"I didn't realize he was that famous until my wife was like, 'You know he's famous, right?'" Bennett said with a laugh this week. "I was like, 'Oh, OK.'"
McCready, the lead guitarist for the Seattle-based rock band, was set to perform the national anthem before the Seahawks' home opener Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. McCready and Pearl Jam as a whole have heavily supported various causes over the years, including those aimed at promoting social change. He wanted to show his support for Bennett, who has been among the most active of NFL players trying to do the same.
Bennett has sat for the national anthem since the start of the preseason in what he's described as a protest of inequality in America. He did again Sunday as McCready performed. When McCready finished, he turned around his guitar and held it up to reveal Bennett's No. 72 in Seahawks colors pasted on the back.
"We talked about it a couple days before," Bennett said. "He wanted to do something and that was pretty cool that he decided to do that."
Bennett was among the players whose names appeared on a recently leaked memo written to the NFL in August seeking, among other things, for the league to dedicate a month to activism awareness.
McCready told ESPN.com: "I respect Michael Bennett and I support him 100 percent. I'm looking forward to our families spending more time together, and figuring out how to collaborate on some of his foundation's programs for kids."
Bennett appreciates McCready's support.
"Even though we're from two different parts of the world, he's a musician and I'm a football player, for [him to support me] means a lot," he said.
FRISCO, Texas -- With just nine catches for 102 yards and a touchdown on 25 targets in the first two games, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant knows his numbers need to improve, but he is not about to panic.
Much has been made about the Dak Prescott-to-Bryant connection early in the season, especially after things appeared to go smoothly in training camp and in the latter half of last season. In 15 games together, Bryant and Prescott have connected for 59 catches on 121 targets for 898 yards and nine touchdowns.
"Of course that's not acceptable, but this is the National Football League," Bryant said. "Things are going to go right and then when they do, it's going to be the exact opposite ... Everything is going to be great. You got to treat the lows like the highs and highs like the lows. That's what it's about. This is minor. That is minor to us. If we focus on that, pay attention to that, we are just feeding into what everybody is talking about. We can't do none of that. We understand how this game goes. These are great football players and great teams we are going up against. It's not just me and him. It's everything. It's 11 guys versus 11 guys. That's the last thing on our mind because we know when it hits, it hits."
In the opener, Bryant was matched up mostly against New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins. In Week 2, he saw Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. of the Denver Broncos. On Monday, he faces Patrick Peterson.
"He is a super athlete, that’s who he is," Bryant said. "He is a helluva corner. He is arguably the best cornerback in the league. The guys is phenomenal. You got to be ready when you are going up against a guy like that. A real friend of mine. He knows how I am. I know how he is. It's going to be pretty darn good matchup Monday."
Bryant said he loves that he sees the best cornerbacks each week. He said his practice approach has been "phenomenal."
"There is no pressure. It's no pressure. It's my job. It's what I do," Bryant said. "This is the National Football League. My confidence is sky-high. It's going to always be that way. Monday night I got another shot at it. I can't wait. I can't wait to get out there Monday."
On Friday morning, the 29-year-old backup quarterback was leading first-team reps in Minnesota’s final practice before it hosts Tampa Bay on Sunday.
“I prepare every week like I’m going to play,” Keenum said. “If I’m not actually getting the rep, I’m behind working the same footwork, the same reads, doing the same thing, just maybe not handing it off or throwing it.”
That mindset played to his benefit as Keenum was thrust back into the starting lineup for a second straight week with Bradford ruled out against the Bucs.
Bradford was absent from practice on Friday and will receive a second opinion on his injured left knee from orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews, team and league sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
Keenum was 20-of-37 passing for 167 yards in a Week 2 loss at Pittsburgh and struggled throughout to get in a rhythm. Eleven team penalties, the Steelers’ exotic defensive pressure filled with various blitz packages and a fast, physical scheme didn’t help matters, either.
Throughout the week, Minnesota preached the need to start games faster, regardless of who’s under center. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who is averaging 5.6 yards per carry by picking up the majority of his yardage in the second half, shoulders that responsibility.
“That’s what I’m working on,” Cook said. “Start faster and get a good jump at that because starting in the third quarter can’t help my team. I have to start faster in the first quarter.”
