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Sources — Lions agree to deals with LBs Reggie Ragland, Elijah Lee



Linebacker Reggie Ragland has agreed to terms with the Detroit Lions, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Friday.

The Lions also agreed to a one-year deal with linebacker Elijah Lee on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, confirming a report by the Detroit News.

The additions of Ragland and Lee, along with the signing of Jamie Collins and release of team captain Devon Kennard last week, signal a major shift in the Lions’ linebacker room. At the very least, Detroit is trying to find added competition for a group that often struggled on one of the league’s worst defenses last season.

Jarrad Davis, the team’s first-round pick in 2017, is likely to be pushed by Ragland for his role in the middle along with last year’s second-round pick, Jahlani Tavai. The signing of Lee could put more pressure on veteran special-teams players Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Steve Longa as well as Jason Cabinda, who was called up from the practice squad late last year to fill a special-teams role.

Ragland, who turns 27 in September, became a part-time player after the Kansas City Chiefs switched to a 4-3 base defense last season. After being a healthy scratch in the first two games of the season, Ragland started seven of the next 14. He also started Super Bowl LIV against the 49ers.

He joined the Chiefs in a trade with the Buffalo Bills before the 2017 season and was a full-time starter for Kansas City over two seasons. In three seasons, the linebacker had 160 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a fumble recovery, an interception and a defensive touchdown.

The 2016 second-round pick out of Alabama was with the Bills for just one season, but he never played in a regular-season game in Buffalo after he tore his ACL in training camp and was placed on injured reserve.

Primarily a special-teams player, Lee played 40 percent or more of special-teams snaps every year he was with the 49ers. He also started five games for San Francisco in 2018.

ESPN’s Michael Rothstein and Adam Teicher contributed to this report.

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Cowboys DE Aldon Smith ‘still feels great’ despite layoff



Aldon Smith has not played in an NFL game since Nov. 10, 2015 with the Oakland Raiders, but the Dallas Cowboys defensive end does not believe his absence will impact his ability to rush the passer in his 2020 return.

“I still feel great,” Smith said Friday in a conference call. “I still feel young. I still can move well. I still have a great knowledge of the game, if not better knowledge of the game. I learned a lot from the guys I played with in California and they taught me a lot of good things.”

Smith, 30, holds the NFL record through the first two seasons of a career (33.5) and he holds the San Francisco 49ers‘ single-season record for sacks in a season (19.5 in 2012) but a series of off-field issues involving the NFL’s substance-abuse and personal conduct policies led to an indefinite suspension. Last week, Smith, who signed a one-year with the Cowboys in April, was granted conditional reinstatement.

He took part in the team’s virtual meetings this week for the first time.

“It has been a journey, indeed, and a journey I’m grateful for,” Smith said. “I’ve had time to really work on myself and take advantage of all the support and things that have been offered to me. The way I look at where I am now to who I was in the past, I was a young teenage boy in a man’s body, so a man on the outside but a boy on the inside. The way I handled the issues, life, was in that immature manner and that was feat based and not just handling things the way I should have.

“With the time I’ve had to work on myself, it’s allowed me to grow into the man that I man that I am so the man on the inside fits on how the man on the outside looks.”

Smith said the passing of his grandmother from ALS last year aided in his change. As she struggled with the disease, “she was able to get a message to me that (was) just do better and basically go out there and get what you deserve.”

Smith worked with the group, Merging Veterans and Players, and was in a sober-living environment in Los Angeles since last fall, working out daily. He said his desire to return to the NFL returned quickly once he got better off the field.

“I think I lost my way along the way and I wasn’t sure what my purpose was,” he said. “I know football is one of my many purposes God has put me here for, so once I was able to do some self-reflecting and self-worth, it was like, ‘What am I good at? What am I grateful for? Obviously God has given me this talent and a chance to play and I’m going to give it a shot … because it didn’t finish the way I wanted.”

Smith said other teams had interest in signing him but the addition of Mike McCarthy as head coach and Jim Tomsula as defensive line coach influenced his decision to sign with the Cowboys. He met McCarthy last December in Los Angeles while working out, and Tomsula was his position coach in San Francisco.

“Just seemed like the best fit,” Smith said. “Being with Jim in San Francisco and him being here and then the meeting me and Mike had, the way that that happened, we seemed like we clicked the first time we talked.”

Smith will continue to have a similar off-field infrastructure around him in Dallas in terms of sober living. His agent, Ron Slavin, also lives outside Dallas. The Cowboys have a history of helping players that have had off-field trouble.

On the field, Smith said he weighs 285 pounds, about 15 more than when he last played.

He said he does not want to forget the path that led him to Dallas after such a promising start to his career.

“Because I do understand what that person was going through and just didn’t know or wasn’t ready to handle the tough things that I needed to handle,” Smith said. “To get to where I am now, it gives me a greater appreciation for who I am now. If I was so quick to forget where I came from, I don’t think it would matter as much to me.”

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Niners’ Dee Ford underwent ‘extensive’ knee surgery after Super Bowl LIV



SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After dealing with knee tendinitis that plagued him as far back as last year’s training camp, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Dee Ford made it an offseason priority to fix the issue.

