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Thursday, March 30, 2017

A sporting cause: Burkhead returns to hometown to host three-sport fundraiser




Nearly a decade removed from a banner high school at Plano Senior, alum Rex Burkhead, right, has balanced his time in the NFL with helping combat pediatric brain cancer as part of the Team Jack Foundation. On Saturday, Burkhead returns to his hometown to host the Team Jack Trifecta, a three-sport fundraiser.

By Matt Welch
March 30, 2017

The past six months have been a bit of a whirlwind for Plano Senior alum Rex Burkhead.

In addition to juggling the rigors and responsibilities of his fourth year in the NFL, it was around early fall when Burkhead began putting the wheels in motion for an endeavor he had been eying for some time: a fundraiser in his hometown of Plano.

On Saturday, that vision will become a reality as Burkhead returns to his alma mater to host the inaugural Team Jack Trifecta, a three-sport fundraiser benefiting pediatric brain cancer research.

“I’m excited. I’m a little nervous, just hoping everything goes smoothly and according to plan, but I’m excited that it’s almost here,” Burkhead said. “I can’t wait to see the turnout and hopefully it’s something a lot of people will enjoy and take part in.”

Over the years, Burkhead has emerged as a cornerstone in raising awareness for pediatric brain cancer after befriending 11-year-old Jack Hoffman, who was diagnosed with the disease at age 5 in 2011. Since, Burkhead helped launch the Team Jack Foundation, which is dedicated to raising money for research on children’s cancers – an endeavor that has garnered almost $4 million toward the cause.

“Jack’s dad and I have talked about how we never could have thought that this would grow into what it’s become today,” Burkhead said. “It’s been unbelievable to be part of and to see how many people have jumped on board.”

Although the organization’s fundraisers have largely been confined to Nebraska – where Hoffman lives and Burkhead played college football – the former Wildcat is anxious to expand the organization’s scope to his home state. That endeavor begins Saturday with the Team Jack Trifecta, which will feature a 5K fun run, a youth football camp and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

“I’ve wanted to do something in Plano for a while and didn’t know what it would be,” Burkhead said. “At first, I was thinking of doing a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, but wanted something that would appeal to all ages, so I then decided on a 5K. Then football came in there as well, so we decided we might as well call it a trifecta.”

The festivities begin at 8 a.m. Saturday with a fun run around the Plano Senior High School campus. Online registration ($35 for adults, $15 for children 10 and under) for that event is open through 11:59 p.m. tonight, and individuals can still register on-site on Saturday.

“The 5K hits all people and all age groups,” Burkhead said. “You don’t have to be a professional runner either. You can even bring your kid out and push them in a stroller.”

From 10 a.m.-noon, Burkhead will take to the gridiron to help coach his first youth football camp. There, he will be joined by several NFL veterans, including Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah, Allen alum and Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi and eight-year NFL vet Craig Dahl, as well as former high school teammates and Plano alums Carson Meger and Kris Lott.

The event is open to kids ages six through 14 and costs $50.

Naturally, Burkhead plans to be active coaching kids at the camp’s running back station.

“I’ve been a part of some (camps) with other people, but this is the first one I’ve actually held,” Burkhead said. “I’m excited and we’ve got a great group of guys coming out for it.”

The trifecta rounds out at 1 p.m. with a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, open to players who are out of high school or college. The registration fee is $100 per four-person team and the tournament holds a maximum of 24 teams.

All proceeds from the event will support pediatric brain cancer research.

“We’ve got a lot of people who want to be involved and will be out there participating,” Burkhead said. “It’s neat seeing a bunch of my high school friends and their families getting involved in whatever way they can. We’re expecting a pretty good turnout, so I’m excited.

“We’re getting more and more numbers everyday, especially this week as we get closer, so I can’t wait to see what it’s going to look like on Saturday.”

To register for any of the three events at the Team Jack Trifecta, go to teamjackfoundation.org/plano.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Burkhead's former running backs coach: "He's going to flourish" with Patriots





By Phil Perry

March 28, 2017

PHOENIX -- Rex Burkhead was buried on a deep running back depth chart in Cincinnati, but in New England he may finally have a chance to show his offensive value. That's how Burkhead's former running backs coach and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson feels, at least.

Before he was hired as Browns head coach last season, Jackson worked closely with Burkhead for three years and saw the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder's versatile skill set on a daily basis. With the Patriots, under Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, Jackson believes Burkhead has a chance to see that skill set maximized.

"He's very talented," Jackson said during the league meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. "He's a guy that was playing behind some very talented players [with the Bengals], and so he's going to get his opportunity now, and he's going to flourish. He's a really good player. A really good player.

"He's very versatile because he's a good runner, a good pass-catcher. He's a good blocker. He's very bright. He's been a sensational special teams player there so he brings a lot of different elements to that football team."


The Patriots signed Burkhead to a one-year deal earlier this offseason that could pay him more than $3 million -- a sign that they're hoping he'll factor heavily into the offense in 2017. With LeGarrette Blount still on the free-agent market, Burkhead is currently the biggest back on the Patriots roster alongside Dion Lewis, James White and DJ Foster, and he could be in line for a significant amount of work in short-yardage situations and on first and second down.

Burkhead served primarily as a special-teamer during his four-year career in Cincinnati, but in Week 17 of last season, because of injuries to his teammates at the position, he was the Bengals lead back and ran 27 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. We took a closer look at the qualities he put on display that day right here.

It was a performance that gave Burkhead's profile a where-did-that-come-from type of boost as he headed toward unrestricted free agency, but his head coach at the time wasn't surprised.

"Not at all. That's why we drafted him," said Bengals sideline boss Marvin Lewis, who went on to explain why Burkhead was an inconsistent offensive contributor leading up to that game.

"A lot of times when Rex got opportunities to play, he wasn't quite 100 percent and so that kind of limited him some. Even in preseason opportunities and so forth like that where you'd go into the game, and it'd be Rex's -- in my mind, Rex's ballgame -- to carry the ball in the first or second quarter and he wasn't able to suit up that day.

"That's one of the things he's battled over his career is just being 100 percent completely healthy. [But] he's just a hard-working guy who always wants to be out there."

And in New England, it looks like he'll have the chance to be out there more.

Browns sign defensive lineman Jamie Meder




The Browns have signed defensive lineman Jamie Meder. (Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com)

By Dan Labbe
March 28, 2017

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The "Pierogi Prince of Parma" is sticking around in Berea for a little while longer. The Browns signed defensive lineman Jamie Meder, who earned his nickname from left tackle Joe Thomas, the team announced on Tuesday.

Meder was an exclusive rights free agent, meaning he was only able to negotiate with the Browns.

Meder, who attended Valley Forge High School in Parma Heights, has appeared in 33 games, including 15 starts since joining the Browns in 2014. Meder was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Baltimore Ravens.

Thomas gave Meder the nickname after he blocked a potential game-tying field goal attempt during the Browns' Christmas Eve victory over the Chargers, the team's only win of the season. Meder was named AFC Special Teams Player of Week for his efforts.

Patriots lineman Trey Flowers visits Huntsville alma mater, has HS jersey retired





By Josh Bean

March 28, 2017

New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers returned to his alma mater today and received a big reward.

