Wentz, who was having an MVP-caliber season for the Eagles before injuring his knee in Week 14, watched his backup, Nick Foles, lead the team to a victory in the Super Bowl.
In his talk, “The Show Must Go On: Success Through Dynamic Leadership,” Wentz will share his perspective on the parallels between what happens on the football field and what happens in business.
“Our experience creating a winning culture, building a cohesive team, and working through adversity provide us with lessons that are applicable to many aspects of life and business,” Wentz said in written comments about his upcoming visit.
“I am honored to share these insights with the Lancaster County business community and am grateful for the support this region has given me during my tenure with the Eagles,” he said.
Nelson Longenecker, chairman of the Lancaster Chamber board of trustees, said he expects Wentz to offer a timely message for the local business community.
“I think Carson represents the kind of leadership that really serves others and inspires them from any position on the field,” he said.
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Tom Baldrige, president of the Lancaster Chamber, said he thinks Wentz can offer some unique, football-inspired insights into business.
“There are tremendous lessons of teamwork, culture and resiliency that were part of the Eagles’ winning season, and Carson embodies them all,” he said.
The Lancaster Chamber dinner will be held Wednesday, May 23, at the Lancaster County Convention Center from 5 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $225 per person.
Through Thursday, tickets are available only to chamber investors or members. On Monday, March 26, tickets will be available to the general public on a first-come, first-served basis.
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Eagles’ Carson Wentz sends shout-out to cap casualty Brent Celek
Tight end Brent Celek was not only the longest-tenured member of the Philadelphia Eagles, but he was also beloved by teammates and fans alike.
Quarterback Carson Wentz joined Chris Long and Zach Ertz with Twitter shout-outs to Celek, who was cut Tuesday to free cap space.
Celek played 11 seasons in Philadelphia and was valued for his toughness and blue-collar approach to the job. He missed just one regular-season game during his time with the Eagles, and that was because he couldn’t pass the concussion protocol on a short week in 2012.
He attended the Philadelphia 76ers’ home game on Tuesday night and was given a standing ovation by the crowd.
Have we seen last of Tyler Eifert in Bengals uniform?
Tyler Eifert could miss a prove-it season in the final year of his rookie contract wholesale nfl jerseys.
The former Pro Bowler will spend the rest of the year on injured reserve if he chooses to undergo season-ending surgery to fix a lingering back injury. That decision could have significant ramifications in future contract negotiations with the Cincinnati Bengals and other interested teams. There’s no ignoring the possibility that the oft-injured tight end could be lighter in the wallet in 2018.
Health has been an ongoing problem for Eifert, who has never played in all 16 games in a season. He has played in only 10 games the last two years, following a 2015 season when he looked like one of the top three tight ends in the NFL. His season was cut short in 2016 with a back injury, and the same could be true five games into this season with another injury.
The Bengals will soon have to decide if handcuffing themselves to Eifert with a big contract is wise considering his injury history.
Backup tight end Tyler Kroft’s sudden emergence could also factor into that equation. The 24-year-old former third-round pick has looked sensational so far this season. While Eifert is clearly the more talented player, Kroft could be a steal if he’s able to produce consistently.
“[Kroft] had a [good game] in Green Bay, but he’s the guy in that spot,” Bengal head coach Marvin Lewis told ESPN’s Katherine Terrell. “If it was Tyler Eifert, chances are the ball would go to him. But Tyler Kroft is showing that he’s every bit as good a receiver. He’s done a good job on the line blocking. And now, when his number is called in the passing game — when the coverage dictates the ball should go to him — he’s shown that he can be in the right spot and come up with a contested catch.”
Eifert’s asking price at the negotiating table will ultimately decide if he still has a future in Cincinnati.
Considering the amount of fixing the Bengals need, it might actually benefit them to forgo tying up Eifert on an expensive, long-term deal. The greatest stat on a sheet is availability, and Kroft was on the field more last season than Eifert in the last two years.
Moving on is definitely worth considering for the Bengals.
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Could the Patriots pursue Tyler Eifert if Rob Gronkowski retires?
After the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Eagles, the Patriots were forced to answer questions about the loss and the team’s future.
One answer that has gotten a lot of run is Rob Gronkowski being noncommittal to playing in 2018. The news is only shocking for the first few seconds after you hear about it, but when you think about all the injuries that have piled up through his career, especially concussions, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see one of the league’s best tight ends hang it up early.
So running with the hypothetical of Gronkowski retiring, would that mean New England suddenly comes calling for Tyler Eifert’s services?
