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Champ Bailey, Michael Sam among NFL cuts

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Aug. 30 2014 4:51 p.m. MDT

Former Missouri player Michael Sam, left, waves to fans has he and former teammate E.J. Gaines, right, are introduced during the first quarter of the South Dakota State-Missouri NCAA college football game Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in Columbia, Mo. The St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team. Coach Jeff Fisher repeated over and over that it was purely a football decision. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

L.G. Patterson, AP

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For the first time in his career, Champ Bailey was told he isn't good enough.

Jettisoned by the New Orleans Saints after a difficult training camp, the 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback was the most notable name when NFL teams trimmed their rosters to 53 active players Saturday.

A close second was Rams rookie Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.

The seventh-round draft pick, watched as closely as any rookie in the league this summer, couldn't make a team stacked with pass-rushers. He still has a chance to get picked up by another team or to make the Rams' practice squad.

Players with fewer than four seasons in the league are subject to waivers. Those who clear waivers and have practice squad eligibility can sign Sunday when teams fill out their 10-member developmental units.

Vested veterans who were released this weekend are free agents who can sign with anybody. But some might have to wait to get scooped up because their full 2014 salaries are in effect guaranteed if they're on a roster in Week 1.

It just might be the end of a stellar career for Bailey, who said after the Super Bowl that he wouldn't retire "because I still know I can play this game."

Only seven players in NFL history have more Pro Bowl selections than Bailey, who signed with the Saints following his release from the Denver Broncos in the spring.

Bailey missed 11 games last season after hurting his left foot in the preseason. He returned for Denver's stretch run and reached his first Super Bowl but clearly wasn't the same player.

In his prime, Bailey wasn't often challenged by quarterbacks yet he still managed 52 interceptions, more than any active cornerback.

Broncos GM John Elway said it was difficult to let Bailey go this offseason as he retooled his defense following Denver's Super Bowl dud against Seattle.

Elway also dreads cut-down day.

Among the players he dismissed Saturday was nine-year defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, who started 25 games for the defending AFC champs over the past two seasons.

Vickerson was beaten out by Marvin Austin, the latest veteran whom Elway signed to a one-year, no-bonus deal for a shot at resurrecting his career with the Peyton Manning-led Broncos. Not only did he outshine Vickerson, who carried a $2.266 million cap figure, but with a $570,000 salary, Austin is the much cheaper option.

Elway also jettisoned third-year safety Duke Ihenacho, who was the odd-man out in a crowded defensive backfield featuring free agent acquisition T.J. Ward, and third QB Zac Dysert, who made the roster last year.

Other notable players who were either waived or released this weekend, depending in their experience level, included:

—Jets WR Stephen Hill, a 2012 second-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech who failed to follow in the footsteps of fellow alumni Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Johnson. He finished the past two seasons in IR.

—Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the team's top rusher the past two seasons who was made expendable when the team drafted LSU's Jeremy Hill in the second round.

—Jets CB Dimitri Patterson, ending a bizarre week that began when he left the team before its preseason game against the Giants on Aug. 22, leading to a suspension.

Also Saturday, the Bills lured Kyle Orton to Buffalo to back up second-year starter EJ Manuel in their latest QB shuffle. Orton, who backed up Tony Romo in Dallas the past two seasons, could be in line for significant playing time in Buffalo, where Manuel was both injury-prone and inconsistent as a rookie last year.

James Harrison announced his retirement on Facebook. The linebacker played in Cincinnati last year after a decade in Pittsburgh, where he was released multiple times early in his career before becoming a star at age 29. He ended up as a five-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro and 2008 Defensive Player of the Year.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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