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Source — Patriots re-signing veteran kicker Nick Folk



The New England Patriots will be re-signing kicker Nick Folk, a league source confirmed to ESPN.

The move, which was first reported by NFL Network, was expected after the Patriots waived Kai Forbath on Monday and were left with no kickers on the roster.

Forbath was signed to replace Folk, who had an appendectomy last week. In Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans, Forbath went 1-for-2 on extra points and made a 23-yarder on his only field goal attempt.

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Chargers great Antonio Gates set standard for pass-catching tight ends – Los Angeles Chargers Blog



COSTA MESA, Calif. — A prescient Nick Saban predicted Antonio Gates‘ career path when he was just a freshman at Michigan State.

Saban, then the head coach for the Spartans, recruited Gates to play football. However, he viewed Gates as a twitchy, pass-rushing defensive end. Gates, who had focused on basketball all his life, had other plans.

He wanted to play both sports at Michigan State. So he moved on to Eastern Michigan and then Kent State, where he led the Golden Flashes to the 2002 Elite Eight as a junior.

However, Saban offered Gates a few words of wisdom before they parted ways.

“In hindsight looking at it, he was a genius,” Gates said. “I was 17 years old, wanting to play the game of basketball. I hadn’t even turned 18 yet when I had this conversation with Nick Saban. He just always felt like my God-given abilities and the attributes that I was blessed with were very suited for what they were looking for on the next level [of football] — the professional level.”

Gates later faced Saban’s Miami Dolphins in the NFL. He finished with 13 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown in a 23-21 loss during the 2005 season. The two met in the middle of the field afterward.

“He asked me after the game, ‘What did you think about that choice for football?'” Gates said. “The guy was a genius. He told me I was a first-round pick. I didn’t believe it in a sense. I just wanted to play the game of basketball.”

Gates’ choice proved Hall of Fame worthy. After 16 seasons, all with the Chargers, Gates retired this week.

Considering his numbers, he was among the best to play the position. He’s No. 3 among tight ends for total receptions (955) and receiving yards (11,841), behind Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten.

Gates ranks first in league history among tight ends with 21 career multi-touchdown games and fourth in the NFL with 21 100-yard receiving efforts. His 39 touchdown receptions on third down are the most in league history for a tight end and tied with Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter for No. 3 overall.

According to Gates, what set him apart was his ability to get in the end zone. He ended up with 116 career touchdowns, tops for a tight end in NFL history.

Throughout his career, Gates was nearly impossible to guard in the red zone. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, 92 of Gates’ touchdowns came in the red zone — second all time and most of any player since he entered the league in 2003.

To hear him tell it, what made Gates unique was his ability to create separation with the precise body control developed on the hardwood floor as a smallish, wide-bodied, low-post player at Kent State.

Gates points to his basketball acumen for his unique ability to get open in the red zone, using soft hands and leverage to create separation against linebackers or safeties, or sometimes both.

“As I evolved to become the red zone threat, I noticed that every other team had started looking for red zone threats at that position,” Gates said when asked to make his case for the Hall of Fame. “That would be the majority of my case. The thing that I’ve always had in terms of respect is more respect from defensive coordinators than any other tight end in the history of the game.

“I’ve watched film on tight ends. I’ve watched film on all of them. I can recall playing a team and they did something, then when they played the Chargers, they didn’t quite do it the same. I feel like there was a ton of respect.

“For the most part, I was always faced with a defensive back. It was very rare that I got the opportunity to go up against a linebacker. Very rare. … Anytime I look at who’s the best or who is considered to be in the Hall of Fame, I consider the level of respect that coordinators or teams gave that particular person. That’s how I would like to be judged. That’s how I would explain it to [selectors] in Canton.”

Gates wanted to play one more season, but he could not find the right opportunity in free agency last year. The 39-year-old said the Indianapolis Colts provided the best chance in 2019, but after they fell out of playoff contention, he decided to hang up the cleats.

“It was a very difficult choice,” he said. “Not for the simple fact of the word ‘retiring,’ but the whole idea of it. The whole ‘I don’t have any more left in the tank.’ … I just felt like it was just time to move on to the next chapter in my life. I felt like I gave the game of football all that I had. I gave the [Chargers] organization all that I had. It was just time to move on.”

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Jason Garrett joins Giants as new offensive coordinator



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jason Garrett is the new offensive coordinator of the New York Giants.

New coach Joe Judge made the announcement Friday night, hiring the former Dallas Cowboys head coach less than two weeks after he was let go by the Giants’ NFC East rivals.

“I’ve known about Jason for a long time, not only through the general public as well-known as he is as head coach of the Cowboys,” Judge said. “There were guys I worked with that I came across in my career at both Alabama and at the New England Patriots that worked with Jason through their time in Miami with him. They consistently all reflected on how smart he is, how great a teacher he is and how his perspective of the game was through a different lens than most coaches. And when he sees it, he’s able to communicate it and paint that mental image to the players. And he does a fantastic job of making in-game adjustments.”

