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DETROIT — Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has often been criticized for some of his predictable playcalling. On the first drive of Thanksgiving, though, he gave all those critics a little gift – some trickery.

Bevell called a reverse flea-flicker – a handoff from Stafford to Kerryon Johnson, who flipped back to Jamal Agnew and then flipped back to Matthew Stafford – to set up a reception to a wide open T.J. Hockenson for a 51-yard gain.

The Texans defense was confused by the play, and it set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson to give Detroit a 7-0 lead.

It’s the second straight year the Lions had a big play on their first drive on Thanksgiving. Detroit scored on a 75-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback David Blough to receiver Kenny Golladay last season against Chicago.



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Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr says he has no desire to leave team

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HENDERSON, Nev. — Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, an annual subject of trade rumors and innuendo, re-asserted his desire to remain with the team that selected him in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft.

“I’d probably quit football if I had to play for somebody else,” Carr said following Tuesday’s mandatory minicamp practice in his first public comments since the end of last season. “I am a Raider for my entire life. I’m going to root for one team for the rest of my life — it’s the Raiders. So, I just feel that so strong in my heart I don’t need a perfect situation … to make things right.

“I’d rather go down with the ship, you know what I’m saying, if I have to.”

Carr, who turned 30 in March, had been asked about how several of his contemporaries had aired their grievances publicly this offseason, from Deshaun Watson to Russell Wilson to Aaron Rodgers, and why Carr, who has had far from an optimal roster and situation in his career with the Raiders, had remained silent.

“I’m that old-school mentality — I’m playing for one team and that’s it,” he said. “Whether we’ve won enough or not, I literally give every bit of energy and effort that I can to this organization and when I sign a contract, I completely, in my mind, have to fulfill that. I committed to that. I put my name on paper.

“It’s just how I was raised. I’m from Fresno, California. Born in Fresno. My dad worked in the car business, my mom helped with substitute teaching and all different kinds of stuff at the church, so we didn’t have a whole bunch of stuff growing up, so I don’t need much.”

Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders in June 2017 that briefly made him the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL.

And after starting his career 0-10, Carr was one win from evening his career record in Week 3 of the 2017 season. But the Raiders went into a tailspin and Carr’s career record is now 47-63. Carr’s 63 losses are the most by a quarterback in his first seven NFL seasons.

Carr, though, is coming off career highs in passing yards (4,103) and passer rating (101.4) for the Raiders, who went 8-8 last season.

“I think Derek Carr had his best year yet under Jon Gruden,” Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said this offseason. “I think he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and we couldn’t be happier with him, and I tell you every year, we evaluate every position, every year. I have no idea who might call me or who might not call me, so you have to do the evaluations both on your own players and every other player in the league and you got to stack your boards and understand what league value is all around the league, and we do that.

“But if you’re asking me about Derek, I mean I think Jon and I would both stand shoulder to shoulder and pound the table for Derek Carr.”

Despite the relative lack of team success, Carr has set Raiders career franchise records for passing yards (26,896) and touchdown passes (170) and he is in line for a potential extension.

“For me, it’s more about loyalty, it’s more about being the same guy every single day,” Carr said. “My goal… was, when I got here, to give everything I have to this organization, let our fans know I’m giving it all I have and I will always continue to do that … whether the situation is great or not, that’s OK.

“People can say whatever they want. I know what I’ve put on film; I know the things I’ve been able to accomplish, and I still want more. There’s still more and I want to do it here. I don’t want to do it anywhere else.”

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‘I just knew it wasn’t my time’ Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham recounts serious spring car accident

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham admitted on Tuesday that he was fortunate to avoid serious injury after being involved in a single-vehicle rollover crash in Miami back in early March.

Prior to the start of Chicago’s mandatory three-day minicamp, Graham calmly recanted the harrowing story of how, on the day of the accident, he had to swerve to avoid a disabled car in the center lane of the highway as he and his dog, Ginger, were taking an early morning drive to the airport.

“I was on the turnpike and I saw a cop going kind of down this off-ramp with his lights off, he was reversing, so I got over two lanes and the sun is kind of coming up,” Graham said on Zoom. “So as I’m going over [a] hill I look up and there is a disabled vehicle in the center lane, and I’m going about 90 MPH. Probably about 15 yards away [from the disabled car], I swerved to the left and barely missed him but I was headed for a bridge so I kind of had to make a last-minute decision so I decided to turn right, and flip it to avoid jumping that [bridge].

