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Jaguars may have to lean more on safety Thompson than expected

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Jaguars safety Peyton Thompson knows as well as anyone just how hard it is to not only earn a spot on an NFL roster but keep one. Since he first came to the league as an undrafted free agent with the Falcons in 2012, the San Jose State product has been cut six times.

Such is the life of a player who’s probably best suited to work on special teams. Much like his play in the secondary, though, the chances of Thompson earning and keeping a roster spot with the Jaguars this year seem to be improving.

When Tashaun Gipson was forced to miss all of the Jaguars offseason workouts, including their minicamp, with an undisclosed injury, defensive coordinator Todd Wash plugged Thompson into the opening at free safety and according to coach Doug Marrone, Thompson fared rather well.

“He’s done a nice job for us,’’ Marrone told reporters during the spring. “He’s trying to make sure we can establish him at a position where he can go in there and play and help us compete. I think he’s really come back differently than last year.’’

What’s different is Thompson’s approach to his job. Instead of worrying about being cut, he opted this past year to focus more on the various roles he’s asked to play in the Jaguars defense in the hopes he can begin to excel at one of them.

It appears he may have done that. Thompson says he’s reached a point now in his knowledge of the defense as well as how route concepts work where he can play fast. That and the opportunity to show off his skills during offseason workouts have created an opportunity for him.

The Jaguars say they’re not concerned about whatever the injury is that forced Gipson to the sidelines. Indeed, they said they were only being cautious when they opted to keep him out. Still, there’s a chance Gipson’s absence could stretch into training camp.

If that’s the case then Thompson could become a very important player to the Jaguars. This is a team that’s quite deep at safety, but newcomer Barry Church had to miss all of the offseason workouts and minicamp as well, which means the Jaguars may at least have to do some shuffling.

One option would be to move Jalen Ramsey to safety, but with Ramsey coming off surgery to repair a core muscle issue, he could be limited, too. Either way, it looks like Thompson will have his best chance yet to prove what he’s really worth once training camp rolls around.

Of course, given the reviews he received from Marrone during the offseason workouts, it’s possible he’s already done that.




Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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XFL allocates former Georgia star QB Aaron Murray to Tampa team

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The reboot of Vince McMahon’s Spring XFL Football League is slated for next February, and the eight teams are making preparation with a draft of players. And, this includes the Tampa Bay franchise, the Vipers being allocated by the league a local high school and SEC star, as their quarterback..

The XFL and Vipers announced Tuesday morning that former Georgia All-SEC quarterback, Aaron Murray was given to them:

Murray has ties to the Tampa Bay area, as a native who led Plant High School to a State Football Championship. He’s also the Southeastern Conference all-time leader in completions passing yards and passing touchdowns in a career.

Murray briefly was with the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles from 2014-16.

He was last seen quarterbacking earlier this year in the now-defunct Alliance of American football with the Atlanta Legends (above) franchise. They selected Murray for the same regional interest of him having played college ball down the road in Athens, Georgia.

Murray actually split time with former Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms in Atlanta. The AAF, however, unraveled and folded due to financial problems just eight games into their inaugural season.

Tampa Bay is coached by former Bears and Montreal Allouettes of the CFL coach Marc Trestman.

The other seven teams in the XFL were allocated a quarterback the same way and there are a couple of familiar names.

Former Oklahoma National Championship-winning coach, Bob Stoops, is the coach and GM of the Dallas Renegades, and the league selected his former Oklahoma quarterback, Landry Jones.

Jones left Oklahoma with the all-time record for passing yards and touchdown passes in a career in the Big XII, just like Murray for the SEC. Jones is a former backup in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as the Raiders and the Jaguars last season.

Former Ohio State Star Cardale Jones is getting another opportunity in his professional career, as the XFL assigned him to the Washington D.C. Defenders.

Jones helped Ohio State win the Big Ten Title in relief in December of 2014 and then quarterbacked the Buckeyes to their two College Football Playoff wins, including their National Championship victory over Oregon.

Jones was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2016 and also was with the L.A. Chargers for three seasons.

The XFL will continue filling out rosters with a Tuesday draft, with numerous players from Florida or Florida schools that have already worked out regionally for all of the clubs.

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Former Gators kicker Pineiro is Chicago hero- for now

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Every week in the NFL there are heroes in the clutch for different franchises. However, in a market like Chicago with the rabid, massive following like the Chicago Bears, when you do something dramatic to help them win everything is taken up to a new level.

That’s something that new kicker, and former Florida Gator Eddy Pineiro, is experiencing after his dramatic game-winning 53 yard field goal with no time left in Denver Sunday gave the Bears a 16-14 win.

First, it looked as though the Bears had blown the game when they allowed Denver’s Joe Flacco to lead a last-minute scoring drive that resulted in a dramatic touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders with :31 seconds left. And, then, the two hooked up on the go ahead two-point conversion to Sanders for 14 – 13 lead.

But undaunted, the Bears, led by quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, got into scoring position on a 25-yard completion to the Broncos 25 to Allen Robinson with just :01 remaining.

That’s when Pineiro, who had kicked two lengthy field goals earlier in the game, stepped on the Mile High turf and calmly, with 80,000 Bronco fans going berserk, booted home a line drive game-winner to make the Bears 1 – 1.

As we wrote earlier this month, Pineiro, a second year player, had won the Bears kicking job coming out of preseason. Pineiro won the spot over Elliott Fry by hitting a 58-yard field goal against the Colts, followed by another 3-for-3 against the Titans in August.

And Gators fans will remember the Miami native having a good college career at Florida. He made 17/18 FG’s during the Gators miserable 2017 season. And combined with his 21/25 the year before, he totaled an 88% field goal career mark.

Pineiro declared for the 2018 NFL Draft after only two seasons with the Gators, but went undrafted. He signed as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders in May of 2018, however, he was placed on injured reserve last September. Earlier this summer, he was traded to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Finally, let’s keep in perspective that we are not talking Chicago icon status like: Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Ernie Banks and Patrick Kane have.

Still, it was a large moment early in his tenuous Bears kicking career and Pineiro is celebrating, like he should.

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