AFC Notes: Brady, Smith, Thomas, Heyward

Here are some items from around the AFC on Saturday with teams set to begin OTA sessions.

  • The Broncos added two defensive linemen to push Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson in training camp and to likely spell the incumbents off the bench this season. But that depth could be in jeopardy after word surfaced of an investigation into Antonio Smith‘s alleged child abuse, writes longtime Broncos reporter Mike Klis of 9News. With the NFL showing it does not need the justice system to dole out significant punishment, Klis points out Smith now faces a battle to wear a Broncos uniform. Of the one-year, $2MM contract Smith signed in April, only his $500K signing bonus is guaranteed. Smith, 33, and Vance Walker are the only Broncos with NFL experience as 3-4 defensive ends.
  • Facebook-frequenting Patriots fans have organized a “Free Tom Brady” rally set for Sunday at Gillette Stadium, according to The quarterback’s quest to not miss all of September due to his Deflategate-induced suspension endured a blow Friday when Roger Goodell refused to recuse himself from the future hall of famer’s appeal.
  • After right quadricep tears forced season-ending surgeries for Colts guard Donald Thomas the past two years, his status is murky going into a third year of a four-year, $14MM contract. The soon-to-be-30-year-old cog’s inability to resume football activities yet, per Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, do not help his push to regain the starting left guard spot. Missing 30 of a possible 32 games since signing with the Colts in 2013, Thomas re-tore his quad last July and counts $3.75MM against the team’s cap this year. 2014 second-rounder Jack Mewhort manned the position last season.
  • New Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler doesn’t figure to tinker too much with a successful blueprint, according to Teresa Varley of “I don’t think there are going to be too many changes,” Cameron Heyward told Varley. “It’s going to be the same details. We will have a couple of new wrinkles, but we won’t share them now.” 
  • The 2011 first-round defensive end also iterated a desire to play his entire career in Pittsburgh to Varley. A soon-to-be third-year starter, Heyward is set to be a free agent after the season, which will be played under the fifth-year option the team picked up in April. “The Steelers greats don’t go anywhere else. James (Harrison) did for a little bit, but he is already back. That is what I want to be, a Steelers great, and that means being here the rest of my life, football included and after,” Heyward said.
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