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ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Detroit Lions defensive tackle Akeem Spence tweeted Thursday afternoon that his father was denied a contracting job because of Spence’s protest during the

national anthem on Sunday.
Spence was one of eight Lions players who kneeled during the national anthem prior to Detroit’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons. He told ESPN after the game that the decision to kneel was a group effort among those players and that it was to “stand up for what’s right, man.”
He also said the protest had nothing to do with the military or the flag.

“No disrespect to the flag, no disrespect to any of the veterans or anything. It was just right is right, wrong is wrong, and what the guy said about us as NFL players, I just feel like that’s something that’s us, as NFL players, we have to stand up for that’s not what we are,” Spence said. “You know what I’m saying. We’re human beings. We give back to the community.

“We do great things, and our owners, you know what I’m saying, they do great things. So that’s something we don’t represent around the NFL. That’s something every team should have come out and showed this Sunday, that it’s not what that guy said about us.”

Spence — and many NFL players — protested during the anthem following critical statements made by President Donald Trump, who said players who protest during the anthem should be “fired” by their teams’ owners.

“It’s crazy and it’s wrong, you know. It shouldn’t be like that,” Spence said. “We’re hard-working people who give back to the community. Our owners are the same way, you know, and they have the utmost respect for us and we have the utmost respect for our country, our flag and everything like that. So for our head guy to say something like that about our owners and what they should do, that’s something that I can’t, man, right is right.

“I felt like he was wrong in that sense, and we just came out and acted unity, together and just tried to make a statement.”

Spence was not immediately available for comment Thursday because he tweeted about his father after the Lions’ open locker room period for the day.

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The traffic slog up to AT&T Stadium spares no one, rich or poor, gifted or unathletic, because 100,000 people descending on an area near a baseball stadium and a Six Flags amusement park is destined to be chaos. On opening night for the Dallas Cowboys earlier this month, Richard King took a cab as far as he could, then went the rest of the way on foot.

King works security at a hospital about 1,500 miles away in Pennsylvania, and before he left to see his first Cowboys game, he bought a Jaylon Smith jersey. He loved the young linebacker’s story — how Smith came back from a gruesome knee injury in his final college game — and figured the No. 54 shirt would stand out in a stadium full of Daks and Zekes.
As he approached AT&T Stadium, King heard someone yell, “Yo, 54!” from a white Chevy Tahoe. The man behind the wheel was stuck in traffic too. It was Jaylon Smith.

“If you jump in here,” Smith told King, “I’ll sign that for you.”

Smith and the Cowboys will visit the Cardinals on Monday night. It will mark the first time the linebacker takes the field at the University of Phoenix Stadium since he injured his knee during a bowl game there on New Year's Day 2016.

Smith and the Cowboys will visit the Cardinals on Monday night. It will mark the first time the linebacker takes the field at the University of Phoenix Stadium since he injured his knee during a bowl game there on New Year’s Day 2016.

King thought somebody must be playing a joke on him. But Smith cleared some stuff off his passenger seat, and King hopped in while Smith dug out a Sharpie. He signed the back of the jersey and mugged for pictures with King.

When a couple of Smith’s teammates were told about the encounter this past week, they thought the exchange was cool — up until the part about letting a random fan into the car.

People who know Smith say there’s an innocence about him, an unbreakable faith in people, God and himself. And as King climbed out of the SUV, Smith actually thanked him.

“I didn’t even believe it was happening,” King said.

“He said he was glad to see that people still had faith in him.”
People generally don’t act this way. Jaylon Smith spent 20 months recovering from a shredded knee, and during his rehab last year as a rookie, he smiled every single day. While various media types were writing last year that Smith would never play again, he spoke to about 1,500 men at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. Pastor James Lee said it was like a scene from the movie “Braveheart,” and by the time Smith was finished, everyone in the building gave him a standing ovation and was convinced he would be back on the field again in 2017.

Smith not only recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a torn lateral collateral ligament and a stretched nerve in his knee; he is starting at middle linebacker for Dallas and currently leads the team with 23 tackles, according to the coaches’ breakdown.

On Monday night, he’ll travel back to University of Phoenix Stadium, where he suffered the injury 632 days ago that changed his life. Yet Smith said he has put no thought into the significance of the venue for the game between the Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals.

