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Jets’ tumultuous offseason ends with positive vibes and Sam Darnold love – New York Jets Blog

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A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:

1. That’s a wrap: The offseason began at 8:30 p.m. ET last Dec. 30, when the team announced the firing of coach Todd Bowles a few hours after the Jets’ final game. Unofficially, it ended Thursday with the final organized team activity. It was one of the most eventful offseasons in team history, which is saying something. A few thoughts and observations as the team goes on a six-week hiatus before training camp begins (July 24):

  • The morale at One Jets Drive is high. The addition of general manager Joe Douglas has created a buzz in the building, allowing the organization to move past the ugly Mike Maccagnan ouster. Douglas is a people person whose door is always open. On Day 1, he walked around the offices and introduced himself to staffers in various departments. That might seem like a small thing, but it matters. It helps the culture. Now his job is to figure out ways to improve the roster.

  • Coach Adam Gase knows what he wants. He has a clear vision of the offense he wants to run and the type of players he wants in his locker room. Is it the right vision? We’ll find out. This much I can tell you: The man has moxie, and that’s a good thing. Confidence is contagious, especially from a leadership position. Folks in the building say Gase seems happier and more relaxed now that he has a comfort level with his GM. Clearly, that didn’t exist with Maccagnan.

  • It’s June 16, and the Jets have a clear-cut No. 1 quarterback who has the support of the entire organization: Sam Darnold. When is the last time that happened? No, not 2016. Even though Ryan Fitzpatrick was coming off a career season, he was embroiled in a nasty contract dispute, creating uncertainty. Plus, no one looked at Fitzpatrick as The Answer. You probably have to go back to 2011, Mark Sanchez. Darnold still has a way to go, but he made strides in the offseason despite some uneven practices. Remember, he’s learning a new offense. Gase loves Darnold’s innate skill as a passer, his ability to find windows that don’t appear to be open. He made “how’d-he-do-that?” passes that left grizzled coaches shaking their heads.

  • The Jets have big plans for running back Le’Veon Bell, but I came away with the sense that some in the organization were disappointed he didn’t participate in voluntary workouts. Because it’s a new offense for him and everybody, he will be behind the others when he reports to training camp.

  • Brother, can you spare a dime back? Better yet, how about a CB2? Yeah, the Jets have issues at cornerback. Big issues. Basically, they have two career backups in their CB2 and CB3 spots: Darryl Roberts and Brian Poole, respectively. Derrick Jones did some nice things in practice, but he’s raw and missed time with a leg injury. Douglas is well aware of the problem and already has tried to address it with a pair of minor moves, adding Mark Myers and Montrel Meander. (Yes, he will expand his search beyond players with “M.M.” as initials.) Trust me, they’re exploring the trade market.

  • What keeps Gase up at night? I think he’s concerned about the lack of depth at wide receiver and offensive line. At receiver, there’s a significant drop-off after the top three. The line is so thin that Jordan Morgan, a former Chicago Bears draft pick who has bounced around practice squads the past two years, worked with the starting unit Thursday because of absences and injuries. The Jets’ most experienced backups, Tom Compton and Brent Qvale, missed the spring with injuries. The offense will be in trouble if injuries mount.

  • The defense has six-pack abs, which is to say it has a strong belly. The unit is strong up the middle, from line to secondary, with Leonard Williams, Quinnen Williams, C.J. Mosley, Avery Williamson and Jamal Adams. The Jets should be fine against power running teams, but how many of those are really left? As for the edges of the defense, well, let’s just say it’s a bit flabby. They could struggle against teams that spread them out.

  • Under-the-radar standouts from the spring: running back Ty Montgomery, tight end Daniel Brown, defensive end Bronson Kaufusi and linebacker Jordan Jenkins. Underwhelming: quarterback Trevor Siemian, running back Trenton Cannon, cornerback Parry Nickerson and defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd.

2. Joe Jet & Co.: Before training camp, Douglas will hire two, possibly three executives for his front office. Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly is a strong candidate for a position, perhaps assistant GM. Well-respected personnel man Phil Savage, who knows Douglas from their days with the Baltimore Ravens, also is likely to land a spot. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay no longer is a candidate.

3. Culture Club: When defensive coordinator Gregg Williams stepped to the podium Thursday — his first news conference since being hired in January — he remarked how the Jets are “a good place to be. Good timing, too.”