With Bradford’s status uncertain up until Friday, Minnesota went through the week with its plan on how to attack the Bucs' defense with the idea that it could be altered to fit the strengths of Bradford or Keenum.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer downplayed the challenge posed to players as they prepared not knowing who will start at quarterback.
“There’s no challenges,” Zimmer said. “Just go out and do their job.”
Players tend to agree, especially those who are on the other end of passes.
“Everybody throws different,” wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. “As far as being where you need to be, when you want to be there, when they want you to be there, of course. As far as like how they throw and that type of thing, it doesn’t really matter. They’re throwing to a spot, anyways, not a guy.”
Keenum’s previous success against the Bucs puts him in rare air. He enters Sunday’s game looking for his third straight win over Jameis Winston, a feat no other opposing quarterback in the league has accomplished. Two of the best games he’s played in as a starter with a 9-18 career record have come against the Bucs.
In 2015, Keenum posted a 158.0 passer rating, completing 82 percent of his passes (14-of-17) for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Last season, he was 14-of-26 for 190 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Three of those four touchdown passes traveled at least 43 yards.
Conceptually, the Bucs’ defense is similar to what Keenum remembers. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith schemed against the quarterback last season. Tampa’s final injury report lists linebacker Kwon Alexander (hamstring) out for Sunday, with top defenders Gerald McCoy and Brent Grimes listed as questionable.
While that may end up helping individual matchups, Keenum’s job doesn’t get any easier.
“It’s hard to compare years,” Keenum said. “It’s a great defense. We’re going to have to be at our best as well.”
Newly signed quarterback Kyle Sloter will continue his role as Keenum’s backup. The 6-foot-4 quarterback, who spent the preseason with Denver and recently was on the Vikings' practice squad, is still learning the playbook, but he feels prepared to step in if his name is called.
“I’m not a master of it quite yet like Case and Sam are, but I can get in there and I can definitely run the basic plays that we have,” Sloter said. “I would say I can probably run 70 to 80 percent of the playbook successfully. That’s going to come with time. I think here in the next couple weeks I’ll have it down pretty good.”
FLORHAM PARK — Miami’s Ndamukong Suh is more than a massive, dominant defensive tackle.
He’s nasty. Some would say he’s dirty.
Suh, at 6-4, 307 pounds, has played in 111 games, started 111 games, and has 47 career sacks.
“Any time you lose you’re starting guard, there’s a loss,’’ said Bowles who hadn’t immediately decided between Qvale and Dozier as Winters’s replacement after Friday’s practice.
Jets center Wesley Johnson isn’t worried.
“Yeah, they’re not bad,’’ Johnson said. “We think we’re good, too. Actually, we know we’re good.’’
The Jets should be in better shape on the other side of the line.
Defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson said on Wednesday he wasn’t concerned that the shoulder injury he suffered last week against the Raiders would keep him sidelined.
Apparently neither is Bowles.
Bowles seemingly squashed concerns that the Jets wouldn’t know about Wilkerson’s availability until game time.
“He’s got two days to get better,’’ Bowles said. “He did some things today, We’ll see how he feels Sunday.’’
Wilkerson returned to limited practice on Friday and the Jets need him. New York's run defense, which many thought would be a strength, has been a liability.
They’ve allowed 185 yards per game, dead last in the NFL. All of the numbers are cringeworthy.
They’ve surrendered five runs of 20 yards or more.
Opposing running backs are averaging 5.4 yards per rush, or a first down every two carries.
So when Bowles said that Wilkerson was, “a little better, he did some work,’’ the Jets have to hope to be a lot better against the Dolphins, who ran for 111 yards in their 19-17 win over the Chargers.
“We’re playing at home against a division rival, we can’t let them get going,’’ Kony Ealy told ESPN.com. “Stop the run. Get after the quarterback. Can’t let them run the ball in front of our fans.’’
DAVIE, Fla. – Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi had 28 carries for 122 yards in last week’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers. It was the second-highest attempts of Ajayi’s career, but it came with a price.
Ajayi missed two practices this week with a knee injury but returned for Friday’s walkthrough as Miami prepares for the New York Jets. He is listed as questionable on the official injury report but optimistic about Sunday's game.
“I'm feeling good today,” Ajayi said. “Talking to the coaches, I feel like we have a good plan.”
