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NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith says it’s in players’ best interests to sit out voluntary workouts

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NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said it is the union’s position that it is in the best interest of players to not participate in voluntary offseason workouts.

“I think what a lot of players have said that they’ve heard from their coaches is that they need to show up,” Smith said Saturday on SportsCenter. “We’ve known for years that this is a voluntary workout where a lot of coaches put their finger on the scale and, while they call it voluntary, they expect players to show up.

“I think that what you’re seeing now is for the first time players exercising their voice … to say ‘no.’ And frankly it’s probably one of the few times that coaches have ever heard players say ‘no.’ And for some players, it’s probably the first time they’ve said ‘no’ to their coach.”

Smith’s comments come as players from nearly half of the league’s 32 teams having announced they won’t participate in voluntary offseason workouts.

On Wednesday, the league issued a memo to all 32 teams announcing that the first four weeks of the voluntary program will be virtual before transitioning to in person at the teams’ respective training facilities. Last year, the offseason programs were all done virtually and training camp was pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith said the net positives seen last year outweigh a return to the status quo.

“This is a negotiated, bargained for, voluntary offseason workout where if someone came to you or me and said, ‘I have a way of cutting concussions by 30% and I know a way to decrease missed time to injuries by 23%’ I would think that almost everyone would wholeheartedly embrace that whether it was voluntary or not.”

While players from 15 teams have announced via the NFLPA that they won’t take part in the voluntary workouts, those decisions have not been unanimous. More than 200 players have clauses in their contracts tied to attendance at team workouts.

Smith noted that neither he nor the union has an issue with players showing up for the workouts, which are slated to begin next week at team facilities.

“I think it’s important for players to make their own decisions, not only as professionals, not only as a way of taking ownership of their own healthcare, but making their own decision as a man,” Smith said.

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Jacksonville Jaguars waive RB Ryquell Armstead

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars waived running back Ryquell Armstead, who missed the entire 2020 season because of complications related to COVID-19.

Armstead, 24, was twice placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last season. He spent 19 days on the list the first time, then dealt with a groin injury and another illness before going back on the list. Players are placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list if they test positive for the virus or have been in close contact with someone who has.

Armstead was a fifth-round pick in 2019 and ran for 108 yards on 35 carries as a rookie. He was likely to have a larger role on offense last season with the team’s decision to cut Leonard Fournette, but undrafted rookie James Robinson went on to win the starting job and ran for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns, and catch 49 passes for 344 yards and three TDs.

The Jaguars drafted former Clemson running back Travis Etienne 25th overall last month.

Also on Monday, the Jaguars announced they’ve signed sixth-round draft pick Jalen Camp, a wide receiver from Georgia Tech.

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San Francisco 49ers sign receiver Marqise Lee after tryout

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The San Francisco 49ers signed veteran wide receiver Marqise Lee to a one-year contract Monday after he tried out for the team at its rookie minicamp over the weekend.

He caught passes from 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance on Friday during the portion of practice open to the media. The 49ers waived wide receiver Austin Proehl on Monday to fit Lee on their 90-man roster.

Lee, 29, opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic after signing with the New England Patriots as a free agent. The Patriots released him in March.

The 2014 second-round draft choice out of USC spent the first six years of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, having signed a four-year contract worth $34 million in March 2018. But he played in only six games after signing that big deal, having missed the 2018 season after suffering a torn ACL, MCL and PCL in his left knee during the preseason.

He joins a 49ers wide receiver depth chart led by Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Richie James that currently includes Trent Sherfield, Jalen Hurd, Travis Benjamin and Mohamed Sanu, among others.

Lee has 174 catches for 2,184 yards and eight touchdowns in 59 career games.

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Denver Broncos add Minnesota Vikings’ Kelly Kleine to front office in historic scouting hiring

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The Denver Broncos have hired Kelly Kleine as the executive director of football operations and special advisor to general manager George Paton, the team announced Monday.

Kleine, 30, is believed to be the highest-ranking female scouting executive ever with an NFL team.

“Kelly is a rising star in the NFL, and we’re fortunate to add someone of her caliber to the Denver Broncos,” Paton said in a statement announcing the news. “Having worked with her for nine years in Minnesota, Kelly has a strong understanding of all aspects of football operations and player evaluation along with outstanding leadership qualities. She will be a tremendous resource with her experience on the pro and college sides as well as her knowledge of our grading scale and football calendar.”

Kleine will be the primary liaison for the team’s football operations and oversee various areas of the pro and college scouting departments, including player evaluation and preparation for the NFL draft and free agency. She will also oversee the Broncos video and equipment departments.

Kleine spent 10 seasons in Minnesota where she most recently served as the manager of player personnel and was also a college scout. The Wisconsin native got her start in the NFL as a public relations intern with the Vikings in 2012, while finishing her undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota. She entered the scouting department as an administration intern in 2013 before becoming a scouting assistant in 2014 before being promoted to the team’s college scouting coordinator from 2015-18.

As the manager of player personnel/college scout, Kleine scouted the Midwest region and was the liaison between all off-site scouts and the front office. Her job in scouting carried operations responsibilities in Minnesota where she scheduled and facilitated predraft visits as well as interviews for the Vikings at the annual scouting combine.

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