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Panthers’ darkest hour revisited with Rae Carruth’s release from prison – Carolina Panthers Blog


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rae Carruth, the Carolina Panthers’ 1997 first-round pick, is set to be released on Monday after spending the past 17 years in the Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton, North Carolina.

Carruth, now 44, was convicted on Jan. 16, 2001, and sentenced to 18 to 24 years for conspiracy to commit murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams, who died about a month after the shooting. At that time, there had not been any cases of an active first-round NFL draft pick who had been charged and convicted with such a crime.

Carruth’s release is a fresh reminder of that day on Nov. 16, 1999, when the plot to kill Adams and her unborn child unfolded on a twisting two-lane road in a posh Charlotte neighborhood. Adams was shot multiple times by Van Brett Watkins, who was hired by Carruth. Watkins was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years.

Chancellor Lee Adams, Carruth’s son, is now 18 years old. Chancellor Lee survived the shooting in his mother’s womb but a loss of blood and oxygen the night of his birth caused permanent brain damage.

One could argue the tragic shooting by the former Colorado wide receiver was the Panthers’ darkest hour, darker than the allegations of sexual and workplace misconduct that recently led founder Jerry Richardson to sell the team to billionaire David Tepper.

Richardson was never charged with or convicted of anything. Even though the NFL fined him after a lengthy investigation, he still was supported by many in the organization and in the city, and the story was in the news cycle only a few months. The Carruth story was the topic of conversation for more than a year and a half.

And, as several pointed out, somebody was murdered.

The city of Charlotte was in the infancy of being a pro sports town in 1999. The Panthers had been around three seasons, and despite the unprecedented success of making the playoffs in their second year and the brief playoff flirtation of the NBA’s Hornets, the national spotlight seldom shone here as it did in other markets with two major franchises.

The shooting and the ensuing trial brought CNN and other national news agencies to the city. Court TV broadcast almost every minute of the trial, which Carruth’s teammates followed daily in the break room at the stadium.

The trial didn’t reach the national scope of the O.J. Simpson case that took place in Los Angeles five years earlier. But it put Charlotte and professional sports in this market in the spotlight at a level it hadn’t experienced before.

Here are some key questions that arose from that dark moment in Panthers history:

What has happened to Carruth’s son, and will Rae have custody when he’s released?

Chancellor Lee has been raised by his grandmother, Saundra Adams, in Charlotte. This year, Carruth broke a 17-year silence when he wrote a letter to WBTV in Charlotte and apologized to Saundra for the death of her daughter. He asked whether he could have the “responsibility” of permanent custody for Chancellor after his grandmother dies.

Carruth later wrote a letter making it clear he’ll “no longer be pursuing a relationship with Chancellor and Ms. Adams.”

“I promise to leave them be, which now I see is in everyone’s best interest,” Carruth continued after a public uproar over him seeking custody.

“When I revisit this [moment] … you just hope that Chancellor … you’re thankful he’s around,” former Panthers starting center Frank Garcia said. “His grandmother is a saint for raising him. She even tried to forgive Rae for Chancellor. She and he, those two individuals are what this story should be about. Unfortunately, it’s going to be about a guy that did a heinous crime.”

A source close to the situation wouldn’t say who will meet Carruth on Monday but made it clear Carruth will not be doing interviews.

How did the Panthers react?

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney, in his second year with the franchise in 1999, had to testify for the defense during the trial. He and other team officials have declined to comment for this story.

“That was without a doubt the most significant event in the history of the Panthers,” said Steve Beuerlein, Carolina’s starting quarterback at the time and now an NFL and college football analyst for CBS. “Obviously, it wasn’t to the most prominent person in the organization as it was with Jerry. There’s a big difference there. But somebody was murdered.”

Most players were in shock over what happened. They shied away from talking about Carruth, in part because few really knew him.

“Rae was a unique person,” Beuerlein told ESPN.com. “He kind of stuck to himself. I don’t know if he had any real close friends on the team.”

How did the city of Charlotte react?

“For better or worse, the mood across the city was excitement,” said Chris Fialko, who was Carruth’s second-chair co-counsel to David Rudolf. “I know that’s hard to say. But Charlotte had always wanted to be a damn world-class city, and all of a sudden we had a world-class trial going on.”

It was not a proud moment, obviously.

“That was by far the worst. … This is a big-time city now. There’s going to be big-time things happen that will be publicized. Unfortunately, it was a negative way of putting this city on the map,” Garcia said.

