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San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman meets with Bay Area media for first time

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Richard Sherman, dressed in a bright red tailor-made suit for his first meeting with the Bay Area media on Tuesday, made it clear how he feels about the negative assessments of his deal with the San Francisco 49ers and why he valued the chance to negotiate it.

“It was really important to me,” said Sherman, who served as his own agent. “I think that a lot of times in our league there are players that have the ability to do that and have the ability to structure their own deals and really take advantage of just being in control of their own destiny.

“There are great agents in our game that take care of our players, make sure our players are ready for life after football, their finances, whatever the case may be. And then there are some agents who negotiate a deal in 2006 and don’t talk to their client again until 2010, and that’s the thing we’re trying to avoid and I’m trying to avoid.

“I didn’t feel like I needed an agent. I felt like I knew contracts well enough and I felt like coming off the Achilles [injury], there’s going to be negotiation points, there’s going to be give and takes on both sides and I felt comfortable with that.”

In the days since he signed with the 49ers after a tedious, five-hour-plus negotiation with general manager John Lynch and chief strategy officer Paraag Marathe, Sherman has seen and heard plenty about the disapproval of the contract. The three-year deal could be worth up to $39.15 million, though it effectively would only pay him that much money if he returns to his previous All-Pro form after a right Achilles injury.

Sherman also wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune on Tuesday that offered further details on the contract in an effort to shed light on some of the points that have been criticized.

For example, Sherman wrote that he has a $2 million roster bonus that he will receive if he can pass a physical before Nov. 11, which is the final day teams can activate a player from the physically unable to perform list. Along with that, Sherman believes he will be back on the field in May or June and be ready to go in time for training camp. That timetable would have him able to earn the roster bonus with time to spare.

Which is why Sherman — who received a $3 million signing bonus — is counting on a total of $5 million guaranteed, more than the zero guaranteed dollars he had on the remaining year of his deal with Seattle.

“The biggest misconception is that it’s a bad deal,” Sherman said. “… If I’m basing it just going off my last year [of the deal] in Seattle, and you compare it, I got no money guaranteed and I’m coming off a ruptured Achilles. What security do I have there? … That’s really all that I wanted. And [if] I play at the level that I’m capable of, I feel security in the upcoming years and I feel comfortable with that and I’m great with it.”

Sherman also said that at no point did Seattle ask him to take a pay cut and though he offered the team a chance to match what the Niners offered, Seahawks general manager John Schneider declined.

Sherman said his biggest issue was with an apparent double standard between coverage of the deal he signed and the ones negotiated by agents who do team-friendly contracts but never receive similar critiques.

“I think the thing I’m most frustrated about is all the people that were so high on bashing this deal refuse to bash the agents that do awful deals every year,” Sherman said. “There are agents out there that do $3 million fully guaranteed deals that look like $50 million deals. When a guy gets cut after two weeks or after a year and the guy only makes $5 million off a $50 million contract, nobody sits there and bashes the agent.

“… So I think that this was just one of those things where the agents feel uncomfortable with the player taking the initiative to do his own deal. That obviously puts a fire under them, it makes them more accountable for their actions because more players will do this.”

Sherman said he has heard from “a lot” of players around the league who intend to negotiate their own contracts. Before he was released, Sherman spent time reading through copies of past contracts in the NFLPA database. He also enlisted the union to help him study the language and structure of contracts.

Now Sherman is expecting to see more players around the league follow in the footsteps of players like him and Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung.

“I think it goes back to just educating our players in general on their own finances and being in control of your own life,” Sherman said. “I think more of our players are.”

While on the subject of player contracts, Sherman also offered some support for Eric Reid. The free-agent safety, who spent the past five seasons with the 49ers, has yet to sign with a new team almost a week into free agency.

Reid was the first player to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and systemic oppression. Reid took to Twitter last week to offer his opinion on how his protests might be affecting his job search.

Sherman said there is concern about Reid being unsigned.

