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Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans QB, happy with recovery ACL surgery

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HOUSTON — After the Houston Texans‘ nine-week offseason program, Deshaun Watson is right where he wants to be as he rehabs from a torn right ACL.

The second-year quarterback said Wednesday that he has met or surpassed the physical goals he set at the beginning of the Texans’ organized team activities in mid-April.

“The knee is doing good,” Watson said. “I’m able to do some things on the field with the team, physical-wise. For the nine-week goal that we put in from the beginning, I’m pretty much where I want to be. I’m kinda past it inside in the weight room, mentally, and also on the field. So everything’s going smoothly right now.”

Watson had surgery on his right ACL just seven months ago after he tore it in an early November practice. At the beginning of the on-field portion of OTAs that began at the end of May, Watson took the field with his teammates for the first time since his surgery.

One of the steps forward Watson was able to take this spring was practicing without a brace on his right knee, which he did this week for the first time in the practices that have been open to the media.

Watson said “it’s cool” to have surpassed his initial offseason goals, but his mindset is to never be satisfied with where he is at.

“I feel like I can be better, and will get better,” Watson said. “But like you said, those nine weeks, I’ve gained a lot on and off the field — mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually — and being able to take my game, and just me as a person, to another level.”

Watson was having a historic rookie campaign before his season-ending injury and was on pace to shatter the NFL record for passing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback (26). At the time of his injury, Watson was tied for the NFL lead with 19 touchdown passes. In seven games, Watson threw for 1,699 yards and eight interceptions.

This spring, Watson has participated in seven-on-seven drills, but has sat out the Texans’ team drills involving players rushing the passer. Watson has said all offseason that he expects to be ready to go at full strength by training camp and be the starting quarterback for the Texans’ season-opener against the New England Patriots on Sept. 9.

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said even though Watson is ahead of schedule, he and the coaching staff will make sure they’re being “intelligent” with the way they ease the young quarterback back in this summer.

“You can’t throw the kitchen sink at him when he comes back — just thinking that all of a sudden, snap a finger and he’s back to full go,” O’Brien said. “I think we’ll have a really good plan for how many reps he gets relative to practice, relative to the preseason games. We’re gonna talk a lot about that over the next couple of days here as a staff with everybody — with [general manager] Brian Gaine and our medical staff, everybody.

“But I do feel that — when it comes from a mental standpoint, I feel really good about what we’re gonna be able to throw at him from a playbook standpoint.”

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Stream on ESPN+: Matthew Berry's top waiver wire adds headlined by Dak Prescott, Josh Adams and Anthony Miller

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Groin kick, mystery phone call started Jaguars-Steelers rivalry – Jacksonville Jaguars Blog

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An alleged death threat and a kick to the groin are pretty much guaranteed to get people angry.

The first was a prank, but the second, well, it’s certainly plausible.

Either way, those two things are what ignited the Jacksonville JaguarsPittsburgh Steelers rivalry, and although it cooled off for a decade, it flared again after the Jaguars’ sweep last season. That makes Sunday’s meeting at TIAA Bank Field (1 p.m. ET, CBS) pretty interesting, despite the Jaguars’ surprising 2018 free fall.

“If you didn’t get up for any other game — excluding the Titans in that — you had to get up for the Steelers,” former running back Fred Taylor said. “… It’s a rivalry built on respect.”

Maybe now, but it certainly didn’t start out that way.

Jaguars offensive lineman Brian Demarco accused linebacker Greg Lloyd of kicking him in the groin during one of the 1996 meetings and vowed to return the favor. In 1997, Lloyd hammered an unsuspecting Keenan McCardell after the first play of the Oct. 27 meeting because he was angry McCardell left him a phone message in which he introduced himself and said, “I’m going to kill you.”

McCardell denied making the call and suggested a Steelers staffer might have done it to motivate Lloyd. Then-Steelers coach Bill Cowher said he had no idea who made the call.

Cowher, by the way, has his own moment in the rivalry from earlier that season. He stepped onto the field and nearly hit Jaguars defensive back Chris Hudson as Hudson was running down the sideline with a blocked kick to seal the Jaguars’ 30-21 victory on Monday Night Football.

Anyway … three years into the Jaguars’ existence, they had managed to anger one of the most respected and storied NFL franchises.

Looking back

Here are some other highlights (or lowlights, depending on your allegiance) from the series:

  • When the NFL expanded to 30 teams in 1995, realignment put the Jaguars in the AFC Central with the Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Houston Oilers and Cincinnati Bengals. The Jaguars and Steelers split the annual meetings every season but one — 1999 — when the Jaguars won both en route to an NFL-best 14-2 record. The NFL expanded again in 2002, and the Jaguars were moved into the AFC South.

  • Taylor holds the single-game rushing record in Pittsburgh, running for 234 on Nov. 19, 2000, in the Jaguars’ 34-24 victory. O.J. Simpson is the only other player to rush for more than 200 yards at Three Rivers Stadium. Steelers running back Willie Parker has the only two 200-yard games at Heinz Field (which replaced Three Rivers Stadium in 2001).

  • Each team hired opposing coordinators. Tom Coughlin hired former Steelers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, and Cowher hired former Jaguars offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride in 1999.

  • The Steelers won in overtime in 1997 on Jerome Bettis’ 17-yard touchdown catch off a shovel pass from quarterback Kordell Stewart. A key play in that game was Lloyd’s stuff of running back James Stewart for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 2-yard line.

  • Jaguars mascot Jaxson de Ville has drawn the Steelers’ ire twice. In 1998, he went onto the field to stomp on a stuffed doll representing Stewart near the Steelers’ offensive huddle. During a game in 2014, de Ville carried a sign that said TOWELS CARRY EBOLA, a jab at the Terrible Towels that Steelers fans wave at games. The Jaguars issued an apology several days later, and Curtis Dvorak, the man inside the mascot costume, was disciplined internally.

