Four NFC South teams are adding some international flavor to their rosters.
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The NFL announced Thursday, the four teams — Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — will each carry an additional overseas player on their practice squads during the 2017 season as part of a new International Player Pathway program.
The NFC South teams are granted an exemption for an 11th practice squad member to accommodate the program. These players cannot be activated during the season.
The league said it chose the division to receive the international players in a random.
The players include three players from the United Kingdom and one from Germany:
Atlanta Falcons: Alex Gray jersey, tight end, a former England Sevens star rugby player. He is the first English rugby union pro to quit to take up American football.
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Carolina Panthers: Efe Obada, defensive end, raised in London after moving from the Netherlands at age 10, was signed by the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 but never made it off a practice squad.
New Orleans Saints: Alex Jenkins, defensive end, from the U.K. and played college football at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Eric Nzeocha, linebacker, from Germany, played three years at the University of Wyoming.
The quartet has been training for the past three months in Florida under the tutelage of Osi Umenyiora and NFLUK head of football development Aden Durde.
The Tampa Bay Police report Martin’s BMW was hit Thursday afternoon by a car that ran a stop sign. During the crash, Martin’s vehicle was pushed off the road before it collided with an air-conditioning unit outside a local business.
Martin sustained minor cuts and bruises as a result of the crash, according to the police. Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reported Martin is “fine” after the accident, but needed stitches for a cut on his chin.
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Martin later confirmed on Twitter he was fine.
“Doug was the unfortunate victim in an auto accident earlier today after leaving our team facility,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said in a statement. “While Doug’s vehicle sustained a large amount of damage, we are pleased to report that he received only minor cuts and bruises. He has been evaluated by our medical staff and has headed home.”
Martin, who is taking part in the Bucs’ offseason program, was suspended at the end of the 2016 season violating the NFL’s drug policy. He still has three games to serve on the four-game ban.
The suspension voided the guaranteed money in Martin’s contract, which could allow the Bucs to jettison the running back without penalty.
“I mean, how old is he?” Bucs wideout Adam Humphries told Pewter Report. “He runs so smooth, take the ball he caught [deep ball over Vernon Hargreaves last week], he makes it look so easy. It is a blessing what he has, the way he runs. It is just fun to watch.”
According to Next Gen Stats, Jackson’s top-end speed actually improved last year, as did his average yards per reception — a stunning 17.9 on 56 catches.
He is exactly the type of boom-or-bust player that can set a team’s offseason hype train on a runaway course — and alongside O.J. Howard and Mike Evans, Jackson has done just that.
Jackson will be turning heads in practice all summer, but it will be quarterback Jameis Winston’s ability to use him in practical moments that will actually cement the hype.
As a Bucs fan, this summer will be a steadily increasing tease. Between nuggets like this from Humphries, the inevitable Hard Knocks bump and the steady stream of positive vibes coming from coach Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay is becoming harder and harder to ignore within the NFC South. Jackson will either define their rise or their disappointment in 2017.