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NFL notes: Victor Cruz retires, set to make debut on ESPN

Former New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz has retired. In making the announcement Tuesday, the 31-year-old Cruz said he plans to join ESPN as an NFL analyst. Cruz will contribute to variety of shows and make his ESPN debut Wednesday.

Cruz was a seven-year NFL veteran and a 2012 Pro Bowl selection. He joined the Giants in 2010 as an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts. He had his first 1,000-yard season and caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in February 2012.

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Cruz had 303 catches for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, including an NFL record-tying 99-yard reception in December 2011. He was signed by the Chicago Bears in 2017 but cut before the season.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning said Cruz had a terrific career.

Cruz burst onto the scene when he caught three touchdowns in a preseason game against the New York Jets in 2010. It made for a great story because he grew up in nearby Paterson, N.J., which was within 30 minutes driving distance, depending on the traffic. He made the roster but sat out with injury.

He became a star the following season.

“He had a great feel for the offense, his routes, and he was tough to cover,” Manning said Tuesday after the Giants practiced for Friday's annual preseason game against the Jets. “He would run down the field, break it in, and we gave him a lot of options. He mastered some of those concepts, and it gave him a great opportunity to get open and make big plays for us.”

Manning said he and Cruz talked in the Giants' locker room two weeks ago, and he wished him well “going to the dark side.”

Manning laughed when asked if he wanted to prerecord his response to Cruz's first criticism of his play.

“He'll be all right, I hope,” Manning said.

Smith suspended

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith has been suspended for four games without pay for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

The suspension, announced Tuesday, stems from Smith's behavior toward his ex-girlfriend.

The Ravens released a statement that in part read: “The Ravens fully support the NFL's decision. The NFL found evidence of threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors by Jimmy toward his former girlfriend that showed a pattern of improper conduct. Our player's behavior was inappropriate and wrong.”

The suspension will take effect after the final mandated roster cuts on Sept. 1 and extend through Baltimore's game at Pittsburgh on Sept. 30.

Smith, in a statement issued by the Ravens, said: “I promise that I have already learned much and will continue to learn more from this experience. I take full responsibility for my past conduct.”

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Smith will be allowed to participate in all of the Ravens' preseason activities, including games. The 30-year-old is one of Baltimore's best defensive backs.

Etc.

Carolina Panthers left tackle Matt Kalil has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will be re-evaluated on a weekly basis. The team said Kalil traveled to Florida on Monday for a second opinion on his knee from Dr. James Andrews and the decision was made to have the procedure. Kalil becomes Carolina's third starting offensive lineman — and the second tackle — to go down with a knee injury. … Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson expects wide receiver Josh Gordon will be on the practice field “very soon.” Gordon returned to the team Saturday following a three-weeks-plus absence connected to his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. The former Pro Bowler has only been allowed to attend meetings and watch from the sideline since returning. He may need to be cleared by the NFL before he can practice. …

The Tennessee Titans have agreed to a contract extension with wide receiver Rishard Matthews through 2019. Matthews signed with Tennessee in March 2016 after spending the first four seasons of his career with Miami. He has 118 catches for 1,740 yards and 13 touchdowns in Tennessee, and he ranks ninth in the NFL among receivers with at least 100 receptions averaging 14.7 yards per catch. … The Buffalo Bills have signed punter Jon Ryan to a one-year contract, a day after the 12-year NFL veteran was released by the Seattle Seahawks. Ryan's signing places into question returning punter Colton Schmidt's hold on the job he's held for the previous four seasons. The Canadian-born Ryan spent 10 seasons in Seattle and had been the longest active player on the team's roster.

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