DAVIE, Fla. — When you drink a glass of dark Ocean Spray cranberry juice, there’s a chance the cranberries were harvested by Miami Dolphins linebacker Vince Biegel and his family from their cranberry marsh in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.
A small-town fifth-generation farmer who spent 10-hour summer days knee-deep in cranberry beds, Biegel took a unique journey to the NFL.
“The cranberry marsh was my only job growing up. It’s a hard job. It’s not a spotlight job. There’s not a lot of glory,” Biegel said. “I learned to take responsibility, have a strong work ethic and take advantage of your opportunities. Those qualities have taken me a long way.”
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The 26-year-old is now a starting pass-rusher and spirited leader for a 2-9 Dolphins team that will host the Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday (Fox).
Miami traded veteran linebacker Kiko Alonso to the New Orleans Saints for Biegel on Sept. 1, and while Alonso was the big name in the deal, Biegel was viewed by some as a special-teams throw-in. But in an extreme rebuilding season, the Dolphins searched for low-cost, diamond-in-the-rough keepers. They saw potential in Biegel beyond special teams.
Three months later, it’s clear the Dolphins won the trade. Biegel represents exactly what Dolphins coach Brian Flores is trying to build in Miami.
The cranberry man
Approximately 50% of cranberries harvested in the United States come from Wisconsin — primarily because of the sandy soil. Some of that originates from Wisconsin Rapids’ Dempze Co. cranberry marsh — a family business that celebrated its 100th anniversary this summer and helped shape Biegel into the man he is today.
Biegel started working on the marsh when he was 7 years old. The Dempze farm comes from his mom’s side of the family. His dad’s side of the family was all about football. His dad, Rocky, played linebacker at BYU. Biegel’s grandfather, Ken, played football at Wisconsin-Eau Claire and is in the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Life was a steady mix of cranberries and football. Vince Biegel chose his preferred life path early on.
“Growing up, football was my main passion. I pursued it relentlessly. My dad was unique in that he pushed school first, football second and working on the marsh third,” Biegel said. “But I never considered working at the marsh as a fallback like a bad thing. Our family takes great pride in that. Honestly, it’s still in the cards. I could see myself running my own marsh one day.”
Even as an accomplished Wisconsin Badgers defender, Biegel spent some of each summer working at the marsh.
“Harvest was my favorite. Harvest is when you see the fruits of your labor come to fruition,” Biegel said. “It’s sort of like when you get a sack.”
A couple of his teammates’ eyes widen when he discusses the Dempze cranberry sauce and cranberry apple crisp family recipes. Cranberries are his favorite fruit and Thanksgiving dish. His favorite drink? Half-cranberry juice, half 7UP. The cranberry man has taught his locker mates more about his favorite fruit than they could have ever dreamed.
As Biegel explains the cranberry farming process, Dolphins linebackers Jerome Baker and Deon Lacey chuckle to themselves. They have heard this story plenty. Biegel proudly continues, “Cranberries grow on vines in a cranberry bed, which is about the size of a football field. In our marsh, we have about 70 to 80 cranberry beds, so that’s 70 to 80 fields’ worth of cranberries.”
The cranberry man always planned to leave the marsh to pursue his NFL dreams, but when it’s all over, there’s a good chance he’ll return to cultivating a bed of berries.
Wisconsin LB Vince Biegel will be the first to tell you Wisconsin is the No. 1 producer of cranberries in the U.S. As a child who grew up on a cranberry marsh, Biegel shares how his experience shaped who he is on and off the field.
‘I love being’ in Miami
A week before the 2019 NFL season began, Biegel went from a championship contender with the Saints to one of the worst teams in football — a team that started the season 0-7. Surprisingly, he was ecstatic to join the Dolphins because of the “opportunity.”
Biegel was primarily a special-teams player with New Orleans; he played only two defensive snaps in 2018. He yearned for more. And then the trade happened.
“I really do love being here. When Miami traded for me, I knew it was going to be a great opportunity because this is a young team. It’s been all that and more,” Biegel said. “This is the opportunity that I’ve been able to grow the most from in my career from a football and leader perspective. I’m excited to hopefully stick around here for a long time.”
