New Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley addressed his hiring by saying that the 2017 Browns “obviously” played “a lot of close games.”
One could forgive the fans if they said it didn’t seem that way.
Such is life for a winless team whose record overcomes a final score.
The Browns finished with a point differential of minus-176, which means they lost by an average of 11 points. That was the worst in the league, by 34 points. They lost six games by six points or fewer, and Haley saw two when his former team, the Steelers, beat the Browns by three and four points, respectively.
Were the Browns that close last season? Here’s a look at the games that were out of reach and those that weren’t:
Out of reach
At Baltimore (24-10), at Indianapolis (31-28), Cincinnati (31-7), at Houston (33-17), Minnesota in London (33-16), Jacksonville (19-7), Baltimore (27-10)
Average point differential: 15 points. The Colts score looks close, but that result was deceiving because the Browns were blown out in the first half. Jacksonville was a three-point game in the fourth quarter, but the offense never moved the ball consistently. In the rest, the other team was simply better.
With some luck, maybe
Pittsburgh (21-18), Tennessee (12-9 in overtime), at Los Angeles Chargers (19-10)
A play here or there would have changed momentum in each of these games, though the Browns would have had to create their own good fortune to finish each with a win.
Two plays made a big difference in the opener against Pittsburgh. Down three and trying to hold the Steelers without a first down for another chance in the final minutes, Antonio Brown somehow caught a fly ball from Ben Roethlisberger that descended as if it had a parachute. Brown leaped and made the catch between two Browns defenders. Previously, late in the third quarter, DeShone Kizer threw a pass that was intercepted by T.J. Watt at the Pittsburgh 17 — a pass basically thrown to nobody. Either of these plays could have changed the feel of the game, given the Browns a chance and helped Kizer’s early-season confidence. At times, the Steelers seemed to treat the game as more of a glorified scrimmage, but in the end the Browns had chances.
In the overtime loss to Tennessee, the Browns could not sustain enough drives and threw three interceptions. The score was close, but the Browns never threatened to take the win.
Philip Rivers threw for 344 yards and controlled the Chargers game, but in the first half, Kizer missed a wide-open Josh Gordon for what would have been an easy touchdown. Does that play change the result? Maybe not, but it could have changed the feel of the game.
Winnable with a play or a break
New York Jets (17-14), at Detroit (38-24), at Cincinnati (30-16), Green Bay (27-21 in overtime), at Chicago (20-3), at Pittsburgh (28-24)
Each of these games warrants a closer look.
A key play in the Jets loss came when coach Hue Jackson went for a first down on fourth-and-2 from the 4 early in the fourth quarter and the Browns down 10-7. A field goal would have tied the score, but Zane Gonzalez already had missed two and Jackson thought it was time to win the game, not tie. He was roundly criticized for it when the Browns didn’t make the first down. Naturally, the Jets followed with a 97-yard touchdown drive that essentially put the game away. Two other important plays earlier in the game also affected the outcome. Kizer threw a goal-line interception to snuff out a scoring threat when he misread the coverage. He also had a poor pitch on an option play at the goal line that led to a fumble inside the 10. If any one of those plays goes differently, the Browns have a chance to win. This game counts as one that got away.
In Detroit, a couple of missed chances affected the outcome of a two-touchdown game. The end of the first half was a lesson in clock mismanagement and ended when Kizer thought he saw an opening for a quarterback sneak on second-and-goal from the 2 with 19 seconds left and the Browns out of timeouts. The Lions stuffed the play, and the Browns got no points. Later, with Kizer sidelined with sore ribs, Cody Kessler overthrew a sure touchdown to a wide-open Bryce Treggs. Earlier, Seth DeValve‘s fumble gave the Lions a defensive touchdown. The Browns actually led by seven late in the third quarter. They could have won this game.
One key play in Cincinnati still has the Browns banging their foreheads on their desks. The Bengals led by seven in the fourth quarter and faced third-and-5 from the Browns’ 40-yard line. Andy Dalton threw down the sideline to Josh Malone, who caught the ball just before receiving a hard tackle from safety Jabrill Peppers. Officials called it a hit on a defenseless player, and Peppers was flagged, which allowed the Bengals to score the clinching touchdown. The Browns were bitter about the flag, and their position seemed justified when the league rescinded a fine on Peppers. If that play goes the Browns’ way, Cleveland at least has a chance to tie.
