Keeping up with the Jones

The veteran cornerback is unfiltered. His answers are honest, insightful, and often hilarious.

jonesa140120_630As a Bengals broadcaster, I’m often asked to name my favorite player to interview on the team.

People usually seem surprised when I tell them it’s Adam Jones.

The veteran cornerback is unfiltered. His answers are honest, insightful, and often hilarious.

Jones is entering his eighth NFL season and has become a durable and dependable member of the Bengals secondary. After appearing in only 22 games between 2007 and 2011 due to injuries and off-the-field issues, Adam has played in all 17 games (including playoffs) in each of the last two years.

“God has been on my side,” said Jones. “I enjoy being out there and I’m going to take advantage of it while I can.”

Jones was obviously blessed with rare athletic ability, but the Bengals new defensive backs coach Vance Joseph is impressed by Adam’s work ethic.

“Guys who play in this league for a long time want to get better every day so that they can keep their job,” said Joseph. “He understands that so he’s been very receptive and willing to learn new things. That’s tough for older players who have been in systems for a long time. They get stubborn in their techniques, but he’s been open-minded. He’s willing to try different things and that’s what I’m asking him to do.”

With the return of a healthy Leon Hall and the addition of first round draft pick Darqueze Dennard, it’s been suggested that Jones might get fewer snaps at cornerback and more opportunities to return punts. But that’s not what he has in mind.

“I don’t plan on giving up my spot at corner,” Adam told me. “I’m training to be a starter. I would like to return punts too, but I want the corner snaps because I feel like I’m at the point in my career where I’m playing my best football.

“I’ve been getting better technique-wise with coaching. I’ve done a good job of studying, taking care of my body, and competing.”

At the Bengals recent OTA and minicamp practices, Jones was among the most vocal and enthusiastic players on the field.

“He’s had a great spring,” said Joseph. “He’s in great shape, he’s healthy, and he’s ready for the season.”

“I like to compete and I like to go out there and have fun,” said Jones. “The day that it stops being fun I’m going to hang it up.”

That isn’t likely to happen soon. Jones, who turns 31 in September, is entering the second year of a three-year deal with the Bengals and hopes that it’s not his final contract.

“I think I probably have another six or seven years in me,” said Jones.

He wouldn’t say it if he didn’t mean it.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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Read and React: Week of June 23

Continuing our weekly survey of, and reaction to, articles regarding the Bucs…Among this week’s choices are pieces naming the face of the franchise and the player with the most to prove for each team.

The NFL generates a massive amount of online media coverage, a share of which is devoted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even the most avid Buccaneer fans might not catch everything that’s out there.

Clayborn06_27_14_1_aThat is why I will be taking a weekly look around the web to gather some of the analysis you might have missed. I’ll also provide my own take on those articles; I will “read and react,” if you will. In some cases, these choices also serve as recommendations, alerting you to articles of particular interest about your Buccaneers.

The pieces that caught my attention this week included a “face of the franchise” series by NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, an SI.com analysis of the players with the most to prove on each team, and one of the more bizarre fantasy drafts you’ll ever see.

Keep in mind, the opinions stated below are my own and don’t necessarily reflect Buccaneers management, coaches or ownership.

1. Drew Brees, Matt Ryan head franchise faces of the NFC South, Bucky Brooks, NFL.com

So, the concept here is to go through every team in the league, one division’s worth per day, and identify the one player who, “through sheer force of skill and personality,” defines his team’s identity and leads it into the future.

Fair enough. We knew what Mr. Brooks meant, right? Face of the franchise is a pretty straightforward term, and it usually has an easily-identifiable answer, as well. Tom Brady is obviously the face of the Patriots (if we’re including only players, since even Brady might be trumped by Bill Belichick). I’d say it’s Calvin Johnson in Detroit, Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Adrian Peterson in Minnesota and Patrick Willis in San Francisco.

On Thursday, Brooks swung through the NFC South and I can’t imagine how anyone could argue with his choices. Even with the author picking both his top choice and another player who could be waiting in the wings, it’s still hard to quibble. Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. Yes, of course. In Tampa we have the relatively rare defensive face-of-the-franchise but how could you pick anybody but Gerald McCoy. Waiting in the wings is Lavonte David, which is at least a little more speculative. What that feels like is a list of the team’s two best players, and while McCoy is obviously also the gregarious team leader, that’s not yet so obvious about David.

