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Several Pitt players named to Athlon preseason All-ACC teams

Athlon revealed its preseason All-Conference Teams recently and the site included several Pitt players on its ACC squads.

Offensive lineman Brian O'Neill and all purpose talent Quadree Henderson were the lone first team picks. Henderson made it as the team's kick returner.

Henderson also made it onto the second team as the all purpose player and punt returner. There, he was joined by safety Jordan Whitehead and offensive lineman Alex Officer.

Offensive lineman Alex Bookser, receiver Jester Weah, and running back Qadree Ollison made the third team. Punter Ryan Winslow was added to the fourth team (and yes, four conference teams is probably two too many).

In terms of overall representation, Pitt had ten players across the four teams and that ranked fourth behind only Clemson, Florida State, and Virginia Tech. Things like this are always sort of meaningless but to have that much recognition from a team that just graduated a lot of players and also had five NFL Draft picks is kind of impressive.

Any picks seem off to you? Anyone missing? Pitt has a lot of young talent and, by the end of the year, I think they could have some more guys make this list after the season has played out.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Nathan Peterman, Dorian Johnson sign with new NFL teams

Last week, I mentioned that James Conner and Adam Bisnowaty had signed their rookie contracts after the NFL Draft. Two more Pitt players are now signed and accounted for.

Offensive lineman Dorian Johnson signed with the Arizona Cardinals shortly after I wrote about Bisnowaty and Conner last week. Johnson inked a four-year deal with the team.

Former Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman also signed with his new team, the Buffalo Bills. His terms weren't disclosed, either, but this site says he'll get a four-year deal worth about $2.6 million. Peterman was the last of Buffalo's drafted players to sign.

That only leaves Ejuan Price and, to date, I've still not seen him signing a deal with the Rams.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlogfor our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Travon Woodall joins Robert Morris as Director of Basketball Operations

Former Pitt guard Travon Woodall got into coaching a little while ago. Last year, he was on the staff as an assistant at IUP. He was hired there in 2016 and is already on the move. This time, he's headed to Robert Morris as Director of Basketball Operations.

Robert Morris has hired IUP assistant (and former Pitt standout) Travon Woodall as DOBO, per multiple sources. — Josh Verlin (@jmverlin) May 23, 2017

Prior to getting into the coaching game, Woodall was playing professionally overseas in several countries after his playing days ended at Pitt.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Former Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd will battle for playing time in 2017

Last year, former Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd enjoyed a solid rookie campaign with the Cincinnati Bengals. With 54 catches for 603 yards, he was impressive as a late second-round NFL Draft pick.

But despite that strong first year, a cursory glance at the Bengals' roster shows he'll have to work hard to keep his spot.

First, there's A.J. Green, who is not only the undisputed top guy (no, not those top guys) but one of the best wideouts in the league. After that, the team re-signed their other starter, Brandon LaFell, to a two-year contract. That alone could be enough to keep Boyd where he's at as the team's third option.

But then the Bengals also added John Ross with the No. 9 overall pick in the draft this year.

Ross ran a Combine-record 4.22 40-yard dash and had 81 catches for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016 with Washington in his last collegiate season. When you take a guy that high, well, you're not envisioning him as a reserve. Ross may not start immediately but the expectation will be that he becomes a starter very soon.

Where does that leave Boyd? Not necessarily on the outside looking in. He could challenge LaFell and also beat out Ross this season. But in order to see more playing time, he likely would need to be very impressive and come out ahead of both of those guys on the depth chart. And none of that even factors injuries, which, as the Bengals saw with Green going down last year, are known to happen.

But what shouldn't be forgotten, too, is that Cincinnati returns Tyler Eifert for hopefully a full season. Eifert is one of the top tight ends in the league and missed half of last year with an injury. If he stays healthy, it will essentially also mean less touches for the wideouts.

In other words, he'll have work to do if he wants a breakout type of season.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt baseball's Alex Amos lands on ACC All-Freshman Team

The Pitt baseball season ended with a 23-30 record, but one bright spot on the team this year was freshman Alex Amos. The team's starting second baseman was rewarded by making the ACC All-Freshman Team.

