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NFL teams pick up five ex-Arizona Wildcats after cut-down day

Nic Grigsby tries to get away from Atlanta linebacker Robert James in a preseason game. Photo by Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

Five former Arizona Wildcats who were released as NFL teams cut their rosters to 53 by Saturday found continuing employment Sunday.

Fullback Chris Gronkowski, who started seven games last season with the Dallas Cowboys, was signed by the Indianapolis Colts.

Rookie free agent center Colin Baxter also landed on his feet. He signed with the New York Jets after being waived by the San Diego Chargers.

The additions of Gronkowski and Baxter bring the number of ex-Cats on active NFL rosters to 12.

Defensive lineman Lionel Dotson (Bills), rookie free agent offensive tackle Adam Grant (Broncos) and rookie free agent running back Nic Grigsby (Dolphins) were signed to the practice squads of the team that waived them Saturday.

Here is the breakdown of ex-Wildcats in the NFL:

Colin Baxter, C, New York Jets
Baxter, who started an Arizona Wildcats record 48 consecutive games, is trying to make it as an undrafted free agent. In college, he had a nasty streak and was a strong leader of the Wildcats’ line.

Lance Briggs, LB, Chicago
The six-time Pro Bowl player is the most-decorated of the former Wildcats in the NFL, and he has been a stalwart on the Bears’ defense for the past eight seasons, recording 864 tackles. But there could be trouble brewing. The 30-year-old Briggs is unhappy about his contract and has demanded a trade if he doesn’t get a new one before the end of this season. He will make $3.9 million this season (with bonuses), $4 million next season and $6.5 million in 2013, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Eben Britton, OT, Jacksonville
Britton started 15 games at right tackle as a rookie in 2009 and appears to have a long career ahead of him. He missed the final nine games of last season with a shoulder injury, and he might not be ready for the season-opener because of a back injury.

Antoine Cason, DB, San Diego
Cason flourished last season as a starting cornerback in his third year in the NFL, making four interceptions and breaking up 17 passes. He also averaged 16.5 yards on 14 punt returns.

Nick Folk, PK, New York Jets
Folk, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007, connected on 30 of 39 field goals last season, his first with the Jets. He re-signed with New York on a one-year deal and successfully battled Nick Novak for a Jets’ roster spot in the preseason. Folk has made 94 of 120 field goals in four NFL seasons (94 of 120) and all 168 of his extra-point attempts.

Chris Gronkowski, FB, Indianapolis
Gronkowski is a willing worker whose favorable rookie season in Dallas last year took a bad turn when he missed a block that got quarterback Toby Romo injured. Now, if given a chance, he’ll have even more valuable treasure to protect — Peyton Manning.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
Had an excellent 2011 season, making 42 catches for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns, which was a franchise record for a rookie. He finished the regular season with his first 100-yard day — with six receptions for 102 yards against Miami. No former Arizona Wildcat had ever made more than seven TD receptions in an NFL season.

Spencer Larsen, FB, Denver
The former All-Pac-10 linebacker was a two-way player for his first two seasons in Denver, famously starting at fullback and at linebacker as a rookie. Now, he is exclusively an offensive player, and he appears headed for a more prominent blocking role as the Broncos will feature more of a power running game this season.

Earl Mitchell, DT, Houston
Second-year pro is battling with former USC Trojan Shaun Cody for a starting spot at nose tackle in the Texans’ new 3-4 scheme. Mitchell made 28 tackles last season as a rookie.

Brooks Reed, LB, Houston
The second-round pick is making a successful transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, and had two sacks in a preseason game against New Orleans. From the Houston Chronicle: Texans rookie Reed a real stand-up guy.

D’Aundre Reed, DE, Minnesota
Reed, despite being a backup at Arizona, was intriguing enough as an athlete to be a seventh-round pick in 2011. Reports indicated he looked good early in camp before suffering a calf injury.

Mike Thomas, WR, Jacksonville
Thomas, a fourth-round pick in 2009, set a franchise rookie record with 48 catches for 453 yards. He followed up in 2010 with team-highs in catches (66) and receiving yards (820), highlighted by one of the plays of the year in the NFL, catching a deflected Hail Mary pass from David Garrard for a last-play touchdown for a 31-24 win over Houston.

Practice squads
–DL Lionel Dotson (Bills)
–OT Adam Grant (Broncos)
–RB Nic Grigsby (Dolphins)

–Rookie free agent OL Conan Amituanai (Minnesota)
–Rookie free agent WR Travis Cobb (Chicago)
–Rookie free agent DT Lolomana Mikaele (Cincinnati)
–Rookie free agent TE A.J. Simmons (Falcons)
–LB Ricky Elmore (Packers)
–LB Vuna Tuihalamaka (Colts)
–CB Nate Ness (Dolphins)
–RB Chris Henry (Seattle)
–RB Mike Bell (Lions)
–RB Chris Jennings (Jets)
–DB Michael Johnson (Lions)
–TE Fendi Onobun (Rams)
–TE Brandon Manumaleuna, who failed his physical in Chicago.

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