Philadelphia Eagles

Avant saw release coming, no ill will toward Birds

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Avant saw release coming, no ill will toward Birds

Jason Avant saw the writing on the wall. Or, more accurately, saw the writing on the stat sheet.

As his role diminished last year, the Eagles’ popular veteran wide receiver gradually began to realize that 2013 would be his last season in Philly.

“You start seeing things when your role gets a little bit taken back and you don’t get as many opportunities as you had, as many plays that are called for you,” Avant said Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview with Comcast SportsNet’s Derrick Gunn.

“Not necessarily when the quarterback is scrambling and you’re the last option. There were a lot of those this year.”

Avant, who has played more games at wide receiver than any Eagle over the last 35 years, was released by the Eagles on Tuesday after 116 games, 297 catches, 3,646 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The numbers don’t come close to defining Avant, an inspirational locker room leader, a fearless special teamer, a clutch big-play receiver and an athlete as unselfish and humble as any pro you’ll ever see (see story).

“I knew [being released] was likely, but you never know in those situations,” Avant said. “I was 99 percent sure but there was still that one percent chance.

“But at the same time, I really respect the Eagles for letting me know so soon, so I can be on the market before free agency. That’s beneficial to you rather than go into it with 100 other players.”

Only four wide receivers in franchise history played more games than Avant -- Harold Carmichael, Bobby Walston, Pete Retzlaff (who was also a tight end) and Charles Smith.

Avant is one of only 12 NFL wide receivers who finished 2013 with the same team he started 2006 with.

“People don’t realize, eight years in the National Football League, that’s like 20 years in someone else’s work,” Avant said. “I talk to kids now who say, ‘I remember you when I was a little kid!’ A little kid? Are you kidding me?”

Avant, the Eagles’ fourth-round pick in 2006, made a name for himself as a clutch third-down receiver with a highlight-reel knack for remarkable one-handed catches.

This year, playing in Chip Kelly’s offense, he caught just 38 passes for 447 yards, both his lowest totals since 2008.

“I believe … if there weren’t contracts and there wasn’t a salary cap I’d still be here,” he said. “But when your [salary] numbers are going up and your production doesn’t look the same, there has to be some type of release to relinquish that pressure.”

Avant told Gunn that 2013 was the most frustrating year of his career.

“By far,” he said. “Not necessarily from a selfish standpoint of a numbers situation, just with knowing that I could be used different, that I could help the team.

“That’s one of those things with the new coaching staff -- which is a great staff, which is a great coach -- but every player doesn’t fit, and I felt like that square trying to fit into a triangle. I felt like that at times.

“Because I have a very unique way of getting open and doing certain things. As everybody knows, I’m not a blazer, but I’ve been able to get open consistently, and when you have a new coaching staff, everybody’s not accustomed to that. Coach [Andy] Reid wasn’t accustomed to that. I had to make him believe in me in order to do what I do.

“It was frustrating because you can’t play the way you want to play. Coach Kelly and Coach Bick (receivers coach Bob Bicknell), it’s a great staff. I just don’t fit what they do.”

Avant spoke several times during his 20-minute interview with Gunn about the fans and how pleasing them drove him and motivated him.

He spoke about the relationships he built during eight years with the Eagles, mentioning everybody from his coaches and teammates to the security and maintenance guys at the NovaCare Complex.

“That’s the hardest thing about it,” he said. “The relationships with the media members, my teammates and fans here, church family, all those people. Those are the things that I’ll miss.”

Avant, who turns 31 next month, believes he can still play and said he hopes to sign somewhere before the start of free agency Tuesday.

The Chiefs, coached by Reid, and the Jets, with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, are obvious candidates.

“I’ve been here eight years and sometimes it’s good for a fresh start,” he said. “I know I still can play.”

Asked about his legacy, Avant said it goes far beyond football, far behind all the circus third-down catches and key blocks in the running game that may have gone unnoticed by most fans.

It’s all about being a good person, a good role model, a good teammate.

“Would I love to make the Pro Bowl? Would I love to have catches and new contract? Yeah, you love those things,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, you want your significance to have more effect on what you did outside the field and the type of people that you affect day in and day out and what type of person you are,” he said.

“I want that to be my legacy. That should mean more than what you do on a football field, and that’s what I wanted to leave. …

“I just hope the fans would know that I respect them, and that I care for them, and that I thought about them when I was playing.

“Hopefully, I played this game, blocking, tackling, running -- as best as I could. That was my role for years and years and years. To assist someone else to be great. Hey, everybody has a role. Everybody can’t be Michael Jordan or DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin. A team just doesn’t work like that.

“There has to be someone who concedes and says, ‘No, you go ahead, you do your thing. As long as we’re winning, I’ll stay back,’ and that was my role here. To stay back and do what was asked of me and catch a couple passes over the middle.

“Could I have done more? Probably. But I loved doing it because it was going to help the team, help the city, help the team win.”

NFL Notes: Supporters hold rally for Colin Kaepernick at NFL headquarters

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NFL Notes: Supporters hold rally for Colin Kaepernick at NFL headquarters

NEW YORK -- Supporters of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem to protest police brutality against blacks, showed their solidarity with him and his cause at a rally outside the headquarters of the National Football League on Wednesday.