To give you an idea of how little his family has thought about it, his older brother, Rod Smith, a backup running back for the Cowboys, didn’t even remember that the Cardinals’ home field was where Jaylon suffered the injury that dropped him from a top-five pick to completely off the board for some teams.

As of Thursday, there were no plans for their parents to attend the game.

“It’s something in the past,” Rod said. “He’s beaten those odds.”

The Cowboys reportedly had planned to put him on sort of a pitch count in the preseason, but then they wound up in schemes that favored Smith in the season opener against the New York Giants. He looked good, recording seven tackles and a forced fumble. He has progressed enough to take away playing time from veteran Justin Durant.

When asked whether he was surprised that Smith was playing so much so early in the season, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said, “Nothing surprises me.”

“He’s gaining ground with every step. He’s got really extraordinary talent. He’s really fast. He’s learning. He hustles and does all the things right, and he’s going to get better every week.”
Before that life-altering day in Arizona, Smith, an All-American for Notre Dame, had never been seriously hurt. He had never missed a game, never missed a practice, in high school or college. While some seniors or players who are declaring for the draft don’t fly home with the team after a bowl game, Smith rode back with his teammates.

He spent the first couple of days at the Morris Inn, a hotel on the South Bend, Indiana, campus. Michael Bertsch, Notre Dame’s director of football media relations, was one of the first people to check in on him. Bertsch is 41, with a 1-year-old son, and he can’t imagine how he would handle something like that. Smith was sitting on the bed, his leg propped up, and Bertsch tried to console him.

But there was no need.

“I just can’t wait to get started on getting back,” Smith told Bertsch.

Smith would drop 20 pounds from his 245-pound body and vomit from the effects of anesthesia. When he eventually got back on his feet and posted video of himself moving around, it was one of those “That poor guy” moments for his doubters.

He flunked some NFL physicals in February, but even then, Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly was convinced that Smith, who declared early for the draft, would be back to playing football. Kelly told coaches and general managers that, and some listened. Others didn’t. He sat in his office for an interview with ESPN.com in the winter of 2016, predicting that Smith would be a star in the NFL.

Kelly has been coaching for 27 years, and he said he has never seen someone like Smith, someone who set the entire tempo for everyone at practice — a linebacker, no less — someone who so greatly touched an entire team.

“When we talk about this young man, unique’s not even the right word,” Kelly said. “He’s got incredible grit. He loves life, and he loves the challenges of it.”

The Cowboys seemed to be one of the few teams who listened. It helped that their team doctor, Dan Cooper, performed Smith’s surgery just after the Fiesta Bowl. But even Cooper couldn’t guarantee that the nerve would fully regenerate.

Still, Dallas selected Smith in the second round, and the NFL — and a fan base — held their collective breath and hoped.

Rehab can be a place where people might tend to feel sorry for themselves. Injured players keep schedules similar to that of their teammates, arriving at the team facility at 6 a.m., putting in six or seven hours of sometimes grueling work, but knowing they have no chance to play.

Cowboys defensive end Charles Tapper also was drafted in 2016, and like Smith, he spent the year on injured reserve with a bad back. The isolation from the team could be depressing, Tapper said. You’re with the team by virtue of being in the same building, but you’re not really with the team.

Smith, the proverbial long shot of the injured players, was the one lifting Tapper up.

Smith ran through drills as hard and as fast as he could, and soon it became a competition. If one guy came up an inch or two short of the line, they ran again. Tapper said it took his rehab to another level.

“He’s almost like a robot,” Tapper said. “We’d be in the weight room, and … I’m like, man, this guy is not human.”

“I’ve never seen him upset, never seen him talk bad about anybody,” Tapper added. “He never talks bad about anything. I would come in some days and I’d say, ‘Man, I’ve got my mom and my brother and all this stuff,’ and he’s like, ‘Hey, Tap, it’s going to be all good.’ We loved competing against each other, but then we’d come back and sit and talk. Once we did those things, I’m like, ‘Man, this is a real guy right there.’”

Maliek Collins was also part of the Cowboys’ 2016 draft class, also wound up injured last year and also fell under the spell of Smith. At one point, Collins asked Smith how he stays so positive. Smith would tell his fellow injured teammates, “Man, we’ve got the opportunity to still be Cowboys. We can still be great.”

