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Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger says faith has helped him deal with off-field addiction issues

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Speaking over the weekend at a virtual conference for Christian men, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger acknowledged that he has fought off-the-field vices over the years.

“It’s not always easy,” Roethlisberger said, talking to Tunch Ilkin, a former Steelers player and one of the event’s hosts. “People don’t realize all the time that us athletes, we’re human. We sin like everybody else. I am no different. We make mistakes. We get addicted to things. We sin. We’re human. I think sometimes we get put on this pedestal where we can’t make mistakes. I’ve fallen as short as anybody. I’ve been addicted to alcohol. I’ve been addicted to pornography, which makes me then not the best husband, not the best father, not the best Christian I can be.

“But you have to dedicate yourself and understand that you can get out of it because of the grace of God and him saying, ‘Listen, you’re good enough for me the way you are. You don’t have to be perfect.'”

The event, ManUp Pittsburgh, is hosted annually by Urban Impact in connection with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. According to the group’s mission, the 90-minute conference, held virtually on Father’s Day this year, “encourages and teaches men to be godly leaders for their families, and raises awareness of the devastating impact of fatherlessness among youth today.” Roethlisberger was part of the most recent program, which included Tomlin and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

Roethlisberger discussed his Christian journey and added that he was baptized three years ago, reaffirming his childhood baptism.

“Now more than ever, it’s cool to be a Christian, especially professional athletes,” Roethlisberger said. “One of the things I want to tell guys and tell people out there, I can be a really good athlete and a Christian. It’s not one or the other. I can do both. I want it to be known to all of the young men out there. It’s cool to be Christian and be an athlete. Go ahead and be the best athlete you can be and see if you can be a better Christian. And that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m trying to be a better Christian than I am athlete and football player. I push myself every day to do that and it starts here. It’s not always easy.”

Roethlisberger’s faith hasn’t always been at the forefront of his life. He admitted that he grew distant during his college career at Miami (Ohio).

Later, as a professional quarterback, he was twice accused of sexual assault, and he was suspended for part of the 2010 season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

Roethlisberger admitted to Ilkin that he used his platform for selfish reasons early in his career, but said he has changed to be more selfless since becoming stronger in his faith.

“Last year, we went through a crazy offseason,” he said. “All I thought about was getting back on the football field, and I was like, ‘God, you’re going to give me all this redemption. I’m going to go out there, I’m going to prove everybody wrong, I’m going to win a Super Bowl, and we’re going to give you all the glory, and this is it. This is my comeback year.’ And the second game, I tear my elbow. That was God being like, ‘Hold on, it’s not your plan of coming back. It’s got to be my plan.’ So I had to pump the brakes.

“Those are the wake-up calls that he gives us to say, ‘Hold on now, don’t be selfish and do it on your time. We’re doing it on my time.'”

Roethlisberger said he was grateful to experience last year’s season-ending elbow injury at a time when he had a close relationship with God.

“I’m so thankful that this injury happened during my walk that I’m in now,” the 38-year-old quarterback said. “I don’t know that I would’ve been able to handle it a few years ago, five, six, seven, 10 years ago. I know that my faith wouldn’t have been as strong. Now that I know what it’s about, it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, God, this is in your hands. I’m going to go train my butt off to get back out there, and whatever you have for me, I’m ready.'”

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Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill released from hospital after COVID-19 treatment

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Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill has been released from a Rhode Island hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus last week.

“This week I learned first-hand just how serious COVID-19 is,” Bidwill said in a statement. “My immense appreciation for all those on the front lines of this pandemic has only increased and I am particularly grateful to the tremendous nurses and doctors at Newport [Rhode Island] Hospital.

“I am also overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness from the Red Sea as well as so many friends and colleagues in Arizona and throughout the country. I’m very fortunate to have this experience behind me and strongly encourage everyone to continue practicing the important measures to avoid it themselves.”

The Cardinals said on Friday they believed Bidwill, 55, caught the virus while traveling and spending time on the East Coast for several weeks.

Bidwill has been working remotely since March, and the team said he hasn’t had in-person contact with the Cardinals’ coaches or players.

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Patriots players balance uncertainty in planning return to town – New England Patriots Blog

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Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. First checkpoint for players: To quarantine or not to quarantine, that is the question for Patriots players this week.

The simple math highlights how Tuesday represents the first checkpoint for the team in an unprecedented year.

The current expectation is that players will report for the start of training camp on July 28. With Massachusetts instructing all non-essential travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days — unless they are coming from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York or New Jersey — that means almost everyone on the roster would need to arrive by Tuesday to ensure an on-time, healthy start to training camp.

Unless, of course, they are allowed to skip that step, as is the case for the New York Jets, New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. That could make sense given that consistent testing is expected for members of all teams.

Regardless, that it is even a point of conversation reinforces how the 2020 NFL season is a true wild card.

Coach Bill Belichick sometimes says that when a player has the football in his grasp, he holds the fate of the entire team with it. That can now be expanded, with the coronavirus, to include the idea that every lifestyle decision by a player, coach or support staffer can impact the fate of the entire team.

Players have noted the uncertainty of the situation, with defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty saying on their most recent “Double Coverage” podcast that they are awaiting more clarity on protocols.

There’s always the possibility that players could opt out of the season, but Jason McCourty hinted that wasn’t a likely scenario for him.

“I’m going to be 33 this season, so a year off from football would probably mean I’m watching from now on, to be honest with you,” he said.

