Oct 11, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws a pass before the game against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys players begin voluntary workouts

Several veteran Dallas Cowboys players reported to begin offseason workouts at The Star, the team facility in Frisco, Texas, on Monday, contrary to what players on what many other teams are doing.

Nearly 20 teams have committed to skipping the in-person, voluntary portion of the offseason, citing ongoing safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic and the positive feedback from players after a virtual offseason in 2020.

When the NFL released its official plan for the 2021 offseason, it included on-field practices that did not take place last offseason. The voluntary workouts are the first phase.

In response to the offseason plan, the NFLPA scheduled a briefing at 2 p.m. ET on Monday.

–Field Level Media

Sep 29, 2018; Tucson, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans offensive guard Chris Brown (77) against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Former Southern California OL Chris Brown dies at 24

Former Southern California offensive lineman Chris Brown has died, coach Clay Helton announced Sunday. Brown was 24.

The school confirmed Brown’s death, according to the Los Angeles Times. No cause was given.

“Heartbroken to hear the news that we lost Chris Brown today,” Helton said on Twitter. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Brown family. Chris meant so much to so many. Great person, player, teammate, and Trojan. God bless my friend. You are forever in our hearts.”

Brown played in 53 games (27 starts) for the Trojans from 2014-18 and was a starting guard in each of his last two seasons.

He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Los Angeles Chargers in the spring of 2019 but didn’t make the roster. He was subsequently signed to the team’s practice squad before being released in early October.

Brown would have turned 25 on April 26.

This is the second time in 10 months that a former USC offensive lineman died unexpectedly. Former center Max Tuerk died last June at age 26 when he collapsed while hiking.

It was later revealed that Tuerk died of an enlarged heart.

–Field Level Media

South Dakota State quarterback Mark Gronowski and Karst Hunter celebrate after their teammate scored a touchdown during the Dakota Marker rivalry game on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Fargodome in Fargo.

Dakota Marker 004

South Dakota State gains top seed in FCS playoffs

South Dakota State is the top seed in the field of 16 teams competing for the 2020 NCAA Division I Football Championship, announced Sunday.

The season was pushed to spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jackrabbits finished 5-1 to win the Missouri Valley Football Conference and will be making their 10th consecutive appearance in the playoffs.

The field consists of 10 automatic qualifiers and six at-large teams. Matchups are based largely on geographical proximity between campuses.

South Dakota State will host Holy Cross (3-0) on Saturday in Brookings, S.D.

The tournament will feature five teams from the MVC, including Missouri State, which will be making its first playoff appearance in 31 years. The Bears are led by Bobby Petrino, previously the head coach at Arkansas, Louisville, Western Kentucky and the Atlanta Falcons.

Missouri State hired Petrino in January 2020 to turn around a program that finished 1-10 in 2019.

FCS teams and first-round pairings:

Holy Cross (3-0) at No. 1 South Dakota St. (5-1)
April 24, Brookings, S.D.

Monmouth (3-0) at No. 2 Sam Houston (6-0)
April 24, Huntsville, Texas

VMI (6-1) at No. 3 James Madison (5-0)
April 24, Harrisonburg, Va.

Davidson (4-2) at No. 4 Jacksonville State (9-2)
April 24, Jacksonville, Ala.

Southern Illinois (5-3) at Weber State (5-0)
April 24, Ogden, Utah

Sacred Heart (3-1) at Delaware (5-0)
April 24, Newark, Del.

Missouri St. (5-4) at North Dakota (4-1)
April 24, Grand Forks, N.D.

Eastern Washington (5-1) at North Dakota St. (6-2)
April 24, Fargo, N.D.

–Field Level Media

Dec 15, 2019; Landover, MD, USA; Philadelphia Eagles players  helmets rest on the bench at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles join teams planning to skip in-person workouts

Players for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday became the latest to announce they won’t be attending in-person voluntary workouts.

At least 18 other NFL teams have issued similar statements, according to NBC Sports.

The NFL Players Association released a four-paragraph statement on behalf of Philadelphia’s players:

“We believe in the solidarity of players across the NFL and using our collective voice to stand up for each other and what’s right,” the statement reads. “Our teammates have come together to make a decision as a team as to what is best for us this offseason. We have shared and talked about the facts from our union and our players will not be attending in-person voluntary workouts.

“We know that every player has to make a decision that is best for him, but to stand in solidarity with the brotherhood of players across the NFL, we have decided to come together on this choice.

“The ongoing pandemic is obviously still an issue for our city and our country, and it is unnecessary for us to put ourselves at risk in this environment. We also know what the data shows about our overall health and safety.