Here is the full injury report for Miami:
- Ajayi questionable
- WR DeVante Parker questionable
- WR Jarvis Landry questionable
- RB Damien Williams questionable
- DT Jordan Phillips doubtful
- LB Rey Maualuga out
Parker and Landry are both expected to play, despite their ailments. Phillips has not practiced all week and is not expected to suit up on Sunday. Dolphins rookie Davon Godchaux likely will start in place of Phillips.
Both players are among five listed as questionable for the 8:30 p.m. match-up against the Oakland Raiders. The others are: linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder), safety Montae Nicholson (shoulder) and corner Josh Norman (shoulder).
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said the team will likely make decisions on each of them Sunday. However, each of those players -- aside from Reed -- has said he expects to play Sunday night.
Reed, though, sat out Wednesday's practice and was limited the last two days with rib/shoulder injuries.
Reed’s durability has always been in question, stemming from 20 missed games in his first four seasons combined. But he’s also tried to play through various injuries and simply couldn’t.
The complicating factor is his role: As a full-time tight end, he’ll have to occasionally block.
But Reed said he had full range of motion. He caught the ball fine during individual drills, in which he worked with the receivers for a second consecutive day.
“I feel good, man,” Reed said. “I tested it and it held up, so we’ll make a game-time choice.”
Last season he suffered a sprained AC joint in his shoulder in a Thanksgiving Day game against Dallas. He played in the next game 10 days later, but struggled and was in clear pain at times after blocking. He finished with one catch. This time, he sprained his SC joint.
When he was hurt last season, he could be seen in practice grabbing his shoulder on occasion, as if it were bothering him. But that hasn’t been the case this week. Still, he said the pain of this injury was different.
“It feels worse,” Reed said of his current situation. “I’ve never felt nothing like this so it’s hard to describe.”
The Redskins could use him as a third tight end, bringing him in during obvious passing situations. He could then leave the heavy blocking up to veterans Vernon Davis and Niles Paul. Reed is coming off a six-catch game (for 48 yards) in which his timing was much better than in the opener. In the first game, he and quarterback Kirk Cousins weren’t in synch on a few routes; Reed admitted he was too fast off the line and disrupted the timing. Last week, though, as Reed cut, the ball was en route.
If Reed doesn’t play, then rookie Jeremy Sprinkle would be active for the first time this season. He offers size at 6-foot-5, 252 pounds, but he’s still working on his blocking at the NFL level.
“If we feel Sprinkle’s the better option at 100 percent than Reed at 70 percent, we’ll take that into consideration,” Gruden said.
Kelley said he expected to play and would wear a protective pad over his ribs. He was hurt after gaining 78 yards on 12 carries in the first half against the Rams last week. He called the initial pain a “10” but said by Wednesday it had been cut in half. If he can’t play, then rookie Samaje Perine would take over, with Chris Thompson remaining in his third-down role and Mack Brown being activated.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders have forever been a haven for players who needed a change of scenery to thrive, from the likes of John Matuszak to Lyle Alzado to Jim Plunkett to Rich Gannon to... David Amerson.
Don’t laugh. At least, not yet.
To see how far Amerson has come in Oakland, you first have to see how far the cornerback fell with the organization that made him its first draft pick in 2013.
And why Amerson’s return game at Washington on Sunday night may not be as rife with talk of payback, or showing up his former organization, as you might think.
Besides, Amerson has been with the Raiders almost as long now as he was with the Redskins. Oakland is home now.
“Obviously, there’s memories with the organization, in that stadium,” Amerson said this week, “but I’m not really focused on that right now.
“I made a couple of plays in that stadium. I guess my last interception. Yeah, I remember that.”
Everything else, though, about his stay in Washington is forgettable.
Because after a decent rookie season in which he had two interceptions (against the Raiders’ Matt Flynn and the San Diego Chargers’ Philip Rivers) and started eight of 16 games after being the 51st overall pick of the 2013 draft (Washington had surrendered its first-rounder the year before to draft Robert Griffin III), Amerson fell on hard times in his second year.
He started 15 games and, per Pro Football Focus via the Oakland Tribune, Amerson was without an interception and allowed quarterbacks to complete 73.6 percent of their passes against him, or 67 catches for 877 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He played just two games for Washington in 2015 before being cut, and the Raiders jumped at Amerson and claimed him off waivers.
“Why are you sitting in front of me,” then-Raiders defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson asked Amerson upon his arrival in Oakland. “I look at the Washington roster and there’s no way you should be sitting in front of me.”
