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Steelers sign RB

NFL notes

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed running back Wendell Smallwood to a one-year deal, giving the backfield a bit of experienced depth heading into training camp.

Smallwood joins a group that includes James Conner, Benny Snell Jr., Jaylen Samuels and rookie Anthony McFarland.

The 26-year-old Smallwood played for Philadelphia for 2016-18 after being taken in the fifth round of the 2016 draft out of West Virginia. His rookie season included running for 79 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers. His rushing total in that game remains a career high.

Smallwood spent 2019 in Washington, running for 81 yards as a reserve. An able pass catcher, he gives Pittsburgh more versatility out of the backfield.

The Steelers are in the midst of a possible transition at running back. Conner is entering the final year of his contract. Snell showed promise as a rookie. Samuels is considered more of an H-back and McFarland figures to be a bit of a project after serving as a role player at Maryland.

Elsewhere:

n The Patriots were already going to have a completely different look following an offseason that saw former franchise cornerstone Tom Brady depart to Tampa Bay, as well as several key players on defense cash in elsewhere in free agency. Now the COVID-19 pandemic has added more complications to New England’s efforts to rebuild its roster heading into the 2020 season. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower said Tuesday that he is opting out of the 2020 season, highlighting a list of several Patriots who will sit out because of health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. A person familiar with the situation says safety Patrick Chung has also elected not to play. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been announced.

n Broncos general manager John Elway confirmed Tuesday that veteran defensive tackle Kyle Peko has opted out of the 2020 season over COVID-19 concerns.

n Green Bay Packers wide receiver Devin Funchess is opting out of playing this season in a move he calls one of the most difficult decisions he’s ever made.

n The San Francisco 49ers placed starting receiver Deebo Samuel on the non-football injury list after foot surgery and said he might miss the start of the season Samuel suffered a fracture in his left foot last month during informal workouts with teammates.

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