Rams, Chargers both have their work cut out for them in Los Angeles



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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Rams jersey rookies are scheduled to report for training camp by Wednesday afternoon. Three days later, the entire team will take the field for practice on the campus of UC Irvine. The Los Angeles Chargers jersey will do the same about five miles north the following morning, practicing for the first time from Jack Ham jerseymett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa, California.

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By the end of the week, these two teams will finally — almost literally — become neighbors.

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The Rams have history in L.A., both recent and deep-rooted. They played here for 49 consecutive seasons, from 1946 to 1994, winning a championship and making 21 playoff appearances along the way. They also returned before anybody else, the first NFL franchise in the nation’s second-largest media market in 22 years. But the Chargers — on paper, at least — seemingly have the better team.

Cheap Isaac Fruechte jersey “I mean, that’s just facts,” Eric Dickerson jersey, the opinionated Hall of Famer and former Rams running back, said in a phone conversation. “They have a more exciting football team.”

The Rams have a long and storied history in the area, and the Chargers have the higher ceiling for success. Their battle for the heart of L.A. officially begins this week. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsThe Chargers look dynamic on offense and would’ve been a lot better last year if not for a litany of injuries and an inordinate amount of close losses. Still, they went a combined 9-23 during their last two seasons in San Diego. They will now play in a city where they spent only one prior season, 57 years ago. The Rams, meanwhile, haven’t sniffed the playoffs since 2004. They’ve lost more games than they’ve won for 10 straight years and are coming off a tumultuous, dispiriting 4-12 season.

Does Los Angeles, a city that craves excitement and ignores mediocrity, have enough room in its heart for these two teams?

“Every other sport out here has two teams, so we understand the size of the market, the entertainment aspect of this,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last month, while attending an event for Rams season-ticket holders at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. “But there’s also a great deal of competition [in L.A.]. You have to be on your game, and you have to provide the right kind of interaction for your fans.”

The Rams and Chargers won’t share a space until 2020, when both teams move into the $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, California, that is being funded by Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Over these next three wholesale jersey years, the Rams will play out of the expansive, 94-year-old Coliseum while the Chargers call the intimate, 30,000-seat StubHub Center home. But their relationship begins now.

Marc Ganis, president of Chicago sports business consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd., sees the Rams and Chargers “in an interesting position of being both competitors and partners.”

They’d like to forge a competitive rivalry, but they also must work together. Ideally, they would eventually bring out the best in one another.

“We’re all going to have to work harder,” Goodell said of making it work with two teams in L.A. “We’re going to have to be more creative, we’re going to have to be more innovative, to engage with our fans, build fan bases, and provide a great experience.”

The Chargers, Rams and the Oakland Raiders jersey, who are soon heading for Las Vegas, make up three teams that were approved for relocation in a span of 15 months. Ganis, who said his firm has worked on projects related to more than two-thirds of the NFL teams, was a central figure in what became an exodus from Los Angeles in the mid-1990s. He represented the Rams when they moved to St. Louis and he represented the city of Oakland when the Raiders returned to the Bay Area. Now he’s watching the NFL’s return to L.A. from afar.

“The key,” Ganis said, “is to have success on the field and to be able to carve out a large enough fan base that relates just to your team, rather than to the NFL generally or to the visiting teams.”

It won’t be easy. L.A. offers real financial opportunities, as evidenced by the Rams doubling in value over the last 12 months. But it also represents an uphill battle for two teams that don’t necessarily resonate with this generation of Angelino just yet. There are too many other distractions in this city, not the least of which is USC and UCLA football, and the Rams and Chargers haven’t been around. An entire generation of NFL fans grew up rooting for the Raiders or the Cowboys or somebody else, in a time when out-of-market games are easily accessible.

Ganis hasn’t noticed a real appetite for the Rams or the Chargers.

“I would love to tell you that it’s overwhelming,” he said, “but I don’t believe that is the case yet.”

It’s hard to consider that without lamenting the opportunity the Rams wasted last year. They had this city wrapped around their little finger, with season tickets sold out in a matter of hours and nearly 90,000 fans showing up for a preseason game. Then they lost 75 percent of the time. Their head coach was fired, their offense was dull, their franchise quarterback played poorly, and the fan experience at their stadium was deemed unpleasant, prompting the Rams to reduce capacity to about 70,000.

“I don’t think we expected a great season, but I think about captivating L.A.,” said Dickerson, who played for the Rams when they essentially shared a market with the Raiders. “It’s about the quality on the field. You might not win, but if they would’ve put something exciting on the field last year, they would’ve had fans’ attention this year. I think that’s why they really failed.”

Now, Ganis said, “There’s almost a bit of a race as to which of the teams can be successful, seriously successful on the field, the soonest.”

The team that does, Ganis believes, could take control of this market for good. And though few would argue that the Chargers are better-equipped to win in 2017, some would say that the Rams — with a younger quarterback, a more talented defense and a potential prodigy at head coach — can have the brighter longterm future if things go right. Ideally, the dynamic between the Rams and Chargers would eventually play out like that of the Giants and the Jets in New York, two teams that have carved out their own fan bases in a major metropolitan city.

But it doesn’t always work that way. The White Sox take a backseat to the Cubs in Chicago; the Lakers dwarf the Clippers in Los Angeles. The Rams and Chargers both have their work cut out for them in this city, for different reasons.