Why did this tragedy have such an impact?

The Panthers were three seasons removed from reaching the NFC Championship Game. They’d loaded up the roster with players such as future Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene for a run at the Super Bowl. They fell short of the playoffs by one game, going 8-8.

“It was an exciting time,” said Beuerlein, who was selected to the Pro Bowl after passing for a career-high 4,436 yards and 36 touchdowns. “But this Rae Carruth thing was what the rest of the country saw with their first big exposure to Charlotte. … Obviously, it was a black eye as far as negative attention to Charlotte and to the team’s reorganization.”

It was more than surreal to others. It was real.

“Embarrassed,” Garcia said. “That’s the way we felt as players. We’d just come off a glorious two years with the expansion year in ’95 and ’96 going to the playoffs. The red carpet was rolled out everywhere. Something like this happens and that carpet gets pulled back … real quick.

“It’s like, ‘These animals are capable of this! Who knows?’ That’s kind of the feeling we got. We didn’t want to do much. We didn’t want to go out. We kept to ourselves.”

What’s a forgotten detail about the case?

That Carruth fled Charlotte after Adams died on Dec. 14, 1999, and he was found in western Tennessee on Dec. 16 hiding in the trunk of a friend’s car a day after he failed to surrender on murder charges in Charlotte.

“We assumed there was something to the story,” Beuerlein said this past week. “If he wasn’t hiding something, he wouldn’t be hiding in the trunk.”

Has Carruth been in touch with current or former Panthers?

There is one story shared by Beuerlein, who was surprised when Carruth reached out to him a couple of years ago via social media.

“I got a friend request from him,” Beuerlein said. “I had to see what he wanted. So I accepted. It was, ‘Hey Steve,’ something along the lines of ‘I don’t know if you remember me.’ I was, ‘I remember you for sure. How’s it going?’

“He said something along the lines of it’s been a tough deal, obviously, but I’m looking forward to getting out in a couple of years. Your name came up and I wanted to reach out to see how you’re doing. I never heard back from him again. But it was one of the most bizarre friend requests that I’ve had.”

Most current players were in their teens or younger when the murder happened and have heard of Carruth only through word of mouth. They aren’t aware that Carruth was the person who wore No. 89 before Steve Smith, the team’s all-time leading receiver.

“Until I came here, I didn’t know what happened,” said tight end Greg Olsen, who came to Carolina in 2011.

Did Carruth get paid by the Panthers or the NFL while in jail?

No. The organization, in conjunction with the NFL, quickly put Carruth on leave of absence without pay and called it a legal matter moving forward.

Panthers coach George Seifert and Richardson then made the decision to waive the receiver once Gene Brown, the team’s head of security, informed them there might be a connection with Carruth in Adams’ murder. They got the support of then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw, the head of the players’ union.

The Panthers used a morals clause in Carruth’s contract as reason for separating from the player, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely on Dec. 17, 1999.

Janitor and barber are among the jobs Carruth has held in prison. In 2014, he reportedly was making $1 a day as a barber.

Why should NFL fans today care about Carruth’s story?

At the time, no one in the NFL had dealt with a plot for murder situation involving an active NFL player.

“People were looking at each other like, ‘Really? Can somebody we know possibly do that?’ ” Garcia recalled. “As much as we wanted to put it out of mind, it was kind of the little constant reminder that the guy next to you, you may think you know him, but you really don’t know him well. You might want to get to know him better.”

Beuerlein agreed.

“The real questions from our perspective was, ‘Could we have seen anything that might have indicated he was having that kind of trouble? Had he been acting any differently leading up to those days,'” he said. “When I look back at it, he was always just a little bit different.”



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Dalvin Cook out for third straight game with hamstring injury – Minnesota Vikings Blog


EAGAN, Minn. – Running back Dalvin Cook is set to miss a third straight game Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings face the New York Jets.

Cook is dealing with a hamstring injury he sustained in overtime of the Vikings’ Week 2 tie at Green Bay. One season after his rookie year was cut short by an ACL injury, Cook has played 10 quarters, rushing 36 times for 98 yards.

The running back was a full participant in practice Wednesday before missing Thursday and Friday’s sessions. This comes after Cook was a late scratch against the Cardinals. The Vikings’ training staff determined he wasn’t ready during pregame warm-ups.

