Notebook: Moves begin before new league year

Teams are starting to make moves in advance of free agency, with San Diego signing a key linebacker and Dallas releasing four players.

The San Diego Chargers signed their top unrestricted free agent, inside linebacker Donald Butler, to a new contract.

Terms of the signing weren't announced.

Butler says staying in San Diego was his goal. He was a third-round draft pick in 2010.

Butler ranked second on the team with 99 tackles last season despite missing three games with a groin injury. He also had a huge play in a wild-card playoff win at Cincinnati, forcing a fumble late in the second quarter after the Bengals had driven inside the San Diego 5.

Butler missed his rookie season with an Achilles injury but came back to start all 16 games in 2011 and record 102 tackles. He has 5½ sacks and three interceptions.


The Dallas Cowboys have released four players, including a pair of defensive linemen added last season to shore up the injury-riddled position.

Everette Brown and Corvey Irvin played backup roles after signing during the season. Brown had seven tackles and a sack in seven games at defensive end. Irvin had five tackles in six games at defensive tackle.

The Cowboys also dumped guards Ray Dominguez and Jeff Olson. Neither played last season.


Embattled former Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito is receiving treatment in the wake of the team's bullying scandal, a person familiar with the situation said Saturday.

The person commented to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Incognito hasn't discussed the situation publicly. The person said the NFL Players Association is supporting Incognito's treatment.

Another person familiar with Incognito's situation said the veteran lineman is exhausted after being "dragged through the mud" in recent months.

Incognito has sent tweets in recent weeks that varied dramatically in tone. He went on a rant that quickly went viral, blasting former teammate Jonathan Martin and his agent, then later tweeted apologies to Martin, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Ted Wells, the attorney who investigated the bullying scandal for the NFL.

On Thursday, police in Scottsdale, Ariz., said Incognito told an officer he put several dents in the hood of his Ferrari in an apparent tantrum.

Wells' investigation determined Incognito and two other offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment of Martin, another offensive lineman and an assistant trainer. After a report on the investigation was released last month, the Dolphins fired offensive line coach Jim Turner and longtime trainer Kevin O'Neill.

Martin abruptly left the Dolphins last October, underwent counseling for emotional issues and alleged persistent harassment by teammates. Incognito was suspended Nov. 3 and missed the final eight games.

Both have said they want to play in 2014, but neither is expected to be back with the Dolphins.


New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard reported to a Lincoln jail Saturday to begin his 60-day term for a 2012 assault on a police officer.

Dennard, 24, reported to the Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility Saturday morning, according to corrections officers with the Lincoln facility who spoke on condition of anonymity because of jail policy.

The former Nebraska football standout will have to serve at least 35 days, after credit for good behavior and the three days he's already spent in jail.

In April, a judge sentenced Dennard to two years' probation, 30 days in jail and community service for assaulting an officer and resisting arrest outside a Lincoln bar days before he was chosen in the NFL draft. Dennard had been projected to be a middle-round NFL draft pick, but the Patriots took him in the seventh round.

The judge later extended his probation to three years and doubled the jail time after Dennard was again arrested in Lincoln on suspicion of drunken driving in July. That charge was later dismissed in exchange for Dennard's no contest plea for refusing to submit to a chemical test. He was fined $500 and placed on probation for that offense.

Dennard finished this season, his second in the NFL, with 40 tackles (34 solo, 6 assists) and one interception. The Patriots fell just short of the Super Bowl, losing to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game.

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