“He just kept faith though the process,” Collins said. “I respect the hell out of him.”
Smith is declining one-on-one interviews right now. His publicist said he wants to focus solely on football but that Smith politely says thank you for your interest. The Cowboys want it this way now, anyway. Maybe they don’t want to put too much on a 22-year-old who has been through so much and is essentially a rookie.

He does not fit into the personality mold of some of his other marquee teammates.

On Thursday, for example, receiver Dez Bryant stood on a cameraman’s ladder, holding court as he acted like a character from “Game of Thrones.”

Running back Ezekiel Elliott deflected the latest controversy, which centered on whether he quit on a play in a loss at Denver.

Smith was nowhere to be found in the locker room. But he was coerced into doing a group interview on Saturday.

“Everything I’ve done has been a part of the plan, you know what I mean?” Smith said. “The rehab, the training prior to getting back out on the field in OTAs, camp, all of that stuff is tougher than going out playing, quite frankly. We work pretty hard, very hard, so the game is all about going out there and having fun.

“We’ve been playing the game since we were 7 years old, so that’s kind of the joy and the relief to be able to go out there and play. For me, I love performing at a high level, so that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

The nerve injury gave Smith a drop foot, which essentially means that he could not pick up his left foot on his own. Smith still wears a brace on the foot, and it’s unclear how long he’ll need it. During training camp, Sports Illustrated reported that his nerve was 80 percent regenerated.

But Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said he “doesn’t mess around with percentages.” He just said he expects Smith to keep getting better as he gets healthier and learns more on the job.

“His attitude is positive, and it’s very contagious,” Eberflus said. “Guys, I think, are drawn to him because of that.”

In some ways, things have worked out. Rod and Jaylon Smith are playing together. They never had the chance to do that in high school or college. As kids in Fort Wayne, Indiana, their dad, Roger, whom Rod calls “Pops,” had them run for five miles around a development called Village Woods. They were 6 or maybe 7 years old. Sometimes, Rod said, they couldn’t have supper until they had run.

The siblings spend a lot of time with each other now. Rod draws the line on living together; a man has to have his own space. Besides, this is Jaylon’s first chance to have his own apartment.
About the only drawback of having Jaylon in Dallas, Rod said, is that it means more reporters want to talk to him.

“I mean, I’m a chill dude,” Rod said.

But Rod loves talking about his brother. He loves being around Jaylon. After the Sept. 17 loss at Denver, Rod sat silently at his locker while Jaylon answered questions about the defense. Then they boarded a bus to the airport together. Getting the chance to be together in Dallas was a big surprise for Rod. A welcome surprise. His brother’s comeback? That wasn’t shocking at all. Rod had faith. Just like Jaylon.

“Me, I expected it,” Rod said. “Injury or not, I just know what he’s about.”

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BOSTON — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, researchers said on Thursday. His lawyer announced a lawsuit against the NFL and the team for hiding the true dangers of the sport.

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said Hernandez had stage 3 (out of 4) of the disease, which can cause violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive disorders.

“We’re told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron’s age,” attorney Jose Baez said.

Hernandez was 27 when he killed himself in April in the prison cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for murder. Baez said Hernandez had shown signs of memory loss, impulsivity and aggression that could be attributed to CTE.

“When hindsight is 20-20, you look back and there are things you might have noticed,” he said. “But you don’t know.”

CTE, which can be diagnosed only in an autopsy, has been found in former members of the military, football players, boxers and others who have been subjected to repeated head trauma. A recent study found signs of the disease in 110 of 111 NFL players whose brains were inspected.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court claimed that the league and the Patriots failed to protect their players’ safety, leading to the disease that deprived Hernandez’s 4-year-old daughter, Avielle, of her father’s companionship.

“Defendants were fully aware of the dangers of exposing NFL players, such as Aaron, to repeated traumatic head impacts,” the lawsuit said. “Yet, defendants concealed and misrepresented the risks of repeated traumatic head impacts.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not comment. A Patriots spokesman did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The league recently agreed to pay $1 billion to retired players who claimed it misled them about the dangers of playing football.

The “loss of consortium” lawsuit filed on Thursday is independent of the class-action suit that began making payments this summer. Baez said it was the first of its kind.

“If we have to be groundbreakers in this area, it’s something we’re prepared to do,” he said.