“As a team and as professionals, we will hold each other accountable as we always do to stay in shape and get ready for the upcoming season.”

On Saturday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in an interview with ESPN that the union supports the players’ right to skip the voluntary offseason workouts amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve known for years that this is a voluntary workout where a lot of coaches put their finger on the scale and, while they call it voluntary, they expect players to show up,” Smith said.

“I think that what you’re seeing now is, for the first time, players exercising their voice … to say ‘no.’ And frankly it’s probably one of the few times that coaches have ever heard players say ‘no.’ And for some players, it’s probably the first time they’ve said ‘no’ to their coach.”

The league released its official, universal plan for teams with the offseason beginning officially on Monday with Phase I, which lasts four weeks and prohibits on-field work with coaches.

Training camps are expected to begin the last week of July.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Indianapolis Colts cornerback T.J. Carrie (38) against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Colts re-sign veteran CB T.J. Carrie

The Indianapolis Colts announced the re-signing of veteran cornerback T.J. Carrie on Sunday.

Terms were not disclosed, but multiple outlets reported it was a one-year deal.

“Blessed and highly favored for the opportunity,” Carrie posted on Twitter.

Carrie, 30, visited with the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints before opting to return to Indianapolis.

He played in 15 games (two starts) and registered 32 tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery in 2020. He returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown in a Week 3 win against the New York Jets, and returned a blocked punt 6 yards for a TD in a Week 10 win over the Tennessee Titans.

A seventh-round pick by Oakland in 2014, he has 363 tackles, seven interceptions and two sacks in 107 games (53 starts) with the Raiders (2014-17), Cleveland Browns (2018-19) and Colts.

–Field Level Media

Apr 17, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama head coach Nick Saban arrives at the Denny Chimes on A-Day to speak at the ceremony enshrining the permanent captains from the 2020 and 2021 University of Alabama football teams. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama spring game draws biggest crowd in COVID-19 era

An announced crowd of 47,218 attended Alabama’s spring football game on Saturday, making it the biggest crowd at a sporting event in the United States in the COVID-19 era.

It eclipsed the official attendance of 38,232 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, earlier this month when the Rangers played the Toronto Blue Jays in their home opener.

“I thought there was a great number of students out there to support our team,” coach Nick Saban said after the A-Day game.

The White team beat the Crimson team 13-10 in the intrasquad contest.

The Crimson Tide were allowed to fill Bryant-Denny Stadium to up to 50 percent capacity for Saturday’s game. The venue holds 101,821.

The state of Alabama is under the Safer Apart Order, which says people should wear masks if they are within 6 feet of others who don’t live with them.

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne has said he expects the Crimson Tide will play in front of a full house in Tuscaloosa, Ala., this fall. The Tide are scheduled to kick off their home season on Sept. 11 against Mercer.

–Field Level Media

Oct 27, 2018; Columbia, MO, USA; A general view of a Kentucky Wildcats helmet during the game against the Missouri Tigers at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field. Kentucky won 15-14. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky LB D’Eryk Jackson (leg) likely to miss season

Kentucky linebacker D’Eryk Jackson likely will miss the season with a lower leg injury, coach Mark Stoops said Saturday.

The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Jackson sustained the non-contact injury on April 10 during warmups before the Wildcats’ scrimmage.

“Very disappointed in that because he was doing a really good job,” Stoops said. “We’ve got a variety of guys, we’ve got some newcomers coming in. We’ll continue to figure that out and see where that goes. We have players here on campus that will step up. Next-man-up mentality like we always do, but I’m disappointed for D’Eryk because he was having a really good spring.”

Jackson was expected to be the starter at middle linebacker this fall, replacing projected first-round NFL draft pick Jamin Davis.

In nine games last season as a freshman, Jackson made four tackles and had an interception.

Without Jackson, Stoops could turn to Michigan State transfer Luke Fulton or to four-star signee Trevin Wallace, a Georgia native ranked as the No. 9 overall inside linebacker in the Class of 2021 by the 247Sports composite.

Feb 4, 2020; Tampa, FL, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer speak before Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

NFLPA head backs players skipping voluntary workouts

NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith says the union is siding with players who are opting to skip voluntary workouts this offseason.

Players from nearly half of the league’s teams have announced they won’t attend voluntary offseason workouts, a right the union has fought for, which Smith pointed out in an interview on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Saturday.

“We’ve known for years that this is a voluntary workout where a lot of coaches put their finger on the scale and, while they call it voluntary, they expect players to show up,” said Smith.

