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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Reconditioners Association (NAERA), it is not clear whether the NFL would sign off on it, because the technology is outdated.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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Rams’ Todd Gurley stiff-arms QB Jared Goff’s compliment

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Last week, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley let his head coach shoulder the blame. This week, it’s his quarterback who intended to deliver a compliment, but perhaps didn’t find the right words.

“Sounds like I suck and then I made a good play,” Gurley said, straight faced with a shrug. “So, yeah, I guess so.”

Gurley, who has seen his workload increase in three of the Rams’ last four games, was referring to a stiff-arm touchdown run in which he battled Seattle cornerback Tre Flowers in a 28-12 victory over the Seahawks that caught the attention of quarterback Jared Goff.

So much so, that Goff stood at the podium after the win and lit up when asked about it. “He’s a bad dude,” Goff said. “It was vintage Todd.”

Vintage? Gurley didn’t think so … and made it known Thursday.

Against the Seahawks, Gurley rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and caught four passes for 34 yards. And that stiff arm? Nothing special. “Not my first time stiff arming nobody,” Gurley said. “Just a regular stiff arm.”

The Rams are 8-5 and chasing the Minnesota Vikings for the final wild card berth. On Sunday, they play the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (6-7) at AT&T Stadium.

Gurley has played an increased role in the offense and indications point to the trend continuing Sunday.

“The approach for us is that Todd is a big-time player,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He’s shown that he’s feeling good and when he’s doing those kind of things — whether it be through the pass game, through the run game — good things seem to happen for the Rams.”

After averaging 14.9 touches per game through the first 10 weeks, Gurley’s touches have increased to an average of 21 over the last four games.

When asked Thursday how he felt at this point of the season, compared to last season, Gurley responded, “It’s Week 15 in the league, ain’t nobody feeling rested. It’s Week 15, no one in this league is feeling well rested.”

Gurley had a season-best 28 touches in a Week 11 win over the Chicago Bears. In a Week 13 blowout over the Arizona Cardinals, he had 20 touches and last Sunday when the Rams defeated the Seahawks, he had 27.

McVay recently shouldered the blame for not giving Gurley more opportunity early in the season.

“Me not being an idiot,” McVay said last week, when asked what caused him to get the ball to Gurley more.

Gurley offered no alternative to McVay’s explanation.

“He said it, I didn’t,” Gurley said, chuckling. “That’s all I got to say. I don’t have anything else to say.”

The Rams offense has appeared to benefit from Gurley’s increased production, as Goff broke a month-long touchdown drought to pass for four touchdowns in the last two games.

Gurley was asked Thursday if the offense and other teammates benefitted when he was in rhythm.

“I feel like we all feed off of each other. I don’t really have to explain too much, you see the results over the last couple of years,” said Gurley, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards in each of the last two seasons, as the Rams won back-to-back division titles and last season advanced to Super Bowl LIII. “When we’re running the ball, stuff is going well, stuff is opening up – so it’s like, it’s not too much really to explain, just got to go out there and do it, whether it’s in the passing game or the running game.”

Gurley has rushed for 721 yards and nine touchdowns on 177 carries in 12 games this season. He also has caught 26 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown.

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Ravens QB Lamar Jackson breaks Michael Vick’s single-season rushing yards record

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BALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson set the most impressive record of his young NFL career on Thursday night, breaking Michael Vick’s single-season rushing mark by a quarterback.

Jackson, the electric dual-threat quarterback and NFL Most Valuable Player front-runner, eclipsed his childhood idol in the first quarter against the heavy underdog New York Jets on a chilly night at M&T Bank Stadium. He entered the game needing 23 yards to eclipse Vick’s mark of 1,039, set in 2006, and gained 27 on Baltimore’s opening drive, breaking the record on a 5-yard run that preceded a 6-yard touchdown by Mark Ingram to put the Ravens up 7-0.

After the score, the Fox broadcast cut to a taped segment of Vick congratulating Jackson.

“Lamar, I just want to say congratulations on making history,” Vick said. “One of many milestones that you will surpass in your career. Best of luck in everything that you do. You deserve it. Keep up the hard work, and I’ll always be rooting for you.”

With the way Jackson has run the ball this season — from his spinning around two defenders on a touchdown run in Cincinnati to juking defenders off their feet on a weekly basis — it had long been anticipated that Jackson would shatter Vick’s record. Jackson recently said it would be “an honor” to surpass Vick, reiterating that the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback is his favorite player.

Just like many of his elusive runs, Jackson established the new standard for rushing quarterbacks in staggering style, doing so in his 14th game of the 2019 season (which includes not playing a full fourth quarter in four games). He entered Thursday’s game as the leading rusher for the NFL’s No. 1 ground attack and on pace to rush for 1,251 yards rushing this season.

