Connect with us


Falcons, DT Jarrett beat deadline, reach deal



The Atlanta Falcons and star defensive tackle Grady Jarrett agreed to a four-year extension on Monday, the team announced.

Terms were not disclosed but sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the contract is worth $68 million.

The Falcons had until 4 p.m. ET to agree to the deal with Jarrett, who initially received the $15.209 million franchise tag. Jarrett had signed the tag, which was a precursor to the long-term deal, in April.

“As we have said since the end of the season, getting a deal done with Grady has been a priority and we are pleased to have accomplished that today,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement. “Grady is an integral part of our organization and we look forward to moving together for many years to come.”

Now with Jarrett signed, the Falcons can focus their attention on getting new deals done for top wide receiver Julio Jones and linebacker Deion Jones. Team owner Arthur Blank has already said that both players would be “Falcons for life,” and Julio Jones said he’s not worried about his contract situation because Blank has spoken.

The Falcons and Deion Jones’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are scheduled for face-to-face negotiations in Atlanta on Wednesday, a source told Schefter.

The Falcons hope to at least have Julio Jones’ deal complete by the start of training camp, and he could be on the verge of an extension worth $20 million per year. The receiver currently has two years and more than $21 million left on his deal.

Jarrett, a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft out of Clemson, emerged as the Falcons’ top defender in recent years. According to Pro Football Focus, Jarrett generated 53 total pressures during the 2018 campaign while dominating on the interior. Jarrett had six sacks, three forced fumbles and a team-high 16 quarterback hits last season. He also thrived as a run-stuffer and recorded a team-high eight tackles for losses.

“It’s hard to sum up in a small chance,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said when asked what Jarrett means to his team. “The development that he’s made over the last few years — his energy on and off the field and what he brings to his defense — Grady’s toughness, intangibles and quickness, all of that is on point.”

Free safety Ricardo Allen emphasized how important Jarrett is to the defense in terms of setting the tone up front.

“Grady’s back there so fast that he’s the first m—–f—– the quarterback is running from,” Allen said. “Grady’s productive, man. He’s one of the best defensive tackles in the league, bro.”

Jarrett is part of the same 2015 draft class as Vic Beasley, the first-round pick out of Clemson who led the league with 15.5 sacks during the 2016 season. But Beasley’s production has dropped significantly since then, making this season an important one regarding his future alongside Jarrett on the Falcons’ defensive line.

Jarrett was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his community service, including leading efforts on anti-bullying and social justice.

The Falcons hold their first day of training camp next Monday morning. All veterans have to report by Sunday.

Source link


Los Angeles Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth trying to keep his career alive at nearly 8,000 feet



WOLCOTT, Colo. — Daddy is sweating and it’s hot, but Andrew Whitworth‘s boys don’t notice. It’s time for a ride, in what’s become an annual offseason tradition, and it’s time for dad to provide the push.

Whitworth removes a couple of bags of golf clubs from the end of the golf cart in an effort to lighten the load, as sweat continuously drops from his graying goatee. The Los Angeles Rams’ 37-year-old left tackle pauses, trying to gather his breath, then leans over and finds his grip.

His 7-year-old son, Michael, yells from the passenger’s seat, “We’re ready!” and the 6-foot-7, 330-pound Whitworth begins to push. The cart inches forward, and 8-year-old son Drew hollers from the driver’s side, “What a ride!”

It’s the last Monday in June. Four days into the Whitworth family’s retreat to their offseason home high in the mountains of Colorado. Whitworth’s wife, Melissa, and two daughters remain in their hometown in Louisiana for a few extra days, as Whitworth takes on the challenge of starting his offseason workout regimen with Michael and Drew in tow. His boys are old enough to shadow dad as he plows through his grueling workout routine, but young enough to still get a kick out of the wild physical feats that he can pull off.

As Whitworth pushes the 900-pound golf cart, carrying his two 50-plus-pound kids across the driveway, his calf muscles flex and veins begin to pop. After exhausting his strength, Whitworth retreats to the shade inside his three-car garage, which has been partially converted into a home gym.