Cook said the injury is tricky and he has to rely more on “feel” than sitting out a specific number of days and expecting to be ready to go.

“It makes it difficult because you never really know,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He comes out and he says ‘Hey, I’m good to go.’ And it’s just kind of how it goes. You have to have versatility in your game plan.”

Latavius Murray , who recorded a career-high 155 yards rushing and a touchdown against the Cardinals, will be the Vikings’ lead back. Murray’s 74 yards after contact were the most by a Vikings running back since Adrian Peterson had 129 against the Raiders in 2015, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Entering Week 6, Minnesota was the last team without a rushing touchdown.

“He’s (Murray) a guy that needs carries and the physicality of things,” Zimmer said. “I like Latavius and the way he approaches the game, and typically he’s not a one-carry-every-quarter guy, he’s a guy that needs to get the football some.”

Murray filled a similar role last season for the Vikings, becoming the team’s lead back in Cook’s absence. Asked whether Cook’s hamstring injury will require rest for an extended period of time, Zimmer said: “I don’t know. I’ll let the medical people handle it.”



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Addition of Carlos Hyde raises more questions about Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars Blog


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be without their best offensive player for at least another week and nobody seems to know just how much more time running back Leonard Fournette will miss.

But one thing is certain: The Jaguars are done solely relying on the 2017 fourth overall pick to carry their offense. Friday’s trade for Carlos Hyde, for a 2019 fifth-round draft pick, gives the Jaguars an experienced, productive, and — most importantly — dependable player who fits their style of offense.

Whenever Fournette does return — and the most likely scenario is after the team’s Week 9 bye on Nov. 4 — he’ll be splitting time in the backfield with Hyde, T.J. Yeldon, and the recently-signed Jamaal Charles. Yeldon will remain the team’s main back for Sunday’s 1 p.m. ET game against Houston at TIAA Bank Field.

In addition, tight end James O’Shaughnessy (hip) and nickelback D.J. Hayden (toe) will not play against the Texans and defensive end Calais Campbell (ankle/hip) is questionable.

Fournette did not practice this week, but he did some running and worked off to the side during practice. Fournette hurt his hamstring late in the first half of the season opener. He missed the next two games. He returned in Week 4 but aggravated the injury late in the first half of that game and hasn’t practiced since. He has 71 yards rushing and four catches for 19 yards.

Fournette — who came into camp at 223 pounds, 17 pounds lighter than what he weighed in his rookie season — hasn’t played a full season since his sophomore year at LSU in 2015. He missed five games his junior year with an ankle injury and two games as a rookie with the Jaguars in 2017 because of ankle and quad injuries.

Fournette also was suspended for a game last season for missing a team meeting, so he will have missed eight of the team’s 22 regular-season games since being drafted.

After missing 11 games in his first two seasons with San Francisco, Hyde has missed only three games since the start of the 2016 season. He played in 13 games in 2016 and every game in 2017 and all six this season. He was the Browns’ leading rusher (382 yards, five TDs).



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Jaguars without Leonard Fournette for third straight game – Jacksonville Jaguars Blog


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be without their best offensive player for at least another week.

Running back Leonard Fournette will miss Sunday’s game against Houston at TIAA Bank Field with a right hamstring injury. It will be the third consecutive game – and fifth overall – that he has missed with the injury.

In addition, tight end James O’Shaughnessy (hip) has been ruled out. Defensive end Calais Campbell (ankle/hip) is questionable.

Fournette did not practice this week but he did some running and worked off to the side during practice along with nickel back D.J. Hayden (toe), who also will not play against the Texans.

The Jaguars play Philadelphia next Sunday in their annual game in London and then have their bye, so Fournette may not be back until the Nov. 11 game at Indianapolis.

Fournette hurt his hamstring late in the first half of the season opener. He missed the next two games and returned in Week 4 but aggravated the injury late in the first half of that game and hasn’t practiced since. He has 71 yards rushing and four catches for 19 yards.





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Mike McCoy’s days as Cardinals OC likely numbered – Arizona Cardinals Blog


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Thursday night was supposed to be different for the Arizona Cardinals.

The plan was to speed up the offense, use more no-huddle.

Nothing changed. Nothing worked.

The Cardinals fell to 1-6 after an embarrassing 45-10 loss to the Denver Broncos in prime time.

And, the offense isn’t just bad. It’s abysmal. They had just 83 yards at halftime, and finished a sixth straight game with less than 300 yards (223).