The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder defensive lineman, who played at Arkansas before spending the last two seasons with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, had his jersey retirement in an on-campus ceremony at Columbia High in Huntsville.

“It’s definitely something special to be able to go back to your school and have your jersey retired,” he said in a video provided by Huntsville City Schools.

Columbia’s football program has struggled since its inception in 2008, never having a winning season, never making the playoffs and going through six different coaches.

Flowers earned All-State honors in 2009 and 2010 from the Alabama Sports Writers Association, helping the Eagles go 5-5 in 2010.

At Arkansas, Flowers recorded 18 sacks and more than 150 tackles in four seasons as a defensive lineman before the Patriots selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Last year, he recorded 45 tackles, two fumble recoveries and seven sacks for New England. He added another 16 tackles in three playoff games, with 2½ sacks in the 34-28 overtime victory over Atlanta in the Super Bowl.



Thursday, March 23, 2017

Want to be great? Will Compton does, so he's asking London Fletcher for help





By JP Finlay

March 22, 2017

In seven seasons with the Redskins, London Fletcher made the Pro Bowl four times. Fans loved him, and for good reason. Fletcher never missed a game for Washington, and never had less than 111 tackles in a season in Burgundy and Gold. In fact, Fletcher never missed a game his entire career, an incredible 16-year career.

Fletcher retired from football after the 2013 season, and the 'Skins have not had middle linebacker play to his level since. Will Compton is a self-made player, a guy who worked his way up from the practice squad to the captain of the Washington defense, similar to Fletcher.

Since he took over as the starting middle linebacker midway through the 2015 season, Compton has made an impact, registering 106 tackles in 15 games last season.


Now, Compton is working with Fletcher to get better.

If the offseason work can help, it will boost the Redskins 2017 defense. Compton will likely be back with the team, as he waits to finalize his restricted free-agent deal, and any advice and suggestions from Fletcher could lead to more tackles, sacks and turnovers this fall.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Roots of Husker coordinator Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense trace back to longtime coach Al Groh



Bob Diaco was brought in as defensive coordinator, in part, for his knowledge of the 3-4 scheme that NU coach Mike Riley wanted to install.

By Sam McKewon / World-Herald staff writer

March 19, 2017

LINCOLN — When Al Groh gets a request from an inquiring mind, he’s happy to share what he knows. And when it comes to the 3-4 defense, Groh knows a lot.

The former NFL and college coach refined the scheme with and learned from some of football’s best defensive minds — Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. He worked alongside a dominant college coach, Nick Saban, who also runs the same version of the defense. In nine seasons as Virginia’s coach, Groh’s team ranked in the top 40 nationally in scoring defense six times, including three in the top 25.

Of most interest to Nebraska fans, Groh is the guy who downloaded much of what he knows about the 3-4 scheme into defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.

Diaco worked at Virginia for Groh from 2006 through 2008.

At his introductory press conference at NU, Diaco referenced Groh, who worked for four NFL teams from 1989 to 2000 — the Giants, Browns, Patriots and Jets — and coached some of the league’s best defensive players, including Lawrence Taylor and Willie McGinest.

Learning under Groh “was a spectacular education,” Diaco said. “What a great teacher.”


When Diaco hired a defensive coordinator at Connecticut, he picked a Groh assistant he’d met at Virginia — Anthony Poindexter, who’s now at Purdue.

While Diaco has put his own flavor on his defense, many of the principles are similar, and so is the language.

Diaco talks about his scheme being rooted in “block destruction” at the line of scrimmage. Groh calls the scheme a “beat the blocks” defense and likens it to the center of a boxing ring.

Virginia’s coach from 2001 to 2009 talks about the inside linebackers in his 3-4 needing to be “physical, downhill” players. Nebraska linebackers coach Trent Bray preaches the same thing daily in practice — “forward, forward, forward.”

“They’ve got to be downhill players,” Bray said. “They’ve got to be solid and tough against the run. That’s No. 1.”

And while any defense can be effective, Groh believes in the 3-4 because of its versatility, flexibility and, at least in college, how it can throw off offensive linemen who aren’t used to it. Nebraska’s offensive linemen can attest after struggling against the 3-4 scheme run by Wisconsin and even Purdue for several years.

Coach Mike Riley — who once ran the 3-4 in the Canadian Football League — is a believer, too. After more than a decade in the 4-3, he wanted to switch to the 3-4 because of its versatility.

“You have a great variety of blitzes you can use out of the 3-4,” Riley said at Diaco’s introductory press conference. He added that, because an offense doesn’t always know where a fourth pass-rusher is coming from, it’s not so easy for the running back to go out for a pass.

In the middle of this scheme change is Diaco, a trim man who is a whirling dervish at practice. Dressed in all gray, Diaco bolts from place to place, teaching loudly and in detail. At times, even before the play is over, Diaco so quickly knows what happened that he’s bounding toward a player either to praise or critique him.

It’s exactly the guy Groh remembers.

“Bob was very good,” Groh said. “Very highly organized. Very purposeful. Great attention to detail.”

So was Virginia’s defense when Diaco was there. The Cavaliers never gave up more than an average of 21.7 points or 333.3 yards in any season. In 2006, UVA gave up 17.8 points and 289.5 yards per game.


Groh’s 3-4 scheme is more of a two-gap system, he said, similar to the one used by Parcells, Belichick and Saban, who worked under Belichick when the latter was coach of the Browns. The two-gap moniker essentially means that defensive linemen, like a nose tackle, are responsible for minding two run gaps, or the gap on either side of their blocker, instead of shooting into one gap. The one-gap 3-4, which Groh said is used by many NFL defensive coordinators, including Wade Phillips — is much more aggressive.

In a 3-4, since the three down linemen are sometimes — not always — across from an offensive lineman, the two-gap approach is common. That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“It’s a real physical style of play,” said Groh, who serves as a radio analyst for Westwood One Sports. “There’s no running away, there’s no rope-a-dope when you’re playing a two-gap.”

Linemen, Groh said, have to be “explosive, powerful and laterally quick.” The nose tackle is especially important, as he could face some tough double-teams.

Linebackers in the scheme fill different roles. The inside linebackers — for Nebraska, Chris Weber and Dedrick Young are the frontrunners for the role — are there to plug up running lanes. In a one-gap 3-4, linebackers have a gap and attack it. In a two-gap, they read the linemen in front of them and fill accordingly. The goal is to build a wall so ballcarriers struggle to find daylight.

“And good solid walls don’t have any holes in them,” Groh said.

Bray, and occasionally Diaco, exhorts the inside linebackers to be aggressive in moving forward. In the 4-3 defense coordinated by Mark Banker, Bray said the linebackers were more “scrape players.”

“We had four guys taking up blocks so you could play with a little bit lighter kid who could get over the top and shoot a gap,” Bray said. “Now we’re in a couple different fronts and we need plug players.”

The outside linebackers “probably have the most diverse assignments” of any player on the defense, Groh said. They also have to be the most dynamic athletes. They’re able to drop into pass coverage if necessary. They’re able to rush the passer standing up or with a hand on the ground. They’re also able to set the edge on a running play.