Eifert, when healthy, has been one of the NFL’s best tight ends. He has been an absolute beast of a red zone target catching 20 touchdowns over his five-year career. 13 of those touchdowns came in 2015 when he played 13 games and was selected to the Pro Bowl.
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The major mark against Eifert has been his inability to stay healthy. He has never played a full 16 games in five seasons, but when his season was cut short this year he spent it getting caught up on surgeries to try and get back to 100 percent.
This is leading to one of the biggest question marks in free agency. Who is willing to take a bet on Eifert, and how much are they willing to give him?
Odds are he will have to take a one-year deal from someone and prove he can stay healthy in order to get a big payday the following offseason. If you would’ve asked me before I would’ve said Eifert would stay with the Bengals for that deal because of his familiarity with Andy Dalton and the coaching staff. Now it feels like if Gronkowski retires New England might as well start selling their Eifert jerseys.
I really like Eifert as a player. He helps out this Bengals offense a tremendous amount, but I find it hard to believe he’d pass up a one-year deal to go play with the Patriots to prove his worth for the next offseason. That is also assuming that money is close to being equal. I doubt he would take a significant pay cut to join the Patriots.
The Patriots have proven they can get the most out of a talented tight end already. Tom Brady is also in a completely different league than Dalton. Plus he would have the easiest route to the championship out of all of his likely suitors.
It would be hard for Eifert to pass up the opportunity to join the Patriots and stay with the Bengals. It would really say a ton about Eifert’s loyalty if he did, but this league doesn’t run on loyalty.
At the end of the day, Eifert will have to do what is best for himself and his career.
The Ravens young defensive star, C.J. Mosley, has stated that he would love to stay in Baltimore and finish out his career as a Raven.
In an article by ESPN’s Michael DiRocco and Jenna Laine, Mosley is quoted saying “I’ve never been a guy that’s liked change or gone to a new place and start over,” Saturday after the AFC’s final walkthrough before Sunday’s Pro Bowl. “I went all four years at ‘Bama. I was at one high school. I was at one middle school. So I’ll love to stay in Baltimore and continue my legacy and try to be the second-best linebacker to finish out there.”
He is of course referring to Ray Lewis being the undisputed best linebacker in Ravens history.
“I’m pretty sure something will get worked out, but I just focus on football,” said Mosley.
He added “I just leave that to the head of the front office and my agent. I just let them work that out. All I can do is stay healthy and play football.”
“It’s definitely new, talking about contracts and money and all that,” Mosley said. “Everybody is well-respected with the Ravens organization, from the top to the bottom. I love all the coaches, all the players, so I definitely expect to finish my career there.”
The article ends with Mosley saying “I’m not too focused on, when I get back, if it’s gonna be awkward and all that stuff. I think that at the end of the day, we all go there to work.”
The Ravens have already picked up the fifth-year option on Mosley’s rookie contract, meaning he will make $8.718 million in 2018. The two sides have the year to reach an agreement on a long-term contract, which will no doubt be a pricey one.
The Ravens organization clearly values Mosley, both on and off the field, so it seems he will be a Raven for a long time. His desire to stay in Baltimore may mean he is willing to take a discount for the Ravens, since his market value should be pretty high.
Mosley was drafted 17th overall in the 2014 NFL draft by Baltimore. He has made the Pro Bowl three years out of four in his career. According to the article, in the past four seasons, Mosley ranks fifth in tackles with 489, and fifth in solo tackles with 313, among all defensive players. He is second in interceptions among linebackers in that time.
Fletcher Cox will make the sign of the cross over his chest, kiss his fingertips and point to the sky. Then, when the final note of the national anthem is sung, he will look up and whisper those familiar words once more.
“I love you, bro.”
It’s his intimate pregame ritual to honor his late brother. And before his focus turns to the most important matchup of his career, Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings, Cox will take a moment to reflect on everyone he loves and everything he has lost.
“I talk to him before every game,” the Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle said during a quiet moment at his locker. “He used to always tell me, ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ He used to always text me that.”
It’s been three years since his older brother, Shaddrick “Trell” Cox Sr., suffered a fatal heart attack at 34. But Cox still hears him in his head and still finds solace in the conversations they share — conversations so special Cox is adamant about protecting their secrecy.
“Trell” was Cox’s confidant, his cheerleader and, above all else, his father figure. Time has done little to assuage the pain deep within him, but the grief has also fueled the defensive star on the field. And as the Eagles prepare to seize their Super Bowl dream in front of the home crowd at Lincoln Financial Field, they’re expecting Cox to deliver another dominant postseason performance.
