LOS ANGELES (AP) Former NFL All-Pro safety Darren Sharper has been ordered held in jail without bail by a Los Angeles judge, who warned that she would have to free him soon if charges aren't filed against him in a similar case in Louisiana.
Longtime Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley could attract plenty of attention on the open market -- he just needs to get cleared first. That could happen in the coming days with the free agent's next medical scan on deck.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Matt Cassel was one day away from hitting the free agent market and fielding offers from other suitors. Then the Minnesota Vikings swooped in at the last minute.
The Vikings agreed to terms with Cassel on Friday on a deal that will keep him in Minnesota, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because an official announcement had not been made. Terms of the deal, which was first reported by NFL Network, were not immediately available.
The move helps solidify the Vikings' shaky quarterback situation. The team used a musical chairs approach to the position last season, rotating Christian Ponder and Cassel, and even starting Josh Freeman for one game during a miserable 5-10-1 season. Cassel was by far the most effective of the three, going 3-3 in his six starts and being on the field at the end of all five of the team's victories.
He completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 1,807 yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions after signing as a free agent from the Kansas City Chiefs. But he opted out of the final year of his two-year deal in February, and there was concern Cassel would choose to move to another team after he was forced to split time with the ineffective Ponder.
New head coach Mike Zimmer said Thursday he "would love to have Matt Cassel back if Matt Cassel wants to be back." But the coach was also bracing for the likelihood Cassel would at least test free agency before giving the Vikings an answer.
"He's got a bunch of pretty girls looking at him right now," Zimmer said then. "And he wants to explore and see what's best for him. I don't blame any of these guys. In free agency, I think that's why they have the rules is that they get a chance to go see what their market's worth. Then if they find a better situation than what they think is here, then I think that's everywhere."
It appears Cassel knew where he wanted to be all along.
Cassel's familiarity with the team's offensive players - Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph among them - and the way the team responded to Cassel's leadership on the field were among the big reasons the Vikings wanted him back.
The agreement would appear to make Cassel the front-runner to be the starter when the 2014 season opens with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner calling the plays. Ponder is still on the roster, but his performance over his first three seasons has inspired little confidence among his teammates.
The Vikings have the eighth overall pick in the upcoming draft, and there remains a strong possibility they will select someone to be the team's quarterback of the future. But keeping Cassel in the fold will reduce the pressure on the team to start a rookie.
"It all depends, but what I want to do is play the best guy," Zimmer said. "I don't care if he's a rookie, if he's a veteran, if he's a returner. It doesn't matter to me who the quarterback is if he can win games, and that's really what it's about, winning football games and figuring out how to do that."
LOS ANGELES (AP) A judge refused Friday to immediately release former NFL All-Pro safety Darren Sharper from jail in a Los Angeles rape case but said she would have to free him soon if charges aren't filed in a similar case in Louisiana.
The ruling came after lawyers for Sharper argued that he had been freed on $1 million bail and pleaded not guilty in the Los Angeles case but was jailed again after an arrest warrant was issued last week in Louisiana.
"To hold him into perpetuity on an arrest warrant seems to be grotesquely unfair," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Renee Korn said.
The judge set a hearing for Thursday to give Louisiana prosecutors time to charge Sharper or for that state's governor to seek his return through another type of warrant.
It was the latest development in several ongoing sexual assault investigations involving the 38-year-old Sharper in Louisiana, California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada.
In a bail motion filed last month, Los Angeles County Investigator John Maccharella described a pattern in which the former football star met women at clubs or parties and lured them to a hotel room, where they were allegedly drugged and raped.
The New Orleans warrant says police learned from witnesses that Sharper and associate Erik Nunez had acknowledged having nonconsensual sex with two women.
It does not elaborate on how the information was obtained or disclose the names of the witnesses.
"Through further investigation by the detective's it was learned that Nunez and Sharper admitted to other known witnesses that he and Sharper had vaginal and/or oral sex with victim's (hash)1 and (hash)2 without their knowledge or permission," the warrant states.
Sharper's attorneys say he never made such statements and the arrest warrant was a pretext to hold him indefinitely without bail.
Prosecutors, however, said they were following the law.
Chris Bowman, a spokesman for New Orleans District Attorney Leon A. Cannizzaro Jr., said he could not comment on whether Sharper would be charged before the Thursday deadline set by Judge Korn.
"It's an open investigation," Bowman said. "I'm not going to comment on it. I'm not going to put a timetable on it."
In Los Angeles, Deputy District Attorney Javan Wygal said it would be difficult for Louisiana authorities to prosecute Sharper because under the laws of that state, the case there would expire within four months if Sharper isn't tried.
Sharper was selected All-Pro six times and chosen for the Pro Bowl five times. He played in two Super Bowls, one with the Green Bay Packers as a rookie and was part of a successful championship run while with the New Orleans Saints.
