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CLEARWATER, Fla. — Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce got plenty of attention for his salty language during the Super Bowl celebration parade. The All-Pro says he tried to tone it down when he spoke inside the Phillies clubhouse on Monday.

But once Kelce started his speech, he found that old habits die hard.

“I probably cursed a little more, actually,” Kelce said. “At least through the start of the speech I made an effort to not curse, and then that quickly faded.”

Wearing a red No. 62 Phillies spring training jersey, Kelce was the main guest during the first official day of team workouts.

“I played baseball all the way up until high school,” Kelce said. “I threw my elbow out when I was like 12 years old, tore the plate off my bone. I didn’t play baseball after that.”

Kelce spent a lot of time watching pitchers throw their side sessions and said there was plenty he could take away from watching them interact with catchers.

“Baseball is an awesome sport,” Kelce said. “I’ve just been picking up some of what goes on between the pitcher and catcher because I think there are a lot of similarities between the mental chess game going on there as there is with me and Carson [Wentz] kind of assessing defenses and stuff like that.”

New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said that he spoke with Kelce separately and discussed the rapport Eagles players had with head coach Doug Pederson and the coaching staff.

“Jason and I discussed that and talked about how that communication was the two-way street,” Kapler said. “He shared what a good communicator Coach Pederson was and how that communication was critical in establishing and maintaining trust throughout the season.”

Kapler said he felt the message Kelce gave his players was one that will inspire them and one they needed to hear as they begin the season.

“I think there were 8 to 10 [things] to take away, but the No. 1 was it is OK to fall down, be fearless, get back up, be bold and do it all over again,” Kapler said. “Champions have stories to share and they’re effective for a reason.

“Because they’ve been through the ups and downs, they’ve displayed courage, they’ve come together as units, they know what it feels like to have people count them out and then to prove people wrong.”

Kapler said the Phillies’ video production staff put together a piece for the team over the weekend that included some highlights from the other sports teams in the city, as well as some footage from the movie “Rocky” spliced in and some highlights of their own players.

The relationship with the city is something Kapler wants the Phillies to embrace.

“We feel like we’re in a partnership with the city of Philadelphia, the fans of Philadelphia and certainly the sports teams of Philadelphia,” he said. “You saw it today with Jason. He felt like he was a part of the Phillies family. He wore that ‘Be Bold’ T-shirt proudly, then he put on a Phillies jersey and a Phillies cap.

“This is an All-Pro center on the best offensive line in football from a Super Bowl championship team. And here he was in our clubhouse today sort of backing the Phillies. I thought that was pretty remarkable.”

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NFL’s minority hiring rate for open jobs nearly doubled

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The number of minority hires for open positions in the NFL nearly doubled to 34.6% in 2021.

According to the league’s demographics study obtained Friday by The Associated Press, the minority hirings included: three general managers, two head coaches, three offensive coordinators, six defensive coordinators, four special teams coordinators, three quarterbacks coaches.

The minority hiring rate was 18.8% in 2020. Interview requests for minority candidates increased to 47% from 22% in 2020.

Twelve of the 28 candidates interviewed for head coaching positions were minorities. David Culley (Texans) and Robert Saleh (Jets) were hired. Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was passed over despite receiving an interview request from each of the seven teams looking for a new head coach.

The data shows minority head coaches have been given second opportunities at a higher rate than white coaches. From 2000 to present, eight of 21 fired minority coaches (38.1%) got another head coaching job. Of the 115 fired white coaches, 22 (19.1%) got a second chance.

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New York Giants’ Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 after opting out last season

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 as long as the situation is right, he told ESPN in a phone conversation this week.

Solder, who opted out this past season because of concerns for his family with COVID-19, has yet to have that conversation with the team about his future. He was considered a high-risk opt-out and his contract tolled.

He is scheduled to make $10 million in 2021 while costing $16.5 million against the salary cap this upcoming season.

The Giants haven’t been in a rush to make any moves with the new league year still almost three weeks away. Like everybody else, they’re waiting to see the official salary cap number for the 2021 season. Then they’re expected to meet with the veteran tackle.

Solder, 32, was the Giants’ starting left tackle in 2018 and ’19 after signing a lucrative free-agent contract. He had spent the previous seven years of his career with the New England Patriots, where he won a pair of Super Bowls.

The decision to opt out last season centered around Solder’s family. His oldest son Hudson has battled cancer. So has Nate. Solder and his wife Lexi also had a newborn.

Solder had said late last year on the Sports Spectrum podcast with former NFL quarterback Brock Huard that if he had another opportunity to play, he would probably take it. He also noted that he was still working out, but hadn’t prioritized his conditioning and weight lifting like he would during a normal football season.

The Giants now have a decision to make if they are going to move forward with Solder. They would save $6 million this season against the salary cap if he’s released, and $10 million if they made it a post-June 1 cut.

New York drafted a pair of tackles in last year’s draft, including Andrew Thomas with the No. 4 overall pick out of Georgia. Thomas started at left tackle and, despite early struggles, got better as the season progressed.

Third-round pick Matt Peart is expected to compete for the starting right tackle spot this year. Cameron Fleming, who started last season, is a free agent.

