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NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees was still on the Superdome field nearly two hours after what was probably his final game in the New Orleans Saints’ historic home building.

Brees, who is widely expected to retire after 20 seasons, did not officially announce his intentions after a disappointing 30-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round of the playoffs. But he made sure to soak it all in.

Brees and his wife Brittany spent time playing with their four children — some football and some gymnastics. He also spent time chatting with longtime friend and rival Tom Brady. After the two all-time great quarterbacks shared a hug, Brady even threw a pass to one of Brees’ kids before moving on to the NFC Championship Game.

Brees, who turned 42 on Friday, was hoping to reach his fourth NFC title game and his second Super Bowl this year. Instead, threw three interceptions in a playoff game for the first time in his career while Tampa Bay rallied back from a 20-13 deficit in the third quarter.

“I’m gonna give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things, just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said when asked directly if he just played his final game.

He said Sunday’s performance or the way the season ended would have no bearing on his decision. But when asked what would weigh into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.”

Brees did add, however, that he had no regrets about coming back this year after he nearly retired after last season.

“I would never regret it. Never,” said Brees, who missed four games in November and December because of a punctured lung and 11 broken ribs — but still helped the Saints earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a 12-4 record before their disappointing finish.

“No complaints. No regrets. Man, I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it. And I appreciate all that this game has given to me,” said Brees, who led the Saints to their only Super Bowl win in franchise history in 2009 and holds the NFL record for career passing yards. “There are obviously so many incredible memories, so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game. And, man, you find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game.

“And I’d say this season, I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career — from injury to all the COVID stuff to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.”

Saints coach Sean Payton also said he couldn’t speak for Brees and didn’t want to spend time reflecting on his future Hall of Fame career just yet.

“Oh listen, I think that’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “That would take up all of my time on your question tonight. Obviously, he’s been tremendous for this team, this city, I could go on and on. But let’s wait and answer that at the right time.”

Other teammates, from veteran linebacker Demario Davis to young receiver Tre’Quan Smith, both used the exact same word when asked what Brees has meant to them — “everything.”

Unfortunately, if this was Brees’ final game, he didn’t get the kind of career send-off that fellow all-time greats like John Elway or Peyton Manning got. In fact, it was the exact opposite.

Brees completed 19 of 34 passes for just 134 yards with one touchdown on a night when he struggled to get the ball downfield even more than usual. The Saints’ biggest passing play came when backup Jameis Winston threw a 56-yard TD pass on a trick-play flea-flicker that the Saints stole from the Chicago Bears a week earlier.

And Brees failed to connect even once with top receiver Michael Thomas on four targets. Brees’ first interception in the second quarter came when the Saints were leading 6-3 and he underthrew Thomas. Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting pounced in front of it and nearly returned it for a touchdown.

Brees then threw another pick in the fourth quarter when the Saints were trailing 23-20 and linebacker Devin White undercut Alvin Kamara down the middle of the field. The third interception came on a tipped pass when the Saints were trailing 30-20 with less than five minutes remaining.

Tight end Jared Cook also lost a critical fumble in the third quarter when the Saints were leading 20-13 and had just crossed midfield.

“I’d say it’s pretty uncharacteristic because we preach playing ‘winning football.’ And you turn the ball over four times, that’s not ‘winning football’ — especially in the playoffs, especially against a team like that,” said Brees, who blamed himself for the interceptions.

“Well, a couple of them I probably shouldn’t have thrown and maybe forced it in there. And we were probably just a little off on the overall execution,” Brees said. “But at the end of the day, that’s what this game came down to was those turnovers.”

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Coin flips, sudden death and cookies: Why Ravens want to change OT – Baltimore Ravens Blog

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — To create the fairest way to decide tie games, the Baltimore Ravens want you to think of overtime as a cookie.

For years, children have split cookies with a method called “Divide and Choose.” One kid breaks the cookie into two pieces, and the other gets first choice on what piece to take.

This principle is not only the driving force behind the Ravens’ new overtime format but it’s also referenced in the proposal that they have submitted to the NFL competition committee and ownership for review at the upcoming league meetings.