The 27-year-old played arguably his best game in last week’s 15-10 divisional-round win over the Atlanta Falcons: seven tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack while playing 90 percent of the snaps. But it was his “hidden plays,” the tackles that preserved critical field position and limited Falcons running back Devonta Freeman to a meager 0.7 yards per carry, that defensive end Chris Long highlighted as the main reason Philadelphia was able to limit Atlanta to 10 points.
Now the Vikings must find a way to neutralize one of the NFL’s most talented interior defensive linemen.
Minnesota’s offense in the regular season was seventh in rushing (122.3 yards per game) and 10th in scoring (23.9 points), but its defense is a key reason the team is a three-point road favorite.
The Vikings had the No. 1 defense during the regular season, allowing a league-low 275.9 yards and 15.8 points per game. And, like the Eagles, their defensive line is their strength. But Philly’s squad isn’t intimidated by the Vikings’ star power or Everson Griffen’s team-high 13 sacks or Linval Joseph’s suffocating run defense. In fact, the Eagles are anxious to show why they’re the league’s top-ranked run defense (79.2 yards per game).
“We’re going to wreak havoc,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “This is a good opportunity for us to prove who the best defensive line and front. . . . If we say we the best, we got to go out there and prove it.”
The Eagles expect Cox to lead the way.
The three-time Pro Bowl and second-team all-pro selection elevated his game when his team needed him most against Atlanta. Now, a little more than three years to the day of his brother’s death — Jan. 12, 2015 — he’s hoping to have his biggest game yet. Said veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins, “I don’t know anybody out there that can block Fletcher Cox.”
“Here’s a guy who’s going to make $100 million in his career, he’s one of the best in the league, and he works like he’s a regular guy,” Long said of Cox, the No. 12 pick in the 2012 draft. “He’s committed to his craft. And he’s a team guy. He’s like a truck driver: really consistent and doesn’t take a day off.”
To better understand the man Cox is now, you must know the child he once was.
His mother, Malissa, a supplier for a Nissan dealership, raised four kids on her own in Yazoo City, Mississippi, a town of roughly 11,000 about 50 miles north of Jackson. Cox grew up in a home with plenty of love but little money. His father, he said, wasn’t around. Nothing was ever easy, and nothing was ever given to him. He refuses to let up or slow down. It’s not in his nature. It’s not who he is.
“I know where I come from,” Cox said. “I come from nothing.”
The everyday struggle is what fuels him. That’s why the six-year, $103 million extension he signed in June 2016 (which included $63 million guaranteed) didn’t change him.
“I just like to work. I don’t want nothing given to me,” he said. “That big contract, I worked for it. I don’t want to be that guy where people say, ‘Since he got paid, he hasn’t done nothing.’ So I just keep grinding.”
At his core, he’ll always be just a kid from Yazoo City. A kid forced to grow up quickly. A kid who has suffered more personal loss than he can comprehend.
During Cox’s rookie year, he returned home to attend the funeral of his best friend, Melvin Baker, who was killed in a car accident. “He got ejected from a car,” Cox said quietly. “He was in the back seat. Everybody else in the car lived except him.”
That same season, he left the team again when his maternal grandmother died. His brother’s death years later almost broke him.
“I have my days where I wake up bawling and crying or I go to sleep bawling and crying,” Cox admitted.
Most of the time, he is able to keep his emotions at bay. But when he is at his lowest in the locker room, Cox’s closest friend on the team, defensive end Vinny Curry, is quick to offer an encouraging word.
“You can tell by the way he walks,” said Curry, who was drafted in the second round the same year as Cox. “Usually, he has a bop in his walk. But when he’s walking all slow, I’ll try to say some things to cheer him up and get him to laugh.”
Cox, as always, will play with a heavy heart. But he’ll find comfort in his memories of those he holds dear and those pregame conversations he and “Trell” still share.
And, for one more Sunday at least, his heartache will be his driving force.
Former Colts coach Chuck Pagano took out an ad in Sunday’s Indianapolis Star thanking the fan base for supporting him during his six seasons coaching the franchise.
“My only regret is not being able to deliver the Lombardi Trophy to this city that deserves to hoist it once again,” Pagano wrote. “Through the ups and downs of the last six years, your support for the Indianapolis Colts was unwavering and that’s a testament to you — Colts Nation.”
Indianapolis Star reporter Zak Keefer tweeted a photo of Pagano’s ad:
Pagano was fired Dec. 31 after the Colts finished with a 4-12 record and missed the playoffs for the third straight season. It marked Indianapolis’ worst record since going 2-14 in 2011. Pagano led the Colts to the playoffs, including a run to the AFC Championship Game in 2014, in each of his first three seasons as coach. The Colts went undefeated in the AFC South in 2013 and 2014.