Hernandez committed suicide just hours before his former teammates visited the White House to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory and a week after he was acquitted in the 2012 drive-by shootings of two men in Boston.

Prosecutors had argued that Hernandez gunned the two men down after one accidentally spilled a drink on him in a nightclub, and then got a tattoo of a handgun and the words “God Forgives” to commemorate the crime.

Hernandez did not raise CTE in his defense at either trial because he claimed actual innocence.

“It’s something I deeply regret,” Baez said.
A star for the University of Florida when it won the 2008 title, Hernandez dropped to the fourth round of the NFL draft because of trouble in college that included a failed drug test and a bar fight. His name had also come up in an investigation into a shooting.

In three seasons with the Patriots, Hernandez joined Rob Gronkowski to form one of the most potent tight end duos in NFL history. In 2011, his second season, Hernandez caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns to help the team reach the Super Bowl, and he was rewarded with a $40 million contract.

But the Patriots released him in 2013, shortly after he was arrested in the killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée. Hernandez was convicted and sentenced to life in prison; the conviction was voided because he died before his appeals were exhausted, though that ruling is itself being appealed.

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have officially ruled out quarterback Andrew Luck for their Week 3 game against the Cleveland Browns, coach Chuck Pagano said Monday.

Luck has been out since having right shoulder surgery in January. He hasn’t practiced or played since Week 17 of last season.

Pagano was asked directly whether he has any doubts about Luck playing this season, and the coach’s response was “no.” The next step for Luck is practicing.

“I don’t know about practice,” Pagano said. “I guess when the doctors clear him to practice and he puts the red jersey on, you guys see him out there, I see him at the same time. We’ll know he’s ready to go and start practicing.”

Jacoby Brissett, who was acquired in a trade from New England on Sept. 2, started in place of ineffective Scott Tolzien in the Colts’ 16-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Brissett was 20-of-37 for 216 yards. His interception on the first play of overtime put the Cardinals in position to make the winning field goal.

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski faced aggressive coverage downfield from Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry and others in last week’s NFL opener, and he doesn’t blame them for it.

In fact, he said if referees will allow it, he’d advise it.

“If I was one of those DBs, and you’ve seen film over the last few years, I would definitely be doing that if I was a DB — 100 percent,” he said. “You don’t really see it called ever, so I’ve just got to play with it. Play how the game is called. If I was a DB, I’d do that, too.”
Asked if the opener was a good example of that, he said, “Sometimes.”

Gronkowski was held to two receptions for 33 yards in the game. He was targeted six times.

Berry, one of the NFL’s best safeties, deserves some of the credit for that lower-than-expected production. There were also a few close calls in which officials could have thrown penalty flags for pass interference or holding.

As for his own physicality, Gronkowski relayed that he tries to cut it loose while always trying to stay within the rules.

“I feel like whenever I think about that — ‘I can’t be physical because of the referee, I might get a penalty’ — I actually feel myself off my game. So I feel like I should just play my game and just [don't] worry about what the refs call, and be physical,” he said. “I don’t like thinking, ‘I can’t be physical on this play.’ You just don’t feel right. I’m just going to stick to my game and just do what I got to do, and do it better.”

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Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy served as the head coach for the Chargers for four years before the team fired him after the final game last season

Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy served as the head coach for the Chargers for four years before the team fired him after the final game last season

DENVER — Mike McCoy served as the head coach for the Chargers for four years before the team fired him after the final game last season due to poor performance, starting over in Los Angeles with new head coach Anthony Lynn.

Now, McCoy gets a shot at a bit of revenge in his role as offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, as they host the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football.

With four years spent helping to develop personnel and understanding the ins and outs of the organization, McCoy would seem to give the Broncos a considerable advantage heading into this one, right?

Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Woods thinks so.

“He’s been a great resource,” Woods told reporters this week. “Really, he talked to us about the personnel in terms of their strengths and weaknesses of each player from an offensive line, to the receivers, to the backs and to Philip Rivers.

“Also, from a scheme standpoint, that’s what we practice against. That’s what I told the guys. I told them we’ve been practicing against this offense since the offseason.”
While the Chargers run similar concepts in terms of the passing game, what the Broncos see Monday in terms of the running game may be different due to the arrival of Lynn and his influence on that aspect of the offense. And every year teams revamp their offense, adding new wrinkles depending on personnel.