Under the Ravens’ “Spot and Choose” proposal, at the result of the coin toss, one team spots the ball on the field for the start of an overtime period (which begins from there without a kickoff). Then, the other team chooses whether to start on offense or defense from that spot. The overtime proceeds as either sudden death or a timed period (7 minutes, 30 seconds) to determine the winner.

The Ravens believe this proposal adds more strategy to the game, simplifies the rules and likely decreases total snaps.

“In my view, it’s a clear improvement to the game and think it should be adopted immediately,” said Seth Walder, ESPN analytics writer. “It helps from a fairness standpoint and from an entertainment standpoint — that’s as good as it gets. I’d be legitimately excited to see where teams think the right break-even yard line is, and how they would adjust if, say, Patrick Mahomes were standing on the opposite sideline.”

Why are the Ravens proposing this? Recent history shows coin flips are determining too many games.

According to Baltimore’s research, receiving teams are 28-20-4 (a win rate of 58%) since 2017, when overtime was shortened to 10 minutes. In the playoffs, receiving teams are 9-1 since 2010 when “modified sudden death” was first introduced, including four teams since 2015 winning on a first-possession touchdown.

The Ravens see their format — which is based on teams deciding the initial spot of the ball — removing chance from overtime.

“It transfers power from luck to strategy,” Walder said. “There’s no reason that a coin toss should give an advantage the way it currently does. This asks teams to reconcile with a central question to game management: How valuable is possession relative to field position? No matter the outcome — where the ball is placed, which team starts with it — the result is because of choices they made. It is inherently fair in that way. It’s also interesting. Breaking down those decisions in real time and afterwards will be fascinating. And there’s also a potential risk-reward element I love: If I’m the spot team and I have a sense the opposing coach really wants the ball, how far can I push the spot back without it being flipped back on us?”

One tweak that Walder would make is eliminating field goals in the overtime period for the sudden-death proposal. So, teams can win only by scoring a touchdown or recording a safety.

“Touchdowns are worth twice as much as field goals in the rest of football, so it seems off to make them suddenly equals,” Walder said. “The downside here is that this could encourage ties. The Ravens also probably prefer keeping the value of field goals up, given their advantage at kicker, though that is a temporary edge.”

Also, to speed up game administration, Walder said a coin toss can be eliminated. The rule can set the home team as the “spot” team and the road team as the “choose” team, or vice versa.

“I will say: It’s not lost on me that the Ravens — who have strong game management and are one of the most analytically inclined teams in the league — are the ones proposing this,” Walder said.

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How glassblowing helps Minnesota Vikings’ Stephen Weatherly decompress – Carolina Panthers Blog

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “Ooooh! Oooh!’’ Stephen Weatherly yelled as he noticed a small spot smoldering on his right thigh.

The five-year veteran defensive end, who recently signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings after he was released by the Carolina Panthers, momentarily lost his concentration during a glassblowing session, allowing the hot end of the six-foot pipe he was breathing into while rolling it make contact with his pants.

His instructor, Nicolas Emeric, had been waiting for such a mishap, understanding there was less clearance between the pipe and legs because Weatherly (6-foot-5, 265 pounds) is bigger than his typical clientele.

Weatherly quickly refocused as he would on the field.

“I got burned because I wasn’t locked in,” he said. “When you come into the hot shop, the fact that you have to be locked in forces you to push everything to the back burner.

“… Like where am I going to end up next? That is very much on the front of my mind. When I come in here I have to think about blowing glass.”

Weatherly, who will turn 27 this month, became enamored with glassblowing a few years ago during his first stint with the Vikings. He saw it on Instagram and his roommate at the time had a co-worker who owned a studio, so he went and became hooked. That ultimately led to his interest in the Netflix show “Blown Away,” which led to an appearance as a guest judge on its glassblowing competition that aired in late January.

Glassblowing always has been therapeutic for Weatherly, because when dealing with molten glass at temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees, you don’t have time to think about everyday issues. It became more therapeutic when he was cut less than a year after signing a two-year, $12.5 million deal.