In Pagano’s first season with the Colts in 2012 he missed Weeks 5 through 16 after he was diagnosed with leukemia. He returned for the team’s wild-card playoff game against Baltimore.
“Just eight months after arriving, our journey hit a detour and I was soon receiving chemotherapy to treat leukemia that had spread through my body,” Pagano wrote in the ad. “I will never forget the outpouring of strength and encouragement that we received from this community, state and supporters around the globe.”
New England offensive Josh McDaniels and Houston defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel are currently the two finalists for the head-coaching position, according to a source. The source, though, warned that there’s a possibility that the Colts could interview another candidate. The Colts can’t interview McDaniels again until after the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 21. They’ll have to wait until after the Super Bowl — if New England advances that far — to hire McDaniels if he’s their top target.
And there were two.
After all the interviews, speculation and waiting, we now know the Indianapolis Colts have narrowed their coaching search to two candidates: New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel.
This process isn’t over. It’s still possible neither becomes the coach; no offers have been made, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. But the search seems to be winding down.
Given the elimination of other candidates, let’s look more closely at the finalists and what their respective hires would mean for the Colts.
Pros: The Colts are not specifically looking for an “offensive” head coach, but McDaniels’ background as an offensive assistant would be a huge plus.
The idea of pairing McDaniels with a still-young quarterback like Andrew Luck seems appealing. Luck and the Colts experienced frequent turnover among offensive coordinators under former coach Chuck Pagano, beginning with Bruce Arians in 2012, Pep Hamilton in 2013-15 and Rob Chudzinski in 2015-17.
Adding McDaniels, who would install his own offensive scheme and take the lead in formulating offensive game plans, would be a marked change from Pagano’s tenure. (Pagano was a former defensive coordinator.)
While it’s possible the approach won’t be successful, it’s worth noting that former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning benefited greatly from consistency in the same offense for much of his 14 seasons in Indianapolis. Manning teamed with offensive coordinator Tom Moore from 1998 to 2009, allowing Manning to virtually master the scheme.
With McDaniels, the Colts also have the benefit of knowing he’s been there before. Though his near-two-year stint coaching the Denver Broncos wasn’t successful – he went 11-17 before being fired before the end of his second season – McDaniels at least is familiar with the pitfalls of the job.
Cons: When it comes to McDaniels, the elephant in the room is always present. If he lands in Indianapolis, he’ll have to live down a question that’s always dogged him: Can he succeed without Bill Belichick and Tom Brady? McDaniels’ best moments have all come while paired with the New England coach-quarterback duo.
McDaniels didn’t win much in Denver. And after being fired by the Broncos, McDaniels spent one year as the offensive coordinator in St. Louis, where the Rams produced a 2-14 record and had the 31st-ranked offense in the NFL.
There are many differences between McDaniels’ non-New England experiences and what he would find in Indianapolis. But these are questions that have to be asked and sufficiently answered before the Colts can settle on McDaniels.
Pros: The Colts are looking for a change in culture. They want a team that plays tough and is tough-minded. It’s something General Manager Chris Ballard has placed a premium on, and it’s likely one of the chief reasons Vrabel piqued the Colts’ interest.
He’s as intense a coach as you’ll find, and he expects a similar level of intensity from his players. That would be a departure from the mild-mannered Pagano. There’s no certainty Vrabel’s approach would be more effective, but the Colts don’t seem likely to hire a coach with a style similar to Pagano’s.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, for whom Vrabel worked while with the Buckeyes, observed Vrabel’s relentlessness.
“He attacks coaching the same way he attacked playing,” Meyer told the Toledo (Ohio) Blade in 2013. “You spend as long as he did in the NFL, you understand an extreme work ethic.”
Also working in Vrabel’s favor: He played for the best coach in the game, Belichick, for eight seasons. He’s bound to have learned a few things. Vrabel also has the benefit of having had a long NFL career, something that would give him instant credibility in the locker room because players would respect his credentials.
Cons: Vrabel has to answer one criticism, in particular, during his effort to land a head-coaching job: His inexperience.
He’s been coaching only since 2011 and only joined the NFL ranks in 2014 as the Texans’ linebackers coach. He also hasn’t followed the typical route to becoming a head coach, having only been a defensive coordinator for one season (2017). And his lone season in that role didn’t exactly result in much fanfare.
The Texans struggled on defense this season, allowed a league-high 27.2 points per game. But the context is important: They had rampant injuries, including to star players J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
They all laughed about it, just as the internet world did when the video went viral.
In the Atlanta Falcons’ auditorium following a Week 15 win at Tampa Bay, coach Dan Quinn clicked on game highlights and pumped up the audio. One particular clip featured quarterback Matt Ryan motioning to his right toward wide receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, trying to get them aligned off a double wholesale nfl jerseys motion as the play clock ticked down.
