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Rams set to hire Brandon Staley and Kevin O’Connell as coordinators

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams are finalizing deals to hire Brandon Staley as defensive coordinator and Kevin O’Connell as offensive coordinator, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Staley, who served last season as the Denver Broncos‘ outside linebackers coach, replaces Wade Phillips, who earlier this week was informed that his contract would not be renewed.

O’Connell spent the past three seasons as an offensive assistant with the Washington Redskins and last season was promoted to offensive coordinator.

O’Connell, 34, fills a role that was vacated by Matt LaFleur after the 2017 season. Head coach Sean McVay has not employed a full-time offensive coordinator the past two seasons.

The Rams’ coaching staff has undergone significant changes since the end of an underwhelming season in which they finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs, less than a year after appearing in Super Bowl LIII.

Along with not renewing Phillips, McVay fired running backs coach Skip Peete. Special teams coordinator John Fassel, whose contract also was expiring, departed for the same post with the Dallas Cowboys.

The Rams have not yet named a new running backs coach or special teams coordinator.

Staley, 37, inherits a defense that last season ranked ninth in defensive efficiency and returns star defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

It is expected that McVay will maintain his role as playcaller, but O’Connell will play a significant role in helping the Rams’ offense rebound from a lackluster season that saw a significant decline in its run-game efficiency.

O’Connell spent three years with the Redskins, with his role increasing each of the past two years. He went from quarterbacks coach in 2017 to passing game coordinator in 2018 and then to offensive coordinator this past season. But he was not the main playcaller until after Jay Gruden was fired following an 0-5 start.

Under interim coach Bill Callahan, the Redskins wanted to be a run-heavy team, which limited their ability to be diverse, especially on early downs. O’Connell also was tasked with trying to develop rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. O’Connell spent extra time with Haskins and the two developed a strong bond. It paid off late as Haskins improved. In his last two starts Haskins completed a combined 31 of 43 passes for 394 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. And an offense that had sputtered most of the season scored a combined 62 points.

O’Connell had hoped to return as Washington’s offensive coordinator. He interviewed twice with new coach Ron Rivera but O’Connell wanted more say in his staff, a source said. Rivera ended up hiring Scott Turner as the offensive coordinator.

Information from ESPN’s John Keim was used in this report.

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Meet the Pro Football Hall of Fame Centennial Class — Paul Tagliabue, Donnie Shell and more

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Fifteen men, some who have waited decades to hear their names called, were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday as part of its Centennial Class. The group was selected to honor the NFL’s 100th anniversary.

The members, who will be enshrined in August and September, include 10 seniors, two coaches and three contributors. Hall of Fame president David Baker said Wednesday part of the Centennial Class will be enshrined with the modern-era Class of 2020 on Aug. 8, while part of the Centennial Class will be enshrined at the centennial celebration in September.

Here’s a closer look at the class:

Players

Wide receiver Harold Carmichael (Philadelphia Eagles, 1971-1983; Dallas Cowboys, 1984)

A four-time Pro Bowl selection, the 6-foot-8 Carmichael was the league’s Man of the Year in 1980 for his work in his community. In an era when Drew Pearson once led the league in receiving yards with 877 in 1977, Carmichael was consistent in his impact, averaging over 15 yards per catch in six seasons.

Why he was elected: Carmichael was said to be one of the most difficult players to defend. Those who played against him said his numbers would be far better if he played now, when pass interference and defensive holding are called more often. He led the league in catches and receiving yards in 1973 and finished with three 1,000-yard seasons in his career. He was also among the league’s top 10 in touchdowns in eight seasons.

Tackle Jim Covert (Chicago Bears, 1983-1990)

A starter from his rookie season in 1983 to when he retired after the 1990 season. A two-time first-team All-Pro, Covert helped power a Bears offense that led the league in rushing in each of his first four seasons and finished among the top three in rushing in seven of his eight seasons. Covert played his best against the best pass-rushers of his time.

Why he was elected: A back injury ended his career in 1991. He spent that seasons on injured reserve and never returned to the field. Covert held Lawrence Taylor without a sack in his three meetings against the Hall of Famer. Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon once said Covert and Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz were the best tackles he faced.

Safety Bobby Dillon (Green Bay Packers, 1952-59)

Dillon did his best work before they became Vince Lombardi’s Packers. Green Bay had losing seasons in seven of Dillon’s eight years with the team. Dillon, like many of his era, retired before his 30th birthday and before the Packers could have enjoyed his talents on a consistent winner. Dillon also played with a glass eye because of childhood accident.

