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After months of questions about the health of his heart sent him tumbling down the draft board until being taken by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round <a title="Davon House Jersey" href="http://www.packerscheapstore.com/davon-house-jersey-cheap">Davon House Jersey</a> , Maurice Hurst was happy to get on the practice field and turn the conversation to football.
Hurst took part in his first practice as a pro Friday when the Raiders opened their rookie minicamp with three promising pass rushers they hope can bolster their defense.
”Just trying to get all of that stuff behind me, try to get people to stop talking about it,” Hurst said. ”You know, some sort of issue or all of those kinds of things – just try to move past that and focus on playing football and just having fun out there.”
Hurst was one of the most productive defensive players in the country last season at Michigan. He had 5 sacks as an interior rusher and led all nose tackles and defensive tackles with 49 total quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
Hurst was sent home from the combine after a heart issue was detected. Hurst said it was something he has dealt with for a long time and hadn’t impacted him on the field. He said he has been cleared by doctors at Harvard and Michigan but that didn’t prevent every team passing on a player projected as a first-rounder until the Raiders got him at 140th overall.
”I’m not going to answer any more health questions on Hurst,” coach Jon Gruden said. ”I realize there are a lot of ghost stories out there about unnamed sources that have their opinion on why we shouldn’t have drafted him. This man played at Michigan. I know the head coach there. They’ve looked after him carefully. We’re happy to have him in any round, and I’m excited for him and I’m really excited for him because he’s an Oakland Raider and he’s a great kid. I hope you just judge him on the field. He’s been cleared medically and I’ll just leave it at that.”
The additions of Hurst <a title="Ito Smith Jersey" href="http://www.falconscheapstore.com/ito-smith-jersey-cheap">Ito Smith Jersey</a> , second-round defensive tackle P.J. Hall and third-round defensive end Arden Key give the Raiders help on a defensive front that has ranked near the bottom of the NFL in sacks in recent years despite the presence of edge rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.
The Raiders have the second fewest sacks in the NFL the past two seasons with just 56 – one more than the last-place New York Jets. Nearly two-thirds of those sacks have come from Mack (21 1/2) and Irvin (15), as the edge players have gotten almost no help from the inside rushers.
”It was a major priority,” Gruden said. ”It’s a commodity that’s hard to find. I’ve heard a lot of critics have talked about the risk involved. There is risk involved with every pick.”
While Hurst faced questions about his health, Hall and Key had other concerns.
Hall had 42 sacks and 86 1/2 tackles for loss in his college career, but that came at the FCS level for Sam Houston State instead of against top-flight competition.
Gruden called Hall and Hurst the top two interior rushers in the draft, a position of major need after Oakland had just 1 1/2 sacks last year from players playing inside full-time.
Key proved himself at the highest level of college football for LSU in the SEC. He had 11 sacks in 2016 and 20 overall in three seasons in college, but he has had off-field problems and checked himself into rehab last spring.
If Oakland can get production out of those three players <a title="Dion Dawkins Jersey" href="http://www.billscheapstore.com/dion-dawkins-jersey-cheap">Dion Dawkins Jersey</a> , that should go a long way in improving a defense that has been a weakness for the team in recent years.
”We all work together,” Key said. ”We have edge rushers that can get to the quarterback and the quarterback steps up. Inside guys get the sack. We have inside guys that get to the quarterback and make the quarterback roll out, the edge rushers get the sack. So we all work together.”
NOTES: Fourth-round pick CB Nick Nelson sat out as he heals from a knee injury. … The Raiders signed undrafted TE Marcus Baugh, WR Saeed Blacknall, LB Jason Cabinda, C Alex Officer, K Eddy Pineiro and FB Nick Sharga.
Richie Incognito’s playing days might not be over after all.
The veteran guard is free to resume his career after the Buffalo Bills released him from their reserve/retired list on Monday.
The move represents the latest twist in what’s become an unsettling offseason for Incognito. He now becomes a free agent some six weeks after abruptly announcing he was retiring on his Twitter account.
Incognito did not reply to a voicemail and text message left with him by The Associated Press.
He has also not posted any messages on Twitter since April 15 <a title="Reshad Jones Jersey" href="http://www.dolphinscheapstore.com/reshad-jones-jersey-cheap">Reshad Jones Jersey</a> , three days after the Bills placed him on the reserve/retired list.
The Bills did not provide a reason for the decision to release Incognito in announcing the move in a one-sentence statement.
General manager Brandon Beane last month sidestepped questions regarding Incognito by saying he’s focusing on players on the roster. Beane did say Incognito would have to seek the NFL’s permission to be reinstated should he desire to come out of retirement.
Incognito cited health concerns as one of the reasons he was retiring. He was also unhappy with taking a pay cut in restructuring the final year of his contract with Buffalo this offseason.
The 34-year-old Incognito has 11 seasons of NFL experience, including the past three with Buffalo. He earned three of his four Pro Bowl selections in Buffalo, and was part of a line that helped the Bills lead the NFL in yards rushing in both 2015 and `16.
The Bills provided Incognito a second chance at resuming his career after he spent 18 months out of football following his role in the Miami Dolphins‘ bullying scandal.
Incognito was suspended for the final eight games of the 2013 season, when the Dolphins were thrust into the national spotlight after offensive lineman Jonathan Martin abruptly quit the team amid accusations he was being bullied. An NFL investigation determined Incognito and two other Dolphins offensive linemen persistently harassed Martin.
In February, Martin was detained and questioned by Los Angeles police after posting a threatening note on his Instagram account. Martin’s post showed a shotgun and specifically mentioned Incognito, former teammate Mike Pouncey as well as a private Los Angeles prep school Martin once attended. Martin wrote suicide and revenge were the only options for a victim of bullying.
This offseason, Incognito was also the subject of an NFL investigation after Jacksonville defensive end Yannick Ngakoue accused the Bills player of making racist slurs during the Jaguars‘ 10-3 win over Buffalo in an AFC wild-card playoff game in January. The NFL has not announced whether it has completed its investigation. Ngakoue said he and Incognito cleared the air after they were AFC teammates at the Pro Bowl in January.
Incognito caused another stir this offseason. A week before retiring <a title="Armani Watts Jersey" href="http://www.chiefscheapstore.com/armani-watts-jersey-cheap">Armani Watts Jersey</a> , Incognito fired his agent, David Dunn, in a post on Twitter.
Incognito also played three-plus seasons in St. Louis, which drafted him in 2005. He played in college at Nebraska but left after being suspended. He then transferred to Oregon, though he never played for the Ducks.
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