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NFLPA player representatives make video to thank fans for ‘support, patience’

07.26.11 at 9:52 am ET
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In anticipation of the opening of training camps across the league, the NFL Players Association created a YouTube video showing some of its player representatives, including Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, free-agent linebacker Takeo Spikes and Bears kicker Robbie Gould, thanking NFL fans for their “support and patience” during the now-over NFL lockout. Patriots union rep Matt Light does not appear in the video, which is embedded below and is 2:22 long.

Patriots sign Maryland tight end Will Yeatman

07.26.11 at 9:44 am ET
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The Patriots have some big names at tight end, and now they’re set to add a tight end who may not play the position in the NFL. Maryland’s Will Yeatman, a former college lacrosse player, tweeted Tuesday to confirm that he’s signed with New England. Tweeted Yeatman: “Alright people I guess the word is out. I’m a New England Patriot!” The signing was first reported by Aaron Williams of the Carroll County Times.

WEEI.com’s Christopher Price provided a snapshot of Yeatman in his look at 10 undrafted free agents who would make sense for the Patriots, noting that Yeatman’s size could lend itself to a spot on the offensive line in the NFL. Many have projected the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Yeatman as a tackle at the next level.

The move from tight end to tackle is not an uncommon one, as such first-round picks as Robert Gallery and Nate Solder were converted tackles.

Yeatman gave up lacrosse in his final season at Maryland to focus on football. He also had eligibility issues due to playing a scrimmage in 2007 that cost him a year of eligibility.

“I’ve wanted to play in the NFL my entire life and it didn’t seem realistic that I could make that happen if I played lacrosse,” he told Inside Lacrosse earlier this year. “I would’ve had to try to get a year of eligibility back. The thing that made the decision easiest was that I’ve been in college for a long time and I’ve been a college athlete long enough. I had to move on and move to the next step of my life and hopefully that’s the NFL.

In three college football seasons (the first two of which were at Notre Dame before transferring), Yeatman had 21 receptions for 177 yards and one touchdown. The vast majority of those statistics were produced in his senior year at Maryland (13 receptions, 134 yards, TD).

Read More: 2011 NFL Signings, Nate Solder, Robert Gallery, Will Yeatman

Mark Herzlich says he hasn’t decided where he’s going to sign yet

07.26.11 at 1:07 am ET
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Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich said late Monday night that he had not made up his mind as to where he’€™s going to sign as an undrafted free agent.

With the lockout lifted, undrafted free agents free to negotiate with teams as of Monday afternoon, and several reports had Herzlich ticketed for Baltimore. However, he announced on Twitter that he had not yet made a decision, and would make an official statement on his future Tuesday. ‘€œFor everyone I have not signed with anyone yet and am still making my decision,’€ he wrote. ‘€œThank you for support and I will give official word tomorrow.’€

Herzlich, the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, was not selected in April’€™s NFL draft. Despite that, his story remains an inspiration to many, as he overcame Ewing’€™s sarcoma ‘€” he had a titanium rod placed in the leg ‘€” and returned to play for BC in 2010.

Read More: 2011 NFL Signings, Mark Herzlich,

Patriots start setting up agreements with undrafted free agents

07.26.11 at 12:10 am ET
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As of Monday night ‘€” with some help from our pals over at NEPatriotsDraft.com ‘€” we have been able to find out that the Patriots have been able to reach agreements with six undrafted free agents. (Undrafted free agents cannot officially sign until Tuesday at 10 a.m.) Here are quick thumbnail sketches of each player:

Cal kick returner/wide receiver Jeremy Ross: The 5-foot-11, 213-pound Ross ‘€” a college teammate of Patriots’ second-round draft pick Shane Vereen ‘€” Tweeted out the information of his signing himself early in the evening. He finished his career second on Cal’s all-time punt return average list with an average of 15.2 yards per punt return (31 returns, 471 yards, one TD), behind only the 16.7 posted by DeSean Jackson (2005-07). In addition, he totaled 2,287 all-purpose yards (201 rushing, 764 receiving, 471 punt return, 851 kick return), with an average of 53.2 yards per contest. The 23-year-old played in 43 games with 14 starts, recording 57 catches for 764 yards (13.4 ypr) and three touchdowns. Here’s video of him in action.

