BOSTON — Wide receiver Danny Amendola detailed the factors that led him to leave the New England Patriots for the Miami Dolphins as a free agent this offseason, saying that after three years of taking a pay cut the team’s offer fell significantly short compared to others he had received.
“I came in with an open mind. I understand Bill [Belichick] runs a tight ship, and he hasn’t been known to pay his players, really. I understood that I gave money back to him so I could play for him and play for my teammates and fulfill my side of the contract, and at the end of the day, I had faith that he was going to give me an opportunity to stay,” Amendola told ESPN.
“When free agency broke, I came to the realization that he wasn’t going to really come close to any of the other offers I had,” he said. “I had to make a decision for my family and go down to Miami and continue my career there.”
Amendola, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Dolphins that included $8.25 million in bonuses and guarantees, was in New England on Friday as the featured guest at the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life” event at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, and ESPN rode with him to the event.
Speaking to the crowd at the event, Amendola praised Belichick as the “best coach to ever coach the game.” In his interview with ESPN, Amendola also discussed how it was challenging to play for Belichick at times.
“It’s not easy, that’s for sure. He’s an a–h— sometimes. There were a lot of things I didn’t like about playing for him, but I must say, the things I didn’t like were all in regards to getting the team better, and I respected him,” he said. “I didn’t like practicing in the snow, I didn’t like practicing in the rain, but that was going to make us a better football team and that was going to make me a better football player. It wasn’t easy, and he’d be the first to admit, at the [Super Bowl] ring ceremony, that it wasn’t easy playing for him. The silver lining was that we were at the ring ceremony.”
Part of the Patriots’ success under Belichick in the salary-cap era has been maintaining financial discipline and building a strong middle class on the roster, and that business side of the game is something Amendola said he learned early in his career when he was cut by two different teams before playing in his first career game.
Meanwhile, Amendola said the Patriots’ loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII still stings, and it hurt to see cornerback Malcolm Butler benched on defense for the game.
“I have my thoughts about it because I was out there putting my blood, sweat and tears out on the field that night, and one of our best players wasn’t on the field,” he said. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know why. I did ask, but I didn’t get any answers. I can’t make decisions like that, so I don’t necessarily worry about it, but I know Malcolm is a great player and he could have helped us win. For whatever reason, he wasn’t out there. He’s going to play more football in his career, and he’s going to be a great player for a long time.”
Asked if he sensed the Butler decision hurt his Patriots teammates, Amendola said, “Yeah, I did, honestly. Nobody really got an explanation for it. He’s a brother of ours. He was a brother of ours that year. And I hate to see a guy who worked so hard throughout the season not get a chance to play in the biggest game of the year and really get no explanation for it. With that said, I don’t know how the business aspect went into that decision. I don’t know how the personal aspect went into that decision between him and Bill. But as a friend, I would have loved to see him on the field that day.”
Saying he will always call Boston home, Amendola briefly seemed to get choked up when speaking of his friendship with Patriots receiver Julian Edelman while thanking him for raising his level of play.
Amendola, who referred to Patriots owner Robert Kraft as “a friend,” also spoke with excitement about joining the Dolphins, saying he has spent time at the team’s facility in advance of the voluntary offseason program so he can get to know some of his new teammates better. Amendola has already caught passes from quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler, along with many of the team’s skill-position players, at a different location.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase has talked about changing the culture in Miami, and signing the 32-year-old Amendola — who said he envisions the window is closing on his career in the next three or four years — has been part of that approach.
“I’m not the oldest guy on the team, but I’ve been around for a while, and I know what it takes to win a championship, I know what it takes to have a successful atmosphere,” Amendola said. “I’m really excited just to share my knowledge in that respect, be a good teammate, whatever they ask me to do, and trying to catch as many balls as possible. … It’s a great opportunity to make new friendships and explore other football avenues. I’m really excited to continue to play.”
Ezekiel Elliott’s dirty work as a blocker sets him apart for Cowboys – Dallas Cowboys Blog
He collected a swing pass from quarterback Dak Prescott, headed upfield, saw four defenders in his path, cut back and lunged into the end zone.
“That’s just trusting my training all camp, making sure I finish every time I touch the ball,” Elliott said. “You just saw it translate to the game.”