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From Curtis Samuel to draft, Washington has options to add speed at WR – Washington Blog

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ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Football Team needs to settle who will throw the ball for it this season. However, while quarterback remains the hottest topic, the group he will throw to is a big priority. To help any quarterback, Washington must improve at wide receiver.

And there’s one quality the team wants most: Speed.

They have Terry McLaurin, who has caught 145 passes for for 2,037 yards in his first two seasons without any consistency at quarterback or from other wide receivers. He has been targeted 223 times, and over the past two seasons no other Washington wide receiver has more than 95 targets or 61 catches. No other player has more than 111 targets.

Washington finished 24th in the NFL with 31 plays of 20 yards or more by wideouts, and McLaurin had 17 of them. In other words, they will add more talent around him.

Who are the best free-agent solutions?

Washington pursued the Dallas CowboysAmari Cooper heavily last offseason, but he was also the only blue chip wide receiver available. Also, knowing they would select Chase Young as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft and without a second-round pick, free agency was the best way to land a premium pass-catching talent.

More options exist this offseason. Signing one would allow them to target an offensive tackle in the first round with the No. 19 pick of the 2021 NFL draft.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II would be considered the best available and would help any quarterback look better. That’s what he did for Blake Bortles in Jacksonville and Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago. He also had 22 gains of 20 yards or more, one behind the league lead.

However, if Washington wants pure speed, there is Curtis Samuel, whom the Carolina Panthers drafted when Ron Rivera was their coach and Marty Hurney the general manager. Both are now in Washington along with offensive coordinator Scott Turner, who was in Carolina as well. Samuel’s speed makes him dangerous. Against Washington this season, for example, he caught a 45-yard pass where a head fake didn’t fool the safety, but his speed made the play work. He creates well after the catch, too, and can help in the backfield.

Nelson Agholor averaged 18.67 yards per catch for the Las Vegas Raiders last season, second in the NFL. His average air yards per target ranked third at 11.1 yards. In other words: He’s a downfield threat. In Philadelphia, he was used mostly in the slot. From 2017 to 2019 with the Eagles, Agholor caught a combined 117 passes from the slot and 37 outside. With the Raiders, he caught 12 passes in the slot and 35 outside. One NFC scout called him explosive with big-play ability, but he has inconsistent hands. His flexibility would pair well with the equally versatile McLaurin.

Will Fuller (Houston Texans) is another fast (and probably expensive) free agent: He averaged an NFL-best 11.4 air yards per target and was fifth at 16.58 yards per catch.

Chris Godwin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pittsburgh Steelers) are other prominent free agents; both are considered playmakers, though Schuster is not considered a burner.

How much does the QB situation impact free agency?

A lot. Not at all. Or, OK, maybe a little. It depends which agent you ask. As it searches for an upgrade, Washington, for now, has quarterbacks Alex Smith, Taylor Heinicke and Steven Montez under contract with Kyle Allen an exclusive rights free agent.

One agent was adamant he wouldn’t send his clients into a situation like Washington’s, feeling it could prevent them from building up statistics and earning another deal. That would especially be true if the player was coming on a one-year, prove-it deal where numbers equal more money the following year.

However, another agent, who also represents some wide receivers, said the quarterback situation wouldn’t matter.

“For any player in free agency, money is always the No. 1 thing,” the agent said. “If it’s equal in pay, you go to your next criteria. For your last deal you might say I’ll play with the best quarterback, but those guys have gotten their money already.”

Another agent said if a guy hasn’t played with a good quarterback, it might fuel his desire to get with one. But it was clear some quarterbacks would be undesirable.

“I don’t think there’s ever a cookie-cutter method,” he said. “It depends on the player and his priorities.”

Could the draft provide help?

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said of Washington’s situation: “Wide receiver is the deepest position in the draft. … They’ve got to find someone.”

Kiper said as many as 40 wide receivers could receive draftable grades. Because of the unusual season, and lack of great scouting opportunities, teams will disagree on which 40 warrant those grades. A wide receiver a team likes in the fourth round could fall to the sixth or seventh.

That draft depth also could prompt Washington to spend elsewhere in free agency, or it could allow the team to trade back from the No. 19 pick and still get a player who can help. Florida’s Kadarius Toney likely will be available when Washington selects in the first round. He is not considered a deep burner, but he does have good speed and makes defenders miss because of elite quickness.

“He’s a playmaker,” Kiper said.

Kiper listed others in the top two rounds who could make an impact, including Elijah Moore (Ole Miss) and TuTu Atwell (Louisville). They are smaller but with excellent speed, particularly Atwell. There’s also Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge. He’s another small-but-fast target who can align in the slot, but also move outside.

“He’s super explosive,” said Jim Nagy, the Senior Bowl director as well as an ESPN college draft analyst. “He was playing at a whole different speed than everyone else, but was that just the [Mid-American Conference]? … But the speed was real.”

Nagy also pointed out UCLA’s Demetric Felton, a running back in college who stood out in the slot at the Senior Bowl. His versatility is attractive and he could be a younger version of Samuel.

It’s too early to know who will be available for Washington, but there will be options if it doesn’t land someone in free agency.

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