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NFL teams tapping USFL veterans for assist in training camp

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Cornerback Terrell Bonds has talked about being a member of the NFL ’s Tennessee Titans since he played in college at Tennessee State.

Five years after his college days ended, he’s finally on the Titans’ roster as a training camp signee.

“For it to really come true now, it’s crazy and I’m thankful for it,” Bonds said.

Bonds owes his latest football opportunity to the revived USFL where he played 10 games this spring with the Pittsburgh Maulers, and he’s got a number of company because the NFL starts its first week of preseason games Thursday night. Bonds is amongst 42 players from the USFL’s inaugural season signed through Tuesday by 26 of the NFL’s 32 teams.

USFL MVP KaVontae Turpin now could be with Dallas, while All-USFL offensive lineman Cameron Hunt signed with the Chargers and All-USFL tight end Sal Cannella joined the Green Bay Packers. Wide receiver (12) has been the most well-liked position for NFL teams followed by cornerback (nine) as NFL teams search for assist in training camps.

Like Bonds, Turpin has been scrambling to maintain his dreams of skilled football alive since his college profession at TCU ended through the 2018 season. Turpin has bounced from the Fan Controlled Football League, Spring League and at last the USFL before being signed by Dallas for camp.

“Man, it’s like a dream come true. It’s a blessing,” Turpin said. “I’ve been in 4 leagues before I got here here. So, it’s a blessing to be here and know the Cowboys gave me an exquisite opportunity to return here and prove myself. I’m just completely happy to be here.”

Lots of these USFL players have been within the NFL before.

Hunt played with each Denver and the Raiders. Bonds played 4 games with Baltimore in 2020 and spent last offseason with Miami before being waived last August. Darrius Shepherd caught six passes over 2019-20 with Green Bay and signed with Denver after reviving his profession with the Latest Jersey Generals.

“It was really useful,” Shepherd said of the USFL. “I’m really completely happy that they put that league on. They did a fantastic job and provided a number of opportunities for guys as you see people get signed everywhere in the league.”

NFL teams actually were watching. Not only did 32 officials from the NFL Development Pipeline work USFL games, NFL teams had no issues quickly accessing USFL game tapes so pro scouts could watch breakdowns for any players they liked.

Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson said their pro staff had specific teams to guage and grade and met to rank those players just before the USFL’s championship.

The Titans previously had worked out each Bonds and cornerback Shakur Brown, Bonds’ teammate with Pittsburgh who signed with Tennessee a number of days before Bonds.

“But then actually watching the USFL and seeing how they performed or things they needed to work on, it gave us more, I’d guess, comfort knowing that we’re bringing a man in that’s played football recently,” Robinson said.

Having practiced and played this spring gave USFL players a pair of huge benefits over those understanding on their very own hoping for an NFL team to call. First, they’re physically ready for the grind of coaching camp.

“I just got finished with an entire season so I’m definitely like midseason for me,” Brown said.

For the USFL players who spent three months practicing in pads, a full preseason will take a physical toll that may only grow.

“You simply got to be a professional about it,” said Cannella, who was in camp last 12 months with the Miami Dolphins before fidgeting with the Latest Orleans Breakers this spring. “All of us went into that season attempting to get thus far right here so all of us knew what we signed up for.”

Secondly, these USFL veterans even have recent game tape. Robinson said he had to drag up tape from the 2021 NFL preseason Sunday when he wanted to examine out players on his emergency list who didn’t compete within the USFL. Robinson knows only too well the worth of that list after his Titans used an NFL-record 91 players last season due to injuries.

“I adore it when those guys are available, they usually just want a possibility,” Robinson said. “We saw that last 12 months … Hopefully we don’t got to go down that road again this 12 months, but guys were on the lookout for a possibility. Hopefully these two guys will are available here and seize it, and we’ll see sort of where it goes from there.”

For now, these USFL players are focused on one practice and day at a time attempting to take advantage of this latest NFL opportunity. Additionally they need to see the USFL proceed.

“I do know tons of my friends (from) my college who’re out of the league without delay who ought to be within the league,” Green Bay wide receiver Ishmael Hyman said. “They need somewhere to go to, so it’s an ideal league for that, like a secondary league to get back in.”

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AP Pro Football Writers Schuyler Dixon and Arnie Stapleton and AP Sports Writers Tom Canavan, Larry Lage and Steve Megargee contributed.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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