Aug 29, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman (82) on the bench in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos release TE Heuerman

The Denver Broncos released tight end Jeff Heuerman on Friday after an injury-riddled five years.

Heuerman, 27, played in 51 games (29 starts) over four years after missing his entire rookie season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The Broncos will save $3,875,000 and take a $500,000 dead cap charge with the move, according to reports.

Heuerman became the odd man out in a crowded tight end room after the Broncos selected Noah Fant in the first round of the 2019 draft and Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth round this year. They also signed Nick Vannett in free agency.

Heuerman was a third-round pick out of Ohio State in the 2015 draft. His best season came in 2018 when he caught 31 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games. He missed five games due to injuries that season.

Last year, Heuerman made 14 receptions for 114 yards and one TD.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2019; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott speaks at a press conference during the Pac-12 Conference championship game between the Oregon Ducks and the Utah Utes at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 unveils 10-game conference-only schedule

The Pac-12 announced Friday that it approved a 10-game conference-only schedule that will begin on Sept. 26.

The conference said there is “a lot of built-in flexibility” in the slate so it can adjust in case of outbreaks involving the coronavirus.

The late start to the season was part of a plan that calls for each school to play five home and five road games. The Pac-12 title game is scheduled for Las Vegas and slated to be held on either Dec. 18 or 19.

The week prior to the title game would be a time for schools to play a game that may have been previously postponed due to COVID-19 issues.

The Pac-12 initially announced they would play a 10-game schedule on July 10 but specifics weren’t released until Friday.

“We recognize that the best-laid plans may not come to fruition, whether being able to start on the 26th, play a complement of a minimum number of games we feel would be required for a College Football Playoff, and we may start but not be able to finish, and then we will have to adjust,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said during a video conference call. “We’ll have to adjust with a spring piece, either to finish or to start, maybe delay dates for a playoff if it’s still possible. There are many, many scenarios still on the table, but we felt it’s critical at this point to be able to give some clarity in our plan.”

Scott is aware that Major League Baseball has experienced issues by not being in a “bubble” environment. College students would face the same situation in which they wouldn’t be secluded from the general campus environment or the city population.

“There is no bubble and a bubble would not be appropriate for college sports, and for our campuses,” Scott told reporters. “These are students, and they’re not going to be able to be quarantined or isolated in a bubble, the same way pro sports do. … It’s one of the reasons why building in flexibility to the schedule is so important. If there is an outbreak on the team, we’re going in expecting that’s a real possibility. And if that happens, especially with 14-day quarantine periods currently for anyone that’s a close contact, that will require the rescheduling of a game.

“And so we’ve got two opportunities for each team to potentially reschedule, or delay the start. We realize there are some markets that don’t have the requisite rules at the moment to start on time. We need to make sure they’ve got a safe and robust training camps to be able to play on time. If a team can’t start on time, we’ve got the bye week to reschedule … either into the bye week or this Dec. 10 week that we have.”

The Pac-12 is the third of the five power leagues to announce how many games they intend to play.

The SEC on Thursday also announced a 10-game conference-only schedule with a Sept. 26 starting date.

On Wednesday, the ACC unveiled an 11-game slate that includes 10 conference games and one non-conference contest. Play would commence the weekend of Sept. 12.

The Big Ten announced three weeks ago that it would hold a conference-only scheduled but hasn’t released specifics.

The Big 12 does not yet have a formal schedule plan, but Oklahoma and Kansas currently have games scheduled for Aug. 29.

The Pac-12’s Sept. 26 slate breaks down this way: Arizona State at Arizona; USC at UCLA; Colorado at Oregon; Utah at Washington State; California at Oregon State, and Stanford at Washington.

The Arizona State-Arizona and USC-UCLA rivalry games are typically held near the end of the regular season.

Among other rivalries, Utah plays at Colorado on Oct. 3, Oregon visits Oregon State on Oct. 17, Stanford at Cal is scheduled for Oct. 24 and Washington traveling to Washington State is slated for Nov. 27.

–Field Level Media

Jun 11, 2019; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Jayron Kearse (27) looks on during practice at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Lions S Kearse suspended three games by NFL

Detroit Lions safety Jayron Kearse was suspended three games by the NFL on Friday for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Kearse, 26, was charged with driving while intoxicated and carrying a firearm without a permit in October.

Kearse signed with the Lions in March after spending four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

He will be allowed to participate in training camp before the suspension goes into effect for the season opener. He is eligible to return Sept. 28 after the Lions’ game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Kearse has recorded 79 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery in 62 career games with the Vikings.

