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Rookie Swope retires, Cardinals add Winston, Abraham

The Canadian Press

7/25/2013 5:13:27 PM

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals concluded their first day of training camp with a flurry of personnel moves, led by the announcement that rookie wide receiver Ryan Swope is retiring because of concussion issues.

The Cardinals placed the former Texas A&M star on the reserve/retired list, meaning he would be Arizona's property if he returned to the sport. Swope, drafted by Arizona in the sixth round, set school records for receptions and yards receiving for the Aggies but was plagued by concussion issues and had a serious setback in the early summer.

The team added two experienced players, agreeing to a one-year deal with offensive tackle Eric Winston and a two-year contract with outside linebacker John Abraham. The Cardinals also released outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield, a former starter, and signed linebacker Kenny Rowe.

Swope announced his decision in a statement released by the agency that represents him.

"As a result of a concussion I suffered during OTAs, I was advised by doctors that there were serious risks in returning to play football at this point," Swope said. "It has been a life-long dream to play in the NFL but my long-term health interests outweigh my current goals in football. Because of that, I am electing to retire from the game for now and then reassess my future after this season. In the meantime, I plan to return to Texas A&M to pursue my degree."

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said the team was aware of Swope's concussion history when the decision was made to draft him.

"But weighing all the elements -- the medical information available, the particular position in the draft -- it was a decision we were comfortable making," Keim said. "As it turned out, he had a setback after he got here. Over the course of the subsequent evaluations, we all decided that Ryan's long-term well-being was the No. 1 priority and this was the best course to take."

Winston, a starter in all six of his NFL seasons, signed a one-year deal after failing to find a better offer. He says he knows he has to compete but expects to win the right tackle job. Abraham is a 14-year NFL veteran and the league's active sacks leader with 122.

Winston said he understands he will be competing for playing time but he expects to be a starter.

"I think it's kind of a perfect storm for me in the sense that I could come in and compete for a spot and maybe be the guy at right tackle," he said, "and I feel I will be."

Winston also talked about joining the Cardinals in a tweet to Arizona kicker Jay Feely. Winston started all 16 games for Kansas City last season but, when the team underwent a change at head coach and general manager, was released in March. He played just one season for the Chiefs after playing the first five years of his NFL career with Houston.

Winston, who has started every game of his NFL career, had to settle for a one-year deal after failing to land a better offer.

He said he hopes to show the Cardinals he deserves a longer-term contract down the road.

Before Winston's arrival, the Cardinals had gone with second-year pro Bobby Massie at right tackle and Levi Brown, coming back after missing all of last season with a torn triceps,, on the left side, although Massie worked some at left tackle late in off-season workouts. Nate Potter eventually became the starter at left tackle as a rookie last season and has practiced at both tackle spots in the off-season.

Because the acquisition of Winston had not been announced officially, new coach Bruce Arians wouldn't talk much about the big tackle when he met with reporters after the players reported to camp and went through a brief run at University of Phoenix Stadium. He wouldn't say that dissatisfaction with the tackles he had led to the team seeking another player.

"It's just a matter of if there's somebody out there to make our football team better, that's our job to go get them," Arians said. "The more competition the better."

The same could be said of Abraham, who although in the latter stages of his career, still could fill a role as a situational edge pass rusher, something Schofield had struggled with in his time on the job.

The 35-year-old Abraham has played in 175 games, 160 as a starter. A four-time Pro Bowl player, he was a first-round draft pick of the New York Jets out of South Carolina. He played six seasons for the Jets and the last seven with Atlanta. Abraham started 15 games for the Falcons last season and led the team with 10 sacks along with 41 tackles, 15 for loss, and set a franchise record with six forced fumbles.

Schofield was drafted in the fourth round out of Wisconsin by Arizona in 2010. He began his pro career sidelined while recovering from a torn ACL. He started the first nine games of 2012 before going down with a season-ending ankle injury.

Rowe was with San Francisco in training camp the last two seasons.