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Shanahan admits Clarett mistake


Maurice Clarett won't be catching anything for the Denver Broncos. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Maurice Clarett won't be catching anything for the Denver Broncos. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

The reason running back Maurice Clarett isn’t with the Denver Broncos anymore is pretty simple.

“We have four guys I believe can play,” coach Mike Shanahan said.

And Clarett never made his way into that mix.

The Broncos returned to practice Monday and Shanahan answered questions about why he decided to waive Clarett, the surprise third-round draft choice who was slowed by a groin injury and never made any impact in Denver’s training camp.

That Clarett was a bust isn’t a shock to most around the league. He was out of football for two years and performed badly at the NFL scouting combine – and that’s to say nothing of the troubles he endured off the field.

In Denver, the pick is being viewed as a bad example of hubris for Shanahan, “the Mastermind,” who has turned lower picks – like Terrell Davis, Rueben Droughns and Mike Anderson – into stars and probably thought he could do the same, even with someone as checkered as Clarett.

To his credit, Shanahan didn’t linger on this mistake, deciding to cut ties quickly instead of forcing something to work. And the coach conceded he did err by picking the star of Ohio State’s 2002 national championship.

“I think any time you cut somebody in the third round, you feel like you made a mistake,” Shanahan said. “When you do that, you make a mistake and you go on.”

“Quarterback Danny Kanell and defensive linemen Luther Elliss and Raylee Johnson are among those besides Maurice Clarett to be released by the Broncos.

Benson arrives at Bears’ camp

With a five-year contract in hand and an ear-to-ear grin crossing his face, running back Cedric Benson joined the Chicago Bears and put a drawn-out negotiation behind him.

The fourth overall pick and the last first-rounder to sign, Benson called it “a great relief” and said it “feels good to be here” during a news conference at the team’s practice facility.

Terms of the contract were not revealed, but the Bears reportedly had offered between $17 million and $17.5 million guaranteed on a deal that could pay $35 million.

The sides agreed to terms Sunday, ending a 36-day impasse.

“Rookie Kyle Orton was named the Chicago Bears’ starting quarterback and the team demoted Chad Hutchinson out of the playing rotation.

Orton’s strong performance in Friday’s 16-12 win over Buffalo when he led an 81-yard scoring drive, and Hutchinson’s second straight shaky outing – 3-for-14 passing, two interceptions and three sacks – prompted coach Lovie Smith to make the move.

“The Miami Dolphins traded linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, a Pro Bowl alternate on special teams last season, to the Chicago Bears for tight end John Owens and a conditional draft pick.

Picket finds place on special teams

With the team not wanting to cut No. 1 pick Alex Smith, starter Tim Rattay or dependable third-stringer Ken Dorsey, the 49ers found a new place for former Washington Husky QB Cody Pickett: special teams.

Pickett was part of San Francisco’s punt protection and kickoff coverage teams in Friday’s win over Tennessee.

“I came off the field and told Timmy (Rattay), ‘Did I just play special teams right now?’ ” Pickett said with a grin.

Titans’ Odom corrects apnea

Antwan Odom finally feels alive.

Thanks to surgery that removed a bone from his nose and fixed a crooked septum in June, the sleep apnea that kept the Titans defensive end from taking a deep breath or sleeping for more than a couple hours is gone. Now he can sleep more than five hours at a stretch.

Tragically, his 24-year-old sister Melissa died of complications from sleep apnea days before training camp opened in July. Odom, 23, missed the first three days of camp to be with his family before returning for his second NFL season.

Around the league

Peyton Manning‘s bruised left shoulder isn’t serious enough to keep him out of games or practices, head coach Tony Dungy said. The two-time MVP should be ready when the Colts open the season at Baltimore. … Giants quarterback Eli Manning said he experienced no soreness in his sprained elbow, a day after throwing the ball for the first time since he was injured 10 days ago. Manning reiterated his plans to be in the starting lineup for the Giants’ opener Sept. 11 against Arizona. … Veteran tight end Billy Miller and former Washington State linebacker DD Acholonu were among 12 players released by the Titans. … The Patriots released quarterback Rohan Davey, running back Cedric Cobbs and safety Dexter Reid.

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