Jackson, 22, broke the record despite not being at full strength. He was limited in a couple of practices this week and was listed as questionable after injuring his quadriceps five days earlier in a 24-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

What makes Jackson’s achievement even more special is that no one previously got close to Vick’s record, which stood for 13 years. Before Jackson began sprinting past tacklers, the most rushing yards by a quarterback since 2006 came from Russell Wilson, who ran for 849 yards in 2014 — which were 190 yards shy of Vick. Last month, Vick acknowledged that he didn’t think his record would ever get broken.

Jackson and Vick are the only quarterbacks to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a season, but they reached that milestone in different ways. Vick’s rushing yards were a near-even split between designed runs (52%) and scrambles (48%), according to ESPN Stats & Information research. With Jackson, 65% of his rushing total is off designed runs, most of which come on zone reads.

Jackson has repeatedly downplayed any individual milestones, saying his focus is on winning. But Jackson’s running has been a major key to Baltimore’s success. When Jackson has run for at least 70 yards, the Ravens are 12-0 (entering Thursday’s game).

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Pat McAfee likes what he sees every week from the Ravens and thinks Lamar Jackson deserves to be crowned MVP right now.

What sets Jackson apart from Vick is his ability to beat teams with his arm as well. In Vick’s record-setting season, he threw for 2,474 yards and 20 touchdowns (75.7 passer rating). Through 13 games, Jackson had already surpassed those numbers, passing for 2,677 yards and 28 touchdowns (109.2 rating). He could become the first quarterback in NFL history to finish a season with 1,000 yards rushing and a passer rating over 100.

This isn’t the first time Jackson passed a mark of Vick’s. On Dec. 1, against the San Francisco 49ers, Jackson recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, breaking a single-season record Vick shared. Last month, Jackson became the fastest quarterback ever in the Madden video-game franchise, with a 96 speed rating, moving him past Vick (who had a 95 speed rating).

Jackson’s popularity has exploded in his first full season as an NFL starting quarterback. He is the current favorite to win NFL MVP with 9-to-1 odds at Caesars Sportsbook. He tops all players in Pro Bowl balloting. He also watched one of his autographed No. 8 jerseys get presented to Pope Francis a couple of weeks ago.

Jackson has led the Ravens to the best start in franchise history. Baltimore (11-2), which entered Thursday as the AFC’s top seed, can clinch its second consecutive AFC North title with a win over the Jets.

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I know Odell Beckham Jr. wants to be here

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BEREA, Ohio – Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry said Thursday that teammate Odell Beckham Jr. wants to stay in Cleveland, despite reports and speculation that OBJ is looking for a way out.

“I think he wants to be here,” Landry said. “I know he wants to be here.”

Sunday morning, Fox Sports reported during its NFL pregame show that Beckham has been telling opposing players and coaches before games, “come get me” out of Cleveland.

Beckham, who declined comment on the report after Cleveland’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals, had fueled speculation days earlier when he was vague about his future with the Browns beyond the 2019 season.

“No one knows what the future holds, like tomorrow,” Beckham said then, when asked whether he wanted to be in Cleveland next year. “I couldn’t tell you what’s going to happen.”

Landry, one of Beckham’s closest friends dating back to when the two played together at LSU, was more definitive, even joking that he would “beat his a–” if Beckham were confiding in other people and not him.

“He doesn’t want to leave, and he’s not trying to leave,” Landry said.

Beckham has gone seven consecutive games without topping 100 receiving yards, the longest such streak of his career. He has also been playing through a hip and groin injury, which has hampered how much he can practice during the week and has limited his explosiveness in games.

“It’s not even about trying to go somewhere else,” Landry said. “I think for him, he’s been a leader, he’s a guy that comes to work every day, he’s a guy that’s playing through injuries, all the things you want out of a player. Inside of this organization, he has a voice, he has responsibility to himself, to all of us, to go out there and compete each and every Sunday, and he does that.”

Beckham has only two touchdowns, as he and quarterback Baker Mayfield have struggled to find a consistent connection in their first year together. Mayfield defended Beckham after Sunday’s game, saying that the injury “wasn’t handled right” by the team’s training staff (Mayfield later apologized and said he didn’t intend “to throw our medical staff under the bus”).

Wednesday, Mayfield was also asked whether he thinks Beckham wants to be in Cleveland long term.

“I can’t answer that for him,” Mayfield said. “I mean, there’s all the rumors going around. But I have my conversations with him and I know what we talk about, so I trust him wholeheartedly.”

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