“I think that what you’re seeing now is, for the first time, players exercising their voice … to say ‘no.’ And frankly it’s probably one of the few times that coaches have ever heard players say ‘no.’ And for some players, it’s probably the first time they’ve said ‘no’ to their coach.”

The league released its official, universal plan for teams with the offseason beginning officially on Monday with Phase I, which lasts four weeks and prohibits on-field work with coaches.

Players from several teams, including the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, issued statements in the past two days detailing their plans to skip voluntary workouts.

One point of contention for players is likely to be on-field organized team activities (OTAs), which remain in the offseason plan despite opposition from the NFLPA.

Smith points to last year’s fully virtual program as evidence that skipping voluntary workouts makes sense.

“This is a negotiated, bargained for, voluntary offseason workout where if someone came to you or me and said, ‘I have a way of cutting concussions by 30 percent and I know a way to decrease missed time to injuries by 23 percent,’ I would think that almost everyone would wholeheartedly embrace that whether it was voluntary or not.”

He also noted that the union has no objection to players who do show up.

“I think it’s important for players to make their own decisions, not only as professionals, not only as a way of taking ownership of their own healthcare, but making their own decision as a man,” said Smith.

Training camps are expected to begin the last week of July.

–Field Level Media

Jan 28, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck speaks with the media during Fox Sports media day at the Miami Beach convention center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Joe Buck to take turn as guest host on ‘Jeopardy!’

Joe Buck will be the latest celebrity from the sports world to try his hand as the host of “Jeopardy!”

The New York Post reported Saturday that episodes featuring Buck, who calls NFL and MLB games and other events for Fox Sports, will air this summer.

The iconic game show has been using guest hosts since the death of Alex Trebek last fall from pancreatic cancer. Among those to have taken turns are Ken Jennings, who won 74 straight games on the show in 2004-05 and its Greatest of All Time tournament last year, as well as television personalities Katie Couric and Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ 10-episode run as guest host ended Friday. He earned good reviews for his stint, along with more than $230,000 for charity.

“It’s incredible,” Rodgers said of the donation as he signed off on his final show. “I want to thank all of you for watching and for everyone here at ‘Jeopardy!’ … thank you.

“You have made me feel so welcome. This has been a surreal experience and so very special to me. Have a great weekend and in the words of the great Alex Trebek, ‘So long.’”

Shows hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper are scheduled to begin airing on Monday. Other upcoming guests hosts include NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie, CNN medical expert Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Mayim Bialik, who played neurobiologist Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on “The Big Bang Theory.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) against Green Bay Packers during the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Accuser offers apology to Rams’ Aaron Donald after seeing video

The man who filed a criminal complaint accusing Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald of assault is now offering an apology to the NFL star.

Through his attorney Todd J. Hollis, De’Vinzent Spriggs says he mistook Donald for his attacker during the skirmish outside the Boom Boom Room, a Pittsburgh-area nightclub.

“I wanted to make this statement public. And to extend an apology to Aaron for what he’s gone through, but I clearly know this was not him,” said Hollis, per Pittsburgh’s KDKA CBS affiliate.

This comes shortly after Donald’s attorney Casey White claimed video and eyewitnesses at the scene will refute assault claims alleging Donald was responsible for Spriggs’ injuries.

Spriggs filed his criminal complaint in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, alleging that he needed 16 stitches and suffered a broken orbital bone, broken nose, concussion and a significant arm injury in a 3 a.m. bar fight Sunday.

At the time, Spriggs claimed he accidentally bumped into Donald, who immediately became enraged, and things turned physical.

White told ESPN on Friday that Spriggs started the fracas by digging his elbow into Donald’s back, then swinging a beer bottle over Donald’s head.

“He turned around and it’s this Mr. Spriggs … and Aaron goes, ‘What’s up?’ and Mr. Spriggs starts yelling belligerently, ‘Did I mean to? Did I mean to?’ He keeps repeating, it’s kind of nonsensical, but he keeps yelling, ‘Did I mean to?’ It’s apparent to Aaron and it’s apparent to all the witnesses that [Spriggs] is intoxicated,” White said.

“As he ducks, somebody from behind grabs him to stop him from interacting with this guy, Mr. Spriggs, so he holds Aaron back in a sense,” White said. “At that point, that’s when other people come to Aaron’s aid and defend him by removing, so to speak, Mr. Spriggs from the area where he is punched, and he is fighting; it’s a mutual fight at this point between other individuals who Aaron does not really know.”

The Rams issued a statement confirming they were aware of the incident and were gathering more details.

Donald, 29, was a college star at Pitt and a first-round draft pick of the Rams in 2014. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year works out in Pittsburgh in the offseason.

–Field Level Media