Why he was elected: Dillon retired with a staggering 52 interceptions in 94 games. In a decidedly run-first era, Dillon is tied for 26th with Hall of Famers Champ Bailey, Jack Butler, Mel Renfro and Larry Wilson on the league’s all-time list for interceptions. Dillon had three seasons with nine interceptions and five seasons with at least seven picks.

Safety Cliff Harris (Dallas Cowboys, 1970-79)

Harris made the Cowboys’ roster as an undrafted rookie in 1970, having arrived as a former college sprinter and cornerback. The Cowboys saw a future safety, and he started five games as a rookie. Harris became one of the league’s first box safeties with enough athleticism to return punts and kickoffs. Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton once said the two best safeties he faced were Harris and Hall of Famer Jake Scott.

Why he was elected: A player nicknamed “Captain Crash,” Harris was selected to six Pro Bowls. He led the Cowboys in tackles in 1976 and interceptions in 1977. He played on two Super Bowl winners, and the Cowboys were in the postseason in nine of his 10 years. Dallas won 72.9 percent of its games in the 1970s.

Tackle Winston Hill (New York Jets, 1963-76; Los Angeles Rams, 1977)

Hill is part of a group vastly underrepresented in the Hall of Fame: players who excelled in the AFL. An eight-time Pro Bowl selection, he played seven seasons with AFL’s Jets and eight more after the AFL-NFL merger. Many longtime league observers have said he so dominated in Super Bowl III he should have been the MVP.

Why he was elected: Hill was a player with remarkable footwork — he played tennis in his youth — who played with power, technique and quickness. He missed one game in his 14 seasons with the Jets — as a rookie. His career was overshadowed by the fact the Jets had three winning seasons in his 14 years, but Hall of Fame coach Weeb Ewbank said Hill should have been enshrined decades ago.

Defensive tackle Alex Karras (Detroit Lions 1958-1962, 1964-1970)

Karras was an NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion at Iowa and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting in 1957 as a defensive lineman. He still holds the Lions’ career record for sacks with 97.5. He was a dominant player during his era, but for a team that did not win a championship. Karras played in one postseason game in 1970. Karras was also suspended for gambling, along with Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, for the 1963 season.

Why he was elected: Three defensive tackles were named to the All-Decade team of the 1960s — Karras, Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen. Lilly and Olsen were enshrined as first-ballot selections while Karras was never a finalist in his 25 years of eligibility. He was a four-time All-Pro selection. Karras’ only playoff appearance was in the last game of his career; the Lions held the Cowboys without a touchdown but still lost 5-0.

Safety Donnie Shell (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1974-87)

Shell was physical enough to play the run like a linebacker with the athleticism and savvy to have 51 career interceptions. He covered tight ends like Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome in man-to-man situations and was also a feared hitter along the line of scrimmage. Shell played on four Super Bowl winners and was voted the team MVP of the 1980 Steelers, a team that included nine Hall of Famers (Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mike Webster, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Mel Blount).

Why he was elected: He was a five-time Pro Bowl and three-time first-team All-Pro selection. Couple Shell’s 51 career interceptions with 19 career fumble recoveries and those 70 career takeaways are Canton-worthy. He had a six-year stretch — 1979-1984 — with at least five interceptions in a season, including seven in 1980 and 1984.

Tackle Duke Slater (Milwaukee Badgers, 1922; Rock Island Independents, 1922-25; Chicago Cardinals, 1926-31)

Slater is considered the first African-American player in professional football in the first half of the 20th century. At a time when most players played for one or two seasons before injuries or the need for more income pushed them out of the league, Slater was good enough to play for a decade. A two-way player, Slater had a four-year stretch in Rock Island when he played every minute of each game. He continued to play both ways through the final years of his career with the Cardinals.

Why he was elected: Slater started 96 of 99 career games and, when he retired, his 10 seasons were the third-most of any professional player. He was a six-time All-Pro, and Slater did all of it while battling racism. The only game Slater missed in his career was in 1924 due to an agreement that prevented African-American players from playing in Missouri. His teammates wanted to forfeit the game, but Slater said he would fake an injury because his teammates would not be paid if they didn’t play.

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Sources — Giants interview Jason Garrett for offensive coordinator position

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants interviewed former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett on Wednesday to be their offensive coordinator, a source told ESPN, confirming an NFL Network report.

The Giants had requested permission to speak with Garrett about their head-coaching position before hiring Joe Judge. They needed permission because Garrett was still under contract.

