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Jaguars to keep Gardner Minshew at QB for rest of season, sending Nick Foles to bench

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Minshew Mania is back in Jacksonville.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone announced Monday that rookie Gardner Minshew would be the team’s starting quarterback for the last month of the season, putting supposed franchise quarterback Nick Foles on the bench just 10 quarters after his return from a broken collarbone.

“Obviously it was a tough deal,” Marrone said on an afternoon conference call. “Nick coming back from injury and us not being able to do a good enough job around him, really. So we feel with Gardner’s mobility and elusiveness, it can give us a better chance of winning with the way we’re playing right now because we’re all not doing a good enough job.”

Minshew replaced Foles to start the second half of Sunday’s 28-11 loss to Tampa Bay. Foles played a terrible first half, turning the ball over on the team’s first three drives (an interception and two fumbles) and then leading the offense to three consecutive three-and-outs. Foles completed 7 of 14 passes for 93 yards, and the Jaguars failed to score. Marrone said after the game that he wanted to give the offense a spark because it was “kind of dead.”

Minshew threw for 147 yards and a touchdown in the second half. His lone interception came when his pass bounced off Dede Westbrook‘s hands in the end zone. He did lose a fumble on a sack in the fourth quarter, but the Bucs were ahead 25-11 at that point.

Marrone said he told the quarterbacks on Monday that Minshew would be the starter the rest of the season, and that Foles handled the news well.

“It’s brutal. It’s tough,” Marrone said. “He’s a competitor. He’s worked his ass off to come back and he’s a great pro, so he’s going to do everything he can to help us win. At the same time he’s got to be ready in case there’s an injury or whatever it may be. He’ll be a pro about this.

“I think the world of him. I think he’s a really good quarterback. He obviously can win in this league, but we’ve got to be able to have some help around him.”

Foles has produced 661 yards and 33 points in the three games since his return. Only 10 of those points came in the first half of those games, including zero points and just 105 total yards against the Bucs. That generated a lot of boos, especially as the team headed to the locker room at halftime, and Marrone had no choice but to bench the player the Jaguars signed to a four-year, $88 million contract that includes a franchise-record $50.125 million guaranteed.

The Jaguars (4-8) — who clinched their 11th non-winning season in the past 12 years with Sunday’s loss — next will host the Los Angeles Chargers (4-8), who have lost three consecutive games. The Jags finish out the regular season at Oakland, at Atlanta and home against Indianapolis.

Marrone’s decision to go with Minshew creates an interesting quarterback dilemma in 2020. Foles has a dead cap hit of $33.875 million if released before June 1, but that number drops to $21.375 million if he’s released after June 1. A post-June 1 trade would save the Jaguars $15.875 million and include a dead cap hit of $6.25 million.

Foles didn’t even make it to halftime of the 2019 season opener before being injured. He suffered a broken collarbone on the Jaguars’ 10th snap when Kansas City defensive lineman Chris Jones landed on him after Foles let the ball go on what would be a 35-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark.

Minshew stepped in for Foles and had an impressive debut: 22-of-25 for 275 yards and two TDs with one interception. Minshew started the next eight games and led the Jaguars to a 4-4 record, throwing for 2,285 yards and 13 touchdowns with four interceptions. Now he’s got the job back, but that doesn’t mean Foles is solely to blame for the offense’s problems.

“I still believe in him as a quarterback,” Marrone said. “I just think that a lot of times it’s never really just the one position or one person. It’s a team game. You need people around him to do a good job, and right now we’re all not doing a good enough job. So we’re just trying to put the best guys out there that give us the best chance to win.”

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Clinton Portis surrenders to authorities after fraud indictment

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Former Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, who was among 10 former NFL players charged in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud the league’s health care benefit program by submitting false claims for medical equipment on Thursday, turned himself in to authorities in North Carolina on Friday.

Portis is expected to make an initial court appearance later Friday in Charlotte, according to Justice Department officials.

The players were charged in two separate indictments filed in federal court in Kentucky, accusing them of conspiracy, wire fraud and health care fraud. Prosecutors allege they submitted nearly $4 million in phony claims, leading to payouts of about $3.4 million between June 2017 and December 2018.

Portis’ lawyer, Mark Dycio, said Thursday his client “had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL-sanctioned medical reimbursement insurance program was illegal.”

“He is completely taken aback by the indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni,” Dycio said.

Also charged was former Redskin Carlos Rogers.

Prosecutors allege the players targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which was established as part of a collective bargaining agreement in 2006. It provides tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical care expenses that were not covered by insurance and that were incurred by former players, their spouses and dependents.

“As outlined in the indictments, a group of former players brazenly defrauded the plan by seeking reimbursements for expensive medical equipment that they never purchased,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, who leads the Justice Department’s criminal division.

The players claimed to have purchased hyperbaric oxygen chambers, ultrasound machines and electromagnetic therapy devices that were designed to be used on horses, he said.

Prosecutors say the group’s alleged ringleaders, Robert McCune and Correll Buckhalter — who they allege broke off to create his own similar ring — would recruit former players by offering to submit fake claims to the health care plan. The ringleaders would then demand thousands of dollars in kickbacks for each fake claim, prosecutors allege.

The suspects are accused of fabricating letters from health care providers about using the medical equipment, fabricating prescriptions that were purportedly signed by health care providers and creating fake invoices from medical equipment companies in an effort to prove the equipment was purchased, according to court documents. In reality, they had never purchased or received the medical equipment, prosecutors said.

