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NFL Notebook: Panthers DBs coach Fuller resigns for ‘inappropriate conduct’

The Sports Xchange

May 04, 2018 at 7:39 pm.

Defensive backs coach Curtis Fuller of the Carolina Panthers resigned this week following an investigation into complaints of inappropriate conduct, the team announced on Friday.

The Charlotte Observer reported that Fuller, 39, who joined the Panthers as a coaching assistant in 2013, sent numerous texts and emails to an unknown number of female staff members.

“After approaching Coach Fuller with the findings of an investigation into complaints of inappropriate conduct, we accepted his resignation,” Panthers spokesperson Steven Drummond said in a statement to NFL.com. “The Panthers are deeply committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally.”

A source told the Observer that the volume of communications, rather than their content, was the primary issue.

Fuller was a fourth-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks out of TCU in 2001 and played safety for parts of three seasons for the Seahawks, Green Bay Packers and Panthers, and had previous coaching experience with the Packers, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans.

Panthers majority owner Jerry Richardson announced he was selling the team in December after the league took over an investigation looking into allegations of workplace misconduct against him.

Richardson, 81, remains under NFL investigation.

–Linebacker Derrick Johnson, who played with Kansas City for 13 seasons, signed a one-year contract with the Chiefs’ hated AFC West rival, the Oakland Raiders, several media outlets reported on Friday.

Despite tearing his left Achilles tendon for the second time in two years late in the 2016 season, the 35-year-old Johnson came back to make 71 tackles and break up seven passes in 15 games for the Chiefs last season.

Johnson, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, is expected to provide a veteran presence to the Raiders’ defense in addition to upgrading pass coverage at the second level.

Selected by the Chiefs with the 15th overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft out of Texas after winning the Butkus Award, Johnson made 1,151 tackles and 14 interceptions, while causing 23 fumbles and recovering eight in his Kansas City career.

–Defensive end Cliff Avril was waived on Friday by the Seattle Seahawks, with a failed physical designation, the team announced.

Avril sustained a career-threatening neck injury last October, after which Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said the pass-rush specialist would have a “hard time playing football again.”

However, Avril told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche in March that he intends to play in 2018, although he admitted that possibility is “up in the air.”

“I just want to do what’s right for me from the standpoint of after football and how that would affect it,” the 32-year-old Avril said on NFL Network’s NFL Up to the Minute. “If the doctor comes back and says, ‘Things aren’t healing right,’ or even if things are healing right (but), ‘One hit could mess you up,’ or whatever, then that’s an easy decision.

“But right now, in my head, I definitely want to start training and doing things like I am going to play.”

Avril finished his Seahawks career with 41 sacks in 64 games, and also will be remembered for pledging to build a new house in Haiti for each sack he made during the 2016 season, when he had 11.5 sacks.

–The Buffalo Bills named Dan Morgan as director of player personnel, the team announced.

Morgan, a former linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, will take the place of Brian Gaine, who left the team to become the general manager of the Houston Texans.

The 39-year-old Morgan arrives in Buffalo after serving as director of pro personnel with the Seattle Seahawks. Morgan was hired by general manager Brandon Beane, who was with the Panthers during the linebacker’s playing days.

“First thing we were looking for was culture fit,” said Beane, per the team’s official website. “I was in Carolina when we drafted Dan as a player and he would be a ‘Bills blue’ as our kind of guy. As a player he was always prepared, worked hard, did everything. He worked his way up from the bottom. He didn’t get placed into a seat because of his status as a former player.”

Morgan spent all seven seasons of his NFL career with Carolina after the team selected him in the first round (No. 11 overall) in the 2001 NFL Draft. A Pro Bowl selection in 2004, Morgan started 59 games and registered 7.0 sacks, five interceptions and 386 tackles.

–The Philadelphia Eagles finalized a new contract for running back Darren Sproles, signing the 34-year-old to a one-year deal worth $1.415 million, the NFL Network reported.

The contract reportedly includes $1 million in total guarantees, including a $400,000 signing bonus, and is worth a maximum of $1.433 million with included incentives.

Sproles, a three-time Pro Bowl selection as a kick returner, has 8,350 yards and two touchdowns on kickoff returns, and 2,792 yards and seven scores on punt returns in 13 NFL seasons.

In addition, Sproles has amassed 3,366 yards and 22 touchdowns rushing, and has 532 receptions for 4,656 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Sproles’ 19,155 all-purpose yards in his career rank eighth in NFL history and he is only 25 yards behind Steve Smith for seventh and 35 behind Marshall Faulk for sixth.

–Trade talks have swirled around Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, but general manager John Schneider says he believes Thomas wants to remain with the team.

Schneider said “a number of clubs” inquired about acquiring Thomas, and the NFL Network reported that the Cowboys decided that dealing a second-round pick for the safety was too much.

“My sense is that he wants to be here,” Schneider said in an interview on 710 ESPN Seattle. “I haven’t got that sense (that he wants to be traded) from his agents at all.”

