NFL Notes: Bell likely to skip Steelers’ training camp

The Sports Xchange

July 17, 2018 at 9:23 pm.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell plans to repeat last year’s script by skipping training camp before reporting ahead of the season opener, his agent said on Tuesday.

“Barring something exceptional … that is correct,” agent Adisa Bakari said on Sirius XM NFL Radio after being asked if Bell plans to follow his steps from last year. Bell has been unable to reach a long-term deal with the Steelers after receiving the franchise tag in consecutive offseasons.

The Steelers report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., for training camp on July 25. They open their season on Sept. 9 against the AFC North-rival Browns in Cleveland.

Bell is set to make $14.5 million this season under the franchise tag. He will become a free agent after this season.

“His intention was to retire as a Steeler,” Bakari told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “But now that there’s no deal, the practical reality is this now likely will be Le’Veon’s last season as a Steeler.”

Bell, who signed on Sept. 4 last year, struggled to get going in the early weeks of the 2017 season before finding his stride. In last season’s Sept. 10 opener against the Cleveland Browns, Bell had 10 carries for 32 yards and three receptions for 15 yards in the Steelers’ 21-18 victory.

The 26-year-old was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2017, when he led the NFL in regular-season carries with 321 while gaining 1,291 rushing yards. He also had 85 receptions for 655 yards.

–Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly will undergo an unexpected checkup after “something came up” in his recovery from surgery that removed oral cancer and reconstructed his upper jaw.

Kelly said the upcoming visit to New York will occur during the second week of August.

“I’m not sure what’s going on,” Kelly said Tuesday at his football clinic for children at St. John Fisher College, per ESPN. “I have some things that I want to have looked at, and then we’ll go from there. I don’t know whether I’m going to be here for two days, four days or in and out. And then hopefully I pray when September has rolled around that I can finally bite into a piece of meat and not soup every day.”

Kelly underwent planned follow-up surgery on his upper jaw in June in preparation for permanent dentures to be inserted in September.

The 58-year-old announced in March that scans showed evidence of cancer returning in his upper jaw.

Kelly was diagnosed with cancer in his jaw in 2013 and underwent surgery. After doctors determined the cancer had spread to his nasal cavities, he underwent additional treatments and had another surgery in March 2014.

–Even though television ratings for NFL games were down last year, the league’s revenue was up.

Each of the league’s 32 teams took in $255 million in national revenues in 2017, according to a report by ESPN’s Darren Rovell. That adds up to $8.16 billion for the entire league, and that is a 4.9 percent increase over 2016.

Financial figures were revealed Monday by the Green Bay Packers, a team that is a public company.

National revenue comes from a variety of sources, including the league’s TV deals with NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN and DirecTV, as well as licensing and merchandise revenues. The television contracts make up most of that total revenue.

That money is divided evenly among the 32 teams.

–One of football’s most famous voices could be returning to the broadcast booth but this time on the radio side.

According to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Tuesday, Brent Musberger agreed to a three-year deal to serve as the Oakland Raiders radio play-to-play.

Citing two sources, the newspaper said the move could be made official later this week.

The final year of the deal is 2020 when the Raiders are slated to relocate from Oakland to Las Vegas.

–Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim was suspended for five weeks after pleading guilty to extreme DUI, the team announced Tuesday.

Keim was arrested July 4 in Chandler, Ariz. and his blood-alcohol content was .19.

He also was fined $200,000 and the team said it will donate the money to the Arizona chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“Once again, I apologize to everyone who has been negatively impacted by my actions and incredibly poor judgment, in particular the Cardinals, our fans and my family,” Keim said in a statement released by the team. “I fully deserve and accept the punishment that has been issued. My goal is to do everything I can to grow from this personally and help others learn from my inexcusable behavior.”

–Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones attended quarterback Matt Ryan’s passing camp, per rookie Calvin Ridley’s Snapchat post.

Ridley, who was the 26th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, posted a picture of an 11-person group that included Jones. In addition to Ridley, Jones and Ryan, tight ends Austin Hooper and Eric Saubert, wide receivers Justin Hardy, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Hall, Reggie Davis, rookie Russell Gage and assistant equipment manager Kenny Osuwah are in the photo that has since been posted by the team.

Jones elected against participating in the Falcons’ voluntary offseason program and did not attend the team’s mandatory minicamp in a bid to rework his contract. The five-time Pro Bowl wideout is set to make $10.5 million in 2018 in the third season of a five-year, $71.25 contract extension he signed in 2015.

–Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has committed to play in his 15th season in 2018.

While Fitzgerald hasn’t decided on 2019 and beyond, the 11-time Pro Bowl selection did reveal he’d only play for the Cardinals if he does suit up.

“If I’m not playing in Arizona, I won’t be playing anywhere,” Fitzgerald said, via the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’ve built a good life for myself down there. Playing in the same place for 15 years is a true blessing.”

Fitzgerald, who reportedly mulled retirement the past two seasons, said in January that he’d play for as long as he can perform at high level.

–Disenchanted Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas has made it known that he’s interested in playing for the Dallas Cowboys and he was at it again Monday.

In an Instagram post on Monday, he said, “Always been the underdog ain’t nothing new. Extend … if you don’t want me let’s make a trade happen. I understand it’s a bizz.”

Thomas began following the Cowboys’ official Instagram account just recently. That comes after he told Dallas coach Jason Garrett after the Seahawks’ win over the Cowboys last year that when Seattle “kicks him to the curb, please, the Cowboys, come get em.”

Thomas skipped the Seahawks’ mandatory minicamp in June. He is demanding a contract extension for a trade. In 2018, he will make $8.5 million during the final year of his contract with the Seahawks.

–Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick Taven Bryan agreed to a four-year contract worth $10.2 million with a $5.5 million signing bonus, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday.

The contract also includes a team option for a fifth year on Bryan, who was the 29th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. The 22-year-old is expected to join the Jaguars rookies at training camp on Wednesday.

Dane Brugler of wrote the following of the 6-foot-5, 291-pound defensive tackle heading into the draft:

“One of the most gifted interior players in this draft class, Bryan has outstanding athleticism and upper body power, but is currently a liability vs. the run and needs to turn his splash plays into consistency.”

–Tom Stephens, who was an original member of the Boston Patriots, has died. He was 82.

The New England Patriots said in a release on Tuesday that Stephens passed away while surrounded by loved ones at his home last Thursday in Naples, Fla. No cause of death was given for Stephens by the team.

Selected in the 11th round by the Baltimore Colts in the 1959 NFL Draft, Stephens signed with the then-Boston Patriots of the AFL for their inaugural season in 1960. He appeared in 49 games over five seasons as both a defensive back and tight end, recording 41 receptions for 506 yards and five touchdowns.

–Wide receiver Brandin Cooks has reached agreement with the Los Angeles Rams on a five-year contract extension, the team announced Tuesday.

The extension puts Cooks under contract through the 2023 season.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Adam Schefter of reported the extension is worth $80 million. It means Cooks is on the books for $88 million over six years with the Rams, “Brandin Cooks has shown himself to be a class act on and off the field since the first day he joined our team,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “He’s a proven professional in this league and signing him to a long-term contract was always our goal. We’re excited to keep Brandin in a Rams uniform through 2023.”

Los Angeles acquired Cooks during this offseason. The Rams traded their 2018 first-round selection (No. 23 overall) and sixth-round selection (No. 198 overall) to the New England Patriots in exchange for Cooks and a fourth-round pick (No. 136 overall).

–Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory has been reinstated by the NFL after sitting out last season because of a substance-abuse policy violation, multiple media outlets reported Tuesday.

Gregory’s lawyer, Daniel Moskowitz, told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network that the NFL did not oppose Gregory’s petition to be reinstated.

“I’ve never been more proud of any individual in my life,” Moskowitz said. “I’m very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of his family.”

Gregory’s most recent game was the final game of the 2016 regular season. He played in just two games that season and recorded one sack with nine total tackles. Gregory played in 12 games with no starts in 2015 as a rookie, and he had 11 total tackles and no sacks that season.

–The Carolina Panthers announced Richard Rodgers as the secondary coach on Tuesday in the wake of former defensive backs coach Curtis Fuller resigning for inappropriate conduct.

Fuller resigned May 4 amid complaints about inappropriate workplace conduct. The Charlotte Observer reported that Fuller, 39, who joined the Panthers as a coaching assistant in 2013, sent inappropriate texts and emails to an unknown number of female staff members.

Rodgers is in his seventh season with the Panthers and was the assistant defensive backs coach since 2015 after initially joining the team as a special teams’ assistant in 2012.

Last season, seven of Carolina’s nine interceptions in the final nine weeks were from its secondary, helping the Panthers accumulate the league’s third-best turnover differential at plus-eight. Since 2015, Carolina’s 51 interceptions are second in the NFL.