Antonio Brown has been suspended for the first eight games of the NFL season, the league announced on Friday.

Brown is a free agent after being cut by the New England Patriots after just 11 days and one game in September.

Reports have claimed Brown will not contest the punishment, meaning should he sign for a team he would miss half of the regular season.

Wide receiver Brown was found to have breached the NFL's personal conduct policy.

The official NFL website said Brown's suspension stemmed "from his no contest plea to burglary and battery charges from a January incident in Florida" and accusations regarding allegedly intimidating text messages sent to a woman.

An NFL statement read: "Antonio Brown was notified today by NFL special counsel for conduct Todd Jones that he has been suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of the 2020 season for multiple violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy.

"Brown, who played one game in the 2019 season for the New England Patriots before being released, is an unrestricted free agent and may sign with any team. If he is signed before the start of the 2020 season, Brown would be eligible to participate in all of his club's preseason activities. Brown's suspension would take effect as of the final roster reduction on September 5. He would be eligible to return after the team's eighth game.

"As part of the discipline, Brown was directed to continue his programme of counselling and treatment, and that he is expected fully to cooperate with his clinicians.

"Brown was advised that any future violation of the personal conduct policy will likely result in more significant discipline."

The NFL.com website said the league is looking into civil claims of sexual assault against the 32-year-old, accusations that Brown has strenuously denied.

Myles Garrett expects his shocking on-field clash with Mason Rudolph to "just be a small bump in the road" as he looks to play up to his reported $125million contract extension.

Garrett, the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, was handed a new five-year deal by the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday that is believed to include £100m in guarantees - the most ever for a defensive player.

Although the pass rusher has been productive in Cleveland, recording 30.5 sacks across his three seasons, his most notable act on an NFL field so far came last November in an ill-tempered rivalry game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Garrett clashed with Rudolph, ripping the Steelers quarterback's helmet off and swinging it at his exposed head, an act that resulted in him being suspended indefinitely, with the NFL eventually lifting his ban after the 2019 season ended.

The bad blood between the two continued to linger, with Garrett claiming he reacted to Rudolph using a racial slur - something the Steelers QB denied and an NFL investigation failed to corroborate, but the Browns defensive end does not believe the moment will define his career.

"My life's much bigger than one moment," he told reporters on a Zoom call.

"Me, the Browns and my team-mates are going to look past that and go on to greater success and that will just be a small bump in the road.

"It was a reaction to a situation. It won't happen again. Now I'm prepared."

Garrett added he had not spoken to Rudolph or Pittsburgh's head coach Mike Tomlin, who staunchly defended his player in the wake of the Browns pass rusher's accusation of racism.

"I don't have any ill intent towards either of them," Garrett stressed.

"I hope Mason Rudolph goes on to have success. I would talk to them. I'm going to keep my eyes moving forward."

The 2020 NFL regular season will begin in September and there will once again be high hopes for a Browns team that has talent on both sides of the ball but has yet to deliver on the field.

For Garrett's part, he wants to live up to the megadeal he has just penned.

"Now I have to assert myself as top dog," he said. "I feel like I'm confident and ready to do that.

"Time to prove it."

The NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame have announced that all events tied to the induction of the 2020 class, including the Hall of Fame Game, have been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year's Hall of Fame Game, the traditional opener of the preseason, was to be held on August 6 in Canton, Ohio with the Dallas Cowboys facing the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The two teams will instead meet in the 2021 edition which was rescheduled for August 5 next year.

Enshrinement of the 2020 Hall of Fame class, a 20-member group that will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the NFL, will now take place over a two-day period from August 7-8 in 2021.

"We believe postponing Enshrinement Week events in 2020 is the right way to honour our Enshrinees and their families properly, along with the other living Gold Jackets who want to come to Canton for this celebration," Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker said.

"We also believe next year promises to be the greatest gathering in football ever."

Ten modern-era members, including former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, ex-Steelers coach Bill Cowher and former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, were selected to be part of the 2020 Centennial Class along with 10 others chosen by the seniors committee. The latter group had been scheduled to be inducted in September.

Steve Atwater, Isaac Bruce, Steve Hutchinson and Edgerrin James were also voted in as modern-era players, while former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was selected as a contributor along with former NFL Films president Steve Sabol and executive George Young.

The Cowboys-Steelers matchup is the first game of the upcoming preseason to be officially cancelled. The NFL has yet to determine whether it will reduce the preseason from its usual four weeks in light of the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 situation.

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has yet to see his franchise quarterback throw a football but reports from his medical team on Ben Roethlisberger's injured throwing elbow are encouraging.  

