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Deshaun Watson open to trade destinations besides Miami Dolphins as Carolina Panthers emerge as option



Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, is willing to consider multiple options for a new team as the trade deadline looms, a source told ESPN.

Multiple teams are interested in Watson, and although his interest in joining the Dolphins has become a worst-kept secret of sorts in league circles, the source disputed the notion that it’s simply Miami or bust. Watson will consider potential options as they come, according to the source.

One emerging option is the Carolina Panthers, who are evaluating their pursuit of a franchise quarterback after Sunday’s ugly 25-3 loss to the New York Giants, sources have confirmed to ESPN.

The growing expectation is Carolina could reignite Watson talks soon. Carolina was a serious suitor early in the 2021 offseason before sexual assault allegations against Watson surfaced, but Houston general manager Nick Caserio wasn’t engaging with teams at that time, sources say.

The Athletic first reported the Panthers’ renewed interest in Watson. The NFL trade deadline is Nov. 2 at 4 p.m. ET.

The Panthers traded second-, fourth- and sixth-round draft picks to the New York Jets this past April for Sam Darnold, who has struggled mightily in recent weeks.

Darnold was benched early in the fourth quarter Sunday but will remain Carolina’s starter “going forward,” according to coach Matt Rhule, who said he made the quarterback switch against the Giants because the Panthers “needed somewhat of a spark.”

The benching came three days after Darnold was given a vote of confidence by Rhule, who was asked about the possibility of the Panthers pursuing Watson in a trade. Rhule told reporters Thursday that Darnold “is going to be a great quarterback for the Carolina Panthers” and that he is “not looking anywhere else,” regarding Watson.

One league source told ESPN that the belief is the last-place Dolphins, who fell to 1-6 with Sunday’s loss to the Falcons, do not want to bid against themselves for Watson. Tua Tagovailoa, who likely would be a part of any Watson trade involving the Dolphins, threw a career-high four touchdown passes against Atlanta, but Miami lost its sixth straight game.

Dolphins coach Brian Flores reiterated his support for Tagovailoa last week amid the Watson trade speculation, emphasizing that “Tua is our quarterback.”

The Broncos also have been considered a wild-card contender for Watson, but Denver hasn’t made a major move at this point, according to sources.

Watson, 26, initially requested a trade from the Texans this past January, but his NFL future is uncertain. The three-time Pro Bowler is facing allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior in 22 active lawsuits and has been inactive for Houston’s first seven games this season.

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Chicago Bears great Dan Hampton gets 1-year probation after pleading guilty to drunken driving charge



WINFIELD, Ind. — Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Hampton has been sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to a drunken-driving charge last month in Indiana.

Hampton, 64, had an open jug of wine in his truck and a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit when he was stopped by Winfield police in November. Court records from last month showed he pleaded guilty, which an Indiana judge accepted. Under the plea deal, Hampton must also attend a court-ordered substance abuse program, among other things.

“Mr. Hampton deeply regrets the decision that he made on that particular evening, but he’s accepted responsibility for his actions and he’s looking forward to successfully completing all the terms of his probation,” his lawyer Matt Fech told the Post-Tribune on Monday.

Hampton, who lives in Winfield, was a defensive lineman with the Chicago Bears from 1979 to 1990 and was a member of the Bears’ Super Bowl-winning team in 1985. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002.

He played in college at Arkansas, where he was a two-time Southwestern All-Conference selection and defensive player of the year in his final season.

After retiring, he worked as a TV and radio analyst, including as a host of the “The Hamp & O’B Show” on Chicago’s WGN Radio.

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Seattle Seahawks fire DC Ken Norton Jr., defensive assistant Andre Curtis



The Seattle Seahawks have fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and defensive passing game coordinator Andre Curtis, a significant shake-up to Pete Carroll’s coaching staff on the heels of the team’s worst season in more than a decade.

The Seahawks announced the moves Tuesday.

The 55-year-old Norton, a longtime Carroll assistant, was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator for the past four seasons. The 2021 season typified the mixed-bag nature of his tenure, with the Seahawks finishing fifth worst in yards allowed (379.1 per game) and tied for 11th best in points allowed (21.53).

For the second straight season, Seattle’s defense was gashed at a historic rate early on before rebounding with a strong finish. Carroll mentioned that trend last week while citing several things that went wrong for the Seahawks during a 7-10 season in which they suffered their most losses since 2009, the year before he and general manager John Schneider arrived.

“Defensively, we didn’t start fast enough in this season again,” Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle a day after the Seahawks’ season finale. “That’s two times in a row we didn’t start fast enough, and we found ourselves and put up some good numbers that indicate how you’re playing. Just all of that just didn’t happen soon enough.”

The 2021 team allowed at least 450 yards in four straight games (Weeks 2 through 5), a franchise record and tied for the longest streak in NFL history. The defense got on track after a shake-up at cornerback in which Tre Flowers was benched (he was later released) and D.J. Reed moved back to the right side.