“Get f—ing set,” Ryan yelled, with a microphone picking it up to make it loud enough to be heard all the way back in Atlanta.
Sanu insisted he didn’t know what Ryan said at the moment, but everyone in the meeting room heard him clearly.
“I look over at Mo, who was like three seats down,” right tackle Ryan Schraeder said, “and Mo says, ‘Matt really be talking to us like that?’ It was just funny. I heard it on the field.”
Said Sanu, “I definitely laughed. We saw it all over social media. Definitely got a big buzz.”
Jones, who has played with Ryan since 2011, said his quarterback “always throws F-bombs” around. The Falcons understand it’s just a credit to the type of intense competitor the reigning MVP truly is.
First-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian loves it.
“That’s how I know him, quite honestly,” Sarkisian said. “Matt is a great leader. And his teammates respect him. He is demanding. He’s not only demanding on everyone, but he’s demanding of himself.
“I think you just saw the sheer and raw competitor come out there at a critical moment of a big game on a Monday night. He wanted those guys to get set so we could run what we wanted to run. That’s the way he operates.”
Sarkisian has gained an appreciation for how even in moments of frustration Ryan doesn’t let it fester to the point it throws him out of whack. That’s why “Matty Ice” has engineered 36 game-winning drives and 27 fourth-quarter comebacks in his career.
Ryan, who leads the Falcons into Saturday’s wild-card matchup with the Los Angeles Rams, knows this season hasn’t gone exactly as anticipated, for him or the team. He has had some miserable outings — including two three-interception games and four games with passer ratings under 80. But even when his receivers dropped passes, his line failed to protect, or Sarkisian blew a playcall, Ryan has never pointed the blame at anyone but himself.
He sticks to the motto of moving on to the next play or next game while maintaining his composure, something he learned from watching his older brother, Mike, as a kid. Mike was a quarterback, too, at Widener University outside Philadelphia, but had his football dreams shattered by a right elbow injury suffered during a car accident both were involved in when Matt Ryan was 16.
“He was four years older than I was [and] all I ever wanted to be was basically him,” said Ryan, who suffered a broken ankle in that accident but was able to, of course, continue his career. “And he always handled himself real calm and collected. It never looked like he was fazed or rattled by anything. I remember growing up just trying to play that way as well. From a young age, that’s probably where I got it from.”
Backup quarterback Matt Schaub is used to seeing Ryan’s calmness up close. Schaub pointed to a moment during the rain-filled matchup with the New York Jets in Week 8 when the headsets went down a couple of times, someone brought in the wrong play, and there were wristband issues to top it off.
“We were able to give [Ryan] one word, and he was able to spit out a 14-word playcall,” Sarkisian said. “I think that just tells you about his preparation, about what he does throughout the week to get himself prepared to play. He literally can memorize the calls for the game plan. It took one word and he was able to get us through a pretty successful play.”
Ryan threw a screen pass to Tevin Coleman on a third-and-25 play that resulted in 22 yards, giving Matt Bosher more room to punt and leading to a fumble on the punt return, recovered by the Falcons. It was one of those under-the-radar plays that folks sometimes don’t give Ryan much credit for, but the end result was Matt Bryant’s fourth-quarter field goal in a 25-20 win.
Of course, Ryan is not always totally under control. Schraeder caught his quarterback in a vulnerable moment about a month ago, during a walk-through.
“I had to relieve myself of some gas, and it was super loud and interrupted his cadence,” Schraeder said. “And he just started laughing during his cadence and lost it.”
Schraeder wasn’t joking.
“I did laugh,” Ryan said. “It was really, really bad.”
All jokes aside, Ryan and the Falcons have quite a challenge ahead. They have put last year’s Super Bowl implosion behind and are now focusing on scoring touchdowns against a tough Rams defense, led by virtually unstoppable defensive tackle Aaron Donald. As the sixth seed, the Falcons have to win three in a row on the road for a return to the Super Bowl. Ryan is 5-3 on the road this year, completing 168 of 259 passes for 2,110 yards with 12 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 97.5 passer rating.
This will mark Ryan’s eighth career playoff game, and he’s 3-5. He has completed 68 percent of his postseason passes for 2,224 yards with 18 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 102.4.
Ryan said he has learned from his playoff experience how to maintain the same routine. Teammate Ricardo Allen, one of the Falcons’ designated “chiefs” along with Ryan, raved about how the rest of the players feed off Ryan’s serene approach.