“Want to go again?” Drew hollers, before he puts the cart in reverse.

With Whitworth, who went through a 30-minute strength circuit prior to the push, trying to catch his breath in the thin mountain air, this portion of the day’s workout is over. Drew and Michael won’t get another free ride.

It’s Day 1 of Whitworth’s offseason program, one he must ease into at an altitude well more than a mile high — where your heart rate races even at a standstill, a satisfying breath is challenging to find, and the air is so dry that lip balm must remain a fixture in your pocket.

“I feel pretty good,” Whitworth says through a heavy breath, nearly 10 minutes after the great golf cart push. “Most of the time after these workouts, you feel pretty alive just because of the altitude.”

Training at altitude forces muscles to work harder due to the lack of oxygen in the air. It can also produce more red blood cells. It’s yet another way Whitworth is trying to extend his NFL career.

The start of Whitworth’s 14th NFL training camp remains five weeks away. The four-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro has gone to great lengths to find new ways to motivate his mind and move his body. Over the span of his career, his workouts have ranged from prototypical Olympic weightlifting to carrying stones up the mountainside. Some of his workouts seem outside the box, if not unprecedented for an NFL player. But for all the crazy, as he describes it, it continues to pay off.

“I almost, in some ways, feel better now than I ever did,” Whitworth says. “I think I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in.”

But at age 37, Whitworth is the oldest lineman in the NFL, and how much longer he can hold the title remains the biggest question.

“I still feel really good,” he says, though he acknowledges there are some bumps and bruises from football — swollen ankles and knees, battered hip labrums — that will never quite feel the same. “If I feel like I can’t go out and perform the way that I think I should be, then I just won’t be able to do it.”

So onward Whitworth goes into another Colorado summer, training to keep his mind sharp, his body energized and his career alive at 7,880 feet.

Inside the weight room at West Monroe High School in West Monroe, Louisiana, a wall features a distinguished list of the top weight lifters to pass through the Rebels’ powerhouse program.

The top spot in any category — bench, squat and power clean — is a proud accomplishment. But, according to Casey Sanders, West Monroe’s strength coach for the last 30 years, there’s one category that means the most.

“In the history of West Monroe,” Sanders says, “Normally our best power cleaners are our best football players. [Players] kind of know that.”

Whitworth set the standard when he cleaned 390 pounds before his senior season. For good measure, he set the record in the bench press, too, when he pressed 350 pounds. But it was the power clean mark that stood for 13 years until future Alabama and Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson beat it by 10 pounds.

Whitworth, however, still left a lasting legacy. “His work ethic was great,” Sanders says. “He just loved football and he loved training … that’s one of the biggest keys that he had going for him.”

Whitorth says Sanders became the biggest factor in his success. “He was the baseline and the foundation,” he says, and Whitworth took that knowledge with him to LSU, then on to Cincinnati, after the Bengals selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft.

Through 11 seasons with the Bengals, Whitworth developed an annual routine that former Bengals strength coach Chip Morton fondly looks back on. Whitworth would walk into Morton’s office, fold into a chair and rest his hands on his knees as a mischievous grin grew across his face.

“I knew what was coming,” Morton says through laughter, as he launches into a detailed explanation of Whitworth’s postseason routine.

“He would come in and sit down and say, ‘Okay, it’s that time of the year, what are we going to do?’ ” Morton says. “We would just discuss things and I would give him leads and ideas and he would just dive in and pursue it.”

After his five-year career at LSU, Whitworth arrived in Cincinnati well-versed in weightlifting, and really anything that required brute strength.

“I think he’d tell ya,” Morton says, “when he came to us, he was a certified meathead.”

But together with Morton, Whitworth diversified his strength.

One offseason, he was interested in becoming more fluid in his movements, so he took up yoga. At another point, he wanted to find a low-impact cardio solution, so Morton suggested Whitworth purchase a 95-pound chain to haul across the field. Days later, Whitworth showed up with his new purchase on display.



