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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Football

Cam Newton: Super Bowl ring only thing missing from my life

Cam Newton

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has led a full life and had a relatively successful career, but there’s still one gaping hole that has prevented him from feeling complete: a Super Bowl ring.

At his fifth annual 7-on-7 football tournament at Providence Day School over the weekend, Newton told players from 20 separate high school teams that perfecting oneself is the key to success, adding that his desire to win a Lombardi Trophy is what continues to motivate him.

“I’m looking at my life right now and I’m saying, ‘I’m missing one thing: I want a Super Bowl,'” Newton said via the Charlotte Observer. “Yeah, but it’s really certain things that you have to really fine-tune and say, ‘Am I deserving to be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback? How can I push myself to be a better me?'”

Newton, of course, led his Panthers team to a 15-1 record and Super Bowl 50 appearance against the Denver Broncos in 2015, but they weren’t able to close the deal, ultimately falling by a score of 24-10.

With that heartbreak in mind, Newton’s message undoubtedly resonated with some of those in attendance, but he was quick to remind them that perfection and success take work. And for Newton, there has never been any other option.

“The only way I put myself in this situation to be successful was I didn’t have no plan B,” Newton said. “I told myself, at the end of the day, I’m gonna be a football player and a football player only.

“And a lot of guys get it misconstrued because you’re setting yourself up for failure; that’s what some people think. But in myself I was thinking, ‘I ain’t got no other alternative. Either I’m gonna dominate this man in front of me or not.'”

After finishing with a record of 6-10 a season ago, Newton and Panthers are hoping to overcome their lingering Super Bowl hangover and put themselves back in the playoff picture with the ultimate goal of finally getting that monkey off their back and winning a Super Bowl title.

Only then will Newton’s life be complete.

Mets promote Tim Tebow to High-A Florida State League

Tim Tebow Mets

Tim Tebow was batting only .222/.311/.340 with three home runs, 23 RBI and 69 strikeouts for the low-A ball Columbia Fireflies, but that was apparently more than enough for New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson to promote him.

The Mets announced on Sunday that Tebow would be moved to the St. Lucie Mets of the High-A Florida State League.

“It’s not like he’s tearing up the league, but at the same time all of the indications are positive in terms of various things we look at — chase rates and exit velocity,” Alderson told ABC Sports. “The bottom line is the average isn’t there, but he’s improving.”

The 29-year-old Tebow signed with the Mets in September of last year and spent time in both the Florida Instructional League and the Arizona Fall League. Prior to that, he had not played organized baseball since High School.

Upon signing, Tebow was reportedly given a $100,000 bonus.

A Heisman Trophy with the Florida Gators, Tebow was a first-round selection (No. 25 overall) of the Denver Broncos in 2010. He later joined the New York Jets in 2012, the New England Patriots in 2013 and attempted a failed NFL comeback with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015.

Ezekiel Elliott cracks great joke about Dirk Nowitzki’s running style

Dirk Nowitzki held his annual charity baseball game on Saturday, and Ezekiel Elliott was one of a number of Dallas Cowboys players who took part. The star running back also may have provided the best joke of the night.

As you might expect from a man who is 7-feet tall, Nowitzki is not the most gifted runner. Elliott pointed that out to the Dallas Mavericks star, noting that Dirk’s running style is similar to that of a baby giraffe.

Elliott kind of has a point. Check it out:

Believe it or not, Dirk claims he was running his hardest on that particular play.

Don’t feel too bad for Dirk. While it was bold of a young player like Elliott to zing him, Nowitzki is a notorious troll — just ask Harrison Barnes. What goes around comes around, as they say.

Louis Riddick denies report he is interviewing for Chiefs GM job

If the Kansas City Chiefs intend to interview Louis Riddick for their vacant general manager position, the ESPN analyst says he has not heard anything about it.

On Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported that the Chiefs have contacted Riddick about setting up a meeting for next week. Riddick claims the report is completely false.

The Chiefs announced last week that they are parting ways with former GM John Dorsey, who had been considered one of the best personnel men in football over the past four years. The timing of the decision was very unusual, and one report about Dorsey’s reaction made it seem like it was unexpected.

Riddick, a former NFL safety, has worked as an analyst for ESPN since 2013. After he retired from playing, he worked as a scout and director of pro personnel for the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. There was some talk about Riddick potentially joining the San Francisco 49ers’ front office earlier in the year, but nothing ever came of that.

Paxton Lynch gaining on Trevor Siemian in Broncos quarterback race

Paxton Lynch

Just two short weeks ago, Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch, who was the team’s first-round pick in 2016, was considered a “work in progress” and an unlikely threat to Trevor Siemian for the starting job.

Over the final two weeks of Denver’s offseason workout program however, Lynch made substantial progress and may now be a legitimate option to start at quarterback in 2017.

Mike Klis of 9News reports that Lynch began looking like a player capable of leading the team and not necessarily a developmental option for down the road.

His switch was flipped. He started to get it. He started to play as if he was doing just that – playing. Playing and not thinking about his protections and hot reads and coverages and delivering the ball on time.

