Even if the team enters the season without its All-Pro running back, the Pittsburgh Steelers are not planning to change their position in the ongoing standoff with Le’Veon Bell.
Jan 14, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the third quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
While rumors circulated that a trade could be the only solution in Bell’s holdout, NFL Network reported Thursday the Steelers will not rescind the franchise tag or trade Bell.
Bell has not signed a $14.5 million tender as the team’s designated franchise player, and it’s unclear when he plans to return to the team.
Bell’s agent, Adisa Bakari, suggested in an appearance during ESPN’s “NFL Live” on Wednesday that Bell’s holdout could continue past this week, saying that his client “is going to do the things necessary to protect his value long-term.”
—The Dallas Cowboys became the first NFL team to have an official casino designation, announcing a partnership with WinStar World Casino and Resort.
WinStar is located in Oklahoma, where sports betting remains illegal, but the NFL has relaxed its rules against gambling associations and content this offseason. Teams may now accept advertising money from casinos, although direct relationships with sportsbooks are not permitted.
“We are excited about the future of gaming as it relates to the NFL,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
—The Miami Dolphins placed starting tight end MarQueis Gray on injured reserve with a torn Achilles tendon, and he is expected to miss the entire season.
Gray, 28, suffered the injury during practice on Wednesday. He appeared in all 16 games in each of the past two seasons with Miami, catching 14 passes for 174 yards in 2016 and one pass for 10 yards in 2017. He also rushed five times for 14 yards last season.
Miami also signed tight end Gavin Escobar, who the team added as a free agent in April before releasing him last week during final cuts.
—New York Giants special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey announced he was diagnosed with cancer this offseason and is undergoing treatment, including chemotherapy.
McGaughey, 45, is in his first year with the team after spending the last two years holding the same post in Carolina. He has maintained his day-to-day position while going through the treatment process, though 2017 coordinator Tom Quinn — who was previously fired — returned as an assistant to help out McGaughey.
“I’m not going to let chemotherapy or cancer get in the way of what I do,” McGaughey told reporters. “I’m a father and I’m a football coach. That’s what I do.”
—Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry remained out of practice with a heel injury, further placing his availability for Sunday’s opener against the Los Angeles Chargers in doubt.
Head coach Andy Reid has labeled Berry as day-to-day, saying only “we’ll see” when asked if he’ll play.
Berry, 29, did not play in the preseason and has missed practice with the issue since mid-August. He missed all but one game last season after tearing the Achilles in his left foot, but this heel injury is to his right.
—Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack returned to practice after missing nearly a month, and left tackle Anthony Castonzo practiced on a limited basis for the second consecutive day.
Both players have been battling hamstring injuries. Castonzo told reporters he is optimistic about his availability for Sunday’s opener against the Bengals.
Le’Raven Clark, a 2016 third-round pick, has been working in Castonzo’s place on Andrew Luck’s blind side. At running back, the Colts have rookies Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines along with veteran Christine Michael if Mack can’t go. Robert Turbin is suspended for the first four games after a PED violation.
—New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon sat out practice again as he recovers from a high-ankle sprain.
Vernon was hurt in practice in late August and appears doubtful to play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the team won’t officially label his status until Friday.
—Minnesota Vikings center Pat Elflein is expected to miss Sunday’s opener against the 49ers, and veteran Brett Jones will start in his place, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Elflein was activated from the physically unable to perform list during roster trimming, but he is not ready to play after having offseason surgeries on his shoulder and ankle. Jones was acquired from the Giants last month for a draft pick, giving Minnesota a veteran option behind Elflein. The team reportedly tabbed Jones to start over second-year man Danny Isidora.
Elflein started 14 games as a rookie after the Vikings took him in the third round of the draft. Jones started 13 games last season for the Giants after starter Weston Richburg went down with an injury.
—New York Jets safety Marcus Maye sat out practice again with an ankle injury, while wideout Jermaine Kearse (abdomen) participated in individual drills.
Maye, who had ankle surgery in January, played in one preseason game but has not practiced in nearly two weeks and now appears doubtful for Monday night’s opener against the Lions. A report earlier this week said Kearse would miss Monday’s game after having surgery on his abdomen, but his participation Thursday could mean he has a chance to play.
—Cleveland Browns cornerback E.J. Gaines will likely miss Sunday’s opener against the Steelers due to a knee injury, head coach Hue Jackson told reporters.
Gaines, who joined the team as a free agent in March, took part in individual drills Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s session. He sprained his knee in mid-August and was given a three-week timetable for a return.
—The Carolina Panthers signed quarterback Connor Cook to their practice squad.
Cook previously visited the Buffalo Bills after being released by the Oakland Raiders during final cuts. The 25-year-old has appeared in one regular-season game and one playoff game, going a combined 32 of 66 for 311 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
—Field Level Media