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Drew Brees of New Orleans Saints gives prep QB with amputated leg new prosthesis



Drew Brees had a special encounter with a fellow No. 9 last weekend in San Diego.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback presented high school signal-caller Alex Ruiz with his first walking prosthetic leg — and a promise to pay for an athletic training prosthesis in the fall once Ruiz gets used to this one.

Ruiz, who wears No. 9 because he is such a big fan of Brees, had his left leg amputated below the knee in February because of a severe knee injury he suffered on the field last fall while playing for Linfield Christian High School in Temecula, California.

“It was a very emotional presentation and really exciting for everyone in our league to be a part of it,” said Brees, who surprised Ruiz on Friday through the Football ‘N’ America flag football league that he co-founded in Louisiana last year and expanded to San Diego this spring.

Ruiz’s family had kept the surprise secret for weeks.

“If there’s anything above cloud nine, that’s where I’m at right now,” the 17-year-old told local reporters after spending time with Brees — and even throwing him a pass.

Brees said his FNA league identifies local charities with which to work. And this time it chose the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which selected Ruiz — who is determined to remain a competitive athlete.

But as it turned out, it wasn’t the first time Brees had reached out to Ruiz. Brees said a friend of his in Temecula called him during the Saints’ season and told him about Ruiz, so Brees sent a personalized jersey to Ruiz.

“In the back of my mind, I said to myself, ‘I hope I get a chance to meet this young man someday,'” Brees recalled. “Alex has suffered a long and very difficult road but has remained so positive and insists this set of circumstances will not hold him back. He still has loftier goals than ever for his athletic career and beyond. We wanted to help his dreams come true.

“This is what it’s all about — providing the best family experience we can through our FNA flag football leagues and connecting with the communities in which we play.”

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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers won’t change despite injuries – Green Bay Packers Blog



GREEN BAY, Wis. — The first time the question was posed to Aaron Rodgers back in November, shortly after he broke his collarbone for the second time in four seasons, a lengthy pause followed.

This time, when the Green Bay Packers quarterback was asked whether he needs to change his style of play — to stay in the pocket more often rather than subject himself to the kind of hits that led to the two biggest injuries of his career — he answered without hesitation.

“Nope,” Rodgers said.

Not at all?

Rodgers shook his head from side to side.

Rodgers answered much more definitively than he did shortly after his injury, when he said: “I haven’t thought about that a whole lot, but what comes to mind right away is no. But I might need to think about that the next eight weeks.”

Since he became a starter in 2008, no quarterback has thrown more touchdown passes from outside the pocket than Rodgers. And it’s not even close. Rodgers has 62 of them in 126 regular-season games, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Next best is Matt Ryan, who has 27 fewer in 16 more games. Ben Roethlisberger ranks tied for third (31 in 128 games) with Matthew Stafford (31 in 125 games).

“Best in the league at playing in the pocket and extending plays outside the pocket; that won’t change,” said Frank Cignetti Jr., the Packers’ new quarterbacks coach. “Moving forward, we’re going to expect Aaron to play the way he always has.”

Rodgers proved effective — even dynamic — as mostly a pocket passer in 2014 when he played into the playoffs with a badly sprained calf. But even at age 34, Rodgers’ ability to improvise on the move has not waned.

Perhaps Rodgers simply has to protect himself by expecting to get hit every time. The film of last year’s injury showed that Rodgers clearly did not expect Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr to hit him — a hit that drove him into the ground — after he released the ball. That was evident in the way he fell. He tried to brace his fall with his right arm, which isn’t how coach Mike McCarthy and his staff teach quarterbacks to fall when they’re hit. That was a clear reaction to Rodgers’ surprise by the hit. Ordinarily, he would roll into a hit rather than brace himself.

“We’d love to be able to have our quarterbacks sit on their back foot, go through their progressions, deliver the ball from the pocket on time, in rhythm, never get hit,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “We know that’s not a realistic thing that can happen in the game. And we certainly don’t want to take away, as Mike always talks about, there’s two phases to every pass play: There’s a progression — the pocket phase — and then there’s the out-of-pocket phase. We’ve been beneficiaries of a lot of big plays from Aaron outside the pocket. We don’t want to lose that part of the offense.

