Several RI-linked players spent the summer in NFL training camps

Detroit Free Press

The state of Rhode Island will be well represented in the NFL this season.

This past summer, nine players connected to the Ocean State played in the preseason. Three colleges in the state — Brown University, Bryant University and the University of Rhode Island — were represented, and three athletes who played high school sports in Rhode Island played in preseason games.

Following cutdown day (Tuesday), two of those players will start the regular season on their NFL team’s 53-man rosters, with another five landing on practice squads.

Last year, local athletes were drafted in the first round, a Bryant alum threw a touchdown pass and a former Brown standout was a Super Bowl champion. It looks as if it will be another exciting year for players with Rhode Island connections.

Here’s a look at how local athletes fared in training camp this summer and where they’re headed this fall:

RI connection: Bishop Hendricken

Paye is one of the best football players to come out of Rhode Island and certainly looked the part last season. The 2021 first-round pick started at defensive end in all 15 games in which he played and finished with 32 tackles to go with four sacks. Paye got a scare this training camp when he suffered a knee injury in practice. That caused him to miss the entire preseason. The injury, however, has been classified as a bone bruise. Colts head coach Frank Reich said Paye “should be hopefully good to go for the [regular-season] opener.”

From refugee camp to Colts: These moments launched RI’s Kwity Paye’s NFL football career

Michael Hoecht, Los Angeles Rams

RI connection: Brown University

Hoecht joined the list of distinguished Brown alumni who have a Super Bowl ring after playing in Super Bowl LVI last season. He spent the 2020 season on the Rams practice squad, but made the 53-man roster last season as a backup defensive tackle and core special teamer. This preseason, he was a force. Hoecht finished with nine tackles, two quarterback hits, a sack, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. He once again made the Rams’ 53-man roster.

From Brown to the Super Bowl: Michael Hoecht’s climb to the pinnacle of the NFL

E.J. Perry, Jacksonville Jaguars

RI connection: Brown University

Perry’s entry to the NFL has been interesting. He initially signed with Philadelphia after the NFL Draft, but backed out when the Eagles added another young quarterback. Perry signed a big deal with Jacksonville but they released him with a non-football injury designation on July 24. The Brown quarterback signed back with the Jaguars on Aug. 9. Perry completed 25 of 48 passes (52.1%) for 293 yards to go with a touchdown and three interceptions this preseason. He was released on Tuesday as Jacksonville opted to keep veteran C.J. Beathard as the top backup. Perry signed with the Jaguars’ practice squad on Wednesday.

Tom Kennedy, Detroit Lions

RI connection: Bryant University

Kennedy played in 12 games last season with the Lions, during which he caught six passes for 54 yards. The receiver’s highlight, however, was a 75-yard touchdown pass in the regular-season finale. The Bryant alum was a preseason starter this summer, finishing with a whopping 16 catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns. That made it a surprise when the Lions cut him on Tuesday. Kennedy was signed onto Detroit’s practice squad on Wednesday.

Isaiah Coulter, Chicago Bears

RI connection: University of Rhode Island

A fifth-round pick by Houston in 2020, Coulter has played in four NFL games (one with the Texans and three with the Bears), but is still searching for his first NFL catch. Coulter spent most of last season as a receiver on Chicago’s practice squad and was a preseason star this summer. He led the Bears with eight receptions for 112 receiving yards, but was cut on Tuesday. Coulter signed to Chicago’s practice squad on Wednesday.

Kenny Yeboah, New York Jets

RI connection: Providence native

Yeboah, who was born in Providence, joined the Jets as an undrafted free agent tight end last season. The Ole Miss alum started the season on New York’s practice squad but was signed to the active roster later in the season. He  played in nine games for the Jets, catching two passes for 36 yards as a rookie. This offseason, he caught four passes for 31 yards in three preseason games before being released on Tuesday. Yeboah signed with the Jets’ practice squad on Wednesday.

Thaddeaus Moss, Cincinnati Bengals

RI connection: Lincoln High School

The son of Randy Moss who briefly played high school football in Rhode Island, Thaddeus Moss spent time as a tight end on the Bengals’ practice squad last season. He was elevated to the active roster for one game but suffered a hamstring injury in pregame warm-ups. Moss caught four passes for 40 yards this preseason. He was released on cutdown day, but signed to the Bengals’ practice squad.

Nolan Cooney, Arizona Cardinals

RI connection: East Greenwich High School

Cooney, a punter, spent last offseason with the New Orleans Saints before being released in the summer. He signed a futures contract with Arizona on Jan. 25. He had a solid preseason for the Cardinals, averaging 53.7 yards per punt. His longest boot was a 58-yarder. He ended up losing the punter competition to veteran Andy Lee and was released on Aug. 23. Cooney hasn’t landed on a practice squad but worked out with the Colts last week.

Aaron Parker, Kansas City Chiefs

RI connection: University of Rhode Island

Parker entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys and spent the 2020 season on their practice squad. Last year, he spent the season on the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad. He did make his NFL debut with the Panthers, playing six special-teams snaps in one game. This offseason, he signed with Kansas City. He caught one pass for 21 yards this preseason and was released on Aug. 27. He has not signed with another team or practice squad.

From Little Rhody to the big time: How NFL players with Rhode Island ties did last season

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