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AB finds newer model of helmet, returns to camp

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NAPA, Calif. — Antonio Brown returned to Oakland Raiders training camp for the first time in two weeks on Tuesday, with a compromise on his helmet issue seemingly in sight and his frostbitten feet continuing to heal.

The four-time All-Pro receiver came out to the field at 11:05 a.m. PT, about 15 minutes before practice ended.

“I’m extremely grateful to be here,” Brown said. “Been dealing with a lot of adversity. I’m excited to be back, see my teammates, and get in the groove of things.”

Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, acknowledged the helmet issue has been weighing on the player. He accepted Monday’s decision by an independent arbitrator that went against him using his 10-year-old Schutt Air Advantage helmet, but now he’s looking at a possible resolution that can result in him wearing the same model, just more recently produced.

Earlier Tuesday, Brown put out a post on social media asking fans for their help in finding a version of his old helmet that has been manufactured since 2010.

Rosenhaus said they had located some and that it was just a matter of getting one of those reconditioned and re-certified.

“So, it’s all reasonable,” Rosenhaus said. “I mean, it’s all very plausible.

“Understand that this is a guy that’s worn this helmet for nine years. He’s taken a million hits and he’s been healthy and one of the most durable players ever at his position. So you can understand why he’d want to continue to wear that helmet. It’s very important to him. It’s a big part of his safety. … The Schutt Air Advantage is what he’s worn his whole life.”

If Brown can get a model that’s been manufactured since 2010 certified by the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association (NAERA), it is not clear whether the NFL would sign off on it, because the technology is outdated.

Schutt discontinued the Air Advantage in 2009, according to Glenn Beckmann, Schutt’s director of marketing communications. But the company continued to manufacture the model for a short period afterward to ensure a supply of parts for reconditioning and warranty claims.

Beckmann said he “can’t imagine” any Air Advantage models were manufactured after 2011, and the company does not have any in stock. Helmets are registered with an eight-character number stamped inside the product, similar to a VIN number for automobiles, that confirm its manufacture date.

“There was nothing wrong with the Air Advantage,” Beckmann said. “It had just outlived its life.”

Brown has tried out the new certified helmet and believes it protrudes and interferes with his vision as he tries to catch the football. He also argued that his helmet made him feel safe.

Rosenhaus reiterated that his client, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers in March and promptly given a three-year, $50.125 million contract, had been working on the helmet issue for “months.”

Brown had reportedly threatened to retire if he was not allowed to wear his helmet.

“All the talk about retirement and everything else, that’s not a consideration right now,” Rosenhaus said. “He’s committed to the team, he’s committed to the season, and everyone can take solace in that. He’ll be playing this year and playing for the Raiders.”

Rosenhaus also said that Brown’s absence from the Raiders had everything to do with the extreme frostbite on his feet he suffered in a July cryotherapy mishap in France.

“It wasn’t his intention to leave the team for the period of time that he did; he’s always had a good line of communication with the club,” said Rosenhaus.

The Raiders have held 12 practices, with Brown participating in just one pre-practice walk-through on July 28. He was limited before leaving early on July 30, and he had not been with the team since that day.

“It’s a process,” Brown said. “We don’t make excuses. I’m here today just to get things on the up and up. I’m feeling a lot better. It’s been a process through all the adversity, but I’m still here standing, so it’s an opportunity for me to do what I desire to do.

“Feel a lot better, you know? Working towards 100 percent. Been a process with the feet. Any time you’ve got a lot of blisters, it’s hard to change directions, cut and run and do what I do naturally.”

Brown, who still appeared to be walking gingerly Tuesday, smiled when asked if there was a time frame for him to return to the practice field.

“I guess you’ve got to stay tuned,” he said.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden said he’s not sure whether Brown, who was a mainstay during the Raiders’ offseason program and put in extra work with quarterback Derek Carr, will play in any of the team’s three remaining exhibition games.

Asked, though, if Brown will be ready for the season opener on Sept. 9 against the Denver Broncos on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” Gruden had no doubt.

“Oh yeah,” Gruden said. “Yup. We’ll work him back in.

“Obviously, it’s great to have him back. We’ve had a pretty good understanding, in spite of what people think. … We’ve had a pretty good understanding of the foot injury. We know where he’s been. We know what he’s been through. We’re thrilled to have him back and, obviously, we think he’s a great player and we’re anxious to get the men together and get rolling.”

Count Carr among them.

“Can’t wait for him to suit up and be out there with us,” Carr said. “… Any time a teammate comes back, it always brings life to the team.

“We’ll be ready to go Week 1. We’ve got a lot of time until then. … Get some game-plan plays down, some routes, certain cuts he’ll run for us. The fact that he’s here is a good sign. It’s good for us.”