Asked about the season ahead, and what it would mean to win a Super Bowl, Devin said: “I think it will be different, because we don’t know if it will be a full season or not. So I think this is going to be one of those years when all sports is just going to be an asterisk. But I think overall a championship is a championship, and if you can win a championship through all of this going on, it will be an unbelievable accomplishment. This is going to be one of those years that people talk about for a long time … so I think it will be legendary whoever wins a championship this year.”

2. Cap space provides in-season insurance. With Saturday’s news that the Patriots settled compensation grievances with Antonio Brown ($4 million cap credit to team) and Aaron Hernandez ($2.25 million cap credit to team), it increased the team’s cap space to $7.79 million. So an obvious follow-up question is: What might the Patriots do with it? More than anything, I think it provides valuable in-season insurance to react to an emergency-type situation or a possible trade opportunity down the line. The Patriots have been tight to the cap all offseason, so this is obviously a much-welcomed cushion for them.

3. Michel has been back in town: Some Patriots players have already returned to the area, getting a head start on their quarantine, with running back Sony Michel falling into that category. He is recovering from offseason surgery on his foot, and as a rehabbing player is allowed to use the team’s facilities, which he’s been taking advantage of for several weeks now. Michel posted a picture on his Instagram that shows him without a walking boot.

4. More on Cam/N’Keal connection: What led quarterback Cam Newton and second-year receiver N’Keal Harry to work out together last week on the West Coast? I’m told Newton initiated the contact with Harry. Now, after a couple of days together, it would be interesting to hear if Newton saw any similarities between Harry (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and former Carolina Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 245), as both are bigger than the prototype at the position, relying less on speed and more on technique and physicality. Benjamin had developed a nice early rapport with Newton in Carolina, totaling 136 catches for 1,949 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons (2014, 2016).

5. No Cam news conference scheduled: When the Patriots officially announced the signing of Newton on Wednesday, one of the natural follow-ups was when New England might get its initial firsthand look at Newton in a (virtual) news conference. Nothing is scheduled at this time, which possibly could extend to the scheduled start of training camp this month. When it does happen, the contrast between Newton and Belichick could be fun.

6. Mahomes’ deal sparks Bledsoe recollections: The Chiefs’ 10-year contract extension with quarterback Patrick Mahomes was unusual because of its length, but not unprecedented. Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, of course, had signed a 10-year contract in March 2001. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, “I saw this as an opportunity to sign one of the greatest Patriots for the rest of his career.” Of course, no one could have predicted what would unfold — Bledsoe’s serious injury, Tom Brady‘s emergence, and Bledsoe ultimately traded to Buffalo the following season.

7. Explaining 13% incentive in Cam’s deal: When ESPN’s Field Yates was first to break down the specifics of the one-year contract Newton signed with the Patriots, the presence of $250,000 for playing 13% of the offensive snaps stood out to some as unusual. But it is easily explained. Because Newton played in 12.6% of the offensive snaps last year, the Patriots don’t have to initially count that $250,000 against the salary cap, as it is considered a not-likely-to-be-earned incentive. So in essence, they are borrowing $250,000 until Newton hits that threshold. This is similar to what they did last year with linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. In that deal, Collins could earn a $500,000 incentive for playing 91% of the snaps, which wasn’t a coincidence because he had played 90.65% of the snaps the year before.

8. Cam’s contract in context: How modest of a contract did Newton sign with the Patriots given his credentials? According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, the following are the contracts with the lowest totals of guaranteed money for MVP-winning quarterbacks since 2000:

  • Newton: $550,000 (2020)

  • Steve McNair: $6.1 million (2004)

  • Rich Gannon: $11 million (2002)

  • Kurt Warner: $11.5 million (2000)

9. Patriots were ready with Cam’s jersey: The Patriots waited about three months before finalizing the jersey numbers for veteran free agents they reached contract agreements with back in March. With Newton, the delay was about a week, and here’s one notable benefit for the franchise by moving quickly: Locking Newton to No. 1 allowed for immediate jersey sales, with his jersey one of the first items that pops up on the team’s online Pro Shop.

10. Thuney deadline approaches: Wednesday marks the deadline for the Patriots and franchise-tagged guard Joe Thuney to reach an extension, or Thuney will be locked in to the $14.78 million tag for the 2020 season. None of the 14 players across the NFL who were assigned the tag have had their contracts extended. Will the deadline spur action? Or is the lack of extensions a preview of what to expect? While acknowledging anything is possible with Thuney, I lean toward the latter.

11. Did You Know: Julian Edelman enters the 2020 season in second place on the Patriots’ career receptions list with 599. Wes Welker is the all-time leader with 672 receptions.



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Patriots settle compensation grievances with Antonio Brown, Aaron Hernandez

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The New England Patriots have settled compensation grievances with Antonio Brown and Aaron Hernandez over the past week, which creates notable salary-cap space for the team, league sources told ESPN.

The Patriots had owed receiver Brown $9 million, and as part of the settlement, he will instead receive $5 million, per sources.

The settlement is notable, as some experts viewed the Patriots’ chances of recouping any money as low. The Patriots gave Brown a $9 million signing bonus on Sept. 7, and half of it was to be paid on Sept. 23, three days after they cut him. The other half was to be paid in January.

In addition to that $4 million credit on the Patriots’ cap, the club received a $2.25 million credit after settling a long-running compensation grievance with the late Hernandez, per sources.

The salary-cap space is significant for the Patriots, who have been tight to the league’s limit.

Earlier this week, prior to restructuring the contract of running back Rex Burkhead, the Patriots were down to less than $500,000 in space. The club now has $7.79 million in room under the salary cap.

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