As in, Amerson’s talent should have had him sticking in Washington.
Alas, Washington’s loss was the Raiders’ gain, so long as Amerson responded to the, ahem, change of scenery. And he did.
In 14 games with the Raiders in 2015, including 12 starts, Amerson had a career-best four interceptions and set an Oakland franchise record with 26 passes defensed.
The Raiders then signed Amerson to a four-year contract extension worth $38 million, with $18 million guaranteed in 2016.
He had two picks and 16 passes defensed in 15 games last season but was steady and was the Raiders’ best cornerback.
Now, he was charged with two TDs allowed in the Raiders’ 45-20 laughter over the New York Jets last weekend, and he simply mistimed his jump on one, otherwise he was in perfect position to pick off the ball.
But playing the position requires Amerson to have a short memory. Maybe that’s why the guy who played 33 games for Washington and will be playing in his 32nd for the Raiders swears he won’t get overly nostalgic at FedEx Field come Sunday night.
He has to prepare to go against a familiar signal caller, after all.
“Kirk Cousins is a very, very smart quarterback,” Amerson said. “Obviously, he’s a guy that can make all the throws and I think that the biggest thing when playing against a guy like Kirk Cousins is making him uncomfortable, getting pressure on him, making sure he’s not back there just patting the ball, reading coverages.
“Like I said, he’s pretty smart, he’ll kind of figure out what [coverage] guys are in. I know he studies hard, so it won’t really be that hard for him to read what’s going on. So really, just make him uncomfortable. Sticky coverage. Try to make plays when the ball comes your way.”
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without starting middle linebacker Kwon Alexander against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Alexander has been battling a hamstring injury and missed practice all week. He was ruled out on Friday afternoon.
Alexander left in the second quarter last Sunday against the Chicago Bears and was replaced by rookie Kendell Beckwith, who slid over from the strongside position. Adarius Glanton stepped into Beckwith's spot.
Beckwith finished the game with five tackles, two tackles for a loss and a pass breakup. He also helped limit the Bears' rushing attack to 20 total yards. He currently carries Pro Football Focus' fourth-highest grade among linebackers this season with a score of 87.0. Teammate Lavonte David is currently No. 1 with a 91.3.
Rookie running back Dalvin Cook presents a different challenge than the Bears' Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, though. Cook had 127 rushing yards in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, breaking Adrian Peterson's Vikings rookie debut record. He ranks third in the NFL in total rushing yards and is averaging 5.6 cards per carry. He's also produced two runs of 30 yards or longer already this season.
“No disrespect to the Bears back that we played last week, [but] I think he is a different type of back," said Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith. "He is a little bit bigger. I don’t know that he has the quicks that we faced last week, but he is a stronger running back. He runs well behind his pads. ... All you’ve got to do is show that clip to the team and they’ve got respect for him right away. ... We consider him a game-wrecker."
Alexander is considered one of the Bucs' better run defenders and has been a tackling machine, although he's had his share of misses and can sometimes wind up out of position. Still, his 108 solo tackles ranked first in the league last year. He's also a team captain, has played in Smith's defense for two years and has made the calls on defense for the last three.
A back like Cook gets to the second level with ease, putting extra pressure on the Bucs' front seven and particularly the linebackers, especially if they get him going in the short passing game.
"He is a game-wrecker," said Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. "He destroyed New Orleans and had some big runs last week. He's not a ‘run-and-get-out-of-bounds’ guy. He's a ‘get-that-extra-couple-yards’ guy. Anybody like that, you've got to bring your big-boy pants with you. Bring an extra set of pads because it's going to be a physical day."
Beckwith said he would have no qualms about starting at Mike linebacker this week and making the calls on defense, which he did Sunday. He went up against another bruising back, Leonard Fournette, in practice every day when the two played together at LSU. That was an offense Beckwith knew like the back of his hand, though.
Another problem the Bucs might have against Cook: defensive tackle Chris Baker has been dealing with the flu bug and is doubtful for Sunday. He was a big part of the Bucs' goal this offseason to bolster their run defense and be more physical. If he can't play, Clinton McDonald would start opposite McCoy, a change from the Bucs' usual rotation.
“You usually see ghosts," he said, "after you done got hit by one."