“Yeah, I mean the more reps I’m getting with these guys, the more I get to go against the defense and see the looks live compared to just on paper, it’s helping me a lot,” Lynch said in an offseason exit interview of sorts with 9News. “I think each practice I’ve progressively got better.”

Lynch will still be considered the outsider when the Broncos report to training camp on July 27, but he’s clearly put himself in a much better position to compete for the starting job.

If nothing else, Lynch’s sudden progress will help push Siemian and any other quarterbacks on the roster. And competition always yields positive results.

Report: Chiefs will interview Louis Riddick for GM job

The Kansas City Chiefs are looking to fill a vacant general manager job with roughly one month to go until training camp, and Louis Riddick is reportedly on the list of potential candidates.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Chiefs have reached out to Riddick to set up an interview.

Riddick, a former NFL safety, has worked as an analyst for ESPN since 2013. After he retired from playing, he worked as a scout and director of pro personnel for the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. There was some talk about Riddick potentially joining the San Francisco 49ers’ front office earlier in the year, but nothing ever came of that.

The Chiefs announced last week that they are parting ways with former GM John Dorsey, who had been considered one of the best personnel men in football over the past four years. The timing of the decision was very unusual, and one report about Dorsey’s reaction made it seem like it was unexpected.

10 NFL players with most to prove in training camp

Blake Bortles Jags

Before long, all 32 NFL teams will officially be reporting to training camp in preparation for the 2017 regular season. It will be the beginning of a quest for Super Bowl LII, and everyone should legitimately feel like they have a chance.

That extends to the players — both rookies and veterans — who will be trying to earn a job or secure a starting position.

It’s easy to point out highly-drafted rookies or fringe players who need to perform well in training camp, but what about players of prominence? Whether they’re coming off injury, switching positions, or just looking to rebound from a poor 2016 season, here are 10 players with the most to prove in training camp.

10. Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills

After three injury-prone seasons, the Buffalo Bills opted not to pick up Sammy Watkins’ fifth-year option. That undoubtedly came as an unexpected blow to the talented youngster, but the reasons why are obvious.

The Bills have to be kicking themselves over selecting Watkins ahead of Odell Beckham Jr. in the 2014 NFL Draft, but what’s done is done. Now it becomes a prove-it year for Watkins, who would not only like to prove to the Bills they made the correct choice, but show the rest of the NFL he could be a worthwhile investment in 2018.

There’s no denying Watkins’ talent. Anyone who lays eyes on him can see the athleticism and skill he possesses, but after missing 11 games in three seasons, there are legitimate injury concerns.

Even on the field, there have been lapses in Watkins’ play. Needless to say, he needs to come out strong in both training camp and the preseason, and then carry that over into the regular season.

9. Ereck Flowers, OT, New York Giants

The New York Giants went into the offseason acknowledging that it might be time to move Ereck Flowers from left tackle to right tackle in an effort to strengthen their offensive line. Ultimately, that did not happen.

Instead, sans the free agent addition of D.J. Fluker, the Giants chose to stand pat and move forward with their 2015 first-round pick.

Despite that vote of confidence, there’s a strong chance that Flowers is on a short leash. He has not developed into the kind of player the Giants had hoped to see. At times, he has gotten quarterback Eli Manning into a mess of trouble. Should those sorts of issues persist throughout training camp, the Giants may be forced to make a move.

The good news? Flowers has reportedly been in East Rutherford training all offseason and will report leaner and quicker than he was a season ago.

8. Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Jacksonville Jaguars

After being drafted in the first-round (No. 3 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft, Dante Fowler Jr. was expected to come in and change the defensive dynamic for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Two seasons later, that has not happened. In fact, it hasn’t even come close to happening.

On his very first day of mini-camp, Fowler suffered a torn ACL that would keep him out his entire rookie season. And while he would make his debut in 2016, he didn’t erupt on the scene like many had hoped, recording 32 tackles (23 solo), four sacks and five passes defensed.

While it was a positive sign for the Jaguars to see Fowler on the field, he wasn’t nearly as productive as they had hoped. And with such a substantial overall investment still riding on his potential success, Fowler needs to prove he’s taking a significant step forward in training camp. Things may be heading in the right direction though, as Fowler said last month he is expecting to make the leap this season.

7. Mike Glennon, QB, Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears shocked the football world when they signed quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million deal to take over for Jay Cutler. Then they shocked the world again when they selected quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the first-round of the NFL Draft.

At the time, Glennon reportedly felt “cheated on,” but has since embraced his rookie teammate and the competition he brings.

That competition is going to be paramount come training camp because only one of these quarterback is going to receive the Week 1 nod, and it would be a crushing blow for Glennon if it’s not him.

The Bears have invested heavily in each player, but the ideal situation would be Glennon winning the job outright, allowing Trubisky to sit back and learn for a year or two. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and there’s a whole lot of pressure on Glennon entertaining training camp. It’s obvious he has a lot to prove.

6. Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Breshad Perriman was selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft with the belief that he’d become a true No. 1 receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. Two years later, that has not happened.

