Ex-Cats in NFL: Folk wins PK battle; Larsen to injured reserveby Anthony Gimino on Aug. 27, 2012, under Arizona football
NFL teams had to cut their rosters from 90 to 75 by Monday afternoon, which brought a mix of news for former Arizona Wildcats on the bubble.
Deeper cuts — down to 53 players — have to be made by Friday night.
At various times in late summer or early in camp, there were 24 former Wildcats on NFL rosters. That number is down to 18, but at least one is more secure today: Placekicker Nick Folk has won his battle with Josh Brown, who was released by the New York Jets on Monday.
The news wasn’t good for linebacker-turned-fullback Spencer Larsen, signed in the offseason by the New England Patriots. The team placed Larsen on season-ending injured reserve.
Some of the longer-shots on the list, such as undrafted rookie free agents David Douglas (New York Giants) and Robert Golden (Pittsburgh), survived the first cuts. Golden, a safety, intercepted a pass in most recent preseason game. One of Golden’s competitors for a roster spot, Myron Rolle, was waived Monday.
Here is a look at who is where, with new links to recent stories:
Colin Baxter, C, San Diego
Baxter, who started an Arizona Wildcats record 48 consecutive games, bounced between the Chargers and the New York Jets as a rookie. The former undrafted free agent is battling David Molk for a backup spot with San Diego.
Lance Briggs, LB, Chicago
Briggs is the most-decorated of the former Wildcats in the NFL, a stalwart on the Bears’ defense for the past nine seasons, recording 969 tackles. Being selected to seven consecutive Pro Bowls puts him in unbelievable company in franchise history; Bill George, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary are the only other Bears to accomplish that. He is still going strong at 31, and he signed a contract extension in the spring to take him through the 2014 season.
Eben Britton, OT, Jacksonville
Britton started 15 games at right tackle as a rookie in 2009, but injuries have limited him to 11 games over the past two seasons. Injuries shuffled the Jags’ line during camp, and it now looks as if Britton’s new home will be left guard.
Antoine Cason, CB, San Diego
Cason, the 2007 Jim Thorpe Award winner and the brightest defensive star of the Mike Stoops era, has started the past two seasons for the Chargers, breaking up 17 passes each year. The former first-round pick has 10 career interceptions in four NFL seasons.
Juron Criner, WR, Oakland
One of the most prolific receivers in school history (209 catches for 2,859 yards and a UA-record 32 touchdowns), Criner drew rave reviews in Raiders’ OTAs and minicamps after being selected in the fifth round. Could be a steal.
Recent story: Criner makes two long TD catches in preseason game
David Douglas, WR, New York Giants
Douglas faces long odds as an undrafted free agent, but he showed great hands and route running at Arizona, and his athleticism was often underrated. He made 117 receptions in his final two seasons with the Cats. Reports from camp have been that he has impressed the coaching staff with his ability to make the tough catch. At worst, Douglas is going to end up on somebody’s practice squad.
Recent story: David Douglas impresses despite stat line
Ricky Elmore, OLB, San Diego
He was a sixth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2011, but didn’t make it through camp while trying to transition from a prolific college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker. Elmore, who had 21.5 sacks in his final two seasons at Arizona, is getting another chance with the Chargers.
Recent story: Elmore finding new life in San Diego
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia
An Arizona quarterback in the NFL? Foles, who rewrote the Wildcats passing records, will try to become the first former UA quarterback to throw a pass in an NFL game since Bill Demory in 1973. Foles, a third-round pick, has been the talk of Philly with three very good preseason games that put him in position to be the primary backup to Michael Vick.
Recent story: Foles having a blast in the preseason
Nick Folk, PK, New York Jets
Folk, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007, has connected on 49 of 64 field goals in his two seasons with the Jets and has hit from beyond 50 yards in each of his five NFL seasons.
Robert Golden, DB, Pittsburgh
Golden, an undrafted free agent, started at cornerback and safety with Arizona. He’s trying to latch on with the Steelers at safety.
Adam Grant, OT, Denver
Undrafted after the 2010 season, Grant stuck with the Broncos’ practice squad all of last season and was invited back to camp. If he doesn’t make the active roster, he’ll probably end up back on the practice squad.
Chris Gronkowski, FB, Denver
His favorable rookie season in Dallas in 2010 took a bad turn when he missed a block that got quarterback Tony Romo injured. Gronkowski played seven games for the Colts last season before being shut down because of a torn pectoral muscle. Perhaps he will get a chance to do this season what he didn’t last year with the Colts — protect Peyton Manning.
Recent story: Chris Gronkowski relishing fullback role
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
The NFL party boy is coming back from post-Super Bowl ankle surgery and he will try to continue his march toward being one of the great tight ends in NFL history. He caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns last season (a record for tight ends).
Earl Mitchell, DT, Houston
Mitchell is a third-year pro who has been a solid contributor to the Texans, making 55 career tackles, and he’s back to battle Shaun Cody again for playing time at nose tackle. He might not be the traditional plugger in the middle of the 3-4 front, but he puts his athleticism to good use and should have a long NFL career.
Brooks Reed, OLB, Houston
Reed was excellent as a rookie last season, stepping into a starting role and making 45 tackles, including six sacks in the regular season. The former UA defensive end — a second-round pick — is quick with his pass-rushing first step, and Wildcats fans know all about his relentless motor.
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. He was not active for any game last season.
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 with team-highs in catches in each of the past two seasons, although the Jags’ aerial attack was rather anemic last year with rookie QB Blaine Gabbert. Thomas, who caught 44 passes for 415 yards last season, will have a new running mate this season to spark the passing game — two-time Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State.
Trevin Wade, CB, Cleveland
The seventh-round rookie had a solid senior season, bouncing back from junior struggles, and looked good in various offseason activities. “I think he’s got a feel for playing the game at corner,” Browns coach Pat Shurmer recently told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
–WR Gino Crump (Arizona)
–DE Lionel Dotson (Buffalo)
–TE Fendi Onobun (Buffalo)
–LB Paul Vassallo (Arizona)
–LB Spencer Larsen (New England)
–DB Nate Ness (Carolina)