That said, Mike McCoy’s time as Cardinals offensive coordinator should come to an end.

Consider:

  • Quarterback Josh Rosen threw two pick-sixes in the first quarter, becoming the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to accomplish the feat. He finished with five turnovers, with another interception and two fumbles.

  • The run game was almost nonexistent, in part because the Cardinals trailed 14-0 early. But also because McCoy’s playcalling has consistently showed a lack of creativity. Heading into Thursday, 48.7 percent of the Cardinals runs were up the middle.

  • The Cardinals are averaging 220.9 total yards per game this season, the fewest by any team through seven games since the 2009 Raiders, who also averaged 220.9 with JaMarcus Russell at quarterback.

At one point Sunday, the Cardinals were 0-for-7 on third down, extending their streak of third down failures to 18 straight, which dated back to the end of Arizona’s Week 5 win over the 49ers.

Firing McCoy has as much to do with the future than the Cardinals’ offensive ineptitude in the past.

There were times, in between the interceptions, that Josh Rosen showed flashes. There was his pass to Larry Fitzgerald in the first half that was thrown only where Fitzgerald could catch it. There was his 14-yard run on a broken play that moved the Cardinals into the red zone.

But Rosen needs grooming. That isn’t coming from McCoy, despite his success with the likes of Peyton Manning in Denver and Philip Rivers in San Diego.

The Cardinals have their quarterback of the future but if he continues to be coached by McCoy, his future is murky at best.

Heading into Week 7, the offense was ranked last in yards per game, first downs per game, third down conversions, third down conversion percentage, red zone dives and time of possession.

McCoy, who was fired by the Broncos after Week 11 last season, had the 31st ranked offensive efficiency last season and 31st this season, heading into Thursday night. In 2016, the Chargers were ranked 17th in offensive efficiency but McCoy was the head coach while Ken Whisenhunt called plays.



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Broncos walk the walk in rout of Cardinals – Denver Broncos Blog


GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Denver Broncos came, they saw and they kicked exactly what Von Miller said they would kick.

So for at least for one week, the thermostat gets turned down a bit on the Broncos after a 45-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night in State Farm Stadium. The win snaps a four-game losing streak for the Broncos and is just the second road win in Vance Joseph’s tenure as coach.

“Obviously Von had some comments early in the week about guaranteeing the win,” Joseph said. “But easy to say, hard to do. I was proud how he played the game [Thursday night]. You can speak those words, but you’ve got to back them up, and he backed them up and his teammates also backed them up.”

It also ended a week filled with drive-time conversation about the temperature of Joseph’s hot seat and the Broncos’ souring fortunes — an environment Joseph had even described as “the city is on fire.” Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway even weighed in early in the week, saying everyone involved had to “play for their lives,” and he described the team’s run defense as “soft.”

Then Miller added the exclamation point to it all Tuesday, when in an enough-is-enough message, he offered the Broncos were going to “kick their ass,” in talking about the Cardinals.

Miller added the Cardinals were “going to get our best this week. Last week was a tough week, week before that, whatever, this week Thursday night, prime time, they’re going to get the Broncos’ best.”

“It’s a brotherhood in the locker room, and I knew my brothers had my back,” Miller said after recording two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. ” … Honestly, it wasn’t even for the Cardinals, it was for my teammates.”

The Cardinals might not have gotten the best the Broncos could offer, but it was far better than what the Broncos have served this season. The Broncos were both creative, including a 28-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to Courtland Sutton in the first quarter, and bruising on the night.

The defense was at its disruptive best with six sacks, three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns, the first coming on the second play of the game.

“We got back to what we do best,” Joseph said.

The Cardinals’ opening possession on offense gave the Broncos a glimpse of a team with bigger problems than they have.

Arizona running back David Johnson ran for no gain on first down. Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, with plenty of growing pains already in tow, then had to call a timeout because the Cardinals couldn’t get lined up, at least in some part due to the noise from a crowd that might have been as much as half in Broncos’ orange.

Out of the timeout Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe tipped a Rosen pass that linebacker Todd Davis then intercepted and returned for a score. Two possessions later cornerback Chris Harris Jr. returned another interception 53 yards for another touchdown and the Broncos were well on their way to a solid performance.

“When your leader comes up and say you’re going to whip somebody’s butt, you better be ready to play,” Davis said. ” … We definitely had to be ready. It felt good, felt like the 2018 Broncos defense can be, felt like who we really are.”

