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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins confronts mortality … in stone form


EAGAN, Minn. — In front of Kirk Cousins’ home, in between a few shrubs, stands a curious tower. No more than four feet tall, it’s filled to the top with stones. Inspired décor? Sort of.

“It’s there to remind me how brief life is, and how important the time we have here is,” the Minnesota Vikings quarterback says.

But … a tower of stones?

Cousins laughs. “Oh, it’s a little morbid,” he admits, “but it’s a tool my Bible teacher taught me in high school, and I’m carrying it with me.”

The stones were inspired by a Bible verse, from the Book of Psalms, first shared with Cousins while attending Holland Christian High School in Holland, Michigan.

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

“It’s about the importance of leaving a mark and making a deposit in people’s lives in a way that matters,” Cousins says. “In other words, when you have an understanding that life is coming to an end someday, and that we only have so many days? There’s wisdom in that.”

For Cousins, it was important to transform the verse into a visual reminder: 720 stones.

“Let’s say I live to 90, that would be a pretty good run,” he says. “We went month to month, and we added it all up, and it was 720 stones because I turned 30 this year.

“Every month I’m going to take out a stone, put it in my pocket, and think: ‘Once this month is over, this is gone. You can’t get it back, it’s gone for good.'”

The stone for each month represents the amount of time he likely has left, but it also serves as a reminder to Cousins on how he is spending that time, both on and off the field.

“Like everybody else, I am naturally selfish, and so I’m going to think about myself,” he says. “And I think at the end of my life, it’s not going to be about what I did for myself, but what I did for others. Maybe it’s staying after practice to do hand signals with the guys to help them get caught up to speed. To make it about others — I think that’s what leadership is all about, quarterbacking is all about.”

As Cousins removes a stone each month, the feel of it in his palm is a reminder of the time passing. But it’s the questions that come with each stone that perhaps carry more weight.

“What impact are you making, not only today, but for eternity? What impact are you making to leave a legacy?” he says.

He pauses.

“It’s just a healthy reminder, make life about other people, invest in other people, knowing that in the end, that’s a life well-lived,” he says.



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Carson Wentz returns to dominant MVP form as Eagles smother Giants


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz looked like his old MVP-caliber self Thursday night, slicing through the New York Giants defense to post three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 122 quarterback rating as the Eagles rolled past their division rival, 34-13, improving to 3-3 in the process.

It was clear Wentz was back to form right out of the gate. Facing a third-and-7 at the Giants 13-yard line on the Eagles’ first possession, Wentz rolled out right, extended the play and then threw across his body and into the back of the end zone to a tightly-covered Alshon Jeffery for the touchdown.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he took 6.77 seconds to throw that touchdown pass, the third-longest by any player on a TD this season.

Wentz found Jeffery again in the second half and also threw one to tight end Zach Ertz.

Suddenly, an offense that sputtered through the first five games looked like its old self. The Eagles had failed to post 24 points in a single game entering Thursday. They hit that mark before halftime. They had slipped towards the bottom of the league in red zone and third-down efficiency, but bounced back by scoring four times in the red zone and converting nine third downs.

Wentz, playing in his fourth game since returning from an ACL/LCL injury, was the catalyst. He went 10-of-10 for 155 yards and two touchdowns on third down through the first three quarters. Coming in, he was completing 44 percent of his third-down passes.

Granted, the Giants have been somewhat giving on defense this season — they ranked 19th in average points allowed coming in (25.6) — but the Eagles’ offense was dealing with some issues of its own. Right tackle Lane Johnson was playing through a high ankle sprain suffered just four days prior against the Minnesota Vikings and was unable to finish. Standout left tackle Jason Peters also left early with a biceps injury. And Philly was down two of its top running backs with Jay Ajayi on injured reserve (ACL) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) still working himself back.

The mounting injuries are a concern for the Eagles, whose schedule picks up with games against the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints over the next four weeks.

But on Thursday, the 2017 Eagles offense showed up, and just in time to potentially save the 2018 season.



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Former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning believes “reps” are the key to Andrew Luck returning to form


DUBLIN, Ohio — Their injuries were different, but future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning knows all too well about the mental obstacle Andrew Luck will face from missing a full season.

All indications are Luck will be back with the Indianapolis Colts next season after missing all of 2017 with a right shoulder problem, which he originally injured in Week 3 of the 2015 season. Manning missed the 2011 season with a neck injury. That season was the final one of his 13-year career with the Colts.

“Everything is an individual thing, so you have to be careful speaking on it since injuries are different,” Manning told ESPN after participating in Wednesday’s Pro-Am at the Memorial in Ohio. “But it’s also universal. For me, I was a [repetition] guy. I liked to get all the reps on practice. The theory of 10,000 reps, I believe in that. I felt like I was kind of behind because I hadn’t gotten the reps even though you have a lot in the bank. It took me a few games before I felt like I was coming back. Getting as many reps as possible is key.”

The issue Luck currently faces is that he’s taking part in the team’s offseason workouts to only a certain extent. He currently can’t get all those reps because he hasn’t thrown a football since October 2017.

Colts coach Frank Reich said on May 23 that he anticipates Luck will start throwing during the time between the end of minicamp on June 14 and the start of training camp in late July. At that point, if things go as planned, Luck will increase his reps with his teammates so that they can potentially hit the ground running at the start of training camp. If he’s ready to throw to teammates at that time, he’ll have to do it away from the team’s facility.

Luck, who has admitted he pressed too hard in an attempt to return last season, missed 26 games over the past three years, and he needs as many reps as possible with his skill position players because he’s in the process of learning Reich’s offense, which he brought with him from Philadelphia.

“For me, coming off missing the entire year with the neck, I knew I was going to have to play a different kind of way, a different sort of physical state,” Manning said. “I was looking for things like positive feedback from receivers on whether the ball felt the same coming in and then when you get into the game and you throw a deep out. We played a preseason game and I threw a deep comeback route, and that was a thing to check off the box. You want to do everything for the first time again. You want to get hit, you want to make a tight throw, have a two-minute drive. I wanted to do all those things again.”

Luck replaced Manning as the face of the Colts when the franchise made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2012. The two have remained friends over the years.

“I’m pulling for Andrew’s return,” Manning said. “I stay in touch with him. I came to the combine. He and I sat down for two to three hours and talked about in-season routine, offseason routine.”



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