Rams LT Andrew Whitworth takes his training to the next level at his offseason home in Colorado. Go inside Whitworth’s workouts, and his mindset, as he prepares for his 14th season in the NFL. Video by Lindsey Thiry

“It’s one thing to say it, or to understand the concept of taking care of your body or getting into training,” Morton says. “It’s another thing to commit to it, and invest your own personal capital into it and your own personal time and all that. That’s what set Andrew apart.”

Whitworth trained in Muay Thai fighting, MMA and CrossFit. He also took private training in Jiu Jitsu. “I had to call in someone big enough to fight him,” says Jon Stutzman, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, who trains at a gym in Ohio, but stood no match for the amateur Whitworth. “He was gargantuan.”

As Whitworth grew older, and inspired by Morton, he became a big fan of weighted carries — simply walking with heavy weights. The exercises increased his stamina, and became an alternative to cardiovascular fitness that wouldn’t require as much running and pounding on his body.

“I think it was as much to save his body and find different ways to train his body to prolong things and not just be a slave to barbell training only,” Morton says.

“Drew, keep your arms straight — your left arm, keep it straight the whole time,” Whitworth says, as he lines up next to his boys at the driving range. Drew takes his dad’s advice, then hits a clean shot, straight ahead. “Yessir, real clean ball, dude.”

Whitworth pulls his own customized clubs — everything two inches longer — out of the bag. After he places a few chip shots on the green, he pulls out his driver.

“I can hit it a long way,” he says, as his stoic face hints at a grin. “But it’s not controlled.”

A loud whoosh sends a drive 315 yards from the tee.

“Wow!” Michael says. “It’s going to be really hard to beat that.”

For Whitworth, even while downing sliders with his kids at the snack shack, golf counts as workout. On any given day in Colorado, he will play 18 to 36 holes after his morning workout.

“It gives me an opportunity to reset mentally and physically to get out and sweat and just move the body and keep things working the way they should,” Whitworth says. “It just a great balance to being an athlete to play golf and to have an opportunity to have something else to work at that’s totally just not anything like football.”

It also provides time to spend with his family. Michael and Drew have taken to it, and they’re days away from competing in a father-son tournament. Whitworth’s wife, Melissa, his daughters and their long-time family nanny, Krista Howard, will play in a family scramble.

But on this day, it’s just the boys. And Whitworth, appearing slightly fatigued, plays coach, chauffeur and referee as things get chippy from hole to hole.

“Great job, Mike, keeping that arm out in front of you,” Whitworth hollers from the cart path to the random spot where he told the boys to tee off. “There you go! Good job, buddy!”

After playing nine holes, more or less, in no particular order but rather to avoid any other patrons, Whitworth navigates a return to the house, parks the cart and makes his way to sit on the outdoor couch on the back deck.

He stares out at an expansive view of the Rocky Mountain range. Steamboat Springs is far in the distance. He has something of a thousand-mile stare, as he ponders his football mortality. He’s put his mind and body through pain, whether it be in an offseason workout or playing last season through two sprained ankles. He admits he’s a glutton for punishment when it comes to training so that he can enjoy other life moments without feeling an ounce of guilt.

Whitworth, who is in the final season of a three-year, $36 million contract, talks through all the reasons why he’ll continue to play — and why he never actually considered retiring last season despite the overwhelming assumption — both inside and outside of his circle — that he would.

There’s the pursuit of a return trip to the Super Bowl and the chance to build an organization that not long ago was mired in mediocrity into a three-time division winner. There’s also the years of hard work that have kept his body moving, an investment he’s not ready to forfeit.

“It’s going to come down to being able to still play at a level that … if I feel like I can’t go out and perform the way that I think I should be, then I just won’t be able to do it,” Whitworth says. “I’m not going to go out there and struggle and be okay with it.

“So if I don’t feel like I can go out there and play, then that’s when it’s going to be done for me.”