"Alex epitomizes Pitt baseball," said head coach Joe Jordano. "He has a blue collar approach to everything he does, both on and off the field. Alex certainly took advantage of his opportunity and played some great baseball for us, and it is awesome that he is being recognized for his effort. He is part of a freshman class that gained valuable experience this season and has laid the foundation for an exciting future."

Even though he was only a freshman, he was statistically one of the team's best players. Amos led the team with a .304 batting average (finishing a full .23 points higher than the next closest player) and was second in runs and walks.

There wasn't much great about the team this year. They were under .500 for the fourth consecutive season and were one of only two teams that failed to reach the conference tournament. But Amos' debut was a good one.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

NFL loosens up celebration dance rule

The National Football League is relaxing some rules around celebration dances for players, according to an announcement from Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday.

>> Read more trending news

“We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown," Goodell said a letter to fans. “And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements.”

The New York Times reported that the decision was made by NFL owners as one of several rule changes at the Spring League Meeting in Chicago Tuesday.

Other rule changes include decreasing regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10, allowing two players to come off of injured reserve instead of one, banning jumping over the line to block kicks, and the elimination of one of the preseason roster cuts.

The letter lists some examples of celebrations that will be allowed under the new policy: 

  • Using the football as a prop after a touchdown, such as simulating a basket ball jump shot with a football,
  • Celebrating on the ground -- such as making snow angels, and 
  • Group demonstrations, like a coordinated dance move.

Those approved types of celebrations, allowed after scores, are illustrated in the letter in GIF form. 

Still, it’s not a free for all, ESPN reported.

“In my conversations with NFL players, it was also clear how much our players care about sportsmanship, clean competition and setting good examples for young athletes,” Goodell said. “That is why offensive demonstrations, celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game, and those directed at an opponent will still be penalized.”

So things like weapon imagery, such as a machine gun simulation, or sexually suggestive acts -- like Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown’s end zone twerking, are still things that can be penalized.

The strategy may lessen the number of unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties called on touchdowns. According to ESPN, the 2016 season had the highest number of penalties of the past five seasons with 29 called. Of the past three seasons, it has the highest cost of fines for touchdown celebrations at $310,301, up more than $240,000 from the 2015 season.

Jay Bilas adds criticism of Duke handling of quarterback Thomas Sirk to Pitt/Cameron Johnson situation

I really hate to bury the lede here, but recapping the last few days surrounding the Pitt/Cameron Johnson/Jay Bilas fiasco is important from a contextual purpose. So if you've been following along already, please bear with me.

For the past few days, ESPN's Jay Bilas has been highly critical of Pitt's handling of the Cameron Johnson transfer situation. My stance was that, even if schools should not be able to place restrictions on transfers (and, for the record, I'm not so sure that's a horrible thing, anyway, if we don't want players jumping ship left and right ... but that's not the real issue here), it certainly wasn't fair to call out a particular school for doing so since it is commonplace in college sports. Right now, this is probably happening in any number of transfer situations across the country.

Counting today, Bilas had made it his point to single Pitt out in a series of tweets spanning three days now. And while it's true that he has called schools out before, my real issue was with calling anyone out unless you are willing to give each school the same amount of criticism every time it happens. Pitt hasn't broken any rules and certainly shouldn't be taken to task any more or less than others.

One of our readers here pointed out to me in this thread that Duke had done this very thing regarding quarterback Thomas Sirk, restricting his transfer options. I was grateful for that because, despite looking myself, I came up empty. I imagined that Duke had done this in the past and would be shocked if it was limited to this lone example. In summary, Sirk graduated from Duke and then was not allowed to play for ACC schools after he decided to transfer - the same thing Pitt is doing to Johnson.

Previously, Bilas had not mentioned this, which I thought was a bad look. Quite likely, it was because he was not aware of it since it wasn't the sport he covered. I pointed it out in a tweet and a few others mentioned the situation/link directly to him after that. He basically ignored it until replying to Jim (yes, our Jim), who repeated it in a reply to Bilas. Bilas concluded that it was wrong as well.