–Field Level Media

Dec 1, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Detailed view of an Los Angeles Rams helmet against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rams T Brewer opts out; team puts two on COVID-19 list

Second-year tackle Chandler Brewer has opted out of the 2020 season for the Los Angeles Rams, who also put two rookies on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday.

The Rams placed Brewer, 23, in the list’s “higher risk” category. Defensive tackle Michael Hoecht, an undrafted free agent from Brown, and linebacker Terrell Lewis, a third-round pick from Alabama in April’s draft, were assigned to the COVID-19 list.

Brewer, an undrafted free agent from Middle Tennessee State, played seven games as a rookie for the Rams last season. He announced on Twitter in early 2019, after his senior season in college that he played in 2018 after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in July of that year.

“I am at high risk and will opt out of playing in the NFL this season,” Brewer said in a team news release, citing his medical history. “I would like to thank the Rams for their support and I look forward to getting back on the field in 2021 and beyond.”

“Chandler is a promising player in this league and we fully support his decision,” said Les Snead, Rams general manager. “He has fought through adversity before and we look forward to him being back on the field with us next year.”

Players on the reserve/COVID-19 list either have tested positive for the virus or are in quarantine after being in close contact with an infected person or persons.

–Field Level Media

Jan 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Detail view of LSU Tigers helmets after the LSU Tigers defeated the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

From plastic to cloth, NCAA teams mask up

Select NCAA football teams unveiled on Friday how they intend to protect players amid the coronavirus pandemic, showing helmets with clear plastic shields and even cloth masks attached.

The Twitter account of the LSU football equipment staff shared a photo of the Tigers helmet with plastic attached from its top to the bottom of the face mask, commenting, “Adapt. Adjust. Splash shields ready to go.”

Texas did the same, posting a plain white helmet that displayed the shields the Longhorns will wear this season.

“Masked up. Looking a little different this season,” Texas football posted on Twitter.

Some teams have decided to go the cloth route, however.

USA Today reported Friday that Oklahoma is among the schools that have turned to the Performance Award Center of Carrollton, Texas, manufacturer of a cloth mask that attaches to helmets, for protection.

Matt Entz, the head coach of 16-time FCS champion North Dakota State, told WDAY-TV on Friday that the Bison will put the cloth coverings on their helmets.

“If we want to play a football, this is what we have to do,” Entz said. “Our players are wearing masks in the weight room, everywhere they go. This is what we need to do.”

WDAY’s Dom Izzo said North Dakota State is one of eight teams in the Missouri Valley Conference to buy the fabric masks.

–Field Level Media

Sep 15, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown (17) warms up prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

NFL suspends free agent WR Brown for eight games

Free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown will be suspended for eight games should he sign with an NFL team, the league announced Friday afternoon.

“Antonio Brown was notified today by NFL Special Counsel for Conduct Todd Jones that he has been suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of the 2020 season for multiple violations of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy,” the NFL said in an official statement.

Brown has been a free agent since September, when the New England Patriots released him after one game following allegations of sexual assault and intimidating text messages sent to an accuser. Those allegations led to the NFL’s investigation.

The NFL said Brown, an unrestricted free agent, would be eligible to take part in all preseason activities should a team sign him before the season starts. If that’s the case, the suspension would go into effect with the final roster cut on Sept. 5 and could return in the team’s ninth game.

Brown also was advised that any future violation of the Personal Conduct Policy likely would result in more significant discipline.

Last month, Brown was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation and enroll in a 13-week anger management course by a Florida court after pleading no contest to an assault charge unrelated to the allegations of sexual assault.

As part of the discipline, the league directed Brown to continue his counseling and treatment program.

On Thursday, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said the team would consider adding the free agent wide receiver, but not likely at this time. His quarterback, reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson, has lobbied for his signing.

“We’ll look at any and every player at all times. Antonio Brown is no exception,” Harbaugh told reporters.

Brown, 32, is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and a four-time All-Pro. He had 104 catches for 1,297 yards and a league-best 15 touchdowns for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018, his last full season. For his career, he has 841 receptions for 11,263 yards and 75 TDs.

–Field Level Media

Aug 16, 2019; Charlotte, NC, USA; Buffalo Bills offensive guard Jon Feliciano (76) on the sidelines in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bills G Feliciano out indefinitely with torn pec muscle

Buffalo Bills offensive guard Jon Feliciano is sidelined indefinitely following surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, the team announced Friday.

Feliciano, 28, started all 16 games last season with the Bills after signing a two-year, $7.25 million deal in March 2019. He is part of an offensive line that expected to return all five starters entering training camp.

Feliciano has appeared in 64 career games (24 starts) with the Raiders (2015-18) and Bills in his NFL career.

