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Utah LB Francis Bernard a surprise cut by Dallas Cowboys as NFL’s final cutdown day arrives

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes linebacker Francis Bernard (13) celebrates a tackle as the Utah Utes host the Washington State Cougars, NCAA football at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday Sept. 28, 2019.

As soon as the NFL officially canceled all preseason games on July 27, it became harder for fringe guys like Francis Bernard to make an NFL roster.

A former All-Pac-12 linebacker at the University of Utah, Bernard had interceptions in consecutive practices at one point in camp, earning wide praise from the coaching staff. He made some waves on special teams and with oft-injured veteran linebacker Sean Lee set to begin the season on injured reserve, appeared to be in good position to make the 53-man roster.

Bernard, though, did not have any preseason games to help make his case, only an extended training camp. On Saturday morning, Bernard was waived by the Cowboys in what was viewed as a surprise move.

The NFL’s cutdown deadline to get to a 53-man roster came and went Saturday at 2 p.m. MDT. The waiver claim period then began, ending at 10 a.m. Sunday morning. Teams can begin signing players to their respective practice squads Sunday at 11 a.m. If Bernard clears waivers, he is a strong candidate to be signed to the Cowboys practice squad, which will be expanded to 16 players in 2020 because of coronavirus concerns. Practice squads were already set to expand from 10 to 12 this season under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement.

After going undrafted, Bernard agreed to terms with the Cowboys on an undrafted free agent deal in the minutes after the NFL Draft ended on April 25.

Also Saturday, another All-Pac-12 Utah alum, quarterback Tyler Huntley was waived by the Baltimore Ravens.

Huntley, like Bernard, agreed to an undrafted free agent contract with the Ravens in the minutes after the NFL draft ended. He was vying for the third-string spot with Trace McSorley. Reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III are entrenched on the depth chart.

If Huntley clears waivers, he should be in the mix to join the Ravens practice squad.

One of the NFL’s great comeback stories continued to unfold Saturday when former Utes quarterback, Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in 2004, made the Washington Football Team’s 53-man roster.

Smith suffered spiral and compound fractures to his tibia and fibula in a Nov. 2018 game and has not played since. Smith underwent 17 surgeries, avoiding amputation above the right knee in the process. Smith was cleared to resume football activities in July and was fully activated on Aug. 16.

The fact Smith is guaranteed $16 million for 2020 may have played a role in Washington’s decision to keep him, but either way, he is in line to be the backup behind second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

NFL ROSTER MOVES FROM STATE OF UTAH

Brian Allen (Utah), CB, Bills -- WAIVED

Francis Bernard (Utah), LB, Cowboys -- WAIVED

Tipa Galea’i (Utah State), DE, Packers -- WAIVED

Javelin K. Guidry (Utah), CB, Jets -- WAIVED

Aleva Hifo (BYU), WR, Chiefs -- WAIVED, Aug. 20

Tyler Huntley (Utah), QB, Ravens -- WAIVED

Dayan Lake (BYU), DB, Rams -- WAIVED, Sept. 4

Siaosi Mariner (Utah State), WR, Raiders -- WAIVED, July 31

Josh Nurse (Utah), CB, Ravens -- WAIVED

Nate Orchard (Utah), DE, Ravens -- WAIVED

Caleb Repp (Utah State), TE, Falcons -- WAIVED, Aug. 2

Darrin Paulo (Utah), OL, Broncos -- WAIVED

John Penisini (Utah), DL, Lions -- MADE 53-MAN ROSTER

Alex Smith (Utah), QB, Washington Football Team -- MADE 53-MAN ROSTER

Jonah Williams (Weber State), DE, Los Angeles Rams -- WAIVED

Ty’Son Williams (BYU), RB, Ravens -- WAIVED


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