But Ganis sees real, tangible hope on the horizon.

“That new stadium is going to be a game changer,” he said. “… This is a set-up period for when the new stadium opens. There will be challenges, there will be some successes, there will be some failures, there will be some griping. But when people see that new stadium – when the fans see it, when the media sees it, when the world sees it — I think it’s going to change the perception dramatically and will change the results, the economic results, as well.”

Panthers focused on getting to Super Bowl, not Super Bowl hangover



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SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Tight end Greg Olsen jersey jersey stood outside a Wofford College dormitory on the first day of training camp a year ago and warned that the Carolina Panthers jersey weren’t a lock to return to the Super Bowl they lost six months earlier.

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He urged teammates to understand they weren’t entitled to anything.

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He was right.

Wholesale Russell Bodine jersey The Panthers went from an NFL best 15-1 and trip to the title game in 2015 to 6-10 and last place in the NFC South.

But Olsen’s message on Tuesday, standing outside the same dormitory, was the same as the Panthers reported for another training camp.

“I’m going to say the same thing,” Olsen said. “Good or bad, it’s teams that respond and go back to a reset button and go back to square one every year are the teams that are able to sustain success in this league.

“We’re on the other end of this now, coming off a bad and disappointing season. The faster guys realize we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ve got to regroup and get moving, the better off we’ll be.”

Signs, while maybe not as obvious as they are in hindsight, were there this time a year ago that the Panthers would struggle. Players were tired after extending the season almost two months.

They spent most of the offseason talking about either the Super Bowl hangover or the Super Bowl rematch on opening day at Denver.

While they said the focus was on returning to the title game, the focus wasn’t always there.

It appears to be now.

Quarterback Cam Newton jersey jersey weighed in at 246 pounds, the best shape he’s been since his rookie season when he was listed at 245. Defensive end Charles Johnson jersey jersey jersey and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin jersey jersey also reported in tip-top shape.

There was more of a sense of urgency about turning things around.

“It’s a whole new approach, a different attitude, different atmosphere,” coach Ron Rivera said. “It feels a little bit lighter. It doesn’t feel like my shoulders are being weighed down. I’m excited about it. I really am.

“We’ve wholesale jersey got some guys in place who if they continue to grow as football players, I think we can be a really good team.”

The distraction from last week’s firing of general manager Dave Gettleman and hiring of Marty Hurney — the man Gettleman replaced after the 2012 season — as the interim general manager didn’t feel like a distraction at all.

Olsen and outside linebacker Thomas Davis jersey both showed their leadership as team captains and reported to camp even though much-wanted contract extensions haven’t been given.

Even though there are no guarantees they’ll get one.

Rivera said that set the tone.

It also showed that as important as money is to players, winning a title is more important — at least to this group of players.

“When it’s all said and done they count on me to be here and set the tone and be a guy they rely on, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Olsen said.

“As far as I’m concerned all that stuff is over now. Obviously, we tried to get something done. It didn’t work out. Now I’ll play out my contract and try to win a Super Bowl.”

The distraction last year was the pressure to get back to the title game and everything that came with it. Now the Panthers are back to being the underdog, having to prove they weren’t a one-year wonder.

They are motivated by predictions such as the one in USA Today that picked them to finish last in the NFC South with a 7-9 record.

Rivera reminded the Panthers weren’t picked to reach the Super Bowl in 2015, a year he played up the lack of respect label to the fullest.

But the Panthers shouldn’t be overlooked or considered underdogs with a star-studded roster that includes Newton, Olsen, Davis, Luke Kuechly jersey jersey and Kawann Short jersey jersey. They have much of the nucleus that won the NFC Championship Game two years ago and a lot of new, exciting pieces in first-round draft pick Christian McCaffrey jersey and second-round pick Curtis Samuel jersey.

They’re more focused on getting somewhere instead of getting back somewhere.

“If you become a part of this organization, you’re here to help build this and win us a championship,” safety Kurt Coleman jersey jersey said. “That’s everybody’s mindset, no matter who you are.

“That’s really our goal right now. It starts here in Wofford, we’ve got to build and we’ve got to work hard to see where we’re going toward the season.”

Judgment day for Jaylon Smith: First practice in pads, 572 days after injury



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OXNARD, California — The last time Jaylon Smith jersey wore pads on a football field was Jan. 1, 2016, in the Fiesta Bowl.

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His left knee was shredded after he was pushed in the back by an Ohio State offensive lineman, causing Smith’s foot to plant into the ground. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He tore his lateral collateral ligament. He suffered damage to the peroneal nerve, causing some teams to eliminate him from their draft board.

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When the Dallas Cowboys jersey put the pads on Wednesday for their third practice of training camp, Smith will be in full pads on a football field for the first time since the injury.

Wholesale Taylor Gabriel jersey To Smith, it will be just another day in a journey that he believes will see him become one of the best linebackers in wholesale jersey the NFL.

“Very confident on myself and everything I’ve done this far,” Smith said. “The strength staff, the rehab, Britt Brown, Jim [Maurer], all those guys; we have a plan set in place and we don’t want to defer from it. It’s just about working every day, and it’s something where for me everything I’ve done we start off slow, we continue to progress, we continue to progress and we’re good. And I’ve succeeded in everything thus far.”