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.



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Broncos rookie QB Lock could open season on IR

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock said Thursday he’s not sure when he will be able to throw a football again, and coach Vic Fangio said it’s possible Lock could at least open the season on injured reserve.

Lock suffered a severely sprained right thumb — on his throwing hand — early in the third quarter of Monday night’s preseason loss to the visiting San Francisco 49ers. He underwent an MRI exam Tuesday and a sprain was confirmed.

X-rays taken at the stadium Monday night were negative.

Lock will neither play nor practice for the remainder of the preseason and will be limited to conditioning work only.

“Obviously because it’s his throwing hand and a thumb, that’s a pretty serious injury for a quarterback,” Fangio said. “It will be some time before we know exactly where he’s at and how much time he would miss.”

“[I’m] trusting the [training] staff in there to get me back as soon as possible,” Lock said. “Whenever that is, we’ll decide on whenever I’m 100% ready to go.”

Lock, who was selected in the second round (42nd overall) of April’s draft, was in a battle to be the team’s backup quarterback behind Joe Flacco. Asked Thursday if putting Lock on injured reserve was now a possibility if his recovery time was slated to include part of the regular season, Fangio said: “Yeah, it could be if we don’t think he can play for a while. The bad thing about it is because of the injury he can’t do much.”

If Lock were to be placed on injured reserve with a designation to return, he would have to be on the Broncos’ roster in Week 1, taking the spot of a healthy player at that time — and he would have to miss half the season.

If he were to be placed simply on injured reserve, he would miss the entire season.

In the meantime, as the Broncos try to decide what to do based on his progress in healing, Lock has been in the quarterback meetings as well as on the practice field with the team. Because he cannot participate in drills, he said using the team’s virtual reality system is going to be an important part of his recovery.

Lock said he will have to do “two times” more classroom work since he will not be practicing, and “the VR stuff upstairs is going to be heavily used. … It helps a lot, being able to see what Joe [Flacco] does, kind of from his angle and things … being able to see every single rep, being able to see what the defense does, being able to see it in a ton of different looks.”

He said he used VR in his sophomore and junior years at Missouri as well.

Lock played 30 snaps against the 49ers as he finished 7-of-12 passing with 40 yards to go with the sack he was injured on. Lock played just one more snap after that sack and left the game with just over 13 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

After opening training camp as the No. 3 quarterback behind Flacco and Kevin Hogan, Lock had been moved up to the No. 2 spot in practices and was the second quarterback into the game against the Seattle Seahawks and 49ers.

For the preseason, Lock has completed 60.8% of his passes with a touchdown and an interception.

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Garoppolo aims to bounce back at site of injury

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After a rough stretch in which he threw five interceptions in a practice and posted a 0.0 passer rating in a preseason game five days later, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is aiming to move on in the same stadium where he suffered a season-ending injury in 2018.

On Thursday, Garoppolo said he was “very hard” on himself when he watched the film of his 1-of-6 for 0 yards with one interception performance against the Denver Broncos on Monday night, and again when he re-watched it on Tuesday.

But Garoppolo, who said he’s sure he’s had a similar week before in his career, also reminded himself he doesn’t have time to think about it any more as he prepares for the regular season opener on Sept. 8.

“At some point you have to move on,” Garoppolo said. “You’re still trying to correct those mistakes and not make the same mistakes twice, but if you just dwell on the past and dwell on that one game, you’re going to get stuck there and have no success going forward. I think it’s good to be hard on yourself, but at some point you have got to move forward.”

Moving forward this week for Garoppolo means a trip on Saturday to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, the same venue in which Garoppolo tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Sept. 23 of last season.

In the days after that game, Garoppolo admitted to replaying the injury in his head, pondering what he’d have done differently and everything that led up to the injury. On the play, Garoppolo scrambled down the left sideline before attempting to plant his left leg and turn upfield. The left leg buckled as he threw himself into Chiefs defensive back Steven Nelson.

That injury cost Garoppolo the remaining 13 games of the season and set him on a lengthy rehabilitation that is still ongoing as he gets re-acclimated to playing in live games again.

“It will be a good steppingstone,” Garoppolo said of his return to Arrowhead Stadium. “Definitely, it will be a little weird getting back there but (I’m) just trying to treat it like a normal game.”

That’s a task that likely would have been made easier had it not been for Garoppolo’s recent struggles. Monday’s game in Denver was his first live action in 330 days and the rust was readily apparent.

It was also the first time Garoppolo could be tackled since the injury, and it resulted in some discomfort in the pocket.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan, who has cautioned against making too much of preseason struggles, suggested Thursday that getting back in game action was another in a line of mental hurdles for Garoppolo to clear as he comes back from injury.