“They’re your 3, 4, 5 hitters — your home run hitters,” Groh said.

Among the Huskers at the position, senior Marcus Newby — a stand-up defensive end in 2014 before becoming an outside linebacker in 2015 and 2016 — has the most experience.

“Marcus can do a lot of different things for the team,” Diaco said. “He becomes a tool that can do a lot of things, and his skill set allows him to play athletically out on the perimeter a bit. And he doesn’t really have any limitations from jobs for us.”

Other outside linebackers are Alex Davis and Sedrick King, who were once defensive ends, and Luke Gifford, a Lincoln Southeast graduate who was a safety coming out of high school, bulked up to become a 4-3 outside linebacker and now plays 3-4 outside linebacker.

Though every defense needs speedy players, the 3-4 also has sizable guys in the front seven, Groh said. It’s not uncommon for inside linebackers to be north of 240 pounds, as long as they can move. Most of Nebraska’s defensive linemen gained weight in winter conditioning. One only need look at Nebraska’s prized defensive tackle recruit — 6-foot-2, 310-pound Damion Daniels, who’s still 17 — to know where the Huskers are headed in terms of building bigger bodies.

“This is a game for big people, and size is a tool a guy brings to the fray,” Groh said. He added that he thinks Nebraska probably has the players to do the job.

Nebraska’s secondary schemes are likely to change, too.

NU offensive coaches have reported seeing a variety of coverage — well disguised, too — from Diaco’s defense already. Banker preferred to start with his quarters system and build from there, while Diaco seems to have a deeper playbook.

Like Groh’s system, Diaco’s 3-4 defense has consistently worked. In four years at Notre Dame, Diaco never had a scoring defense rated worse than 27th nationally. At Connecticut, the talent pool was much different, but Diaco’s 2015 group ranked 15th nationally in scoring defense.

Since joining the Big Ten, Nebraska has never ranked higher than 33rd nationally in scoring defense.

That was the 2016 defense. Banker got fired for it.

"Sixty-two points against Ohio State, 40 points against Iowa, and 38 in the bowl game,” Banker said after his mid-January firing. “Big plays. All those things. That’s what people don’t like.”

Regardless of the defense Diaco runs, that’s what he was hired to change.

Sunday Flashback: Underrated but amazing Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel





March 20, 2017

By Hector Longo

To be honest, former New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel is just too nice a guy to be considered one of the all-time great defensive killers.

Think of Nitschke and Butkus, Lawrence Taylor and Junior Seau. Man, those guys always had a sneer. Vrabel, especially during his Patriots days from 2001 to 2007, rarely could be seen on the football field or around it without a smile. Even today, the last time he came to Foxboro as a Houston Texans assistant coach back in January following their playoff loss to the Patriots, Vrabel’s smile beamed from the locker room. Trust me, this guy hates losing, but he’s got such a positive disposition.

That outlook and an amazing mind for the game helped turn Vrabel from a solid but unspectacular Pittsburgh Steeler into a big-time game-breaker with the Patriots after Bill Belichick brought him to Foxboro following the 2000 season.

Vrabel comes to mind today because he popped up in an interesting linebacker graphic that was part of Ben Volin’s Sunday notes column in the Boston Globe that compared numbers from the likes of Seau, Vrabel, Joey Porter, Clay Matthews, Greg Lloyd, Seth Joyner and Mo Lewis.

Vrabel’s time in Foxboro was an era of linebacker greatness, both on the field and off it. They were characters — and they were playmakers. They were the ultimate winners. And it wasn’t just the biggest names like Vrabel, Willie McGinest and Tedy Bruschi. Think about Ted Johnson, Bryan Cox and Roman Phifer, too. Super people. Superstars.

In seven seasons with the Patriots, Vrabel went to four Super Bowls, winning three. He had 44 sacks and 10 interceptions for New England. He had eight playoff sacks and also caught a pair of Super Bowl touchdown passes.

Now the Texans’ defensive coordinator at age 41, Vrabel is considered an extremely hot commodity as potentially one of the next great NFL head coaches.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Rex Burkhead: Rare winner in a challenging running back market





By Nate Davis

March 16, 2017

It's now been one week since the NFL free agent market opened, so what better time to reflect upon who's done the most effective shopping?

WINNERS

New England Patriots: When was the last time a defending champion added so many substantial upgrades? The trade for WR Brandin Cooks should provide an element of explosiveness and deep speed on offense that QB Tom Brady hasn't enjoyed since Randy Moss left. The acquisition of TE Dwayne Allen offsets the loss of Martellus Bennett — and at a reasonable price over the next three years. The Pats paid handsomely for Stephon Gilmore (5 years, $65 million), but they gained a top-echelon cornerback, weakened a division rival (Buffalo Bills) and now have flexibility regarding Malcolm Butler's future. Newly signed RB Rex Burkhead could be the latest player to enjoy a breakout campaign once featured in New England's system ... unless he's outshined by former Carolina Panthers DE Kony Ealy. And the cherry on top came Wednesday when defensive leader Dont'a Hightower decided to re-sign for four years after shopping himself around the league. Hard to reach any other conclusion than Bill Belichick and Co. following up their Super Bowl LI victory with a crown as the league's offseason champs.

Eric Berry: Less than two years after slaying cancer, the Kansas City Chiefs all-pro became the highest-paid safety in NFL history by signing a six-year, $78 million megadeal. Nice to see two happy endings.

Offensive tackles: Russell Okung (Los Angeles Chargers), Riley Reiff (Minnesota Vikings), Andrew Whitworth (Los Angeles Rams), Matt Kalil (Panthers), Ricky Wagner (Detroit Lions) and Kelvin Beachum (New York Jets) have combined for all of five Pro Bowl nods — three belonging to Whitworth — yet all are now among the league's top 20 in terms of compensation at their position. Timing is everything, and it was a good year to be a free agent tackle given the dearth of talent available in the draft pipeline.

Fullbacks: Who would have guessed that guys who play what was once thought to be an endangered position were in higher demand than Adrian Peterson? The San Francisco 49ers sent Kyle Juszczyk to the top of the positional scale with a four-year, $21 million offer. Elsewhere, Patrick DiMarco (Bills) and James Develin (Patriots) also landed multi-year, multi-million dollar deals.

Tom Coughlin: The New York Giants weren't big spenders during his 12-year tenure (though GM Jerry Reese opened the vault after Coughlin left a year ago). But Coughlin, the Jacksonville Jaguars' new executive VP of football ops, didn't waste any time — or the dough now at his disposal — continuing the facelift for a franchise he helped found two decades ago. CB A.J. Bouye, DL Calais Campbell and S Barry Church all appear like first-rate recruits who could vault a good defense to the next level and quickly help Coughlin restore this team to contention in a wide-open AFC South.

Aaron Rodgers: Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson did something he rarely does — open the checkbook for outside free agents — and upgraded the team's tight end position by adding veterans Bennett and Lance Kendricks, much to Rodgers' delight if his Twitter account is an accurate gauge. Thompson also gets kudos for retaining emerging OLB Nick Perry. Pro Bowl G T.J. Lang must be replaced, but Thompson was clearly comfortable moving on from RB Eddie Lacy.