“I ended up rolling – the cop said four times – and skidded on the roof for about 100 yards. It was a wild one.”

Both Graham and Ginger walked away from the wreck unscathed, but the end result could have been much worse.

“I was talking to the cop, right after the accident, and talking to my mechanic, and it really felt like a game. Everything was really slow. I can remember making every decision. I can actually remember my phone floating up in the air – I could see the time. I just knew it wasn’t my time. I was like there is no way I’m going die over something this stupid.

“But obviously I was extremely lucky.”

Graham, who was not found to be at fault, expressed gratitude to the police officers and first responders who arrived quickly on the scene.

Graham, 34, had 50 catches for 456 yards and eight touchdowns for the Bears last year. The five-time Pro Bowl selection is entering his second season with Chicago.

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Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley says he feels no pressure to replace traded Julio Jones

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Calvin Ridley is the Atlanta Falcons‘ No. 1 receiver now, and even though he’ll be replacing a franchise legend in traded-to-Tennessee Julio Jones, Ridley said Tuesday that he feels “no pressure” stepping into the role once held by a likely future Hall of Famer.

Part of the reason is Ridley’s confidence in his own play, something harnessed over the past three years playing alongside Jones with Atlanta. And some of it comes from playing without Jones for half of last season, when hamstring injuries sidelined the former Falcons star.

“I played with Julio, Mohamed Sanu, since Day 1, those guys, I feel like I’ve been moving toward that way of I can do it by myself,” Ridley said. “Obviously I’m not by myself, we have other players who are really good, but I feel like I’ve been ready and I just needed an opportunity to get in those positions.”

Ridley, who was drafted at No. 26 by the Falcons in the 2018 draft, blossomed last season with career highs in targets (143), receptions (90) and yards (1,374). He also had nine touchdowns, one off the 10 he had in his rookie season.

The 26-year-old showed he can handle being Atlanta’s top option. He showed he can handle double-teams — he said he’s seen them since the 2019 season — as he started to display his abilities as one of the top receivers in the NFL.

He did it last season playing at least partially hurt. Ridley had “minor” foot surgery this offseason stemming from an injury he suffered during the 2020 season. He’s been at the team’s facility rehabbing, working out and going through walkthroughs — essentially everything except practicing — and said he believes “I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready” for the start of Atlanta’s training camp in July.

When he does return to the field, he’ll bring with him lessons learned from playing with Jones. Every week they played together, Ridley tried to outdo Jones. He used it as motivation and a way to improve just by looking within his own position group.

With Jones gone, Ridley is looking for someone else to give him that kind of motivation — he suggested, maybe joking, maybe not, he might use quarterback Matt Ryan as that — and knows he might provide similar motivation to Atlanta’s other receivers as well.

But for him, it’s about confidence. It’s why Ridley is able to play the way he does. He believes in his game, in his skill and in his ability to beat defenders. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s also something he received from Jones.

“Just the confidence [Jones] has every week and being the No. 1 receiver and going out to work every day, I feel like you have to believe in yourself,” Ridley said. “And by my second year, that’s when I realized that’s what he’s all about, confidence.

“So when I realized that, I just started to think that, I didn’t think that I’m better than him, but I just believed in myself and I really think that made me a better player. I really believe in myself.”

One question will be how Ridley is used in first-year head coach Arthur Smith’s offense. Ridley said he’s still figuring that out — the Falcons haven’t put on pads yet — but he likes what he has seen thus far from Smith and what could happen with the offense.

Smith said that once Ridley starts to practice, he’ll have a better idea of where he’ll use the receiver in the offense but that he’s been pleased with how Ridley has picked things up so far — even though he hasn’t been able to actually practice.

The Falcons liked Ridley enough to pick up his fifth-year option for 2022 in May, a sign of how integral they might view him over at least the next two seasons.

“He had a really productive year. Calvin has been a really good player here so far,” Smith said. “Best days are hopefully ahead of him. I’ve been impressed with Calvin, both the person and the player. I’m excited to get to work with him.”

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