The Packers loss remains toothache-style painful, especially because the Browns blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead. Any of three plays makes this a Browns win. First, David Njoku dropped a third-down pass with 2:59 left and the Browns up seven that would have meant a first down and an opportunity to run out the clock. On the ensuing punt, the Browns gave up a 65-yard return on a Keystone Cops effort that gave the Packers the chance to tie the score on the second-to-last play of the game.
That was the seventh-longest punt return in the NFL last season. In overtime, Kizer held the ball too long — Gordon could not get off the line for a quick slant — and was hit as he threw. The resulting pass turned into a pop fly that the Packers intercepted. They scored the game-winning touchdown soon after. This loss was a teeth-gnasher.
A 17-point loss in Chicago shouldn’t have had any meaningful plays for the Browns, but in this game one defensive play could have altered the outcome. On the first play of the second half, defensive end Myles Garrett returned an interception for a touchdown that would have put the Browns up 10-6. It was the kind of uplifting big play that energizes a team, but it turned out that Carl Nassib was flagged for offside, negating the interception and touchdown. It’s not inconceivable to think the Browns win if the play stands.
The season ended in Pittsburgh with a crushing mistake, as Corey Coleman dropped an easy catch at the Steelers’ 10-yard-line with 1:46 left. Kizer had played by far his best game, and he was guiding what appeared to be a last-minute, dramatic, game-winning drive. Instead, Coleman’s drop turned into a play that will live in Browns lore. The Browns had two turnovers on their previous drives on a Kizer interception and a Duke Johnson Jr. fumble, but the Coleman drop stands out as almost excessively cruel.
That adds up to six games when a play or three could have swung things for the Browns.
New England Patriots HOFer Kevin Faulk sees Mac Jones set up for success – New England Patriots Blog
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Seeing the similarities: Patriots Hall of Famer Kevin Faulk had an up-close look at Mac Jones, the team’s hopeful quarterback of the future.
In one respect, he didn’t like what he saw. In another, he loved it.
Faulk, who enters his second season as LSU’s running backs coach, watched closely from the sideline last December as Jones sizzled in leading Alabama to a 55-17 win against his Tigers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
It was the type of performance from Jones (20-of-28 for 385 yards, four TDs, no interceptions) that makes for sleepless nights for an opposing coach, but one that also sparked optimism when Faulk considers a bright future for the only NFL team he played for (1999-2012).
“Very intelligent. Doesn’t make too many bad decisions. Understood what the offense was. Understood what he needed to do as the starting quarterback, and I think that will be the same way here,” Faulk said of Jones last week on a visit to Massachusetts for an autograph signing. “The situations are similar for him.”
Faulk, 45, is like many who follow the Patriots in his interest on how the quarterback picture will develop, beginning with the first training camp practice Wednesday. The Patriots obviously didn’t select Jones No. 15 overall with the intention for him to be a backup, so the question is how long veteran Cam Newton can hold him off.
“Very curious, because [Jones] can be very productive in this offense if he is who he is shown and proven to be in college — the one year he played,” Faulk said. “He hadn’t played much the previous years, but you could tell from last year that he paid attention.”
Faulk also took note of the Patriots’ second-round pick, Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore, who was a handful for LSU to block.
“Can’t wait to see what he does. Very disruptive in the SEC, and we always say the SEC is a step below the NFL,” he said.
Faulk and LSU are looking to rebound from a 5-5 campaign in 2020, and when he was in LSU’s weight room last week, he chopped it up with new Patriots defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, a former Tiger using the college’s facilities.
Faulk, who played four seasons with the Tigers (1995-98), said he takes pride in seeing LSU alumni land with his former NFL team.
So it’s no surprise that one of the first things he did upon his arrival to town last week was visit Patriots headquarters, specifically to pick up some new gear from the team’s Pro Shop.
“Felt like home when I got there,” he said.