“I don’t think it affects our tendencies,” Chargers backup quarterback Kellen Clemens said. “Mike obviously knows the players that are here. And probably could give them a good assessment on strengths and weaknesses. But in terms of specific team preparation, not a ton.”

Lynn said he’s not worried with what McCoy may be telling the Broncos about the Chargers.
“I think sometimes you can overthink that,” Lynn said. “I’m not going to mess with our plan too much.

“At the end of the day, it’s players making plays. They can watch tape and study our personnel. I’m not that concerned with them being familiar with our personnel.”

Along with how McCoy affects Denver’s preparation, here are five other things to watch for Monday night:

Chargers defense at full strength: Talented corners Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett, along with dynamic edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will play for the first time together. Bosa sat out the first four games of 2016 with a hamstring injury, while Verrett missed the final 12 games because of an ACL knee injury. The Broncos have three new starters on the offensive line and a new offensive coordinator in McCoy, so we’ll see if the Chargers’ frontline players can create impact plays.

Spotlight on running game: The two were on different teams, but when Lynn served as offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills and new Broncos head coach Vance Joseph served as defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, the Bills rolled up nearly 600 yards of total offense (including 272 rushing yards) in a 34-31 loss to the Dolphins in Week 16. Of course, the personnel is different, but the Chargers’ overall philosophy should be the same — pound the football with Melvin Gordon against a Denver defense that’s thin up front defensively and allowed 4.3 yards per rush last season.
A chance at history for Gates: Veteran tight end Antonio Gates needs just one touchdown reception to pass Tony Gonzalez (111) for most by a tight end in NFL history. Gates has caught a touchdown pass in each of his last three games against the Broncos, and likely will be a target of Rivers early in this one.

Chargers familiar with Monday Night Football: The Chargers have opened on Monday night six of the last nine seasons. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chargers have lost each of their last three Monday Night Football games by a combined eight points, tied for the longest such losing streak in franchise history (The Chargers lost three straight in 1983-84). The Chargers held a fourth-quarter lead in all three losses.

Bright lights for Koo: In the battle for starting kicker, the Chargers went with undrafted rookie Younghoe Koo over incumbent Josh Lambo. In a game that could come down to the final minutes, the Chargers have to hope the moment will not be too big for their young kicker.

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Former New York Giants kicker Josh Brown has been suspended another six games for domestic violence accusations.

Brown served a one-game suspension at the start of the 2016 season, and he accepted the additional ban after further NFL investigation.

“We reopened the investigation based on new info,” the league texted ESPN on Friday. “Concluded there was a violation of our personal conduct policy and imposed 6 game suspension which he accepted without appeal.”

In a statement later Friday, the league referred to documents released in October 2016 by the King County (Washington) Sheriff’s Office as part of its investigation into a 2015 incident between Brown and his then-wife.

“These documents, which previously had been withheld from the public and the NFL, contained information regarding a series of other incidents separate from the May 2015 incident,” the statement said.

The decision comes on the same day that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was granted a preliminary injunction from a U.S. District Court judge in Texas that will allow him to continue to play this season. Elliott was suspended for six games on Aug. 11 for a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.

Although Brown remains unsigned after the Giants released him in October 2016, he will start serving the six-game suspension immediately, starting with this week’s games.

Brown told “Good Morning America” in February that he never hit Molly Brown, now his ex-wife.

“I mean, I had put my hands on her. I kicked the chair. I held her down. The holding down was the worst moment in our marriage,” Brown said during an interview with ABC News’ Paula Faris. “I never hit her. I never slapped her. I never choked her. I never did those types of things.”

Brown was arrested on May 22, 2015, in Woodinville, Washington, on suspicion of domestic assault in the fourth degree. Charges were never filed. In October 2016, documents were released related to Brown’s arrest. The letters, emails and journals contained admissions by Brown that he had physically, verbally and emotionally abused his wife.

“These were the things that you say to yourself and then you’d burn them. … And I didn’t,” Brown told “Good Morning America.” “The fact that my private things are being used against me, that’s hard to swallow. I’m talking about my journals. I had to learn all that and write that down in order to heal, and now you’re telling me that I’m going to be punished for trying to correct the things in my life that needed to be changed.”