Biegel says being released by the Green Bay Packers — the team that selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 draft — was the best thing for his career. As a kid who was from Wisconsin and who attended the University of Wisconsin, Biegel put too much pressure on himself playing for his hometown NFL team.
“A weight was lifted off my shoulder,” Biegel said about being cut by Green Bay in September 2018 and then signed by New Orleans. “I got back to the purity of playing football.”
Dolphins linebackers coach Rob Leonard says Biegel’s strengths are his motor and his physicality: “You don’t have to say anything to Vince to get him going, so I can coach that. I can tame you down. I can’t tame you up. He lights a fire to the whole defense. I just try to channel it to get that motor pointed in the right direction. Like, scout team: Don’t kill the quarterback.”
The Biegel buzz is real in Miami. He has become a favorite of the fans, coaches and teammates in a short time.
“Biegel consistently brings the energy. He’s the main one. Sometimes it seems annoying, but he brings it every day,” Baker said. “It’s definitely important. It’s a team. Some days it can’t just be him. Some days it has to be other guys. But for Biegel, no matter what is going on, he brings positive light out of it.”
‘The wins will come’
Biegel’s pass-rush ability, success setting the edge, high motor and infectious vibe have sealed his starting linebacker role. He leads the Dolphins in quarterback hits (11), and he’s second on the team in sacks (two). The first sack of his career came in Week 2 against New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“Brady was the guy I wanted to sack most when I entered the NFL. That was a great experience and now I want more. I want to be the guy out there to provide that spark for us,” Biegel said. “One thing my dad always taught me was effort. There’s a lot of things you can’t control, but there’s one thing you can control and it’s your effort. For me, it’s a compliment when people say, ‘Hey, you’re a high-motor guy.'”
It doesn’t appear Biegel is leaving the Dolphins anytime soon.
“Pre-snap stuff is big for him and he can’t get enough reps. He’s only going to get better in my opinion because any guy that has a motor that burns hot like that is — you’ve just got to get it pointed in the right direction,” Leonard said. “He can definitely help us. I like Vince a lot. Guys like that are fun to be around, and they bring a lot of energy to the room, so it makes it fun to coach. There’s never a dull moment.”
Flores calls Biegel the team’s best edge-setter and stout in the run game. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham raves about his arm extension. Even if his role decreases when the team gets better, there should be a place for a guy like Biegel.
Plus, the locker room needs its cranberry man.
“I know there haven’t been a lot of wins this year. But the wins will come,” Biegel said. “I hope the fans know we have a lot of good things to look forward to in the future, and I’m hopeful I can continue to be a part of it.”
Chiefs regroup after starters Damien Williams, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opt out – Kansas City Chiefs Blog
The Kansas City Chiefs thought they had two advantages over most of their competition heading into training camp, one being startling continuity for the salary-cap era and the other a high-scoring offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Those advantages might still be there, though not in the abundance they were before the calendar turned to August. Two offensive starters, running back Damien Williams and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, opted out of playing this season amid the coronavirus pandemic, dealing the Chiefs a blow.
“It hurts,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “The guys that we have in that locker room can fill that void. I honestly believe that. We have an unbelievable roster, and I’m excited to see how this group molds together.”
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There’s no reason to believe the two player losses will unravel everything the Chiefs have going for them. Eighteen starters still return from the Super Bowl LIV win over the San Francisco 49ers. That familiarity could provide an edge in a season without offseason practice and preseason games and with an abbreviated training camp.
But Williams was the Chiefs’ leading rusher last season and a Super Bowl star. He ran for 104 yards against the 49ers and scored the final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the 31-20 victory.
The Chiefs also lost their second-leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, who left as a free agent. They did draft LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round, but their veteran running backs have a total of five NFL starts among them.
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In an illustration of just how important he is to the Chiefs this season, a defensive player, linebacker Anthony Hitchens, said, “Our job [on defense] is to get him ready for Week 1: show him different looks, practice hard, try to strip the ball out, playing tight coverage on him.”
The Chiefs also lost Stefen Wisniewski to free agency, so they need starters at both guard positions. They had to mix and match along the offensive line last year. Injuries forced them to start five different line combinations.
So between free-agent additions Kelechi Osemele and Mike Remmers, part-time 2019 starters Andrew Wylie and Martinas Rankin and young players in Nick Allegretti and Lucas Niang, the Chiefs have plenty of candidates.