So true.

Williams’ arrival is great timing for the Jets, and here’s why: It reminds me of 2009, when Rex Ryan blew into town and fueled the team and the fan base with his bravado. After three years of Eric Mangini, whose intense, buttoned-down coaching style drained the energy out of the building, they needed an infusion of confidence. Ryan provided it, and you saw the results on the field for two playoff seasons.

I’m not saying Bowles was Mangini-esque, but his stoic demeanor trickled down to the players, particularly the defense. At times, they played like zombies. Williams will change that mentality. His fiery, in-your-face approach will create a new attitude on defense — a wake-up call, if you will.

“The reason I keep getting hired is culture — and culture beats strategy any day of the week,” said Williams, who hasn’t presided over a top-10 scoring defense since 2010.

Under Williams, the Jets will be improved on defense — can’t get much worse — because the players are buying what he’s selling. The question is, how long will it last? With coaches like Williams and Ryan, the message gets stale in a year or two. Eventually, the players figure out that strategy is important, too.

For now, yes, Williams is the right defensive coordinator at the right time. Just don’t expect him to be a long-term savior.

4. Cimini’s all-timers: As part of the NFL 100 celebration, the Jets will unveil their all-time team Oct. 13 against the Dallas Cowboys. The team will be determined by a fan vote, starting in July. Here’s an early ballot, courtesy of a writer who has covered approximately 500 Jets games. Have at it:

5. The Gregg Show: Williams has opinions. Lots of opinions. His take on a few key players on defense:

On defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who managed only seven sacks the past two seasons: “We’re really looking forward to cutting him loose. … There’s a drastic difference in the philosophy of how we play up front. He’s had a really great spring. I can’t wait to get him in pads and ready to go.”

On Adams: “He’s motivated by some of the guys I’ve coached before. He’s watched the film; some of those guys are his idols, too. One of the things he’s very motivated by is directness. I said, ‘I’ve coached a lot better people than you before.’ [That was] right off the bat, but that was a point. All of a sudden, he’s been fun to watch.”

On cornerback Trumaine Johnson, reunited with Williams after a disappointing 2018 season: “He’s really motivated. He understands me, I understand him. It’s my job to help him be the best he can be. He and I, we had some really good moments together [with the Rams].”

On Mosley: “He’s had his ass chewed before, so I don’t have to worry about that because that’s how Nick [Saban] is. … He’s excited about the flexibility now with, all of a sudden, being even more of a quarterback on the defense and having the checks and audible systems and things that we teach. He’s been very good. It’s been fun.”

6. The final word: “Excuse my French when I say this, but he’s a f—ing dude. He’s a f—ing dude with a f—ing arm, and he’s as accurate as s—. So excuse that.” — wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson on Darnold.

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Winningest coach-athlete duos in sports history

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Tim Duncan spent his entire 19-year career with the San Antonio Spurs — and this week, he came out of retirement to join the team’s coaching staff as an assistant coach.

“It is only fitting, that after I served loyally for 19 years as Tim Duncan’s assistant, that he returns the favor,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

Popovich joined the Spurs organization in 1996, then Duncan was drafted by San Antonio as the first overall pick of the 1997 NBA draft.

The player-coach duo went on to win five NBA championships together, in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. Duncan, now 43, retired after the conclusion of the 2015-16 season. Popovich is 70 years old and still going strong.

So that got us thinking: What other duos have dominated sports? And it got us thinking even further: With Popovich and Duncan on an already stacked coaching staff that includes Becky Hammon, is this officially the start of a new dominating era for Spurs basketball?


Long-term winningest player and coach duos (10-plus seasons)

  • Ryan Giggs and Alex Ferguson (21 seasons and 13 Premier League titles): If you’ve been knighted by the Queen of England, you’re clearly a sports legend. Sir Alex Ferguson racked up one heck of a résumé throughout his 26-year tenure with Manchester United, winning a total of 38 trophies — including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions League titles. During those 26 years, Ferguson had star midfielder Giggs on his squad, who spent his entire professional career in sheer dominance with the Red Devils (1990-2014).

  • Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (19 seasons and six Super Bowls): Do we even need to remind you of these two? They’ve spent 19 seasons together and won six Super Bowls — including the most recent one in February. Fans of the New England Patriots hope that Brady (41 years old) and Belichick (67) never say goodbye to football.

  • Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Joe Torre (12 seasons and four World Series): Arguably one of the best MLB managers of all time, Torre led the New York Yankees to glory, winning four World Series in five seasons: 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Having Jeter — aka “Mr. Clutch” — at shortstop and Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history who was just inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, didn’t hurt either.

  • Franco Harris and Chuck Noll (12 seasons and four Super Bowls): The Steelers brought glory to Pittsburgh in the 1970s, and running back Harris was a huge part of that, winning four Super Bowls in six years (1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980). The late Noll spent his entire head-coaching career — 23 years — at the helm of the Steelers, and his four Super Bowl victories rank second behind Belichick’s six for most by an NFL head coach.

  • Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll (14 seasons and four Super Bowls): Noll also was lucky to have an all-time great quarterback on his team during the Steelers’ run. In his 14 seasons with Pittsburgh, Bradshaw helped the team win four Super Bowl titles.

  • Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson (11 seasons and five NBA championships): The face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise — still — is undoubtedly Kobe Bryant. He spent all 20 years of his basketball career with L.A. and helped the Lakers to win five NBA championships. The last NBA team to three-peat? The Lakers, in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Bryant, still with head coach Jackson, also won again in 2009 and 2010.

  • Joe Montana and Bill Walsh (10 seasons and three Super Bowls): “Joe Cool” set quite a few records during his 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. With Walsh as the head coach for 10 of them, Montana won four Super Bowls (1982, 1985, 1989 and 1990) and was named Super Bowl MVP three times. After Super Bowl XIX in 1985, in which Montana defeated Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins, Walsh (rightly so) declared: “Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback today, maybe the greatest quarterback of all time.”

  • Otto Graham and Paul Brown (10 seasons and seven NFL championships): Brown not only founded the Cleveland Browns, but he had a coaching career that spanned 25 seasons with them. Before the Browns joined the NFL in 1950, the team won four All-America Football Conference championships. Then, Brown and Graham won three NFL championships together, in 1950, 1954 and 1955.

  • Bill Russell and Red Auerbach (10 seasons and nine NBA championships): The paring of Russell and Auerbach helped create what could be called professional sports’ greatest dynasty, combining to win nine NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, first in 1957 and then every year from 1959 to 1966. Russell — who also won two titles as a player-coach after Auerbach retired — was so dominant that the NBA renamed the NBA Finals MVP trophy after him in 2009.


Short-term winningest player and coach duos (Five or fewer seasons)

  • Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and Van Chancellor (five seasons and four WNBA titles): Widely considered one of the best women’s basketball players ever, Cooper-Dyke won four straight WNBA titles while with the Houston Comets, from 1997, when the league was created, to 2000. The 1998 Comets had a record of 27-3 (.900) with Chancellor as coach, giving them the highest winning percentage of any team in the history of both the WNBA and the NBA.

  • Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Steve Kerr (five seasons and three NBA championships): There will arguably never be a better backcourt than the Splash Brothers. Curry and Thompson put the San Francisco Bay Area on the hoops map when they started racking up titles with the Golden State Warriors, winning three NBA championships (2015, 2017 and 2018) in five years. The two guards came close to three-peating last season, but the Toronto Raptors put a stop to that. Despite changes to the Warriors’ lineup and an injury to Thompson, the team is still one of the most dangerous in the league. The two shooters would be nowhere without their genius of a coach, Kerr, who also won five titles as an NBA player before becoming a coach.

  • LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra (four seasons and two NBA championships): These three best friends also came incredibly close to three-peating, but regardless, James, Wade and Bosh changed the NBA forever when they joined forces on the Miami Heat to start the trend of creating superteams. James has since moved on to the Lakers after winning a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and both Wade and Bosh have retired. But under Spo — who is still with Miami — they won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 before being stopped in 2014. James was crowned league MVP and NBA Finals MVP in both 2012 and 2013.

  • Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Jimmy Johnson (four seasons and two Super Bowls): Dubbed “The Triplets,” these three offensive juggernauts absolutely dominated the 1990s for the Cowboys. Smith, Aikman and Irvin won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, including two back-to-back in 1993 and 1994 with the legendary Johnson as their head coach.


Duos too good to leave out but didn’t fit in either category

  • Wayne Gretzky and Glen Sather (nine seasons and four Stanley Cups): Sather brought Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s, and a glorious hockey dynasty was born. “The Great One” and Sather helped lead the Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships (1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988) and forever changed the face of hockey.


  • Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi (nine seasons, six NFL championships and two Super Bowls): If the trophy you get when you win a Super Bowl is named after you, there is a clear reason why. Lombardi led the Green Bay Packers to six NFL Championships (1956, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967). The team also won the first two Super Bowls ever, in 1967 and 1968, with Starr at the helm. Starr was not selected by the Packers until the 17th round of the 1956 NFL draft, but he clearly was a success with the team, playing with them until he retired after the 1971 season.

  • Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson (eight seasons and six NBA Championships): How can you talk about greatness without referencing MJ and Phil? With Jackson as head coach, the Chicago Bulls made the playoffs every season from 1987 to 1998, winning the NBA championship with Jordan six times (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998). Jordan, perhaps the greatest basketball player ever, also won the NBA Finals MVP every year the Bulls won it all.

  • Joe DiMaggio and Joe McCarthy (eight seasons and five World Series): As general manager, McCarthy led DiMaggio and the “Bronx Bombers” to seven World Series championships (1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941 and 1943). And for someone who spent his entire 13-year career with the same team, center fielder DiMaggio is sure glad he did so with the Yankees. DiMaggio ended up winning nine World Series (1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1950 and 1951) with the Yankees, but he served in World War II, causing him to miss the 1943, 1944 and 1945 seasons.

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Eagles’ Jenkins talks mental health at summit

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The topic was mental health. Michelle Obama, addressing a crowd of more than 50 first-generation college-bound students at her annual Beating the Odds Summit at Howard University on Tuesday, looked over at Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins as she finished her point and signaled for him to take the floor.

“I know for me, mental health wasn’t anything we talked about when I was in school. But … I am in therapy once a week at this point in my life because I recognize that I’m somebody who’s responsible for a lot of things and I put a lot of pressure on myself, and so with that comes stress and a little anxiety,” he said.

“A lot of you, if you’re a first-generation college student, you’re the first one to do it, you feel like your family is counting on you, depending on you, you have these outside pressures that are on top of being a college student, you have to find ways to recognize that and deal with that in a healthy manner.”

This is how Jenkins spent his final day before the start of the Eagles’ training camp: A chair over from the former First Lady, speaking to a group that had overcome everything from homelessness to special needs to be in a position to receive a post-secondary education. Tuesday’s workshop was designed to equip the students with strategies to ensure they see things through, and Jenkins was called on to help in that messaging.

“For me, that was an easy yes,” Jenkins said.

The Players Coalition, co-founded by Jenkins, has supported Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative before. In May, coalition members including Anquan Boldin, Demario Davis and Josh Norman traveled to California for its college signing event.

A first-generation student herself, Obama started the Reach Higher Initiative during her time in the White House. According to stats provided by Obama’s camp, students from the bottom income quartile have a nine percent six-year college graduation rate, compared to a 73 percent graduation rate for students from the upper-income quartile. In some communities, as many as 40 percent of students who are accepted to college never make it there, for reasons that include financial burden and fear of leaving home.

“Every single one of you here had to get over some deep, dark obstacle, whether it was in your own mind or something that was real that was going on in your lives and that has given you the strength to do what you have to do next,” Obama said. “So I just want you to know: You can do this. You belong here. This was not a mistake.”

The Players Coalition has three main areas of focus: Criminal justice reform, community and police relations and education and economical advancement. Much of the effort since the coalition’s inception in 2017 has gone towards criminal justice reform. They are beginning to ramp up the other two pillars of the operation.

“We’ve already shifted some of that [focus] already. … We’ve started to roll out a little bit more in that area and will also be rolling out some campaigns around policing this fall,” Jenkins said. “We’re still growing in the development of all of these focus areas.”

The focus on the educational side was on display Tuesday, as Jenkins offered some advice to the students that Obama’s event had gathered.

“Allow yourself to grow. Allow yourself to grow into whoever it is you’re going to become. College is not the end goal, it is just a process,” he said. “So there is going to be plenty of times when you fail. You might meet some confusion. You may change majors. Whatever it is, you might take some time to figure out what you really want to do. Your beliefs may change as your experiences change. But treat college as just that: An opportunity to learn and grow as an individual and really find your own purpose.”