Lest that sound like criticism, let me explain, because it certainly is not. David is an absolute rock. He was also grew into more of a leadership role last year, but that was bound to happen because he was such an incredible performer on the field that his teammates were bound to be drawn to him. He handled it well, but this is still not yet a terribly outspoken player. Derrick Brooks – the player to which David is so often compared (which is hardly fair to David and yet it still doesn’t seem outrageous) – was certainly a team leader, but he too was more likely to lead by example. And what an incredible example it was. There were always bigger personalities around (hello, Mr. Sapp), but everyone knew they could count on Brooks. Eventually, Brooks was a face of the franchise by default; he was simply too good and around too long (thankfully) not to be.

Hopefully, David is around for a very, very long time, too. The thing is, we have to hope the same thing about McCoy, and David is just two years behind his defensive teammate. McCoy should continue to lead the way, David should continue to be the same relatively quiet but completely dependable rock in the locker room, and other big personalities will emerge along the way. It’s not like McCoy needs an heir apparent any time soon, but in the long run David may not be the only obvious choice.

Anyway, like I said, there’s little too argue with here, but I linked to Brooks’ article anyway because it inspired another thought in my head. And that thought is this: Gerald McCoy is the obvious face of the franchise right now, but that’s only been true since 2013. So, who was the face before McCoy, and who was the face before that player? Voila! We have ourselves an exercise.

With the wonderfully sharp tool of hindsight, let’s start in 1976 and conjecture who would be considered the “face of the franchise” for the Buccaneers from Day One until now, with only players as candidates. This is an important distinction, because at the very least you’d have to give it to founding Head Coach John McKay at least in the first season, and he’d be battling a certain Hall of Fame defensive end for a year or two.

We’ll do this by time periods instead of year by year, so at times we may be able to bite off large chunks of the last four decades all at once. Here we go:

1976-84: Lee Roy Selmon. The easiest choice on this list until perhaps McCoy himself in 2014. Selmon is perhaps the greatest player in team history and its first Hall of Famer, but the strength of his character far outweighed anything he ever did on the field. Selmon was a universally beloved figure during his playing days, and then a force for good in the Bay area community for the rest of his too-short life. You see Selmon’s name all over the Bay area, on roadways and restaurants and on the stadium façade as part of the Ring of Honor. If anything, his influence grew bigger after he retired; you could truly call this Oklahoma native one of the enduring faces of the Tampa Bay area, not just its football franchise. One note: I originally gave Selmon the 1977-84 range and tried to give 1976, the franchise’s inaugural season, to someone else. My thought was that Selmon was just a rookie and that an injury limited him to eight games. However, a source very familiar with the era tells me that, even in 1976, Lee Roy was well-loved and the franchise focal point. Fine by me; ’76 goes to Selmon. I was having a hard time finding a better candidate anyway. Spurrier? Batman? Dave Pear?

1985: James Wilder. With Selmon forced into retirement by a back injury and Wilder coming off the greatest offensive season in the franchise’s history (which is still true), the team gets a new face. Wilder would have another huge season in 1985 to hold on to the spotlight. Actually, you could make an argument that it was still Selmon for several years to come, but I’m trying to restrict this to players who were on the roster at the time.

1986: Steve Young. Wilder’s gradual decline began in this season and the Bucs went into it hoping their 1985 bonus from the USFL would grab the reins from Steve DeBerg. He did by the third game and started the rest of the way. It wasn’t a good season and Young’s play wasn’t always pretty, but there were already hints of the dynamic Hall of Famer he would become with San Francisco. This team didn’t have a lot going for it and was about to undergo a massive overhaul, making Young by far the most interesting thing about it.

1987-89: Vinny Testaverde. For better or worse, the first overall pick of the 1987 draft stepped right into the face-of-the-franchise role for the Buccaneers, especially with Young traded away. He didn’t get his first start until December, but everyone knew that Steve DeBerg was just keeping the seat warm for him. From that point on, all eyes were on the former University of Miami star, who was presumably going to stabilize the quarterback position for the first time since Doug Williams departed. The next few years were rocky – and 1988 was particularly hard, with Testaverde throwing 35 interceptions – but that didn’t change the fact that the young passer was out front and center. He would actually play with the team through 1992, and you could make the argument that he remained the face that entire time (obviously, I’m arguing differently), but as it became less and less likely that Testaverde was going to be around for the long haul his hold on the public consciousness started to fade.

