Oct 29, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Former Carolina Panthers great Julius Peppers is honored on the field before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Former Bears Devin Hester, Julius Peppers part of seven-member Class of 2024

A trio of former Chicago Bears players were among seven players to be selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024, the NFL announced Thursday night.

Devin Hester, Julius Peppers and Steve McMichael each will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, this summer. They will join four others: longtime Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, Houston Texans wideout Andre Johnson, Denver Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.

McMichael and Gradishar were senior selections, while the other five were part of the modern class.

The Hall of Fame is filled almost entirely with offensive and defensive stars, but Hester got the nod for his achievements on special teams. He holds the NFL record with 20 overall return touchdowns, as well as the league record with 14 punt return TDs.

Hester’s highlights included returning the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI for a touchdown against Indianapolis. He also caught 255 passes for 3,311 yards and 16 touchdowns during his career.

“Devin revolutionized the game,” Bears chairman George McCaskey said. “No one had seen anything like him, and there hasn’t been anyone like him since. He had opposing head coaches telling their special teams coordinators, ‘Don’t kick to that guy,’ and they suffered the consequences when the message didn’t get through. We’re delighted that the Hall has recognized Devin’s special talents.”

Johnson also stood apart with his ability to find the end zone. The Texans’ first-round pick in 2003 finished his career with 1,062 catches and 70 touchdowns, and he finished with seven 1,000-yard seasons during his 14-year career.

On the defensive side, Freeney earned the call to Canton in his second year of eligibility. He led the NFL with 16 sacks in 2004 and finished his career with 125 1/2 sacks in 218 games.

Willis’ wait ended after five years of eligibility. Although his career was shortened because of injuries, he finished with seven Pro Bowl selections in eight years with the 49ers.

Peppers burst onto the scene with the Carolina Panthers in 2002, finishing his rookie season with 12 sacks, five forced fumbles and an interception in 12 games. The defensive end went on to star for the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers before returning to Carolina to finish his career. He is the only player in NFL history to rack up at least 150 sacks and 10 interceptions.

McMichael, affectionately known as “Mongo” by Bears fans, was a key part of Chicago’s 1985 Super Bowl championship team. The defensive lineman finished his career with 95 sacks and 13 forced fumbles and gained notoriety for his fearless playing style. The honor was bittersweet as McMichael is battling ALS and was unable to attend the announcement in Las Vegas.

Gradishar was named to seven Pro Bowls during his 10-year career with the Broncos. He was voted the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 1978, and he finished with 20 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries and four defensive touchdowns to go along with 19 1/2 sacks and more than 2,000 tackles.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators recruit DJ Lagway listens to Florida Gators offensive analyst for quarterbacks Ryan O'Hara speak after the game during the Florida Gators Orange and Blue Spring Game at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Thursday, April 13, 2023. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Ncaa Football Florida Gators Orange Blue Spring Game

Florida-bound QB DJ Lagway named Gatorade POY

Quarterback DJ Lagway, who will play in the fall at Florida, has been named the 39th Gatorade National Football Player of the Year.

Lagway, honored as the Gatorade Player of the Year in Texas on Wednesday, was one of three finalists for the national award, which was announced Friday.

“We all know what a big deal this award is and we are all aware of DJ’s talent, but this award is also a testament to the type of person he is off the field,” Florida head coach Billy Napier said. “The way he carries himself, his character, his work ethic, his drive and his focus are the things that make him exceptional. I’m proud of him.”

The award also is based on academics and off-field activities. He had a 3.48 GPA and while in high school volunteered to work with seniors and at the food bank, and he also spoke to youngsters in schools and churches.

The 6-foot-2, 225 pound Lagway is ranked by the 247Sports composite as a five-star prospect and the No. 3 quarterback in the 2024 class.

Playing for Willis High School in 2023, Lagway led his team to a 12-1 mark and its first district championship in 21 years. He completed 72.1 percent of his pass attempts for 4,604 yards and 58 touchdowns, and he also ran for 957 yards with 16 TDs.

He becomes the fourth Florida player to win the award, following John Brantley (2007), Brock Berlin (2000) and Emmitt Smith (1987).

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Titans quarterbacks Malik Willis (7), Ryan Tannehill (17) and Will Levis (8) head to the field face the Los Angeles Chargers at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023.

Rookie QB Will Levis preparing to start for Titans

Rookie Will Levis is preparing to start in place of injured quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, per reports.

Head coach Mike Vrabel said the Titans split first-team reps in practice Tuesday between Levis and Malik Willis with Tannehill unavailable due to an ankle injury.

“We’ll see where he is at the end of the week,” Vrabel said of Tannehill. “And I would imagine if Ryan can’t play, I would anticipate both of those quarterbacks playing in the football game. But Ryan is off of the roller, or walker, or whatever he had, and we’ll see where he is at the end of the week.”