Mike Glennon: The Chicago Bears' new No. 1 quarterback reeled in a three-year, $45 million deal even though he hasn't started a game since 2014 and has thrown just 11 passes over the past two seasons.

Carson Wentz: The Philadelphia Eagles' signings of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith gives the second-year quarterback one of the league's more diverse and potentially dangerous wideout groups a year after it is one of the most limited and least effective.

Jimmy Garoppolo: Tom Brady's backup wasn't exiled to Cleveland (at least not yet).

Kirk Cousins: The Redskins quarterback (for now) is set to collect nearly $24 million in 2017.

LOSERS

Jimmy Garoppolo: He'll apparently have to wait one more year to break the bank and receive the opportunity to lead his own team.

Kirk Cousins: Despite his generous salary, he's attempting to defuse reports he wants out of D.C. He also saw his top two wideouts, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, bolt for other teams and must now hope Terrelle Pryor is up to the task of being a No. 1 receiver.

Drew Brees: Maybe the New Orleans Saints wind up better off if they finally manage to field a decent defense with their perennially productive offense. But the trade of Cooks represents the second time in three years (TE Jimmy Graham in 2014) that Brees was stripped of his top target during the offseason.

Washington Redskins: Aside from the drama surrounding Cousins, the franchise sustained its latest black eye with the controversial firing of GM Scot McCloughan. And if dealing with the rumors and conjecture wasn't bad enough, Washington's transition from McCloughan bridged the scouting combine and start of free agency, which doesn't exactly paint a picture of stability at such a critical point of the offseason.

Tailbacks: While Juszczyk is sitting pretty, Peterson, Jamaal Charles and LeGarrette Blount are still waiting to learn where they'll be playing in 2017. Hard to believe Danny Woodhead, coming off a major knee injury, would be the most coveted back this year. But supply seems to be far outstripping demand in a year where the draft looks loaded at the position.

Receivers: They've fared better than the backs, but the wideouts certainly haven't reset their pay scale. Jeffery, thought to be the best available, had to settle for an incentive-laden one-year deal ($9.5 million, not including incentives). Only DeSean Jackson, now of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, became a top-10 earner among receivers with his three-year, $33.5 million offer. Perhaps the most disappointed was Pryor, who also took a one-year contract ($6 million, not including incentives) after his market failed to develop as he'd hoped.

STAY TUNED

Cleveland Browns: They're now the proud owners of two of the league's most expensive guards (Kevin Zeitler, Joel Bitonio) — not exactly a proven formula to Super Bowl glory even if it's hard to knock investment in the offensive line. They took a hard stance with Pryor, one of the league's exciting young receivers, and wound up instead with Kenny Britt, whose pedestrian eight-year resume still commanded a four-year, $32.5 million pact. Cleveland also parted with $16 million of its precious cap space to essentially buy the Texans' 2018 second rounder in exchange for absorbing the rest of QB Brock Osweiler's contract. (It's difficult to quantify the value of a Round 2 pick, but for some context it's worth noting that the Browns' second rounder in 2016, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, will make less than $7 million over four years.) If GM Sashi Brown, coach Hue Jackson and Co. convert all these draft choices into foundational players — they sewed skepticism after their 2016 haul — or find a way to use them in constructing a deal for an established quarterback, Cleveland will rejoice. But that's a big "if" right now.

Tony Romo: For some reason, he remains a member of the Dallas Cowboys even as it becomes apparent that a deal for the longtime quarterback almost certainly isn't forthcoming.

Houston Texans: They unloaded last year's mistake, Osweiler and his contract, but at a premium. And with Romo still twisting in the wind (and Bouye leaving for division rival Jacksonville), it can't yet be determined if the AFC South champs are moving forward or in reverse.

Darrelle Revis: Wednesday, a Pittsburgh judge threw out the charges against Revis stemming from a fight last month. But even though the legal front has been resolved, it remains to be seen what a formerly elite corner can command after an abysmal 2016 season with the Jets and questions about whether he can still be an effective player.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Packers: Lance Kendricks happy to be back home in Wisconsin




Los Angeles Rams tight end Lance Kendricks (88) during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

By Jason Wilde

March 15, 2017

GREEN BAY — Two things quickly became clear as Lance Kendricks’ voice crackled over the speakerphone Tuesday afternoon: The Green Bay Packers’ newest tight end is a Wisconsin kid through-and-through, and he is having a hard time containing his excitement about being back home — and playing with Aaron Rodgers, his workout pal and arguably the NFL’s best quarterback.

For Kendricks, joining the Packers after six seasons with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams was “a long time coming for me,” he said Tuesday. So long, in fact, that the first time he hit free agency, he was hoping the Packers would be interested.

They weren’t at the time, but they were after the Rams cut him last week. And now, the prodigal son believes he is where he has long felt he belonged: From his days embracing his role model status as one of the Milwaukee King High School and the City Conference’s inspiring success stories, to having taken part in a Punt, Pass & Kick competition inside the Packers’ Hutson Center practice facility as a teenager; to cherishing his time at the University of Wisconsin, to boldly wearing his Milwaukee Brewers gear — and keeping his Brewers license plate — while living in the heart of St. Louis Cardinals country.

“I’ve always dreamed of playing for the Packers. I never knew if it was possible,” Kendricks said. “When I was a free agent (in March 2015), I spoke to my agent and I said, ‘Hey, if the Packers did have an opening, that’s definitely a team that I would be interested in looking at.’ The way everything works, it doesn’t always pan out how you want. I ended up just staying with St. Louis, (but) I just feel like this all happened for a reason and I’m glad it panned out this way.

“This is a great opportunity for me. It’s a great opportunity for the people that grew up watching me — everybody from my high school, everybody from college, and just family and friends. All my friends are huge Packers fans. So it kind of all works out, and I’m glad it all came full circle.”

After Kendricks learned of his release from Rams general manager Les Snead on Thursday — “I thought I played pretty well last year,” Kendricks said of his career-best 50 receptions for 499 yards and two touchdowns — the Packers wasted no time pursuing him. He woke up Friday morning to his wife, Danielle, telling him that the Packers were calling.

By Friday afternoon, he was on his way to Green Bay, and shortly after reaching a deal, he heard from Rodgers, with whom he’d been working out — along with Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews, left tackle David Bakhtiari and tight end Beau Sandland — in a group of 25 or so NFL players at a gym just north of Los Angeles.

“Obviously, he’s a great guy, great person. He was actually the first person that called me after he found out I signed,” Kendricks said of Rodgers. “He just told me that he’s looking forward to working with me and we’re going to have a fun season, exciting season, and just be ready.

“The great thing is that we’re out here and I see him so I can pick his brain about things and the schemes and all that and probably run a few routes, as well, while we’re out here.”

Kendricks did his best not to disparage the quarterbacks he’s had with the Rams, but his enthusiasm about playing with Rodgers — even if he’ll be sharing the tight end pass distribution with fellow new addition Martellus Bennett and holdover Richard Rodgers — was obvious.

