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Packers will take fine-tooth comb to loss vs. 49ers, Matt LaFleur says

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — It will likely be a painful film session, but a thorough review of what happened to the Green Bay Packers in their season-worst 37-8 loss at the San Francisco 49ers will be a necessary task for coach Matt LaFleur.

It’s on his early-week to-do list before Sunday’s NFC Championship Game rematch at Levi’s Stadium.

“I’ve got to go back and watch that tape again to really try to grasp what happened and why it happened and how can we adjust and what are we going to do to ensure it doesn’t happen [again],” LaFleur said Monday of the Week 12 game. “That’ll happen over the next couple days.”

LaFleur and his staff, of course, reviewed it in the immediate aftermath, and it led to a run of five consecutive victories to close out a 13-3 regular season that turned into an impressive 28-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday’s NFC divisional-round game at Lambeau Field. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers put on one of his best performances of the season against the Seahawks, a team that beat the 49ers in the regular season.

That was in contrast to Green Bay’s loss to the 49ers on Nov. 24, when Rodgers managed just 104 yards passing for the second-lowest total in a game he started this season and also did not leave because of injury. Rodgers fumbled on the Packers’ first possession while backed up in his own territory, and it was never a game after that.

The Packers’ two trips to California this season have ended the same way, with non-competitive losses that led to introspection from LaFleur. The first-year head coach took the team to Los Angeles on Friday — a day earlier than usual — before the 26-11 loss at the Chargers on Nov. 3. He rethought that idea and went to the San Francisco Bay Area on a Saturday, but the result was the same.

LaFleur indicated Monday that he would go the Saturday route again.

“Well, we just had to fine-tune the things that we were doing,” receiver Davante Adams said after the Seahawks game. “I think we were in a really good position going into that, the last time we played the Niners, and we just kind of coughed it up a little bit. We didn’t go in with the greatest plan, we didn’t go in with the right mindset to start the game. We turned the ball over early and put ourselves in a really bad position. So everybody being awoke to that, I think that’ll be able to allow us to make a big change going into this next week.”

The Packers opened as 7.5-point underdogs, only the fourth time in Rodgers’ 191 career starts (including playoffs) that he’s an underdog of a touchdown or more, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He’s lost all three: 2018 at the Rams (7.5-point underdog), the 2015 divisional round at Arizona (7) and the 2014 NFC Championship Game at Seattle (8.5).

Earlier Monday, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he doesn’t want his players thinking the first meeting will have any bearing on Sunday’s conference championship game, telling his team, “Don’t be that stupid.”

The LaFleur-Shanahan connection — they coached together with three different NFL teams — was a dominant storyline ahead of the first meeting, as were the facts that LaFleur’s brother, Mike, is on the 49ers’ coaching staff and that LaFleur has a long friendship with San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. The fallout from the November rout will likely be the narrative this week.

“I’m going to look at everything, and everything that anybody that’s had success against them,” LaFleur said. “I mean, that’s a really good team. In all three phases. They’ve got obviously one of the top defenses, I think it’s one of the top offenses and they’re really solid on special teams. So I’ve got a lot of respect for everybody over there. Richard Hightower does a great job with the special teams, you all know my relationship with Robert and what I think about him not only as a person but as a football coach, and I think Kyle does as good as anybody drawing up plays and scheming people as there is in the National Football League. So we have a big challenge in front of us. But it’s something that I think our guys are going to roll up their sleeves and come in and prepare the right way and be ready to go.”

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Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti pledges $1M to social justice reform

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti on Monday pledged $1 million for social justice reform in the Baltimore area, saying he is “shaken by the acts of racism that continue to overwhelm our society.”

A committee of current and former Ravens players will determine which programs will directly benefit from the contribution.

This donation, which was made jointly by the Ravens and the Steve and Renee Bisciotti Foundation, comes amid protests in Minneapolis and around the country over the death of George Floyd.

“There is nothing I can say to ease the pain felt by African-American communities across our country. No words will repair the damage that has been done,” Bisciotti said in a statement. “Like many people, I am sickened, disheartened and shaken by the acts of racism that continue to overwhelm our society. The most recent killing, involving George Floyd, is yet another tragic example of the discrimination that African-Americans face each day.”

