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Richard Sherman, San Francisco 49ers, envisions switch safety from cornerback



SANTA CLARA, Calif. – San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman just turned 30 in March but he has already begun having thoughts and conversations about how the rest of his career might play out.

During his weekly media session Thursday, Sherman offered the number he has in mind as a retirement age and suggested that a position change from corner to free safety could happen before he reaches that number.

“I think 35 is probably my cutoff,” Sherman said. “They’d have a hard time getting me out of the bed at 35 to go play so I think I’ve got about four or five more (seasons) in me. At some point, everybody makes the transition to safety and if you’re smart enough to play that game and I’ll probably do that in a couple of years or whenever the team needs.”

A potential move to safety might be a couple years away but Sherman said he has already begun looking into what a move might entail and what might appeal to him about it.

As part of that research, Sherman, who has two years left on his contract with the 49ers, said he has spoken to former All-Pro defensive back Charles Woodson about the position switch. Woodson spent his first 14 seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers as a Pro Bowl cornerback before moving to free safety in 2012.

Woodson, who now works as an NFL analyst for ESPN, played his last four NFL seasons at safety, a stint that included a Pro Bowl berth in 2015 and nine interceptions over his final two years. Other top cornerbacks, such as Rod Woodson and Aeneas Williams, have made similar late-career position changes.

Sherman acknowledged Thursday that he can see the appeal in such a move, noting that he could get more action at safety than he does at corner.

“At corner, I’ve had games where I haven’t got a look, thrown at and at safety you can see exactly where the ball goes and you can make an impact,” Sherman said. “You can get in on every tackle just about because you’re in the center of everything, kind of like the MIKE (linebacker). But it’s something I’m definitely going to consider later in my career and hopefully I’ll be just as good there.”

Getting in on the action is something Sherman hasn’t been able to do much of this season as opposing quarterbacks often target different parts of the field than where Sherman roams. Sherman said Thursday there hasn’t been a single play this year in which he felt like he had a chance for an interception.

For now, Sherman is focused on finishing the final four games of his first season in San Francisco and his first season since suffering a ruptured right Achilles in November of last year.

While Sherman had some starts and stops related to the surgically repaired Achilles and a preseason hamstring injury earlier in the season, he has appeared healthier in recent weeks. In fact, Sherman hasn’t been limited in practice or even been listed on the injury report for the better part of the past month.

“I have been fighting it all season but probably over the last three, four weeks it’s been astronomical,” Sherman said. “It just felt like my body had finally had enough time to hit the reset (button) and take another step. It’s almost like a second wind because when you’re coming from rehab and you’re doing all that stuff consistently, constantly, your body is always in like a constant fatigued state.”

Earlier in the season, Sherman said he found himself starting to feel good only to have practice or something else that would put his body back in a fatigued state. That was made more difficult by the fact that he spent his offseason rehabilitating from the Achilles injury rather than doing some of the basic core workouts that are pivotal for NFL cornerbacks.

Without time to rest, it made it hard for Sherman to string games together. But he had a breakthrough when he was able to play against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 28 and then turn around and play against the Oakland Raiders just four days later.

Since, Sherman has played every game without any apparent injury issues and said he’s starting to feel like he’s back to himself again.

For the season, Sherman has 24 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and four passes defended while playing in 10 of the Niners’ 12 games.

“In a way I knew year one would have its struggles coming off the injury I came off of, but I also knew that I would still be able to play at a high level,” Sherman said. “I just didn’t know if I’d be able to do it every week.

“Just being 100 percent in this game and going week to week, something comes up, you have got thigh contusions, you’ve got knee pain, you roll your ankle, you get the normal wear and tear throughout the season. So, you never know on top of what you already have what’s going to come up, but I feel pretty good right now.”

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From streak to slump: What has happened to Adam Thielen? – Minnesota Vikings Blog



EAGAN, Minn. — The Monday Night Football audience didn’t just sense Adam Thielen‘s frustrations, they heard them. Loud and clear.

After a 35-yard catch-and-run ahead of the two-minute warning in the second half of the Minnesota Vikings’ 21-7 loss at the Seattle Seahawks, ESPN’s field mics picked up a colorful outburst when the Pro Bowl wide receiver voiced his concern with what was transpiring on offense.

Thielen leads the NFL in receptions, with 103, but his production has decreased considerably since he posted 100 yards receiving for eight straight weeks to open the season. In Seattle, Thielen wasn’t targeted and didn’t catch his first pass until 6:12 left in the third quarter. For the first time in the past two seasons, he didn’t catch a pass in a half.

“A little bit frustration of not moving the ball,” Thielen said of his outburst. “When you’re an athlete and a competitor, you feel like you can win. So, you want the ball in your hand, you want opportunities. So that’s probably where that came from.”

It’s not like he wasn’t getting open. On Minnesota’s second drive of the game, Thielen was free of defenders 20 yards downfield. Sensing pressure, quarterback Kirk Cousins dumped off a pass behind him to running back Latavius Murray that went for 2 yards. Instead of finding Thielen on fourth down from Seattle’s 1-yard line with more than nine minutes to play in the game, Cousins targeted tight end Kyle Rudolph in double coverage in the back of the end zone. The pass was broken up, and the Vikings failed to score.

Thielen’s production dip has been noticeable since Week 9, when his 100-yard streak was snapped by the Detroit Lions. With Stefon Diggs sidelined due to an injury to his ribs, the Lions zeroed in on Thielen, limiting him to four catches for 22 yards.