“No offense to those guys, but Aaron is on another level. To be able to play with a guy like him is great,” Kendricks said. “This is something that I’ve been kind of hoping for, for a while now.”

Money suggests Rex Burkhead will play bigger role with Patriots




The Patriots' deal with running back Rex Burkhead is reportedly worth $3.15 million and includes a $1.1 million signing bonus, $1.8 million base salary and $250k in per-game roster bonuses.

By Mark Daniels
March 15, 2017

When the Patriots signed Rex Burkhead on Monday, it initially looked like a replacement for Brandon Bolden, who's a free agent. Since Burkhead was a core special teamer and backup running back in Cincinnati, that notion made sense.

A look at his contract, however, it looks like Burkhead could be a replacement for LeGarrette Blount.

According to ESPN, the Patriots signed Burkhead to a one-year deal worth $3.15 million. The contract includes a $1.1 million signing bonus, $1.8 million base salary and $250k in per-game roster bonuses.

To put the $3.15 million into perspective, Burkhead is the highest paid Patriots running back since Fred Taylor ($2,732,280) in 2010. Over the last six seasons, the Patriots haven't paid a running back $2-plus million.

That's until now.

Burkhead's $3.15 million cap hit in 2017 will also be more than Dion Lewis and James White make combined ($2,276,772). The $3.15 million cap hit is also three times the amount that the Patriots gave to Blount last season ($1,025,000) before he hit different incentives.


The deal is interesting on multiple levels. At this price, it suggests that Burkhead is coming to the Patriots with a chance to be their starting running back. Burkhead could split time with Lewis as the Patriots lead back with White serving as the third-down back.

With Blount still on the open market, it also suggests that the Patriots could possibly be done with the bruising running back, who led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last season. But with Burkhead signed for only one year, this doesn't give the Patriots much long-term depth at the running back position.

At this point, Burkhead, White and Lewis will all be unrestricted free agents in 2018. That leaves the Patriots with only D.J. Foster signed beyond this season. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Patriots dip into the 2017 NFL Draft for a running back since that would give them a player at the position under contract for the next four years.

As far as 2017 is concerned, the money suggests Burkhead could play a bigger role on the Patriots offense than we originally thought.

Rex Burkhead signing: What type of RB are New England Patriots getting?




Cincinnati Bengals running back Rex Burkhead warms up before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

By Kevin Duffy

March 14, 2017
The New England Patriots have dipped into the free agent running back market, bypassing high-profile names like Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Latavius Murray, Eddie Lacy, and, for now, LeGarrette Blount to sign ex-Cincinnati back Rex Burkhead.

In his four years with the Bengals, Burkhead excelled on several special teams' units. He also exhibited the skills of a productive NFL running back, albeit in a small sample size.

Here is what you should know about Burkhead:

**Injuries late in the year to Bengals running backs Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill opened the door for Burkhead. In Week 17 against Baltimore, which boasted the NFL's fifth-best run defense, Burkhead churned out 119 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He totaled 67 yards from scrimmage on 16 touches the previous week versus the Texans.

**So what type of back is Burkhead?

He is listed at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds. He hits the hole hard and runs with a combination of vision and decisiveness. While Burkhead does not bowl over defenders a la Eddie Lacy or LeGarrette Blount, he runs with a forward lean and appears to finish each carry.

The two traits that stood out from watching him in extended action: His vision and acceleration through the hole.

"He proved today, man, he can run the football. I'd take him as a No. 1 any day of the week," Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth said after Burkhead's breakout 119-yard performance versus the Ravens, via Bengals.com. "I don't think there's too many teams where he wouldn't fit. He runs the ball well. He's got great agility. He's got eyes, he's got it all. The whole team has wanted him to get his opportunity and see what he does. Especially the defensive players because they know what Rex used to do to them. He's a talented kid."


He did not exhibit Dion Lewis-like wiggle or change-of-direction, but his style was unquestionably effective when given carries.

Burkhead flashed some agility as a receiver in the open field. In Week 13 versus the Eagles, he lined up out wide on a 3rd-and-4 and sidestepped two Philly defenders --safety Malcolm Jenkins and linebacker Mychal Kendricks -- en route to a 17-yard gain (he did fumble at the end of the play, though).

Other than this play, Burkhead's pass-catching exploits out of the backfield were of the screen and checkdown variety. Traditional stuff.

**How will Burkhead fit with the current Patriots backfield?

Tough to say at this point.

He is not exactly like Dion Lewis, who has superior lateral quickness and the ability to make defenders miss in tight spaces. James White, meanwhile, is an accomplished receiver with the ability to dodge defenders in the open field.

Burkhead might be an adept receiver, too. He seems to have the athleticism to become an effective pass-catcher in the Patriots' system. He just needs to learn how to run routes from different spots on the field.

Asked last year about then-Patriots tailback Donald Brown lining up out wide, New England running backs coach Ivan Fears said, "Hey, we don't know. We haven't seen it. That doesn't mean he can't do it. I'll put it to you this way: I didn't think James White could do it out there like that, but I'm telling you what, once you get out there, those guys, they've got some sh-- about them."

The same could be said about Burkhead entering this 2017 season.

**Based on his small sample size as the Bengals' starter, Burkhead looks like he is equipped to handle an expanded role. As someone who waited four years for his chance in Cincinnati, it would make little sense for him to sign in New England if the Patriots only planned on using him for special teams (like Brandon Bolden). Burkhead should have some type of role in the backfield.

The exact nature of that role depends on the Patriots' other acquisitions.

Will the team bring back LeGarrette Blount? Will the Pats draft a bigger back in the middle rounds?

We'll have a better feel for the Pats backfield by the end of April.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Green Bay Packers Add Lance Kendricks to Tight End Brew




A day after signing Martellus Bennett, Packers GM Ted Thompson struck again at tight end by adding Milwaukee native Lance Kendricks.

By Bill Huber

March 11, 2017

Growing up in Milwaukee, Lance Kendricks bled green and gold.

“I definitely grew up a Packers fan, so it was fun to see them win the Super Bowl,” Kendricks said at the 2011 Scouting Combine.

Now, he’ll play for his childhood team.

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson struck again, adding the veteran tight end on Saturday. A day earlier, he pulled the stunning tight end switcheroo by yanking an offer from Jared Cook and signing Martellus Bennett.

“They’re excited,” Kendricks said of his family in an interview with Packers.com's Wes Hodkiewicz. “It means a lot since I grew up watching the Packers, and my family and friends, they’re all big Packers fans. It means a lot to be able to represent Green Bay and this community and this culture, and everything it stands for.”

According to agent Neil Cornrich, there was "significant" interest around the league in the former Wisconsin standout but Green Bay was Kendricks' first choice.

"It's a dream come true" for Kendricks, Cornrich said.


Kendricks and Cook were teammates with the Rams from 2013 through 2015. With Cook in Green Bay last year, Kendricks flourished in a full-time role with a career-high 50 catches. He turned those into 499 yards (10.0-yard average) and two touchdowns.

That was with rookie Jared Goff. Now, he’ll play with Aaron Rodgers — with whom he's worked out with and caught passes from at Proactive Sports in Westlake Village, Calif.

