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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens‘ drafting of guard Ben Cleveland should put defensive tackles in the AFC North on notice as well as every squirrel in Baltimore.

Living up to the nickname “Big Country,” Cleveland acknowledged at Friday’s rookie minicamp that he’s fond of eating the furry creatures but said the idea of him having a specific “squirrel diet” has been slightly overblown.

“It’s more so one of those things where you eat what you got in the freezer from the fall,” said Cleveland, a third-round pick out of Georgia. “Get a little hungry [and] ain’t got no deer meat left, fry up a squirrel or two and go eat that.”

Cleveland’s love for devouring squirrels began when he stayed home sick from school one day and all he could find in the house to eat was biscuits. So he opened up the living room window and shot two squirrels for lunch.

He told the Ravens’ website earlier this week that it’s difficult to describe the taste.

“Some squirrels in south Georgia, they’ll taste a little bit more nutty,” Cleveland said. “Up here, our acorns and stuff aren’t really as strong as the ones down south. Most of them up here, it just tastes like squirrel. If you put enough seasoning on it, you can make it taste like anything you want it to taste like.”

Cleveland has a chance to start at left guard as a rookie. He will compete against Ben Powers, Patrick Mekari and Ben Bredeson this offseason and in training camp.

At his pro day in March, the massive Cleveland ran the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.97 seconds, which led one reporter to ask him if it was the result of his “squirrel diet.”

On Friday, Cleveland acknowledged that he didn’t understand nutrition until college. The 6-foot-6 Cleveland now weighs 343 pounds.

“Heck, I can remember back in high school on Tuesday nights after practice, we’d have Little Caesars pizzas,” Cleveland said. “I would sit down and eat two whole pizzas before I would go to bed.”

Now some would say Cleveland’s appetite is even nuttier.

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NFL players who voluntarily opt out of 2021 season due to COVID-19 concerns will not receive stipend

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NFL players must decide by July 2 if they plan to opt out of playing this season due to COVID-19 concerns, though players who voluntarily opt out will not be paid any stipend this year.

In a memo sent to clubs Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press, the league and the NFL Players Association agreed that only high-risk players will receive a stipend of $350,000. Voluntary opt-outs received a $150,000 stipend in 2020.

To qualify as high risk, a player must have opted out last season and have an effective contract executed before Oct. 1, 2020, or have been newly diagnosed with a CDC-defined higher-risk condition. Rookies wouldn’t be eligible unless they were diagnosed with a high-risk condition after signing a contract.

A total of 67 players opted out last year before vaccines were available.

The contract for any player who opts out will toll at the end of the year, and all provisions of the 2021 contract will become applicable to 2022. For players under contract beyond 2021, all subsequent years will be extended.

The NFL and the players’ union also agreed that fully vaccinated players who have a per-game roster bonus are eligible to receive that bonus even if they miss a game because of a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Teams might not be permitted to challenge if a player’s COVID-19 infection is football-related if the player was fully vaccinated at the time he contracted the virus and the player received an initial negative test upon timely reporting to preseason training camp. Also, a team can’t challenge if a fully vaccinated player tests positive for COVID-19 upon returning from a bye week.

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NFL to begin bid process for cities to host annual scouting combine beginning in 2023, source says

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The NFL has informed its teams that it will accept bids from cities other than Indianapolis to host its annual scouting combine beginning in 2023, a source confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday.

According to the source, all NFL teams will have the opportunity to let the league know if they have interest in hosting the combine as well as upcoming NFL drafts and Super Bowls.

The combine has been in Indianapolis since 1987, though only the medical portion was held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2022 combine is scheduled to be held there as well. Indianapolis is expected to make a bid to continue hosting the event, but starting in 2023 it will have competition.

The Indianapolis Business Journal was the first to report the development, which is the result of the NFL’s continued push to evolve its marquee events. The success the league has had in rotating the location of the draft in recent years is part of the motivation for trying the same thing with the combine.

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Domestic violence charges dropped against former Washington Football Team RB Derrius Guice

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Former Washington Football Team running back Derrius Guice had four misdemeanor charges, including three counts of assault and battery, against him dropped Wednesday morning after a settlement was reached with his ex-girlfriend.

Guice had been arrested on domestic violence charges in Loudoun County, Virginia, in August, stemming from three separate incidents earlier in 2020 at his home in Ashburn, Virginia. Guice had allegedly pushed the woman to the ground three different times. If convicted, Guice could have served jail time.

Washington released him two hours after his arrest.

Details of the settlement were not disclosed. According to Virginia law, some charges can be dropped if the victim states in writing that they are satisfied with the injury compensation. A release by the Commonwealth Attorney’s office said that this “process permits the parties to control the direction and outcome of such matters.”

Both Guice and the woman appeared in court and requested that the court accept the agreement. The judge ruled in favor of their request.

Guice also had been charged with destruction of property. Another charge of strangulation, a felony count, was dropped in January by commonwealth attorney Buta Biberaj.

The running back has not played in the NFL since being cut by Washington. There were concerns about his character before the 2018 NFL draft, with some teams — including Carolina, then coached by current Washington coach Ron Rivera — taking him off their board.

In March, Abby Owens told a Louisiana Senate select committee that Guice raped her when both attended LSU. According to multiple reports, two other women have alleged the same and a third accused Guice of sharing a partially nude photo of her without consent. Guice, through his attorney, has denied the allegations, according to the reports.

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