That respect isn’t just for Ryan’s on-field accomplishments, either. Allen pointed to another recent team meeting — which featured much cleaner language — where Ryan raised the topic of why practice-squad players should get better benefits to an NFLPA representative. Allen, as a former practice-squad player himself, appreciated how his quarterback, who makes $20 million a year, spoke up.
That’s why Allen gets a little heated when folks criticize Ryan. But Allen has learned from “Matty Ice” that there’s no reason to let it get under his skin.
“It used to bother me what people said about me, and I remember one time asking Matt if [criticism] bothered him,” Allen said. “He told me, ‘I don’t even look at that stuff.’ For him not to look at it — and he gets millions of people mad at him for one bad throw — if he ain’t mad at that s—, I don’t care about a couple hundred people talking s— about me.”
After making it to Super Bowl II, where they got defeated by the Packers, the Raiders made it back to the promised land on Jan. 9, 1977. This time around, they would pull off the victory behind quarterback Ken Stabler.
Facing Fran Tarkenton and the vaunted Vikings was never an easy task back in the day. However, the Raiders did the best they could.
Leading the charge was famed Raiders QB Ken Stabler before Bo Jackson came along, Stabler was arguably the most important Raiders player ever. To this day, some still consider him their favorite of all time.
Throwing 19 total passes, Stabler completed 12 of them for a total of 180 yards and 1 touchdown. The stat line may not be the most flashy, or the most exciting, but it got the job done in an era where airing the ball out as frequently as today was not nearly as common.
Not to be outdone by his quarterback, running back Clarence Davis ran wild against the Vikings rushing for 137 yards on 16 carries. Davis showed his fortitude backed up against the wall on his own six-yard line, he would speed to the left for a 35-yard run, effectively setting the tone for the rest of the game. The Raiders would go on to win the game handily 32-14.
After failing to win the Super Bowl their first time around, this was a pleasant surprise for Raider Nation and the beginning of the franchise’s “commitment to excellence,” which has become the team motto.
Since that first Super Bowl win, Oakland has been back to the Super Bowl on three separate occasions, winning twice in the 1980s.
First-year sports agent Alexa Stabler has signed her first major client, former Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers.
Silvers is the third pro football hopeful signed by Stabler Sports, Alexa Stabler told AL.com on Friday. Stabler, who attained her NFL Players Association agent certification earlier this year, is the daughter of legendary Alabama and NFL quarterback Ken Stabler.
“I anticipate having about five clients this year,” Stabler said. “I wanted to keep it small just starting out, to give them the best service I can. One of the common concerns is that athletes get lost in the shuffle or they can’t get anyone on the phone. That’s what I’m trying to avoid. He’ll be part of a small group.”
Former Jacksonville State offensive lineman Justin Lea and former South Alabama running back Terrance Timmons are also newly signed clients of Stabler Sports, which launched in October. Alexa Stabler said she anticipates signing two more clients in the coming days.
Silvers and Stabler both grew up in Orange Beach and attended Gulf Shores High School, but their family connection goes back many years. Silvers’ grandfather, Raymond Christensen was a coach on the 1961 Foley High School team quarterbacked by Ken Stabler, who died from colon cancer in 2015. Alexa Stabler’s grandparents (Ken’s parents) also often babysat Silvers’ uncle, eventual Troy star Cary Christensen.
“I wasn’t aware of the extent of the connection until I sat down and talked to (Silvers) and his family,” Stabler said. “Some of it is new to me too, and it’s all kind of fallen into place really well. I have a lot of hope for Brandon. I see a lot of my dad in him, and I’m really excited for him.”
Silvers, a four-year starter at Troy who passed for 10,677 yards and 71 touchdowns in his career, will play in the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile on Jan. 27. After receiving the Senior Bowl invite, he withdrew a previous commitment to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Jan. 20 in California.
Silvers is currently training in the Atlanta area before returning to Mobile for Senior Bowl week in late January. He is one of seven quarterbacks currently committed to the annual NFL draft showcase at Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
“The Senior Bowl is the country’s preeminent all-star game,” Stabler said. “I think it’s going to offer a chance for Brandon to show what he’s capable of to the country. It’s especially meaningful that it’s here in Alabama, where he grew up.
“I’m just thrilled for Brandon. I think he’s really talented. He’s such a sharp guy. I think he’ll interview really well (with NFL teams). He’s going to get some good training. The Senior Bowl, he’ll get that opportunity to show that he can hang right in there.”
In a nod to the Steelers’ Antonio Brown, defensive coordinator Keith Butler called DeAndre Hopkins “the second-best wide receiver in the league.”
