Patriots tight end Russ Francis tries to break away from Detroits Derrel Luce during a game on Sept. 12, 1976. Francis died Sunday in a plane crash. Chet Magnusson/Associated Press

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Former NFL tight end Russ Francis, a three-time Pro Bowl selection with the New England Patriots who won a Super Bowl with the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, was killed along with another aviation enthusiast when the single-engine plane the two men were in crashed shortly after takeoff from an airport in upstate New York, authorities said Monday.

Francis, 70, and Richard McSpadden, 63, had taken off from the Lake Placid Airport shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday in a Cessna 177 plane when the plane had some kind of problem. The New York State Police said it crashed into an embankment at the corner of the airport.

Francis was president of Lake Placid Airways, which runs charter and scenic flights. A longtime flying enthusiast, the airline’s website said he had been a pilot for almost 50 years, and had run a charter service in Hawaii. McSpadden was a senior vice president at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which advocates around general aviation. The organization said his career included a stint as commander of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

Francis was a Patriots first-round draft pick in 1975 and played in New England until 1980, making the franchise’s all-decade team for the 1970s and the 35th anniversary team. He was named to the Pro Bowl three straight seasons from 1977-79.

“Russ was a fan favorite throughout his playing career,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “He was a dynamic player on the field who had an even bigger personality off it. He knew no boundaries, pushed the limits and lived his life to the fullest.”

Francis joined the San Francisco 49ers in 1982 and was part of the 1984 team that beat Miami in the Super Bowl. He returned to New England in 1987 and retired the year after. In all, he had 393 receptions for 5,262 yards and 40 touchdowns.


The crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

BILLS: Starting cornerback Tre’Davious White will require season-ending surgery to repair a torn right Achilles tendon, Coach Sean McDermott announced.

“It’s very difficult, very unfortunate and a shame,” McDermott said.

White’s injury is the second major one sustained by the seventh-year player, who had just returned in November after missing a calendar year recovering from a torn right knee ligament.

BROWNS: Coach Kevin Stefanski said Deshaun Watson was cleared by the team’s medical staff to play Sunday with a bruised right shoulder, but the quarterback made the decision not to play following a brief warmup.

There had been some confusion about whether Watson made the call or it was made for him following the Browns’ 28-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.


Stefanski reiterated that Watson’s shoulder is structurally sound, but the QB felt he couldn’t perform at a winning level.

COLTS: Indianapolis will activate All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor this week and he could play Sunday against Tennessee.

Coach Shane Steichen told reporters he expects Taylor to practice starting Wednesday and the team will then evaluate whether he’s ready to start playing in games.

The former Wisconsin Badgers and New Jersey prep star missed all of the Colts offseason workouts following offseason ankle surgery and spent all of training camp and the first four weeks of the regular season on the PUP list.

CHARGERS: Justin Herbert is not expected to miss any playing time despite having a broken middle finger on his non-throwing hand.

The Los Angeles Chargers quarterback fractured the middle finger on his left hand late in the third quarter after it got caught in the helmet of Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby after being intercepted by Trevon Moehrig. He wore a splint on the hand during the fourth quarter.

Herbert still ended up completing two of his three pass attempts in the fourth quarter, including one for 51 yards up the sideline to Joshua Palmer late in the fourth quarter to seal a 24-17 victory to improve Los Angeles’ record to 2-2.

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