“I know anytime you come back from injury, there’s a bunch of mental hurdles you have got to get over even when you are healthy and feel good,” Shanahan said. “I’m sure there’s some stuff with it just being eerie going back to that same place.”

Although Shanahan said he felt it would have been “a matter of time” before Garoppolo got going against Denver, he opted to take him out after just 10 snaps with an eye toward Saturday night in Kansas City.

Garoppolo should have ample opportunity to get back on track against the Chiefs. Much like last preseason, Shanahan said Garoppolo and the starting offense will likely play the entire first half, depending on how many snaps they get and how it’s going.

Shanahan didn’t rule out the possibility of some snaps in the third quarter if the offense doesn’t get the needed work in the first half.

“It will be good,” Garoppolo said. “Hopefully we get to string some plays together, get some good drives and everything and get the offense moving. It’s taking it from the practice field and bringing it over to the game field and making it happen.”

In the meantime, Garoppolo said he has done his best this week to block out the outside criticism of his performance in Denver and focus on fixing the mistakes of last week.

At the top of that list was the interception he threw in the first quarter that came as a result of poor communication on an offensive line protection. Garoppolo and Shanahan went over the play with Shanahan emphasizing the importance of making sure everyone gets any changes up front.

Those are the type of errors that can be corrected and should go away as Garoppolo gets more opportunities. As Shanahan is quick to point out, many of Garoppolo’s growing pains should have already happened.

Alas, the knee injury.

“That’s all Jimmy needs is just to play football,” Shanahan said. “Whether he was coming back from injury or not. We thought we were going to get that last year and unfortunately we didn’t and that was out of everyone’s control. So now we’re back to that plus he’s coming off an injury with it. So I want Jimmy to play as much as possible in the preseason and into the regular season, but that’s a fine line, too. You don’t want to put your quarterback in there against a starting defensive line when you don’t have your starting O-line in there. So trying to balance that out.”

Garoppolo, who still has just 10 NFL starts to his name, said Thursday his knee is holding up well and he intends to bounce back against the Chiefs.

“It’s one of those things that you can react two ways to it: You can crumple up and kind of go into a fetal position and surrender, or you can go out and fight,” Garoppolo said. “We have got a locker room full of guys who want to fight, myself included. Every day you have to come in and earn your spot. It’s never going to be given to you so you have got to come earn it.”

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Terrence Brooks could be key piece in Patrick Chung fallout – New England Patriots Blog

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — With starting safety Patrick Chung scheduled to be arraigned next Wednesday on a charge of cocaine possession, the New England Patriots have to be prepared with contingency plans if they are without Chung for any period of time.

Chung is one of the key cogs of the defense, having played 85% of the defensive snaps in 2018, with linebacker Kyle Van Noy affectionately referring to him as a “beast” and “one of the most underrated” players in the NFL last year.

Chung’s ability to match up with opposing tight ends is a significant part of his value to the Patriots. His physicality and tackling also is critical for a defense that plays about 90% of its snaps with five or six defensive backs on the field, which means they are a lighter unit and need their safeties to fill a linebacker-type role at times. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Chung does that exceptionally well.

There probably isn’t one player on the roster who can fill that type of role, but a possible silver lining for the Patriots is that defensive back is one of the deeper positions on their roster — especially when factoring in some cornerbacks who can flex into a safety role in certain packages, such as Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones and Duke Dawson.

Six-year veteran Terrence Brooks (5-11, 205 pounds) is probably the Patriots’ closest facsimile to Chung in terms of a pure safety. He entered the NFL as a third-round draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens in 2014, and has only one career start on his résumé, with his primary niche coming on special teams in stints with Baltimore (2014-2015), Philadelphia (2016) and the New York Jets (2017-2018).

He has opened some eyes this preseason, but asking him to fill a potential Chung void might be too much, even though the Patriots obviously liked him enough to give him a two-year, $4 million contract in the offseason.

“Terrence is a smart kid, works hard, has a lot of versatility,” Bill Belichick said on Aug. 12. “We’ve asked him to do a number of different things. He’s handled that well.”

One of the points Belichick made was how important communication is among players in the secondary, and given Chung’s experience in the team’s system, Brooks obviously has some ground to make up in that area. That would be a big part of what the Patriots potentially miss without Chung.

Devin McCourty is locked in at one starting safety spot, with his range and speed top assets. Seven-year veteran Duron Harmon is a top backup, with core special-teamer Nate Ebner an emergency option.

Chung and Brooks are top options at the other safety spot, with undrafted Malik Gant (Marshall) also in the mix.

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