Manning has been sacked eight times -- tied for the second-most in the league through two weeks along with this week’s counterpart, Carson Wentz -- while absorbing 12 quarterback hits. He is getting sacked on 10.3 percent of his dropbacks, fourth-most in the NFL, despite getting the ball out of his hands at a reasonable rate (2.54 seconds on average) according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The struggles of the Giants’ offensive line to start the season have been well-documented. A group that to this point has been comprised of (from left to right) Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry and Bobby Hart has been unable to get the running game going (the Giants are last in rushing at 48.5 yards per game) or keep the quarterback clean.
It’ll be strength against weakness this week. The Eagles’ defensive line has been the team’s top unit through two games, having generated seven sacks, eight hurries, nine tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles in eight quarters of work.
Their efforts have helped protect a back end that has been stung by injuries and will be without cornerback Ronald Darby (ankle dislocation), CB Jaylen Watkins (hamstring) and safety Corey Graham (hamstring). Starting safety Rodney McLeod is questionable with a hamstring injury.
Defensive coordinators are often hesitant to blitz Manning (teams have sent an extra man just 15.4 percent of the time so far this season, which ranks 29th in NFL) in part because the veteran QB makes a lot of calls at the line of scrimmage, often after the defense has declared their intentions. Assuming Eagles DC Jim Schwartz stays largely conservative in this area, the front four will be asked to create most of the havoc on their own.
Defensive end Brandon Graham (2.5 sacks) and DTs Fletcher Cox (2 sacks) and Tim Jernigan (1.5 sacks) have led the charge to this point. A key matchup to watch Sunday will be DE Vinny Curry against Flowers. Curry is tops on the team with four hurries and has drawn praise from the coaching staff for him improvements over the offseason while Flowers has had a bumpy start to the ’17 campaign.
“I know being a first-rounder, you want to make sure that you get everything out of your player that you put a lot into,” said former 13th overall pick Graham of Flowers. “For him, he’s still young, what is this his second year? ... I think with him he’s going to keep to keep growing, and they’re going to keep working on him, that’s why they keep putting him out there, but this week, we’re going to plan for him, and we’re going to do what we do.”
If the D-line continues to do what it’s been doing, it could be a long day for Manning and the Giants offense.
“I know for us to have success, whoever they put on the offensive line and whatever they do as far as protections, whether it’s adding guys, the tight ends, backs chipping, we’ve got to have some disruption up front. That’s basically going to dictate what we’re able to do on defense,” said Jenkins.
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage, but it’s definitely one of those things we’ve circled and highlighted for us to have success, that’s an area we have to win, that’s a matchup we have to win, and so we’re putting a lot on our D-line, obviously.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans are uncertain on whether they'll have running back DeMarco Murray for their Week 3 contest against the Seattle Seahawks. Murray is listed as questionable for Sunday, and coach Mike Mularkey says his availability will depend on how his injured hamstring responds over the next couple of days.
Derrick Henry is expected to get a significant workload Sunday, whether Murray plays or not, in what should be a physical, run-heavy matchup.
Murray returned to practice Friday as a limited participant routes and caught passes from Titans quarterbacks during individual drills. Murray showed some instances of acceleration as a runner and receiver during Friday's light session, though it was far from what he would be expected to do in game action.
"It's the kind of injury, you watch and see how he wakes up in the morning," Mularkey said. "We'll talk it through. We've been pretty smart to this point. We're not going to subject anybody to further injury."
Murray appears more likely to be out than to have a full workload on Sunday.
For fantasy owners, the possibility of Murray being active may make "start or sit" decisions more difficult, but it shouldn't. Henry is the healthier and stronger performing back at this point so he'd be the safer start on your team as a solid RB2 this week even if Murray technically starts for the Titans on Sunday. Henry should creep closer to RB1 status if Murray doesn't suit up.
"They're both very good backs. I don't think it matters who starts and who doesn't. They're both backs who can be productive in this league," Mularkey said. "I don't think there's any secret as to who is on the piece of paper as the top guy."
Murray's season-long health has to be paramount in the Titans' decision. This is an aggravation of the hamstring injury he suffered in August that caused him to miss two weeks. He told team trainers he felt his hamstring getting tight in the second half of the Titans' 37-16 win over Jacksonville.
Adding to the matter is that Murray has struggled to get going in his first two games. Murray has 69 yards (25 vs. the Jaguars) and no touchdowns on 21 carries this season. Henry has 117 yards (92 vs. the Jaguars) and a touchdown on 20 carries this season.
