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TAMPA, Fla. — The words in Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber’s playbook are sometimes jumbled, and they don’t make sense, so he has to read them over and over. He has to draw the plays up, too, and then he has to walk through them to fully understand.

“Some people can get things with classroom only, but he’s certainly gotta be in it, see it and let it happen,” said Bucs running backs coach Tim Spencer, who has worked with Barber the past two seasons.

Barber has dyslexia, a learning disorder that affects 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. population. It results in difficulty with word recognition, spelling, reading comprehension, language and visual processing.

“I do read a lot slower, and there will be times when I’m reading something and I’ll read it backwards or the words will come off the page,” said Barber, 23. “[But] I don’t really see it as a challenge, to be honest.”

Barber also has attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition characterized by difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Neither has held him back on the football field, even when he must learn hundreds of plays and identify where the pressure is coming from in a matter of seconds. In fact, despite starting only four games last season, Barber finished with a team-high 423 rushing yards, 114 receiving yards and three touchdowns, becoming a candidate for the starting role in 2018.

“I think he will be right there,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said at the end of the season. “I think that will definitely be a consideration. Peyton did a good job with his opportunities this year.”

‘I learned a lot slower’

Growing up in Alpharetta, Georgia, Barber was diagnosed with ADHD in kindergarten and took mostly remedial courses until his junior year of high school.

“I learned a lot slower. I struggled a little bit in high school. [My grades] weren’t terrible, but I mean, I’d say I was kind of all over the place: C’s, B’s, occasionally an A in college,” said Barber, whose father also has dyslexia and ADHD.

He wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until his freshman year at Auburn. There, Barber had tutors, received extra time on tests and took his exams in a different room with a proctor, all of which are allowed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA).

Barber tried the medication Vyvanse for about a week and a half, but he didn’t like the way it made him feel, so he stopped taking it.

He also got help from then-offensive analyst Bobby Bentley, now the running backs coach at South Carolina. Bentley understood that the traditional classroom setting and long meetings didn’t always cater to people like Barber, a kinesthetic learner, who needs movement to learn.

“A good athlete has to be someone who does well under pressure, who actually has clarity under pressure and can respond and react almost impulsively. … On the field, being impulsive is good because it means you’re acting quick and fast.”

Dr. Roberto Olivardia

“I was the same way. I have ADHD,” Bentley said. “Nobody really knows this, but we would meet in the indoor facility and walk through plays from hash to hash. … He became very knowledgeable about what to do based on our step-throughs and our walk-throughs. … What was great about Peyton is that he absorbed it all. He was a sponge. I was able to pour myself into him because he wanted it.”

After Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson left the 2015 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic against Louisville with injuries, Barber stepped in to rush for 116 yards, becoming the starter.

“It’s been like that pretty much wherever I’ve gone. Like, I’ve always been that guy that was sort of overlooked in a way,” said Barber, who credits Bentley with teaching him patience. “Just remembering your process and everything — what you’ve been through in the past, knowing that the cream always rises to the top.”

Barber rushed for 1,017 yards and 13 touchdowns that year. He also excelled in the classroom, earning SEC Academic Honor Roll for three years.

He entered the NFL, a decision he made so he could assist his mother, Lori, who lives off disability and at the time was staying in a cramped apartment with her daughter and grandchildren. He bought her a townhome this past year, and his dream is to buy her a house.

Thriving on urgency

Barber has developed some of his own coping mechanisms. He chews gum when studying because he feels the chewing motion helps him lock in. He keeps multiple packs in his locker.

He also fidgets with his goatee, which can stimulate the frontal lobe of the brain to improve concentration, and he takes breaks to give his mind a rest.

When Spencer gives quizzes, he gives Barber additional time, if needed. Barber always sits in the front of the room and is called on frequently.

“I just really direct everything to him, and he’s OK with that because he wants to learn. And there’s nobody in there making him feel like he doesn’t know or making him feel like he’s any less than anybody else,” said Spencer, who is an advocate of multisensory ways of teaching.

“The coaching staff really helps me. They’ll always ask me, ‘Do you completely understand?’ If I don’t, I’ll tell them straight up, ‘I don’t,'” Barber said.