1990-91: Broderick Thomas. These two seasons were another transition time for the Buccaneers, as they moved on from Ray Perkins and briefly had Richard Williamson at the helm. They won only nine games in this span and had a mostly punchless offense. Testaverde and Chris Chandler kept trading the starting job back and forth, with the prickly Chandler adding a lot of tension to the situation. However, Broderick Thomas had 18.5 sacks over those two seasons and the 1989 first-round pick looked like he could develop into the team’s next defensive star. It didn’t work out that way in the long run, but for these two years Thomas was probably the team’s main player in the spotlight.

1992: Santana Dotson. This is the most difficult season to call of all of them. Testaverde was in his final season as a Buc before hitting the inaugural free agent market the next spring (and going on to a long and quite good NFL career). He did have two marvelous games to start the season, but he and the Bucs faded from there. Reggie Cobb had his best year but he wasn’t really the type to demand the spotlight. Broderick Thomas was headed downhill. Paul Gruber was probably the team’s best player but he would always toil in anonymity relative to how good he was. So I’ll go with Dotson, who came in as a fifth-round pick with a chip on his shoulder and was immediately one of the bigger personalities on the team. He also racked up five sacks in the first three games and went on to get a Buc rookie record of 10.

1993-96: Hardy Nickerson. The first season of real free agency led to the departure of Testaverde but also the arrival of Nickerson, who would instantly emerge as the team’s new leader. It was also clear from Day One that he was a special player, and he would go on to set the team’s single-season tackle record in his first year in orange. Nickerson would eventually be joined by the players remembered as the core of the Super Bowl team – John Lynch in 1993, Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp in 1995, Ronde Barber in 1997, but he was the first piece in the puzzle that came together as the best defense in franchise history.

1997-2001: Warren Sapp. The Bucs emerged from their 15-year walk through the valley in 1997, and the first game of that year was a stunning 13-6 win over the powerful 49ers. Sapp was all over the field in that one, announcing his presence with backfield drops of both Steve Young and Jerry Rice, both of whom would have to leave the game due to injury. Derrick Brooks was just as important to the defense over this span, but you couldn’t tear your eyes away from the pylon-kicking, quarterback-hunting Sapp, especially if Brett Favre happened to be around, too.

2002-05: Derrick Brooks. By virtue of putting together his NFL Defensive Player of the Year season in the campaign that ended in the team’s first Super Bowl championship, Brooks stepped into the face-of-the-franchise role in 2002, even if Sapp was still around and still just as brash as ever. Sapp would depart after just one more season, however, while Brooks would stay and finish his Hall of Fame career in Tampa. In 2005, Brooks was still a first-team All-Pro as the Buccaneers once again fielded the NFL’s top-ranked defense.

2006-09: Ronde Barber. You could argue that it was still Brooks for the next few years, and Barber certainly didn’t ever try to steal attention away from his teammates. But Barber was also a first-team All-Pro in 2005, and he earned All-Pro honors again in 2006 while Brooks did not (although they both went to the Pro Bowl). What started to push Barber into a more prominent role – and he definitely had the mantle in 2009 after Barber’s retirement – was the growing amazement at his continued high level of play well into his 30s. He kept scoring touchdowns, he made the Pro Bowl again in 2008, and he came back year after year on one-year contracts. Barber might have kept the mantle for his last three years, if not for the arrival of what was hoped would be the next franchise quarterback.

2010-12: Josh Freeman. Those were the expectations for Freeman, the 19th overall pick in 2009 and the first quarterback taken by the Bucs in the first round since Trent Dilfer in 1994. Freeman took over the starting job midway through 2009, and when he produced a stunning 25-touchdown/six-interception season in 2010, it looked like the Bucs did indeed have their franchise QB. Finally. There were plenty of ups and downs over the next two seasons, but that didn’t mean Freeman was any less the face of the franchise. It then unraveled quickly in 2013, but by then McCoy was ready to step into the face of the franchise role.

2013-14: Gerald McCoy. Bucky Brooks has already handled this argument for me.

2. Cover Two: Players with most to prove in NFC South in 2014, Chris Burke and Doug Farrar, SI.com

Oooh, we’ve got a theme going here: Pick a division, pick a question and name two players who fit the bill. The difference here is that we have two writers making one pick a piece, and both Burke and Farrar have done good work in the past.

No difference here. I don’t know if they made a point of making sure that they selected different players, but they did so for each of the four NFC South teams. For the Buccaneers, Burke went with defensive end Adrian Clayborn while Farrar tabbed rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. I like Burke’s pick better.

2011: A more competitive 7-9

The Seahawks had the same record in their second season under coach Pete Carroll as they did in the first. But that’s where the similarities to 2010 ended, as the team was more competitive and simply better.