He retired after the 2010 season and was working as an analyst for the NFL Network before being fired last week.
Leonard Levine, a lawyer for Sharper in Los Angeles, has said Sharper will be cleared in the cases.
"All of these were consensual contact between Mr. Sharper and women who wanted to be in his company," Levine said after a court hearing last month.
Nunez, a waiter, has been arrested in New Orleans, where a judge on Friday set his bail at $400,000. His lawyer Herbert Larson said prosecutors only had hearsay evidence against his client.
Court documents in Los Angeles state that Sharper has submitted DNA samples to New Orleans police and agreed to turn himself in there if he is charged. Nunez also submitted DNA in the case, Larson said, adding that his client is not a flight risk.
Sharper had been released on bail in Los Angeles on the condition that he remain in the city, stay away from nightclubs and not be alone with any woman he did not know before October, when the first allegations emerged.
His attorneys contend he did not violate any of those terms before turning himself in after the Louisiana warrant was issued.
Associated Press Writer Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans contributed to this report. Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP
Two people familiar with the situation say Michael Vick and the Eagles haven't ruled out the quarterback returning to Philadelphia.
Vick will become a free agent next week, and the four-time Pro Bowl pick has made it clear he'll look for an opportunity to be a starter. One person says that if Vick doesn't find the right fit elsewhere, he would consider staying in Philadelphia.
Both people spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because they're not discussing contract negotiations publicly.
Nick Foles replaced an injured Vick last year, led the Eagles to an NFC East title and was Pro Bowl MVP. Vick revived his career in Philadelphia, was the AP's 2010 Comeback Player of the Year and started in the Pro Bowl that season.
But Vick was plagued by injuries over the next three years and lost his starting job to Foles last season after hurting his hamstring in Week 5. Foles had an outstanding year in his second season in the NFL. His passer rating of 119.2 was the third highest in history and he threw 29 touchdowns and only two interceptions in 14 games, including playoffs.
Before going down, Vick played well in his first season in coach Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense.
Kelly, general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie praised Vick's leadership skills and the way he handled being the No. 2 guy. Vick has an excellent relationship with Foles and he's respected in the locker room.
The New York Jets might be interested in giving Vick a chance to compete with Geno Smith. Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg held that position with the Eagles when Vick had the best season of his career in 2010.
Tampa Bay, Oakland and Minnesota also could be interested in Vick, who is the class of a thin free-agent market for quarterbacks. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson already has lobbied for his team to sign Vick. The 2012 NFL MVP tweeted that Vick would make the Vikings a playoff team.
That's all speculation until Vick starts talking to teams next week. He'll base his decision on several factors, including a comfortable environment for his family.
Vick, who turns 34 in July, hasn't started more than 13 games in a season since 2006. But when healthy, Vick remains one of the league's most dynamic playmakers.
DARTMOUTH, Mass. (AP) A Massachusetts sheriff is seeking a criminal complaint against former NFL star Aaron Hernandez after a recent jail scuffle with another inmate.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told Boston's WHDH-TV Thursday the paperwork has been filed in district court. A clerk magistrate will review it.
Hodgson said last week neither inmate required medical attention after the Feb. 25 fight in the Bristol House of Correction. Hernandez is held there without bail after pleading not guilty to murder in the 2013 death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd, a Boston man dating Hernandez's fiancee's sister.
Bristol County district attorney's spokesman Gregg Miliote said his office was aware a complaint was filed against the former New England Patriots tight end by the sheriff's department, but had no further comment.
Hodgson's spokesman and Hernandez's attorney didn't return messages Thursday night.
CHICAGO (AP) Record-setting returner Devin Hester said Wednesday he will not be back with the Chicago Bears next season.
"From my knowledge, I know that Chicago wants to go a different route with me," Hester told the NFL Network. "All I can say is thanks to the fans for their support. They've always been great to me. Always been loyal. I couldn't have played for a better city than those guys. At the end of my career, I do want to retire as a member of the Bears."
He added the Bears are "parting ways" with him. The team declined comment.
It looks as if Hester will hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent after an eight-year run with the Bears that produced no shortage of highlights.
He matched Hall of Famer Deion Sanders' NFL record with his 19th return for a touchdown last season, tying his friend and mentor with an 81-yard punt return at Washington in October. It was Hester's 13th punt return for a TD, extending his own record in that category.
He has also returned five kickoffs and one missed field goal for touchdowns.
A three-time Pro Bowl pick, Hester is best remembered by Bears fans for returning the opening kickoff in the 2007 Super Bowl for a touchdown. He ran it back 92 yards for a score in a game the Bears went on to lose to Indianapolis.
Hester endured several lulls on returns during his career, particularly when the Bears tried to make him a receiver. But he showed some of his old form while focusing solely on returns last season.