“And frankly, it helps us against a defense, because they have to game plan for him being able to escape, him being able to make some throws outside of the pocket. But there’s a balance like anything.”

Rodgers looked the same as usual during Tuesday’s OTA practice, the first open session of the spring. The ball came out with zip, and he orchestrated a touchdown drive in the two-minute drill, throwing a dart to Randall Cobb down the seam for a 48-yard touchdown.

“I feel great now,” Rodgers said after the practice.

Now, he needs to stay that way since he’s not planning to change his style.

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Cliff Avril says Seattle Seahawks ‘began questioning’ Pete Carroll after Super Bowl interception



Cliff Avril said during a recent podcast that some of his former Seahawks teammates “began questioning” coach Pete Carroll after Seattle’s last-minute Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.

Avril, who was released by the Seahawks earlier this month, discussed the conclusion of Super Bowl XLIX during a podcast Thursday with NFL Network, adding that Seattle would have won at least one more championship under Carroll if not for Malcolm Butler‘s goal-line interception.

The Seahawks were closing in on a second consecutive Super Bowl victory when, trailing by four points, they advanced the ball to the Patriots’ 1-yard line with 26 seconds remaining. But rather than run the ball with five-time Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch, Carroll called for a pass from Russell Wilson, who was picked off by Butler.

“I do think the team would have bought in more to what Coach Carroll was saying,” Avril said, “instead of going the opposite way of, ‘Hey, this is what we thought the foundation of the team was.’ That’s not what happened in that particular play.

“So I think guys started questioning him more, more so than actually following his lead if we would have won that Super Bowl.”

ESPN reported in 2017 that Butler’s interception and Carroll’s approach with Wilson were the sources of tension within Seattle’s locker room, specifically with veteran defensive players like star cornerback Richard Sherman. Avril seemed to confirm some of those aspects Thursday, citing “the message” of the defining play from the Super Bowl loss.

“The situation sucked regardless of who took the blame,” Avril said. “It’s just the fact that we were so close and we weren’t able to get it, so I think a lot of guys got turned off by the message.”

Carroll, Wilson and Sherman all publicly denied any internal strife at different points last year. The Seahawks went 9-7 and missed the playoffs in 2017, ending a streak of five straight postseason appearances under Carroll. Avril and Sherman both have been released this offseason by the Seahawks, which also traded veteran defensive lineman Michael Bennett.

Avril, 32, reflected Thursday on his five-year stint with the Seahawks and on Butler’s pivotal interception.

“Sometimes it’s tough, because two [championships] is better than one, obviously,” he said. “You think about what could have happened. If we win that Super Bowl, I think we probably would have won another one within the two years that went by.”

Avril was released by the Seahawks with a failed physical designation on May 4. His football future had been in doubt since he suffered a career-threatening neck/spine injury in October, causing him to miss the final 12 games of the season.

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Josh Freeman retires from CFL, leaving Montreal Alouettes



TAMPA, Fla. — Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman has decided to retire from the CFL, the Montreal Alouettes announced Saturday.

Freeman, 30, signed a two-year deal with the Alouettes in January, in an attempt to resurrect his once-promising NFL career. But he found himself at the bottom of the depth chart one week into their training camp.

“We would like to thank Josh for his work and dedication. He was a consummate professional throughout camp,” Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed said in a statement. “We respect his decision and we wish him the best in the future.”

Freeman’s last NFL action came in 2015, when he started one regular-season game for the Indianapolis Colts, throwing for 149 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

The 17th overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, Freeman was touted as the Bucs’ first true franchise quarterback and started 59 games for Tampa Bay. His best season came in 2012, when he threw for 4,065 yards with 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

The following season, amid on-field struggles, concerns about his personal life and a highly publicized rift with then-coach Greg Schiano, Freeman was released after three games.

Freeman also had stints with the Minnesota Vikings in 2013, New York Giants in 2014, and Miami Dolphins and Brooklyn Bolts of the Fall Experimental Football League in 2015.

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