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New Steelers Tyson Aramo: I’ve overcome the pressure of drafting badges.

Tyson Alualu

Tyson Alualu

LATROBE, Pa. — Tyson Alualu has 87 career starts and signed a two-year, $6 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers in March as he enters his eighth NFL season.

He’s far from a draft bust.

But being a top-10 pick engenders a burden that Alualu — who starred at Cal and was selected 10th overall by Jacksonville in 2010 — often felt weighing down his 300-pound frame.

Those early years when Alualu was failing to rack up sack numbers? That was no joke, he says.

But managing the stress from the perception that you’re a bad draft pick actually helped fuel Alualu’s longevity, despite a lengthy adjustment.

“It probably did turn into stress, hearing people say he’s not playing how he should play as a top-10 pick,” Alualu told ESPN. “A lot of people don’t understand what you do go through, injuries, things that you face. It was tough. You have to stay true to who you are.”

Alualu is at peace with his career knowing he fought to stay on the field and keep himself valuable. Alualu never became a sack master (16.5 QB takedowns in seven years), but he’s played in all but two games and is widely considered underappreciated for his run-stopping contributions in Jacksonville, where he played as an end and tackle.

Now positioned as a key reserve on a deep Steelers defensive line, Alualu savors the chance to stick with a winner.

He no longer senses concerns from fans over whether he’ll play like his draft status suggests he should. But those criticisms never really have left him, either. He just learned to spin them positively, relying on his family for positivity until he figured out his NFL identity.

“What I’ve learned, looking back, is you can’t let those pressures turn into stress,” Alualu said. “It can definitely get to you if you start listening to other people’s opinions. You’ve got to learn to block out the noise and make the most of your opportunities. The good ones know how to use it to their advantage and just kind of ball out.”

Alualu admits to pressing early in his career, in part because of difficulties adjusting to coaching.

Then-defensive line coach Joe Cullen “engrained one move in my head,” he said. Alualu repped that move hundreds of times until he felt more mechanical than instinctual.

“For me, I was always good on reaction,” Alualu said. “They kind of took that away from me. I’m not blaming him, he was a good coach. But the way I took it was wrong. Looking back, I should have just continued to play like what got me to be a top pick instead of trying to please and do it his way.”

Alualu consulted a few NFL veterans about the balance between absorbing coaching and accentuating your strengths. Alualu believes he’s gotten better as a result.

Alualu welcomes hard coaching from Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell. He feels the chance to get creative with his pass-rush moves while staying true to the team’s 3-4 system.

Alualu isn’t expected to play like a top pick here. The Steelers have Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave for that. Alualu is tasked with steady contribution.

But part of him is still fighting the perception battle, which still gives him that extra push off the line of scrimmage.

“You want to prove other people wrong that think you were a bad pick,” Alualu said.

Injured: The pony’s Malik Hooker started the camp on the PUP list.

on Tuesday, the Indianapolis Colts announced players who would begin the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. As expected, Andrew Luck was on the list. Another vital Colts player was a surprise: first-round pick Malik Hooker.

Hooker tweaked his hamstring during Monday’s conditioning test, per Kevin Bowen of the team’s official website.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Hooker hasn’t had any setbacks and that the PUP designation is just the team being cautious ahead of training camp opening this week. Hooker can come off the PUP list anytime during camp.

Fellow safety Clayton Geathers (neck) is also on the PUP and is expected to miss the start of the regular season.

Hooker’s hamstring tweak comes after the safety underwent shoulder and sports hernia surgeries in January. During the draft process the 21-year-old discussed with Around The NFL’s Conor Orr why he played through the injuries late during his college career. He was expected to be healthy heading into camp after missing all offseason workouts. Then the hamstring tweak struck.

The rangy Ohio State product could be a game-changer for the Colts secondary. Hooker is the ball-hawk the Colts have lacked during Chuck Pagano’s tenure. But first Hooker needs to get on the field.

Other injuries we’re tracking on Tuesday:

1. The Lions have placed punter Sam Martin on the active/non-football injury list due to an ankle injury he sustained earlier in July, the team announced. Rookie cornerback Teez Tabor and tackle Cyrus Kouandjio were also placed on the NFI list.