The 38-year-old underwent surgery on his right elbow in September last year after appearing in just two games of the 2019 season. 

Roethlisberger will be entering his 17th NFL season and ranks fifth among active quarterbacks with 363 passing touchdowns and fourth with 56,545 yards. 

"It's hearsay because I have not witnessed his workouts," Tomlin said of the 2004 first-round pick during a Zoom media call. 

"I have communicated with him consistently throughout. He's comfortable and pleased with where he is. 

"Some of the people that have had an opportunity to work out with him have been impressed and are pleased with where he is. 

"The medical experts are comfortable with where he is in the rehabilitation process and the overall trajectory of his readiness for 2020. Those things being said, I'm comfortable with where he is." 

With Roethlisberger absent, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges struggled in his place. 

The two combined for 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, the Steelers averaging 186.3 passing yards from Week 3 through the end of the season – ranking them 31st in the NFL. 

The Steelers are due to play their first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys on August 7 as part of their preparations ahead of a Week 1 trip to the New York Giants.

That opener is due to take place on September 14 and while the coronavirus pandemic has cast doubts over the planned schedule, Tomlin has a positive outlook over the 2020 season.

"I'm hopeful. I am always an optimistic person," said Tomlin, who also said he expects to play preseason games.

"I have been a part of the process. When you are a part of the process, I sit on committees, I've had intimate conversations with logistical people and professionals.

"There is probably greater comfort when you are part of the process than when you are on the outside, so it allows me to be optimistic about both things."

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner is unconcerned about returning to an NFL field, even though he may be more at risk of contracting coronavirus because of his cancer treatment.

Conner, who was drafted by the Steelers in 2017, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma five years ago and overcame the disease in May 2016 after six months of chemotherapy.

That illness and the following treatment would have weakened Conner's immune system, potentially putting him at more risk of suffering complications from COVID-19 should he get it.

The medical director of the NFL Players Association has suggested there could be extra precautions for those with pre-existing conditions, such as different helmets and masks, yet Conner has no fears about stepping back onto the field when the NFL regular season begins in September.

"I'm 100 per cent," Conner told reporters.

"I had a weak immune system four years ago. It's not weak anymore, thank God. I'm okay. I'm young and healthy. I went through what I went through.

"I'm not concerned, me personally. We're going to play it safe, of course. I'm not going to ignore it or anything like that. But as far as me being scared or anything like that or trying to take extra, extra precautions because of my health history, that was four years ago. My body's healed.

"I think when we follow our health protocol and guidelines, I'll be just fine.

"I don't want to downplay it and have people think I don't think it's an issue or anything like that.

"I just believe that we're just going to be doing what we're doing, and our bodies are meant to go through things and overcome it and get immune to things such as that. I hope everybody stays safe, but I'm not too concerned."

Having made the Pro Bowl in 2018 - his first year as a starter in Pittsburgh - Conner struggled during an injury-hit 2019 and rushed for only 464 yards in 10 games.

However, he cannot be accused of not putting in the work this offseason, with one photo he uploaded onto social media showing his bulging back muscles.

"Nah man, it's just the angle. I ain't been working out," he joked.

"Honestly, a lot of people commented on it saying, 'I'm gonna be stiff', and all this.

"No, I'm a professional and I know how to work out. It's partially genetics, but I've also been putting a lot of work into the weight room. And it's also just the way I flexed it.

"So it was nothing. There's a lot of people look like that."

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ryan Switzer recently met up for a throwing session with Ben Roethlisberger and reported that the veteran quarterback is throwing with no signs of last year's elbow surgery that ended his 2019 season after two games.

Switzer, fellow receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner were part of the workout with Roethlisberger, who said earlier in the offseason that he had been holding back during rehab to strengthen the elbow without overworking it.

"You know, like when the ball cuts through the air and you can hear that 'pfft-pfft-pfft' sound," Switzer told The Athletic.

"That's what JuJu said it sounded like.  I didn't hear it but, man, I have been trying to catch with no gloves for a couple of months to build up these callouses but ask my hands how they feel catching his throws."

Switzer has participated in sessions with Roethlisberger since February, so he knows exactly how much progress the quarterback has made.

"It's leaps and bounds different from when he first started," Switzer said. "There was no restraint, no hesitancy, he was just out there. He has been throwing like that for a while, and in my opinion at least, getting out there on that field for the first time and throwing full-speed routes was refreshing."

Roethlisberger will be entering his 17th NFL season and ranks fifth among active quarterbacks with 363 passing touchdowns and fourth with 56,545 yards.

When Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 2019 season ended with elbow surgery, he vowed not to trim his beard or cut his hair until he had fully recovered.  

On Monday, he shared a video proving he had earned his grooming.  

Roethlisberger posted a clip to Twitter showing himself throwing to team-mates, indicating the 38-year-old has made a full recovery from the operation that ended his season in 2019.  

The video begins with Roethlisberger explaining his promise to himself last year. 

"I'm not going to shave or cut my hair until I can throw a football again … throw it to one of my team-mates, like a legit NFL pass," he said.  

Roethlisberger is then shown firing passes at Quaker Valley High School in Leetsdale, Pennsylvania to wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Ryan Switzer, along with running back James Conner.  

The video ends with Roethlisberger's hair cut and Smith-Schuster looking directly at the camera to declare: "He's back." 

The Steelers managed an 8-8 record last season despite a series of injuries to key contributors, especially on offense.  

Roethlisberger injured his throwing elbow in Week 2 in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, while Conner missed six games and Smith-Schuster sat for four games.  

Mason Rudolph was Roethlisberger's primary replacement at quarterback, playing 10 games, but undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges made six starts, including in each of the season's last five games.  

Roethlisberger, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, has led the Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances and two titles in his 16 seasons with the team.  

He has a career 94.0 passer rating and is Pittsburgh's all-time passing leader with 56,545 yards and 363 touchdowns.   

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin believes it is only fair to re-open NFL facilities at the same time amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The NFL has laid out a plan for all 32 teams to have their facilities prepared to be re-opened by Friday, May 15.

Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all teams on Wednesday, informing them of the protocols put in place to have their complexes ready to open, and will then advise them as to when they can formally allow personnel to enter.

The first phase allows 50 per cent of non-player personnel permitted in the facility and only players continuing their rehab and therapy that they began before facilities were ordered to close in late March. The second phase involves increasing the number of staff members and players.

Tomlin spoke to reporters via a conference call on Saturday and said: "I prescribe to the approach of competitive fairness within our game, and that is everybody gets an opportunity.

"Our game is extremely competitive. It's one of the things that make football at this level so attractive to our fans.

"I'm committed to preserving and protecting that, and so all teams getting an opportunity to start on the same footing is a core element of that."

Tomlin added: "There's a couple of things that we're committed to adhering to, and that's the global approach of the National Football League in regards to football ops and how important competitive fairness is in our game.

"We all got to get started on the same footing in that regard. Then, also, respecting our local government and the guidelines they prescribe individually in terms of workplace safety.

"Those are the two key components for us. We're in a wait-and-see mindset, and we'll be ready to go when both boxes are checked."

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin expects quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to be fit for his team's 2020 NFL opener.

Roethlisberger, 38, underwent surgery on his right elbow in September last year, playing just two games during the 2019 season.

But the two-time Super Bowl champion is making progress and Tomlin feels the star QB will be ready to go when the new campaign begins.

"As we sit here today, we're extremely confident in his readiness. We're enjoying the process that he's going through right now," Tomlin told NFL Network on Thursday.

"Obviously he's not without his angst, the guy's coming off of a season-ending injury and surgery, but we like where we are.

"He's throwing on the rehab schedule, it's going well and we fully anticipate him being ready to go for that opener."

The NFL schedule was released on Thursday, with the Steelers beginning their season against the New York Giants on September 14.

"I've been at it a while. I haven't seen a schedule that I didn't like, particularly this time of year," Tomlin said.

"We're all football lovers and we miss competing so it's an exciting day when the schedule comes out."

The Pittsburgh Steelers exercised TJ Watt’s fifth-year option on Tuesday, an expected move after the outside linebacker emerged as one of the best defensive players in the NFL.

Following a breakthrough 2018 season in which he racked up 13 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and 21 quarterback hits to earn his first of two straight trips to the Pro Bowl, the 25-year-old Watt was even better last season.

The 30th overall pick of the 2017 draft, Watt ranked in the top five in the NFL across a host of categories in the 2019 campaign, including sacks, where he tied for fourth with 14.5, and forced fumbles, tying for first with eight. He tied for second in fumble recoveries with four, and was third for quarterback hits with 36.

Now he is staying with the team through the 2021 season, the Steelers announced.

Watt was the first player to rank in the top five in those four categories since his brother, Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt in 2014 – the year he earned his second AP Defensive Player of the Year Award.

TJ Watt, who was named a first-team All Pro in 2019, was a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year Award last season.