The 2020 team allowed the most passing yards through nine games in league history and topped the previous mark in only eight games. It allowed the fewest points in the NFL over the final seven weeks of that season.

In his end-of-season press conference Jan. 10, Carroll declined to say whether Norton and first-year offensive coordinator Shane Waldron would return.

“I’m not addressing any of that stuff,” he said. “This is that day when a lot happens in the league to coaches. It’s a day that we respect differently than others. Until you’re in it, you can’t really relate to all of the impact of this day. But our coaches worked their tails off. They did a great job. We started our season-ending meetings today, and I’ll get with all of these guys before we get out of here. I’m really proud of the work everybody has done, and I feel fortunate that we are doing this thing together.”

Curtis joined Carroll’s staff in 2015 as an assistant secondary coach in charge of safeties. He was elevated to defensive passing game coordinator in 2018.

Norton, a former Pro Bowl linebacker, played for Carroll in 1994 and 1995 when Carroll was the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator. Norton coached under Carroll for 15 of the previous 18 seasons dating back to their time together at USC.

One question now is whether Carroll will again hire one of his past assistants to run his defense or go outside of his own coaching tree. Dan Quinn, Kris Richard and Norton had all previously worked under Carroll or were already doing so when they became Seattle’s defensive coordinators. Gus Bradley, a holdover from Jim L. Mora’s 2009 staff, was the lone exception among the four defensive coordinators Carroll has had in Seattle.

Clint Hurtt, Seattle’s defensive line coach and assistant head coach, is the highest-ranking defensive assistant on Carroll’s staff.

Carroll brought Norton with him to Seattle from USC in 2010 as the Seahawks’ linebackers coach, the same role he held for the previous six seasons with the Trojans. The Raiders hired Norton as their defensive coordinator in 2015 and fired him midway through the 2017 season. Carroll brought him back to Seattle in 2018 as defensive coordinator after parting with Richard.

That change coincided with the transitioning away from the famed Legion of Boom secondary. Kam Chancellor suffered a career-ending neck injury in 2017 and Richard Sherman was released after that season. Earl Thomas held out during the 2018 offseason and returned only to suffer a broken leg in the fourth game. He then left in free agency.

In four seasons under Norton, the Seahawks ranked 11th, 22nd, 15th and tied for 11th in points allowed. They were 16th, 26th, 22nd and 28th in yards allowed.

The 2021 Seahawks finished 25th in takeaways and tied for 22nd in sacks despite the expectation that their loaded pass rush would be among their biggest strengths. Strong safety Jamal Adams, who set the NFL sack record for a defensive back with 9.5 in 2020, didn’t record a sack this past season while blitzing less often. He landed on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 13.

Norton made three Pro Bowls and was once named a first-team All-Pro during his 13-year NFL playing career. He holds the distinction of being the only player in NFL history to play for three straight Super Bowl winners: the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and ’93 and the 49ers in ’94.

The son of former heavyweight champion Ken Norton Sr., Norton Jr. has said that living through the ups and downs of his father’s boxing career as a kid helped prepare him to handle the scrutiny he has faced when Seattle’s defense has struggled.

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Jacksonville Jaguars special-teamer Lerentee McCray arrested, charged with fleeing police after high-speed pursuit



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Lerentee McCray was arrested in Central Florida early Sunday morning following a high-speed pursuit after police attempted to pull him over, records show.

McCray was booked into the Lake County Jail in Tavares, Florida, just before 8 a.m. ET Sunday and released at 9:11 a.m. after paying a $5,000 bond. He was charged with fleeing/eluding police with disregard of safety to person or property, a second-degree felony, and also issued a citation for speeding, according to the booking report.

“We are aware of the situation and are gathering more information,” the Jaguars said in a statement. “We have no further comment at this time.”

According to a Fruitland Park Police Department report, a patrol officer observed a white Dodge Ram pickup truck traveling at 88 mph in a 50 mph zone just before 1 a.m. local time Sunday. The officer tried to initiate a traffic stop but the driver used “an expletive hand gesture using their middle finger” and continued driving, the report said.

The first officer was joined by a second and they pursued the vehicle at speeds up to 100 mph before calling off the chase because the vehicle was being driven recklessly and swerving across three lanes of traffic, according to the police report.

The FPPD officer was later notified by members of the Tavares Police Department that McCray had come to a stop and appeared to be in an “altered mental status.” He was taken to a local hospital for a medical evaluation.

According to the police report, when McCray was interviewed at the hospital by the FPPD officer who initially tried to pull him over, he acknowledged he was the driver of the vehicle in question and responded, “Oh that was you? My bad.”

After receiving treatment, McCray was arrested and transported to the Lake County Jail. He is scheduled to appear for arraignment on Feb. 14.

McCray has spent the past four seasons with the Jaguars as a core special-teams player and part-time defensive player. He has 37 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 47 games and is scheduled to become a free agent in March.

McCray played two seasons in Denver and one in Buffalo before signing with the Jaguars in 2017.

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