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NFL notebook: Cowboys OT Dill suspended four games

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Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle R.J. Dill has been suspended for the first four games of the season due to a violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The suspension was reported Friday by Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, and the NFL Players Association then released a statement from Dill explaining the circumstances.

Dill, 25, was undrafted out of Rutgers in 2013 and had short stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams. He had signed with the Cowboys in January.

In his statement, Dill explained the positive test: “In August 2014, I thought my dream of playing in the NFL was over, and I began to transition away from professional football. During these months away from football, I noticed a drastic change in my energy and activity levels, so I saw my doctor, and blood tests revealed that my testosterone levels were very low. My doctor suggested that I undergo testosterone replacement therapy, and I accepted the recommended treatment. I completed one round of testosterone replacement therapy in November 2014, and almost immediately I felt like my old self again. At this time I was not under contract with any NFL team, nor was I actively pursuing an NFL career.”

Dill said the Cowboys called in January and he began training for the 2015 season. Then the NFL called in May and told him he had failed a drug test.

“While my doctor had told me that the residual amounts of the testosterone would be out of my system about eight weeks after treatment, that was not accurate, and I failed a drug test a full six months after I had received the prescribed treatment,” he said.

Dill said he tried to get approved for a therapeutic use exception, but the NFL denied his petition.

—Tennessee Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter, initially charged with felony malicious wounding for his involvement in a bar fight in July, has had the charge reduced to misdemeanor assault and battery.

His trial will begin next Tuesday in Virginia Beach, Va., the Commonwealth’s Attorney office said Friday.

The charge stems from an incident in Virginia Beach’s oceanfront resort area on July 3. Hunter initially was accused of “malicious intent, stabbing, cutting and wounding” in a brawl that hospitalized one person.

Hunter allegedly started the fight when he interrupted a conversation a man was having with someone else. Hunter allegedly punched the man in the face twice, and the man suffered a broken jaw and a cracked tooth and was taken to a nearby hospital.

Hunter, 24, was Tennessee’s second-round pick in 2013. He has caught 46 passes for 852 yards and seven touchdowns. He missed the final four games last season after suffering a lacerated spleen against the Houston Texans.

—Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett has been fined $17,363 by the NFL for a high hit to Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith.

The hit occurred in Kansas City’s 14-13 win last Friday. Bennett was flagged for roughing the passer. After the game, coach Pete Carroll called the penalty “legit” — although it was clear the contact was incidental.

In a radio interview on 710 ESPN on Tuesday, Bennett decried the penalty: “I hit Alex Smith with a routine hit, a routine hit, and I get flagged. I’m like, ‘What? What else should I do? Should I just touch him like that? Is he going to be down?'”

—Ryan Mallett practiced with the Houston Texans’ third-string offense on Friday, a day after the quarterback missed practice, but coach Bill O’Brien said Mallett will remain the backup to Brian Hoyer.

Mallett was displeased Monday to learn that Hoyer had won the starting job, and Mallett then reportedly overslept Thursday and missed practice, arriving in time for meetings.

Texans left tackle Duane Brown suffered a hand injury and will not play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. O’Brien said the injury would not need surgery and instead would heal on its own.

—The Denver Broncos waived wide receiver Solomon Patton and signed rookie tight end Dan Light.

The 5-foot-9 Patton, picked up off waivers in May, had worked as a backup return specialist, but he muffed a punt in the preseason opener in Seattle and did not play last week against the Texans.

Light caught 177 passes in four years at Fordham.

—The New England Patriots placed tight end Jake Bequette on injured reserve.

The Patriots moved Bequette to tight end from defensive end this spring before he sustained an injury two weeks ago. The 26-year-old Bequette was drafted in the third round in 2012 out of Arkansas by the Patriots and saw action in eight games during his first two seasons in New England. He spent last year on the Patriots’ practice squad.

—Running back Chris Johnson reportedly returned from a hamstring injury and practiced with the Arizona Cardinals.

Johnson had been out since shortly after signing Aug. 17 and missed the Cardinals’ second preseason game against the San Diego Chargers.

Johnson seems unlikely to play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, meaning he would have to wait until next week to finally play in a game for the Cardinals. He was signed to bolster the competition led by Andre Ellington and rookie David Johnson.

—Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who fractured his left fibula in Sunday’s preseason game, appears likely to miss the first 10 games of the season.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said Pouncey may be able to return this season.

“He’s got a chance,” Tomlin said Thursday. “We’ll have more information as the initial recovery from the surgery subsides.”

Pouncey underwent surgery Monday after suffering the injury near his ankle against the Green Bay Packers. He had his leg rolled up on in the first quarter while he was blocking in front of running back Le’Veon Bell.

The team has not made the designation official but he is expected to be placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list to start the season.

—St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, a member of NFL Competition Committee, doesn’t see rules changing to project quarterbacks on zone-read plays.

Fisher was responding to the most recent debate after Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs’ hit to the knees of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford in last Saturday night’s preseason game.

“The Committee talks about this every year,” Fisher told reporters Thursday. “We have rules in the rule book that are very specific. If the quarterback is in a throwing position, he gets protection. But in the event that the ball is handed off, at that instant, there’s no telling whether or not he is a runner or not, so he loses that protection.

“So, I don’t see that changing. You get the complaints in opposition from those that are running the read option, and those that (don’t) understand the rule probably a little bit more. There’s obviously a push to protect the quarterback, but you have to give the defensive players a chance. All of the quarterback has to do is pull the ball and he’s a runner. How’s the defender going to know if the ball is pulled or not?

“The quarterback gets plenty of protection in the pocket and he picks up protection out of the pocket, he’s got protection down the field on his slides. The read-option posture, I think everybody is clear as to the rule. It didn’t look right, but the Bradford hit, it was a legal hit according to the rules.”

—The Miami Dolphins are making contingency plans in case the hurricane hits South Florida next week.

The Dolphins held discussions about next week’s practices ahead of their season opener against the Washington Redskins on Sept. 13.

The team said it could move practice to an undisclosed location on Monday and Tuesday with Tropical Storm Erika expected to turn into a hurricane and possibly hit South Florida on Monday. It’s too early to tell whether South Florida will get a direct hit.

“We’ve discussed a couple different scenarios,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin told the Miami Herald on Thursday. “We’ll be ready if we need to. Everything is on the table. We have to get our team ready to play in the regular season.”

—New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been named the successor to Troy Polamalu as the new pitchman for the Head & Shoulders shampoo brand.

Polamalu was the face — or rather his famous hair was — behind Procter & Gamble’s marketing efforts for the past six years. He announced his retirement in April to end a stellar 12-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Beckham, with his two-toned black-and-blond hair, got the call to kick off the season as their newest hair ambassador, the Cincinnati-based company announced Friday.

“I don’t think my hair is as good as Troy’s,” Beckham told ESPN.com. “But hopefully I can one day live up to his reputation.”


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