2. Vaccination rate: One of the most popular questions from followers is where the Patriots stand with vaccinations, and if they have reached the 85% threshold for players. There are likely to be competitive advantages to being at 85%, such as affecting how teams can meet. The NFL also informed clubs that there are notable consequences for teams that lag with vaccinations. The Patriots, as is often the case with health-related topics, are not divulging their vaccination information publicly, but the sense I get is they are within striking distance — if not already there.
3. Gilmore’s next step: The most significant Patriots news from past week was cornerback Stephon Gilmore reporting with rehabbing players Thursday after skipping June’s mandatory minicamp. That eliminated the possibility of a holdout, which was a long shot anyway because it could have led to up to $50,000 in daily fines. Gilmore, who is still recovering from a partially torn quad, is opening camp on the physically unable to perform list. As for what his arrival means going forward, my thought is it was a necessary initial step toward a possible contract compromise. It would have been hard to imagine the Patriots getting to that point without having Gilmore in-house first.
4. OL coach shuffle: Friday’s news that co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich won’t be with the Patriots in 2021 in a decision related to the COVID-19 vaccine and NFL guidelines is significant in the sense that Popovich — set to enter his seventh season with the team — was groomed under legendary Dante Scarnecchia and a reliable staffer. But the way coach Bill Belichick set up the staff following Scarnecchia’s retirement after the 2018 season — with longtime Youngstown State offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo sharing duties with Popovich — softens the blow to the team. Also, former Patriots offensive lineman Billy Yates is a general assistant on staff and can chip in as well.
5. Stidham’s status: The Patriots have started eight players on the active/physically unable to perform list, and quarterback Jarrett Stidham is among them, meaning he is not cleared for practice despite having participated fully in all spring practices (and even organizing players-only workouts before that). That is often a tip that a player has been managing some type of nagging ailment over a longer range of time, instead of suffering a new injury in the past month or so. If that is indeed the case for Stidham, his status would elevate to one of the more notable storylines of the coming week. Will he be on the field for the first practice Wednesday? If he isn’t, media-based chatter in the spring about how the team splits QB repetitions four ways quickly becomes moot. It would then be Newton leading the way, followed by Jones and veteran Brian Hoyer.
6. Waiting on Mac’s number: When the Patriots take the field for their first practice Wednesday, it’s likely Jones will still be donning the unconventional No. 50. Belichick, as previously noted, puts the rookies in different numbers as a reminder of sorts to focus on more important things than numbers, colored gloves, etc. He can do that until the first preseason game, so Aug. 12 when the Washington Football Team comes to town, would be the date to bookmark for official jersey numbers (Jones’ No. 10 from college remains available).
7. Consistent culture: Recently retired Patriots safety Patrick Chung isn’t buying the idea that the team’s culture is different now, post-Tom Brady. Trade requests (N’Keal Harry) and contract disagreements (Gilmore) have sparked that thought in some circles, but not Chung’s, who said: “Bill is going to make sure that culture stays the same. That’s how Bill is. Regardless of who’s there, who’s not there, he’s going to make sure those players are ready to go and compete.”
8. Short-handed Saints: Top wide receiver Michael Thomas reportedly had ankle surgery in June that makes it unlikely he will be available for the first month of the season, and just more than one week ago, starting defensive tackle David Onyemata was suspended six games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. That double-dose of bad news for the Saints has some added meaning for the Patriots, who host New Orleans in Week 3.
9. Krafts and 18: Local Boston television station WBZ, which is a broadcast partner of the Patriots, is mourning the death of producer Jimmy Murphy. Patriots owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft each donated $18,000 to the GoFundMe page supporting Murphy’s family, while also sending along a custom Patriots jersey and personal note. In Hebrew, the number 18 stands for “life,” and their generous donation honors Murphy’s memory.
10. Did You Know?: After the Patriots’ streak of finishing .500 or better was stopped at 19 years, the Pittsburgh Steelers now hold the longest streak — 17 years. Pittsburgh hasn’t finished with a losing record since 2003, the year before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in the first round. The Cowboys (1965-1985) hold the longest streak of finishing .500 or better — 21 years.
Zach Wilson’s uncle books charter so fans can attend nephew’s Jets debut – New York Jets Blog
A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Going to Carolina: Thanks to his airline-mogul uncle, Jets quarterback Zach Wilson will have a small cheering section when he makes his NFL debut on Sept. 12 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Watch out, Carolina Panthers; the Cougars are coming.