It doesn’t repair everything. They still had moments on offense when they struggled to protect quarterback Case Keenum.

Keenum threw another interception — his ninth of the season — and if the Cardinals aren’t the worst team in the league, they are in the proverbial conversation. So, the Broncos are free to feel better about the whole thing, but they’ve still got some work to do before they can say they’re cured.

But the two most important things that happened this week could impact this team for quite some time if they can simply make the most of them from here on out. The first is, after all of these seasons, Miller stood out front for this team.

Peyton Manning has been gone for over two seasons now, DeMarcus Ware retired as a player after the 2016 season, and the Broncos have searched for their voice ever since. And in those weeks and months of football we’ve seen happy Von, irreverent Von, talented Von, even disappointed Von during 2017’s 5-11 slog.

But this was angry Von, fed-up Von, this-is-ridiculous Von, and the team showed it agreed.

“It wasn’t for the Cardinals, it was for my teammates, it was to put us in that mentality,” Miller said. “There ain’t no backing down now.”

And secondly, the Broncos defense, which made the wrong kind of history in the two previous games, having allowed back-to-back 200-yard rushers in the same season — no other defense had done it — showed it can still dismantle an offense.

They had moments against the high-powered Chiefs and Rams this season when they showed they can frustrate the league’s best some of the time. But this was the first time the sleeves got rolled up and stayed rolled up for an entire game.

The Broncos did exactly what they needed to do against a team in worse straits than they were. And Miller can now say he told everybody so.



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Watch: Broncos start quickly with 2 picks, a trick and a treat – Denver Broncos Blog


GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Denver Broncos got the start they wanted and desperately needed Thursday night.

After a week of turmoil when Broncos coach Vance Joseph said “the city is on fire” because of the four-game losing streak and linebacker Von Miller went as far as to guarantee a win over the Cardinals, the Broncos waited all of 55 seconds to score the game’s first touchdown.

Broncos linebacker Todd Davis returned a Josh Rosen interception 20 yards for a score — the pass had been tipped by Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe — on the Cardinals’ second play from scrimmage.

Cardinals running back David Johnson had run for no gain on first down. The Cardinals then had to call a timeout when they couldn’t get lined up, at least in some part because of a crowd that was about half-filled with Broncos fans at kickoff.

Davis had the interception on second down. It was the Broncos’ first defensive touchdown of the season.

On the Broncos’ next possession Emmanuel Sanders found Courtland Sutton for a 28-yard touchdown.

Quarterback Case Keenum flipped the ball to Sanders, Sanders ran right and threw to a wide-open Sutton, who made a diving catch for the touchdown.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats data, Sanders was running 15.83 mph when he threw the pass. That’s the fastest speed by a passer on a touchdown pass this season. The previous fastest was Sanders’ teammate Keenum, who was at 15.52 mph when he threw a TD to Demaryius Thomas in Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Sanders is the first non-QB to throw a TD for the Broncos since receiver Arthur Marshall in 1993.

The Broncos added a second pick-six before the first quarter ended when Chris Harris Jr. returned a Rosen throw 53 yards for a score.

It’s the first time the Broncos have scored 21 points in the first quarter since Week 10 of 2010. The Broncos have 13 pick-sixes in the past five seasons, most in the NFL.

Rosen becomes the first rookie QB to throw a pair of pick-sixes in a single game since Blake Bortles in 2014.

Sanders then caught a 64-yard bomb from Keenum to put the Broncos up 28-3 at 20 seconds into the second quarter.

Sanders became the first Broncos player with a passing touchdown and a receiving touchdown in the same game since John Elway in 1986.





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How Paul Allen saved the Seahawks from leaving Seattle – Seattle Seahawks Blog


RENTON, Wash. — Remembering Paul Allen a day after his passing, Pete Carroll said never “in a million years” would he have left USC had it not been for the late Seattle Seahawks owner. Carroll was referring to the vision and the spirit that Allen expressed while making a convincing sales pitch, the likes of which Carroll hadn’t heard from any other NFL owner.

If not for what Allen did more than a decade before Carroll arrived in 2010, though, there likely wouldn’t have been an NFL team to come to in Seattle.

The saga of the team’s near departure in the mid-1990s is worth revisiting in the wake of Allen’s death on Monday at age 65 due to complications from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Because to understand Allen’s legacy as the Seahawks’ owner, it’s necessary to understand how close Seattle came to losing the team before he stepped in.