2. The Dolphins have placed linebacker Koa Misi on injured reserve, Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the situation.

3. The Saints are placing linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (foot) on injured reserve, Rapoport reported. New Orleans will release Ellerbe once he is healthy, Rapoport added.

4. The Panthers have waived/injured wide receiver Charles Johnson after he underwent surgery on his right knee, the team announced Tuesday.

49 people issue Jeremy Zuttah, Daniel Kilgore gets center position.

Daniel Kilgore

Daniel Kilgore

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The competition for the San Francisco 49ers’ starting center job ended after just 10 practices.

The Niners released veteran center Jeremy Zuttah — who was expected to compete with Daniel Kilgore — on Wednesday morning, after less than two weeks of training camp.

“That was a tough decision,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That was something we were really looking at last night. I think it says a lot about how Kilgore has been playing. He’s done a really good job in practice with that center spot.”

The 49ers acquired Zuttah in a March trade with the Baltimore Ravens; the teams also swapped sixth-round picks (No. 186 to Baltimore and No. 198 to San Francisco). Zuttah was coming off a Pro Bowl appearance, and his previous experience playing in offenses similar to Shanahan’s made him an intriguing fit.

At a personnel meeting Tuesday night, Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and their respective staffs spent time examining the roster and whether there was a spot for Zuttah.

“It just looked to us like we weren’t going to get Zuttah a lot of playing time throughout the preseason,” Shanahan said. “He’s a guy I have a lot of respect for; he’s done a lot of good things in this league. I just told him this morning I had a hard time doing that to him, and [I] wanted to give him a chance to go somewhere else instead of keeping him here and making him go through that.”

“I’d love to keep everybody, especially a guy who can still play in this league,” Shanahan added, “but we thought it was better for him and better for us to move on.”

Zuttah, 31, spent his first six seasons with Tampa Bay, playing both guard and center, after the Bucs used a third-round pick (83rd overall) on him in the 2008 NFL draft. He was in Baltimore for three seasons before the Niners traded for him. He played exclusively at center with the Ravens. He has appeared in 131 games, making 117 starts.

With Zuttah gone, the Niners will lean on Kilgore as the starter in the middle with veteran Tim Barnes as the current backup. Barnes signed with the Niners after the Rams let him go late in the offseason.

Kilgore and Barnes have also been getting work at guard, adding to the versatility Shanahan seeks in his offensive linemen.

“I think it’s very hard to make a final roster when you have a bunch of center-only [players],” Shanahan said. “Then it’s just a domino effect. You want to see these guys’ versatility. It’s not always exactly who is the best, it’s how to fill out the best 53-man roster and there’s not always an obvious right answer.”

Elsewhere on the interior of the offensive line, guard Joshua Garnett is set to have cleanup surgery on his left knee Thursday, according to Shanahan.

“Time frame, I haven’t been given one yet,” Shanahan said. “I’m hoping that he has a chance for Week 1 but I know that’s going to be a battle.”

In a corresponding move, the 49ers signed linebacker Sean Porter to a one-year deal. Porter, 26, appeared in two games for the Jaguars last season. He entered the league as a fourth-round pick of the Bengals in 2013.

Texans WR will be full of broken clavicle, indefinitely out

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller broke his collarbone in practice Wednesday and is out indefinitely, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Fuller, the Texans’ No. 2 receiver, jumped to catch a pass during a team drill and fell on his shoulder. He was looked at immediately and taken inside.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien said after practice that he had no comment on Fuller’s injury. But when asked if he was concerned about the fall, O’Brien said, “I’m concerned any time a guy has to leave practice early.”

Earlier in the practice, Fuller showed his speed by running for an easy touchdown after quarterback Tom Savage found him in stride on the left side of the field.

Fuller had 47 receptions for 635 yards and two touchdowns in 2016, his rookie season.

Earlier in the week, Fuller said he had a “tough” rookie season and was looking forward to being more comfortable on the field in Year 2.