As proud as Elliott was of that moment, his rushing touchdown and his 96 yards on the ground, he took more pride in his pass protection. Much has been made of Rams pass-rusher Aaron Donald tossing Elliott aside as he made a move toward Prescott, but what many seemed to forget was Prescott completed the pass to wide receiver Michael Gallup for a first down.
Without Elliott, Prescott would have been hit hard.
“Blocking was something I never really shy from,” Elliott said. “I will say in college [at Ohio State], one of the things that coach [Urban] Meyer and my old running back coach [Stan Drayton] … really emphasized is you can’t play unless you can protect the quarterback. If you can’t protect the quarterback, you’re not going to be able to get carries.”
The Cowboys did not guarantee Elliott $50 million a year ago because of his ability to pass protect, but the ability to plug gaps behind an offensive line that has undrafted Terence Steele at right tackle, left guard Connor Williams returning from a torn ACL and a new center in Joe Looney helps.
“The thing I’m impressed with — and these are the things you don’t ever get to see as a coach until you get the opportunity to work directly with players — he’s a very intelligent, very instinctive player,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “He had a number of really good instinct plays in pass protection, had a couple of saves in pass protection. So he sees the game very well.”
The preparation starts, in part, because of loneliness. Since Elliott does not take part in special teams and the other running backs do, he has a meeting room to himself. Instead of watching film alone, he will spend his mornings with the quarterbacks and offensive line.
“Just because I feel like for me to play at my best, I need to know not only what I have to do but what everyone else around me is doing and why my job is my job,” Elliott said. “I like to know what my job is but also why it is.”
For the Cowboys’ offensive line, there is a benefit to watching film and hearing Elliott too.
“Any time you get those position groups together, especially in the pass game with the different pressure look, it’s important to know what each other is doing and how we fit,” guard Zack Martin said. “With the run game, he can give us an idea of what he’s looking at and how he hits his aiming points.”
Because he is with the quarterbacks at times, Elliott can signal the wide receivers about checks Prescott makes.
“Zeke’s really like Dak’s right-hand man at most times,” Gallup said. “If we don’t see a play or we don’t see Dak’s hand signals, Zeke’s always right there to see it, because sometimes Dak’s looking the other way and Zeke, he’s just looking over there. He’ll give us the signal or tell us where to be or what to do, especially if we’re in hurry-up tempo or anything like that.”
When things appear easy for professional athletes, the assumption might be their natural gifts allow them to do things others can’t, but that belies the work Elliott puts in to know his job.
McCarthy said the first challenge for a running back in pass protection is the mental aspect. Defenses can be complex with their looks, so Elliott has to know whom to pick up before the snap and adjust on the fly if things change, like he did on the Donald play last week.
Then there is the physical aspect of picking up the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year or a hard-charging linebacker or defensive end who might outweigh Elliott by 30 pounds or more.
“When you look at running backs, just about all of us are gifted with the ability to run the football,” Elliott said. “I look at [pass protection] as just another way to set me apart from other backs.”
How Breonna Taylor’s killing inspires Eagles’ Jamon Brown to push for a ‘new world’
As a proud Black man fed up with social injustice and a native of Louisville, Kentucky, loyal to his hometown, Philadelphia Eagles offensive guard Jamon Brown has taken the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor to heart.
“We’ve been out here marching and protesting for a cause, for a movement, for a change. But right now, I’m here to tell you — look around you. Literally, look around you. People say ‘One day,’ and I say ‘Day 1.’ …Today in Louisville, Kentucky, we as a people have declared that we are all the same and that we as a people deserve the same justice. We deserve the same rights. We deserve the same opportunities of life.”
Those were the words the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Brown shouted through a bullhorn as he addressed thousands of masked supporters congregated in downtown Louisville on June 6 — the day after what would have been Taylor’s 27th birthday.
A man standing to Brown’s right threw a clenched fist in the air while nodding approval. The folks scattered along the front of the crowd stretched their cell phones high, attempting to capture every word of the passionate speech.
Brown was unaware he would be called upon to speak that day, but Christopher 2X, a Louisville-based, anti-violence activist, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Brother, do it for Breonna’s mom.”
He did it for his divided city. He did it for a broken nation.
