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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth has given up plans when he gets out of prison later this year to pursue a relationship with his son.

In a letter to the Charlotte Observer, Carruth wrote that he no longer will pursue custody of Chancellor Lee Adams, who lives in Charlotte with his maternal grandmother, Saundra Adams.

This letter came a few weeks after Carruth, scheduled to be released in October, sent a letter to WBTV in Charlotte in which he said he planned to pursue custody of his 18-year-old son.

Carruth has spent the past 17 years in Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton, North Carolina. He was found guilty in 2001 for conspiracy to murder his pregnant girlfriend in 1999.

Cherica Adams died in the hospital after being shot multiple times by Van Brett Watkins, who was hired by Carruth. She was pregnant with Chancellor, who as a result of the shooting was born prematurely and has battled cerebral palsy as a result.

“For all involved or invested in this ordeal, please calm down,” Carruth wrote in the letter to the newspaper. “I will no longer be pursuing a relationship with Chancellor and Ms. Adams. I promise to leave them be, which I now see is in everyone’s best interest.”

Carruth wrote that including in the first letter his desire to re-enter Chancellor’s life was a mistake and admitted that was too optimistic even though he still wants to “make amends with Chancellor and try to be the father that I should have been from day one.”

“I now understand that any notions of me one day being welcome to Sunday dinner is totally out of the question,” Carruth wrote in the second letter that was postmarked Feb. 21. “And lastly, I didn’t foresee the media and general public being unanimous in its belief that I shouldn’t be allowed to ever have anything to do with Chancellor.” 

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New England Patriots rookie Mac Jones earning teammates’ respect – New England Patriots Blog

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts/notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Mac’s work ethic: Rookies are supposed to be seen more than heard with the Patriots, but that can be hard to do when it’s a first-round quarterback such as Mac Jones.

Through the first four days of training camp, Jones is striking that delicate balance and earning the respect of his teammates.

“It’s not easy to play quarterback in the NFL, it’s not easy to play it here. He works his butt off and he cares a lot. I get text messages from him at 6 a.m.,” Patriots veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer said.

Jones, who has exclusively taken No. 2 reps behind Cam Newton through the first stretch of practices, has shown promise when it comes to processing information and releasing the ball on time.

He also has experienced predictable growing pains, and it has been commonplace to see him going over unsuccessful plays with teammates on the field after they unfold — such as what he did Friday after a missed long connection to wide receiver Nelson Agholor, or on an incomplete pass in the flat to running back J.J. Taylor on Thursday that could have been an easier pitch-and-catch.

Jones is notably hard on himself at times, and Newton said he is still learning how best to approach him in those situations. In the Patriots’ second practice, Newton saddled up next to him for a chat after a rough patch.

“I told Mac this, he doesn’t know me yet and I don’t know him yet, as far as comfort,” Newton said. “A couple months with Mac, he’s a person that over time you’ll get to know. He may be a guy you have to [fire up], or he may be a guy you leave alone and let him come back to himself. Everybody is just trying to learn each other and be the best teammates we can.”

Along those lines, teammates have taken notice of Jones’ accountability on the field, and how much he’s investing in them in the locker room.

“He’s a great guy off the field, so it makes it easy to play with him on the field,” wide receiver Jakobi Meyers said. “Guys who want to get better, it makes it really easy to play football with them.”

2. Gilmore’s status: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore‘s desire to have his contract addressed by the team remains in the same spot it was at the start of training camp — no resolution. Gilmore, who is coming back from surgery on his partially torn quad, has been working on the lower practice field with rehabbing players, and at one point last week he walked up with others to watch the final stretch of the regular practice. The dynamic is such that Gilmore can slow-play his potential return to practice, if he so desires, until the business side is resolved. In his absence, big-money free-agent signing Jalen Mills has been taking cornerback reps opposite J.C. Jackson.

3. Harris as RB1: Coach Bill Belichick said last week that running back Damien Harris has “been here since the day after the season was over,” a level of dedication that made a positive impression on him. The coach doesn’t often talk about expectations with roles, but with Harris, he allowed: “He has an opportunity to compete for a lead spot and has embraced that. … I’ve been impressed by the commitment he has shown.” Harris’ primary competition is 2018 first-round pick Sony Michel, who wasn’t present during voluntary spring workouts, with fourth-round pick Rhamondre Stevenson joining the mix after being removed from the active/non-football injury list on Friday. Taylor, Brandon Bolden and Tyler Gaffney round out the depth chart.