The 53-year-old Garrett had interviewed with Judge and the Giants on Wednesday. He was offered the job not long after but opted to head home first to discuss it with his family.

Judge called his talks with Garrett “great.”

“It was a great opportunity to sit there and talk ball and share philosophies and views on the game,” Judge said. “It’s a great system he brings with great teaching that will allow our players to go out there and play aggressively.”

Judge also officially named Patrick Graham the Giants’ defensive coordinator/assistant head coach and Thomas McGaughey their special-teams coach.

But the biggest name of the three is Garrett, who led the Cowboys for nine seasons but wasn’t retained after an underachieving 8-8 campaign in 2019.

The Giants originally had requested permission to speak with Garrett for their head-coaching position because he technically was still under contract with Dallas. But the Cowboys told Garrett that he was free to talk with other teams after the season and before his contract lapsed Tuesday.

The Giants went on to hire Judge, a first-time head coach, before the interview.

Garrett still was coveted for their coordinator position, in part because of his experience as a head coach and with quarterbacks, as well as his ties to the Giants’ organization, having been a backup quarterback there from 2000 to 2003. He remains well-respected inside their building after posting a 13-6 record against them as a head coach.

Co-owner John Mara said last week he was open to the idea of having Garrett’s experience as a playcaller and head coach serve as an important sounding board for Judge.

“I certainly wouldn’t have any objection to that,” Mara said of hiring Garrett as the offensive coordinator. “I have a lot of respect for Jason. At the end of the day, that’s going to be Joe’s decision.”

The Giants also interviewed Mike Shula for the job earlier this week. He was the only other known candidate. Shula was the Giants’ offensive coordinator under Pat Shurmur and helped with the development of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. He now is expected to look for a job outside the organization.

Before his nine-season stint as the Cowboys’ head coach, Garrett was Dallas’ offensive coordinator, but he hasn’t called plays since 2012. Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones took away the responsibilities from Garrett so he could better oversee the entire operation. Bill Callahan, Scott Linehan and Kellen Moore have called plays for Dallas since.

Garrett’s experience as a head coach should serve as an asset to Judge, who never has been a head coach at any level. Judge spent the past eight seasons as an assistant under Bill Belichick in New England, most recently as the Patriots’ special-teams coordinator and wide receivers coach.

After a two-year stint as quarterbacks coach for the Dolphins, Garrett joined the Cowboys for the 2007 season. He led Dallas to an 85-67 record as head coach, making it to the playoffs three times. He will bring to New York a timing-based offense that has worked well with young quarterbacks in the past. He had immediate success with Tony Romo early in his career and was a key figure in the development of Dak Prescott, a fourth-round pick in 2016 who finished fourth in the NFL with a QBR of 70.1 this season.

Garrett will inherit an offense that turned to Jones this past season.

The No. 6 draft pick out of Duke last year, Jones had his ups and downs as a rookie. He threw 24 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, and also lost 11 fumbles. But the Giants are clearly committed to him as their future franchise quarterback. Eli Manning‘s contract is set to expire at the end of this league year in March.

The Giants’ offense has talent, with Jones working alongside running back Saquon Barkley, tight end Evan Engram and wide receivers Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard. Those five didn’t play a single game together this past season because of injury and suspension.

The offense under Shurmur finished 23rd in total yards and tied for 18th in points.

Judge said all three hires share the types of characteristics he’s looking for.

“We’re setting out to develop a smart, tough and really sound football team and that’s going to start with the coordinators setting the tone in each room,” Judge said. “Each one has experience, each one has the ability to run multiples [schemes], put the pressure on the opponent, and each one is an excellent teacher.”

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Patriots’ Jason McCourty says he’s recovering from groin surgery



New England Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty is recovering from offseason groin surgery, he said Friday on “Double Coverage,” the podcast he hosts with his twin brother, Patriots safety Devin.

During the podcast, Jason McCourty, while talking about recovery boots with his brother, said he didn’t have his on because he was recovering from surgery.

“I would have mine on, but right now I am currently recovering from a little offseason surgery,” he said. “So I will not be putting my boots on. It will not coincide with my groin right now.”

After playing 49 snaps against the Eagles on Nov. 17, McCourty played just eight snaps in the final seven games due to the groin injury. He had one interception and six passes defended before the injury.

In McCourty’s absence, second-year cornerback J.C. Jackson took his starting spot in the final stretch of the season, which could threaten McCourty’s sticking with the Patriots in 2020.

McCourty, 32, has one year remaining on his contract, which has a base salary of $2,650,000, a roster bonus of $1,100,000 and a workout bonus of $50,000, with a cap hit of $5,550,000.

Drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL draft, McCourty spent the majority of his career with the Titans before New England acquired him in a trade from Cleveland before the 2018-19 season.

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