Brown, a former University of Louisville standout, marched in numerous Louisville protests during the months of June and July in memory of Taylor, a Black woman killed by Louisville police who served a no-knock warrant at her home in March. He addressed crowds of thousands on the same Metro Hall steps as Rev. Jesse Jackson did at the same event in pleading for unity and change during a racially charged time nationwide.
Although Taylor’s family was awarded a $12 million settlement on Tuesday from the city of Louisville in a wrongful death lawsuit, Brown still wants to know why the officers involved in her shooting haven’t been arrested.
“Still in the fight. Hush money won’t end this,” Brown said when asked if the settlement changed his stance about the case.
His next step will be an attempt to get answers directly from the FBI.
Brown is scheduled to participate in a conference call with the FBI’s Louisville field office at some point before the end of the month. Christopher 2X set up the call, which will include six others, including a retired Air Force general and doctoral and law students.
“It’s about making sure that the right light is shed and that they’re not able to just turn a blind eye to what’s going on,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, I can’t make people make decisions. All I can try to do is be the people’s voice to put people’s feet to the fire.”
Inside Brown’s perspective
Brown’s passionate stance stems from his upbringing. The 27-year-old has come a long way since battling poverty, bullying and brief homelessness growing up with his mother and two siblings in the predominantly Black West End of Louisville. He admitted possessing the mentality “not to always trust the pale face,” meaning white people. Some of it had to do with learning about slavery and segregation as a child. Some of it had to do with early encounters with racism.
“I remember running around with some friends in sixth grade — some white — and we were throwing rocks at abandoned houses and got caught by the police,” Brown recalled. “Of course, we weren’t supposed to be doing that, but only me and my twin brother got in trouble when we all should have gotten in trouble. The officers didn’t arrest us, but they put us in the car and took us home. Being in the back of a police car and [being reprimanded] as if it was just the Black kids and not the group who caused trouble, that’s what made it traumatizing.”
Brown, a self-proclaimed “angry Black kid,” said he was far from a model student. As a sophomore at Fern Creek High School, he said he nearly got into a physical altercation with a white teacher he believed singled him out because he was a Black athlete. Brown said that after he verbally committed to play football at Louisville, “Teachers who would throw out shady comments like, ‘Just because you committed to Louisville, that doesn’t mean you run stuff.’ Little smart comments like that would rub me the wrong way.”
In one case, the situation got heated.
“One teacher that I kind of — we really never agreed,” Brown said. “He said something like that to me one day. I got offended. I kind of swell up. We’re kind of chest to chest. Security is called. There was talk like, ‘Hey, he’s talking about pressing charges against you for intimidation. He said he doesn’t feel comfortable coming to work.’ I know that although I got upset, he did too. It was only a one-sided offense, and I was the offender at that point, when he really provoked me. And he never received any discipline for that.
“Those people kind of in power … to write the narrative. He wrote it in a light that made me seem like this big, angry Black man and didn’t shed the light on what provoked that anger. That’s when I learned: This is how life is. This is how this s— goes.”
Brown said people knew “he was a good-hearted kid” and that, coupled with football allowing him to take out his aggression in a positive manner, saved him. He started playing football at age 7. He became a high school defensive line standout and then decided to play for the hometown Cardinals over other schools such as Kentucky, Illinois and Purdue.
“I didn’t want those experiences to deter me from my dream,” said Brown, whom Louisville converted to a guard during his freshman year. “If I ran away from it, then I alter what I aspired to make happen for myself.”
After he made it to the NFL as a 2015 third-round pick of the St. Louis Rams, he established the Jamon Brown Foundation devoted to helping at-risk kids and the underprivileged in Louisville. He plans to use his platform to combat issues such as systemic racism, which he said he deals with even today.
“I haven’t been killed for it, but I’ve experienced being treated like I’m not supposed to be somewhere,” Brown said. “I have neighbors that act like I didn’t pay for my house like they paid for theirs. It’s white people that do that to me, and I hate to say that because I have so many white friends. I get random texts from white people saying, ‘I’m sorry that white America doesn’t understand.'”
Brown wants everyone to comprehend the magnitude of the injustice involved in Taylor’s killing. But he said it’s not just Taylor. It’s George Floyd. It’s Ahmaud Arbery. The list goes on.
“It’s too many Black lives that have been wrongfully taken,” Brown said. “There are so many other situations that have been swept under the rug. What you see now is people saying, ‘Enough is enough.'”