“He played at a high level just about every year that he’s played in this league,” Sherman said. “He’s made enough plays to be signed with a team and to make his money. … I would think he’s [among the] top-five, top-10 safeties in this league, so he deserves to be paid accordingly.

“So there is concern there because you would think a player of his caliber and his quality would be picked up by now. Great teams are still looking and people are still looking for players and I’m praying that he gets picked up. But if he doesn’t, then I think there would be a conversation between the league office and the union on potential legal action.”

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Who is Trey Lance? Meet the NFL draft darling playing only once this fall

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Carlton Lance remembers only two of his son’s passes that could have been intercepted during North Dakota State‘s 16-0 season in 2019.

There was an out route in a 27-16 victory against UC Davis when a cornerback cut under the Bison receiver and nearly picked off the pass.

And there was a throw down the middle in a 22-0 shutout of Missouri State when Lance’s son didn’t see the backside linebacker, who dropped the ball after it hit him in the hands.

Otherwise, much like the Bison’s third straight national title-winning campaign (and eighth in nine years!), Trey Lance‘s first season as North Dakota State’s starting quarterback was pretty much perfect.

Remarkably, Lance didn’t throw an interception in 287 attempts, setting the NCAA all-division record for most passing attempts in a season without one. He completed 66.9% of his passes for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns, while running 169 times for 1,100 yards and 14 more scores. He led the FCS in passing efficiency (180.6) and established single-season school records for passing efficiency and total offense (3,886 yards).

He was named the most outstanding player in North Dakota State’s 28-20 victory against James Madison in the FCS national championship, which helped the Bison achieve the first 16-0 season in college football since 1894. He won the Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in the FCS and the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman, becoming the first player to win both honors.

Lance and the Bison will take the field on Saturday for the first and only time this fall against Central Arkansas at the Fargodome (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+ and ESPN app), which typically seats 18,700. Only 8,400 fans are expected after many season-ticket holders opted out because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It also could be most fans’ last chance to see the player they might have read about but never seen in action.

Lance, a draft-eligible sophomore, is projected as the third-best quarterback available for the 2021 NFL draft, behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Both analysts project Lance among the top 10 picks overall.

Lance says he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll enter the NFL draft or return to North Dakota State for another season. The Bison are scheduled to play eight more games from late February through mid-April. The draft is scheduled for April 29 to May 1 in Cleveland.

“We’ve talked about it,” Lance recently told ESPN. “My family has been up here to talk about it. Right now, I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I’m just 100 percent focused on this game. I’ve had conversations with the coaching staff and my family, and I’m gathering information and getting as much feedback and advice as I can get.”

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 226 pounds, Lance has the size, arm strength, mobility and decision-making that NFL teams covet. The only thing he lacks is greater experience at the collegiate level. After redshirting in 2018 and playing behind current Los Angeles Chargers backup Easton Stick, Lance would have only 17 career starts if he elects to leave before the Bison resume their season in February.

“It’s all about what other people think,” Lance said. “It’s not really about what I think. I’ve done everything I can to play as many games as possible. If that was my decision at the end of the fall, I’ve played as many games as I possibly can. I’m loving it here at North Dakota State, so we’ll see what happens.”

Former North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz faced similar questions after he missed much of his senior season because of a broken wrist in 2015. Wentz went 20-3 as a starter before he was the No. 2 pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2016 NFL draft, the highest selection of an FCS player in the draft’s history.

Stick, a fifth-round pick by the Chargers in 2019, is the winningest quarterback in FCS history with a 49-3 record.

“I think it all depends on the individual,” Bison coach Matt Entz said. “When Carson Wentz was going through the same process, people were concerned about whether [23 starts] was enough. I think it depends on the organization and what they’re looking for. I know the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. Quarterbacks are going to be drafted in the first round, regardless if they’re top-15 talent or not, because everybody needs to have one and everyone wants to have a game-changer at that position, just like we do.”