Brown was coming off the best season of his career in 2015, when he made 94 percent of his kicks. The Giants signed him to a two-year, $4 million deal in April 2016 despite knowing he was under investigation for domestic abuse.
In August 2016, the NFL ultimately suspended Brown for one game for what he repeatedly called a “moment.” The arrest came after he was accused by Molly Brown of grabbing her wrist during an argument the previous year. He said the league has known everything since the start of the investigation and that he has never tried to hide his problems.

The arresting officer wrote in his report that Brown told him he tried to grab the phone and grabbed her wrist. Brown provided a different version of the story during his interview with ABC News.

“No, I did not. I did not touch her on the wrist,” he said.

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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals signed veteran guard Alex Boone to a one-year contract, the team announced Tuesday.

Boone played last season with the Minnesota Vikings, where he started 14 games, all at left guard, after six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

Alex Boone found a new home quickly after getting cut by the Vikings on Saturday, signing with the Cardinals on Tuesday.

Alex Boone found a new home quickly after getting cut by the Vikings on Saturday, signing with the Cardinals on Tuesday.

The Vikings released Boone on Saturday when the team trimmed their roster to the 53-player limit. According to multiple reports, the Vikings approached Boone about taking a pay cut, and when he declined, Minnesota cut the 30-year-old veteran.
oone’s role with the Cardinals has yet to be announced, but with his experience at both right guard and left guard, he could compete for a starting role or be Arizona’s primary backup at either position. He’s played 59.4 percent of his career snaps at right guard and 34.2 percent at left guard, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Boone entered the NFL in 2009 as an undrafted free agent and didn’t make his NFL debut until Week 17 of the 2011 season against the Cardinals. Since then, he’s played in 90 games and started 73 times.

He also started in Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens.

Cardinals left guard Mike Iupati has been dealing with a triceps injury for the past two weeks but was on the field during the open portion of Arizona’s practice on Monday.

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The Detroit Lions drafted Laken Tomlinson in the first round in 2015 hoping he’d be the solution to a struggling offensive line. Two years later, the franchise has decided to move on from him.

The Lions traded the guard to the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday. In exchange, the Lions received a fifth-round pick in 2019, a source told ESPN, confirming multiple reports.

Tomlinson must first pass a physical for the trade to become final.
After the trade was announced, Tomlinson tweeted:
Tomlinson started 24 of 32 games for the Lions in his two seasons in Detroit after being considered one of the best guards in his class. But he never quite fit with what the Lions were trying to do. He eventually lost his starting job to rookie Graham Glasgow midway through last season and only regained it after Glasgow moved to center to replace the injured Travis Swanson.

Laken Tomlinson started 24 games for the Lions in his first two NFL seasons.

Laken Tomlinson started 24 games for the Lions in his first two NFL seasons.

In dealing for Tomlinson, the Niners added some help to the interior of the offensive line, an area that has emerged as a concern for them in the preseason. With projected starting left guard Joshua Garnett still recovering from a knee injury and his return date uncertain, the Niners have been using Zane Beadles and Brandon Fusco as the starting guards.

While the starting offensive line has done well in pass protection, top running back Carlos Hyde has struggled to find traction. In the three preseason games, he’s averaged 2.6 yards on 17 carries in coach Kyle Shanahan’s outside zone rushing scheme.
Upon arrival, Tomlinson figures to push for a starting job at guard, likely on the left side where Beadles has been starting in Garnett’s absence.

Tomlinson has some ties to the Niners’ front office in the form of senior personnel executive Martin Mayhew, who was Detroit’s general manager when the Lions used a first-round pick on Tomlinson in 2015.

Tomlinson only received first-team work during training camp this year when right guard T.J. Lang — who Detroit signed in the offseason from Green Bay — sat out of practice for rest as he recovers from offseason hip surgery.

The signing of Lang along with the emergence of Joe Dahl as a utility lineman made Tomlinson’s future with the Lions cloudy at best and, despite his guaranteed salary, he was not a roster lock for this season. The 25-year-old has two years left on his contract; his base salary of $1,212,296 is guaranteed for this season. Next year’s $1,600,944 base salary isn’t guaranteed.

This is the second straight preseason where the Lions and 49ers have made a trade. Last year, Detroit sent receiver Jeremy Kerley to San Francisco in exchange for guard Brandon Thomas. Kerley finished the season as the 49ers’ most productive wideout.

NFL Network first reported news of Thursday’s trade.