Dez Bryant jersey jersey called teammate Jaylon Smith jersey (left) a “freak of nature” and says the linebacker looks like an “action figure” on the football field. AP Photo/Gus RuelasTo almost everybody else — coaches, teammates, executives — it will be another sign of progress.

Smith’s older brother, Rod, is a running back with the Cowboys.

“I think he’s ready to get out there,” Rod Smith jersey said. “He’s been preparing since the injury, so he’s been doing a good job keeping his mind off it. Focused, keeping his mind right. Focused on what he needs to have it focused on. He looks ready.”

Justin Durant jersey sat next to Smith last year in the linebackers room as Smith worked through his rehab his rookie season, unable to play.

“I love everything about him,” Durant said. “I’m excited for him to get out there. I want to see how good he is, too.”

Said wide receiver Dez Bryant jersey jersey: “The dude’s a freak of nature. Look at him. He looks like a damn action figure out there. The guy’s phenomenal. I’m ready to see him in action. I think he’s going to perform well.”

There is no way of truly knowing how Smith will perform until he is on the field in a game. Wearing pads during training camp offers more of a glimpse into the reality than offseason practices conducted without pads, though.

As optimistic as the Cowboys are, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said he has not seen enough to know for sure if Smith will help during the regular season.

“No, other than I know he’s a very talented and a terrific college player,” Marinelli said. “We know what he’s about. He’s got size and the movement. That’s a great starting point. Great starting point.”

Had he not been injured, Smith might have been under consideration by the Cowboys with their first-round pick at No. 4 overall over Ezekiel Elliott jersey. That’s if he would have been available. He could have gone among the top three picks.

While the strength and movement have returned to his left foot, Smith continues to wear a brace to help keep it flexed. Zack Martin jersey jersey wore a similar brace during his rookie season when he suffered an ankle injury going into the playoffs.

“It’s great for support,” Martin said. “Obviously when you have that injury the biggest thing is when it moves a little bit it hurts. It keeps it stable and made a huge difference for me.”

Smith hopes he won’t need a brace when the regular season starts, or perhaps the one he wears will be modified more. The ligaments are strong and secure. The nerve continues to regenerate and the Cowboys believe it will fire completely in the future. Smith has been coy when discussing the specifics of the nerve injury but has always been positive it would return fully.

A recent EMG showed the nerve’s conduction has grown from the last test in the spring,

“Those are the things you can see that things are changing for him in a positive way,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

The Cowboys will work Smith in slowly as he goes, just as they did in the spring. The goal is to be ready for the regular-season opener against the New York Giants jersey, but today is a significant step.

“It’s about patience,” Jaylon Smith jersey said. “But with sitting out a year, I’ve learned so much about myself as a man. Everything I do is with a clear-eye view. It’s a focused vision, determined belief and earned dreams. It’s something I live by and walk with every single day.”

Bengals owner Mike Brown on Joe Mixon: ‘We’re going to bet on him’



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CINCINNATI — Bengals owner Mike Brown jersey said Tuesday that he believes running back Joe Mixon jersey has put his college troubles behind him.

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Brown has not made many public comments regarding the selection of Mixon in the 2017 draft. His only statement was a public letter in the Cincinnati Enquirer in May, in which he admitted the Bengals “took a risk” with the pick. Mixon fell to the second round because of an incident his freshman year of college, where he punched a woman in the face and broke several bones in her jaw. He was initially charged with misdemeanor assault but reached a plea deal.

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“He’s a young guy. He turned 21 [on Monday]. The incident that he was involved in was three years ago,” Brown said. “He made a terrible mistake. He struck a young woman. He hurt her badly. It was a reflexive action in my mind, when I see the tape of it. I just think he acted without thought. But it was a terrible result.”

Cheap Ulrick John jersey He added: “He’s here because he’s a good football player and because I think he’s a good enough guy to be here. We’re going to bet on him and I think it was a one-time thing. It’s up to him to prove that’s what it was. He’s going to be watched carefully forever more because of it. I think he will hold up. I really do. But only time will tell.”

On Joe Mixon jersey, Bengals owner Mike Brown jersey said he believes it is “time to give a young guy like this a chance to do the best with his life that he can do.” AP Photo/John MinchilloBrown said Mixon has paid his price by serving a one-year suspension at Oklahoma. Mixon recently came to an undisclosed wholesale jersey civil settlement with the victim.

“She has forgiven him publicly. He has apologized publicly. And I think it’s time to give a young guy like this a chance to do the best with his life that he can do,” Brown said. “I don’t see what’s served by denying someone an opportunity.”

Mixon figures to play a major role in the running back rotation as a rookie. Offensive coordinator Ken Zampese said the division of snaps between Jeremy Hill jersey jersey, Giovani Bernard jersey jersey and Mixon will work itself out in training camp.

“He is a really good piece to add where we got him,” Zampese said. “l really like, more important than his skill set, is his personality. The kind of kid he is. His demeanor. There’s so much potential for him and how he fits into the community we have here in the locker room…

“All those physical things will happen once we get him in sync with everybody and all the relationships built and then we’ll get all the package of that guy. He had a really fine spring building bridges with the guys in the locker room, learning the offense, getting used to the coaches, how things happen in practice. He’s ready to go.”