Lance wouldn’t be the first quarterback selected in the first round with limited starting experience in college. Since the 2006 NFL draft, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, six quarterbacks have been taken in the first round with fewer than 20 college starts: Mitchell Trubisky (13), Cam Newton (14), Dwayne Haskins (14), Mark Sanchez (16), Kyler Murray (17) and Ryan Tannehill (19).

“That’s not our decision at all, so it doesn’t matter what I think,” Carlton Lance said of his son’s decision to enter the draft. “It is what is. It’s what he has. That’s one thing you’ll find out about Trey and the Lance family, period: We don’t work in what-ifs or should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. If he moves forward, he moves forward. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. There’s no use in us being worried about that decision. We have no control of it.”

As they did with Wentz, Power 5 programs largely ignored Trey Lance coming out of high school. (Stick’s lone Power 5 offer was from Rutgers.) Teams from Group of 5 leagues such as Air Force, Boise State, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan offered Lance an opportunity to play quarterback. Power 5 coaches, however, only liked him as a receiver or defensive back, despite Lance throwing for 3,026 yards, running for nearly 1,200 yards and scoring 51 total touchdowns during his career playing in a wing-T offense at Marshall High School in Minnesota.

Lance attended summer camps at Minnesota and Nebraska, but offers to play quarterback never came.

“Boise State was the biggest offer he had,” his father said, adding that Lance rarely played quarterback in the second half of games because the scores were so out of hand.

“I tell everybody: Being from Marshall, they really didn’t believe what they were seeing, probably,” the elder Lance added. “He checked a lot of the boxes: He had the height, he could run the ball, he could throw the ball rolling out right or left. He was accurate. I’m just stating the facts.

“What I dislike hearing is that he bloomed late or something like that. He was 6-3 and 200-something pounds when he left high school. He could play. I’d like to see which box he didn’t check.”

Getting college recruiters to come to Marshall was a challenge in itself. The town of about 15,000 residents is 150 miles west of Minneapolis. Lance’s father grew up in Fort Myers, Florida, and was a football and track star at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall from 1988 to 1991.

Ed Meierkort, later the head coach at South Dakota, recruited Carlton Lance for the SMSU Mustangs. When Meierkort first contacted him, a hurricane was headed for South Florida. Meierkort asked him how long hurricane season lasted.

“About 30 days,” Lance said. “How long does winter last up there?”

“About 30 days,” Meierkort replied.

Lance also was under the impression that Marshall wasn’t too far from the Twin Cities. When he arrived for preseason camp as a freshman, two SMSU players picked him up at the airport. They took him to a Twins game and then drove him to Marshall that night.

Lance fell asleep in the back seat of his teammate’s car, checked into his apartment late that night and finally saw the town the next morning. He was surprised to find a cornfield across the street from the team’s practice field. It wasn’t quite Minneapolis.

As a junior cornerback in 1990, Lance helped lead Southwest Minnesota State to its only conference championship. The team also qualified for the NAIA national playoffs for just the second time in school history.

Lance played one season for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and was named to the Canadian Football League’s all-rookie team in 1993. He also played for the London Monarchs of the World League in 1995 and was in training camp with the NFL’s Houston Oilers and San Francisco 49ers.

After he retired, Lance and his wife, Angie, whom he met in college, returned to her hometown of Marshall. Lance put a football in his son’s hand shortly after he was born. He has been a volunteer coach at Marshall High, where Trey’s younger brother, Bryce, is a senior wide receiver. The Bison are among the teams that have offered Bryce a scholarship.

Randy Hedberg, the Bison’s passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, loved Trey Lance’s competitive nature and the physical way he played quarterback.

“He’s very athletic and has size,” Hedberg said. “He plays the game and quarterback position with a defensive mentality. His dad was a defensive coach and coached the secondary, and Trey played in the secondary in high school. I think that’s the way he plays. I don’t know if he’s going to be able to play that way at the next level, but he plays a very physical type of game.”

Carlton Lance said he encouraged his son to lower his shoulder or get out of bounds but never to be on the wrong end of a big hit.