4. Stidham’s standing: Belichick broke from his usual stance of not addressing injuries and timelines when he shared that quarterback Jarrett Stidham “will miss a little time,” which led to the team’s waiver claim of Jake Dolegala. After undergoing surgery on his back Wednesday, Stidham will now land on the reserve/physically unable to perform list to start the season and he would be eligible to return by late October. The scenario could be a win-win for Stidham and the team: He gets himself right physically, doesn’t count against the initial roster, and could provide depth later in the season depending on how things unfold with Newton and Jones.

5. Judon’s sprint: When Patriots players retreat to the conditioning hill at the end of practice, outside linebacker Matt Judon has been running with the wide receivers, his blue No. 9 jersey standing out among all the white jerseys. Judon’s immersion into the Patriots’ culture is in its early stages — he wasn’t around for the majority of the spring — but he talked about already developing a connection with fellow linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Josh Uche and others. Summing up his transition from the Baltimore Ravens, he said: “Now, I’m not in enemy territory.”

6. Red zone blues: The Patriots had 26 touchdowns in 48 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line last season, a 54.2% success rate that ranked them 24th in the NFL. Not ideal, and one might say perhaps that is a driving factor as to why the first four days of 2021 training camp were spent almost exclusively in the red zone. But as Belichick pointed out, the Patriots always have a heavy emphasis on that area early in training camp — a reminder of its importance to any team’s success.

7. McCourty’s future: Longtime Patriots captain Devin McCourty turns 34 on Aug. 13, enters his 12th season with the team, and is in the final year of his contract. So could this be his final NFL season? McCourty said last week he hasn’t had time to think along those lines, but acknowledged he has entered the past couple of years with the mentality that any season could be his last. “I will say I feel great going into the season. I had a good offseason training,” McCourty relayed, before joking that training camp would be a relief with kids aged 4, 3 and one month at home. In that case, McCourty might want to play until he’s 40.

8. Mac’s courtesy: It was a small gesture, but one that was hard to miss. Newton had just started his post-practice news conference Friday, which drew a large crowd of reporters, when Jones arrived for his. At that point, Jones could have stepped up to one of the open microphones and started his news conference, but he elected to wait for Newton’s 15-minute session to finish, presumably out of respect to Newton and (possibly) the media.

9. Tuesday’s checkmark: The Patriots have had their first four practices of training camp, although Belichick essentially said camp begins Tuesday in his view. That’s when the team can first wear full pads and the tempo ramps up. So any pure evaluations are on hold, which explains his answer when asked how Jones is doing retaining information in the playbook. “We’ll see,” Belichick said. “We haven’t really got to that yet in training camp. That’ll be coming. So I don’t know. We’ll find out.”

10. Did You Know: The Patriots of 2003 and 2004 were the last teams to repeat as Super Bowl champions, and the current stretch of 16 consecutive seasons without a repeat champion is the longest in history.

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Young leading young in Jets’ QB room; how will it impact Zach Wilson? – New York Jets Blog

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:

1. Lots of green: The Jets probably have the youngest quarterback room in the NFL. How young? Let’s put it this way: No one can tell first-hand stories about the days of the rotary phone, and that includes the coaches.

The tragic death of assistant Greg Knapp, 58, the resident sage, has left the Jets without an experienced quarterback coach. It’s noteworthy because, as everybody knows, the development of prized rookie Zach Wilson is priority No. 1 for the organization.

The group is led by Mike LaFleur, 34, a first-time offensive coordinator and playcaller. The Jets’ quarterbacks coach is Rob Calabrese, 31, a first-time position coach.

Coach Robert Saleh, whose expertise is on the other side of the ball, was counting on Knapp to groom Wilson, Mike White and James Morgan, none of whom has regular-season experience. Their average age is 23.7. Knapp brought 25 years of experience to the room, having coached an impressive group of quarterbacks that includes Pro Football Hall of Famers Steve Young and Peyton Manning.

Former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky believes the lack of experience could affect Wilson.

“Imagine having to learn how to ride a bike with no one who knows how to do it, how to teach you, nor anyone to show you how to do it,” Orlovsky said.

The Jets aren’t going to replace Knapp, per se, but they will re-distribute the workload for the coaches. Saleh said they will revert to a traditional set-up, with the coordinator and position coach working with the quarterbacks. Knapp’s position, passing-game specialist, was a “bonus” on the staff, according to Saleh. Perhaps, but Knapp was the primary voice in the room.

Saleh is leaning on LaFleur, the younger brother of Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur, to coach beyond his years. After seven years at the side of San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, LaFleur is on his own, with no veteran sounding board.

“I know he’s a very young coach, but he’s advanced in terms of what he’s learned and the people he’s been around since he started coaching,” Saleh said.

