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March 4, 2014

Pro Wolverines: Avant released, Robinson seeks opportunity

The Philadelphia Eagles released former Michigan wide receiver Jason Avant Thursday after an eight-year run. Plus, former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson will get a shot at running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars, more pro notes …

First, Avant. One of the more respected players in the Eagles' locker room, Avant is now in search of a new team. Some wonder if the Detroit Lions, in search of receivers through free agency or the draft, might take a look at him; for now, though, he's on the market.

"There have not been any players who have represented the Philadelphia Eagles with more class and dignity than Jason Avant," Eagles Chairman Jeffrey Lurie told NJ.Com.

The site reports Avant 13th on the Eagles' all-time list with 3,646 receiving yards. He played in 166 games for the Eagles - only four receivers have appeared in more games for the franchise - and he caught 297 passes, 11th all-time.

Avant started 13 games last year and caught 447 yards in passes, his lowest total in five years. His hands were unmatched, but head coach Chip Kelly's fast paced offense made the "slower" Avant expendable.
Kelly, though, had nothing but good things to say about him.

"In the year I spent with Jason, he was unbelievable in terms of his work ethic and his selfless nature," Kelly said.

Avant was due a $1 million bonus on March 15.

"There's no question that releasing a player like Jason is one of the toughest parts of the job," general manager Howie Roseman said. "It's a tough day when you have to say goodbye to player who you have so much respect for."

In Jacksonville, Robinson should get a serious look at running back this year after struggling to find a position in his rookie season. The second-year pro had some fumble problems, losing two of three despite only carrying 20 times for 66 yards.
"I'm intrigued to see," coach Gus Bradley told the Florida Times-Union at the NFL Scouting Combine. "He's really competitive, and he's really spirited. I think he went through last year and said, 'OK, I don't want to go through that feeling again.'"

Robinson got a look in the wildcat offense at times, threw a couple passes and ran some routes. Now he's looking for a chance as a full time running back.

"I don't think [Robinson] is a gimmick guy," Bradley said. "He can maybe run outside zone and get to the point where he runs north. But how can you tell off 10 runs?"

Other notes:

  • LaMarr Woodleys' future in Pittsburgh remains in doubt, TribLive.com reports. It all depends on what happens with LB Jason Worilds, who received the team's transition tag recently.

    "The designation ensures that the Steelers will not make a decision on veteran linebacker LaMarr Woodley until after Worilds' situation is known," the site reported. "Woodley is set to count $13.6 million against the cap this year and would likely be released if the Steelers retain Worilds."

  • More love for Michigan associate A.D. Greg Harden, this time from Tom Brady. The New England superstar appears on 60 Minutes of Sports March 5 to laud Harden's influence on his career.

    "I found I could get the edge from my competitiveness and through my drive and work ethic and those were some of the things Greg really said. 'This is what your strengths are. Let them be your strengths,'" Brady says in the 60 Minutes piece, reported by the Boston Herald. "Without a doubt… I'm forever grateful to him."

    ****

    In the NBA, two-time Western Conference Rookie of the Month Trey Burke continues to play well. Burke is probably running third in the NBA Rookie of the Year race behind Orlando's Victor Oladipo and Philadelphia guard Michael Carter-Williams, but he's mentioned in the same breath.

    Burke is averaging 12.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game, though he's had his ups and downs recently. He notched 16 points five rebounds and four assists in a 94-91 loss at Indiana March 2, but only four points, three assists and five rebounds in a 99-79 loss at Cleveland in front of family and friends, DeseretNews.com reports.

    "It's a lot different," he said of playing in his home state of Ohio as a pro. "The last two years, I was coming back home to play against Ohio State. Now it's the Cavaliers."

    He had 25 friends and family in attendance.

    "I was here when Shawn Kemp was playing. That was my very first NBA memory," Burke said. "I already had a passion for the game. I was young, though. It was like a dream come true for me at the time. Now I'm back here playing. It's surreal."

    Other NBA notes:

  • Tim Hardaway Jr. was held scoreless for only the third time this year in the New York Knicks' 96-85 loss at Detroit March 3. Hardaway has appeared in all but one of New York's 61 games and is averaging 9.7 points in about 23 minutes a game.

    "It's tough, especially with the way things are going now," Hardaway told mlive.com of his 21-40 team's struggles. "You can't worry about it. You just have to come to work each and every day and make the most of it."

    Hardaway called Michigan's Big Ten title a "very emotional" moment for him. He was in the stands to watch the Wolverines beat Michigan State last week.

    "It's great to see everything you put into it to make the program better. Three NCAA tournaments in a row since I've been there - they're continuing to do that.

    "Coach [John] Beilein is a great guy. He gave me an opportunity to go to Michigan and I just seized the moment."

  • The Los Angeles Clippers' Jamal Crawford, averaging 19 points and 3.2 assists per game, has been out since Feb. 26 with a minor calf strain. Before that he notched a string of huge games, including a 36-point outburst in a 125-117 win over Oklahoma City Feb. 23 and 24 (with five assists) in a 123-110 victory at New Orleans. He was expected back in the second week of March.

  • Guard Darius Morris, who last played with the Memphis Grizzlies, is still looking for a team after being released in late February.

  • Former Michigan guard Manny Harris continues to put up huge numbers with the NBDL Los Angeles D-Fenders. He recently scored 38 points in the team's record setting, 157-134 win.


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