Floyd, a black man, died last week in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin was fired Tuesday and charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers were also fired but have not been charged.

Several former and current Ravens players, including Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, have expressed grief and outrage on social media over the past week.

“Now, more than ever, we must all strengthen our pursuit of positive change, as we stand with peaceful protestors around the country,” Bisciotti said. “We must all seek to understand by listening better and learning more. We must all discover new ways to unite. We must all work to break the cycle of systematic racial injustice.”

Bisciotti added, “Our players have been — and will continue to be — at the forefront of this change. We believe in their commitment to furthering social justice and invoking meaningful change. We stand side by side with them, in full support.”

This is the latest of many contributions that the Ravens have made to social justice reform over the years since Baltimore had riots in 2015 over the death of Freddie Gray.

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Colin Kaepernick compatriot Brandon Marshall — 2016 action ringing true

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Former Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, a college teammate and longtime friend of Colin Kaepernick who kneeled for the “The Star-Spangled Banner” before eight games in the 2016 season to protest excessive use of force by police, hopes people are now more ready for what he and Kapernick’s message was almost four years ago.

“Back then we were called rogues, people said that we didn’t deserve jobs, but this is what we were talking about then,” Marshall said Monday. “I think people are looking at (Kaepernick) now like, OK, maybe he knew. People didn’t want to hear the message after ‘oh they were kneeling’ they didn’t want that message, weren’t ready for it, didn’t listen.

“I hope, and I look at it, I hope people are ready for the message, I really hope they’re ready for change.”

Marshall said he has spoken to Kaepernick in recent days in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis and the protests that have followed across the country.

“We talked some about what’s happened – and this is why he started the Know Your Rights foundation – and I asked him if he needed me to do anything, or what I could do to help,” Marshall said. “He said right now, at the moment, he’s concentrating on legal assistance for the protesters, but we’ll talk more moving forward.”

Marshall, who played six seasons for the Broncos including in the team’s Super Bowl 50 win, lost several endorsements after he kneeled in pregame during the 2016 season, but he also met with Denver Police officials as well in the weeks that followed about the department’s use of force policies.

He said Monday “at times you do get tired, weary, of it happening over and over again,” but that he’s still hopeful in what he has seen in protests in Las Vegas, where he is now, and what he has seen across the county.

“That’s what brings change, people coming together, when it’s a people thing, not just a black and brown thing,” Marshall said. “You see people taking to the streets, it’s a mixed crowd, it’s not just black people, it’s everybody. That is what it takes for change, everybody has to care about it, back then not everybody cared about it.

“We need everybody to care about this, not to see it as just a black or brown problem,” Marshall added. “When people see this as a people problem, and not a black person’s problem or a person of color’s problem, then we can have real change. I look at all of the faces in the real, peaceful protests and I see maybe we’re ready to listen now, maybe we’re ready to see it as a people problem and that real, lasting, effective change can happen.”

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Father says Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III injured thigh during a move

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Las Vegas Raiders rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III, the team’s top draft pick, suffered a cut to his thigh recently while moving things into a trailer, his father told AL.com on Monday.

A Raiders source said the team was “told [Ruggs] will be fine.”

“He was trying to move a trailer or something — move furniture or something — and the trailer just kind of pinned him against a car or a wall or something,” Henry Ruggs Jr. said. “He’s pretty much OK, I’m about to go out there and see him in a little bit. It was just like a little open wound on his leg, a little incision. Like something had stuck him right there on his thigh a little bit.”

Ruggs III, the No. 12 overall draft pick, was the first receiver selected in April’s draft, a historically deep draft for the position. He was also the fastest player in the draft, having run a 4.27-second 40 time at the combine.

Like every player in the draft, the rookie has been reduced to virtual meetings with his new team because of the coronavirus pandemic. Being injured would obviously slow any other development.

“The Raiders are aware of a report regarding an off-field injury to Henry Ruggs III. Respecting Henry’s right to medical privacy, the team will not be commenting on the report,” the team said in a statement.

Ruggs Jr., meanwhile, said his son is “just having to walk on crutches. Not putting as much pressure on it.”

Precautions due to the coronavirus, the elder Ruggs said, have not allowed him yet to speak to the doctor who treated his son.

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