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Christian McCaffrey does it all

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Inside a Denver recording studio not far from his offseason home, Carolina Panthers All-Pro Christian McCaffrey, one of the most versatile gridders in a league full of elite hybrids, reveals the off-field obsession that could one day add a few new hyphenates to his job title: RB-pianist-songwriter-music producer.

As McCaffrey, 23, tickles the ivories, his pals Nick Shanholtz and Rob Abisi, better known as DJ duo Lost Kings, tackle the drums and bass guitar, respectively — while Levi Waddell, aka rapper Levi Todd, pens lyrics on the fly. What begins to emerge from this 90-minute recording session is a pop/hip-hop track that defies genre, much like the third-year pass-catching ball carrier who’s doing much of the quarterbacking here.

Eventually, the group gathers in the control room to assess the unfinished product. “I think it’s missing a layer,” McCaffrey says before sticking me on the cowbell because, as he says, he has “a fever, and the only prescription is … more cowbell!” When the laughter subsides, the versatile star adds a layer of his own via the harmonica, which he taught himself to play back at Stanford when he wasn’t busy trying to win the Heisman Trophy. I get the feeling we’ll be sitting here into the early morning hours laughing, fist-bumping and “adding layers” if I don’t play party pooper and pull McCaffrey aside for an interview.

ESPN: Why are we in a recording studio?
Christian McCaffrey: One of my big passions in the offseason, or just when I get time off in general, is playing music, and I’ve been fortunate to be around people who are a lot more talented than I am. I met Rob and Nick a long time ago, and every time I go to LA, I’ll hit them up and we’ll just jam in different genres. And Levi is one of my best buds from high school. First time we all jammed, it was a come-to-Jesus moment where we were like, “We should do something with this.”

What sparked your interest in performing?
My childhood neighbor played piano, and he told me we’d get all the girls if I learned how to play-and I was probably in eighth grade, going into high school, so I said, “Sign me up.” There was a talent show with a cash bonus, so we learned a little song together [Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”] and ended up winning it, took home one of those big checks, like in Happy Gilmore.

Who are your musical influences?
There’s a guy right now who’s probably my favorite: Tyler Childers, a country artist. I love his sound. I love Mac Miller. I’m a big Drake fan. I love Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bob Marley. I probably have the most versatile playlist in the world, from country to rap to classic rock to classical.

What’s the most embarrassing thing you listen to?
I’m proud of everything I have in my library.

I’ll give you one if you give me one: I like Taylor Swift.
I love Taylor Swift. I’m not ashamed of that. Why are you embarrassed by that?

You’re right: I love Taylor Swift.
There you go.

Could we hear an album one day?
[Laughs] That’d be really cool. We’ll see where it goes. I’m still learning. I’ve always played by watching somebody’s fingers and listening, but these last two weeks I told myself that I was gonna commit to learning how to read actual sheet music and trying to, like, classically train myself. It’s funny, I’m back at “Ants Go Marching.”

Can you write lyrics or sing?
I’ve written lyrics, but it’s not for me. And the downfall of my music career might be singing. [Laughs] I kind of have a vision of how somebody should perform a certain song.

You do seem to know exactly how it all fits together, like a producer.
That’s a fair description. Being able to produce music and grow a song from nothing is a lot of fun. With technology nowadays, I have a keyboard where I can play any instrument and do it all myself on the computer. And the beauty of it is, every once in a while you make something you like. Ed Sheeran said songs are weird — they come and go and you never know when they’ll show up.

Cam Newton has said you have “swagger through the roof.” What in the world could zap your swagger, besides a microphone?
[Laughs] That’s an honor coming from the Drip God, as he calls himself. But to answer your question: spiders. I’m not a fan of spiders. Not at all. I could do without insects.

So, if a spider dropped on your lap right now?
I’d freak out. Yeah, that’d be no good.

If you could do a collab with any teammate, who’d you have on your album?
I’d have Greg Olsen on the mic. He’s an electric singer. Anytime there’s a song on, he’s the first one belting it. Pregame, he’ll be belting out Adele, and it’s the best thing ever.

This offseason, we discovered another thing you’re good at: being ripped. What’s it like to go viral for a photo of your muscles?
[Laughs] The internet’s a crazy place. When I came into the league, I was 20, so naturally I’m getting bigger, faster, stronger. But I’m only about a pound or two heavier than last year. I like playing at around 207, and that’s what I’m at right now. But I’m definitely stronger. This is one of the first times that I’ve been able to train for a full offseason because I came out of the season healthy. That makes a huge difference.