Said Spencer: “He can definitely run the football, and he’s a lot better than when he first got here with protections and being able to see the field and not just looking at the line of scrimmage. He needs to be able to see down the field and analyze things before they actually happen so he can play a lot faster. That’s what I’m trying to get him to see.

“Also, because he has ADHD and dyslexia, it’s imperative for him to focus when he comes out on the practice field. He can’t be messing around with the guys and joking and all that other stuff. He has to focus so he can be on point.”

Dr. Roberto Olivardia, a clinical psychologist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School who specializes in the treatment of ADHD and learning disabilities, believes Barber’s makeup can actually be advantageous in sports. Dr. Olivardia mentioned other athletes who have ADHD, dyslexia or both, including Greg Louganis, Michael Phelps and Magic Johnson, as did the late Muhammad Ali.

“There’s something in the ADHD brain that thrives on urgency,” Olivardia said. “A good athlete has to be someone who does well under pressure, who actually has clarity under pressure and can respond and react almost impulsively. … On the field, being impulsive is good because it means you’re acting quick and fast.”

Barber has never met anyone in the NFL with dyslexia, but some of the sport’s biggest personalities — Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow, Mark Schlereth and Frank Gore — have been diagnosed with it.

“When you’ve had to work at succeeding in a way that might have come easy for other people, by virtue of having ADHD or dyslexia, there is a certain perseverance and a certain toughness that comes along with that,” Olivardia said. “There’s a certain sense of power in, ‘Maybe I did it in an unconventional way, but I was able to figure it out and do it.'”

Olivardia said that some of the most highly successful entrepreneurs have dyslexia because they think outside the box and are avid problem solvers. That’s exactly what Barber wants to do. The past two offseasons, he has returned to Auburn to work toward finishing his degree in interdisciplinary studies.

“I kind of want to do a little bit of everything,” said Barber, who believes that the patience he learned through coping with dyslexia and ADHD has helped him excel in all areas of his life.

“I don’t see it as a disability — I see it as an ability. I see it as something special and unique in many ways. Yeah, I may learn differently, but at the same time, I’m thriving.”

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Tony Jones, two-time Super Bowl champion with Denver Broncos, dies at 54

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Tony Jones, a starting tackle on two of the Denver Broncos‘ championship teams, has died, the team announced Friday. He was 54.

Jones, who started at right tackle in the Broncos’ win in Super Bowl XXXII and started at left tackle when the team won Super Bowl XXXIII the following year, played 13 seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Broncos after he entered the league as an undrafted rookie in 1988.

Known as “T-Bone” to his Broncos teammates, he spent the last four years of his career with the Broncos, retiring after he started 16 games in the 2000 season at age 34.

“We lost a great man,” former teammate Rod Smith posted on Twitter. “Just happened to be a hell of a ball playa. We love you and miss you Bone. One of the Broncos’ all time best tackles. Greatest dresser of ALL TIME!”

Ed McCaffrey, another former teammate on the Broncos, called Jones “a great teammate and a wonderful man,” and Hall of Famer Steve Atwater, who also played on those two Super Bowl teams, said Jones was “a great teammate” with “just the most beautiful kids.”

Atwater also said Friday night that many of the players on those Broncos teams have continued to stay in contact with one another and that “everybody is hurting in this.”

The Broncos, believing they were poised to rebound from a playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars to end the 1996 season, traded a second-round pick to the Ravens in 1997 to acquire Jones.

In Super Bowl XXXII, at right tackle, he held Hall of Famer Reggie White without a sack and to one tackle overall as the Broncos rushed for 179 yards and Hall of Famer Terrell Davis was named the game’s MVP.

After Gary Zimmerman, also a Hall of Famer, retired before the 1998 season, Jones moved to left tackle and started every game on the way to a Pro Bowl selection as the Broncos went on to win a second consecutive title.

Jones was named to the Broncos’ Top 100 team in 2019.

In a social media post, former Bengals tackle Willie Anderson called Jones “a great dad, friend, offensive tackle, trainer and coach.”

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Panthers GM Scott Fitterer doesn’t commit to Teddy Bridgewater – Carolina Panthers Blog

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Scott Fitterer looked the part of general manager, dressed in the dark blue suit he bought 12 days ago in Charlotte because the clothes he brought from Seattle for his interview with the Carolina Panthers were tight after nearly a year in a pandemic.