While acknowledging it, I wasn't thrilled with that response. A one-off reply that most people would not even see acknowledging his stance is simply not the same as the level of how he took Pitt to task in several tweets on the issue over a three-day period. So I was glad when Bilas upped his criticism of Duke, which he did on Tuesday.

I won't post them all here, but on his Twitter account, Bilas heavily criticized Duke for the Sirk handling as well.

Frankly, it was great to see him take the same stance. My argument has never been with his opinion of how transfers should be treated. In some ways (probably not all, I imagine), I agree with him. The greater issue I had is how he was content to drag Pitt through the mud while the situation occurred everywhere - including at his Alma Mater.

Now that it's over, though, what I want to see is Bilas focusing his efforts more on getting the NCAA to make its own rule regarding transfers in situations like this. Right or wrong, that's where it needs to start. Bashing a school for taking advantage of the freedom they have with regards to kids transferring isn't really the answer. Schools have been operating this way for years and while that doesn't necessarily make it right, the idea to restrict players from jumping directly to their competition at least has some measure of logic to it. It seems unfair to crush schools for making a decision that, in essence, could help them win more games if transfers are not playing for teams on their schedule.

It would be one thing if this was a unique situation and only a few schools practiced it. It's quite another when it is virtually commonplace across the board.

Again, though, I can see both sides of it. And my problem with Bilas' handling of the situation had far less to do with his own personal opinion of how transfers should be treated and much more about singling Pitt out for this. I imagine that while Bilas was critical of Pitt for the Johnson situation that many other transfers across all sports in the works at the same time had similar restrictions by their schools.

I like Bilas and haven't made any secret of that over the years. He gets a lot 'right' and generally has a good sense of how things work and should work. But those schools participating in the same practices were essentially let off the hook by Bilas, who understandably cannot keep up with every single one. But if it's happening almost everywhere and you cannot reference each case, doling out criticism equally, it also isn't fair to send out a PR hit on Pitt simply because it is a higher-profile example.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Former Pitt star Aaron Donald misses start of Rams OTAs with reported contract negotiations

Former Pitt defensive tackle left the Panthers only a few years ago and is one of the top defensive players in the NFL. Now entering his fourth year in the league, it sounds as if he is (understandably, I might add) hoping for a big payday.

The Rams' OTAs (offseason organized training activities) began this week but Donald was noticeably absent. A report seemingly suggests he could be staying away to avoid an injury before a new deal can be reached. His agent, reportedly, did not deny that.

None of this is really all that out of the ordinary. While it might be ideal to have Donald there, it's not a big deal that he isn't. And there wasn't any indication that a deal wouldn't get done so having Donald for training camp in the fall still seems likely.

It's beyond obvious at this point but Donald deserves to be paid like one of the top defenders in the league. In three years at tackle, he's amassed 28 sacks and four forced fumbles to go along with 163 tackles.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Football Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dead at 48

Former University of Miami All-American and a member of the 1989 national championship team Cortez Kennedy, also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has died at the age of 48, according to the Orlando Police Department.

>> Read more trending news

No cause of death has been given to this point.

Orlando police confirmed to ESPN that, “they are investigating Kennedy’s death, but also said ‘there is nothing suspicious to report’ at this time.”

Kennedy went on to play 11 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks from 1990-2000, was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1992 and made eight Pro Bowls.

See the latest on PalmBeachPost.com

Jamel Artis reportedly working out for Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, and Houston Rockets ahead of NBA Draft

Pitt guard/forward Jamel Artis is preparing for the NBA Draft. He didn't have a great showing at the NBA Combine, but he will also have plenty of time to impress teams.

Artis has a busy week. On Monday, he reportedly worked out for the Sacramento Kings. Today, he's working out for the Los Angeles Lakers. Tomorrow? The Houston Rockets will get a look.

Artis is probably still a bit of a long shot to be taken in the NBA Draft, which is on June 22nd. But while these teams might not take him with a pick, they could eye him up for a potential summer league spot.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

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