How Bill Belichick has mastered the art of saying nothing



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Since Bill Belichick resigned as “HC of the NYJ” and joined the New England Patriots jersey, the team’s five Super Bowl championships and 14 AFC East titles mark an unprecedented run of sustained success.

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That success has also bred an impressive level of secrecy. Over the years, Belichick has done his best to withhold even the most elementary knowledge from the public and his competition. His media conferences no longer feature infamous notes annotated on loose paper like they did that January day in 2000.

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Every so often, though, Belichick delves into his vast knowledge of the game, its history, and the former executives, coaches and players he has worked with.

Cheap Derrick Lott jersey Belichick held more than 100 media conferences and calls with local media over the course of the 2016 season. Each provided its own window into how the coach flawlessly navigates through the NFL’s many daily briefings without saying much of anything at all.

Data gathered from media conference transcripts on Patriots.com

Out of sight, out of mindBrady served his four-game Deflategate suspension at the start of the 2016 season, which meant invaluable playing time for backup Jimmy Garoppolo jersey jersey and rookie Jacoby Brissett jersey. Per NFL rules, Brady wasn’t allowed to be at the team facility during his suspension, and judging from media conference transcripts during that time frame, the coach didn’t spend too much time thinking about his star quarterback.

How often Belichick mentioned his QBs by name, Weeks 1-4Not giving an inchBrady made his return in Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns jersey to much fanfare from the media but little from Belichick. The head coach addressed the media on Wednesday that week like he normally does — and like he normally does, he showed little enthusiasm for the story of the day.

How Belichick responded to questions, Week 5High praise for bad teams Are the Patriots about to play the Steelers or the bumbling Jets? The Seahawks or the bottom-of-the-barrel Browns? Oftentimes, it’s hard to tell when listening to Belichick, who has a penchant for heaping praise on his opponents regardless of their standing.

Prior to playing the 0-4 Browns: “Defensively they’re very sound, aggressive. They capitalize on a lot of offensive mistakes with their effort and aggressiveness. We’ve got to do a great job of taking care of the ball and staying out of long yardage. They’re a very good third-down team, longer yardage situations, so those are hard to convert and very aggressive in the secondary. They’ve got good experience back there with [Joe] Haden, [Tramon] Williams, [Jamar] Taylor, [Jordan] Poyer, guys like that, guys that have been around for a while that are smart, instinctive players. We’ve got to do a good job there.”

How the Browns performed in Week 5Prior to playing the 4-10 Jets: “We’ve got a lot of work to do relative to preparing for this game on another short week. Offensively, a team that was very explosive and it’s become even more explosive with kind of the emergence of [Robby] Anderson, [Bilal] Powell … plus the [Quincy] Enunwa, [Brandon] Marshall and [Matt] Forte group that we already spent a lot of time talking about. But these guys, Powell and Anderson in particular, have been extremely productive and explosive the last few weeks. I’d say [Bryce] Petty has a lot of confidence in those guys. Their production has been very impressive.”

How the Jets performed in Week 16The NFL’s hardest-working teamEvery coach will generally note that his players “work hard” in varying degrees, but Belichick took it a step further during the 2016 season, bestowing his “nobody works harder than” seal of approval on multiple players.

Let’s start with pretty much the entire receiver corps:

You’ve got that right: Nobody works harder than Chris Hogan jersey, Matthew Slater jersey jersey, Julian Edelman jersey jersey or Danny Amendola jersey jersey. Well, except for them, of course.

Stephen Gostkowski jersey jersey, Dion Lewis jersey jersey, Rob Gronkowski jersey jersey, Danny Amendola jersey jersey (again) and Wes Welker all joined the “nobody works harder than” club before season’s end. Here’s a quick sampling:

On Gostkowski’s struggles (Oct. 23): “Nobody works harder than Steve. Steve’s a very talented player. He’s mentally tough. He’s a good football player. We’ll work through it.”

On Lewis’ play coming off an ACL injury (Oct. 28): “Dion works really hard. I think nobody works harder than Dion.”

After Gronkowski’s back surgery was announced (Dec. 12): “Nobody’s worked harder than Rob and has been a better teammate and all that, so hopefully things will work out as positively as possible with him.”

On how Amendola handled his time off recovering from injury (Jan. 10): “Yeah, nobody works harder than Danny. Nobody works harder. He’s done everything he can do. I’m sure he’ll continue to do that, and we’ll see how it goes.”

After the Texans hired Welker as an assistant coach (Feb. 1): “Nobody worked harder than Wes. Wes loved football.”

Tough crowd Brady posted the NFL’s best Total QBR score during four different weeks last season. But you wouldn’t know it when perusing Belichick’s postgame remarks after those games against the Browns, Steelers, Bills and Jets. Any questions directly intended to steer Belichick toward praising Brady were often shut down by the Patriots coach.

Brady’s QBR vs. NFL averageWhat Belichick said postgame: “I think Tom works hard. He’s always worked hard. I don’t think there’s any question about that. I think there’s a lot of things he needs to work on. There are a lot of things we all need to work on as a football team.”

What Belichick said postgame: He was not asked about — and did not mention — Brady’s play.

What Belichick said postgame: “Well, again, I thought that we had good play from our entire team today. You know, Tom did a good job, but we had a lot of the guys play well today. It was a good team win.”

