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Acrobatic Lloyd key part of Patriots passing game

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Acrobatic Lloyd key part of Patriots passing game

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Needing a deep receiving threat, the New England Patriots signed Brandon Lloyd.

They ended up with an acrobat.

``He moves his body in ways that most people can't,'' Patriots safety Steve Gregory said Friday. ``He makes catches that make your jaw drop.''

Such as his grab on Tom Brady's pass that he caught at waist level while racing down the right sideline Sunday night. It gained 53 yards in a 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Or others Lloyd made earlier in the season, twisting his body while airborne and managing to get both feet inbounds.

He's made 67 passes catches - some remarkable, some routine - and has two games left to get the 10 he needs to match his career high. He set it in 2010 with Denver, where current New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was head coach.

Lloyd's first chance comes Sunday when the Patriots (10-4) visit the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12). New England wraps up the regular season at home against the Miami Dolphins.

The 10-year veteran brought the ability to catch long passes that the Patriots had hoped Chad Johnson could contribute last year. But in his only season with the Patriots, Johnson (known as Chad Ochocinco then) struggled to learn the offense and made just 15 catches.

Lloyd had 10 receptions in one game this season, against the 49ers. He also set a career-high with 190 yards receiving in that game and his big play set up the touchdown that completed the Patriots comeback from a 28-point deficit and tied the score at 31.

``He's had a good season. He's been running very good routes,'' Brady said. ``Brandon had a lot of opportunity the other night and really took advantage.''

Just two weeks earlier, he caught only one pass. The Patriots beat the Dolphins 23-16, but there was talk that Lloyd's role was diminishing.

``All the games are different,'' he said. ``The games plans are different. The matchups are different. I prepare every week the same. It's just the way the games shake out sometimes.''

That speculation disappeared the following week in a 42-14 rout of the Houston Texans when Lloyd had seven catches for 89 yards. He was wide open down the middle for a 37-yard TD grab, and also was near enough to recover a fumble by teammate Danny Woodhead in the end zone for another touchdown.

``You want to be downfield blocking and keeping some of those late hits off the ball carrier and being around just in case the ball pops out,'' Lloyd said.

Gregory saw his athleticism while with the San Diego Chargers, where he spent his other six pro seasons. He was in the same division while Lloyd was with the Broncos in 2009 and 2010 and the first four games in 2011 before he was traded to the St. Louis Rams.

``You could be in good position'' covering him, Gregory said, ``but the ball could be thrown in a place where he can move his body to go get it and it kind of takes you out of the play.''

That athleticism was there when Lloyd was on the track team at Blue Springs High School in Missouri. His leaping ability was evident when he competed in hurdles races and the high jump, clearing the bar at a personal-best of 7 feet, 2 inches.

``I was a high jumper in high school and college,'' he said, ``so that shows how much agility that I do have and I think that all factors in.''

Shifting his body to soar over the bar is impressive. Doing it while trying to elude a cornerback, leaping for a pass and staying inbounds is a greater challenge.

``I know when I'm running out of room,'' he said. ``I just try to get my feet down secure the catch and go down.''

It's a challenge Lloyd thinks about a lot.

``I think about the spatial awareness that I want to have when I'm catching the ball, the positions that I'm in,'' he said. ``Those are the things that I think about and I visualize in my personal time.''

His catches have been particularly important because of injuries that have sidelined the Patriots star tight ends.

Rob Gronkowski has missed four games with a broken left forearm but practiced on a limited basis all week and is one of 19 Patriots listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Aaron Hernandez missed six games this season with an ankle injury but has played in the last four with 28 catches in that span, 10 of them against the 49ers.

But none of those catches were as acrobatic as some Lloyd makes.

``The first thing we said when he got here was he was almost like a worm,'' safety Devin McCourty said. ``He could just torque different positions to make some catches.''

At least McCourty was prepared to face that in practice. His twin brother Jason is a cornerback for the Tennessee Titans and had played against Lloyd.

``My brother texted me. He was like, `he's good,' `' McCourty said. ``He said, `not many people talk about him but we played them and it was just tough to cover him all game.' There are definitely other good receivers in this league, but I don't think anyone that's like him.''

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Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

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Associated Press

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

Even though it was a bright, warm Wednesday in Ashburn the Redskins held their OTA session in the practice bubble because recent rains have left their outdoor fields to soggy to use. Here are my observations from the practice:

—A few Redskins were not present and a few who were there were not participating in the drills. Jay Gruden said that OT Trent Williams is rehabbing in Texas and that LB Zach Brown is in the process of relocating to the Washington area. RB Chris Thompson and OT Morgan Moses were present, but both were spectators. 

— It should be noted that even though Moses didn’t practice and is still rehabbing after ankle surgery, he still participated in the sideline-to-sideline running the team does at the end of practice.

—At rookie camp, RB Derrius Guice was first in line to do every drill. Today, he gave way to the veterans to all take their reps and then he went first among the rookies. 

— “Fat Rob” Kelley never really was fat but he is now lean and mean. He also seems to be a half step quicker than he was in the past. Added competition in the form of second- and fourth-round picks being added at your position will do that to a player. 

—The “starting” offensive line from left to right was Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, and John Kling. The interior could well start the season; the tackle position awaits the returns of Williams, Scherff, and Ty Nsekhe. 

—RB Byron Marshall, who was on the team briefly last year before getting injured, looked very quick with good acceleration.

—CB Josh Norman was back with the group fielding punts. I seriously doubt that he will handle any kicks in games, even preseason games, but perhaps with DeAngelo Hall being gone he wants to be available as an emergency option. Also back with the punt returners were CB Danny Johnson, CB Greg Stroman, WR Maurice Harris, WR De’Mornay Pierson-El, and, of course, WR Jamison Crowder.

—S D.J. Swearinger spent most of the special teams practice on the sideline working on catching passes with his hands extended away from his body. A little while later, he had a chance to make an interception with his arms extended. Of course, he dropped it. 

—It seems like QB Alex Smith and Crowder have some good rapport built already. Once on the right sideline and a few minutes later on the left, Smith threw a well-placed ball into Crowder, who was well covered on both occasions. 

—Eventually, CB Orlando Scandrick caught on and he swatted down a quick out to Crowder. 

—With Brown out, Josh Harvey-Clemons was with the first unit at inside linebacker. He’s still skinny but less so than he was last year. The second-year player was impressive in coverage, staying with Crowder step for step on a deep pass down the middle.

—The play of the day was a deep pass down the right side from Smith to WR Paul Richardson. Stroman was with the receiver step for step on the 9 route but Smith laid the ball out perfectly and Richardson made a lunging catch. Even though it doesn’t have to under the new rule, the catch did survive the ground. 

—WR Cam Sims had a few impressive plays. On one, QB Colt McCoy lofted one high in the air down the right side. Sims kept his focus on the ball while two defenders lost it and made the catch. 

—WR Trey Quinn had his moments. He made a good grab while being bumped by Scandrick. But a while later he dropped a fairly easy one. 

—The running backs all looked good but Guice looked the best of all of them. He had an ability to cut and maintain his speed that not many have. With the warning that they were playing with no pads with no contact and not at full speed, Guice’s vision appeared to be outstanding. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

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USA TODAY Sports

NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that allows players to remain in the locker room if they prefer but requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance.

This new policy subjects teams, but not players, to fines if any team personnel do not show appropriate respect for the anthem. 

Teams will also have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction separately though. 

The NFL Players Association released it's own statement after the news was made official.