The 2014 NFL regular season will begin this Thursday when the Green Bay Packers visit the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. For 2014 there will be 3 new Duke players in the NFL. All in all 6 former Blue Devils will be on active rosters to begin the season, with a number of others linked to different organizations.
Juwan Thompson RB Denver Broncos
Running Back Juwan Thompson has been one of the great stories of training camp in the NFL. The Broncos signed Thompson as an undrafted free agent. At first considered a longshot to make the team, Thompson thoroughly impressed during training camp and in preseason games. He led the Broncos in rushing in the preseason and received high praise from John Elway.
Ross Cockrell CB Buffalo Bills
Cockrell was drafted by the Bills in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. He will begin his rookie season as an important reserve in the Bills secondary. Buffalo used Cockrell in the slot at many times in preseason games.
Sean Renfree QB Atlanta Falcons
Renfree is set to begin his second year in the NFL. He was selected in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Falcons and spent last season on Injured Reserve. Renfree was competing with former Houston Texan and UNC alum TJ Yates for the backup quarterback position. The Falcons ultimately decided to keep both quarterbacks on the 53 man roster.
Cooper Helfet TE Seattle Seahawks
Helfet had been a member of the Seahawks practice squad in 2013. He was originally signed by the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He added a nice piece of jewelry to his collection recently.
Vincent Rey LB Cincinnati Bengals
Rey is set to begin his fifth season in the NFL. All five years with the Bengals. 2013 was Rey’s best season yet, totalling 57 tackles, 4.0 sacks and 2 interceptions. Rey will play at middle and weakside linebacker. He is trying to help the Bengals get back to the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Patrick Bailey LB Tennessee Titans
Bailey is now the longest tenured Blue Devil in the NFL. 2014 will be his 7th year in the league and the 5th with the Titans. Bailey spent his first two years in the league as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers and was a member of their Super Bowl XLIII winning team.
Kenny Anunike will remain a member of the Denver Broncos, but will spend the 2014 season on Injured Reserve. The rookie free agent defensive end had a great training camp and registered sacks and tackles during the preseason. He injured his arm in the final preseason game. Instead of releasing him and risk losing him to another team, the Broncos elected to retain Anunike by placing him on IR.
Quarterback Thad Lewis was released by the Buffalo Bills during the preseason. Lewis started 5 games for the Bills last season. He recently had a workout for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Former Duke safety Matt Daniels has been signed to the St. Louis Rams practice squad. Daniels spent the last 2 seasons with the Rams as a reserve in the secondary. After battling through injuries during his first two years in the league the Rams released Daniels following the 2014 preseason, but ultimately brought him back as a member of the practice squad. (UPDATE: Daniels was waived from the Rams practice squad on Wednesday afternoon).
Wide Receiver Conner Vernon spent time this preseason with both the Bengals and Lions. Vernon recently had a workout for the Chicago Bears.
Long Snapper Patrick Mannelly retired after 16 seasons in the NFL. Mannely was drafted in the 6th round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Bears and spent his entire career with the team. He retires as the all time leader in seasons and games played in franchise history.