What Belichick said postgame: He did not mention Brady’s play while answering a question about the amount of time the QB had to throw the ball.

The rantsBelichick will occasionally give impressively long answers. Sometimes a question sparks one of the coach’s many interests — left-footed punters, football history or inaccurate meteorologists, to name a few. Other times, Belichick, who’s always one step ahead, is filibustering to kill time like it’s the end of the fourth quarter. Here are some of his lengthiest rants from the 2016 season:

Sampling: “Because of [the Steelers’] consistency I’ve learned a lot from studying that organization and I think Coach Noll was just — did a tremendous job. He had great stability, very good fundamental coach. He believed in what wholesale jersey he believed in and they got good at it and they always had tough, physical, hard-nosed, smart football players. The receivers blocked, the offensive line was tough, defensively they always tackled well. They played good fundamentals. They were just very well coached and all of the people that I’ve talked to that have coached on his staff, they’ve affirmed that with their recollections of it.”

Sampling: “As you probably noticed, I’m done with the tablets. I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me. I’m going to stick with pictures as several of our other coaches do as well because there just isn’t enough consistency in the performance of the tablets, so I just can’t take it anymore.”

Sampling: “Teams that played on the surface that you’re not familiar with find out whether it’s a hard surface, soft surface, fast track or whatever it happens to be, and maybe get some opinion on what type of footwear you’d want to wear. But a lot of that comes down to actually seeing the field and making a decision the day before, the day of the game. Dave Schoenfeld, our equipment manager, has a lot of experience and he’s very good at that — identifying what type of footwear we would need on a particular field. Particularly, when he gets to the field the day before a game and sets up the locker room and so forth, he’ll let me know what the conditions are. Sometimes, that’s not consistent on the field. Sometimes it’s, well, the field is sodded in the middle, or the field in the middle is a little chewed up but it’s good on the edges or vice versa.”

Not his first rodeoAt this stage, Belichick is a seasoned pro at navigating the Super Bowl media circus. It starts at the media night and drags through scheduled media conferences the next days. The Super Bowl LI matchup between the Patriots and Falcons presented a unique juxtaposition between Belichick and Atlanta coach Dan Quinn. To start, their experience difference — Belichick was prepping for his seventh Super Bowl as a head coach, while Quinn had been in charge for just two seasons — led to the two facing much different questions from reporters.

Types of questions asked of Belichick and QuinnNo surprise for a first-time Super Bowl head coach, Quinn was more talkative during media week compared to the veteran Belichick, with the biggest discrepancy coming on Wednesday. Quinn’s desire to offer an opening statement for each day that week, when he went in-depth on where he felt the Falcons were in relation to game preparation, was decidedly different than Belichick’s approach.

Length of Belichick and Quinn media conferencesThe plays that defined the Super Bowl The Patriots’ win probability in Super Bowl LI dipped as low as 0.2 percent, when they were down 28-3 with 21 minutes left to play. You know what happened next: New England mounted a furious comeback and won 34-28 in overtime. Based on his postgame remarks, three plays seemed to stand out most to Belichick.

Dont’a Hightower jersey jersey’s strip sack (8:31 left in 4Q)Belichick: “[Dont’a] Hightower’s sack was a huge play for us. We really needed that even after our two turnovers offensively in the first half.”

Trey Flowers jersey jersey’ sack (3:56 left in 4Q)Belichick: “Shades of some of the other ones we have seen before in previous games like this, then we got [Trey Flowers jersey jersey’] sack. We got the holding penalty [on Jake Matthews jersey jersey] and we were able to push them back out of field goal range, so that was a huge defensive series for us.”

Julian Edelman jersey jersey’s miracle catch (2:28 left in 4Q)Belichick: “Edelman’s catch was an unbelievable play. … I wasn’t sure if he had it or not. Then when we saw the replay he was clearly under it. Julian has great concentration. He is a tremendous competitor.”

Best fits for top NFL free agents still on the market



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Training camps have opened around the NFL with the best intentions. Teams have spent months building what they hope are disaster-proof rosters. Should a catastrophe ensue, or an offseason projection simply fall short, a handful of veteran free agents remain available to help.

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Editor’s PicksWhy NFL teams will settle for less talent at backup QB”They talk about competition at every position, but obviously there is not,” an NFL defensive coach says. Why do teams sometimes employ No. 2 QBs who possess limited appeal in the present and no upside for the future?

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Let’s take a look at the best of them, as of Tuesday morning, and then take a stab at pairing them with a possible destination(s).

Cheap Josh Evans jersey 1. Colin Kaepernick jersey, quarterbackThe verdict has seemed clear for a while now: No team judges Kaepernick’s skills highly enough to supplant either its distaste for his 2016 anthem protest or the public attention it would presumably garner in 2017. Fair or otherwise, that’s how most teams operate. But Kaepernick is by far the best unsigned option at the position. It might take an injury or depth-chart failure for a team to make the move, however.

Best fit: Seattle Seahawks jersey, who showed interest in June and would be derelict to leave their Super Bowl hopes in the hands of Trevone Boykin or Austin Davis jersey should Russell Wilson jersey be injured. Kaepernick is also a better quarterback than anyone on the New York Jets jersey’ roster.