  • Steelers kicker Jeff Reed, playing in his first game with the team, kicked six field goals in Pittsburgh’s 25-23 victory in 2002.

  • Quarterback David Garrard’s fourth-down scramble set up Josh Scobee’s winning field goal in the Jaguars’ 31-29 victory in an AFC playoff game in January 2008. That was the last time the Jaguars made the playoffs until last season.

Still heated

Which brings us to Sunday’s matchup …

The Steelers (6-2-1) are surging after five consecutive victories, and the Jaguars (3-6) are a mess after five consecutive losses, but the rivalry is as hot as ever.

The Steelers won five of the eight regular-season meetings from 2002-16, but the Jaguars won 30-9 in Heinz Field last season, intercepting Ben Roethlisberger a career-high five times. That started a run of eight wins in 10 games by Jacksonville, and the team made the playoffs for the first time in a decade. The Jaguars beat Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs, earning a return trip to Pittsburgh.

The Steelers, who had talked late in the regular season about meeting the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, were eager for another shot at the Jaguars. Safety Mike Mitchell stood outside the Jaguars’ locker room before the game and told Jaguars players they would know his name (a reference to cornerback Jalen Ramsey saying earlier in the week that he didn’t know who Mitchell was).

The Jaguars won 45-42, marking the second time that the Jaguars won twice in Pittsburgh in one season. They also did it in 2007, and they are the only non-division opponent to do so.

With their season on the ropes after five straight losses, the Jaguars are hoping a win against the Steelers will spark another playoff push.

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Brandon Marshall — Healthy, excited for New Orleans Saints opportunity

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METAIRIE, La. — Brandon Marshall was asked if he can still do it like he used to. He responded with a coy smile.

“No, I’m done. I’m washed up,” said the 34-year-old wide receiver, who signed with the New Orleans Saints on Monday after being released by the Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago. “What my film says this year is what it is.”

Marshall had some fun with the topic — but also showed plenty of self-awareness Wednesday while admitting that he knows the “narrative is that I’m done.”

The six-time Pro Bowler said being cut twice already in 2018 has been humbling. However, he said injuries were a big reason for that after he finished last season on injured reserve with an ankle injury, then had toe surgery, then dealt with a hamstring injury this summer. He said he has been “fit as a fiddle” and “healthy as a trout” since Week 3 or 4.

Marshall also is excited to join quarterback Drew Brees, which he called “a wide receiver’s dream,” and a red-hot 8-1 team that will give him a chance to make his first playoff appearance in his 13-year career.

“I’ve spent most of my career as the guy on top, All-Pro, Pro Bowl guy … and I’m at the bottom right now,” said Marshall, who was released by the New York Giants in April before his stint with Seattle. “I got an amazing opportunity to go to the Seahawks. That was an amazing experience. I just wasn’t healthy enough. So when you’re on the other side of 30 and you don’t produce, this is the situation you’ll find yourself in. So I’m excited and grateful for this opportunity, and I love playing football, and it’s something I want to continue to do.”

Marshall said being cut twice in one year is “interesting” but it “built a lot of character.”

“I’ve always been a guy that handles adversity well — well, maybe not early on in my career, I didn’t do a great job. But what I mean about handling adversity is I always picked myself up,” said Marshall, who has talked about working to mature as a person and a teammate throughout his career, while also becoming an advocate for people dealing with mental health issues. “And in this situation, when Seattle cut me, I just continued to work out, stay in shape and have faith.

“Made a few phone calls to see if someone could pull a favor to get a workout. I knew once I worked out, I would look good. I’m healthy now and ready to roll.”

Marshall said he was actually surprised and “a little devastated” when the Saints didn’t sign him after he was happy with his workout last Tuesday. He said he had his suit ready to travel with the team to Cincinnati in Week 10.

Instead, they opted to sign another out-of-work star — Dez Bryant — who wound up tearing his Achilles tendon during Friday’s practice. So the Saints called Marshall, and he was back on a plane to New Orleans on Sunday while they were dismantling the Bengals, 51-14.

Marshall still has to prove he can do it on the field. He had only 11 catches for 136 yards and one touchdown in seven games with the Seahawks before being phased out of the rotation — and most of that production came in the first three weeks, before he said he got fully healthy.

It was a similar situation with the Giants last year, when Marshall had just 18 catches for 154 yards and zero touchdowns in five games before landing on IR.

But the Saints could find a role — especially in the red zone – for a 6-foot-5, 232-pound receiver who holds the NFL record with six seasons of 100-plus receptions. Especially since he will now be catching passes from the most accurate QB in NFL history.

“Our paths have crossed a bunch of places off the field. We played in the Pro Bowl together. I’ve known of him for a long time, really heard a lot of good things about him, been a fan of his just watching him on film,” Brees said. “He’s a smart veteran guy who is very fluid. Seen him in a lot of different offenses. Seen him be successful both as an outside receiver, an inside receiver. He’s very versatile. He’s a big target. A big catching radius. Just watching him run today, he’s pretty impressive.”

Whether or not Marshall can start helping the Saints on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles — or four days later on Thanksgiving night against the Atlanta Falcons — remains to be seen. Marshall said he played for a similar offense with the Chicago Bears when former Saints assistant Aaron Kromer was the offensive coordinator there. But now that he’s with his seventh team in his NFL career, Marshall knows there is an adjustment period.

“He’s pretty smart. I don’t think that’s gonna be [a problem],” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “He’s had it now for 24 hours, and I feel like he has two positions. It’s one of his strengths.

“This’ll give us a chance to see where he’s at, and week by week take a peek and try to evaluate his skill set to see where and if it fits what we’re doing.”

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