The past eight seasons of Seahawks football have seen so many monumental developments: Carroll leading the franchise to its only Super Bowl championship, Russell Wilson becoming a megastar on and off the field, the Legion of Boom becoming one of the greatest secondaries the league has ever seen, Marshawn Lynch becoming Beast Mode. None of them would have happened in Seattle — or perhaps at all — had Allen not saved the team from leaving when no one else would.

One foot in Southern California

Steve Raible, an original Seahawk and the team’s longtime radio broadcaster, remembers the call he got one day during the 1996 offseason. It was from one of the Seahawks’ assistant coaches under Dennis Erickson, who was telling Raible that he might want to get to the team’s Kirkland, Washington, headquarters to see what was happening.

“‘They’re backing up moving vans to the building. We’re outta here. We’re moving,'” Raible recalled hearing.

The destination was Anaheim, California. Ken Behring, a California real estate developer who bought the team in 1988 and was never embraced in Seattle, announced in February 1996 that he was moving the team south. His stated reason was an inability to secure funding for a new stadium or improvements to the crumbling Kingdome.

So the organization packed up equipment, headed south and set up shop at the facility the Rams had vacated when they left for St. Louis a year earlier. The Seahawks even held a few workouts there before returning to Seattle amid threats of lawsuits from the city and hefty fines from the NFL.

But in the absence of someone stepping forward to buy the team from Behring, the feeling was that those legal actions were merely delaying the inevitable.

As detailed in this 2013 Seattle Times story, Allen had been quietly and tepidly discussing the possibility with local officials. He was fearful that he would be used as leverage for Behring to secure a sweeter deal in California. Plus, Allen — who had owned the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers since 1988 — was a basketball fan first. Football wasn’t his biggest sporting passion. He was interested but hesitant.

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Adrian Wojnarowski reflects on Paul Allen’s impact on Portland and the Trail Blazers. The longtime owner died of cancer Monday at the age of 65.

He was also the only person with both an interest in buying the Seahawks and deep enough pockets to make it happen.

“Paul was really the only alternative,” Raible said. “That’s where they focused their efforts, the group here. Paul was pretty open to it for one simple reason. He believed it was good for the community. He believed it was something that should be done to keep the team here in the community.”

The make-or-break vote

In describing the support the Seahawks received from fans at London’s Wembley Stadium during their win over the Raiders last week, Carroll said it didn’t just feel like a home game. It practically was one.

“All you had to do was go to London to see the extent to which a) the 12s travel and b) that the 12s are literally spread across the globe,” Raible said. “We had fans with Seahawks jerseys and clothing on from Spain to Sweden to Germany and, of course, Great Britain and so many that came from here.

“That certainly was not the case then.”

By “then,” he meant during the 1996 and ’97 seasons, when the Seahawks’ future in Seattle was hanging in the balance. They were mired in mediocrity, cycling through coaches and highly drafted quarterbacks while finishing above .500 only once between 1989 and 1997. It wasn’t anything close to a sure thing that the Seahawks would remain in Seattle when their fate there was effectively left up to a state-wide vote.

Allen had agreed to an option to buy the team on the condition that voters pass a referendum to foot the majority of the bill for a new stadium, which would eventually become CenturyLink Field. Taxpayers would pay $300 million, while Allen would cover the remaining $130 million plus cost overruns.

“We knew that it was going to be difficult,” Raible said of the vote. “And very much as the state is today, it’s two different states. [With] Eastern Washington and so many of those folks, it was hard to convince them that they would be getting something from a building built on the west side of the state. … They were not of the mind of, ‘OK, let’s build some more rich guys another stadium,’ regardless of the fact that the vast majority of the taxes were coming from visitors who were renting cars and getting hotel rooms. Still, it was just that sense of government making something happen for sports owners. So we knew it was going to be dicey at best, and it was a very close vote.”

The early returns on election night were discouraging before a late swing allowed Referendum 48 to pass with 51 percent of the vote.

‘It meant everything to him’

It hardly needs to be stated that Allen’s legacy in Seattle goes far beyond saving the Seahawks. The Microsoft cofounder gave away what Forbes estimated to be more than $2 billion of his fortune. The various charitable causes ranged from brain science to wildlife conservation to the Ebola crisis in Africa.