2. Robert Griffin III jersey, quarterbackThe wholesale jersey Kaepernick drama has overshadowed scant Griffin’s struggle to find a job, five years after he was the draft’s No. 2 overall pick. The league’s hesitance is understandable; Griffin has encountered injuries throughout his career and has never looked comfortable outside the unsustainable read option structure. What has he done to suggest he is more than what we’ve seen? He is only 27, but does any coach have the skill, time and interest necessary to elevate him? The Cleveland Browns jersey’ Hue Jackson thought he did last season.

Best fit: The Seahawks make sense. The Los Angeles Chargers jersey also have expressed some interest, which is half the battle.

3. Nick Mangold jersey, centerBoth Mangold and potential suitors have taken a patient approach as his rehabilitation from a foot injury has extended into the summer. There is rarely a rush to sign a 33-year-old center, and his market is likely to form after the first wave of training camp injuries. Most league observers believe he has at least another year left in the tank.

Best fit: The Miami Dolphins jersey’ interest is understandable given the uncertain status of starter Mike Pouncey jersey jersey. Veterans such as Mangold, especially those who played in the AFC East, also have a funny way of ending up with the New England Patriots jersey.

4. Gary Barnidge jersey jersey, tight endThe Browns put Barnidge in a tough spot, retaining his rights until after drafting his likely replacement (David Njoku jersey) in late April. Barnidge caught 134 passes over the past two seasons despite playing with eight different quarterbacks during that span, but at 31 no team has rushed to sign him. He can still help in the passing game and is a more consistent blocker than you might realize.

Best fit: Barnidge has visited the Buffalo Bills jersey and, more recently, Jacksonville Jaguars jersey following the trade of Julius Thomas jersey jersey jersey. If Barnidge can produce with the Browns’ quarterbacks, he shouldn’t have any issue doing so with Blake Bortles jersey jersey.

5. Brandon Flowers jersey, cornerbackIt’s rare to find a competent cover corner on the market this late, and Flowers represents one of the best hopes for those who want veteran depth. Flowers played only six games for the Chargers last season, in part because of a concussion he suffered in Week 10, and at 31, teams are taking a close look at his medical evaluation. But he has had discussions with the Patriots, and was also invited to visit the Arizona Cardinals jersey.

Best fit: Flowers could probably maximize his opportunity by waiting for the first wave of summer injuries. In Arizona, he would have a chance to compete for the No. 2 cornerback job opposite Patrick Peterson jersey jersey, an enviable spot on paper that in reality means a ton of throws his way as teams avoid Peterson.

It appears there’s little market for Darrelle Revis jersey because of his significant decline last season and questions about his desire. Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports6. Darrelle Revis jersey, cornerbackA future Pro Football Hall of Fame player remains at home at the age of 32, even as teams sign inferior players such as Alterraun Verner jersey (Miami Dolphins jersey). The questions about Revis are more complicated. Why did his performance drop in 2016? Have his skills deteriorated that much? Or was it a lack of competitive interest? Regardless, any team with a need at cornerback this summer will have to consider him.

Best fit: Don’t overlook the Dolphins, even after their decision to sign Verner this week. And perhaps the Cardinals would consider him if Flowers proves not to be a fit.

7. Orlando Franklin jersey, offensive linemanThe Chargers, a team that seems perennially in need of offensive line depth, released Franklin in May after two years of injuries and uneven play following a five-year contract he signed in 2015. Few would argue that he was among the NFL’s most disappointing offensive linemen the past two years, but he is too big (6-foot-7, 330 pounds) and young (29) to fall off the radar entirely.

Best fit: Franklin visited with the Jets this week. Also, keep the Los Angeles Rams jersey in mind. The Rams’ new personnel executive, Brian Xanders, drafted Franklin for the Denver Broncos jersey in 2011.

8. Anquan Boldin jersey jersey, wide receiverBoldin, 36, had a productive year in Detroit last season and has proved exceptionally durable as his career advanced. He has played in at least 14 games in every season since he turned 30, and there is every reason to believe he can help a team’s intermediate passing game.

Best fit: He visited the Bills and has a rapport with quarterback Tyrod Taylor jersey jersey, dating to their days with the Baltimore Ravens jersey.

9. DeAngelo Williams jersey, running backAt 34, Williams is ancient for a running back. His wrestling debut earlier this month suggests he is at least thinking about a post-football career. But it also demonstrated he is still in good shape, and to be fair, he carried the ball nearly 300 times during the past two seasons in Pittsburgh. He still wants to play, except not for a few teams, and some coach is likely to prefer his experience when it comes time to enhance depth.

Best fit: Don’t rule out the Steelers, who know how valuable Williams can be in the backfield.

10. Dwight Freeney jersey, defensive endFreeney has squeezed four post-Colts seasons out of his career, and if anything, we have learned there is always room in the NFL for an effective situational pass-rusher. It’s difficult to believe there won’t be some team that expresses interest over the course of the summer.

Best fit: The Atlanta Falcons jersey have moved on — for now. An injury or two along their defensive line could make his phone ring. The Falcons know what kind of impact he can have.

Source labels Robert Griffin III workout with Chargers as ‘good’



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A Los Angeles Chargers jersey source tells ESPN’s Josina Anderson that Robert Griffin III jersey’s workout with the team on Tuesday was good.

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“He looked good,” the source told Anderson. “The young man can move, he’s athletic, he can throw the ball. Some guys are proven and you know them; with Robert you just want to make sure he is healthy and moving around well.”