The 28-year-old Thomas, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, is scheduled to make $8.5 million on the last year of his contract this season and Schneider said last month he does not expect the eight-year veteran to hold out for a new deal.

Thomas has made 642 tackles, 25 interceptions and five fumble recoveries for Seattle after being selected by the Seahawks with the 14th pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Texas.

–New York Giants offensive tackle Ereck Flowers is being shifted from one end of the line to the other following the signing of free-agent Nate Solder.

Flowers’ unhappiness with the addition of Solder and the move from left to right tackle are the reasons he has stayed away from the team’s offseason workouts, Giants safety Landon Collins confirmed Friday.

Collins told radio station WFAN that Flowers has not returned his texts, but his cousin — a friend of the lineman — relayed the news that Flowers is in Miami and remains miffed by the team’s long-range plans for him.

“He’s just unhappy that they picked up (Solder),” Collins told WFAN. “That’s it.”

Flowers has started 46 games for the Giants since being selected with the ninth overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. New York reportedly was willing to deal Flowers during the NFL Draft but could not find a trade partner.

–With the ink barely dry on quarterback Matt Ryan’s new contract, the numbers are looking even more impressive on paper than in headlines.

Ryan became the NFL’s highest paid player on Thursday when he agreed to a staggering five-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons that will pay him $150 million.

The most notable part of the deal is the amount of money that is fully guaranteed — $100 million according to multiple reports and at least $94.5 million, according to profootballtalk.com.

In breaking down the deal, profootballtalks.com details how the soon-to-be 33-year-old Ryan surpassed the three-year, $84 million guaranteed contract signed by Kirk Cousins with the Minnesota Vikings in March.

The only way Ryan will not receive every penny of the $100 million guaranteed would be for the Falcons to cut him prior to the start of the 2019 calendar season. And even if that happened, Atlanta would only recoup $5.5 million of an injury guarantee and still be on the hook for $94.5 million.

Ryan was entering the final year of his contract, and the Falcons could not proceed with free agency moves until the deal was completed.

–The Minnesota Vikings signed offensive tackle Brian O’Neill, the team announced.

O’Neill, the team’s second-round selection (No. 62 overall) in the NFL Draft, was the fifth of eight picks signed by the Vikings.

The 6-foot-7, 297-pound O’Neill started 12 games at left tackle for the University of Pittsburgh as a junior in 2017. He was a first-team All-ACC selection by the league coaches.

O’Neill, ranked as the fifth-best player at his position by NFLDraftScout.com, had the fastest 40-yard time (4.80) and 3-cone drill (7.14) among offensive linemen at the NFL Combine.

A former tight end, O’Neill showed his versatility with three carries for 39 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Panthers.

–Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten called it quits Thursday, ending a 15-year career to join ESPN as an analyst for Monday Night Football.

The reaction to Witten’s announcement drew wide praise throughout the NFL, including from one of his former coaches that he will join in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday.

“Jason Witten is what pro football is supposed to be about,” Bill Parcells, who was the head coach in Dallas for four seasons from 2003-06, told ESPN. “He came to the Cowboys, got himself established very early, maximized his potential as a player and sustained very, very good play for an exceptionally long period of time and made a significant contribution to the team every year.”

Witten’s career with the Cowboys began in Parcells’ first season with the club, after he was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft out of the University of Tennessee.

–Few people were aware of the player the New York Jets coveted as the first round of the NFL Draft approached. And that includes many members of the team’s hierarchy.

It was no secret that the Jets were planning to take a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick, especially after they made a blockbuster trade with the Indianapolis Colts in March to move up three slots and get in position to snag Sam Darnold of USC.

But, according to the New York Daily News, the team went to great lengths to make sure their top choice didn’t wind up divulged to the media beforehand.

The only people aware of the Jets’ pecking order at quarterback, the newspaper reported, were team CEO Christopher Johnson, general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles.

–The Miami Dolphins claimed quarterback Bryce Petty on waivers, one day after he was cut loose by the New York Jets.

The 26-year-old Petty becomes the Dolphins’ fourth quarterback, behind starter Ryan Tannehill, free-agent acquisition Brock Osweiler and last season’s third-stringer, David Fales.

Petty was a fourth-round pick of the Jets in 2015 and started seven career games for the Jets in the last two seasons, posting a 1-6 record. He completed only 53.1 percent of his passes for 1,353 yards, with four touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

–The Oakland Raiders announced the signing of six undrafted free agents, including two from Penn State, wide receiver Saeed Blacknall and linebacker Jason Cabinda.

The others are tight end Marcus Baugh of Ohio State, center Alex Officer of Pittsburgh, fullback Nick Sharga of Temple and kicker Eddy Pineiro of Florida.

The Raiders also released/non-football illness defensive end Armonty Bryant and waived/failed physical linebacker Cory James.

 

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