Holding the police accountable
Taylor had big plans for her future, working to become a full-time nurse after serving as an emergency room technician and a certified EMT. The circumstances behind her death infuriate Brown.
According to reports, Taylor was shot five times and killed inside her apartment on March 13 after plainclothes police officers forced their way in using a battering ram after midnight to serve a no-knock warrant, which allowed entry without warning or identifying themselves as law enforcement. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg, believing he was an intruder. Police returned fire.
No drugs were found. The target of the probe was not at the scene.
Detective Brett Hankison subsequently was fired. Retiring interim police chief Robert Schroeder said in Hankison’s termination letter that Hankison shot 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment with actions that displayed “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
“We can simply hush things up by firing all the people involved and taking those three officers to trial,” Brown said.
The Louisville Metro Police Department declined to comment when contacted by ESPN, citing the ongoing investigation. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron released a statement saying there was no timetable for the investigation’s conclusion.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, also declined an interview request. Brown shared several moments he had with Palmer during the Louisville protests.
“I told her that everybody is saying her name; everybody knows who Breonna Taylor is,” Brown said of his talks with Palmer. “As bad as it sounds, her daughter was the sacrificial lamb for change. You have people like myself — people who are in places of what people would call power — who are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure those who did wrong are held accountable.”
Brown said Taylor’s case feels personal to him because he believes it could have happened to a loved one, such as his mother or sister. He didn’t know Taylor personally but views her as a “little sister.”
Athletes and celebrities have felt the same type of connection to Taylor in speaking out and demanding justice on her behalf. LeBron James wore a red ball cap to the Los Angeles Lakers‘ playoff opener with the words “Make America arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.” Oprah Winfrey had Taylor’s face put on the cover of O magazine and put up 26 billboards in Louisville calling for the officers to be arrested. WNBA players have dedicated the season to Taylor, wearing her name on the back of their jerseys.
Brown might not hold the same status as LeBron or Oprah, but he has done as much as anyone to keep Taylor’s memory alive. Participating in the protests was just the start. Brown, who was signed to the Eagles’ active roster from the Chicago Bears‘ practice squad on Tuesday, plans to wear Taylor’s name on the back of his helmet, as the NFL is allowing players to display such decals. Four of his former Atlanta Falcons teammates — Grady Jarrett, Jaylinn Hawkins, Sharrod Neasman, and Blidi Wreh-Wilson — also chose to wear Taylor’s name. Brown said although wearing her name means a lot, it would mean even more to see Taylor’s memory make a long-lasting impact on everyday society.
“It’s moving forward, everywhere,” Brown said. “That’s what I’m pushing for: a new day, a new world.”
The FBI call is aimed at establishing an open dialogue between law enforcement and concerned citizens.
Robert Brown, the special agent in charge of Louisville’s FBI field office, gained respect for Brown a few years ago. A framed picture of the family of Dequante Hobbs, a 7-year-old Louisville boy who was killed by a stray bullet in 2017, sits in the FBI office. The family is holding a No. 7 Rams jersey with “Hobbs” on the back. The jersey was donated by Jamon Brown when he played in Los Angeles.
“It’s helpful to have leaders like Jamon Brown setting an example and saying that, ‘We have a right to answers that we seek, and there’s a way to go about showing support and ensuring that we do have reform,'” special agent Brown said in a phone interview.
“And for someone like Jamon to come back and want to be involved in the lives of the youth is unusual. You don’t see that as often as we should.”
Jamon Brown puts on football camps yearly to connect with Louisville’s youth. He orchestrated a street-cleanup effort one morning after the Taylor protests. And he helped pay the funeral expenses for a 1-month-old child who died in Louisville after being hit by his father in a post-video game tirade.
“Jamon is an amazing attribute to Louisville,” said Amanda Mills, founder of the Southend Street Angels, a Louisville-based organization that helps the homeless. “He inspires many and gives hope to those who may not believe anything is possible.”
On one of the first days he protested in early June, Brown said he had a confrontation with a white police officer in a parking lot off Louisville’s Shelbyville Road. Brown had joined about 30 others to protest on behalf of Taylor. But the officer, according to Brown, threatened to arrest him and others for trespassing.