His contract with the Cowboys expired Tuesday, and the Giants brought him in to talk about being one of Judge’s top assistants.

The Giants also interviewed Mike Shula for the job earlier this week, and Judge was expected to talk with former Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens about a spot on his offensive staff. Shula was the Giants’ offensive coordinator under Pat Shurmur and helped with the development of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. Kitchens worked with Judge earlier in their careers at Mississippi State.

Garrett, 53, spent the past nine seasons as the Cowboys’ head coach. He previously served as their offensive coordinator.

Garrett also has ties to the Giants organization, having played there from 2000 to 2003, and is well-respected inside their building.

At Judge’s introductory news conference, co-owner John Mara was asked about the possibility of hiring Garrett as the Giants’ offensive coordinator.

“I certainly wouldn’t have any objection to that,” Mara said. “I have a lot of respect for Jason. At the end of the day, that’s going to be Joe’s decision.”

Garrett’s experience as a head coach could serve as an asset to Judge, who has never been a head coach at any level. Judge spent the past eight seasons as an assistant under Bill Belichick in New England, most recently as the special-teams coordinator and wide receivers coach.

Garrett had been with the Cowboys since 2007. He led Dallas to an 85-67 record as the head coach, making it to the playoffs three times.

The Cowboys finished 8-8 this past season and allowed Garrett’s contract to lapse while hiring Mike McCarthy as his replacement.

Garrett has experience working with young quarterbacks. He was a key figure in the development of current Cowboys starter Dak Prescott, a fourth-round pick in 2016. Prescott finished fourth in the NFL with a QBR of 70.1 this season.

Jones, the No. 6 draft pick out of Duke last year, had his ups and downs throughout his rookie year. He threw 24 touchdown passes with 12 interceptions but also lost 11 fumbles.

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Steve Gleason receives Congressional Gold Medal for his work as advocate for people with ALS

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Steve Gleason became the first former NFL player to receive a Congressional Gold Medal — the highest honor that Congress can bestow on a civilian — during an emotional ceremony Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Gleason, who was a special teams standout for the New Orleans Saints, was recognized for his crusading work as an advocate for people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He is only the eighth individual athlete ever to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

Gleason pointed out during the ceremony that his is “not a football story or even an ALS story, but rather a human story.”

“The truth is that we all experience pain in our lives, but I believe that the problems we face are our opportunity and define our human purpose,” he said.

After concluding his speech, he received a standing ovation from a crowd that included members of the Senate and House of Representatives, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, team owner Gayle Benson, and current and former NFL commissioners Roger Goodell and Paul Tagliabue.

Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, speaks through groundbreaking speech-generating technology that allows him to type words on a tablet through eye movements. The voice is actually his own, thanks to recordings he taped during the early stages of the disease.

Gleason and his foundation were the driving force behind The Steve Gleason Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2015 to make critical technology available to patients through Medicare and Medicaid.

While ALS has taken away his muscular function, Gleason’s mind and wit remain sharp, and he drew a laugh from the crowd from one comment in particular.

“While sharing one’s weaknesses may not be common practice for people, especially for politicians in an election year — wink, wink — sharing my weaknesses was entirely critical for me to play eight years in the NFL,” he said, noting the importance of collaboration in solving problems and overcoming obstacles. “And it has been unquestionably critical to my survival and purpose for the last nine years, living with a disease as dreadfully beautiful as ALS.

“Our human potential is boundless,” Gleason said.

His emotional speech left Brees choked up as he recalled the time when he first heard about Gleason’s diagnosis.

“There is no person on earth with the strength, courage, passion and tenacity to overcome all obstacles and make the lasting impact that Steve has made,” said Brees, who pointed out that Wednesday was both his 41st birthday and the 11th birthday of his son, Baylen, also in attendance.

“Quite honestly, there was no place we would rather be than here with you right now,” Brees said. “And there is no person more deserving of this honor than you.”

Several elected officials from both houses of Congress also gave moving speeches about Gleason, who was unanimously selected for the honor by both houses of Congress before President Donald Trump signed the legislation.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced Gleason as a “true American hero.”

“You bring luster to this award and pride to our nation,” she said.

The short list of past athletes who received the Congressional Gold Medal: Roberto Clemente, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

Gleason’s most spectacular moment on a football field came when he blocked a punt against the Atlanta Falcons to spark a Saints victory on the night the Superdome reopened in 2006 post-Hurricane Katrina.



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