ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders have been searching for a prototypical middle linebacker for their 4-3 base defense since the NFL suspended Vontaze Burfict for the remainder of the season after Week 4.
They believe they have found one in Preston Brown, unemployed since last Tuesday after the Cincinnati Bengals cut him nine games into the three-year, $16.5 million contract ($4.8M guaranteed) he signed there this offseason.
The Raiders, who are 6-4 and riding a three-game winning streak into playoff contention, signed Brown to a one-year deal Monday and reportedly will be on the hook for the remainder of his base salary, estimated to be about $400,000.
“He’s 27 years old,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said of Brown. “We really liked him coming out of Louisville. He had [four] straight 100-tackle seasons as a Buffalo Bill, went to Cincinnati and, obviously, things didn’t work out.
“But he has the intangibles, first of all, that you look for in a middle linebacker. He’s charismatic, he’s intelligent, a physical guy, football junkie and he’s been productive in the league. We’ll put him in the room with [linebackers coach David] Lippincot and [defensive coordinator Paul] Guenther and see if he can get caught up quickly and we’ll try to fast-track him.”
The Bills selected Brown in the third round (No. 73 overall) of the 2014 draft. He led the NFL with 144 tackles in 2017. And he had 54 tackles with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in nine games (eight starts) for the Bengals this season.
With so many injuries, the Raiders have added defensive pieces over the past few weeks in linebacker Will Compton, safety D.J. Swearinger and edge rusher Dion Jordan. All three played key roles on Oakland’s 17-10 defeat of the Bengals on Sunday.
In the corresponding roster move, the Raiders placed return specialist/receiver Dwayne Harris on season-ending injured reserve. He has been limited to only three games with ankle and foot issues.
Patriots re-sign veteran kicker Nick Folk after appendectomy
The move was expected after the Patriots waived Kai Forbath on Monday and were left with no kickers on the roster.
Forbath was signed to replace Folk, who had an appendectomy last week. In Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans, Forbath went 1-for-2 on extra points and made a 23-yarder on his only field goal attempt.
Folk, who was released after having the procedure, had a locker still set up in the Patriots’ facility, and the expectation was that he could return to the team later in the season. The 12th-year player has made 7 of 9 field goals (77.8%) in three games for the Patriots and is 3-for-3 on extra point attempts.
Forbath was New England’s fourth kicker of the season. Stephen Gostkowski, who was in his 14th season with the Patriots, was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Oct. 2 and had surgery for a left hip injury.
The Patriots first signed Mike Nugent to take Gostkowski’s place, but he was ineffective, missing 3 of 8 field goal attempts and one PAT in four games. Nugent was released Oct. 29 and the Patriots brought in Folk.
New England waived defensive tackle Albert Huggins to make room to sign Folk.
Lions fined $110,000 for not updating Matthew Stafford’s status
MINNEAPOLIS — The Detroit Lions and members of its football operations were fined $110,000 total for not properly updating the injury status of quarterback Matthew Stafford before the Nov. 10 game against the Chicago Bears — the first game Stafford missed since the start of the 2011 season.
The NFL fined the Lions as an organization $75,000, along with head coach Matt Patricia $25,000 and general manager Bob Quinn $10,000, for the way they handled Stafford on the injury report. Stafford had fractured bones in his back in the loss to Oakland on Nov. 3 and while he practiced all week, he was listed as questionable on the Friday injury report ahead of the game against the Bears.
Detroit never updated Stafford’s status to being out, even though by Saturday he was being labeled by reports as a game-time decision and then ruled out Sunday morning. Multiple players then told ESPN and other outlets they were informed Saturday that Stafford would not be able to play, leading to more questions about how the franchise handled the reporting of Stafford’s injury.
After Detroit’s loss to Chicago, Patricia said “it was unsafe” for Stafford to play, but declined to get into specifics about the timeline at the time — a timeline that remained murky in the days after the game as questions persisted about the timing of the injury.
On Monday, the day after the game, he offered a little more clarity, including saying he told the team Saturday night to prepare for all options.
“I would say the timeline for us was when we got to Chicago late Saturday night, got done with meetings, I think at that point in time that I just knew he wouldn’t start,” Patricia said. “And out of respect for him and everything that he’s done for this organization, I just wanted to leave the option open when we got to Sunday if he wanted to dress.”
The NFL policy states, “if, prior to the team’s arrival at the stadium on game day, an event occurs that causes the club to decide that a player will not start or will not play, the club must update its Game Status Report.”
The Lions never updated the status of Stafford. Stafford, 31, has not practiced or played since that time and Patricia said earlier this week they have not put Stafford on injured reserve out of respect for him and his toughness. Stafford said if he is able, he would still like to play in 2019.
Jets RB Le’Veon Bell ill, won’t play vs. Dolphins
Bell became ill this week, the team said, and he didn’t practice Thursday and Friday, when he was listed as questionable. Coach Adam Gase didn’t give any specifics as to the nature of the illness.
“He’s sick, probably the same thing that is going around a lot of these other teams,” Gase said. “[The] biggest thing was getting him checked out and then get him out of the building so nobody else gets sick.”
This will be Bell’s first missed game with the Jets. He had been durable, if not productive. Statistically, this has been the worst season of his career, as he’s rushed for only 589 yards, three touchdowns and a career-low 3.2 average.
Last week was particularly frustrating for Bell, who had only 10 carries in a 22-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract in free agency. He drew interest at the trading deadline, and there’s a chance the Jets could move him in the offseason.
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