Cowboys release Lucky Whitehead; WR says he is not at Va, when the so-called event takes place

The Dallas Cowboys released wide receiver Lucky Whitehead on Monday, hours after the team learned that he was charged with larceny after a shoplifting arrest and then failed to appear for a court hearing earlier this month, resulting in another charge.

According to the Prince William County Police Department, Whitehead was arrested at approximately 1:30 a.m. June 22 after an employee at a Wawa noticed that he left the store without paying for some items. He was charged with shoplifting/petit larceny — under $200, a misdemeanor — and then failed to show for his arraignment on July 6, which resulted in a failure to appear charge, according to Prince William County General Court records.

Whitehead’s agent, David Rich, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the crime is a case of mistaken identity and Whitehead committed no crime, as he was not in Virginia when the incident occurred.

On June 22, Whitehead was in Dallas, per his flight ticket. His United flight left at 7:18 a.m. direct to Washington D.C. that morning and landed at 11:30 a.m., 10 hours after the alleged crime occurred.

Whitehead has told the Cowboys that it wasn’t him. Rich told the Cowboys that Whitehead didn’t appear in court because he never received the citation and summons. The reason he didn’t receive the citation and summons is because he wasn’t in the state when the crime occurred, Rich said.

Rich has told the Cowboys this information and said the plane record speaks for itself.

“It’s just unfortunate for the kid,” Rich said.

Whitehead also denied that he was involved in the shoplifting incident in a statement to CowboysHQ.com.

“I don’t know who got arrested in Virginia. But it wasn’t me. I NEVER once had an altercation with the cops. And come to find out, this happened, they say, at 1:34 a.m. at a Wawa in Woodbridge, Virginia [on a day] that I was in Dallas until 11:20 a.m,” he said.

A source told ESPN’s Todd Archer that the Cowboys don’t care if Whitehead’s claim it wasn’t him proves to be correct. They just wanted to move on, based on the number of incidents.

Last season, Whitehead was late to a Saturday walk-through, and Garrett told him to not take the flight for a game against the New York Giants in December. Whitehead also was involved in a car accident last season, and Garrett was not aware of it until he was informed of it by the media. Whitehead briefly posted news of the accident on Snapchat before taking it down.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the team didn’t know of the arrest before Monday and is gathering information on the incident. He had said it was possible that Whitehead could be released.

Asked by reporters about the charges earlier Monday, Whitehead said: “I didn’t know about that” and “I don’t know what’s going on.”

Whitehead has a court date scheduled for Aug. 10, according to records.

Whitehead made headlines last week when he announced on social media that his dog, Blitz, was kidnapped and being held for ransom. He later announced on social media that the dog had been returned unharmed.

Whitehead’s arrest is the latest legal trouble this offseason for the Cowboys:

Running back Ezekiel Elliott was involved in an incident at a Dallas bar on July 16 that left a man with a nose injury. Dallas police have suspended their investigation because they have not been able to locate the victim, and no witnesses have come forward. The running back also is awaiting possible punishment from the NFL stemming from an alleged domestic violence incident last July in Columbus, Ohio.

Linebacker Damien Wilson was arrested July 4 on charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

Rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis is not with the team, as he was in court for a misdemeanor domestic violence court case.

Whitehead, 25, has played the past two seasons for the Cowboys, appearing in 30 games with two starts. He has rushed 20 times for 189 yards and caught nine passes for 64 yards. He also has been used as a punt and kick returner.

Levi Bell failed steel man to negotiate: “I want to pay attention to”

PITTSBURGH — Le’Veon Bell felt he would be settling if he took the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offer during franchise tag negotiations, the All-Pro running back told ESPN on Monday.

Bell was hopeful that a deal would be finalized by the 4 p.m. ET deadline but said the two sides weren’t particularly close. Bell confirmed that he will play on the $12.12 million franchise tag but isn’t sure when he’ll sign his tender or report to camp, which begins July 27.

Le'Veon Bell
“It’s a little frustrating, but it’s a business,” said Bell, who declined to comment on the particulars of the Steelers’ offer or his own projection of his worth. “I’m not in a rush to sign for something I’m not valued at, if I feel I’m worth more than what they are offering me.”