His touchdown return against Washington was his first in nearly two years. Hester led the NFL with a career-high 1,436 kick return yards on a league-high 52 tries, and he returned five kickoffs for a team-record 249 yards against Minnesota in September.
Now, it looks like he's moving on.
Hester expressed interest in reuniting with former coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay.
"I look at Lovie as my number one coach right now because he's the one that took a chance on me coming out of the draft," Hester said. "He has all my respect so if he's a guy that is going to shoot at me and want me to come play with him again, my arms are open."
The news from Hester comes on the same day the Bears terminated the contract of punter Adam Podlesh and signed defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff to a two-year deal.
A four-time Pro Bowl pick, Ratliff started four of the five games he played in after signing with Chicago in November. He spent the first six weeks with Dallas on the physically unable to perform list before being released in mid-October, with the Cowboys saying he failed a physical. Ratliff missed the final six games in 2012 with a groin injury that required surgery.
The Bears, who had one of their worst defensive seasons ever, saw enough good things to bring him back.
Ratliff had 14 1/2 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks with Chicago. In nine seasons with the Cowboys and Bears, he has 331 1/2 tackles and 28 1/2 sacks.
The Bears have signed 10 players who were due to become unrestricted free agents March 11, most of any team in the NFL.
If they stay at the top of the draft, it might just be too hard of a choice to pass up on Johnny Manziel. He had an impressive outing at the combine, and his local roots make him the obvious choice for Houston with the first pick. There's more than a chance they decide to draft Jadeveon Clowney, but after all the rumblings about drafting a top-tier quarterback, it may prove a hard sell a fan base that seems overly enticed at the chance to call Johnny Football a Houston Texan. The combine was cruel to Jake Matthews, he didn't do anything to hurt his stock, and by all accounts should still be one of the top players taken... but man, how great did Greg Robinson look?
After the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, all 32 teams officially entered the offseason and started plotting how they could position themselves for a shot at Super Bowl XLIX. Shutdown Corner will look at the offseason blueprint for each of the 32 NFL teams, presenting one team a day (using the 2014 draft order, starting with the Houston Texans and finishing with the Seahawks), leading you right up to the start of free agency on March 11.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 2013 record: 12-4
Projected current salary-cap space ( according to OverTheCap.com ): $12.7 million under the cap
Key free agents: CB Aqib Talib, C Ryan Wendell, LB Brandon Spikes, WR Julian Edelman, RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, OT Will Svitek, LB Dane Fletcher.
Possible salary-cap casualties: DT Vince Wilfork, OG Dan Connolly, NT Isaac Sopoaga, DT Tommy Kelly.
Draft situation: The Patriots own the 29th pick in the first round. They swapped their fifth-round pick for the Philadelphia Eagles’ sixth-round pick in the Sopoaga trade.
[Be sure to check out Shutdown Corner's NFL free-agent rankings. Click here for the list of offensive players , and click here for the list of defensive and special teams players ]
Revisiting 2013: Early on, Tom Brady struggled to mesh with his new, weakened group of pass catchers with Rob Gronkowski still returning from offseason surgery. The Patriots started out 4-0 thanks to an improved defense but did not hit their offensive stride until later. Still, all things considered, this had to be one of Bill Belichick’s best coaching jobs ever, as he managed the roster beautifully amid scores of injuries on both sides of the ball. By the end of the season, the offense and defense were fairly gutted but the team finished 12-4 as the No. 2 seed in the AFC with all four losses by one score on the road. The regular season included incredible comebacks against the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos that added to the Belichick-Brady legend. But the Patriots ran out of gas in the AFC championship game, falling at Denver, as it was clear the Patriots had no answers for Peyton Manning.
Ohio State’s pro day Friday drew probably the largest group of NFL scouts and personnel since 2004. There were 31 teams there, and I’m willing to bet that the one team that was not spotted, the Redskins, probably had a guy there, too. There were general managers — Pittsburgh’s Kevin Colbert, Buffalo’s Doug Whaley and the Jets’ John Idzik among them — as well as head coaches, offensive coordinators and defensive coordinators. Rob Chudzinski, a former head coach who is now an assistant in Indianapolis, was there. Seven director of player personnels were there, including Duke Tobin of the Bengals and Rick Reiprish of the Saints. There must have been at least 50 coaches overall who were present for what […]
Twelve teams were present Tuesday at Alabama State’s pro day, where Isaiah Crowell was the top name among 11 players who worked out. The players performed their jumps and shuttle runs indoors, but the rest of the workouts took place outdoors, where it was rainy and cold. Crowell measured in at 5-10 3/8, which was quite a bit different from his 5-11 measurement at the combine. He was measured twice just to make sure it was correct. He stayed on his 40 time from the combine (4.57), but posted a 4.51 short shuttle and a 7.25 cone drill. I thought he had a good workout. He’s had some baggage from before his transfer from Georgia, but I think he’ll be […]