“That offended me,” Brown said. “We hadn’t even begun to protest yet. We could have said we were just there as customers if those were private businesses there. But he jumped to a conclusion before even knowing.
“At one point, I was chest to chest with the officer. I was slightly nervous because with everything going on, you don’t know what could have transpired. From that point, I knew I was going to stop to bring awareness to the bigger matter: to push Breonna Taylor’s story.”
Brown hasn’t had any second thoughts about his passionate stance toward this cause. Before being released by the Falcons on Aug. 24, he spoke to Atlanta coach Dan Quinn about his activism. He informed Quinn about possibly being arrested during a protest, as Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills and 86 others were when they were protesting at Attorney General Cameron’s home. Stills initially was charged with felony intimidation, but the charges were dropped.
While Brown is focused on football and providing veteran depth for the Eagles, he said he knows his mission of achieving justice for Taylor is far from complete. In an Aug. 11 call organized by Christopher 2X, Brown spoke to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer on how to implement measures outside of the new “Breonna’s Law,” which now prohibits no-knock police warrants.
Brown has an even bolder future plan to inspire change in his hometown. He is seriously considering running for mayor after football. He graduated for Louisville with a degree in justice administration.
“I’m potentially trying to be the president,” he said. “I’m going to shoot for the stars and land on the moon.”
Before Brown hits the campaign trail, he wants to see a ruling in the Taylor case beyond a multimillion-dollar financial settlement. Even if he doesn’t find the answers he seeks from the FBI, Brown said it won’t deter him from fighting for justice. It won’t stop his quest for equality.
“I’m alive during times that I read in history books: protests, that’s stuff I’ve watched on movies, not outside my front door,” Brown said. “That’s how real it is. That’s why we’ve got to wake up. White people, you have to wake up.
“It’s either we’re standing together or we’re falling apart.”
Rams’ Robert Woods gets 4-year, $65 million contract extension
The Los Angeles Rams and receiver Robert Woods have agreed to terms on a four-year, $65 million extension, including $32 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN. The contract has a $68 million maximum value.
On Thursday, a day before Woods and the Rams agreed to terms, Rams coach Sean McVay said an extension would be done “very shortly,” while Woods expressed hope it would be completed before a Week 2 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
“Just praying that it gets done on time and really just trying to go out there and execute what I do on the field and let my play do the talking for me,” Woods said. “Which it has.”
Woods outplayed the five-year, $34 million deal he originally signed with the Rams in 2017, and the deal was expanded to $39 million through performance and a conversion of his base salary.
Over the past three seasons, Woods ranks among the top 11 NFL receivers in receptions, receiving yards and yards after catch. He produced consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2018 and 2019 and last season led all NFL receivers with 577 yards after the catch. In a Week 1 20-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Woods had six receptions for 105 yards.
His deal is the latest in a flurry of extensions the Rams have completed over the past two weeks. Two days before the season opener, cornerback Jalen Ramsey signed a record-setting five-year, $105 million extension that included $71.2 million guaranteed at signing, the most lucrative contract for a defensive back in NFL history. A day later, wide receiver Cooper Kupp signed a three-year, $48 million extension.
When asked if he grew concerned that the Rams might not have the resources to extend him following Ramsey’s and Kupp’s deals, Woods smiled. “This is a billion dollar industry. I feel like there’s always money,” he said, before joking, “especially with Denver doing well — the Nuggets. There’s a little bit of money somewhere.”
Rams owner Stan Kroenke also owns the Nuggets, who are appearing in the Western Conference finals of the NBA playoffs.
McVay said he spoke with Woods following Kupp’s extension, reiterating his desire to keep Woods — whom he called a pillar of the offense — long term.
“[McVay] just kind of put his arm around me and said he’s happy to have me here, been a true competitor since I stepped on his team,” said Woods, who turned 28 in April. “He kind of just reassured me that this deal would be taken care of this week, and really have no other concerns. We take each other’s word, we believe in it, we go forward and we’re locked on to get this thing done and look forward to Philadelphia.”
Woods previously was scheduled to earn $5 million this season, and his contract was set to expire at the end of the 2021 season.
A second-round pick in 2013 by Bills, Woods played four seasons in Buffalo where he had 2,451 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Since joining the Rams, Woods has caught 238 passes for 3,239 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also has rushed for 298 yards and two scores.
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