More than 1,000 people, many wearing jerseys bearing Kaepernick's name, crowded the steps outside the NFL's midtown Manhattan offices.

Kaepernick, who once took the 49ers to the Super Bowl, opted out of his contract with the team in March and remains unsigned. Supporters say he is being blackballed for his advocacy, but some critics say he should not have sat or kneeled during the anthem or contend his lack of a job is more about his on-field talent.

Chants at the demonstration included "Boycott! Boycott!" Women's March organizer Tamika Mallory, addressing football fans, said, "I don't care how long you've been watching football, if they don't stand up for your children, turn the damn TV off."

Political commentator Symone Sanders said, "We are all standing with Kaepernick. It is time for the NFL to put up or shut up" (see full story).

Browns: Kizer to start at QB in 3rd preseason game
BEREA, Ohio -- Rookie DeShone Kizer is Cleveland's new starting quarterback.

Coach Hue Jackson has elected to go with Kizer, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, over veterans Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. Kizer has been the most consistent of the three during training camp and led the Browns to three touchdowns during his two exhibition appearances.

Jackson said Kizer will start Saturday's exhibition in Tamp Bay and "is certainly positioning himself well to earn the starting job heading into the regular season."

The Browns open the season on Sept. 10 against Pittsburgh.

Unless he stumbles against the Buccaneers, Kizer will be the 27th different quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999. The big-armed 21-year-old has shown no signs of being intimidated by the jump to the pros after making 23 starts in two seasons for the Fighting Irish (see full story).

Raiders: Pro Bowl LT Penn ends holdout
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn has ended his holdout with the Oakland Raiders.

Penn reported for practice on Wednesday, ending his 26-day holdout. Penn was looking for an improved contract but general manager Reggie McKenzie said earlier in training camp that he would not negotiate a new deal with Penn until he arrived at camp.

The Raiders could have fined Penn $40,000 for each day of camp he missed but the team is not expected to do that.

Penn is entering the final year of an $11.9 million, two-year contract. He is scheduled to earn $5.8 million in base salary this season with another $1.3 million in incentives and bonuses (see full recap).

Steelers: Star RB Bell hints at return date
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers star Le'Veon Bell has suggested on Twitter that he will return to the team on Sept. 1, the day after Pittsburgh's final preseason game.

Bell hasn't signed his franchise tender and has been holding out through training camp. Responding to a fan Tuesday night asking when he plans to end his holdout, Bell wrote: "9-1-17" and added a wink.

The franchise tender offered Bell will guarantee him $12.1 million for the upcoming season. The two-time Pro Bowl running back has been seeking a long-term deal.

Bell rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns last season and also caught 75 passes for 616 yards and two TDs.

Redskins: Reed makes on-field debut at practice
ASHBURN, Va. -- Jordan Reed is back at practice with the Washington Redskins.

The 27-year-old tight end made his on-field debut Wednesday after missing almost the first month of practices with a toe injury. Reed missed the team's first two preseason games and was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Sunday.

Reed was examined by a foot specialist Aug. 1 and recently started using wider shoes and orthotics to help alleviate the soreness in the big toe on his left foot. Last week he said it felt better when running routes and walking around and doesn't expect the injury to affect him during the season.

One of quarterback Kirk Cousins' most consistent and effective targets, Reed had 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns last season despite missing four games with injury (see full story).

Giants: OL Bowie waived after domestic charges disclosed 
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have waived Michael Bowie days after finding out that the offensive lineman had been charged with assault and battery in Oklahoma.

The Giants announced the decision Wednesday along with three moves.

The team learned of the charges on Saturday and did not allow the 25-year-old free agent to make the trip to Cleveland for a preseason game against the Browns on Monday night.

Bowie is accused of grabbing his girlfriend by the neck during a fight at her home in Bixby, Oklahoma, then broke two televisions and punched a hole in the wall.

Court records don't list an attorney for Bowie, a Tulsa resident. His agent says Bowie is working to prove his innocence, saying there was no physical contact with the girlfriend.

New York also waived offensive linemen Corin Brooks, and waived/injured wideouts Darius Powe and Andrew Turzilli (see full story).

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman heading to Saints

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USA Today Images

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman heading to Saints

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman has agreed to terms to join the New Orleans Saints on a one-year deal, according to his agent Sean Stellato. 

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport first reported the deal. 

Braman, 30, spent the last three seasons with the Eagles and played a major role on Dave Fipp's unit, which has been considered one of the top in the NFL during that span. He had been a free agent throughout the spring and summer after his contract ran out with the Eagles. 

Braman came to Philadelphia as a free agent from the Texans before the 2014 season on a two-year deal and later restructured his contract to take a pay cut and give him an extra year in Philly. 

While Braman rarely made it on the field for the defense in those next three seasons, he played a total of 1,214 special teams snaps, the most of any player on the team. He played in all 48 games over the last three seasons. 

Even without Braman, the Eagles still have plenty of key special teams players like Chris Maragos, Najee Goode and Kamu Grugier-Hill.