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NFL notebook: Kraft calls Deflategate ‘most overblown story’


The Sports Xchange

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft calls Deflategate the “most overblown story in recent NFL history.”

The 74-year-old Kraft mentioned the scandal at Patriots Premiere, the team foundation’s annual gala in Foxborough, Mass., on Tuesday night.

“I spoke on behalf of the team and addressed the organization’s position regarding, in my opinion, the most overblown story in recent NFL history,” Kraft said.

Quarterback Tom Brady, at the center of the saga, also was in attendance and spoke publicly for just the second time since the deflated-football controversy arose.

Brady referenced Deflategate, joking, “Yeah, it’s been such an enjoyable offseason.”

—Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III turned to his faith in commenting for the first time since losing his starting job to Kirk Cousins.

Griffin, who was benched to a backup role Monday, wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning: “Though we all face obstacles in life, I encourage you to lean on God throughout & remember his promise Jeremiah 29:11.”

During the team’s kickoff luncheon Wednesday, Griffin was given the team’s military service award for the second straight year. Griffin is the son of two U.S. Army sergeants.

Griffin pledged that he will “be there” for his teammates.

“In the military the one thing you have is your word and I gave my word to my teammates and the military that I will be there for them,” Griffin said.

—Eddie DeBartolo Jr., former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, has been selected as a finalist for the Class of 2016, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Wednesday.

It is the fourth time in five years that DeBartolo has been a Hall of Fame finalist. He also was a finalist in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

DeBartolo’s five Super Bowl titles are the most by an owner in NFL history. Under DeBartolo’s 23-year ownership (1977-2000), the 49ers won 13 division titles and had 16 straight 10-win seasons.

—New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis isn’t expected to be back in the lineup until at least October after undergoing hip surgery.

NFL Network first reported Lewis injured his hip. Without their No. 1 cornerback, the Saints will need more from free-agent acquisition Brandon Browner.

It also means CFL product Delvin Breaux could be a starter Week 1 in a secondary that has been pelted by injuries this summer.

—Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones reportedly will require surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left ankle.

Jones, 29, was injured against the St. Louis Rams last weekend and received several opinions on the ankle this week, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday.

Jones signed a five-year, $33 million contract with the Colts last year but played in just nine games due to a high ankle sprain.

—A day after he was surprisingly released by the Cleveland Browns, defensive tackle Phil Taylor met with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers are among eight teams interested in the 2011 first-round pick, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported. The Sports Xchange confirmed the visit.

Taylor, 27, had asked to be released by the Browns after first-round rookie Danny Shelton emerged as the starter at his position.

—Former Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson blames general manager Doug Whaley for releasing him following nine years with the team.

Jackson thanked fans for their support on Tuesday but said Whaley wasn’t honest with him. Whaley said Monday he spoke with owner Terry Pegula before making the decision and stressed at a brief press conference about the Jackson transaction that “everyone was on board.”

“He wasn’t honest with me the entire time that I’ve known him,” Jackson told the Buffalo News. “I have the utmost respect for the organization. There’s only one person in that organization that I haven’t gotten honesty from, and that was him.”

—The Carolina Panthers signed quarterback Derek Anderson to a two-year contract extension.

Anderson, 32, is now under contract with the Panthers through the 2017 season. Anderson is currently playing on a two-year, $2.6 million contract that he signed in March 2014. He is set to earn a base salary of $1.175 million this year.

In his 11th NFL season, Anderson joined the Panthers prior to the 2011 season and has served as the team’s primary backup quarterback to Cam Newton.

—The Chicago Bears acquired tight end Khari Lee in a trade with the Houston Texans for a 2017 sixth-round draft pick.

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Lee entered the NFL this season as an undrafted free agent out of Bowie State. Collegiately, Lee played in 40 games, compiling 107 receptions for 1,255 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bears also waived tight end Blake Annen, who appeared in five games during his 2014 rookie season for Chicago.

—Lance Briggs, longtime linebacker for the Bears, said he is ready to call it quits.

Briggs, 34, is a free agent, but he has decided to join CSN Chicago full time as an analyst for Bears games.

Briggs was a seven-time Pro Bowl player in 12 seasons in Chicago. But he had played in just 17 games the past two years due to injuries. He finished as the No. 2 tackler in Bears history.

“I’m really happy with my career and with the way it’s gone,” Briggs said on the Cubs broadcast. “I’m happy I can walk away healthy.”

—Veteran NFL linebacker Larry Foote is retiring from playing and will remain as coach of the Arizona Cardinals’ inside linebackers.

Foote, 35, told ESPN on Wednesday that he has opted against playing a 14th season.

Foote played in 187 games over 13 years for the Pittsburgh Steelers (2002-08 and 2010-13), Detroit Lions (2009) and Arizona (2014).

—Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, released by the Cardinals earlier this week, signed with the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday.

The Raiders waived linebacker Horace Miller to accommodate Alexander on the 75-man roster.

Alexander, 32, had played the past two years for Arizona. He made 13 tackles and a sack in 16 games last season. The Cardinals cut him Tuesday.

—The New England Patriots claimed wide receiver DaVaris Daniels off waivers from the Minnesota Vikings.

Daniels, 22, was originally signed by Minnesota as a rookie free agent out of Notre Dame on May 6. The 6-foot-1, 201-pounder was released by the Vikings on Sunday.

Daniels didn’t play in 2014 because of an investigation into academic misconduct at Notre Dame. He had 46 catches for 720 yards and seven touchdowns during the 2013 season and had one catch for the Vikings in the preseason.

—The New York Giants re-signed kicker Chris Boswell to handle the kicking duties in the preseason finale.

Boswell was in training camp with the team before he was waived on Aug. 16.

Boswell will be the Giants’ kicker on Thursday night against the New England Patriots in place of Josh Brown, who suffered a bruised leg two weeks ago when he made a tackle against Jacksonville.

—The Atlanta Falcons re-signed offensive lineman Eric Lefeld and waived wide receiver Bernard Reedy.

The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Lefeld was signed by the Falcons as a college free agent following the 2015 NFL Draft. He was cut Sunday.

The 5-9, 175-pound Reedy was signed by the Falcons as a college free agent out of Toledo following the 2014 draft. He spent the 2014 season on the Falcons’ practice squad.

—The Minnesota Vikings placed quarterback Mike Kafka on season-ending injured reserve.

The Vikings had waived Kafka, who had a hamstring injury, earlier this week as they cut their roster to 75 players.

Kakfa, 28, was drafted in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010 but has not played in an NFL game since 2011. He has had brief stints with the New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Vikings signed him in April.

—Lawrence Phillips, a former first-round NFL running back, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his cellmate at a California prison.

Phillips, 40, is suspected of killing 37-year-old Damion Soward at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, Calif., in April. Officials determined Soward was strangled.

The Kern County district attorney’s office said Phillips faces a first-degree murder charge. He will be arraigned Sept. 15 at Kern County Superior Court in Bakersfield but will not face the death penalty, prosecuting attorney Andrea Bridges told USA Today Sports on Tuesday.

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