He sounded like a GM, not discussing specific players or plans until he gets to meet, and learn more about, everybody in the organization.

What kind of general manager Seattle’s former vice president of football operations will be for Carolina remains to be seen.

Here’s what we learned from Friday’s made-for-Zoom introductory news conference:

Noncommittal on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater: Fitterer began by saying he wouldn’t talk about specific players. He mentioned only two, linebacker/safety Jeremy Chinn and running back Christian McCaffrey. He mentioned Chinn because they have a mutual friend/agent. McCaffrey came up at the end when Fitterer said he wanted to talk to “Christian and other leaders on the team.’’ Bridgewater never got a mention despite several questions referring to him. Make of that what you want.

However, when asked for his definition of a franchise quarterback, second on Fitterer’s short list of criteria was “someone who can win when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter.’’ Bridgewater was 0-8 this past season when he had a chance on his final possession to win or tie the game.

Deshaun Watson interest: The Panthers have been linked in multiple reports to interest in trading for the disgruntled Houston Texans quarterback if he becomes available. Fitterer didn’t mention Watson by name. When reminded that Seattle lived by the mantra that it wanted to be in on every big deal in the NFL, even if it didn’t realistically have a shot, Fitterer said, “We will be in on every deal.’’ This was a big part of Seattle’s culture, because it helped the organization learn about others. It also allowed officials to reduce second-guessing.

Roster philosophy: Fitterer made it clear it starts with the quarterback. A former college quarterback himself, Fitterer helped Seattle find a pretty good one in Russell Wilson. Again, read into his silence on Bridgewater as you please. After quarterback, Fitterer plans to build inside out with offensive and defensive linemen.

Draft philosophy: Fitterer called having the No. 8 pick in this year’s draft a “new adventure,’’ and with good reason. The last time he had a pick higher than 27th was 2012, when the Seahawks picked 15th. He has made a living hitting on second- to middle-round picks. Wilson was a third-rounder in 2012. Fitterer found in Seattle that the top-tier players usually stopped between 16 and 18, and that in general there wasn’t a huge difference in players between 25 and 40. Seattle often traded down to acquire more picks. One instance was last year, when it gave Carolina the 64th pick (second round) for picks No. 69 and 148. The Panthers used that on Chinn, who became a strong candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Fitterer said the eighth pick was great because it gave him flexibility to trade up or down. So don’t get comfortable at No. 8.

Who’s in charge? You’ve read here for a while that coach Matt Rhule will have the final say over the roster. Rhule reinforced that by saying, “In terms of on the contract, a lot of those things probably rest with me.’’ He also said that that’s a formality and that he welcomes a GM who will argue with him. He ultimately wants this to be a collaborative effort the way it was in Seattle.

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Source — Matt Patricia returning to New England Patriots to assist Bill Belichick’s staff

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Matt Patricia, who was fired as Detroit Lions head coach in November before the completion of his third year on the job, is returning to the New England Patriots‘ coaching staff in 2021, a source confirmed.

Patricia had been an assistant on Bill Belichick’s staff from 2004 to 2017 before landing the Lions job. In Detroit, he posted a 13-29-1 record, with one of those victories coming over Belichick’s Patriots early in his first season.

It was a turbulent tenure in Detroit for Patricia, and a return to New England — where he is expected to assist Belichick’s staff in a variety of roles — provides him a safe and familiar haven in which to continue his coaching career in the NFL.

Patricia, 46, had most recently served as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2017, and in his absence, Belichick hasn’t given that title to another coach. But Belichick referenced this past season that his son Steve, the outside linebackers coach, was calling the defense.

Also, inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo has a significant role. Mayo, 34, is considered a coach on the rise, as evidenced by his recent interview with the Philadelphia Eagles for their head-coaching opening that went to Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni.

Patricia’s return mirrors, in part, what came in 2014, when Belichick hired Michael Lombardi — his former director of player personnel with the Cleveland Browns (1991-95) — as an assistant to the head coach.

The familiarity that Lombardi had with Belichick, and the team’s overall system, made his transition into the organization rather seamless.

The Boston Globe first reported Patricia’s return.

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