The Chiefs won’t have as much time to sort through the possibilities as they usually do.
“The older guys, the more they play, the easier it is to mesh them together,” tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. “Obviously, [Osemele] has had an awesome career and Remmers has had a really good career too. Those are guys who understand fits and understand how to play with people, next to people. So that’s not something I’m too worried about.”
Giants lose third opt-out player with CB Sam Beal’s decision
According to the NFL’s daily transaction wire, linebacker Josiah Tauaefa was also removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list one day after being placed on it.
Beal becomes the third Giants player to take the opt-out route, joining offensive tackle Nate Solder and wide receiver/kick returner D’Mari Scott. Under the agreement reached between the NFL and NFLPA, players had the option of opting out of the upcoming season without penalty by 4 p.m. on Thursday. The opt out is irrevocable.
The Giants already had question marks at cornerback prior to Beal’s decision. Cornerback DeAndre Baker is on the commissioner’s exempt list and faces charges of armed robbery and aggravated assault with a firearm. He is unlikely to play another snap with the Giants.
Baker was a first-round pick last year. Beal was a third-round supplemental pick out of Central Michigan in 2018 who missed his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury. He played in six games with three starts last season and finished with 25 tackles and one pass defended. He missed the season finale with a shoulder injury.
Beal, 23, was expected to be in the mix, along with second-year cornerback Corey Ballentine, for a starting spot opposite offseason acquisition James Bradberry. Rookie fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes also appears to be in serious contention for the job.
Beal’s absence now leaves the Giants with an obvious void and a lack of depth. A source indicated recently — even before Beal’s opt out — that the team was searching for cornerback help on the waiver wire or via free agency. Among the options on the open market are veterans Logan Ryan, Aqib Talib and Dre Kirkpatrick.
New coach Joe Judge has firsthand experience with Ryan and Talib from their time in New England. Ryan appears to be the most likely option, especially since the Giants will gain $13.55 million in salary-cap space from Solder’s decision to sit out the 2020 NFL season.
Growing frustrated by suspension, Cowboys’ Randy Gregory lashes out, says he’s ‘doing everything right’ as he aims for reinstatement
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory took to social media Wednesday to say he is being treated unfairly by the NFL as he attempts to be reinstated from an indefinite suspension.
“I really miss playing football and being a player in the NFL,” Gregory wrote. “I’m doing everything that is asked of me and I’m in great shape physically, mentally and emotionally but I’m being held back from furthering my career because of Covid and testing. I’ve been ready to play and test for months but still have gotten little to no help to resolve my reinstatement. I’m asking more questions than I’m getting answered. It’s amazing that the powers that can keep passing the buck and also use this pandemic as a way to prevent me from joining my team. Telling me to just sit and wait in limbo over things I can’t control, all the while doing everything right off the field is unfair and flat out wrong!!!”
A request for comment from the NFL regarding Gregory’s status has been made.
For all of you that’s wondering… pic.twitter.com/gj7nWJpw5e
— Randy Gregory (@RandyGregory_4) August 5, 2020
Gregory applied for reinstatement in March, according to sources. Last month ESPN reported his attempt to return had not been denied but he was not cleared to return either and sources said there was some optimism he would be allowed around the team in some fashion even if he could not practice.
Gregory is on an indefinite suspension for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy dating to his rookie year in 2015.
Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, players can no longer be suspended for a positive test for marijuana, but because he was penalized under the old system he would still need to be welcomed back by commissioner Roger Goodell. A player can continue to be suspended for missing tests or not taking part in a care plan.
Gregory missed all of last season after playing in 14 games in 2018 and finishing with six sacks, which was second on the team. He missed 30 of 32 regular-season games in 2016 and ’17 because of suspensions. He has played in only 28 of a possible 80 regular-season games in his career.
The Cowboys selected Gregory in the second round in 2015 and have stood by him, including agreeing to an extension with him last year that was ultimately blocked by the league. The team had a short-term extension for Gregory blocked last year by the league because of the suspension.
Earlier this offseason, pass-rusher Aldon Smith was conditionally reinstated by the NFL after multiple suspensions that have kept him off the playing field since 2015. Smith has passed numerous tests within the last year and has agreed to a strict after-care program.
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