 

In their second season under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks finished with the same 7-9 record they posted during his first season as coach.

At least that was the view at first glance.

Look a little closer and it’s apparent that the Seahawks were more competitive and simply better in Year 2 P.C. than they were in Year 1 P.C.

Case in point – or points, in this case: In 2010, the Seahawks lost nine games by an average of 21 points; and in 2011, the average margin of defeat was 9.8. And all nine losses in 2010 were by double digits, compared to four in 2011, and only one in the final 10 games. Also in 2010, they lost six road games by an average margin of 20.2 points; and in 2011, it was five road losses by an average of 11.2 points.

Need more proof: The Seahawks upset the playoff-bound New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens, and also had two-point losses to the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers and playoff-bound Atlanta Falcons. In 2010, they defeated one playoff-bound team – the Chicago Bears.

No matter how you stack it, that’s progress. And so was the Seahawks going 5-3 in the second half of the season, compared to 3-5 in 2010.

“We know we’ve got a better team this season,” said free safety Earl Thomas, a first-round draft choice in 2010 who in 2011 became the first Seahawk voted to the Pro Bowl since 2008 in only his second NFL season. “We’re young, but this experience we got this season and all the plays we made, we can build on that going into next season.”

The strengths of the 2011 Seahawks were their ability to run the football, and stop the opposition from running it. Marshawn Lynch, who was obtained in an October trade with the Buffalo Bills in 2010, found his legs in 2011, posting career-highs in rushing yards (1,204) and touchdowns (13).

“It’s very encouraging,” Lynch said. “Just to know that if we call a run play, we know we can run it and get success out of it. You’ve got to be pleased with that, being a running back, knowing that they’re going to get the job done.

 

“And they’re young and are going to get better.”

 

That’s what the running game did in its first season under assistant head coach/line coach Tom Cable. After the Seahawks averaged 77.7 rushing yards in the first seven games, they averaged 134.9 over the final nine to finish 21st in the league – up from 31 in 2010 – as Lynch had 941 of his yards and 10 of his TDs during that productive stretch.

At least that was the view at first glance.

Look a little closer and it’s apparent that the Seahawks were more competitive and simply better in Year 2 P.C. than they were in Year 1 P.C.

Case in point – or points, in this case: In 2010, the Seahawks lost nine games by an average of 21 points; and in 2011, the average margin of defeat was 9.8. And all nine losses in 2010 were by double digits, compared to four in 2011, and only one in the final 10 games. Also in 2010, they lost six road games by an average margin of 20.2 points; and in 2011, it was five road losses by an average of 11.2 points.

Need more proof: The Seahawks upset the playoff-bound New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens, and also had two-point losses to the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers and playoff-bound Atlanta Falcons. In 2010, they defeated one playoff-bound team – the Chicago Bears.

No matter how you stack it, that’s progress. And so was the Seahawks going 5-3 in the second half of the season, compared to 3-5 in 2010.

“We know we’ve got a better team this season,” said free safety Earl Thomas, a first-round draft choice in 2010 who in 2011 became the first Seahawk voted to the Pro Bowl since 2008 in only his second NFL season. “We’re young, but this experience we got this season and all the plays we made, we can build on that going into next season.”

The strengths of the 2011 Seahawks were their ability to run the football, and stop the opposition from running it. Marshawn Lynch, who was obtained in an October trade with the Buffalo Bills in 2010, found his legs in 2011, posting career-highs in rushing yards (1,204) and touchdowns (13).

“It’s very encouraging,” Lynch said. “Just to know that if we call a run play, we know we can run it and get success out of it. You’ve got to be pleased with that, being a running back, knowing that they’re going to get the job done.

 

“And they’re young and are going to get better.”

 

That’s what the running game did in its first season under assistant head coach/line coach Tom Cable. After the Seahawks averaged 77.7 rushing yards in the first seven games, they averaged 134.9 over the final nine to finish 21st in the league – up from 31 in 2010 – as Lynch had 941 of his yards and 10 of his TDs during that productive stretch.