–Field Level Media

Sep 14, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien (left) talks with quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) during the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Texans ‘working hard’ on extension for Watson

Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said the franchise is “working hard” to complete a contract extension with quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Watson, a first-round pick in 2017, is officially eligible for a contract extension for the first time. That window opened at the official start of the NFL league year in March.

“Deshaun is a great player, an even better person, and we want him here for a long time,” O’Brien said on Friday. “… I know that we’re working hard. We’re not going to really talk about it in the media, but obviously we feel so strongly about him and the future of him in this offense, in this organization, and we want him here for a long time.”

Watson was drafted 12th overall in 2017, two picks behind Patrick Mahomes, who went to the Kansas City Chiefs.

He’s due to make $4.4 million in 2020, but the tag to keep a prime quarterback has gone up exponentially in the past year.

Russell Wilson of the Seahawks was the highest-paid passer in the NFL at $35 million per season before Mahomes’ monster 10-year deal worth up to $503 million with Kansas City earlier this month.

Watson’s deal could be further impacted as other quarterbacks approach long-term contracts, including Dak Prescott with the Dallas Cowboys. He will play the 2020 season on the franchise tag.

“My situation, and I don’t want to say anything too crazy, is different than his,” Watson told former NFL quarterback Michael Vick. “Signing a deal for 10 years, you know, I have to speak with my agent on that. Sit down and think, ‘What do I want in my career? Where I want to be for a long period of time?’ I love Houston, I love the organization, I love the teammates and all the players, but all that stuff is always changing.”

The Texans confirmed reports in April that preliminary contract talks with Watson’s agent were held. But O’Brien, who is de facto general manager in Houston, wouldn’t address the state of negotiations entering August.

“Respectfully, we’re not going to talk about contracts in the media, but we obviously have stated [that] we have so much belief in Deshaun,” O’Brien said Friday. “We love Deshaun. We want him here for a long time, but we’re not going to negotiate contracts or do anything like that in the media. We’ll keep that between us and Deshaun’s representatives. He’s here, he’s excited and we’re excited about the season.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 30, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) is tackled by Michigan Wolverines linebacker Cameron McGrone (44) and defensive lineman Kwity Paye (19) in the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Michigan-Ohio State date could change amid pandemic

The annual rivalry clash between Ohio State and Michigan likely won’t be played in November as it has been for more than eight decades, The Columbus Dispatch reported Friday.

Citing a source, The Dispatch said the game likely will be scheduled in the early weeks of the season to ensure it is played, just in case the college football season is forced to come to a premature halt because of the coronavirus pandemic. The two programs traditionally end the regular season against each other.

The Big Ten Conference announced on July 9 that its fall sports teams, including football, would play a conference-only schedule. The Buckeyes are scheduled to host the Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 28.

The Big Ten schedule has yet to be announced, and in a letter to the member schools on Thursday, commissioner Kevin Warren and Chris Kratochvil, chair of the Big Ten’s Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases, said “scheduling for fall sports remains fluid” and said the conference would make a decision about beginning preseason camp on time within five days.

All teams that were scheduled to begin their season on Sept. 5 were supposed to open camp on Aug. 7.

“We will not, and cannot, proceed with preseason camp until we are certain that we can do so safely and that will depend, in part, on testing,” the letter reads. “Once we have everything in place to execute our testing protocols effectively, including the appropriate number of tests secured for all fall sports, we can make a decision as to whether preseason camp will begin as currently scheduled.”

The letter also reads: “We want to say as clearly as we can that we understand the frustration associated with the circumstances created by the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic has made it challenging to provide information as early as we would like, but it’s important for us to be thorough and transparent.”

The Buckeyes and Wolverines have met in November every year since 1934.

Ohio State has won 15 of their past 16 meetings.

–Field Level Media

Apr 24, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA;  A view of a billboard on Interstate 75 North welcoming LSU quarterback Joe Burrow to Cincinnati, after being selected number one overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 pick Burrow signs Bengals contract

No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow officially signed his rookie contract with the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Friday.

He announced his signing on Instagram, simply writing, “I signed a paper today.”

Burrow is waiting for results of his COVID-19 testing before taking part in on-field activities.

Burrow’s slotted contract value is $36.1 million over four years, all fully guaranteed, with a $23.9 million signing bonus. Like all first-round picks, his deal has a fifth-year team option.

Burrow, 23, was drafted No. 1 in late April, capping an incredible rise from being a transfer from Ohio State to LSU to winning the Heisman Trophy in a record landslide after throwing for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns.

LSU went 15-0 and won the national championship, beating Clemson in the title game.

–Field Level Media