"He really loved that opportunity," Cornrich said.


Kendricks watched plenty of Rodgers on video while with the Rams.

“We’d watch a lot of film of the Packers to watch Aaron Rodgers and how he was able to get his guys open,” Kendricks said. “Not only them getting open, but him being able to separate the defender from the ball and make things happen with his feet, and extend the play, and draw the defense offside. There’s so much stuff that he does that’s really amazing and really intriguing.”

Kendricks caught about 70 percent of targeted passes in 2013 and 2014 but fell to 62.5 percent in 2015 and 57.5 percent in 2016. He also had a career-high six drops this past season, according to STATS. However, Kendricks will fit well in Green Bay's offense because he not only has experience as a traditional tight end, but split out like a receiver and in the backfield as a fullback.

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Kendricks, who turned 29 in January, signed a four-year, $18.5 million contract in 2015 but was released on Thursday. He was due $4.25 million in base salary and roster bonuses in 2017 and 2018.

When he was released, Russ Ball, the Packers' vice president of football administration and team cap guru, quickly reached out, Cornrich said.

“I think we both have our own assets,” said Kendricks of Bennett. “He’s a very good down the field catcher. He’s a big target and I can work the seams, as well. With both of us out there, I think we’ll be able to create mismatches and things we’ll be able to take advantage of. There are so many weapons on this offense and to be able to contribute to it is a great feeling.”

Unlike Bennett, Kendricks won’t impact the compensatory-picks ledger because he officially was a street free agent.

The Packers are loaded at tight end with Bennett, Kendricks and Richard Rodgers. They combined for 135 receptions (55 by Bennett, 50 by Kendricks, 30 by Rodgers) and 1,471 yards (701 for Bennett, 499 for Kendricks and 271 for Rodgers) in 2016. That, of course, is assuming Rodgers remains in the picture. After the 2016 season, he received the “proven performance escalator,” which goes to third- through seventh-round draft picks who meet playing time thresholds. That meant Rodgers’ base salary went from $690,000 to $1.787 million and his cap number went from about $826,500 to $1.924 million.

Beau Sandland, an undrafted rookie last year, is the only other tight end on the roster. Looking ahead, this is considered the best tight end draft class in years. As many as eight could go in the first three rounds, a scout said. A combined seven were selected in the first three rounds the past two years.

Back to Kendricks, he's caught 204 passes for 2,132 yards (10.5) and 17 touchdowns since being a second-round pick in 2011.

At the 2011 Scouting Combine, Kendricks ran his 40 in 4.75 seconds with a 34.5-inch vertical leap.

DL Karl Klug Anxious to Remain Disruptive for Titans




Happy to return, defensive lineman Karl Klug is anxious to remain disruptive for Titans.

By Jim Wyatt

March 10, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Defensive lineman Karl Klug and his wife, Stacy, had their hands full on Friday.

As Klug signed his new deal with the Titans, his young son, Rylan, scrambled for fallen M&Ms. He maneuvered around the conference room at Saint Thomas Sports Park, sometimes walking, sometimes crawling. He occasionally barked (Rylan, not Karl).

Cora, the couple’s young daughter, played with magnets.

It was all hands on deck for the Klugs, and baby No.3 is not too far away.

The Titans like Klug because he’s a handful for offensive linemen, and once again he’s been rewarded for it.

“I am real happy,’’ Klug said after inking the deal. “The people around this building are great, and to be able to spend hopefully another two years here, it is great. So that is what we are looking forward to, not having to move.

“And for them to want me back, it is definitely humbling. I feel very grateful for sure.”

On the first day of free agency, the Titans agreed to terms with Klug, a dependable veteran who has been a consistent performer with the team. Klug initially joined the Titans as a fifth round draft pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

He’s known for his no-nonsense approach, and rugged style of play. It’s made him popular with teammates, coaches and fans.


“I want to continue to bring consistency,’’ Klug said Friday. “I want to set the right example I guess for the young guys that come in, free agents. I want to set the standard of what is expected around here, set by (GM) Jon Robinson and Coach (Mike) Mularkey. I just try and emulate what they are preaching.”

Klug said he’s been impressed with the direction of the franchise.

The Titans finished 9-7 last season after winning just five games over the previous two seasons.

“I love it,’’ Klug said. “The guys on our team, I think we have a great bunch. I think we have the right pieces, and I know that everybody in the locker room is feeling good about where the team is going.”

Klug said he also likes the way he’s recovering from last year’s Achilles injury.

Klug played in 14 games last season, and finished with 25 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on December 18 at Kansas City, and had surgery.

Klug got out of the walking boot on Thursday, and he’s making great progress, he said.

“I am moving around even better than I was yesterday,’’ Klug said. “So I am making progress, and it sounds like camp is going to be a go. So now I just have to put the work in to get ready.

“It’s unfortunate I got hurt, but playing is what we are paid to do. You are getting paid to play through injuries, and if you are not doing that you are not holding up your end of the bargain. I like to play.”

Packers go all-in at tight end with Kendricks





By Ryan Wood

March 11, 2017

GREEN BAY – Jared Cook no longer is in the Green Bay Packers' future, but the big, athletic tight end left behind a valuable lesson in his lone season with the team.

Not until Cook returned from an ankle injury last season did the Packers' offense resuscitate. Aaron Rodgers was a different quarterback before and after Cook’s return. The Packers were a different team.

A dynamic tight end can be the centerpiece in coach Mike McCarthy’s offense. It was that way with Jermichael Finley. Same way with Cook. So general manager Ted Thompson broke from his normal routine this time of year, signing Pro Bowl tight end Martellus Bennett on Friday.

He doubled down 24 hours later.

The Packers announced Saturday they signed Lance Kendricks, an athletic, 29-year-old receiving threat who will join Bennett to give the Packers their most dynamic tight end duo in McCarthy’s 12 seasons. Kendricks was released Thursday after six seasons with the Los Angeles Rams.



Because he was released, Kendricks was a “street” free agent and won’t count against the Packers' compensatory draft-pick formula. That’s a different distinction than Bennett, the first unrestricted free agent the Packers have signed since 2012.

Kendricks, a Milwaukee native and consensus All-American at Wisconsin, was released after a career year in 2016. He caught 50 passes for 499 yards and two touchdowns, impressive numbers considering his quarterbacks were veteran Case Keenum and rookie first-overall pick Jared Goff.

In Green Bay, Kendricks will play with two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers. And he’ll have company. It’s a dramatic overhaul of the offense.

In 24 hours, the Packers added 105 catches for 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns in 2016 production to the tight end position.

The two signings came after Rodgers said the Packers should go “all in” after their NFC championship game loss at Atlanta. Adding Bennett and Kendricks three days into free agency is a sign Thompson will follow suit. Importantly, the quarterback is sure to be pleased.

The Packers started free agency re-signing top sacker Nick Perry to a five-year, $60 million contract that will count only $5.85 million against the 2017 salary cap. Bennett’s three-year, $21 million contract will count only $3.85 million against the 2017 cap. Their deals left roughly $28 million in cap space, according to NFLPA numbers.

Terms of Kendricks’ contract were not immediately known.