Ford revealed Friday that he underwent a “pretty extensive cleanup” surgery on his left knee in Pensacola, Florida, a couple of weeks after Super Bowl LIV. Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery and Ford has been rehabbing in Alabama since.

“We were spot-on with the injury as far as diagnosing it in training camp,” Ford said. “I had a severe case of tendinitis. … With my position, that’s a blown tire. I feel great right now. I’m able to actually explode off of this knee. Thinking back on it, I can’t believe I played a whole season on it, and we knew at the end of the day what we had to do. It had to be surgical, but I didn’t want to miss the season. We had too much going on. I didn’t want to miss that. It’s in the bag now, though, I’m confident in that.”

Asked what the timeline was on his rehab, Ford demurred, noting that because the tendinitis has been a chronic issue, it’s hard to determine when or if it will return. And because the coronavirus pandemic has forced the offseason to become exclusively virtual, Ford hasn’t had much of a chance to test his knee in football situations.

“Anytime you are dealing with a chronic issue, you are always on the clock,” Ford said. “So if I’m able to play, I’m going to play. As of right now, I’m just getting as healthy as I can. … I know exactly what I felt like last year, [and] doing the things that I’m doing now, it’s like night and day. We’ll just play it by ear once everything gets going. We haven’t really had an offseason, no one has really been in competition, so it’s just really hard to measure where you’re at. So we are going to take it one day at a time and just keep getting this thing as strong as we can possibly get it so we can sack some quarterbacks.”

Previously, Ford has said the knee (and corresponding quadriceps issue) plagued him for many of his previous six seasons in the NFL — perhaps never more so than last season, his first in San Francisco.

In March 2019, The 49ers sent a 2020 second-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for Ford, whom they promptly signed to a five-year, $85 million contract. With Ford in place as their designated speed rusher off the edge and No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa providing a strong bookend on the other side, the Niners envisioned a dominant pass rush.

That mostly was the case. During the regular season, the Niners had 24 sacks on 164 snaps when Bosa and Ford were on the field together. They had 24 sacks on 801 snaps on all other plays.

Ford had 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 11 regular-season games, adding one sacks in three postseason contests. But even when Ford was available to play, he was limited to an average of just 21.9 snaps per game.

As the Niners surged to a 13-3 record and an NFC championship, Ford declined to have the knee worked on so he could attempt to contribute in any way possible. Still, he said the inability to stay on the field was frustrating.

Before the season finale against Seattle with the No. 1 seed in the NFC on the line for the Niners, Ford had re-injured the hamstring that had kept him out for most of December but he offered to play, even if meant playing the role of decoy.

Instead, the Niners continued to rest him in hopes that he’d be more available for a postseason run.

“It was so tough,” Ford said. “When the stage is that big and the stakes are that high, big time players come out in those type of games and the fact that I was missing those opportunities, it definitely hurt. But we sat down as a training staff… and we were all on the same page with ‘we’ve got one shot to do this right’ because we are definitely going to be in the postseason. I had to forget about how I felt and just move forward. It was tough but it was just what we had to do so I could be available for the Vikings and the Super Bowl and all that.”

Moving forward, Ford hopes that the surgery will give him a chance to play a more prominent role on a defensive line that has become the focal point of the team. With defensive tackle DeForest Buckner traded to the Indianapolis Colts, Ford will be expected to replace some of that production even though he plays a different spot on the line.

Before the knee slowed him early last season, Ford said the game was coming to him a bit easier, which he hopes will help if his health holds up.

“For me, I was able to see a lot more, I was a lot more confident, I just wasn’t able to stay out on the field,” Ford said. “So, alleviating that problem is definitely going to put me in an advantageous situation this year. I’m trying to rack up as many sacks and TFLs as I can and help our team get back to the Super Bowl.”

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Melvin Gordon says Chargers home games prepped him for playing with no fans



New Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon said he’s not concerned if fans can’t be in the stands when the NFL season begins because he’s already dealt with it before.

In an interview with former NFL cornerback Marcus Cromartie that was posted Wednesday on Twitter, Gordon said the past three years with the Chargers in Los Angeles prepared him for this.

“Bro, we didn’t have fans anyway,” Gordon said while laughing. “We didn’t have many Chargers fans at the game, I’m just going to be honest. We didn’t have many Chargers fans at the game. Much loyalty, love, but we didn’t have many. So I’m not missing anything.”

Since the start of the 2017 season, the Chargers have been playing in Los Angeles at the Dignity Health Sports Park. Originally built to host soccer matches, the Chargers’ home stadium has an NFL-low capacity of 27,000. Of those in attendance, most at Chargers games were identified as fans of the opposing team while the Chargers began to build a fan base in Los Angeles after moving from San Diego.

The Chargers will begin play this season at SoFi Stadium, a new arena that it will share with the Los Angeles Rams.

Gordon, however, won’t be calling Southern California his football home this season, as he signed a two-year deal with AFC West rival Denver.

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