2. Silver lining playbook: White and Morgan split the reps during Wilson’s absence, giving the coaches and front office an extended look at the two young quarterbacks. White wasn’t great, but he outperformed Morgan, and it wasn’t close. Unless they import a veteran — Saleh seems opposed to that idea — White is the favorite to be the regular season QB2.

That would set up an interesting decision: Would they cut Morgan with the idea of bringing him back for the practice squad? He’d be exposed to waivers, and general manager Joe Douglas might not want to risk one of his draft choices. The alternative is to carry three QBs on the 53-man roster, but that seems like a waste of a spot.

Morgan, a 2020 fourth-round pick from Florida International, was a curious pick at the time. And it hasn’t aged well.

3. Money matters: In case you’re wondering, Wilson’s $35 million guarantee (his entire contract) is the fourth-highest in franchise history, behind C.J. Mosley ($43 million), Darrelle Revis ($39 million) and Muhammad Wilkerson ($37 million). These were the amounts that were guaranteed at signing.

Wilson landed the richest rookie deal, surpassing defensive tackle Quinnen Williams ($32.5 million).

4. Incredible shrinking linebacker: Mosley, listed at 250 pounds when he last played in 2019, reported to training camp at 231, his college weight at Alabama. He looks like a different person.

After opting out in 2020 and missing 14 games in 2019, Mosley has a lot to prove and he sounds highly motivated to show he’s still the player who made four Pro Bowls with the Baltimore Ravens. Whenever he sees highlights of himself on TV, it’s always the same game — his impressive Jets debut in the 2019 opener against the Buffalo Bills. That seems so long ago.

“Honestly, I’m tired of seeing the same highlights for the past two years, so I’m ready to put new highlights on tape,” he said. “Different body type, different body feeling, different defense, different mentality, different mindset. Everyone saw that game, it’s going to be way better this year and years to come.”

Mosley has made a lot of money ($29 million) while accumulating a lot of rust over the past two years. It might take him a few weeks to chip it off, but he will surprise some folks in 2021.

5. Musical kickers: It wouldn’t be Jets training camp without a story about the search for a place-kicker. They’ve gone through four regular-season kickers in the past two seasons — Kaare Vedvik, Sam Ficken, Sergio Castillo and Chase McLaughlin. There will be a new kicker this season now that Ficken, erratic in camp, is gone. The current competition is between rookie Chris Naggar and newcomer Matt Ammendola, who spent a couple of months with the Carolina Panthers earlier this spring

The Jets haven’t had a good kicker since Jason Myers made the Pro Bowl in 2018. They let him walk as a free agent, and they haven’t recovered.

6. Carter country: After four padless practices, the Jets will put on the full equipment Monday — the true start to training camp, according to purists. The player I’m most eager to see is rookie running back Michael Carter, who looked terrific over the first few days. He displayed a knack for finding daylight, with an ability to slide through holes and get vertical with a nice burst.

Let’s hold the applause, though. It’s hard to evaluate running backs when there’s no real hitting. The intensity will be raised on Monday, and it will go higher in the preseason games. The fourth-round pick from North Carolina, who could have a prominent role, is one to watch.

7. Big Blue in ’22? The Jets are having joint practices with two of their preseason opponents, the Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. Why not the New York Giants, too? Actually, they had talks with the Giants about practicing together. Saleh said he hopes they can make it happen next year.

Longtime fans will remember the last Jets-Giants practice. It was 2005, in Albany, New York, a day marked by several fights and a shouting match between Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson and Giants coach Tom Coughlin. I was there and witnessed the entire mess; it was as if the Jets were hellbent of playing the role of neighborhood bully. Ah, memories.

The Jets open the preseason Aug. 14 against the Giants.

8. Motown to Big Apple: Linebacker Jarrad Davis is the classic “change-of-scenery” player. The 2017 first-round pick had a tough time with the Detroit Lions for four seasons, so tough that he revealed, “I contemplated walking away, I really did, man.”

He got benched and “burned out,” saying he let football overtake his life. It couldn’t have been much fun playing for coach Matt Patricia, a gruff, Bill Belichick wannabe who was in over his head. In short, Davis was miserable. Players have talked that way about the Jets, most recently quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who said his second season with the Jets (2016) nearly destroyed his love of football.

Davis, who saw a therapist to help him deal with some emotional issues, said he feels revitalized under the charismatic Saleh, also noting the Jets’ 4-3 scheme is ideally suited to his skill set. Culture and scheme fit are so important in the NFL. Davis, the Jets’ starting strong-side linebacker, has a fresh start. A career turnaround would certainly help the Jets’ reputation, which has been Lions-like in recent years.

9. Crystal ball: Denzel Mims is no better than fifth in the pecking order at wide receiver. He was a 2020 second-round pick. This is a storyline worth following this summer.

