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Rams to unleash Gurley vs. Panthers



THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Running back Todd Gurley‘s playing time will not be restricted when the Los Angeles Rams open the season against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

“Nope,” Rams coach Sean McVay said Thursday when asked if Gurley would be on a limited play count.

In an effort to slowly build Gurley’s workload, the All-Pro was placed on a strict training schedule throughout camp. He participated in practice every other day and was used in a rotation that included backups Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson.

Gurley did not participate in any preseason games, along with the rest of the Rams’ starters and key rotational players.

Gurley said Thursday that his left knee felt “fine” but only shrugged when asked to describe how it has felt throughout camp.

“Just Week 1 now,” Gurley said. “I’m here, so really just get ready for Sunday.”

“I’m excited to see Todd Gurley continue to do his thing,” McVay said. “He looks good, he’s feeling good and we’re looking forward to Sunday.”

Gurley is coming off a season in which he rushed for 1,251 yards and scored a league-high 21 touchdowns.

He did not play in the final two games of the regular season because of inflammation and soreness in his left knee. Gurley returned in a divisional-round win over the Dallas Cowboys and rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game, Gurley had five touches for 13 yards. In Super Bowl LIII, he rushed for 35 yards in 10 carries as the Rams fell 13-3 to the New England Patriots.

Endless questions about Gurley’s knee have filled the offseason. It has been reported that he has Arthritis or a degenerative condition. Neither Gurley nor the Rams have confirmed those reports.

Gurley said “no” when asked if he was eager to put the issue to rest on Sunday.

“I’m not eager,” Gurley said. “It’s football, bro. Been playing it my whole life. It’s just another season.”

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As Jason Garrett heads to the Giants, let’s close out his Cowboys era – Dallas Cowboys Blog



FRISCO, Texas — Turns out, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was right. Jason Garrett will be coaching in the NFL in 2020.

Jones made the comment late last season when Garrett’s future as Cowboys coach was tenuous at best, and it seemed intentional that Jones did not clarify the statement by saying with whom.

Now we all know: Garrett has been named the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants, joining Joe Judge’s staff.

Garrett has always been well thought of by Giants ownership since he spent four years (2000-2003) with the franchise as a backup quarterback. Now, he will help Judge in his first go-round as a head coach.

But first, let’s officially close the Garrett era with the Cowboys.

In Garrett’s nine full-time seasons, the Cowboys never got out of the divisional round of the playoffs. Three times, Dallas had chances to win the NFC East in head-to-head matchups in Week 17 and lost all three. Two other times, the Cowboys made it to Week 16 with a shot at the playoffs and missed out, including the 2019 season that effectively ended with a loss to the undermanned Philadelphia Eagles.

In the end, Garrett’s tenure was not good enough, and that’s why Mike McCarthy is now the head coach.

That does not mean there was not some good from Garrett.

The Cowboys were a 1-7 mess when Garrett took over as the interim coach in 2010 with quarterback Tony Romo out because of a broken collarbone. Garrett earned the full-time job by directing the Cowboys to a 5-3 finish down the stretch with Jon Kitna at quarterback, bringing a level of discipline that fell off late in Wade Phillips’ tenure.

Garrett, 53, helped set the Cowboys’ agenda in his first NFL draft as coach when Tyron Smith was selected in the first round in 2011. Before taking Smith with the No. 9 overall pick, the Cowboys had not selected an offensive lineman in the first round since 1981. In 2013, the Cowboys took Travis Frederick in the first round. A year later, they drafted Zack Martin.

Smith has been named to the Pro Bowl seven straight years. Frederick was named to his fifth last month. Martin has been named every season, in addition to being a first- or second-team All-Pro.

Perhaps Garrett’s most memorable moment as Cowboys coach came in 2012 before his second straight 8-8 finish. Hours before the team boarded a plane to Cincinnati, Ohio, for a December game against the Bengals, Cowboys practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a car accident in which teammate Josh Brent was driving.

The Cowboys won on a last-second field goal to keep their playoff chances alive. After the game, Garrett spoke for nearly six minutes straight about Brown, about Brent, about his players. He was emotionally spent, as were the players.

“Football is very different than life,” Garrett said then. “We try to make that very, very clear to our team. This is a life situation. We lost a 25-year-old young man who had his whole life in front of him, a teammate, a friend. It’s a real tragedy. All we asked our team last night was to understand as best they could what happened, somehow, someway to try to channel all the emotions they have into honoring Jerry today in their performance, and that’s a hard thing to do.”

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K.J. Wright shows he’s ‘a hell of a football player’ for Seahawks – Seattle Seahawks Blog



RENTON, Wash. — K.J. Wright‘s only goal for 2019 was to play in every game. He did, no small feat for a 30-year-old linebacker who missed most of 2018. And on top of making 16 regular-season starts plus two more in the playoffs, Wright set career-highs in tackles, interceptions and passes defended.