Investigators believe the defendants had forged the prescriptions and authorization letters, and they uncovered no evidence that any doctors were complicit in the scheme, Benczkowski said.

After the phony claims were submitted, the former players would receive reimbursement checks and pay a kickback to the ringleaders and recruiters, the indictments charge.

Prosecutors moved to bring charges, in part because the scheme put the health care plan’s tax-exempt status at risk, which could’ve forced other former players using the plan legitimately to pay more, Benczkowski said.

Four of the suspects — McCune, Rogers, John Eubanks and Ceandris Brown — were arrested Thursday morning by the FBI. Six others, including Portis, agreed to surrender to authorities, the Justice Department said. The others are: James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Etric Pruitt, Tamarick Vanover, and Buckhalter.

The Justice Department has also filed court papers in Kentucky noting that it plans to file charges against two other players — Joe Horn, a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, and Donald “Reche” Caldwell.

The investigation was continuing, but because the plan involves only former players, prosecutors do not expect any current NFL players to face charges, Benczkowski said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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Giants waive CB Janoris Jenkins after ‘offensive’ tweet to fan

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The New York Giants waived cornerback Janoris Jenkins on Friday, two days after he made an inappropriate remark to a fan on Twitter.

On Wednesday, Jenkins called a critical fan a “retard” when taking exception to questioning about why the stats Jenkins was using to showcase his effectiveness weren’t contributing to victories.

Jenkins said Thursday that the usage of the word was “slang” that is “just part of my culture.”

Giants coach Pat Shurmur met with Jenkins on Wednesday and said in a statement Friday that Jenkins’ refusal to admit what we did was wrong led to his dismissal.

“This was an organizational decision,” Shurmur said. “From ownership to management to our football operations, we felt it was in the best interests of the franchise and the player. Obviously, what happened this week, and the refusal to acknowledge the inappropriate and offensive language, was the determining factor.”

Jenkins appeared to react to the news in a tweet Friday morning.

Jenkins, 31, had one year and $11.25 million remaining on his contract. He has 54 tackles this season and is tied for fourth in the NFL with four interceptions.

He was officially listed as being waived/injured, as he had been recovering from an ankle injury suffered Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.



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‘Vintage’ Todd Gurley has showed up for Rams, but can it last? – Los Angeles Rams Blog

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Todd Gurley tucked the football into his left arm, then defended himself to his right.

The Los Angeles Rams running back delivered a posterizing stiff arm to the helmet of Tre Flowers, keeping the Seattle Seahawks cornerback at arms length as Gurley muscled his way across the goal line.

“I had to go Derrick Henry style with the stiff arm,” said Gurley, referring to the Tennessee Titans running back. “I thought [Flowers] would try to punch out the ball.”

Gurley’s 7-yard touchdown run gave the Rams a commanding lead in a win over the Seahawks last Sunday, and provided notice Gurley hasn’t gone away.

“He’s a bad man,” Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. “It was vintage Todd.”

Gurley’s run was powerful. It was assertive. It was game changing.

“It’s just like, ‘WOW,'” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “For you to be able to stiff arm a grown man and throw him down and score a touchdown, that’s pretty crazy.”

“I loved it,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “We needed it.”

But more than anything, as Goff so deftly pointed out, it was vintage Gurley. If only for a moment.

Signature plays from Gurley, the kind that highlighted his last two seasons under Rams coach Sean McVay and earned him 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, have been few-and-far between throughout the Rams’ 8-5 season.

In fact, the stiff-arm delivery last Sunday was the only vintage Gurley move seen in 2019.

Dating to the NFC Championship Game last January, the Rams $60 million running back hasn’t delivered a single 100-rushing yard game. He hasn’t broken for a long touchdown score. He hasn’t hurdled a single defender.

As McVay’s offense has sputtered and struggled to find an identity a season after powering the Rams to the Super Bowl, Gurley — who rushed for more than 1,200 yards in each of the last two seasons — has 721 yards rushing in 13 games (inactive in Week 6, left thigh bruise).

He had been relegated to a role player, a running back who made record money, but was expected to share carries with Malcolm Brown and rookie Darrell Henderson.

But something has changed recently. In three of the Rams last four games, McVay’s playcalling has returned to Gurley, who signed a four-year extension that included a then NFL-record $45 million in guarantees, before last season.

The Rams face an uphill battle to reach the postseason and Sunday enter their latest must-win contest against the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (6-7) at AT&T Stadium (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox).

The last time the Rams traveled to play the Cowboys, Week 4 of the 2017 season, Gurley was the best player on the field. Gurley hurdled Cowboys’ defenders and raced through their secondary on his way to 215 total yards.

In the third quarter, Gurley caught a seam pass as he cut through the middle of the field, blowing past four defenders on his way to a 53-yard touchdown to jump-start the Rams’ come-from-behind 35-30 victory.

“I just remember thinking, ‘Wow,’ I mean it was like he was shot out of a cannon,” McVay said Thursday. “When you sit back as a coach, and you’re thinking, ‘Damn, I’m glad he’s on our team’ that was a really good play and at the moment, too, we really needed that.”

Gurley was the Rams leading rusher and pass-catcher that day, delivering a signature performance that helped the McVay-led Rams serve notice to the NFL that they had arrived.

The last time Gurley rushed for 100 yards was against the Cowboys in the divisional round of last season’s playoffs, when he shared carries with C.J. Anderson, but still managed to break off 115 rushing yards in a 30-22 win.

Indications are Gurley will again play a prominent role against the Cowboys Sunday.

“The approach for us is that Todd is a big-time player,” 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.”

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