NFL: LeBron draws crowd at Browns practice
LeBron James took the spotlight away from Johnny Manziel for a day at the Cleveland Browns training camp on Thursday.
James spent an hour on the sideline as the Browns went through a morning workout in preparation for Saturday’s exhibition opener in Detroit. It was James’ first public appearance since re-signing with the Cavaliers last month.
After practice, the four-time MVP took time for the usual greetings and photos.
James met players inside, then spent time chatting with Manziel on the field.
Head coach Mike Pettine said James had reached out about visiting the Browns and that “it was something we had been looking forward to.”
“I do know that I’m going to be father of the year now,” Pettine said. ‘My daughter got a picture with LeBron. She could care less about a picture with me.”
n University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler doesn’t want to see the Redskins’ nickname anywhere in TCF Bank Stadium when Washington plays at the Minnesota Vikings in November.
The Vikings are using the university’s campus facility for the next two seasons to play their home games while a new stadium is built in downtown Minneapolis.
Kaler said he assured U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), who believes using the name would violate school policies on equity and diversity, that Redskins would not be used in promotional and game-day material when the Vikings play host to Washington on Nov. 2.
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said the team will continue to discuss the use of the nickname with university and Native American community leaders.
n Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly joined with one of the undisclosed bidders for the Buffalo Bills and he was meeting with the team’s trust Thursday, the Buffalo News reported.
The Bills’ trust has begun making in-person presentations to prospective buyers, with as many as eight scheduled over the next three weeks, according to the report.
The newspaper doesn’t specifically name which bidder Kelly has joined. Kelly reportedly was approached previously by Jeffery Gundlach, a bond investor from East Amherst, N.Y.
Initially it was believed three bidders were in on the team: rocker/businessman Bon Jovi, billionaire Donald Trump and Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula. Those three submitted bids by the July 29 deadline, but that date turned out to be flexible.
n Houston Texans owner Bob McNair is healthy and cancer-free after undergoing an aggressive therapy regimen for more than 10 months.
“I didn’t think I was going to die. I knew some did,” McNair told the Houston Chronicle. “I knew there were some rumors. That’s one of the reasons I’m talking about it. I don’t want people to think it’s something it’s not. I’m not ill. I’m healthy. I’m not going anywhere. We’ve got Super Bowls to win.”
McNair, 77, established his wealth as chairman of Cogen Technologies and was instrumental in bringing football back to Houston with the Texans’ inaugural season in 2002 and a Super Bowl to newly constructed Reliant Stadium two years later.
n New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was assigned clipboard duty Thursday night when Ryan Mallett starts the preseason opener against the Washington Redskins.
Brady did not play in the game as Mallett, the subject of offseason trade rumors, works with the first-team offense. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is out for the Patriots, who are taking their time bringing back the All-Pro from a torn ACL and two injury-riddled seasons.
This is the third time since 2004 that Brady didn’t play in the preseason opener.
n Wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin was waived by the Detroit Lions on Wednesday when knee issues led to a failed physical physical designation.
On Thursday, the Lions signed veteran cornerback Drayton Florence, who started five games for the Carolina Panthers last season.
n Atlanta Falcons rookie linebacker Marquis Spruill will miss the entire 2014 season after suffering a torn ACL in practice, the team announced.
Spruill injured his leg in Wednesday’s practice. Head coach Mike Smith said the Falcons will be making a roster move in the near future. Spruill (6-foot-0, 224 pounds) was selected by the Falcons in the fifth round.
n Veteran linebacker Ernie Sims, who was signed by the Arizona Cardinals in June, was released.
The 29-year-old Sims was the ninth overall player taken in the 2006 draft by the Detroit Lions.
Meanwhile, Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu said he is getting closer to coming back from last year’s torn ACL.
“I expect to be at practice the next two to three weeks,” Mathieu said, according to the team’s website. “Hopefully we can stick to that timetable.” Mathieu remains on the physically unable to perform list.
n The Jacksonville Jaguars signed third-year tight end Fendi Onobun and waived/injured rookie tight end Reggie Jordan (hamstring).
Onobun (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) spent three weeks on the Jaguars’ active roster in 2011. He was originally a sixth-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2010 and has also spent time with Seattle, Washington, Buffalo and Chicago.
Jordan, an undrafted free agent from Missouri Western, was injured in practice earlier this week.
Jaguars desperate for Gerhart to rev offense’s engine
Toby Gerhart will be the answer to a trivia question in future years of, “Who did the Jacksonville Jaguars sign to replace Maurice Jones-Drew, who they didn’t re-sign?
Jones-Drew led the Jaguars in rushing for five consecutive seasons, though the running game was so bad in 2012 he lead the team with 414 yards despite playing in just the first six games of the season. Two other seasons, Jones-Drew had less than 825 yards and was still the team leader.
But at 29 years old, the Jaguars were looking for fresher legs, though Jones-Drew would always joke that he had the legs of a 26 or 27-year old player because he had limited carries his first three seasons while backing up Fred Taylor, the team’s career rushing leader.
Gerhart can make a similar claim. For four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings he saw spot duty in filling in for Adrian Peterson. When Gerhart’s rookie contract expired last season, there wasn’t much doubt he would look elsewhere for a spot to be the featured back. It was a perfect fit for the Jaguars and the former Stanford back who still holds the school record with 671 carries and who gained 3,522 yards on the ground, second best ever for the Cardinal.
“I think he’s got the ability to hit some home runs,” Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said in signing Gerhart to a multi-year deal. “He might not be a 60-home run hitter, but he might have 20-25.
“He’s been the workhorse, just not at this level. He’s built for it. He’s 235-plus (pounds), has a great frame, great muscle, great condition. The best thing about Toby is that he’s got excellent hands, too.”
That’s important in the Jaguars scheme, especially with the Jaguars down three of their projected top four receivers due to various reasons. But first Gerhart must get back on the field. He missed the team’s only scrimmage in the stadium last Saturday with what was called “tightness in his leg.”
“Just precautionary, general leg tightness,” Gerhart said afterwards. “They gave me a day to rest it.”
Gerhart had that day and the next day to rest but when it came time for Monday’s practice, he was still restricted to watching practice from the sideline. Coach Gus Bradley didn’t give a ringing endorsement that Gerhart would be back on the practice field soon.
“We’ll see. That’s more on our part with the tightness of the hip flexor,” Bradley said. “I know he felt better today than he did yesterday.”
With three of the top receivers already out of action, Gerhart’s health is crucial to the Jaguars. Injuries limited Jones-Drew to 21 combined games his final two seasons with the Jaguars. That’s the last type of category that Gerhart wants to have any tie-in with the man he’s replacing.