NFL Network and The Athletic reported Wednesday that Levis would see more time than Willis even if both play Sunday against the visiting Atlanta Falcons (4-3).

The Titans (2-4) used Willis as the No. 2 QB and he played after Tannehill was injured on Oct. 15 in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He completed 4 of 5 passes for 74 yards but was sacked four times.

Vrabel acknowledged Tannehill’s current ankle injury is similar to the one he suffered early last season, when he missed two games. Tannehill re-injured the ankle later last season and was placed on injured reserve.

There is some consideration given to resting Tannehill with a short week to follow. Tennessee travels to Pittsburgh to challenge the Steelers next Thursday in the first of three consecutive road games.

But the Titans have been held below 17 points in all four losses with Tannehill.

The Titans drafted Levis 33rd overall in the 2023 NFL Draft with Tannehill, 35, in the final year of his contract.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2023; London, United Kingdom; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) throws the ball against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Same injury, different year for Titans QB Ryan Tannehill (ankle)

Ryan Tannehill has an ankle injury similar to what he initially suffered in 2022, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Monday.

With the Titans heading into their bye week, Vrabel said Tannehill “will get treatment around the clock” in the hopes he’ll be ready to face the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 29.

“This will be a big week to see how he progresses and then we’ll make a decision on his availability next week,” Vrabel said.

If Tannehill is not ready in time, Vrabel did not say whether the Titans would start second-year pro Malik Willis or rookie Will Levis at quarterback.

Tannehill left the third quarter of Sunday’s 24-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in London with a right ankle injury. Willis, No. 2 on the depth chart ahead of Levis, subbed in and went 4-for-5 passing for 74 yards.

Tannehill missed two games last season with an ankle injury, returned, re-injured it and wound up on injured reserve.

He has completed 62.0 percent of his passes this season for 1,128 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions.

He is the Titans’ starter as long as he is healthy, Vrabel said.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis (8) throws during a joint practice with the Minnesota Vikings in Eagan, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

Titans QB Will Levis questionable for Saturday’s game vs. Vikings

Rookie quarterback Will Levis left Tennessee Titans practice early with an injury, coach Mike Vrabel said Thursday, and his status for Saturday’s preseason game at the Minnesota Vikings is up in the air.

The Titans did not disclose the extent of the injury other than to say it was a lower-body issue. Vrabel said Levis headed to the locker room with trainers late in Thursday’s practice.

The second-round pick (No. 33 overall) is battling Malik Willis for the No. 2 quarterback role behind starter Ryan Tannehill.

In the preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, Willis got the start and went 16-for-25 passing for 189 yards and an interception. Levis followed with a 9-of-14 performance for 85 yards and a pick.

Levis was a popular quarterback prospect coming out of Kentucky, with many analysts projecting him to be selected in the top 10. Instead, he slid out of the first round, allowing Tennessee to draft a player general manager Ran Carthon said they’d targeted.

In 24 games over the past two seasons at Kentucky, Levis racked up 5,233 passing yards with a 65.7 completion percentage, 43 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans tight end O.J. Howard (83) runs with the ball as Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Teair Tart (93) attempts to make a tackle during the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders sign TE O.J. Howard, DL Jordan Willis

The Las Vegas Raiders announced deals Monday with tight end O.J. Howard and defensive lineman Jordan Willis.

The team also reached an agreement with safety Jaquan Johnson, according to multiple reports.

Howard ostensibly becomes the heir apparent to Darren Waller, whom the Raiders traded to the New York Giants earlier this month.

Howard, 28, a former first-round draft pick, caught 10 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games (10 starts) for the Houston Texans in 2022.

He has 129 catches and 1,882 yards receiving to go with 17 TDs in 72 career games (56 starts) with the Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2017-21), who selected him No. 19 overall in the 2017 draft.

Willis, 27, was a third-round pick by Cincinnati in 2017 and has 92 tackles and 10.5 sacks in 69 games (two starts) for the Bengals (2017-18), New York Jets (2019-20) and San Francisco 49ers (2020-22).

Johnson, 27, was picked in the sixth round by Buffalo in 2019. He registered 58 tackles and two interceptions in 60 games (four starts) over four seasons with the Bills.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

New Titans GM insists team will keep Ryan Tannehill

The Tennessee Titans are moving forward with Ryan Tannehill as their starting quarterback in 2023.

So says general manager Ran Carthon, who didn’t sound sold during his introductory press conference last month. Carthon said then that he needed to further evaluate Tannehill, who turns 35 in July.

It was a different tune at the NFL combine in Indianapolis on Tuesday.

“Ryan is under contract,” Carthon said. “I know everybody wants to make a big deal out of the quarterback position and whether he will or won’t be here, but you guys just have to accept the fact that Ryan is under contract for us. Right now, he’s a Titan and he will be a Titan.”

