Tracking Cougs at NFL Training Camps

NFL TRAINING camps are opening this week and a scan of rosters shows ten old Cougs vying for spots, including three rookies. And, for the first time in 15 seasons, a Cougar constant in the NFL is absent.

Kicker Rian Lindell, a steady presence on Sundays since 2000, remains a free agent as camps get underway. Last season, at Tampa Bay, he connected on 23 of 29 field goals, including six of 50 yards or more, so the guess is that he’ll get a call this summer or in the fall as injuries and/or a rash of misses start to mount.

New Cougars to NFL training camps this season are first-round draft pick Deone Bucannon (pictured above) with the Cardinals, and undrafted free agent signees John Fullington (offensive lineman, Packers) and Andrew Furney (kicker, Jets).

Bucannon signed a a four-year, $7.7 million contract with Arizona and almost certainly will earn a starting spot at safety.

WSU also has three second-year NFL players looking to secure spots after uncertain first seasons: quarterback Jeff Tuel (Bills), outside linebacker Travis Long (Eagles) and receiver Marquess Wilson (Bears).

Tuel figures to battle former Oregon star Dennis Dixon for Buffalo’s No. 3 QB spot behind E.J. Manuel and Thad Lewis. Unlike some NFL teams, the Bills kept three QBs – including Tuel, who made one start -- on the roster all of last season, so the presumption is that they’ll do so again.

Long spent last season on Philadelphia’s practice squad after coming off a knee injury sustained at the end of his career at WSU. He has steadily impressed Eagles coaches with his motor and on a team needing a better pass rush he has been widely tabbed this off season as a sleeper candidate to turn heads in training camp.

Wilson, who caught just two passes for 10 yards for the Bears in 2013, appears locked in for 2014 as Chicago’s No. 3 wideout. He’s been working out in the offseason with standout receiver teammates Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey and pundits in the Windy City believe that influence will pay big dividends.

As for seasoned NFL veterans, there will be four Cougs in training camps this summer and all appear to have secure futures.

Jed Collins signed as a free agent with Detroit (one year $645,00) after three years with the Saints and is considered the front-runner for the Lions’ starting job at fullback.

Husain Abdullah is also competing for a starting job this summer, at strong safety with the Chiefs. After sitting out 2012 on a pilgrimage to Mecca, he came back strong last season for Kansas City, appearing in every game and starting two. His work was sound enough to earn a two-year contract this off-season that pays $725,000 per season. This will be his sixth NFL season.

Ropati Pitoitua is entering his sixth NFL season and second with Tennessee. The big defensive end started 13 games for the Titans in 2013 and signed a three-year contract with the team this past March worth a total of $9.6 million.

Brandon Gibson is perhaps the WSU NFL vet who will have the most eyes on him in camp. After a stellar start with the Dolphins last season (30 catches in seven games) he went down with a nasty knee tear. Coming off the injury, and with some interesting young receiving talent in the mix, his playing time in Miami in 2014 is a question mark. He figures to battle for the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver spots. Working in his favor is the fact he and Ryan Tannefill established a tremendous rapport last season, and in his previous five NFL seasons he’s been the picture of reliability.

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