10. The last word: “He had this light that he let shine, that attracted people to him. Just in the short time we were together in OTAs, he never had a bad day. I wish I had more time with him. I think everybody does.” — guard Greg Van Roten on Knapp.

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How Vikings’ Justin Jefferson will try to avoid a sophomore slump – Minnesota Vikings Blog

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EAGAN, Minn. — Nothing went as expected for Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson as a rookie in 2020.

His NFL career began in the midst of a pandemic that prevented him from a normal offseason. He didn’t have long to build chemistry with Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins or learn the ins and outs of being a Pro Bowl wide receiver from Adam Thielen.

He absorbed a playbook virtually and didn’t have a preseason game to test the waters. Dealing with the fluid landscape that came with COVID-19 interruptions and distractions threw wrench after wrench into his plans.

Jefferson didn’t even start until Week 3 of the 2020 season, yet he still performed at a record pace. The Vikings’ 2020 first-rounder had a historic rookie season, breaking decades-long franchise records held by Hall of Famer Randy Moss. He finished with 1,400 receiving yards, the most by any rookie in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).

So when Jefferson, 22, talks about the expectations to top last season, it’s no surprise that the challenges of 2020 are the catalyst behind his self-assurance.

“To be honest, my confidence,” Jefferson said about what will help him combat a sophomore slump. “Me having the season I had last year with so many different inconveniences. Now going into this year, having a whole year with Kirk and the rest of the guys on this team, I feel way more confident. I feel like I’m going to do even more, better than I did last year.”

Those inconveniences didn’t slow Jefferson. By the halfway point of the 2020 season, he had put up three 100-yard receiving games. Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur dubbed Jefferson a No. 1 receiver before he suited up for the eighth game of his NFL career, and praise from other coaches and players around the league ensued, often in the form of added attention from defenders.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, 606 of Jefferson’s 1,400 receiving yards came against press coverage (less than a 3-yard cushion), the most by any player last season. He made it tough for corners to cover him one-on-one, recording 100 or more yards on seven different routes.

It’s among the first things Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson noticed about Jefferson, whom he has known since the receiver was a preteen.

“He runs his routes like a savvy vet,” Peterson said. “He makes everything look the same. Most young guys can’t do that. I don’t know if it’s coming from LSU, being coached the right way, but he’s a guy like when I first got here, he’s a pro. When you have a guy that comes into the league at that age and gets it right away, he’s going to be very special.

“I believe it’s going to be kind of difficult to try to cover him differently this year. You just have to roll the punches and hope he drops them.”

So what’s in store for Jefferson in Year 2? Over the past 10 seasons, nine receivers finished with at least 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie. Six of the previous eight (excluding Jefferson) had 1,000 yards again in their second season.

Teams took notice as Jefferson developed into one of the most productive receivers in the league, averaging the second-most receiving yards per route run last season (2.76), behind the Packers’ Davante Adams, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Even with the expectations that come with those numbers, the Vikings aren’t expecting Jefferson’s production to level off. In the traditional sense – receiving stats – those numbers might dip, but being the best receiver on the field could mean Jefferson is absorbing coverage to free up others.

“I don’t think he’s going to have any regression or whatever that is because he’s in a great frame of mind out here,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “He runs, he loves playing football, he’s running great routes. What’s gonna happen, though, is these teams are probably going to start rolling coverage to him, double coverage to him, so in some of these instances, he just can’t get frustrated because that’s happening. But it’s a good thing, if he understands that he is really helping the team an awful lot.

“Now, his numbers might be better or worse, I don’t know, but he’s helping the team because one of those guys that’s doubling him now isn’t in the box for [running back Dalvin] Cook to run against or against [tight end] Irv Smith or against Thielen to go one-on-one with. So he needs to understand that, and we’re working on some of those things, obviously not the first day, but as we start getting going here a little bit more. Part of it is just him understanding that even though they’re double-covering me, I’m helping this football team.”

The way Jefferson performed under the most unusual circumstances as a rookie gives teammates confidence that a repeat is possible. After all, if he put up a historic season with all those inconveniences, what can he do in a more normal season?

“If he were to have the exact same season he had last year and do it like 12 or 13 times, he’s probably going to Canton, I would guess,” Cousins said. “I’m not saying that to put pressure on him. I’m just saying when you talk about ‘what’s the next step?’ it’s not changing who he is, it’s doing it again. And then doing it again, and then doing it again, and I think it’s more about consistency than it is about changing.

“So the challenge in football, and I’ve seen it happen in my journey watching guys going back to Michigan State, is just don’t just be a one-year wonder, don’t just be a flash for a couple years, don’t just be someone who has a good run. Be someone who can sustain it, and I think that’ll be the challenge.”

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