“If it’s him and a guy, you’ve got to make a business decision,” he said. “You better make sure that he feels you, rather than you feeling him if you pull up. I always tell him that there wouldn’t have been a Tom Brady if Drew Bledsoe didn’t pull up by the sideline.”

What sold Trey Lance on the Bison were the program’s quarterback tradition and its offense. While other teams are running up-tempo offenses with no huddle and signaling plays from the sideline, the Bison still huddle and call plays in the huddle. North Dakota State’s quarterbacks are tasked with setting protections and making run-and-pass checks at the line of scrimmage.

During game weeks, Lance studies hours of tape in preparation. On Mondays, he reviews the opponents’ overall schemes; Tuesdays are for third down; Wednesdays for red zone; and Thursdays for two-minute offense. On Fridays, after cutting film the previous day, Lance presents the game plan to his receivers, telling them where they need to be in particular concepts.

“He studies the game very hard,” Hedberg said. “I’d say he’s a football junkie.”

In Lance’s first game at North Dakota State in 2018, he scored on a 44-yard run against North Alabama. In his second game against South Dakota, he fumbled, kicked the ball twice and still scooped it up and scored on a 23-yard run.

In his first start against Butler at Target Field in Minneapolis last season, he completed 10 of 11 passes for 185 yards with four touchdowns and ran for 116 yards with two scores.

“He doesn’t get flat and he doesn’t get rattled,” Entz said. “This young man is different.”

Lance met Fields at the Elite 11 QB camp in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, this past spring, and he has only communicated with Lawrence on social media. While they might be separated by a level of NCAA competition and hundreds of miles, Lance is confident there isn’t much different about them when it comes to playing quarterback.

“They’re both faith-driven guys and great guys,” Lance said. “I don’t know if there’s any other schools, maybe Oklahoma, that’s doing what we’re doing at the quarterback position. The last three quarterbacks before me have all had legitimate NFL looks, and the last two have been drafted.

“Realistically, if you’re in the transfer portal or being recruited out of high school, if you’re really thinking about your future and where you want to be, I think bigger isn’t always better and the grass isn’t always greener. If your goal is to play at the next level, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to come to North Dakota State.”

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NFL issues strong warning to coaches who won’t wear masks on sideline

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The NFL has issued another strong warning to coaches who won’t wear masks on the sideline during games, threatening suspensions and forfeiture of draft picks as punishment for failing to comply with COVID-19 game-day protocols, according to a league memo obtained Wednesday by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The strongly worded memo, sent to coaches, general managers and team executives by NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent, includes a passage in which the NFL says it will “address lack of compliance with accountability measures that may include … suspensions and/or forfeiture of draft picks.”

It marks the second time this month that the NFL has warned coaches to comply with coronavirus-related protocols by wearing a mask on the sideline.

The league has already fined four head coaches this season — Las Vegas‘ Jon Gruden, New Orleans‘ Sean Payton, Denver‘s Vic Fangio and the Rams‘ Sean McVay — for not wearing masks on the sideline during games.

“Both our own and independent medical advisors have emphasized the need to remain vigilant and disciplined in following the processes and protocols put in place by agreement with the NFLPA as well as by state and local governments,” Vincent wrote in the memo.

“We are only through Week 3 of the season. If we are to play a full and uninterrupted season, we all must remain committed to our efforts to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus. Inconsistent adherence to health and safety protocols … will put the 2020 season at risk.”

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Kansas City Chiefs rookie CB L’Jarius Sneed breaks collarbone

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs rookie cornerback L’Jarius Sneed broke his collarbone in Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, a source said.

Sneed, a fourth-round draft pick from Louisiana Tech, has been a pleasant surprise for the Chiefs. He started the first three games and is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with two.

His rapid development has been an important factor in the Chiefs’ 3-0 start.

One starting cornerback, Bashaud Breeland, is serving a four-game NFL suspension. The other, Charvarius Ward, fractured his hand in the Week 1 game and did not play in Week 2.

Ward replaced Sneed after the injury against the Ravens and played with his hand heavily wrapped.

The nature of Sneed’s injury was first reported by the Kansas City Star.

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