There were plenty of individuals who contributed to the team’s improvement in addition to Lynch and Thomas, who had 92 tackles: Jon Ryan140625lynch600 broke his team records for punting average (46.6) and net average (39.3), erased the mark for longest punt that had stood since 1995 with a 77-yarder and also tied the club record for punts inside the 20 with a league-high 34; Red Bryant blocked a club-record four kicks; Heath Farwell had a league-high 21 coverage tackles on special teams despite not joining the team until Week 7; Tarvaris Jackson, in his first season with the team, passed for 3,091 yards despite playing most of the season with a damaged pectoral in his throwing shoulder; Doug Baldwin, a rookie free agent, led the team in receptions (51) and receiving yards (788); the cornerback tandem of first-year starters Brandon Browner and rookie Richard Sherman combined for 10 interceptions; strong safety Kam Chancellor had 94 tackles and four interceptions; Leo end Chris Clemons produced 11 sacks for the second consecutive season; and Leon Washington averaged 25.2 yards on kickoff returns and 11.3 on punt returns.

And the Seahawks displayed – and at times flaunted – their improvement in a season when the 136-day lockout erased the offseason and Carroll and general manager John Schneider continued to scramble the roster with 231 transactions after making 284 in their first season together.

“I always liken it to the ‘Three Little Pigs.’ You can build it with straw or sticks,” Schneider said after the team started 2-6. “Or you can work your tail off and know that you’re doing the right thing and kind of do it the old-fashioned way and have a big, strong, sturdy foundation. Then you can weather all the storms.”

And Carroll could sense that the Seahawks had built a base for the good things to come.

“We’re at the foundation of building this program, and it’s taken us a couple of years to do that,” Carroll said. “We know the formula. We know the style.”

And now, we all know what was to come.

A look back at the first 35 seasons in Seahawks history:

1976: The NFL comes to Seattle
1977: A totally different feeling
1978: Sims for six
1979: Playing, and having fun
1980: Where there’s a Will
1981: When football was fun
1982: Jack Patera’s last stand
1983: A magical year
1984: From “Ground Chuck” to “Air Knox”
1985: Great Expectations
1986: One Super finish
1987: Replacement parts
1988: A “first kiss” of a season
1989: Steve Largent’s last stand
1990: In Tom Catlin, they trusted
1991: Philosophical differences
1992: All but pointless, to a point
1993: A six-pack of wins
1994: Tom Flores’ finale
1995: Dennis Erickson takes over
1996: Field of schemes
1997: Two big steps toward big things
1998: Better, but not good enough
1999: Overexposed
2000: A salary cap-casualty of a season
2001: Walter Jones pitches a perfect 9
2002: A season of second chances
2003: A launching pad of a season
2004: NFC West champs, at last
2005: Seahawks become Super
2006: Coming up just short
2007: A last hurrah
2008: One off-key swansong
2009: Unfulfilled expectations
2010: Historical, and hysterical

Today
2011: A more competitive 7-9

To come
2012: A return to winning ways
2013: Doing it better than it’s ever been done before

Cliff Avril and Jermaine Kearse unite at All-Star Softball Classic

On Saturday at the United Way All-Star Softball Classic at Safeco Field, though, the greatest cheers were reserved for Super Bowl winners Cliff Avril and Jermaine Kearse.

140624avril600When Seattle sports legends like Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson and Edgar Martinez from the Mariners and Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton from the Sonics combine for a community event, it is bound to get a raucous reaction from the crowd.

On Saturday at the United Way All-Star Softball Classic at Safeco Field, though, the greatest cheers were reserved for Super Bowl winners Cliff Avril and Jermaine Kearse.

“Just to see those guys – I’m excited for them to come out and support United Way. It’s a lot of fun,” said Kearse, a Lakes High School and University of Washington product who grew up watching those Seattle sports icons and was reluctant to put himself in the same sentence as them despite his role in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win. “I feel like I have a lot more to do, but to bring a Super Bowl to Seattle for the first time is an awesome feeling.”
Avril and Kearse don’t have extensive baseball backgrounds, but still acquitted themselves well in the second Softball Classic, which United Way and the Seattle Mariners hosted to help raise funds and awareness for homeless youth in King County.

Kearse is new to the United Way family, but Avril has been working with the organization for several years, beginning while he played with the Detroit Lions. That involvement took on a whole new meaning when he became a father himself and his two-year-old son Xavier served as his inspiration and motivation to continue to assume a prominent role with United Way of King County.

“It’s cool to be involved and getting awareness. We’re helping the education system and helping homeless people,” Avril said. “I have a 2-year-old son and seeing the state of the education system made me aware that I need to get involved a little more. They gave me the opportunity to get involved with them and it’s been cool.”

In the game itself, Kearse and Avril, who were playing on opposing teams, didn’t quite have the impact that Golden Tate had a year earlier when the former Notre Dame baseball player smashed a grand slam to lead the charge and earn MVP honors in a comeback victory in 2013. However, they were big hits among the fans and their celebrity teammates alike.