Source link

Continue Reading


Source — Pack to cut 2017 2nd-round pick Jones



The Green Bay Packers will release safety Josh Jones on Sunday, and the former second-round pick is likely to get claimed on waivers, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Jones, the 61st overall pick in the 2017 draft, has been in and out of the lineup during his two years in Green Bay, starting 12 games over two years. He skipped the Packers’ voluntary offseason workouts this year, unhappy with his role on the team.

The Packers opened last season with former undrafted rookie Kentrell Brice and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety. Even after Clinton-Dix was traded midway through last season, Jones was bypassed for a starting job when the Packers moved Tramon Williams from cornerback to safety. It wasn’t until after Brice sustained an ankle injury in Week 10 that Jones finally got his first start of the season in Week 11.

Since then, the Packers signed former Chicago Bears safety Adrian Amos to a four-year, $36 million contract in free agency and drafted safety Darnell Savage Jr. at No. 21 overall.

Jones was one of just three Packers rookies to appear in every game during the 2017 season, starting in seven of them. He posted 71 tackles with two sacks plus an interception and seven pass breakups. In his first career start (Week 3 of 2017 against the Bengals), Jones posted a career-high 11 tackles (10 solo) and became the first rookie defensive back in team history to record two sacks in a game.

ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.

Source link

Continue Reading


Michael Bennett, in 11th season, experiences new formation – New England Patriots Blog



FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Bennett enjoying new beginning: Michael Bennett is in his 11th NFL season, and he told me late Thursday night that he experienced something for the first time in his career in the Patriots’ 10-3 win against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.

Bennett had never been part of an alignment where he is the only player in a three-point stance and everyone else is standing around the line of scrimmage. That’s what happened on the second-quarter play when Bennett, aligned over starting center Matt Paradis, powered through the A-gap to register a sack.

“That was a new one for me, personally,” the 33-year-old Bennett said.

Bennett and Patriots defenders say such an alignment — which was also used on the play in which Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sacked and hobbled off with an ankle injury — reflects the versatility of the Patriots’ defense.

For Bennett, the unique wrinkle reflects part of what has made his time in New England enjoyable — it’s been a time for new beginnings, even at this latter stage of his career.

“It’s about building relationships with your teammates. That’s what I try to do every single day,” said Bennett, who has played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009-2012), Seattle Seahawks (2013-2017) and Philadelphia Eagles (2018). “It’s getting to know guys on a personal level, and I think that’s how you can execute together. Because you have a feel for what makes him go as an individual, and what matters to him. To me, that’s the most important thing.”

2. Kim’s guidance draws praise: Bennett was one of several players spending time on the field with director of skill development Joe Kim before Thursday’s game, working on hand technique. Kim’s martial arts background has helped others over the years — he got his start in the NFL under Bill Belichick with the Browns in the 1990s — and Bennett is enjoying the experience. “He understands pass-rushing and what it’s like, and how you attack the guys,” Bennett said. “There aren’t a lot of guys who can come into the league, and not have any experience as a football player, and teach techniques like that. Joe Kim does a great job of that.”

3. Harry’s status a top question mark: Preparations for the Sept. 8 season opener against the Steelers now intensify, and it seems fair to wonder if first-round pick N’Keal Harry will be available. Ever since Harry hobbled off the field in the Aug. 8 preseason opener, he hasn’t practiced in full. And in the limited time that reporters have been present at practice — basically for a light jogging session — the rookie receiver hasn’t passed the eye test in terms of looking comfortable.

4. Business as usual with Chung: The fallout from safety Patrick Chung set to be arraigned on charges of cocaine possession Wednesday … was no fallout? That was at least the vibe in the locker room following Thursday’s game, with safety Duron Harmon saying, “Pat is a great guy — a leader, a captain, a great father. I can’t talk [enough] about all the good things about Pat. All I can say right now — obviously it’s an ongoing investigation — is we love Pat, and we’re going to do everything we can to rally behind Pat.” That also seems to be the approach of the higher-ups in the organization at this time — giving the situation time to run its course legally (which could extend into 2020).