Bell said the negotiations with the Steelers weren’t personal and the team didn’t try to knock him for his past injuries during the process. He remains optimistic that both sides can reach an extension after the season.

The way Bell sees it, he’s a standard-bearer for a stagnate running back market. The Buffalo Bills’ LeSean McCoy is currently the league’s highest-paid running back at around $8 million per season. That means Bell, like his running style, must be patient.

“The running back market definitely took a hit, and I can’t be the guy who continues to let it take a hit,” Bell said. “We do everything. We block, we run, we catch the ball. Our value isn’t where it needs to be. I’m taking it upon myself to open up some eyes and show the position is more valuable.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin will be the second-highest-paid running back by base salary, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System. But in terms of “cash value,” Bell’s total is second among running backs behind that of Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Leonard Fournette, who will make $18.3 million in cash, thanks to his $17.89 million signing bonus.

However, Bell also said his value shouldn’t be constrained by position. He points to his status as the Steelers’ second-most productive receiver behind Antonio Brown after he caught a combined 158 passes in his past two seasons of 12 games or more.

Bell has amassed 4,791 total yards the past three seasons, second among running backs, despite his missing 13 games due to injury or suspension. He can line up in the slot, out wide or in the backfield. Steelers players voted Bell the team MVP last season. He has missed five games due to suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, but Bell said he has moved past those issues.

“I definitely don’t want to play for anybody else,” Bell said of the Steelers. “You never know what will happen. Today was a big eye opener. I’m going to definitely enjoy my best year with the Steelers and be happy with it.”

That begs the question: When will that season officially start? Because he hasn’t yet signed the tag, Bell technically doesn’t have to join the team until Dec. 1, though he wouldn’t get paid the franchise amount. He could sit out part of training camp. Bell said he hadn’t thought that far ahead but added “I don’t need much” in the way of practices to enter game shape.

“I guess when it comes to camp and doing extra things when I’m training, I can’t be as aggressive as I normally would be because there’s no longevity,” Bell said. “But I’m still going to be out there and be Le’Veon Bell. … The way I train, all it’s going to take for me is a few practices and some game action. I haven’t thought about it that far. I’m game-planning today. I was thinking the deal would be done. I’m going to take it day-to-day and see what happens.”

Bell feels healthy coming off groin surgery and believes that he can post “crazy numbers” with a full 16 games in 2017. Then the same core issue might arise in negotiations.

“I want to be valued,” Bell said.

Titans’ Tajae Sharpe, Sebastian Tretola file counterclaims, claiming they are self-defense

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Tajae Sharpe and offensive lineman Sebastian Tretola described a lawsuit accusing them of assault as “a blatant money grab” in a counterclaim filed Friday, the Tennessean reported.

Sharpe is accused of beating up Dante R. Satterfield outside a bar on April 27 while Tretola served as a lookout, according to a lawsuit filed in May. Satterfield refiled the lawsuit in Davidson County last month, according to WKRN-TV. Satterfield is seeking $500,000 in damages.

The two players request in countersuit that a jury trial be held and that they should be awarded damages.

Neither player has been charged for the alleged assault. The Tennessean reported that the Nashville Police Department was close to finishing its investigation last month and would send their findings to a grand jury.

Satterfield claimed in his lawsuit that he was assaulted after Sharpe became agitated following the Titans’ selection of receiver Corey Davis with the fifth overall pick. Sharpe and Tretola, however, claim that they acted in self-defense.

Sharpe claims in the countersuit that he punched Satterfield after the man appeared ready to throw a punch at him. The countersuit states that Tretola then threw Satterfield against a wall after he ran toward him.

In May, however, Sharpe’s agent, Blaine Roche, denied that his client was involved in the fight.

“The claims are false, period,” Roche told ESPN. “Tajae categorically denies any and all involvement and looks forward to fully vindicating himself. Unfortunately, this is just a classic shakedown.”

Satterfield’s attorney, Alex Little, noted in a statement Friday that Sharpe is now contradicting himself.