Akron offensive tackle Corey Woods: A huge prospect ‘€” he checks in at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds ‘€” Woods is a four-year starter who has some positional versatility (he could ultimately move to guard at the NFL level).

Auburn offensive lineman Mike Berry: A 6-foot-3, 316-pounder who cleared a path this past season for Cam Newton, he’s an interior lineman who played mostly guard. (For what it’s worth, his brother initially posted a Tweet saying Berry had signed with New England, but the Tweet was immediately taken down. Not sure what this means, but it bears watching.) Regardless, here’s video of him in action.

Rutgers defensive end Alex Silvestro: A college teammate of last year’s first-round pick Devin McCourty, the 6-foot-3, 267-pound Silvestro was a three-year starter with the Scarlet Knights who led Rutgers with 14.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks this past season, earning defensive MVP honors for the Scarlet Knights. A defensive end who has played some defensive tackle over the course of college career.

Iowa linebacker Jeff Tarpinian: A 6-foot-2, 235-pounder who played for former Bill Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, he had 93 tackles over his collegiate career, finishing his senior season with a career-best 47 tackles and a pair of sacks. A former defensive back who moved to linebacker in 2007, he was an academic all-Big 10 all four years with the Hawkeyes. There’s a big buildup, but you have to figure the video below was the highlight of his collegiate career.

Texas offensive tackle Kyle Hix: Hix is a Texas product who checks in at a massive 6-foot-7 and 319 pounds. He started 11 games at left tackle last season and helped Texas average 382.5 total yards per game, including 232.0 passing yards and 150.5 rushing yards.

Read More: Alex Silvestro, Bill Belichick, Cam Newton, Corey Woods

Official NFL timeline for the week, including the start of free agency

07.25.11 at 5:41 pm ET
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Here’€™s the complete timeline for the NFL calendar for the next week:

Monday night: The NFL will release a complete list of the free agents for the 2011 season.

Tuesday: At 10 a.m., team facilities will open and trades can begin. Teams can begin signing their own drafted rookies and other undrafted free agents. They can also negotiate with other teams’€™ free agents ‘€” however, they can’€™t sign those players yet.

Wednesday-Sunday: Training camp opens for all teams. (The Patriots will hold their conditioning work on Wednesday, and open camp to the media and the public on Thursday.) The opening of training camps across the league is as follows:

‘€¢Camp opens Wednesday for Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, Patriots, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Diego and Seattle.

‘€¢Camp opens Thursday for Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Washington.

‘€¢Camp opens Friday for Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New York Giants, St. Louis and Tennessee.

‘€¢Camp opens Sunday for Houston and New York Jets.

Friday: Starting at 6 p.m., teams can sign other teams’€™ free agents ‘€” the start of full free agency.

It’€™s important to remember that deals that are AGREED upon this week do not become official until the union is recertified and gives an official approval to the new collective bargaining agreement.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft: ‘I’d like to apologize to the fans’

07.25.11 at 3:09 pm ET
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Here’€™s the complete transcript of the comments made by Patriots owner Robert Kraft at Monday’€™s press conference in Washington, D.C. that announced the end of the NFL lockout:

‘€œI’€™d like to apologize to the fans, that for the last five, six months we’€™ve been talking about the business of football, not what goes on on the field in each market. But the end result is we’€™ve been able to have an agreement that will allow this sport to flourish over the next decade. We’€™ve done that in a way that is unique among the major sports ‘€” every team in our league, all 32, will be competitive. We’€™ve improved player safety and we’€™ve remembered the players who’€™ve played in the past.