“Look at what he’s done, and look at all of the extraordinary, amazing places he’s taken us to because he could and because it was there to be challenged,” Carroll said. “Whether it’s in space or whether it’s under the ocean or whether it’s in the farthest reaches of the globe in chasing diseases and freeing animals and saving elephants and all the amazing things that he stood for, it’s just being around an amazing individual like that, that had that kind of vision.”

It was Allen’s affinity for Jimi Hendrix and rock music that led him to found what is now called the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.

It also led Allen to the stage at the team’s victory party following Super Bowl XLVIII. Asked his favorite memory of Allen, Carroll recalled him wailing on his guitar as the Seahawks celebrated their first and only championship in franchise history.

“He was hittin’ in,” Carroll said with a smile. “He thought he was Eddie Vedder or something up there. He was going. But I think that was the great moment that we got to share, that he got to have. Because you can have all the money in the world, but it’s really hard to have that world championship. It meant everything to him. To be able to share that with him was amazing.”

It was a celebration that, like so many other moments in Seahawks history, never would have happened without Allen.



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Patriots QB Tom Brady, as the closer, continues to impress teammates – New England Patriots Blog


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Matthew Slater was telling a story in the New England Patriots’ locker room earlier this week that summed up how playing with quarterback Tom Brady can be an uplifting experience, especially in pressure situations with the game on the line.

The story was from Sunday night’s 43-40 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Slater was dejected as he made his way to the sideline, his kickoff coverage unit having surrendered a 97-yard return that led to a quick Chiefs touchdown.

The score gave the Chiefs a 33-30 lead midway through the final quarter when Brady came up to Slater, knocked his fist, and said, “We’re good.”

To which Slater initially thought, “We are? It sure doesn’t feel that way.”

As Slater retold the story, he shrugged his shoulders and laughed. “I guess we were good,” he chuckled.

Then he turned a bit more serious, highlighting how Brady’s confidence in the face of adversity galvanized him and others.

“You can look in a man’s eyes and know, in pressure situations, this guy is not going to be able to handle this, he’s not going to be ready. You look into that guy’s eyes and it’s a laser-like focus,” said Slater, a team captain now in his 11th season with the club. “They haven’t always worked out for us, but you see extreme confidence in his eyes, and that’s because he’s prepared, he’s done it, and he believes in the guys around him.”

At 41 years old, Brady remains one of the game’s best closers, something that means a lot to him.

Two weeks ago, when asked during his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI if he gets better when there is more pressure (such as the playoffs), Brady said, “I don’t think I get worse.”

His teammates have happily taken notice of that.

“He’s always clutch in big moments,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said.

“There are guys that flinch and there are guys that don’t flinch. He doesn’t flinch,” added Slater. “He’s just focused on the situation and executing every play, as its own play, and not worrying about what happened the last play or what’s going to happen the next play. He has a unique ability to do that.”

At the same time, Brady is often the first to point out that any success he’s had is more of a team accomplishment. That often starts in practice.

“Preparation is a big part of that and Coach [Bill] Belichick goes over those situations ad nauseam,” Slater said. “Sometimes it’s like, ‘Man, we’re going over this again?’ And then it always comes up. It’s like he has a crystal ball.”

Brady has thrived in that ultra-detailed setting, with Sunday night’s victory over the Chiefs a shining example of it. This was highlighted in a video posted on Patriots.com, as an on-field conversation between Brady and Belichick is heard after a 39-yard catch by Gronkowski that set up the game-winning field goal.

In the video, Belichick explains that there are 17 seconds remaining in the game, and he wants Brady to center the ball to make the final 28-yard field goal easier for kicker Stephen Gostkowski. That’s when Brady asks Belichick, “Do you want to call the timeout [after that], or me?”

He’s always thinking. Always locked in.

“He obviously embraces the moment and the opportunity to go out there and attempt to do his job under pressure in those types of situations, which I think is the first thing you have to be able to do if you’re going to go out there and have some success,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said, after noting it takes a complete team effort.

“He’s a great leader under pressure like that because he stays calm, he has great poise, he’s very situationally aware. He knows the situation having gone through it a number of times — understanding the difference between having a minute and 10 seconds and no timeouts versus two minutes and 50 seconds and three timeouts. There’s a huge difference in those types of situations, and I think his experience under pressure in those scenarios, he understands what needs to be done and how long we have to do it.”

Offensive tackle Trent Brown, who is in his first year with the Patriots, said Brady’s presence has stood out to him.