“When my client sued Mr. Sharpe, his agent told the media that Sharpe ‘wasn’t even there at the time (my client) was allegedly beaten up.’ In today’s court filing, Sharpe changes his story entirely and says he was there but acted in self-defense. We are confident that an impartial jury will be able to make out what actually happened that night.”

What is the impact of Adrian Peterson on NFC South

The buzz surrounding Adrian Peterson grew even more deafening around New Orleans Saints camp this spring with each powerful step the 32-year-old running back took on the practice field.

“I’m amazed, honestly. Seeing him just take off his first few steps are as explosive as I’ve ever seen by a human being,” said Saints left tackle Terron Armstead, echoing the awe that could be heard throughout the locker room.

Of course, some of that is springtime hype, and some of that is the reverence so many players have for one of the NFL’s all-time greats. In truth, Peterson remains a bit of an unknown after playing in just three games last year because of a torn meniscus in his knee, which is why he had to settle for an incentive-laden two-year contract with the Saints that included only $3.5 million in guarantees.

Will NFC South teams have to plan for games differently now that Adrian Peterson is on the Saints

 
So the question I posed to the rest of ESPN’s NFC South reporters was: What do you (or better yet your teams) expect from Peterson this year? A curiosity? A reason to fear the Saints or plan for games against them differently? Or not much different than the Mark Ingram/Tim Hightower duo the Saints featured the past two years?

Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons reporter: I spoke with a league executive about this topic immediately after Peterson signed, and that person made some interesting points. The executive said to expect Peterson to show up in the big games, like the Sept. 11 opener against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings, on ESPN’s Monday Night Football and any meaningful NFC South clash. “You don’t want to run that guy out there for 16 games,” the executive said. “Then you risk him getting hurt again.” Opposing coaches certainly respect Peterson and his potential to break off big runs like the Peterson of old. Peterson’s second-highest single-game rushing effort during the past three seasons, 158 yards, came in a win over Atlanta in 2015. You can bet the Falcons won’t take him for granted. Is Peterson a guy you have to devise your entire defensive game plan around to stop? Not anymore. But any defensive coordinator would be foolish to underestimate a player who overcame a serious left knee injury to become the league’s MVP in 2012. Having Ingram simply gives the Saints the ability to pick and choose the best times to use Peterson, even if that means both are on the field together.

Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter: Jameis Winston raved about his time training with Peterson this offseason. He and several receivers went to Houston to work out at his facility. “Just for them to be able to see what greatness is, it helps us. It helps build us, it helps motivate us,” Winston said. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter also called Peterson “one of the best running backs to ever play.” So no one at One Buc Place is taking him lightly. The Bucs made it a point to bolster their run defense this offseason, re-signing their best run-stopping defensive end in William Gholston, whose presence they sorely missed in Week 16 last year against the Saints, when they lost 31-24 and missed the playoffs. The Bucs also re-signed Sealver Siliga, who gives them a lot of mass up the middle, and drafted Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, who gives them great size along the interior. A healthy Peterson doesn’t just strain the defensive line, because he is so successful at getting to the second level and is so shifty, it places extra emphasis on linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. From an actual game-planning standpoint, I don’t think it changes how the Bucs line up at all. Of the 67 defensive snaps the Bucs took against the Saints in Week 16 last year, they spent only 15 of them in nickel, the fewest times they used nickel personnel and the most they lined up in their base defense all season. They used a heavy dose of their base defense in Week 14, as well, which shows how much they already respect the Saints’ ability to run the ball.

David Newton, Carolina Panthers reporter: The Panthers will say all the right things to build Peterson’s impact up to be politically correct. I don’t have that filter. Sorry, but my expectations aren’t high. In part, that’s because Peterson never has been great against the Panthers, and in part, that’s because Peterson is 32 years old learning a new offense. Oh, and the Saints have a guy named Drew Brees who likes to throw for nearly 5,000 yards every season. I just don’t see the Saints committing to the run game to make Peterson or any back that isn’t a dual-threat extremely dangerous. Not to say Peterson hasn’t been a dual-threat in the past. I just don’t see him at his age doing what he has done in the past. He may prove me wrong. The Saints may prove me wrong and become more dedicated to the run. But with that defense, they’ll likely be playing catch-up a lot or be involved in a shootout. Neither promotes being dedicated to the running game. No offense to Peterson, who like Brees will wind up in the Hall of Fame, but this isn’t an offseason acquisition I see leading New Orleans back to the promised land.

