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Baltimore Ravens sign Donte Sylencieux, high school teammate of QB Lamar Jackson

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It may be graduation season, but the Baltimore Ravens have a high school reunion planned for quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Wide receiver Donte Sylencieux, one of nine undrafted rookies signed by the Ravens on Thursday, was Jackson’s favorite target when they played at Boynton Beach High School in Florida. Sylencieux caught 10 touchdown passes in two seasons with Jackson.

Sylencieux totaled 59 catches in three seasons at Graceland University — an NAIA school in Iowa – and is considered a long shot to make the Ravens. Baltimore selected two wide receivers in this year’s draft, including first-rounder Rashod Bateman, and added Sammy Watkins in free agency.

The Ravens are doing and saying all the right things lately as they pursue a lucrative extension with Jackson. General manager Eric DeCosta said the team would work “tirelessly” after the draft to get a new deal done with Jackson, and he recently told the team’s website that Jackson is “the kind of guy you’d be very proud of to have as a son.”

This isn’t the first time the Ravens have reunited Jackson with one of his former wide receivers. In 2019, the Ravens signed Jaylen Smith, Jackson’s top target at Louisville, as an undrafted rookie. Smith was cut before the regular season that year.

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Coach Reich ‘still a part’ of Carson Wentz’s first Colts camp, despite COVID-19 absence – Indianapolis Colts Blog

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WESTFIELD, Ind. — Carson Wentz took the field for his first training camp as the new starting quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday morning.

But a significant piece was missing — the same piece that played an instrumental part in the quarterback being traded to Indianapolis from Philadelphia.

Head coach Frank Reich.

Reich won’t be there in person during the early portion of training camp to talk to Wentz in between series in practice, applaud him for making the right read on a throw or for throwing the ball away instead of taking a sack, or to give him any guidance on anything else that may come up in practices.

And what Reich missed on Wednesday was a quarterback feeling like it was Christmas morning.

“I was telling (offensive coordinator Marcus) Brady I’m a little amped, I have to tone it down a little bit,” Wentz said. “It feels like the first day of school a little bit, coming out here, beautiful setting for training camp. You have farm lands all around you. My type of place.”

Wentz, the rest of his teammates and the entire coaching staff will spend at least the first few days of training camp preparing for the start of the regular season without their head coach. Reich is currently away from the team after testing positive for COVID-19 late last week. He said in a statement Monday that he’s fully vaccinated and asymptomatic. There is no set timetable for when Reich will return to the team. The Colts will practice four straight days before taking a day off Sunday. The hope is that Reich will be back by at least Aug. 2.

The pandemic has been around for more than 16 months, but this is the first time that Reich will spend time away from the team due to COVID-19. Special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone missed some time, including a game, due to it last season.

“It’s going to be tough without the head coach,” receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “He’s being involved. He’s at home recovering.”

Duties in Reich’s absence will be divided up, as general manager Chris Ballard said they will not name an interim head coach for the time being. Duties will be split up pretty evenly between Ventrone, Brady and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

“Bubba is a little more free during practice, so he’ll handle some of the practice duties,” Ballard said. “Frank is still a part of it. With everything we learned a year ago with Zoom, he’s still involved. He’s in meetings through Zoom, he’ll be in team meetings through Zoom. We have staff meetings every morning, and he is in constant contact with everybody. We just keep moving forward.”

Brady, who is in his first year as offensive coordinator of the Colts, handled the post-practice media session that Reich routinely does. Eberflus will address the media Thursday.

Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner understands what Reich is going through. He said it was “terrible” and he was “frustrated” having to miss a game while being stuck at home due to COVID-19 last season.

“Sent him a text a couple of days saying he was in mine and my wife’s prayers,” Buckner said. “I know the type of guy he is, I know he’s frustrated, not being able to be out here physically with the team, kicking off the season. I’ve been in his shoes. It’s very frustrating.”

Not having Reich for the start of another training camp with a new quarterback in Wentz isn’t ideal no matter how you look at it because he is the head coach and the team’s offensive playcaller.

The good thing — if you want to say there’s anything good about Reich’s absence — is that he already has a two-year relationship with Wentz, when he was the offensive coordinator during the quarterback’s first two years in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles (2016-17).

“He tunes into every meeting,” Wentz said. “We talk individually or as a position group. He’s just as involved as he can. I know it’s killing him not being out here. He’s doing well. He’s doing everything he can to be a part of it.”