Coming into the league, some doubted that you could be an every-down back — in part, let’s be real, because of the color of your skin. How did that make you feel at the time?
I just kinda let that pass, know what I mean? I get it, there’s not a whole lot of white running backs out there. [Laughs] It’s just the way it is. But every single NFL player has doubters. I’ve always fought the criticism that I can’t run between the tackles, but I feel like I’ve kind of put that to rest. [McCaffrey ranked first last year in yards per carry between the tackles among backs with 150-plus attempts.]

Because of your versatility and the versatility you afford an offense, The Ringer declared: “Christian McCaffrey is the future of football.” Do you think that’s true for you and guys like you?
Yeah, I do. The league is shifting. It’s becoming a smaller league, way more speed-dominant. So you’re seeing more backs like me who can run between the tackles, pass-protect, catch and become matchup nightmares. You also have more receivers who are getting jet sweeps, doing different things with the ball in their hands. A lot of it stems from college offenses. There’s very few pro-style college offenses nowadays, so you see NFL coaches adapting to the players that are coming in. That’s why [Panthers offensive coordinator] Norv Turner has been huge for me. He’s a guy who’s been in the league so long, but you constantly see him adapting.

He’s also a guy who’s coached some of the greats at your position.
Yeah, I’ve seen more LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles clips than anybody out there, and I hear stories all the time about those guys — Adrian Peterson, LT, all the guys I watched growing up. Knowing that their coach believes in me is something I really appreciate.

Last year you ran, caught or threw for 14 touchdowns. Where’s one place on the field that I can’t pay you to line up at?
[Laughs] You could pay me to line up anywhere if the money’s good.

Where would you like to line up and haven’t yet?
Oh man, I’d love to play safety. I played it when I was a kid, back when I was watching guys like Brian Dawkins and John Lynch come down full speed and hit someone. Or rush end! I always got a ball in my hand, so being able to let loose would be really fun. But Coach [Ron] Rivera would probably shut that down quick.

You’re a fantasy superstar. Have fantasy owners been showing their appreciation?
Every time I’m in public, somebody’s like, “Yo, thank you so much for my fantasy points last year.” I’ve had multiple waiters and waitresses give me free meals for helping them win their league. Hopefully I do it again this year, otherwise the tabs might go up.

Last season was a forgettable one for the Panthers. Give your fans reason for hope. Why will this year be different?
This is a team that’s a few years removed from the Super Bowl with a lot of the same guys from that team. We got great leaders with Luke Kuechly, Cam, Greg Olsen, and we just added Gerald McCoy, Chris Hogan, guys who’ve won in this league and know what it takes. We have the talent. It’s just a matter of staying healthy, executing on Sundays.

How would you assess your own leadership skills right now?
I’ve had more of a vocal presence this year. We’ve got a young running back room — so I’m able to verbalize things that I see for them. Other than that, I’m just working as hard as I can, showing guys what it takes. I’m lucky to have come into a team with guys like Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen, who set the standard.

Your dad, Ed, won three Super Bowls, two here in Denver when you were a child. Do you have any memories of those wins?
My only memory is a picture on our wall from SI where I’m running on the field with confetti and a big ol’ blond ‘fro. I was [not quite] 2 and 3 when he won those. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen his rings. He keeps them locked up.

He’s afraid you’re gonna steal them?
[Laughs] No, he’s just a humble man. I want my own rings. One for every year that I play. That’s the goal.

What other goals have you set for yourself?
I got a lot of goals that I keep to myself, but one goal is definitely the 1K/1K club [1,000 yards rushing and receiving]. I almost did it last year and it was a bummer not getting it. Two guys have done it — Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig — and there’s a race to be the third. There’s a lot of backs in the league who can get there.

Yeah, in a time when backs are being devalued, there are a heck of a lot of good ones out there.
Especially in the NFC. I think Saquon [Barkley] is a great back. Todd Gurley. Zeke [Ezekiel Elliott]. David Johnson. Melvin Gordon. Phillip Lindsay, a hometown guy in Colorado. Alvin Kamara is a guy I’m watching constantly.

If you had to pick, which one do you want more: Football Hall of Fame or the rock ‘n’ roll one?
[Laughs] Both would be great. That might be a first. I’d never considered that one. There ya go, that’s another goal. Perfect.

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