Raiders, QB Derek Carr close to a large number of transactions

The Oakland Raiders and Derek Carr are close to finalizing a deal expected to pay the star quarterback about $25 million per year, league sources told ESPN.

The contract is expected to be done soon, well before the training camp deadline Carr had given the Raiders, according to sources.

The sides still are finalizing language, but the deal could be announced as early as the end of this week. Once signed, Carr’s new contract will make him the NFL’s highest-paid player in terms of new money average, a source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano. That new money in Carr’s deal will average more per year than the amount given to Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who currently tops the list at $24.6 million.

Carson Palmer’s average annual salary in Arizona is $24.35 million; Drew Brees’ is $24.25 million for New Orleans; and Kirk Cousins’ is $23.9 million.

Cousins and the Washington Redskins are trying to get a long-term deal done by the July 17 franchise deadline.

Carr, 26, passed for 3,937 yards and 28 touchdowns with just six interceptions last season, helping lead the Raiders to their first postseason appearance since 2002. He suffered a broken fibula in Week 16 and missed Oakland’s playoff loss to the Houston Texans, but he has been a full participant in the team’s offseason activities.

Carr, speaking last week at the Raiders’ minicamp, said he was happy to be “just playing ball again.”

“The hardest part was taking the first rep, because the last rep you remember was like, ‘Oh snap, I broke this thing,’” Carr said. “But as soon as the ball was snapped, it was a blessing. It kind of all went away.”

Warren Sapp (Warren Sapp) died when the brain donated, said the reporter disappeared from the football career

Hall of Famer Warren Sapp announced Tuesday that when he dies he will donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation because “I wanted this game to be better when I left than when I got into it.”

Sapp, 44, made the announcement in a video posted on The Players’ Tribune. He says an email he received from former running back Fred Willis was the impetus for his decision.

Sapp said the email “had quotes from NFL owners — I mean down the line you could see it: There’s no correlation between football, CTE, suicides, and all this foolish stuff. … I mean where are you getting this information from and then spewing it out as if it’s fact?”

Sapp, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection who retired in 2008 after 13 seasons (nine with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and four with the Oakland Raiders), said football has affected his memory.

“We’re playing in a macho league and we’re talking about Hall of Famers now who are immortalized forever, made busts and everything. Legends of the game,” he said. “There’s no way any of us wanna really admit that we can’t remember how to get home or a grocery list that the wife has given us or how to go pick up our kids to the school, or whatever it may be.

“You try to [say], ‘All right, I’m gonna get a little more sleep — maybe it’s something I did last night, maybe something I drank,’ or whatever it is. You try to find a reason that it’s not that it’s my brain, that I’m not deteriorating right before my own eyes.

“It’s the most frightening feeling, but it’s also a very weakening feeling because you feel like a child. I need help. I need somebody to help me find something that I could’ve found with my eyes closed, in the dead of night, half asleep.”

The former defensive lineman, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, says he now has to use reminders on his phone to help him remember simple tasks.

“I used to call myself an elephant in the room. Never forget anything. Man, I wake up now and be like, ‘OK, what are we doing?’ Let me get the phone. I mean with the reminders in the phones, it really helped me get through my day with appointments and different things that I have to do because it’s just, I can’t remember anymore like I used to.

“And it’s from the banging we did as football players. We used to tackle them by the head, used to grab facemasks. We used to allow Deacon Jones to do the head slap. All of that was something that we had to take away from the game. We used to hit quarterbacks below the knees. Now it’s a strike zone. Let’s keep making the game better,” he said.

Sapp said those improvements should start at the youth level by eliminating tackling until players get to high school.