‘€œI want to give a special compliment to Commissioner Goodell and De Smith, because the commissioner has to deal with 32 tough and demanding owners. He’€™s been able to keep that balance, but DeMaurice Smith has come in and he’€™s managing 1,900 players. A bunch of different professionals, it’€™s a new CBA with tricky language, and he was able to keep all those things going and come up with an agreement that he and Roger did together with their two teams.

‘€œLastly, what kept me at the table the last four-and-a-half months was seeing the players who represented the player representatives, who represented the league’€™s players. They didn’€™t just look at the short-term interests of their own playing careers, but they looked long-term, especially Jeff Saturday and Domonique Foxworth. I was so impressed with them, that they acted as principals at the table, looking out what was good for the game.

‘€œI believe you’€™re going to see a very great NFL over the next decade and I hope we gave a little lesson to the people in Washington because the debt crisis is a lot easier to fix than this deal was. Thank you.’€

Read More: DeMaurice Smith, Domonique Foxworth, Jeff Saturday, lockout

Football is back: Both Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith herald the end of the lockout

07.25.11 at 2:55 pm ET
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The longest work stoppage in NFL history came to an end Monday when the players unanimously signed off on the new collective bargaining agreement, paving the way for a new 10-year agreement between both sides.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith were joined by several key figures in the process like players Jeff Saturday and Domonique Foxworth and owners like Robert Kraft of the Patriots and Carolina’€™s Jerry Richardson. As a group, they all stood together Monday afternoon after a 136-day lockout just outside the NFLPA offices in Washington, D.C. and heralded the return of the game.

‘€œIt’€™s been a long time coming, but football’€™s back, and that’€™s great news for everybody,’€ said Goodell.

‘€œThanks to everybody who has been involved in this,’€ Smith said. ‘€œIt has been a very, very long process.’€

“We didn’t get everything that either side wanted … but we did arrive at a deal that we think is fair and balanced,” Smith added.

The two sides worked through the weekend and wrapped up the details early Monday on a pact that will last 10 years without an opt-out clause. The details of the agreement are still unclear, but it’€™s been reported that teams will be able to get back to the business of football later this week, with players able to report to facilities this week, training camp starting later this week and free agency commencing at the end of the week.

One of the most poignant moments in the brief media availability came when Saturday acknowledged the support each and every one of the wives of the men involved in the process, and the added a special thank you to Kraft’€™s wife Myra, who passed away last week after a lengthy illness.

‘€œA special thanks to Myra Kraft, who even in her weakest moment, allowed Mr. Kraft to come and fight this out,’€ said Saturday, who shared an embrace with Kraft. ‘€œWithout him, this deal does not get done. ‘€¦ He is a man who helped us save football. We’€™re gracious for that, we’€™re gracious for his family, and the opportunity presented to get this deal done.’€

‘€œTo echo what Jeff said about Mr. Kraft, we couldn’€™t have done it without you. We took a day on Friday to remember a great woman,’€ Smith said, recalling last Friday’€™s service where talks were put on hold because of Myra Kraft’€™s funeral. ‘€œI’€™m thankful for what she meant to the city of Boston and I’€™m especially thankful for what you mean to the game of football.’€

‘€œI’€™d like to apologize to the fans, that for the last five, six months we’€™ve been talking about the business of football, not what goes on on the field in each market,” Kraft said. “But the end result is we’€™ve been able to have an agreement that will allow this sport to flourish over the next decade. We’€™ve done that in a way that is unique among the major sports ‘€” every team in our league, all 32, will be competitive. We’€™ve improved player safety and we’€™ve remembered the players who’€™ve played in the past.”

He added that the politicians could take a cue from what they were able to accomplish with the new labor deal.

“The debt crisis is a lot easier to fix,” he said with a small smile.

Read More: DeMaurice Smith, Domonique Foxworth, Jeff Saturday, Jerry Richardson
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