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NFL OTA roundup: Most news is off field

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More than half the NFL was scheduled open this week’s organized team activities (OTAs) on Monday, but the overriding theme of the day was not what took place on the field.

Highlights of the day included a field trip by the Buffalo Bills, a rainout for the Philadelphia Eagles, and injuries that kept New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Miami Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis on the sideline.

Bills coach Rex Ryan took his entire team to Jim Kelly’s charity golf tournament, which will count as one of the OTA days.

Kelly, a Hall of Fame quarterback, announced at his annual charity gala in Buffalo on Sunday night that the Bills would attend the golf outing in Batavia, N.Y.

Kelly expressed his gratitude for everything Ryan and Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula have done for his former team.

“I see what the Pegulas have brought here, I see what Rex Ryan has done with this team,” Kelly said. “I was just at practice on Friday. The enthusiasm that I saw from the players, it had me pumped up.”

Ryan has a reputation of being a players’ coach.

“He gets it,” Kelly said when talking about Ryan giving the team the day off.

Here is a closer look at other teams that began this week’s OTAs Monday:

–Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins also will be without kicker Caleb Sturgis for the rest of the spring, possibly including the June 16-18 minicamp. He has a bruise on his left (non-kicking) thigh.

It is notable that Sturgis was 28th among NFL kickers for field-goal accuracy at 78.4 percent last season (29-for-37). While he recovers, Sturgis will be replaced by rookie kicker Andrew Franks, who attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, N.Y.

This isn’t a good thing for Sturgis, who struggled throughout his two seasons in the NFL. He hit only 76.5 percent (26-for-34) of his field-goal attempts as a rookie, and he battled a groin injury last year in training camp. The combination of unreliability in health and in kicking obviously doesn’t solidify his pro future.

On the field, the Dolphins focused on takeaways and red-zone play on both offense and defense. Just as it was in games last year, both sides of the ball did not look good in Monday’s workout.

That should lead to some humorous remarks, or observations, considering coach Joe Philbin was trying to improve and evaluate those units with a matchup between a bad offense and bad defense in the red zone.

One who did stand out was cornerback Tony Lippett. The former college wide receiver showed his catching ability by intercepting three passes.

Maybe he should also be on the field when the offense is the red zone.

–New York Giants: Punter Steve Weatherford, whose favorite superhero is Superman, was able to play that role himself after traveling to California to be with his wife, Laura, for the birth of their fourth child, daughter Josie Jaclyn.

Although raising four children might test a parent’s limits, that was not Weatherford’s super-human feat.

When rain prevented air travel to get back for OTAs on time, Weatherford rented a car. When it spun out of control and crashed in a deep puddle, Weatherford extricated himself from the smashed rental, then helped an injured motorist from another mangled vehicle.

At the Giants’ OTA in East Rutherford, N.J., it became obvious that second-year wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was very limited in workouts. Beckham was bothered by a sore hamstring that limited him in last week’s OTAs, coach Tom Coughlin confirmed.

Coughlin said it was not the same hamstring that sidelined Beckham early last season. After earning 2014 offensive Rookie of the Year and a spot in the Pro Bowl, Beckham said he played last season with pulled or torn hamstrings.

–San Diego Chargers: Offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, who had troubles as the starting right tackle last year, is willing — and hopefully able — to play any position this year as the team rebuilds its front wall.

“It doesn’t matter where I play,” Fluker said. “Just so I’m part of the team. Being a team player is most important.”

The Chargers imported a lineman from Denver, Orlando Franklin. He plays guard but also has seen time at tackle.

In workouts this year, Franklin is taking reps at tackle with Fluker moving to guard. However, the Chargers are notorious for trying every lineman at every position, and after employing five starting centers last year, that is understandable.

Fluker attacked the offseason with mad workouts, including running at least two miles a day, and he is on a diet customized to help him maximize his ability.

–Denver Broncos: Quarterback Peyton Manning, linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and guard Louis Vasquez were just the headliners of a slew of Broncos first-teamers who sat out Monday’s workouts.

In the case of linebackers Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan, the rest was a result of their continued rehabilitation from injuries. For the others, it was all about getting the younger players some additional repetitions.

“I like the tempo of practice,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “There’s always mistakes, but we practiced a lot better with our young players today than we did last week.”

Kubiak said he had days like this when he coached the Houston Texans, but he planned to emphasize rest more after seeing how the Baltimore Ravens worked their young players into offseason and training-camp work. Given the Ravens’ success at cultivating young talent, the philosophy seems to work, and it could pay dividends in Denver.

Meanwhile, even further away from the field, the Broncos reportedly signed first-round pass rusher Shane Ray.

The deal is worth about $9 million over four years, including a $4.8 million signing bonus, the Denver Post reported.

The Broncos drafted Ray 23rd overall, moving up five spots in a trade with the Detroit Lions to take the Missouri linebacker as he slid down the first round due to a citation for marijuana possession the week before the draft. Denver sent two fifth-round picks and center Manny Ramirez to the Lions for the No. 23 pick.

–Jacksonville Jaguars: Running back Toby Gerhart’s career is not going exactly as planned.

The runner-up for the 2009 Heisman Trophy envisioned the type of success he enjoyed at Stanford. The Minnesota Vikings thought the same when they traded up with the Houston Texans to draft Gerhart in the second round (51st overall) in 2010.

While the thinking was Gerhart could spell Adrian Peterson with little noticeable difference, it didn’t work out that way. Gerhart’s best year with the Vikings was in 2011, when he rushed for 531 yards. When he became a free agent after the 2013 season, Gerhart was ready for a new look.

When it appeared that the Jaguars weren’t going to bring back Maurice Jones-Drew, Gerhart jumped at the chance to be the featured running back in Jacksonville. He signed a three-year deal worth $10.5 million, but he was injured almost all of last season.

In five seasons, he has 1,631 yards, a total he probably envisioned for a single season.

Still, he is optimistic heading into the 2015 season.

“I’m much more comfortable running the inside zone, the gap scheme and occasionally stretching to the outside zone,” Gerhart said. “Last year, the emphasis was the outside zone: Initially take the corner until you can’t. I was a little surprised, and it was a little different than what I anticipated coming into last year.”

To add more competition to the position, the Jaguars drafted running back T.J. Yeldon with the 37th overall pick this year. Yeldon rushed for more than 1,100 yards in his first two seasons at Alabama before finishing with 979 his final year.

–Arizona Cardinals: Offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, the team’s first round draft pick, signed a four-year contract.

Humphries, drafted No. 24 overall, received a four-year deal worth $8.9 million, including a signing bonus of $4.74 million, according to Aaron Wilson of National Football Post.

Humphries, 21, is slated to work behind right tackle Bobby Massie and left tackle Jared Veldheer.


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