Henry attributes his strong start to comfort in the NFL and the system. He said his rookie year gave him experience and now he can play faster.
"When my name is called, (I) just go out there and make plays," Henry said.
FRISCO, Texas -- Coach Jason Garrett likes to say the success of the Dallas Cowboys’ running game depends on everybody.
The running back needs to find the right hole. The wide receivers and tight ends have to handle their assignments. The offensive line has to work as a cohesive unit.
All-Pro center Travis Frederick agrees, to a degree.
“But I think it comes down to our offensive line performing better and focusing on the techniques and things we practice day in and day out and go out and do them on game day,” Frederick said.
It was the second-worst rushing performance the Cowboys have had since Frederick and fellow All-Pros Tyron Smith and Zack Martin joined the team in 2014. In the 2015 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Cowboys ran 14 times for 31 yards.
There was a similar pattern: The Cowboys trailed 23-3 at halftime that day, plus Tony Romo was hurt on the final play of the third quarter.
Against Denver, the Cowboys were down 28-10 when they had their first possession of the third quarter.
Before last week, Elliott’s lowest production was 51 yards in the 2016 season opener.
“Obviously it’s not what we want, but I think just the flow of the game, we got down and we had to throw so it’s tough to win, especially because you want to run the ball,” Martin said. “We’ve got to do a better job when we had the opportunity to run. We didn’t do what we needed to do.”
The Cardinals are allowing 79 yards a game on the ground in their first two games, but their first two opponents -- the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts -- do not possess running games similar to the Cowboys.
“It comes down to everybody doing their job on every play,” Frederick said. “It might be one guy [making a mistake] one play and it might be the next guy on the next play. As far as grading out, it might not be that bad, but when you look at it as a group, the way it all fits together as one, if you say our group had a failure, then that counts as a group failure and we didn’t play very well.”
The Cowboys’ line is often referred to as the best in football because of Smith, Frederick and Martin and how they helped DeMarco Murray and Elliott to rushing titles in 2014 and 2016. Their reputation might precede them and lead to defenses trying to shoot holes in their title as the league’s best.
“I went through this in college and here,” said Martin, who played at Notre Dame. “I think when anyone plays the Dallas Cowboys, they’re going to be geared up and vice versa, we’ve got to be geared up for everyone. That was definitely not anything we wanted on Sunday, but we’re moving forward and looking forward to playing Arizona.”
BEREA, Ohio -- Hue Jackson offered passionate support of rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer this week, saying his belief in Kizer has not wavered.
His position wasn’t surprising; that he felt the need to express it just two games into the season was a mild surprise. Jackson even used the two words that have been so perplexing to the Browns the past several years.
“We want this guy to be our franchise quarterback,” Jackson said. “I stand behind this guy wholeheartedly.”
Kizer had a rough second game in Baltimore with three interceptions, one lost fumble and one quarter missed due to a migraine. But Jackson said Kizer accepted responsibility for his errors and is ready to go against the Colts on Sunday.
“He gets it,” Jackson said.
Jackson brought up several factors affecting Kizer, including an offensive line that did not play together in the preseason due to injury (mainly to guard Joel Bitonio) and rest given Joe Thomas, the addition of new receivers, and his age and inexperience.
The lack-of-cohesion argument is interesting. The Browns for years have limited their starters’ play in preseason, then lamented them not being ready when the season comes. The team controls who plays in the preseason, and year after year the Browns give more snaps to players who will not be on the roster than those who will. Coaches are loathe to risk losing a starter to injury, but a losing team can’t cry about the decisions it makes that slow cohesiveness when it doesn’t build it in preseason.
As for Kizer, Jackson simply said what he's said all along -- that he’s a young quarterback and the team will ride out his highs and lows.
“Let’s be honest, let’s think about where this young man has come from and what he is doing,” Jackson said. “He is playing with a bunch of men. He’s young. He’s 21 years old. He is leading an organization that hasn’t been what it needs to be. He’s surrounded by a ton of guys who, we haven’t won a ton of games, and he’s trying to uplift everything. There is a lot of pressure.
“Let’s just be honest, it is. He is trying to play at a peak level. He is trying to learn this offense, learn the language, adjust to some of the better defenses in the National Football League in the last two weeks, and then score points and throw the ball to guys that he hasn’t thrown the ball to every day. That is hard.