After averaging 115.6 yards receiving in the first eight games of the season while catching 76 percent of his targets, Thielen has caught 64 percent of his targets over the past five weeks while averaging 62.2 yards per game. Amid a rough stretch for Minnesota’s offense, Thielen was back to his ways against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12 (eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown), but he has been quiet outside of that.

Thielen isn’t the only one whose numbers have decreased after a hot start. Diggs has gone three straight games without eclipsing 100 yards receiving, and he was visibly frustrated during a defeat at the New England Patriots as cameras caught him ripping off his helmet and screaming after being left wide open.

So what’s happening?

“I think a lot of discussion, even talking to my own family after the game, that they noticed watching on TV of Adam and Stefon are being doubled and taken away,” Cousins said following the tilt in Seattle. “That was true probably the first two third downs of the game, and then really the rest of the game I didn’t notice it showing up. So, while that is happening — that happened against the Lions, that happened against the Patriots and it’s going to happen. But it’s not play in and play out all game long. So I don’t want to overstate that. Certainly, from time to time they’ll be doubled.”

Teams typically utilize bracket coverage when putting two defenders on one player, but the way the Patriots and Seahawks chose to routinely double Thielen and Diggs with defenders playing man coverage is less common. But it’s far from surprising that teams have begun to deploy this strategy to contain the prolific receiving duo.

“I didn’t ever think I’d get triple-teamed,” Diggs said. “That’s something that I’ve never experienced in my life. For me, I can beat double-teams. I feel like I can still win. And if it’s three guys, I’ve got to beat three guys. It don’t really matter how it comes up. But more importantly, we’ve got guys on the outside that can win, and if I’m occupying three people, I know we’ve got some guys out there that can get involved.”

Interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski hopes to reignite Thielen and Diggs on Sunday at home against the Miami Dolphins in a game that could establish the tone offensively for what the Vikings aim to do the rest of the season.

“I think it’s our job and we’re charged with getting those guys the football in space,” Stefanski said. “It changes, and it varies by game, because certain teams have a certain plan to take those two guys away. The nice part is we have a very unselfish group, so if it’s going to be a big Stefon Diggs game, Adam’s great about it. If there is going to be a big Kyle Rudolph game, those guys are great about it.

“So, I think the ball goes where the ball goes; but we as coaches, need to try to design plays to get the ball, obviously, to our playmakers.”

Another way Stefanski could do that is by getting running back Dalvin Cook more involved in the passing game.

Cook has 50 yards receiving on just 13 catches over the past two games, and opportunities to get him involved in the passing game could help him evolve into the Vikings’ No. 3 receiver. The two touchdowns he has scored this season have come as a pass-catcher.

The influences Stefanski pulls from the previous offensive coordinators he has worked under will start to become evident on Sunday. But judging by the success former Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur had utilizing running backs in the passing game, particularly with screens, Cook could get more involved.

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Kobe Bryant gives Cleveland Browns pep talk before playing Denver Broncos



The Cleveland Browns, getting ready for a prime-time game in Denver, had a special guest at their team meeting Friday — one who knows a little bit about Showtime.

Former Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant spoke to the team for about an hour at its hotel, then took questions from the players.

Bryant, whose relentlessness and competitive drive were hallmarks of his career, talked about the “Mamba Mentality,” and what motivates him.

The Browns (5-7-1), have won three of their past four games and are coming off a 26-20 victory over the Carolina Panthers. They play the Broncos at 8:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

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‘Nutcracker’ and helping homeless give Josh Norman a mental break – Washington Redskins Blog



ASHBURN, Va. — He won’t be dancing with any stars, but he will continue to dance. Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman will make a cameo appearance in a local production of “The Nutcracker” on Friday night.

It’s a way for Norman to raise a little money for his foundation; it’s also a way for him to stay mentally fresh during a turbulent time for the Redskins, losers of four games in a row.

That’s also why he spent Wednesday night handing out clothing items at several homeless shelters in Washington. He called that an early birthday gift. Norman said he decided to do this the previous night while sitting at home on his couch. Norman, who turns 31 Saturday, said he wanted to do this in lieu of doing something else for his birthday.

“What else is there for me to get?” he said.

The past several weeks have been filled with stories about devastating injuries and the waiver claim of linebacker Reuben Foster and players upset with one thing or another — their role, the coaches, teammates, fans. Wednesday provided perspective and respite.

“You always have to think positive,” Norman said. “I deal with it by helping other people out. It’s pretty cool when you can do that, give back to other people. Helps out a lot.”

Norman said the people he was handing out items to did not recognize him.

“They finally found out,” he said. “They were like, ‘Oh, shoot, you come down to see us?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, man, I came down to chop it up with you guys.’ Took a couple pictures, signed some autographs. It was just really cool and refreshing and rejuvenating. You ask why I come in and keep high spirits. It’s because I can do things such as that. It’s much bigger than football. It’s just cool.”

And “The Nutcracker” helps him out, too. The Loudoun Ballet Performing Arts Co. approached him earlier this year about performing as a special guest. His one and only appearance as the Arabian Prince is Friday night. Half the proceeds will go to his Starz24 Foundation. Norman was on “Dancing with the Stars” earlier this year. While training for the show, he met some of the dancers at the LBPA.

When he was on the ABC show, Norman flew across the country and would return in time for Redskins spring practices. For the ballet, he has practiced once a week (on his off day) for a little more than a month at a local high school, he said.

“It’s cool; it’s something to do,” he said. “I’ve got to be doing something.”

He also knows some fans will be upset that he has spent part of his off time in a non-football activity at a time when the Redskins are losing.

“How are we held to a higher standard than a doctor or a physician?” he said. “I do what I do anyway.”

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