Monday, Butler’s defense will be tasked with limiting Hopkins, who is second in the NFL to Brown in receiving yards but leads the league with 12 touchdown receptions. No player in the NFL is more targeted by passes than Hopkins (168), and according to NFL Next Gen Stats no player is responsible for a bigger share of his team’s targeted air yards than Hopkins (44.5 percent).
“He does a great job running routes,” Butler said, “and he does a great job combating for the catch. He is going to be a major problem for us to try and stop so we have a lot of respect for him. We have some things we are going to try to do to limit him as much as we can. I don’t think you can stop him. I think you just try to minimize him as much as you can. You’re not going to stop him.”
As for who, exactly, will be assigned with stopping Hopkins, Steelers cornerback Joe Haden said the team won’t veer from their typical defensive strategy of having a right outside cornerback (Artie Burns), a left outside cornerback (Haden) and a slot cornerback (Mike Hilton) to cover opposing receivers.
“So however (the Texans) do it, we’ll be ready,” Haden said. “I faced him a couple times in Cleveland. Super physical dude; we had some great battles… he’s a great player.”
Haden said he works out, at times, with Hopkins in the offseason.
Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins enters Week 15 on a roll, to say the least. Over his past seven games, Hopkins has 851 receiving yards and five touchdowns. That’s 121.6 yards per game.
On the season, Hopkins has 88 catches (tied for second in the NFL) for 1,233 yards (second) and 11 touchdowns (first) for the Texans (4-9).
Hopkins will go face to face with the NFL’s best cornerback duo Sunday at Jacksonville, though, against former Texans standout A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. In the first meeting with the Jaguars, in Week 1, Hopkins had seven catches on 16 targets for 55 yards and a touchdown.
The Jaguars (9-4) lead the NFL in passing defense and have held opposing quarterbacks to an average of 174.2 passing yards per game. Bouye is tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions and has broken up an additional 10 passes. According to ESPN Stats & Information, his combined 16 interceptions and pass breakups are the second most in the NFL, trailing only Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward.
In his second NFL season, Ramsey has four interceptions and 17 passes defended. The 2016 first-round pick has proved to be one of the league’s elite defenders in a short period of time.
Hopkins said he loves the opportunity to go against top corners, saying Thursday that “it’s what I live for.”
“It’s always been a good matchup with Hop [Hopkins] and Jalen Ramsey,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “Jalen Ramsey’s a great player. Hop and Bouye, we’ve watched for several years in practice, so we know what that matchup is. That’s a tough and a good matchup, too. Hop has been up to those challenges all year. The No. 1 corner for every team covers Hop, if they’re that type of team, if they’re a match team.
“I think, obviously, when you look at what he’s done this year, he’s dealt with that pretty well. So it’s going to be another day like that for him. He’s going to have to step up to the challenge, and I know he’s looking forward to it.”
Hopkins was primarily covered by Ramsey in the two games he played against the Jaguars last season, and he was held to 13 catches for 135 yards. He did have a big catch on third down in the Texans’ Week 10 victory in Jacksonville to essentially clinch the game.
On Sunday, Hopkins will have T.J. Yates throwing to him with Tom Savage still in the concussion protocol. Hopkins has played two other stints with Yates, and has averaged 16.1 yards per catch with him at quarterback, the second-highest mark among the 10 signal-callers from whom he’s caught passes in his five NFL seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Yates is the third quarterback to throw Hopkins a pass in 2017, joining Savage and rookie Deshaun Watson. The standout receiver said he takes pride in his production despite the inconsistency under center.
“That’s why it’s a challenge for me to go out and be able to play with a quarterback who hasn’t played with us often, just to show the world that it doesn’t mean you need a Pro Bowl quarterback or you need a 100 percent-rated quarterback to get the job done at the wide receiver position,” Hopkins said. “So, to me, it’s a challenge, and I love it.
“You see other guys, statistically, when their quarterback goes down, whatever they’re doing, their stats go down. I can’t be that guy, because I’ve had to play with multiple quarterbacks my whole career, so I know how to adjust on the fly.”
Yates, who was 14-of-26 for 175 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Savage in Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers, called Hopkins his “security blanket.”
“He’s one of the best receivers in the league,” Yates said. “He makes it easy on me. Obviously we’re going to try to give him the ball as much as possible, but we’re going against a tough defense that knows that, too, and they’ve got some great guys in the secondary.”
Added O’Brien: “It’s impressive. He’s had a great year. He’s so competitive for the ball. His route running, the way he plays on Sundays, he’s a very tough cover. Even when he’s doubled, we still throw him the ball. He’s come up with some huge plays for us, and it’s really good.”
Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith said earlier this week that while he does not have a great relationship with Ezekiel Elliott, there is “mutual respect” between the former and current Dallas Cowboys running backs.
In an interview with United Press International on Tuesday, Smith characterized the relationship between the two as respectful and said he would advise the second-year player to “be cautious” off the field as his NFL career progresses.
“Well, what I would say is that the world right now is so polarizing,” Smith told UPI. “You have to be extra careful in terms of what you do, where you do it and how you go about doing it. He’s a young kid.
“Just like a lot of young players coming out of college, you have to learn how to balance the working life and play kind of scenarios and understanding where to do things and where not to. That’s the balance he has to learn.”
Elliott was caught on camera exposing a woman’s breast on St. Patrick’s Day and is currently serving a six-game suspension because of domestic assault allegations levied against him by a former girlfriend in 2016. Though Elliott was not charged with a crime, the NFL conducted its own investigation and opted to hand down the punishment, which is in line with the league’s personal-conduct policy.
Elliott is eligible to return from his suspension Dec. 24.
Some are worried about the off-the-field demeanor of Ezekiel Elliott, but Emmitt Smith isn’t one of them.
Sure the Hall of Fame running back would like the young star to be more cognizant of just how bright the spotlight is on him, but Smith also not naive to the reality of it all. The moment Elliott steps out his front door, the cameras and cell phones will come out — as even casual pedestrians instantly mutate into unpaid paparazzi. It’s something Smith has obviously experienced before, only not to this magnitude given the prevalence of outlets like TMZ alongside massive social media culture.
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The NFL’s all-time leading rusher is not at all naive to the difference between 2017 and 1990.
“What I would say is that the world right now is so polarizing,” Smith said in a recent interview with UPI, via The Dallas Morning News. “You have to be extra careful in terms of what you do, where you do it and how you go about doing it. He’s a young kid. Just like a lot of young players coming out of college, you have to learn how to balance the working life and play kind of scenarios and understanding where to do things and where not to.
“That’s the balance he has to learn.”
By all accounts, this is a lesson Elliott is not ignoring, as evidenced by the Houdini act during his six-game suspension. Sans a few supportive tweets for the Cowboys and Buckeyes, the 2016 rushing leader has been a no-show in every single media outlet as he resets mentally and trains for his return. Even before he was sidelined, his only public viewing came by way of football and his war in federal court with the NFL.
EVP Stephen Jones has already set the expectation Elliott will not only re-join the team “lighter” and “better”, but also more “focused” that he’s ever been. The latter most certainly extends to his choices off-the-field as much as on it — as he works to reconcile his newfound megastardom.
“It’s a different environment when you become a professional athlete and so many people are around you taking pictures of you when you aren’t even aware of it,” Smith further noted, via The Dallas Morning News. “So you definitely have to be cautious.”
And for those who believe Elliott wasn’t the right call with the fourth-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft?
“I think Zeke is a great addition to the Dallas Cowboys and will make a big difference when he gets back,” proclaimed Smith.
It’s a sight Giants fans have become far too familiar with during this miserable season, as a star player stayed down on the MetLife Stadium turf in obvious pain in the second half of Sunday’s 30-10 loss to the Cowboys.
“It’s better. It was throbbing when it happened, but other than that, I think it’s real mild,” Collins said. “It’s not too much of an end-of-season injury.”
Collins will have an MRI on Monday, but even if the ankle injury isn’t severe, the Giants could elect to shut down the All-Pro safety. Collins has been playing through a high ankle sprain since Week 5 and he aggravated the injury after chasing down Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley on a 54-yard gain midway through the fourth quarter.
Collins was attended to by trainers and checked on by interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo before limping to the sideline. Collins was still hobbling after the game and he left the locker room in a walking boot.
The Giants already have lost five starters to season-ending injuries, including wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Justin Pugh appears destined for injured reserve due to a back injury that has sidelined the offensive lineman for the four straight games and Collins could join the line to injured reserve with only three games remaining.
Wide receiver Darius Powe suffered a season-ending in his career debut. Powe broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot on an eight-yard catch late in the second quarter. The former undrafted free agent, who was promoted from the practice squad on Wednesday, played through the injury in the second half. Powe finished with two catches for 13 yards.
“It’s pretty crazy to have it happen like that, but it’s football. You live with it,” Powe said. “You don’t want to let it go down that fast. It was definitely worth it for me.”
Powe is the Giants’ fourth receiver to suffer a season-ending injury, joining Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris.
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison suffered a finger injury in the first half, but he returned and finished the game. Defensive end Olivier Vernon remained in the game but was hobbling after missing a sack on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in the third quarter. There were no updates on either player after the game.