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Griffin has been training in Florida with former Browns assistant Pep Hamilton.

Wholesale Ricardo Allen jersey The Chargers are still weighing their wholesale jersey options before training camp and will talk more Wednesday, the source tells Anderson.

“We are trying to put together the best roster before we go into camp,” the source said. “We’re always looking to upgrade, and everyone is on board with that in this organization.”

Behind starter Philip Rivers jersey, Kellen Clemens jersey has served as the Chargers’ backup at QB the last two seasons.The Chargers also have two developmental prospects on the roster in Mike Bercovici and Eli Jenkins.

Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon has meniscus surgery, no timetable for return



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Baltimore Ravens jersey running back Kenneth Dixon jersey had knee surgery on Tuesday to repair a medial meniscus. According to the team, there is no timetable yet for his return.

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But two sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter it’s 50-50 that Dixon is out for the year. Another source tells Schefter that a four- to five-month recovery is expected, so a return is possible but unlikely.

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Dixon was already suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Baltimore is looking to sign Bobby Rainey jersey to help with depth at running back.

Wholesale Jerick McKinnon jersey This is Dixon’s third knee injury in 12 months. Dixon strained the MCL in his left knee on the first day of training camp last year, and he sprained the MCL in the same knee during the preseason.

Dixon, a fourth-round pick from a year ago, showed flashes last season in breaking tackles and finishing second on the team with 382 yards rushing.

The NFL Network reported the surgery would end Dixon’s season.

Falcons’ stadium roof will be closed for home opener vs. Packers



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ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons jersey will play their first regular-season game inside the new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the roof closed.

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Officials said the retractable roof of the stadium, which was left opened during a media tour Tuesday, still has to go through a process before the roof can remain open for an entire football game. Falcons team president Rich McKay explained the roof has to be “fully mechanized” and that such a process could take 40 working days from now, which means the roof will be closed for the preseason games and probably the start of the regular season.

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The roof can be operated now one petal at a time, but more fine-tuning and adjusting needs to be made to make all the petals work with one push of a button. The roof is made up of 27,500 tons of steel, 3,500 of which make up the roof petals. Each petal will move independently of each other.

Wholesale David Yankey jersey The roof of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be closed for preseason games and probably the start of the regular season as construction workers get the roof “fully mechanized” to remain open for an entire football game. Vaughn McClure/ESPNThe Falcons are scheduled to open the new stadium with an Aug. 26 preseason matchup with the Arizona Cardinals jersey, which falls inside the 40-day window.

“From a temperature standpoint and from an operational standpoint, it’s probably the right thing to do,” McKay told ESPN.

The Falcons’ fourth and final preseason game, an Aug. 31 home matchup with Jacksonville, also occurs inside the 40-day window. Although the Sept. 17 home opener is outside of the 40-day window, officials clarified that putting finishing touches on the roof won’t occur in 40 consecutive days. The workflow will be interrupted by certain blackout dates such as the Falcons’ preseason games, Atlanta United MLS soccer matches, the Chick-Fil-A college kickoff football games in the first week of September (Alabama vs Florida State, Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee), private events and the possibility of weather delays.

In addition, construction workers have to complete duties such as power washing the digital boards, which can’t occur with the roof open. That also would eat into time to work on the roof.

There has been no timeline placed on when the roof will be fully mechanized. Essentially, October appears to be a more realistic goal for the Falcons to play a game with the Mercedes-Benz Stadium roof open, if it’s not too hot or not raining at that time. The Falcons host the Buffalo Bills jersey Oct. 1 and the Miami Dolphins jersey Oct. 15.

Officials insist the roof is not a major issue.

“We’re feeling great about where we are,” said Scott Jenkins, the general manager of the stadium.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn was asked last month if he’d prefer the roof to be opened or closed.

“I prefer a roof opened,” Quinn told ESPN. “You know those days where you say, ‘Man, this is a day for some football’? If it’s the idealistic setting or it’s ideal football weather where you feel the crispness, I prefer that roof to be open. If it’s lightning and it’s raining, I’d say, ‘You know what? Let’s go inside.”

The process of opening and closing the roof typically takes 12 minutes but can be sped up to 10 minutes. A decision on having the roof opened or closed has to be made 90 minutes before kickoff. Temperatures in the 80s typically will result in the roof being closed, McKay said.

The process of installing the field already began Tuesday, earlier than expected. That process is expected to be completed by Aug. 5, if not wholesale jersey sooner.

“People traditionally will say a turf like that it anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million,” McKay said. “They are very good at it. They did the Georgia Dome. They did our practice field. FieldTurf is everywhere. … They know how to get the product installed.”

Don’t sleep on these steady fantasy football players



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The quest for “upside” can lure even the most experienced fantasy football owner into making costly mistakes at the draft table.

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Players who fit the description of “steady” performers aren’t merely those who grade well in terms of consistency metrics, such as those found in my Consistency Ratings. Those measures do generally identify the game’s most reliable players, but role changes and injuries have an impact, so each player’s entire profile should be considered.

Wholesale Kawann Short jersey Each steady performer includes “Tristan’s ADP take,” listing the player’s ADP in ESPN leagues as of July 24, as well as my opinion on how worthy the pick is at that spot.