Due in large part to a series of injuries, Perriman has not been able to develop into the sort of talent Baltimore initially expected. But with Steve Smith now retired and Perriman healthier than he’s been in years, there’s a belief that Perriman and quarterback Joe Flacco can finally develop solid on-field chemistry.

Flacco certainly is speaking positively about his wideout:

The Ravens clearly have faith in the two adding chemistry. The team did not select a receiver in the NFL Draft, implying they intended to give Perriman every possible chance to become the star of the show.

But that’s not to say Perriman has an unlimited opportunity. There are other players on the roster the Ravens believe in — including the recently signed Jeremy Maclin — so the one-time No. 23 overall pick must hit the ground running in training camp. The team is relying heavily on him and he’s got to prove their patience has been worthwhile.

5. Ty Montgomery, RB, Green Bay Packers

Ty Montgomery is such an interesting story.

The 2015 third-round pick joined the Green Bay Packers as a versatile athlete who was poised to see time at wide receiver and on special teams. Unfortunately, his rookie campaign was cut short due to an ankle injury, and then he returned in 2016 to uncertain fate.

Ultimately, with an increasing problem at running back, the Packers decided to roll the dice and plug Montgomery into the backfield. He immediately provided a spark as a multi-faceted asset who can create matchup nightmares as a receiver out of the backfield.

By season’s end, the Packers had switched Montgomery to running back outright, which is where he’ll remain in 2017. And with precious little competition at the position, it appears as if Montgomery will become the Packers’ No. 1 back. But he’ll still need to prove that faith is warranted in training camp because, if there’s even a hint that he can’t handle the load, it’s possible for Green Bay to seek out a veteran replacement following the league-wide cut-down days.

4. Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams

After a limited and relatively unsuccessful rookie campaign, Jared Goff went into the offseason with the desire to be “great.” In order to make that happen, he’s been putting in extra work whenever possible to ensure that once Week 1 rolls around, he’ll be ready to go.

Of course, all of those things are much easier said than done.

Goff’s first season in the NFL is one that he’d like to forget. The No. 1 overall pick from a year ago finished in the bottom of the league in almost every statistical category and not once did he experience the taste of victory as a starter. But those are the lumps most rookie quarterbacks experience; it’s how they react that matters.

Coming into training camp, the Rams will need to see some improvement from Goff. He’ll need to prove that at 22, he’s capable and ready to lead an NFL franchise.

3. Calvin Pryor, S, Cleveland Browns

The writing was on the wall for Calvin Pryor all offseason with the Jets. The team had been shopping him and finally traded him to Cleveland for Demario Davis.

Pryor now will have to compete with first-round pick Jabrill Peppers on his new team, though the Browns could choose to play both safeties at the same time.

The 2014 first-round pick has a new home but still has a lot to prove. Either way, he’s excited to have a fresh start.

“I feel like it was a great opportunity — have a fresh start, learn a new system and buy into a new culture,” Pryor said last week, via Cleveland.com. “I had a feeling [with the Jets] drafting two safeties, but I can’t control that. I’m excited. I can’t thank (the Browns) enough.”

Pryor needs to come out in Cleveland and show the world why he was a first-round pick not long ago.

2. Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, Jeremy Hill insisted that if the Cincinnati Bengals selected another running back, that player would ride the pine behind him.

It was a confident statement, but not one necessarily steeped in fact. The reality is, Hill has struggled to replicate his strong rookie campaign, ultimately losing some snaps to Giovani Bernard and now sitting idly by as the Bengals bring in Joe Mixon and all of his off-field concerns to potentially take his job.

Hill may believe he’s got a lock on the starting job, but that attitude is what may eventually lead to him losing it. The Bengals are clearly dismayed with his recent production, and if he doesn’t arrive at training camp ready to battle, he may not only lose his job, but also find himself looking for a new team.

Rumors have already begun to swirl about Hill potentially hitting the trade block, so a strong performance in training camp is an absolute must.

1. Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

If a player is destined to become a franchise quarterback, that usually becomes clear entering their fourth season. So for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Blake Bortles, that means the time is now.

The Jaguars have done an admirable job piecing together quality talent over the previous few years, and with Tom Coughlin now in charge of football operations, the timing is right to make a run. The only thing potentially preventing them from that is the development of Bortles, who has been criticized for the last several months.

Still, Jacksonville has stuck with the young gun-slinger, but his time may soon be running out. If he enters training camp and continues to display the sort of inconsistencies that have plagued him throughout his first three years in the NFL, it would not only mean the Jaguars are delayed from seriously competing in the AFC, but that they may need a new quarterback.

For now, the Jags are trying to get Bortles to focus on limiting his turnovers.

“If you don’t turn the ball over, you’ll win football games,” Bortles said last month. “Turnovers are going to happen. We get that. You have to make sure to minimize them as much as possible and stay away from the stupid ones.”

To his credit, Bortles has spent the offseason in California working with quarterback guru Tom House, but now he has to show progress on the field. He’s run out of time, and the team has run out of carrots.

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