Brady, the first-time NFL offensive coordinator, has been on Reich’s staff since Reich became head coach in 2018. And Reich, even though he is the offensive playcaller, has never been overbearing with his coaching staff. It also helps that the Colts have the majority of their offensive starters back from last season’s team that went 11-5 and reached the playoffs.

“I don’t think it’ll be any different,” running back Nyheim Hines said. “First of all, Frank is a very laid-back guy. He’s not hands on, so he’s laid back, very quiet. … Our draft class has a lot of leaders on this team. We’re going to hold it down for Frank. We’re going to give him something to be excited about when he comes back.

“We know we’re losing our leader, but we have a lot of other leaders on this team and we’re going to be asked to step up.”

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Joe Burrow puts injury out of his mind as Bengals try to be cautious – Cincinnati Bengals Blog

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CINCINNATI — Of all the things that happened during the Cincinnati Bengals‘ first practice of training camp on Wednesday, one development mattered more than anything.

Joe Burrow felt great.

A black brace supporting Burrow’s surgically-repaired left knee was the only indicator that the quarterback was a little more than eight months removed from a season-ending injury. Aside from that, Burrow went through all the usual motions that indicate the regular season is a few weeks away.

He lined up under center. He participated in 11-on-11 drills. He rolled out of the pocket with no issues. Burrow gave every indicator that he was close to full strength, which he indicated before Wednesday’s practice.

“It feels almost 100%,” Burrow said. “At this point, I’m not even really thinking about it.”

Throughout the offseason, the 2020 top overall draft pick said he was on track to start on Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings. He participated in every organized team activity and in a one-day minicamp while he waited to get full clearance from his medical team. That came earlier in July, when he was authorized to resume all football activities.

Earlier this week, team owner and president Mike Brown indicated that Burrow would not participate in the three-game preseason. Third-year coach Zac Taylor echoed those sentiments on Wednesday.

“We’ll look at everything, every scenario about what would we gain out of it,” Taylor said. “If we’re going to put him out there, what exactly is that going to look like? Can we control it or not control it? We don’t have to make that decision today.”

Burrow, however, has a different idea. He said he wants to get a few snaps to feel the rush and even get hit a couple of times. And as beneficial as it might be for his rehab progress, feeling the contact has always been an indicator that football season was on the horizon.

“It doesn’t really feel like football until you get hit a little bit,” Burrow said. “That’s how it’s been for me since eighth grade. In scrimmages, I was always lobbying to be live. That’s how it’s always been. It’s just what I need to feel ready for Week 1.”

Fortunately for all the members of Bengals ownership who were watching practice, Burrow never came close to getting hit. He was perfect in 7-on-7 drills, the highlight a completion to rookie Ja’Marr Chase down the sideline with Chase dragging his feet before he went out of bounds.

The low point was on a type of movement Burrow said he lacked confidence in during OTAs. Toward the end of Wednesday’s practice, Burrow started right before he rolled back to his left to look for an open receiver. Linebacker Jordan Evans batted Burrow’s pass into the air in what could have been an interception.

Aside from that throw, Burrow showed all the progress of someone gearing up for a big second season in the NFL. Burrow completed 65.3% of his passes for 2,688 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions before he was injured.

He said he’s a better all-around player than he was a year ago, and he’s excited to show everyone the improvements.

On Wednesday, Burrow exuded confidence — in his knee, his rehab process and his abilities. He still needs to prove to himself he can make some of the plays he made as a rookie. But at the start of training camp, there was no apprehension.

“I’m just ready to go out and play some football,” Burrow said.

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Arizona Cardinals put J.J. Watt on PUP list with sore hamstring

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals pass-rusher J.J. Watt was put on the physically unable to perform list Wednesday after experiencing soreness in his hamstring after Tuesday’s conditioning test that kicked off his first training camp.

The injury kept Watt out of Wednesday’s practice, the Cardinals’ first of camp, and he said he didn’t expect to practice Thursday, as well. He later said he didn’t know when he’d be back on the field.

“We’re gonna take it very slow and be very smart about it,” Watt said. “I mean, it’s a hamstring, obviously, so you want to be very smart. Take your time.”

Watt said his goal is to be healthy for the Cardinals’ Week 1 game at the Tennessee Titans.

“Being in the league 10 years and the biggest thing that I know is that it’s all about Week 1, so it’s all about being ready for Sept. 12 and just making sure that we’re taking a smart, smooth approach to that day,” he said.

Watt, 32, signed with the Cardinals in early March after playing the first 10 years of his career with the Houston Texans.

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