Devonta Freeman jersey jersey, RB, Atlanta Falcons jersey: Since taking over as the Falcons’ starting running back in Week 3 of 2015, he has scored the second-most non-PPR (456.9) and PPR (576.9) fantasy points. Freeman’s path to getting there, however, reveals the kind of consistent approach that made him an underappreciated yet reliable weekly RB1 last season. Only six times in his 29 career starts has he posted a PPR score in single digits (with only three of those beneath eight points), and only four of Freeman’s non-PPR games have resulted in fewer than five fantasy points. His receiving ability, which fueled the third-best target total among running backs during that same time span, makes him one of the position’s most reliable weekly plays despite the presence of Tevin Coleman jersey jersey.

Tristan’s ADP take: 10th overall (10.6 average) is a completely fair spot to select Freeman, as he’s absolutely first-round material.2017 Fantasy Football Draft KitEverything you need to have a successful fantasy football season. Draft Kit

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? Player projections and profiles

? Depth charts: QB | RB | WR | TE

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Pierre Garcon jersey, WR, San Francisco 49ers jersey: This one is speculating ahead more than it is drawing upon last season, though in Garcon’s defense, he was consistently closest to his fantasy points-per-game average (7.6 in non-PPR, 41st; 12.6 in PPR, 31st) among wide receivers in 2016. He’s highly likely to capture the team lead in targets in San Francisco. In fact, he could rival his numbers from 2013, when he finished as the No. 13 wide receiver in non-PPR and No. 11 in PPR fantasy points. Garcon is one of the more obvious low-ceiling, high-floor receivers on draft boards this year.

Tristan’s ADP take: 64th (69.0) is about right for Garcon.

Frank Gore jersey jersey, RB, Indianapolis Colts jersey: He’s now 34 years old and is coming off consecutive years with a yard-per-carry average below 4.00, but a look at the Colts’ running back depth chart shows a remarkable lack of competition for Gore’s carries. He has managed at least 15 carries in 20 of his 32 games since joining the Colts after the 2014 season, and is the only running back in football to have started all 32 games over the past two seasons. Despite his so-so rushing rates, he finished 10th in non-PPR and ninth in PPR fantasy scoring at his position during that two-year span. When it comes to Gore, the perception is that (mostly due to age) he’s a low-ceiling, low-floor performer. The truth is that he’s actually one of the higher-floor players at his position.

Tristan’s ADP take: 61st (66.5), or in the middle of the flex-play tier, is just about right.Editor’s PicksThese fantasy players could make or break your seasonBoom-or-bust players can make the difference between winning and losing your fantasy football leagues. The key is recognizing them and drafting them at the right time.

Cockcroft: Strategy for PPR fantasy football leaguesDo you play in a PPR league? Thinking about making the switch? Here is a primer on how you’ll want to approach things in leagues that grant an extra point for each catch.

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Jarvis Landry jersey jersey, WR, Miami Dolphins jersey: In the past two seasons, he has finished 13th and 16th among wide receivers in non-PPR fantasy points (and eighth and 14th in PPR fantasy points) despite the fact that he scored exactly four receiving touchdowns in each of those years. That’s a challenging feat to accomplish — only five other receivers this century have scored at least as many PPR fantasy points in a season with four or fewer receiving touchdowns — and it shows how stable a WR2 Landry can be on a weekly basis. It also demonstrates how much profit potential he has if he’s just a little bit luckier in the touchdown department in 2017.

Tristan’s ADP take: 34th (36.3) is solid value for Landry, who makes a case for a third-round pick in PPR.

Matt Ryan jersey jersey, QB, Atlanta Falcons jersey: He’s an obvious candidate for regression in 2017: Ryan put up a 69.9 percent completion rate, 7.1 percent touchdown rate and 9.3 yards-per-attempt rate last season, all of which were well above his career numbers (64.9, 4.7 and 7.4). The appeal with Ryan, however, is his consistency. From wholesale jersey 2014-16, he managed a fantasy point total between 15 and 22 on 20 occasions, third-most among quarterbacks; 13 of those occurred in 2014-15, good for sixth-best at the position. Although he’ll have a new offensive coordinator this season in Steve Sarkisian, Ryan shouldn’t see much change in an offense that returns most of its primary playmakers.

Tristan’s ADP take: 36th (42.3) is far too early a pick for my taste, as weekly upside rather than consistency is paramount in single-quarterback leagues. In leagues where Ryan lasts three-plus rounds longer, he’d be a welcome pick.

Delanie Walker jersey, TE, Tennessee Titans jersey: With many leagues moving to some variety of PPR (half- or full-point) scoring in recent years, Walker has become an increasingly handy and often underrated asset in such formats. In the past three seasons combined, he has 333 targets, 38 shy of Greg Olsen jersey jersey for the position lead despite playing three fewer games than Olsen. What’s more, Walker has managed at least five targets in 37 of 45 games played during that time, and at least eight targets in 21 contests, showing how high his weekly statistical floor is. Though the Titans have added some weapons to their receiving corps during the offseason that could cut into Walker’s target total, he’s still an integral part of their game plan. Moreover, a healthy year from Marcus Mariota jersey could result in a sizable step forward in terms of team pass attempts (504 last season, 28th in the NFL).

Tristan’s ADP take: 59th (63.5) is great value for Walker, who annually seems to get overlooked.