The Omaha Nighthawks added a pair of former first-round National Football League picks to their roster Sunday as they gear up for Thursday's big-stakes game with Las Vegas.
Defensive end Renaldo Wynn, the Jacksonville Jaguars' No. 1 pick in the 1997 NFL draft, and wide receiver Michael Clayton, selected first by Tampa Bay in 2004, joined the United Football League team. To make room for Wynn and Clayton, the Nighthawks waived wide receiver Biren Ealy and defensive end Josh Savage.
The 36-year-old Wynn has played 13 seasons in the NFL, starting 128 of the 182 games in which he played. The 6-foot-3, 280-pounder from Notre Dame has been a free agent since the Washington Redskins released him last season.
Wynn also played for the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants. He has recorded 230 career tackles, including 27 sacks.
Clayton played seven seasons with Tampa Bay after the Buccaneers made him the 15th player picked in the 2004 draft. He's started 56 of 84 career games and has caught 221 passes and scored 10 touchdowns.
Clayton played college football at Louisiana State, where he finished his career second on the Tigers' career receptions list with 182. His best season in the NFL was his rookie campaign, when he caught 80 passes for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns.
He had 16 receptions last season. The Buccaneers released him at the end of training camp in September.
Savage had started Omaha's first two games but has been slowed by a back injury. He had three tackles, including a team-high 1 ˝ sacks.
Ealy was released during training camp because of an injury. The Nighthawks re-signed him after the first game. He had one catch for 48 yards and one kickoff return for 24 yards.
Las Vegas will come to Omaha for Thursday's game at Rosenblatt Stadium as the UFL's first-place team. The Locomotives improved to 4-1 with Saturday's 24-21 overtime victory over Hartford.
Omaha, coming off a bye week, is 3-1. A victory over the Locomotives would not only put the Nighthawks into first place, but it would avenge a 22-10 loss to Las Vegas on Oct. 8.
“We are excited to be back in action,” Omaha wide receiver Robert Ferguson said. “It's great knowing that we are playing for first place. It feels like we are in a playoff run now, and this win is crucial.”
The other three UFL teams all have at least three losses, as Sacramento and Florida are tied for third at 2-3, while Hartford is 1-4.
The Nighthawks haven’t played since an Oct. 16 win at Hartford. They took last week off, then reassembled Saturday night and practiced Sunday.
“To be back at practice is almost like that feeling of homecoming,” safety Calvin Lowry said. “It’s a very big week for us.”
Las Vegas’ win over Hartford was its fourth straight, and it came in dramatic fashion. The Colonials tied the game at 21 by scoring a touchdown and adding the two-point conversion with 1:04 left in regulation. Las Vegas then won it when Steve Hauschka kicked a 53-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in overtime.
“It takes character to come back and win games,” Las Vegas coach Jim Fassel said, “and we’ve come back and won games. I’m proud of this team, the way we finish games.”
Las Vegas was playing without quarterback Tim Rattay, who guided the Locomotives to their first three wins before rupturing his Achilles tendon at the end of an Oct. 15 victory over Sacramento.
Drew Willy, who played for Turner Gill at the University at Buffalo, has taken over as the starter. Against Hartford, he completed 18 of 29 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw an interception but did have a fumble that was returned 83 yards for a touchdown.
“I thought he played outstanding,” Fassel said. “He made some big throws when we needed them.”
The Omaha Nighthawks began gearing up Sunday for a big-stakes game with Las Vegas.
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