“So even-keeled and cool,” he said.

But there’s plenty of fire with that as well — especially in crunch time.

“His overall competitive nature and desire to really be on the field in those situations, those are the things you hope for from your group on offense,” McDaniels said. “And he certainly does a great job of that as one of our captains.”



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Larry Fitzgerald, Demaryius Thomas and the art of aging at wide receiver – Denver Broncos Blog


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — By the time his career with the Denver Broncos ended, wide receiver Rod Smith had two Super Bowl rings, 849 receptions, 68 receiving touchdowns and plenty of wisdom dispensed along the way.

“Old comes fast in the league sometimes and the guys who might have to fight it off the hardest are receivers, because once you can’t get open, they close the door on you,” Smith has often said.

Two of the most prominent in the wave of big receivers in their 30s — the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas and the Arizona CardinalsLarry Fitzgerald — will face off Thursday night (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox). They continue to adapt — adjusting to changing times and offenses — and their aging bodies.

“Guys are only getting younger, quicker and faster,” Thomas, 30, said. “Younger you are, the quicker you heal, so they might be fresher than you … I think you always have to look to see if you need to change up some things to stay on point, to help your team win. You have to do that work, all the time, no exceptions, be a little lucky, a little blessed — all of the above — and never let up.”

Fitzgerald, 35, the Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2004, is now in his 15th season with the team. Thomas, a first-round pick in 2010, suddenly finds himself the longest-tenured Broncos player in the locker room.

Both are 6-foot-3, both have played north of 220 pounds at times during their respective careers, both have been to Pro Bowls, played in Super Bowls and been their team’s alpha receiver for a variety of quarterbacks.

And when they take a step back to see how they got from where they were as players to where they are now, even the path is similar. Each started as a split end — lined up wide, much of the time, on the offensive left.

And each has had to expand his skill set and move around the formation to remain impactful.

“I prepare much more now,” Fitzgerald said this week. “Playing X is way easier than doing what I’m doing now — all I did was play X. I’m on the backside of everything … it was pretty easy — I never studied, never really did much preparation, to be honest with you. But now I have to prepare a lot more. When you’re playing inside, you’re responsible for a lot of the [hot routes] — you have to relay the plays outside … I’m the closest to the quarterback, so when there’s distress, he’s going to be looking to me first, so you have be a lot more on your P’s and Q’s.’’

“[Fitzgerald] is right,” Thomas said. “… At the X, you’re usually on the backside — not much to worry about, a sight adjustment sometimes, a block here and there. You don’t have to think too much; you could go out, run your route. Now, there’s more to it.”

Fitzgerald largely plays out of the slot for the Cardinals these days — an intersection of experience, his knowledge of the game and the fact he’s playing in a league in which 35-year-olds at his position are on the shortest of lists.

“You change in terms of what you’re asked and what your responsibilities are,” Fitzgerald said. “… You move inside — your game kind of expands. You have to learn to do things different, be valuable when there are things you can’t do anymore or things you wish you could do and they won’t let you do anymore. You have to kind of evolve.”

For Thomas, it also has meant dealing with the physical battering he has taken along the way. He hasn’t missed a game since 2011, and rarely even a practice, but he constantly has battled hip, wrist, hand and foot injuries.

Thomas said he spends far more time on “the body work” in season and in the offseason than he ever thought he would as a 23-year-old rookie. Largely because of a troublesome hip, he also now plays at 218 pounds, down from the 238 pounds he said he weighed as recently as the team’s run to Super Bowl 50 in 2015, a season in which he had 105 catches.

“After that year we won the Super Bowl, I was real banged up coming out of that year and it took a while to get back,” Thomas said. “Noticing that, I knew I had to do more. I knew the game so much more because of Peyton [Manning] — it helped with angles, setting up routes … but my body had to get that kind of work too.

“But if I wouldn’t have lost the weight, [I] don’t know where I’d be. I mean, guys were noticing before I did. One guy told me in the playoffs that year, ‘You ain’t the same DT,’ and that was one of the years I was dealing [with the hip]. I’m strong as s— still, but that hit me. Getting that weight off helped my hip. I could run the same before, but the cuts, the stops — those are better. The thing is, if you slow down you ain’t getting the ball, you ain’t helping your team win. I want to help us win. I want to play in more of those big games.”

Josh Weinfuss contributed to this story.



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