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Clarett’s Stay in Denver Does Not Last Long

From Associated Press

Maurice Clarett’s first stab at the NFL will end the same way his last two seasons on the sideline did: no carries, no yards, one big disappointment.

Unable to practice much or play at all during the preseason, Clarett will be released by the Denver Broncos this week, his agent said Sunday.

“The kid called me and let me know they’re going to let him go,” Steven Feldman told Associated Press.

Clarett’s pending release also was reported by ESPN.com on Sunday.

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Bronco spokesman Jim Saccomano said the team didn’t plan to release anyone until Tuesday, which is the deadline for NFL teams to cut rosters to 65 players. The Broncos were off Sunday and scheduled to practice today.

The pending release marks a disappointing start to the NFL career of the troubled former Ohio State running back, who missed two years of football after helping the Buckeyes to the national title in 2002.

Clarett made the unusual move of agreeing to a contract that included no signing bonus. He relinquished what would have been about a $400,000 bonus in exchange for incentives that could have earned him up to $7 million over four years.

If a team claims the third-round pick off waivers, it will assume the terms of the contract. More likely is that Clarett will clear waivers, become a free agent and sign a new deal.

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Clarett came to Denver and said he simply wanted to start over and blend in. He talked a good game, but his chances of making the team were hurt early in training camp when he injured his groin and sat out nearly two weeks of practice.

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Running back Cedric Benson ended his 36-day holdout, agreeing to a five-year contract with the Chicago Bears.

Benson, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, was the last first-round pick to sign. Terms were not available, but reports said the Bears had offered a contract that contained $17 million in guaranteed money to the former Texas star.

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This month, Bear General Manager Jerry Angelo said that the team had made its final offer to Benson and that future negotiations would be centered on how much Benson’s value had been reduced by the holdout.

Benson was a four-year starter at Texas and finished his career as the sixth-leading rusher in NCAA Division I-A history and the second-leading rusher in Longhorns’ history.

The Bears also named rookie Kyle Orton their starting quarterback, and the team demoted Chad Hutchinson out of the playing rotation.

Orton’s strong performance in Friday’s 16-12 win over Buffalo, when he led an 81-yard scoring drive, and Hutchinson’s second shaky outing in a row -- three for 14 passing, two interceptions and three sacks -- prompted Coach Lovie Smith to make the move.

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Smith said recently signed veteran Jeff Blake is now the backup and Kurt Kittner is No. 3.

Orton, who played at Purdue, was a fourth-round draft pick. He slipped in the draft after he was slowed by a hip injury in his senior season.

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The New Orleans Saints headed for Northern California on Sunday, leaving several days early as Hurricane Katrina bore down on the city under a mandatory evacuation.

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The team has a Thursday night exhibition against the Oakland Raiders, and will practice today through Wednesday at San Jose State.

Team officials expect to decide after Thursday’s game when to return to New Orleans.

“Our plans for flying home will be determined once we see what kind of condition the city is in,” team spokesman Greg Bensel said in an e-mail. “We are all hoping for the best for the city and the people that remain.”

Katrina intensified into a Category 5 hurricane over the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico on a path to make landfall early today in the heart of New Orleans.

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San Diego Charger outside linebacker Shawne Merriman is out for a minimum of two weeks because of a sprained left knee, meaning it’s possible he’ll sit out the season opener on Sept. 11 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Merriman was hurt on the opening kickoff of Friday night’s exhibition loss at Minnesota when he fell on the artificial turf.

Merriman, the team’s top draft pick and the 12th overall selection, has a sprained posterior ligament. An MRI exam conducted Saturday revealed that not enough damage was done to require surgery.

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Merriman has played sparingly since reporting a week late to training camp. He sat out the first exhibition because of a strained hamstring and played in the second game before getting hurt at Minnesota.

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Troy Edwards, a onetime first-round pick, was released by Jacksonville after he was unable to move ahead of rookie receivers Matt Jones and Chad Owens. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Edwards was the Jaguars’ No. 3 receiver the last two years, but he lost that spot to first-round pick Jones this season and even fell behind sixth-round selection Owens in the last two exhibitions. Edwards was a first-round pick by Pittsburgh in 1999.... Steeler running back Jerome Bettis had an MRI test on his injured right calf on Saturday, but team officials did not update his condition.... Atlanta Falcon rookie linebacker Jordan Beck probably will go on the injured reserve list this week because of a foot injury, effectively ending his season. Beck is a third-round draft pick from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.


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