JetBlue founder David Neeleman organized a charter flight to Charlotte from Salt Lake City, which will allow Wilson fans to attend Saturday night’s BYU-Utah game in Provo and then make it to Bank of America Stadium for the Jets-Panthers opener at 1 p.m. ET. Neeleman, Zach’s uncle on his mother’s side, researched commercial options, determining there isn’t a flight that can get to Charlotte in time for kickoff. He knows the industry — he founded a few airlines — so he arranged for a 200-passenger JetBlue A321 plane.
They’re calling it “The Wilson Weekend,” with seats going for $599 to $799 apiece. The offer, launched two weeks ago, includes a hotel room in Charlotte, where travelers can relax for a few hours before kickoff. Sorry, no game tickets included. The website is billing it as “a once-in-a-lifetime weekend event to celebrate your favorite quarterback!”
Wilson, who led BYU to an 11-1 record last season, is enormously popular in his home state of Utah. His pro debut is a big deal, but so is the BYU-Utah game, especially for the Wilson family. Josh Wilson plays linebacker for BYU. Their father, Mike, played football for Utah. Neeleman, too, is a Utah alum.
But come Sunday, Sept. 12, there will be no conflicting loyalties.
There are no refunds unless the game in canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. They’re assuming Wilson will be the opening-day starter (he will) and will emerge unscathed from the preseason (fingers crossed).
2. Money matters: Wilson can’t do anything until he signs his four-year, $35.2 million contract, fully guaranteed. What’s taking so long? Even though the amount of money is pre-determined by the league, agents and teams sometimes haggle over smaller issues such as offset language and payment schedule.
The Jets always demand an offset clause; it enables the team to recoup some money if it cuts the player before the four-year contract is completed. For comparison purposes, quarterback Sam Darnold, drafted No. 3 overall in 2018, had an offset in his rookie contract.
The player drafted ahead of Wilson, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, recently signed with no offset, which could have some financial benefit if he is released before the contract expires. If Wilson’s agents want to fight that fight, it might take a little longer for a resolution. There’s no reason to panic, though. The first practice isn’t until Wednesday.
Darnold’s contract dispute cost him three practices in 2018, but at least they had veteran Josh McCown to run the offense. Do the Jets really want to open camp Wednesday with James Morgan and Mike White splitting snaps?
Wilson is one of three unsigned first-round draft picks remaining in the league.
3. Position battles galore: The Jets have a young team with plenty of competitive positions. You could argue that only 11 of the 22 starting jobs are truly locked up. There are position battles across the board, especially at running back, tight end, right guard, defensive end, outside linebacker and every secondary position not manned by Marcus Maye.
They’re also billing right tackle as a competition between incumbent George Fant and recently signed Morgan Moses, although Moses, coming off a good season with the Washington Football Team, is considered the favorite. Fant ($9.8 million cap) could wind up being one of the most expensive backups in the league. (Did someone say “pay cut”?)
The Jets landed Moses on a team-friendly deal — one year, $3.6 million. That includes a $3.1 million guarantee — $2 million signing bonus, plus $1.1 million in base salary. This could turn out to be one of general manager Joe Douglas’ best signings.
4. Cloudy future: The Jets never came close to signing Maye (franchise tag) to a long-term extension before the July 15 deadline. There was a considerable gap in the negotiations, raising serious questions about his long-term future with the team.
Essentially, the Jets punted, waiting to see how Maye fits into coach Robert Saleh’s scheme. By rule, they can’t resume talks until after the season. If he has another strong season, why would he re-sign on the doorstep of free agency? A second tag isn’t out of the question, but that probably would cause acrimony between the two sides. It wouldn’t be cheap, either — $12.7 million, the required 20% raise on his current tag amount ($10.6 million).
The best teams usually find a way to keep their best players. It feels like that won’t happen in this case.
5. Monster season? One player to watch in training camp is defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who is returning from offseason foot surgery and will begin on the physically unable to perform list.
Once he’s good to go, Williams could have a huge season under Saleh. It’s a one-gap scheme that plays to his strength, which is penetrating and shooting gaps. If he builds on his impressive 2020 season, he will be a menace for opponents. When opposing scouts talk about the Jets’ personnel, the first name off their lips is Williams.