"It's just working hard and getting more and more experience," Watt said in a statement.

"This was my second year playing the left side. I am just growing and learning how I can approach the game better, find out what works better for me as far as film study, practice and preparation.

"Hopefully I can keep taking those jumps as I progress in my career."

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree has signed his franchise tender, the team announced on Thursday. 

The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Dupree on March 16 after the former first-round pick had a career season in 2019.  

Dupree set personal bests in sacks (11.5), total tackles (68), tackles for loss (16), quarterback hits (17), forced fumbles (4) and fumble recoveries (2). 

He tied for fifth in the NFL in both tackles for loss and forced fumbles, and was tied for ninth in the league in sacks. 

"I took my game to a different level," Dupree said. 

Dupree has 31.5 sacks in 70 games since the Steelers selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Twenty years ago the New England Patriots did what was tantamount to robbery.

With the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, New England selected Tom Brady, quarterback from the University of Michigan.

The rest is history. Six Super Bowl wins, nine AFC titles. It was a draft pick that altered the entire NFL, and it was all the more remarkable because sixth-round selections usually face a fight just to make the team.

However, sometimes players, like Brady, slip through the cracks in the draft process and a late-round diamond can be unearthed.

On the 20th anniversary of Brady's selection, we look at some of the best late-round picks in recent memory.

 

JULIAN EDELMAN - SEVENTH ROUND, 2009

Turns out the Patriots are good at this drafting lark and Brady is not the only late-round gem they have found.

Bill Belichick went to Kent State in 2009 to work out their quarterback Edelman, who had never run routes or caught passes before.

Edelman's pure potential intrigued Belichick, though, and he proved a shrewd seventh-round selection, initially as a punt returner and later as a wideout.

Brady's favourite target in his last few years in New England was instrumental in their Super Bowl LIII win, being named the game's MVP after making 10 catches for 141 yards.

 

KAM CHANCELLOR - FIFTH ROUND, 2010

Chancellor changed positions three times in four years in college and the Seattle Seahawks had already drafted one safety in first-rounder Earl Thomas when they selected the bruising Virginia Tech defensive back in the fifth.

The two would go on to form the heart of the 'Legion of Boom', one of the greatest defensive backfields of all time and a key reason why Seattle made two Super Bowls in back-to-back seasons.

Chancellor only spent eight seasons in the league and retired at 30 due to a neck injury, but the tone-setter of that great Seattle D was voted to four Pro Bowls.

 

ANTONIO BROWN - SIXTH ROUND, 2010

Brown wears the number 84 because 8 x 4 = 32 and 32 teams ignored him until the Pittsburgh Steelers grabbed the former Central Michigan receiver with the 195th overall pick a decade ago.

The pre-draft reports suggested he was slow, lacked size, had character concerns and didn't play elite competition in college.

Brown has since amassed 11,263 receiving yards and 75 touchdowns and was arguably the NFL's best receiver of the 2010s.

He remains out of the league today, though, with those character concerns rearing their head and ending short spells with the Oakland Raiders and Patriots last season.

 

RICHARD SHERMAN - FIFTH ROUND, 2011

The year after selecting Thomas and Chancellor, Seattle drafted K.J. Wright in the fourth round and cornerback Sherman in the fifth in another impressive haul.

Sherman, who started life at Stanford as a wide receiver before converting to corner, was the 34th defensive back selected in 2011, which made him "livid" and provided a sizeable chip for his shoulder.

Since then? Just the five Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pros, one Super Bowl ring (and another two appearances) and a spot on the NFL's All-Decade team of the 2010s.

 

GEORGE KITTLE - FIFTH ROUND, 2017

Do-it-all tight ends who are mismatch nightmares have been en vogue ever since Rob Gronkowski took the NFL by storm, and yet everyone passed on Kittle until the San Francisco 49ers wrote down his name for the 146th pick.

In his best season at Iowa, Kittle had 314 receiving yards. Last year he had his second straight 1,000-yard receiving season in the NFL having broken the record for tight ends with 1,377 yards in 2018.

Thanks to Kittle, Iowa tight ends are being taken more seriously too as T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant were both drafted in the first round last year.

Ben Roethlisberger has "no doubts" he can return to his peak form for the Pittsburgh Steelers after undergoing elbow surgery, as he feels better than he has done in years.

The 38-year-old had three flexor tendons reattached in September after being restricted to two appearances in the 2019 NFL season.

A thriving defense was held back by patchy quarterback play from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges as the Steelers went 8-8 without two-time Super Bowl winner Roethlisberger.