“I know they love their tight ends and I know they love getting the ball to their tight ends,” Kendricks told the Packers' team-controlled website. “I think they’re excited to be able to utilize me because I played in so many different formations. I kind of line up all over the place. I think they’ll find something I’m really good at or a few things I’m really good at and they’ll be able to utilize that and implement that into the system.”

Right guard T.J. Lang and running back Eddie Lacy remain unsigned. Dire needs at cornerback and edge rusher also remain on the defensive side of the ball. But tight end, with its prominence in McCarthy’s offense and lack of talent and depth, was among the most pressing needs on the roster.

The Packers played most of last season with just two tight ends on their 53-man roster. When Cook missed six games because of an early ankle injury, the Packers were 2-4. Cook returned four days before Thanksgiving, helping the Packers run the table to a 6-1 finish and NFC North title.

With Cook out, Rodgers completed 63 percent of his 369 passes for 2,410 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 93.9 passer rating. In the seven games after Cook’s return, Rodgers completed almost 70 percent of his 241 passes for 2,018 yards, 18 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 120 passer rating.

“One thing no one ever keeps a stat about,” McCarthy said in late December, “is … how much attention does a player require. That’s important. So whether it’s your quarterback or a running back or a tight end that can win one-on-one, those are all the things you have to factor into his presence here. Because he runs down the middle of the field, winning a one-on-one.”

Now, the Packers have two tight ends who can stretch the middle of the field and win one-on-one battles. The Packers are expecting Bennett and Kendricks to more than duplicate Cook’s production. Bennett averaged 12.7 yards per catch last season in New England, where he received passes from Tom Brady. Kendricks, despite the Rams quarterback play, averaged 10 yards per catch.

Kendricks has played in an offense with multiple tight ends before. He was Cook’s teammate for three seasons with the Rams before Cook signed with the Packers last fall.

The Packers had entered free agency hoping to re-sign Cook and were close to a deal, but talks broke down by Friday morning. Thompson quickly recovered. First Bennett, now Kendricks.

Together, they form a dynamic tight end duo.

“I think we both have our own assets,” Kendricks said. “He’s a very good down the field catcher. He’s a big target, and I can work the seams as well. With both of us out there, I think we’ll be able to create mismatches and things we’ll be able to take advantage of. There are so many weapons on this offense and to be able to contribute to it is a great feeling.”

Monday, March 06, 2017

Sports Agent Rubs (Padded) Shoulders with Pro Football Players, Coaches


Randy Shannon putting his stamp on Gators defense




Randy Shannon at the University of Florida Orange and Blue Debut. / Gators Country photo by David Bowie

By NICK DE LA TORRE

MARCH 2, 2017

When Geoff Collins took the head-coaching job at Temple it was merely a matter of time, a formality really, that Randy Shannon would be tabbed as his successor to run the Florida Gators defense. Shannon was given the interim role for the Outback Bowl and the Gators’ defense didn’t miss a beat.

Florida held Iowa to just 55 passing yards — the lowest total yards the Hawkeyes threw for all season. They also surrendered just three points, the lowest points allowed by a Gator team in a bowl game since 1998 (Citrus Bowl).

The defense was a formidable unit all season. They allowed just 1,931 passing yards (148.5 per game) — the least amount of passing yards allowed since 2001. Much of that credit went to player who are currently getting ready for the NFL Scouting Combine and NFL Draft as well as Collins’ and his defensive scheme and play calling. Shannon served as co-defensive coordinator, but his first opportunity to call plays was the Outback Bowl. Shannon didn’t take long to put his own stamp on the defense either.

We’re going to do good because Coach Shannon is one of the best coaches in the nation. In the nation, country and world,” linebacker Vosean Joseph said. “We just gonna keep it going.”

Shannon’s credentials are undeniable. He’s been a defensive coordinator at two stops in the college ranks and coached linebackers for the Miami Dolphins as well. He’s coached football legends, developed some of the best linebacker n the country and has a National Championship as both a player and a coach. Shannon received the Broyles Award in 2001, recognizing him as the best assistant coach in the nation.


The Gators are losing a lot of talent on defense, eight starters to be exact, but the defense is used to the rumors and talk of a drop in production at Florida.

“You know, that’s every year,” defensive end Keivonnis Davis said. “They be saying the same little rumors and stuff like that, but you know, you come in with a chip on our shoulder ready to prove all them wrong. So we can’t wait.”

The Gators will get back a lot of leadership in defensive backs Duke Dawson, Nick Washington and Marcell Harris. They’re young up front on the defensive line and at linebacker, so Shannon is changing the way the defense communicates. With Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone in the fold last year the defense had two smart, experienced leaders to look to when the bullets started flying and the game got going. Florida simply doesn’t have that luxury in 2017, so Shannon is changing how the defense will communicate on the field.

“Pretty different than last year,” Joseph said of the new style of communicating. “Everybody is more vocal, from the D-line like when they see a formation – we’re going over formations and everything – when they see a formation they call it out and communicate it to us, so we communicate to the secondary and stuff and everybody just talks to each other and makes it way easier and play faster.”

The goal is to play fast, be physical and not let the departures from last year hold the defense back. With Shannon leading the way the group has all the confidence they need to start spring camp.

I feel very confident in our defense and in those young guys because they play as well,” said Davis. “It’s just about bringing everything together. I feel very confident.”

Friday, March 03, 2017

Will Compton presents 'Yes I Can Award'



Bonne Terre native and Washington Redskins Linebacker Will Compton presents North County Intermediate Student Brett Forbes with a special award.

By Renee Bronaugh

March 3, 2017

Bonne Terre native and Washington Redskins Linebacker Will Compton visited North County Intermediate Thursday afternoon to present one student with a special award.

North County Principal Melanie Allen introduced North County Intermediate student Brett Forbes and explained he had been nominated for an award by Strategy Specialist Katty Logan a couple of months ago.

“A month or two ago Brett was nominated for the 'Yes I Can Award' and this is a big accomplishment,” said Allen.

The Council for Exceptional Children recently selected 12 students out of 68 submissions to receive "Yes I can" awards. These awards annually recognize the accomplishments of children and youth nationwide with exceptionalities (ages 2-21). It selects winners for their outstanding achievements in one of six categories: Academics, Arts, School and Community Activities, Self-Advocacy, Technology, and Transition.

Brett was recognized for his outstanding achievement in School and Community Activities.

“Brett is a wonderful basketball player and we wanted to recognize him today," Allen said. "His family is here and Mr. Compton. Brett was born with Spina bifida and he hasn’t let that stop him.”

Allen said every day this young man does the best he can do and he doesn’t let his physical challenges hold him back from doing what he wants to do.

It came as no surprise to his family when he asked when he could start playing basketball. Brett started basketball when he was in kindergarten and hasn’t stopped.

“Despite his challenges he has been able to navigate around the building and we see him every day rocking and rolling,” said Allen. “Sometimes I have to calm him down a little bit because he likes to do his wheelies. He participates in all general education and he is very competitive and never gives up.”

Allen stressed Brett always does his best no matter what obstacle stands in his way. His dream is to play at the collegiate basketball level one day.