“So I was able to just think for an hour and 15 minutes straight, not about anything stressful, but just about creating that beautiful piece of art,” Weatherly said.

Not done with football

Glassblowing began as one of Weatherly’s many hobbies when looking for things to occupy his life after football. It’s still just a hobby.

“I have a lot of good years still left in the football world,” Weatherly said.

He hoped they would be spent in Carolina, rebuilding under coach Matt Rhule. Unfortunately, he had no sacks and only three quarterback pressures in nine starts, then was placed on injured reserve in November because of a finger injury that required surgery.

His release simply was a matter of fit and needing to clear $5.9 million in salary-cap space.

“They are building for the future,” Weatherly said. “I didn’t do enough to show that I can be part of their scheme for the future. I mean, it’s a business. Just sucks.”

Weatherly wasn’t out of work long, reuniting with the Vikings on Thursday.

Another ‘weirdo’

Emeric recognized Weatherly when he walked into Hot Glass Alley, in an eclectic Charlotte neighborhood, as a judge on “Blown Away,’’ not an NFL player.

“He definitely fits in with the rest of the weirdos in the glass world,” he joked.

Coachability in football, however, made Weatherly a good student in glassblowing.

“He soaks up every little bit of information I give him,” Emeric said. “And he’s responsive. Which is great, because most people don’t want to learn and dive in so far.”

Teaching Weatherly was nerve-wracking initially.

“He said nobody has ever let him do this before, because they know how much his hands are worth,” Emeric said.

Weatherly’s hands constantly were close to the heat that burned his pants. As violent as those hands are in football, they easily adjusted to the gentle touch needed to roll the pipe while blowing life into the glass.

Weatherly showed the same control he uses on the piano and eight other instruments he has learned to play. A sociology major at Vanderbilt, he loves the delicate side of the art world almost as much as he does the brutality of football.

“The piece, it gets heavy,” Weatherly said of the 10-pound pipe and his vase that weighed 5.9 pounds but felt like 50. “So I get to use my physicality in a sense, but also my fine-tuning, like turning it with just my fingertips.”

Art becomes football

Weatherly pumped his fist into the air as if he’d just made a sack. But the exhilaration came from seeing a taffy-like glop of glass become an artistic creation.

“He has such a creative mind already,” Emeric said. “Most people come in and barely have an idea of what’s their favorite color.’’

The decision on Weatherly’s latest project, a vase for his girlfriend, was born 24 hours earlier after he gave her flowers. He chose his favorite colors, orange and green, to remind her of him.

As rewarding as it was to put the glass into the furnace and see it blossom, it was exhausting.

“I promise you I am in shape,” Weatherly said as he gathered himself after an extended period of glassblowing.

Emeric said he understood. He also understood why blowing glass has become therapeutic to Weatherly.

“Because it’s hot and it’s very intrinsic material, you can’t let your day-to-day stresses overwhelm you, because it will show in your piece,” he said. “You can see where there are imperfections because your mind goes astray.”

Weatherly has had mishaps. His first piece with Emeric quickly went from a pyramid to the tip of a spear.

He had better luck with other projects such as paperweights, cups, a jellyfish and a sword that adorn his home.

“I love everything I’ve done,” Weatherly said.

He loved the vase in particular because he was able to push his football thoughts aside at a fragile time. At the same time, it was a lot like football.

“All the hard work, the stuff you don’t understand and see, is definitely the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday practices,” Weatherly said. “But the beautiful part at the end, that’s all Sunday under the bright lights.”

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Houston Texans sign ex-Seahawks C Justin Britt to one-year deal, source says

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HOUSTON — The Houston Texans have signed former Seattle Seahawks center Justin Britt to a one-year deal worth up to $5 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Britt, who did not play during the 2020 season after Seattle released him in April, indicated he signed with the Texans in an Instagram post.

“I’M BACK!” Britt wrote in his post.

Britt, 29, was a second-round pick in 2014. He tore his ACL in October 2019, but before that injury he had missed only one game in his first five seasons.

Last week, Houston cut center Nick Martin, a second-round pick in 2016, saving $6.25 million.



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