With a season like that, there wouldn’t be much question whether the Seattle Seahawks will bring back their longest-tenured player for the second and final year of his contract if not for his $10 million cap number.

Wright did everything he could to convince them it would be money well spent.

“I thought he had a terrific season,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I thought he had a terrific finish to the season. The last two months of the season were his best play of the year. We really worked hard to make sure, coming off his stuff from last year, to keep him healthy and keep him strong through the year. He got stronger as the year went on. It just became more impacting, and he made a ton of plays. Really great leadership and good toughness. It really showed up a lot. I was really fired up for him.”

The Seahawks let Wright hit free agency last offseason after he missed 11 games because of a knee injury that required surgery. He returned on a $14 million deal that included $6.5 million in first-year guarantees but none beyond that, meaning he had to prove himself in 2019 in order to be back in 2020. Wright responded with a season every bit as productive as the one he had in 2016, when he made his lone Pro Bowl.

Wright’s 132 tackles edged out his previous career best from 2016. His three interceptions matched his total from his first eight seasons combined, including playoffs. His 11 passes defended were five more than his previous best, a spike that occurred as Wright was thrown at more than any other linebacker. According to Pro Football Focus, the five touchdowns Wright allowed on his 99 targets were tied for third-most among linebackers who played at least 250 coverage snaps, while his 91.6 passer rating against was 14th best.

“K.J. was amazing this year,” said All-Pro Bobby Wagner, who combined with Wright to form one of the league’s top linebacker tandems of the past decade. “It was really, really amazing to see because … there was a lot of people writing him off last year, a lot of people thinking that he was done, thinking that he wasn’t going to come back to the form that he was after the injury, and he came back and had a career year all over the field, whether it’s interceptions, tackles, pass breakups, leadership, just being a guy that the young guys and myself can go to and lean on.

“He was an amazing person before, and just watching him battle through that, I definitely have even more respect for him. I didn’t think I could have more. So he’s an amazing person, amazing teammate, amazing friend.”

That Wright was so frequently targeted was partly a product of how often he was on the field. His 997 defensive snaps were second on the team to Wagner’s 1,054. That put Wright at well above the 80% playing time threshold he needed to achieve a $1.5 million escalator that raises his 2020 base salary from $3.5 million to $5 million.

It raises his cap number from $8.5 million to $10 million, now the fifth-highest figure on the team behind Russell Wilson ($31 million), Wagner ($14.75 million), Duane Brown ($12.5 million), Justin Britt ($11.67 million) and Tyler Lockett ($10.25 million). Wright counted $5.5 million against the 2019 cap.

The Seahawks aren’t hurting for cap room — ESPN’s Roster Management System has them at more than $60 million for 2020 — but they also have 23 unrestricted or restricted free agents.

They spent a third-round pick last year on Cody Barton, who looks like the most viable starting option among their backup linebackers. But they might need him to take over on the strong side depending on what happens with pending UFA Mychal Kendricks, who’s coming off a torn ACL and is scheduled to be sentenced March 30 in his insider trading case. Shaquem Griffin and Ben Burr-Kirven are the other two backups.

In determining whether to bring back Wright, the Seahawks will weigh all of that, plus the intangibles he brings as a 10-year veteran who’s beloved in the locker room.

Of the $7.5 million that he can earn in 2020, $1 million is in the form of a roster bonus due on the fifth day of the league year, which is March 22. If the Seahawks feel that Wright’s cap number is untenable, they have a $1 million incentive to do something about it before that date. Releasing him would save $7.5 million in cash and cap space (with $2.5 million in dead money). They could alternatively sign him to an extension that lowers his cap number.

Or they could simply let him play out his deal and hope he proves again what he proved last year, which was …

“That I’m a hell of a football player, hell of a teammate, hell of a leader and I’m someone that’s dependable,” Wright said. “So just got to take this season, appreciate it and just do it again next year.”

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NFL playoff fashion files – Best looks from Championship Sunday



Put on your Sunday best. It’s Championship Sunday, after all. The NFL playoffs have four teams still alive for Super Bowl LIV.

Here are the best looks, fire fits and favorite cleats from this week’s entrances:

NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers

Packers’ pass rusher Za’Darius Smith is honoring an all-timer before Green Bay’s NFC title game matchup with the 49ers. He’s rocking the Reggie White throwback jersey.

The reigning MVP, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, is one win away from his first Super Bowl. He arrived Sunday sporting a Versace-embroidered Medusa bomber jacket.

If interested in the jacket as a gift for your favorite Chiefs fan, a similar version is on sale on the Versace website for $1,197.

Last week, Titans running back Derrick Henry showed up in Baltimore in an all-white ensemble. King Henry promptly rushed for 195 yards and threw for a touchdown to upset the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens.

This week, Henry arrived in Kansas City with a patterned suit in team colors. He topped it with a long navy fur coat.

For the Chiefs, rookie receiver Mecole Hardman came all the way from West Philadelphia with his look.

Here are a few more from the Titans and Chiefs.

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