“Brett is not only an inspiration to his peers or you guys, but also all the adults around him,” Allen said, beginning to tear up. “Like I said a while ago, he is an inspiration to me and his attitude and drive to accomplish his goal is something his school and his community admire. On behalf of the North County School District, we nominated Brett Forbes for the 'Yes I Can Award.' We are very proud of you, I am very proud and I believe in you.”

Compton told the students he was really honored to be there to give this award to Brett.

“I want you to know I just heard about you and you are inspiring,” said Compton. “Can you come up here? When I heard Miss Allen say you never complain and she almost started crying, that you never complain and face all these things and go through all this adversity, it touched me. I complain all the time, but then I hear what you go through, that you never complain and always have a good attitude.”

Compton said this is a perfect example of adversity. He praised Brett for doing things he was probably told he would never do.

“But he is still playing basketball and making good grades,” said Compton. “He has to go through this every day and if this doesn’t put things into perspective about what I complain about or what you complain about, I don’t know what will.”

He indicated he admires Brett for fighting every day to do the things he loves to do.

“He can’t jump and run around and play basketball, but he found a way to play basketball and he is doing it well," Compton said. "I am very grateful to give you this award and I know this award represents a lot of stuff. Man, I really am so grateful I get to meet you and shake your hand. I want to congratulate you on this award. You are really an inspiration to me and you make me want to go out and do stuff right now.”

A loud rumble of applause echoed through the gym as everyone clapped their loudest for Brett and his accomplishments.

Brett's mom, Beth Forbes, said they went to Fort Wayne, Indiana, last weekend for a wheelchair basketball tournament and his team beat the number two nationally ranked team in the nation.

Will Compton Read To Kids For Dr. Seuss Week



By Paola Argueta

March 3, 2017

Read Across America kicked off this week and schools across the country found creative ways to celebrate reading with their students.

The reading event is the nation’s largest of its kind and occurs annually on or around Dr. Seuss’s birthday, March 2 and Redskins linebacker Will Compton couldn’t wait to get started.



While visiting his home town in Bonne Terre, Mo., Compton made a guest appearance at a local elementary school to read to a room full of first graders.

Compton took to his Instagram account Tuesday afternoon to show his support for the event by posting photos of him reading the classic Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham as the primary students sat attentively.

Making sure to add some fun to the event, Compton joined the first graders in a funny face class photo as a finishing touch.

Bob Stoops the #1 HC on Offense (min 15 seasons)



Incredible for Stoops considering his background as a DC. Props to OSU's official website for the shoutout.

March 1, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer's teams have averaged 37.4 points per game over the duration of his 15-year, 194-game head coaching career. Only one other coach who has coached at least 15 seasons has had teams score more than Meyer's teams over this time: Bob Stoops; by one-tenth of a point.

Stoops has employed seven offensive coordinators over his career at Oklahoma, including Ohio State's new coordinator, Kevin Wilson. Wilson will be Meyer's seventh coordinator, and the first who was a prior head coach.

Five of Meyer's previous coordinators went on to become head coaches. All six helped Meyer's offenses and teams experience terrific successes. In six days, the Ohio State offense under Meyer and Wilson will start taking shape.

Highest Career Scoring Average (Per Game)

(Active coaches; minimum 15 seasons as FBS coach)

1. Bob Stoops Oklahoma 37.5
2. Urban Meyer Ohio State 37.4
3. Mike Leach Washington State 34.9
4. Gary Patterson TCU 33.5
5. Nick Saban Alabama 31.8

Source: STATSPASS

Plano Senior alum Rex Burkhead to host multi-sport fundraiser at alma mater




Plano Senior alum Rex Burkhead, now a member of the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals, was a star on both the football field and basketball court for the Wildcats.

From Staff Reports

March 3, 2017

On April 1, Plano Senior alum and Cincinnati Bengals running back Rex Burkhead will return to his alma mater to host the Team Jack Trifecta, a multi-sport fundraiser for pediatric brain cancer research.

The event will consist of a 5K fun run around the Plano Senior High School campus, a youth football camp and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

The fun run begins at 8 a.m. April 1, and costs $35 for adult and $15 for children 10 years and under.

At 10 a.m., Burkhead will be joined by numerous NFL veterans and former high school teammates for a football skills camp. The camp is open to kids ages six through 12 and costs $50.

Festivities will continue at 1 p.m. with a 3-on-3 basketball tournament open to players who must be out of high school or college. The registration fee is $100 per four-person team and the tournament holds a maximum of 24 teams.

All proceeds from the event will support pediatric brain cancer research.

Individuals who register by March 13 will receive a free T-shirt and online registration lasts through March 30.

To register for any of the three events at the Team Jack Trifecta, go to teamjackfoundation.org/plano.

2017 NFL Combine: Did Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien try to hire Iowa’s Brian Ferentz? Here’s your answer





By Scott Dochterman
March 3, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS — If Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien had his way, Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz would have worked alongside him at either of his last two stops.

Or, preferably, both.

“I tried to hire him at Penn State,” O’Brien said Wednesday at the 2017 NFL Combine. “His dad (Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz) wasn’t letting anybody hire him away. I tried to hire him early on in Houston. Very, very smart. Very competitive. A hard-working guy, really good staff guy. Understands his role. Really helped me a lot at New England in a lot of different ways.”

Brian Ferentz, 33, assumed multiple tasks in New England from 2008 through 2011. O’Brien worked alongside Ferentz and became the Patriots offensive coordinator in 2011. That’s when they really formed a bond.

The 2011 Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl and produced one of the NFL’s most dynamic offensive seasons. New England scored more than 32 points a game, and quarterback Tom Brady threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, whom Ferentz coached, notched career highs with 90 catches for 1,327 yards. Gronkowski set the NFL record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end with 17.

“Brian Ferentz, my last year in New England, coached the tight ends and was the quality control guy on offense,” O’Brien said. “He had Gronkowski and that group. And he was breaking film down on the side. That tells you everything you need to know about his work ethic.”


Neither returned to the Patriots following the 2011 season. O’Brien became the Penn State head coach in 2012 and later bolted for the Texans in 2014. Brian Ferentz became Iowa’s offensive line coach in 2012, added run-game responsibilities in 2015 and was named offensive coordinator in January.

The respect is mutual. At his news conference introducing him as offensive coordinator, Brian Ferentz called his New England experience “invaluable” and touted his relationships with O’Brien, head coach Bill Belichick, administrator Scott Pioli and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.

“You absolutely try to take pieces from every one and you try to learn and be a sponge,” Brian Ferentz said in January. “I remember one of my first lessons in New England walking into Scott Pioli’s office empty-handed, and in a very not-so-subtle way, I was reminded that you should have a notebook at all times. And he was right. And since then, I’ve had a notebook at all times. Because you’re always learning. You’re always taking things in.”

As for Brian Ferentz’s new role, O’Brien has confidence his former protegĂ© will succeed.

“He’s a bright guy, and he’ll do a great job for his dad,” O’Brien said. “I just have to say about his dad, I just think he’s one of the best coaches in the country. He does a great job. A lot of respect for the Ferentz family.”

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