“You can say what you want, that is hard. That is not an excuse. That is a fact.”
Jackson pointed out that he never promised the Browns offense would be “a juggernaut” early in the season.
“This guy has played two games in the National Football League and we are already trying to compare what he does, or we act like he should be playing like Brett Favre or something. That is not going to happen,” Jackson said.
His comments were interesting, because locally at least there has been a fair amount of patience and understanding with Kizer. He basically has played the way he was expected to play. He was good in a close loss to Pittsburgh and struggled in a loss to the Ravens. The Browns lost two games they were given little chance to win, and Kizer learned both weeks about getting rid of the ball and about playing on the road.
“I think this guy has what it takes,” Jackson said. “He is growing every day. He grew even through the negative last week. It’s not fun, but he is learning. He is learning that you guys are going to crucify him when things aren’t going well and he understands you guys are going to praise him when things do go well. That is part of it. That is part of this process for him, and he has to go through it. Do I like going through it? No. But I also like having a quarterback that we all feel comfortable with that potentially could be the guy for years to come in this organization. That is what I think is important.”
Asked if Kizer had been crucified this week, Jackson backed away, saying that was probably too strong.
“Sometimes when you have a good game, we start to build him up a little bit,” Jackson said. “Then, all of a sudden, it’s a high and here comes a low. He didn’t play as well. All of a sudden, ‘Uh oh. Is he this? Is he that?’ This guy is still the same guy. Like many rookies, I can name many guys in this league who have thrown three interceptions in a game, four interceptions in a game, and came back the next week and played their tails off. That is going to happen. I don’t like it. Nobody does. But hopefully he will keep growing from it and keep getting better.”
TAMPA, Fla. -- If you think recovering from a torn ACL and starting an NFL game is hard, try training a horse. That's what Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith likes to do when he's not flying sideline to sideline on Sundays.
In fact, he'll tell you that the process of training a horse -- or better yet, trying to bathe one -- is the hardest of all three.
"Definitely bathing a horse [is the hardest]. They don’t get many baths," Beckwith said with a chuckle. "They just move around [and] won’t be still."
After a brief pause, he changes his mind. "Well, no. [An] ACL may still be harder than that."
Regardless, all three played a role in shaping the 22-year-old rookie out of LSU, who not only started at the strongside linebacker position in Week 2 but stepped in for Kwon Alexander at middle linebacker just 10 months removed from ACL surgery.
'Almost like another job'
Beckwith wanted to be a cowboy since he was a little boy growing up in Clinton, Louisiana. In fact, he used to make his younger brother Justin, now a freshman wide receiver at LSU, climb up on his back and they'd play horse around the family's home.
"He used to make me ride his back or he would not go outside and play with me," Justin said laughing. "I had an option -- ride [on] his back or he would not play with me."
While Justin couldn’t stand horses and instead wanted to ride ATVs, Kendell fell in love with them, just like his father, Wendell. He’d been around them since he could walk.
"They were all he knew," Justin said. "He even had toy horses."
Beckwith learned that caring for horses was no easy task. He fed them at 8:30 every morning followed by grooming and training as well as cleaning their stalls and riding them.
"It’s definitely hard. It’s almost like another job," Beckwith said. "It’s tough. It’s a lot of work. But if you just have a love for those things, it makes it all worth it, I guess."
It also taught him patience. Some horses are more stubborn than others. It's a process gaining their trust and getting them comfortable with human interaction.
"The starting phase, that's probably the hardest part," Beckwith said. "When they’re first born, you just kind of put your hands on them. And from then, each day you just try to put your hands on them and then just keep working your way through that."
But what works for one may not work for another. He once had a horsed named "Big Pulley," who was very stubborn. He never wanted a rider. Every time they saddled him, he'd lay down. The family ended up having to sell him.
They now have four horses -- Cocoa, Vicci, Gucc and Bucc, the baby who was born after Beckwith was drafted by the Buccaneers. They all live in a brand new stable adjacent to their home. His family takes care of them while he's in Florida.
"They have their own minds," Beckwith said. "All of them have different personalities. So you have to try to figure them out. That’s what makes them so special. They’re just all different. They may look the same but they have their own minds and you just have to know how to deal with each one of them.
"You definitely have to be patient. You have to be real patient. And you really can learn a lot from those things. Growing up, they taught me a lot of responsibility. They’re fully dependent on you. You have to go out and give them water, you have to go out and feed them, you have to make sure they eat. It teaches you responsibility as a kid."