The starting quarterback's health is therefore a huge priority going into 2020, but he has no concerns over his recovery.

"I have no doubts I’m going to be able to come back and play well - none," Roethlisberger said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I have complete confidence in that.

"I'm throwing without pain for the first time in years. Some games, I would have a little pain. Some games, I would have a lot of pain. But in the New England game and the Seattle game, it got to be too much. 

"To be able to throw without pain now? That feels nice. That's a nice feeling. I know I'm not getting any younger, but I feel younger because I don't have any pain.

"There’s pressure, but I put more pressure on myself. As much as the fans and my team-mates want me out there, I want to be out there even more. 

"I saw last season what this team is capable of doing. I'm pushing myself to come back better than ever."

Roethlisberger started throwing again last month and is gradually building up his intensity.

He also laughed off concerns over his physique after recent appearances in a Steelers team video and at a college basketball game prompted some interesting critiques.

"I've heard people say I'm fat, and that just blows my mind," he said.

"I'm lighter and in better shape than I was in either of the past two years. 

"I haven't stopped working out. I normally don't work out in the offseason, but I've been doing everything five days a week with my trainer. Cardio twice a week. Legs twice a week. Upper body twice a week.

"I guess it's my beard that makes me look heavier. I must have five pounds in that, I know. But I'm not overweight."

The Pittsburgh Steelers placed Ryan Shazier on the reserve/retired list, the NFL franchise announced on Tuesday.

Shazier has spent the last two seasons on the reserve/physically unable to perform list after suffering a severe spinal injury in December 2017.

The 27-year-old linebacker and two-time Pro Bowler, however, will remain part of the Steelers organisation.

"Ryan's placement on the Reserve/Retired List serves as a matter of protocol to ensure his continued inclusion within our organisation moving forward in his professional career," said Steelers general manager/vice-president Kevin Colbert.

"Number one, Ryan continues to be a remarkable person and just an inspiration for the whole organisation, and really for the whole community, in terms of his perseverance, overcoming what he overcame," added Steelers president Art Rooney II.

"Ryan is going to make some decisions about his future at this point. I don't want to speak for him, but I think from our side of it we would be happy to have him continue to be a part of the Steelers organisation in some capacity. We would love to be able to do that. Ryan is at the point where he's making those kinds of decisions about his future.

"He has been told by a number of people in the organization [about us wanting him to continue to be a part of us], including me."

 

Tom Brady's departure from the New England Patriots might have been the big NFL news on Tuesday, but there was plenty of activity elsewhere in free agency.

As the world waits on Brady's next move after 20 seasons as a Patriot, the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers reportedly found new starting quarterbacks in Philip Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater respectively.

Here, we wrap up some of the other big moves that were reported to have been agreed ahead of the new league year beginning on Wednesday.

 

Tight end Jason Witten returned to the Dallas Cowboys last season after a campaign in the broadcast booth and he will be back in 2020, but with the Las Vegas Raiders. Witten, Maliek Collins and safety Jeff Heath are all thought to be making the move from Dallas to Sin City. Linebacker Cory Littleton has also agreed terms with the Raiders, according to reports.

Vic Beasley, who led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2015, is said to be heading to the Tennessee Titans. The edge rusher has only had 18 sacks combined over the previous three seasons.

Having had 11.5 sacks in 2019 with the Cowboys, Robert Quinn's agents told NFL.com he is bound for the Chicago Bears on a five-year, $70million deal. Chicago have confirmed Leonard Floyd has been released.

Malcolm Jenkins, a key part of the Philadelphia Eagles when they won Super Bowl LII, has been released, though the team confirmed two other members of their defensive backfield, Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod, had signed new deals.

Former Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Chargers, revealed he has been "reunited with my guy" Ron Rivera at the Washington Redskins. 

The Chargers were busy making an acquisition themselves, bringing in offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga on a three-year, $30m deal, according to NFL.com. Who he will be protecting remains to be seen, though, with the Chargers considered one of the favourites in the Brady sweepstakes.

A day after handing receiver A.J. Green the franchise tag, the Cincinnati Bengals reportedly made two signings on the other side of the ball in nose tackle D.J. Reader and cornerback Trae Waynes.

The Jacksonville Jaguars bolstered their front seven by signing ex-Cleveland Browns linebacker Joe Schobert, while cornerback Darqueze Dennard is thought to be joining too.

Elsewhere, the San Francisco 49ers, the NFC representatives in last month's Super Bowl, confirmed they had tendered one-year contracts to restricted free agents Kendrick Bourne and Matt Breida.

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