Part of what’s fueling speculation of a departure is Tannehill’s $36.6 million cap hit for 2023. The Titans could save roughly half that amount by releasing the 10-year veteran.

But Carthon likes what he has been seeing in the team facility since taking over the GM duties.

“He’s been a diligent worker, been in the building every day rehabbing and getting his work in,” Carthon said. “So he is under contract and I am excited about moving forward with him and have a ton of respect for him.”

Tannehill is slated to receive a $27 million base salary after being limited to just 12 games last season due to a season-ending ankle injury.

But perhaps part of the decision process revolves around the poor showing by 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis, who looked overmatched by the speed of the NFL.

Willis went 1-2 as a starter but passed for just 276 yards while completing a paltry 50.8 percent of his passes. He was intercepted three times and didn’t throw a touchdown pass.

In fact, when Tennessee was facing two pivotal games late in the season, they plucked Joshua Dobbs off the Detroit Lions’ practice squad and immediately started the journeyman.

Tannehill passed for 2,536 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions prior to his injury. The 2023 campaign would be his fifth with the Titans after he spent six campaigns with the Miami Dolphins.

New Tennessee offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said he is looking forward to working with Tannehill.

“He’s a great pro,” Kelly said. “He checks every box in terms of what you’re looking for from that position. I’m excited to continue to work with Ryan.”

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Titans quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the fourth quarter at Nissan Stadium Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.

Nfl Dallas Cowboys At Tennessee Titans

Titans QB Josh Dobbs named starter in Week 18

The Tennessee Titans are placing their postseason hopes on the right arm of Josh Dobbs.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel on Monday named Dobbs the starter for this week’s do-or-die game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Win and the Titans win the AFC South; lose and the Titans’ season is over.

Dobbs gets the nod over rookie Malik Willis.

Tennessee (7-9) turned to Dobbs in Thursday’s 27-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys to kick off Week 17. He finished 20-of-39 passing for 232 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

The Titans have battled injury issues all season. Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill (ankle) was placed on injured reserve last week.

Willis failed to move the ball and rarely challenged down the field in three starts this season, which prompted the promotion of Dobbs after only one week with the team.

Dobbs, 27, was waived by the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 28 and signed by the Lions on Dec. 5. The Titans signed the former University of Tennessee quarterback off of the Lions’ practice squad on Dec. 21.

Dobbs threw his first career TD pass in Week 17, but Tennessee was stagnant without running back Derrick Henry (hip) in the backfield. The Titans have scored 17 or fewer points in eight of the past 10 games.

The Jaguars (8-8) beat the Titans 36-22 on Dec. 11 in Nashville.

–Field Level Media

Dec 11, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill (17) and Malik Willis (7) head to the field as the team gets ready to face the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: George Walker IV/The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Titans to start QB Malik Willis vs Houston

Rookie Malik Willis has the Tennessee Titans’ playoff hopes in his hands when the Houston Texans visit on Christmas Eve, according to reports.

Ryan Tannehill will reportedly miss the rest of the season with a right ankle injury that will require season-ending surgery. Tannehill hurt his ankle absorbing a hit from Chargers outside linebacker Khalil Mack.

After Tannehill injured the same ankle in Week 6, Willis started in Tannehill’s place in weeks 8 and 9. He passed for 177 total yards with one interception this season. He has also rushed for 80 yards.

Willis dominated the practice reps Tuesday and Wednesday and teammates said he was the starter for a critical game this weekend against the Texans (1-12-1).

Tennessee (7-7) has lost four games in a row and the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8) are in position to make the AFC South division race interesting with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

With Tannehill’s status up in the air, the Titans signed Josh Dobbs, who played collegiately at Tennessee, off the Lions’ practice squad.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh Dobbs throws a warmup pass before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio, at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Akr 10 9 Browns Chargers122

Titans sign QB Josh Dobbs off Lions’ practice squad

The Tennessee Titans signed quarterback Josh Dobbs off the Detroit Lions’ practice squad on Wednesday.

It’s an insurance move with starter Ryan Tannehill’s status for this week in jeopardy due to an ankle injury.

Per NFL Network, the players believe that rookie Malik Willis will start Saturday when the Titans (7-7) host the Houston Texans (1-12-1).

Dobbs, 27, was waived by the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 28 and signed by the Lions on Dec. 5.

He appeared in six games with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2018 and 2020 seasons, completing 10 of 17 passes for 45 yards with one interception.

Dobbs returns to the state where he played in college at Tennessee from 2013-16.

If Tannehill can’t go, Dobbs would likely be the backup to Willis. Willis started for the Titans in Weeks 8 and 9 and has passed for 177 yards with one interception this season. He has also rushed for 80 yards.

The Titans also placed offensive lineman Dillon Radunz (knee) on injured reserve Wednesday and signed offensive lineman Zack Johnson to the practice squad.

–Field Level Media