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Browns release veteran DT Sheldon Richardson, a head-scratching salary-cap move

Primarily a run stopper, Sheldon Richardson finished with 64 tackles and 4½ sacks last season.
Primarily a run stopper, Sheldon Richardson finished with 64 tackles and 4½ sacks last season.Wade Payne/Associated Press

This offseason remodeling of the Browns’ defense includes a surprising removal.

Veteran tackle Sheldon Richardson’s contract was terminated Friday, a head-scratching move that creates more salary-cap space but also a hole in the middle of Cleveland’s defensive line.

Days after adding free agent end Jadeveon Clowney, the Browns parted with Richardson, who started 16 games last season and played well for the team since signing a three-year, $37 million contract in 2019.

The Browns will save around $12 million in cash and salary-cap space with Richardson off the roster. Cleveland had roughly $10.3 million left under the cap after signing Clowney to an incentive-laden, one-year deal this week.

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The Browns, who ended their long playoff drought last season, have some major financial decisions ahead with possible long-term contracts for quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb and cornerback Denzel Ward on the table.

It's not yet known if the Browns asked Richardson to restructure his contract or if he'd be willing to re-sign for less money.

Primarily a run stopper, the 6-foot-3-inch, 294-pound Richardson finished with 64 tackles and 4½ sacks last year as the Browns earned a wild-card berth.

A first-round pick of the Jets, he was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. Richardson spent four seasons with New York and one each with Seattle and Minnesota before signing with the Browns.

Steelers won’t attend in-person workouts

The Pittsburgh Steelers have become the 10th group of NFL players to say they won’t be attending in-person voluntary offseason workouts.

With a post through the NFL Players Association, the Steelers joined the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, Broncos, Seahawks, Giants, Bears, Raiders, Lions, Browns, and Patriots in declaring their intent to skip the sessions that can begin Monday.

“We should not be made to compromise our health and safety,” the Pittsburgh players wrote. “With the current pandemic still affecting our communities and country, and the lack of clear protocols and protections regarding returning to work at full capacity, the players ... have decided to exercise our right to not participate in voluntary offseason activities.

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“A virtual offseason [in 2020] helped keep us safe to not only start but finish the regular season as safely as possible,” Steelers players added, “and it makes no sense for us to risk infection or injury in the spring if we don’t have to.

“The protections we had in place last year are not fully in place now and remain unclear. We are professionals and are committed to being in the best shape possible. Our team holds each other accountable to the highest professional standards and we will prepare as we always do to be the best for Steelers Nation.”

On Wednesday, the league issued a memo to all 32 teams announcing that the first four weeks of the voluntary program will be virtual before transitioning to in person at the team’s respective training facilities. Last year, the offseason programs were all done virtually and training camp was pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video refutes claim that Donald assaulted man

The lawyer for Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said witnesses and surveillance video refute a man’s claim the player assaulted him at a Pittsburgh nightclub last weekend.

Attorney Casey White told WPXI-TV that the video indicates Donald did not assault anyone but was trying to save the victim, De’Vincent Spriggs.

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The station aired black-and-white video that shows about a dozen men and a melee in which one man, purportedly Spriggs, ended up on the ground. White says Donald is in the video, pulling someone away from the fight.

“Aaron’s like, ‘I don’t have anything to hide, let’s go to police, let’s do what we’ve got to do. Because all I want to do is go to the weight room, work out and not be bothered with this,’ ” White told the station.

White told ESPN that five witnesses say Donald helped pull people away.

“He’s trying to get these kids off Spriggs; He gets at least two or three people off of Spriggs and at that point in time, somebody grabs Aaron and says, ‘This is not a good situation, let’s get the heck out of here,’ ” White told ESPN.

A message seeking further comment was left for White.

Spriggs’ lawyer Todd J. Hollis has said Donald and others assaulted Spriggs, causing multiple injuries that required hospital treatment.

Spriggs, 26, filed a complaint Wednesday with Pittsburgh police, who are investigating. No charges have been filed.

Marshawn Lynch talks with Dr. Fauci

Retired running back Marshawn Lynch is lending his voice to try to help members of Black and Hispanic communities make more informed decisions about receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

And he’s enlisted the assistance of the nation’s top infectious disease specialist to do it.

Lynch released a 30-minute interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci on his YouTube channel Friday, becoming the latest prominent athlete to sit down with him to discuss the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines as the US continues to combat the pandemic.

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Since hanging up his cleats following the 2019 season, the 34-year-old Lynch has stayed entrenched in his native Oakland, California, community through his Fam 1st Family Foundation, which has spearheaded several educational and philanthropic initiatives to assist residents.

Lynch hasn’t been vaccinated and he pointed out to Fauci that distrust in his community remains high regarding vaccine safety.

“When it comes to the government giving back to communities that look like me, we don’t seem to be on the well-received end of those situations,” Lynch told Fauci during the interview, which was recorded late last month. “It gets to the point where it’s almost like a gamble.”

Campaigns aimed at Black communities across the US are making headway in the effort to persuade people the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.