things stand and what kind of action the players want to take going forward.

Whenever it is that players and owners agree on a proposed new CBA, the 32 team player reps would have to vote on it first, and it would need a two-thirds majority vote in order to advance to the next step. That next step is a vote of literally every single player in the league, and that would only require a simple majority to pass. The owners need two-thirds of their membership to support a new CBA before it can be ratified.

Assuming no vote is taken this week, the next likely flex point would be the NFLPA’s annual meeting in March in Key Biscayne. At that meeting the NFLPA will have to elect a new president, since current president Eric Winston is no longer on a team and therefore, according to the NFLPA’s rules, can no longer hold the position. In addition to that election, players likely will take some sort of CBA-related vote at their March meeting. Either they’d vote on a proposed new CBA or, if that’s not an option, they likely would hold a vote on whether to authorize a player strike in 2021 if no new deal is approved by then.

“The job of the union is to engage in good-faith negotiations, make sure that our players are informed, but at no time take it for granted that what is really needed is the ability of players to withstand a work stoppage and win it so that they come out of it better than before they went into it,” Smith said. “And if we are prepared to do that, and the players vote to take that action, we’ll be fine. But anything less than being fully prepared is wishful thinking, and perhaps cheap and dangerous talk.”

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