It's that discipline that helped him to start for two and a half years on LSU's vaunted defense. It's that patience that also helped him recover from a torn ACL, suffered during a bowl game practice in November 2016.
"It definitely [helped]. This was my first [major injury]," said Beckwith, who underwent surgery in December and immediately began rehab at LSU and EXOS in Pensacola, Florida.
He spent rookie minicamp and mandatory minicamp on the sideline before finally being cleared to practice.
Miraculously, he was back fully practicing less than nine months later, starting his first NFL game just two days shy of 10 months from when the injury happened. He finished the game with five tackles, two tackles for a loss and a pass breakup.
"I can’t say it enough times, it’s an amazing story," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "The fact that the guy is even out there playing coming off that ACL [injury]. We’re so fortunate that we were able to get him where we got him and the fact that he can play multiple positions. Kwon had to come out, and Kendell stepped up and did a really nice job."
It took a lot of grit to get there, but for a guy who has zero qualms about shoveling manure, it was another step in the process of realizing a dream.
"That’s nothing but scoopin’ and dumpin,’" Beckwith said with a chuckle. "It doesn’t [smell good], but I’ve been smelling it for so long, it doesn't really bother me."
Turns out, a little adversity didn't either, although Justin admitted that his big brother did spend a few days moping around the house when the injury happened.
"I just tried not to get down on myself, just tried to get confident, knowing I’d be OK, knowing that once I got that opportunity again, I was going to be ready," Beckwith said. "I’m just thankful right now."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Three New York Giants including starting middle linebacker B.J. Goodson and right tackle Bobby Hart have been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Reserve linebacker J.T. Thomas also will not play.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins (ankle) and tight end Evan Engram (concussion) are listed as questionable. Jenkins would have been listed as a limited participant if the Giants had practiced on Friday. He did not practice the rest of the week.
"It was part of the plan going into the week," coach Ben McAdoo said. "We'll take a look and see how he does [Saturday]. We'll have a quick practice [Saturday] and if he's able to do anything and have some productivity we'll take a look at him on game day."
The expectation is the Giants will stay with the same offensive line combination that finished Monday night's loss against the Detroit Lions. They had Justin Pugh, the normal left guard, at right tackle and Brett Jones at left guard.
Calvin Munson should also make his second straight start at middle linebacker in place of Goodson, who had hoped this week he would be able to return. But he did not progress as much as expected.
Robinson's return for the first time this week could also come in handy. He played the second-most snaps of any Giants linebacker last season as a passing-down option.
There was also hope that Jenkins would be back Sunday against the Eagles after missing Monday night. He tried to warm up before the game, but was held back in the hope he would be ready for this week.
Jenkins is officially 50-50 to play against the Eagles, but the odds seem much lower based on his workload throughout the week. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would likely play on the outside more if Jenkins missed his second straight game and Ross Cockrell would see an increased workload again.
Rodgers-Cromartie and Cockrell did well last week in coverage. They did, however, miss more than a few tackles as Jenkins' physicality was missed.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott said Friday that he does not recall whether he suffered any concussions as a player at William & Mary and does not regret playing college football.
“I’m not sure. I can’t remember,” McDermott said, laughing, when asked about his concussion history.
McDermott’s comments came after Boston University researchers studying the brain of Aaron Hernandez revealed Thursday that the former New England Patriots tight end had stage 3 (out of 4) of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Hernandez's lawyers have filed a lawsuit against the NFL and Patriots, accusing them of hiding the true dangers of the sport.
McDermott, in his first season as Bills coach, played as a safety at William & Mary. He graduated in 1998 before beginning his coaching career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I think about [my health],” McDermott said. “But I also know that I wouldn’t trade those [college] years for anything. I have extremely great things to say about my career as a player. Like I said, I wasn’t very good but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
McDermott stressed Friday that he and his coaching staff are trying to teach players the proper technique in order to prevent brain injuries.
“I think really that it’s important that safety remains our No. 1 priority,” he said. “We always stress the safety and playing with proper technique. That is really a big point of our coaching, a big emphasis every day of our coaching. In fact, with our first team meeting. ‘Hey, your head is always up.’ I always talk about your chin being up, because it brings everything else up. Everything we do is focused on the safety and protecting the game that way.”
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