5. Newton was good test for Patriots DBs with Big Ben on horizon: Matt Stafford, Marcus Mariota, then Cam Newton. That trio of quarterbacks the Patriots practiced against (Stafford/Mariota) and/or faced in preseason games gave Patriots defensive backs a chance to get quality work that should benefit them in the regular season. Specific to the Patriots’ opening game against the Steelers, it set up nicely for them to see Newton and the Panthers on Thursday. “They all have some things they do really well, which at some point you’re going to see during the season. Cam Newton, for example, has a huge arm and can throw the ball. Week 1, [Ben Roethlisberger] has a huge arm and can throw the ball,” safety Devin McCourty said, before pointing out another benefit: Facing Tom Brady in practice every day only helps the overall cause.

6. Stidham’s development shows value of preseason: The drumbeat is growing louder to eliminate/reduce preseason games, and while the product is admittedly not enthralling, count me in what seems like the minority for keeping four games. Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham is a prime example as to why: He has played 153 snaps to this point, which is incredibly valuable to Belichick and his staff as they evaluate whether Stidham — who has been mostly impressive — could elevate to the No. 2 spot over veteran Brian Hoyer. I don’t see how that would even be a consideration without actual preseason games.

7. Roberts — just 14 snaps all preseason: This is the time of year when the Patriots are often active on the trade market, and fourth-year linebacker Elandon Roberts is a player who is on my radar. Roberts has played only 14 defensive snaps this preseason, which could be a reflection that he is getting squeezed out of the rotation, and I wonder if the Patriots put him on the kickoff coverage unit Thursday to give opposing scouts a look at how well he runs. Roberts doesn’t usually cover kickoffs. Perhaps former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia would see some value in bringing Roberts aboard for a late-round pick.

8. Gunner has won over teammates: In what could be the Patriots’ 2019 version of “Rudy,” receiver/punt returner Gunner Olszewski of Division II Bemidji State is making a charge for a roster spot that has caught his teammates’ attention. Olszewski’s determination was previously reflected when he said he would play for “three hots and a cot” — a reference to three meals and a place to sleep — and Belichick noted Olszewski’s competitiveness after Thursday’s game. Olszewski’s solid work as a punt returner — he’s outplayed 2018 sixth-round pick Braxton Berrios — reminds me of Julian Edelman as a rookie in 2009. “He’s relentless. That’s what we love about Gunner — he just goes in and throws his body on the line. He doesn’t care. I love watching Gunner play,” receiver Phillip Dorsett said. The title of Edelman’s book, of course, is “Relentless.”

9. Did You Know? Brady, who turned 42 on Aug. 3, is older than eight current head coaches — the Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury (40), Bears’ Matt Nagy (41), Bengals’ Zac Taylor (36), Packers’ Matt LaFleur (39), Rams’ Sean McVay (33), Dolphins’ Brian Flores (38), Jets’ Adam Gase (41) and 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan (39).

10. Vereen adds depth to Patriots broadcasting roster: Is there another team in the NFL that produces as many sports broadcasters as the Patriots? Running back Shane Vereen, whose profile was highest as a player when he was with the Patriots (2011-2014), has been hired by Fox to be part of its college football coverage. Vereen joins a roster of former Patriots who have impressively transitioned to a media career: Troy Brown (NBC Boston), Tedy Bruschi (ESPN), Matt Chatham (NESN), Christian Fauria (sports radio WEEI), Rodney Harrison (NBC), Ted Johnson (The Sports Hub), Willie McGinest (NFL Network), Randy Moss (ESPN), Rob Ninkovich (ESPN), Ross Tucker (formerly Sirius XM NFL Radio), Sebastian Vollmer (German TV), Jermaine Wiggins (sports radio WEEI), Damien Woody (ESPN), Charlie Weis (Sirius XM NFL Radio) and Scott Zolak (The Sports Hub/Patriots radio analyst).

Source link

Continue Reading