Because he sat out the entire offseason, his conditioning could be an issue as he attempts to get up to speed.
6. New sheriff: Difference No. 541 between Saleh and former coach Adam Gase: Saleh relishes outside competition. The Jets have four joint practices with the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. Gase had none in his only non-COVID year (2019) as the Jets’ coach.
7. “U-S-A!” Pardon Carl Lawson if he seems a bit distracted Friday at practice. That day, his longtime girlfriend, Rachel Dincoff, will be competing in the discus at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“I’ll be sitting there, watching, cheering, screaming in my room,” Lawson said the other day on the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” Show.
Luckily, because of the time difference, the event will take place in the evening Eastern Standard Time and not during practice. Lawson might have meetings that night, but you have to believe his coaches will let him sneak out to check out the event on TV. The women’s discus final is Aug. 2 at 7 a.m. ET.
Lawson and Dincoff, who met at Auburn in 2013, are having quite an athletic year: She qualifies for the Olympics, he lands a three-year, $45 million contract with the Jets.
8. Did you know? The Jets rank last in Total QBR (43.7) over the past 15 seasons, having thrown the fewest touchdown passes (276) and the most interceptions (269) in that time. They hope Wilson can reverse the trend.
Why Lake Tahoe’s celebrity golf tournament is a last respite for NFL players – San Francisco 49ers Blog
STATELINE, Nev. — Two years ago, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was sitting at a table not far from the shores of Lake Tahoe engrossed in a conversation he never envisioned he’d be a part of.
Justin Timberlake was sitting across from him, regaling Kelce and others with stories from the early days of his legendary musical career.
“I was sitting there as a kid watching this guy’s career kind of unfold and just being a fan of him in that regard,” Kelce said. “It was so cool just to be around that. As a kid, you don’t think that’s what could possibly happen.”
Kelce’s experience with Timberlake was part of a five-day escape that has become a pre-training camp staple for NFL players and coaches at Lake Tahoe for the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Edgewood Golf Course.
For all of the 80-plus yearly participants, it’s a nice getaway to one of the country’s most picturesque settings. For the ever-growing number of current and former NFL players lucky enough (and/or good enough at golf) to get the invitation, it represents a much-needed final chance to relax before the grind of the NFL season.
“This is just so unique,” Kelce said. “And that’s what really keeps you coming back is situations and stories like that, that are very rare. You don’t get that at any other event.”
Indeed, the annual tournament is unlike any other in the country. This year’s event welcomed 39 NFL players and coaches, including 17 current players. Kelce, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, free-agent wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson and receiver Adam Thielen and Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick were among the active players in this year’s field.
The event, which includes a couple of practice rounds and three rounds of tournament play, recently completed its 32nd year. But it’s not hard to see why NFL players actively campaign for invitations and anxiously await the opportunity to return.
Heading up the list: The type of cool, sunny weather that can be difficult to find in early July and will be even harder to find at various NFL training camps.
It’s one of the primary reasons NBA legend Charles Barkley has become a tournament staple and de facto mayor of Edgewood. There’s even a “Charles Barkley Day” in South Lake Tahoe in recognition of Barkley’s charitable donations to the area and commitment to the community.
“The first thing I put on my schedule every year is Lake Tahoe,” Barkley said. “I have no idea how y’all do it. Lake Tahoe is the only place that’s not hot as hell in the middle of the summer. … I don’t care where I’m coming from in the country, it’s a heat wave. When I get to Lake Tahoe the weather is always perfect.”
OK, so the weather and scenery are a given and so, too, is the opportunity to compete. Kelce said he’s “trying to beat somebody” in everything he does.
That’s not true for everyone in the field, however. For a self-aware type like New York Giants tight end Kyle Rudolph, it’s actually a chance to get away from heated competition and just enjoy himself. That mindset, of course, is partially a product of where Rudolph usually lands on the leaderboard.
“My competing is in between the lines, not in between the ropes,” Rudolph said. “It’s easy for someone who is going to be at the bottom, probably 10 or so, on the leaderboard to say that, but I’m just out here to have a good time. … Now certainly if I was competing in the top 10, I’d be a little bit more competitive.”
The yearly Tahoe sojourn also offers a chance for unlikely relationships to form. Kelce has forged friendships with the likes of Timberlake and actor/comedian/Chiefs fan Rob Riggle, who is also a tournament mainstay. Rudolph has developed a friendship with comedian Larry the Cable Guy, bonding over their similar approach to golf.
“Who can say no to the opportunity to be around people who have gotten to where they’ve gotten to in their careers?” Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “I just like being around good people. I’m blessed to bring my family out here for the first time and enjoy the nice weather, the nice company.”
In the couple of days before this year’s tournament, improbable scenes played out all over the place.
During a post-practice-round range session, boxer Canelo Alvarez, Fitzgerald and Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan ended up in an impromptu driving competition. Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young and former All-Pro defensive lineman Justin Tuck discussed the ever-relatable topic of how difficult it is to translate success on the range to the actual golf course.
Check out Steph Curry and Canelo Alvarez as they have a sparring match on the golf course.
Meanwhile, on the practice green, NBA star Stephen Curry kept a large group of fans waiting for autographs as he went through an elaborate, roughly hourlong putting routine. The next day, Curry found himself shadow boxing Alvarez on the ninth hole for a second consecutive year. As one might expect, it didn’t go so well for Curry.
“I have to really get better, obviously,” Curry said. “I need to use my reach and my height a little bit. I kind of got down and went right into his sweet spot. One of our good friends is an amateur boxer. So, he sent me a text late last night. He watched the video, analyzed it. He told me everything I did wrong. So, I have a full year to get right.”
Things tend to turn a bit more serious when the actual tournament begins. But not much more, which was easy to see when following the trio of Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould and former Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams for nine holes on the opening Friday.
As Williams teed off on No. 11, a fan yelled “Bills Mafia” at Williams just before he lined up his shot. Instead of shouting down the fan, Williams responded with a hearty “Yeah, baby!” As Gould walked between holes, a fan in an Arizona Cardinals T-shirt asked for an autograph. Gould was sure to let the fan know he needed to “get a better shirt” as he happily obliged the request.
On the 16th hole, a long par 5 that offers an ideal Lake Tahoe backdrop, Williams smoked a drive right down the middle only to have it stopped midflight by a wickedly placed tree in the middle of the fairway. To no one in particular, a laughing Williams said, “I hit that tree like every year. I got 10 grand for someone with a chainsaw.”
Andrew Whitworth and Kyle Williams taking in the full party experience of No. 17 at the American Century Championship in Tahoe. pic.twitter.com/dXmfNNZAfw
— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) July 21, 2021
The fun really begins when players get to the par-3 17th, the signature hole of the tournament that offers the type of party atmosphere found elsewhere only at No. 16 at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix. The hole sits along the shore of Lake Tahoe with music blaring and fans lined up on both sides.
Additional spectators watch the proceedings from their boats, and some even get involved. One group of fans threw footballs and markers on to the fairway in front of Williams and Whitworth, both of whom scooped up the balls, signed them and tossed them back to the fans. As he passed through on Saturday, Rodgers threw a perfect pass from the tee box to fans on a boat more than 50 yards away.
It’s the one hole on the course that every player, no matter how competitive, wants to play well.
“Obviously, that’s the biggest pressure hole,” Rudolph said. “You’ve got everybody over there, you want to hit a good shot.”
Participants view the tournament as an ideal situation to spend time with family and close friends. Rudolph’s college roommate served as his caddy, Fitzpatrick’s son Brady was on his bag and 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey — at 6-foot-8 and 310 pounds — set a tournament record for largest caddy by stepping in for Gould’s dad.
Even a 6.0 earthquake originating nearby Thursday and hotter than normal temperatures weren’t enough to ruin the mood, as a limited number of fans were able to return to watch in person after no fans were allowed in 2020 because of the pandemic. This year, the tournament once again awarded $600,000 in prize money, all of which goes to various charities.
Soon enough, the lighthearted jabs and friendly trash talk will give way to those long, hot training camp days.
“This is the last hurrah,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s exactly how you look at it. This is the last time your family gets together, and you get to do something fun. It’s a great event, and you can’t beat the camaraderie of the guys.”
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