“They definitely got the highest ovations and rightly so. It really was a dream season. To see Jermaine Kearse out here signing autographs at the end of the dugout and Cliff Avril taking some hacks in the homerun derby – these guys went above and beyond,” said Wilson, the longtime Mariners catcher who serves as an ambassador for the United Way of King County. “What’s amazing is all these guys want to come back and be a part and help people out. You can’t do these events without a lot of people coming together. They came out and supported us in a huge way.”

tempRM2_1449-2--nfl_mezz_1280_1024In the game, Kearse popped out in his first at bat, then had a long single in the fifth inning as his team, captained by Wilson charged out to a 22-15 lead. Avril went two-for-two with an RBI single in the third inning and a double in the sixth inning, coming around to score the final run of the game as Kearse’s team emerged victorious by a final score of 22-17.
The bigger scoreline was in the over 6,500 fans in attendance at Safeco Field, raising a total of over one million dollars to help combat youth homelessness in King County – an affliction affecting over 5,000 youth in King County every year.

“The United Way of King County and the Mariners have such a great partnership and have over the years. I think what’s great about today is so many organizations and people come together. Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners, United Way and so many other groups that have helped out. I think that’s what it takes to solve a challenging problem in youth homelessness,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the kids. It’s not about growing the event, it’s about helping the kids that are struggling here in King County. We’d like to one day not have the event, but to have everyone out here supporting it was very exciting and a great day all around.”

Share Link Print Email RSS Falcons Announce Use of NeuroTracker

The Falcons announced Monday that the team will be using NeuroTracker, a 3D mental training program, to increase players’ awareness and focus.

tempAP37524496256_5--nfl_mezz_1280_1024The Atlanta Falcons today announced a partnership with CogniSens Inc. The club will be using NeuroTracker, a 3D mental training program, to increase players’ awareness and focus.

NeuroTracker is a scientific innovation for measuring and improving cognitive performance in sports. Developed by a world-leading neurophysicist, the program trains multiple object tracking skills using a large 3D display and challenges athletes to spread their attention by tracking many targets at high speeds. NeuroTracker aims to enhance performance by training an athlete to absorb and process complex movement and distribute attentional resources throughout the visual field.

Devonta Glover-Wright, Jordan Mabin“As an organization we are always looking for ways to improve our player’s performance on the field,” Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “By partnering with CongniSens we believe that we will provide our players with an additional tool that they can use as they prepare. By utilizing NeuroTracker technology we feel that our players will get the most out of their classroom and meeting time.”

The validity of NeuroTracker is already well-established in the scientific press.  A January 2013 article in the exclusive Nature online journal used NeuroTracker to show how professional athletes’ brains are superior to college students at dynamic scene processing. A January 2012 article in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology used NeuroTracker as a way to help people improve perception of biological motion. More studies are underway linking NeuroTracker to elite performance, education, and medicine.

“The Atlanta Falcons are a forward-thinking organization”, CogniSens CEO Jean Castonguay said. “We are thrilled that they saw the connection between tactical awareness, situational awareness, and football intelligence. This collaboration is an important step in continuing to prove the performance transfer of our NeuroTracker product.”

It’s ‘Break Time’ For Redskins Before Season Starts

The Washington Redskins players and coaches this week got a little bit of a head start on their month-plus-long break prior to the start of training camp in Richmond, Va.

tempDSC_0219--nfl_mezz_1280_1024Although the team was scheduled to have its third and final day of minicamp practice on Thursday, head coach Jay Gruden instead conducted a morning team meeting and announced he was canceling practice for the day, helping the players start the process of refreshing their minds and their bodies before the 2014 season officially gets underway.

It’s a welcomed break for both the players and the coaches, who have spent the past few months working hard to learn first-year coach Gruden’s system and get into football shape. And although they won’t be at the facility together, Gruden said he expects his players to stay on top of their workouts and their studying the next few weeks on their own.

“That’s what being a pro is all about,” Gruden said. “It’s about working not so much in front of your coaches but on your own and hopefully we have the type of guys in this locker room that are going to work hard on their own and hopefully it’ll pay dividends once we come to camp.”

The coaches, meanwhile, will also take advantage of the time away, Gruden said.

“This is a break time for the coaches,” he said. “The assistant coaches will probably go on vacation and spend time with family because once they get back to Richmond, it’s not a lot of time to see their wife and kids. So it’s time for them to get away from football a little bit.”

Gruden, meanwhile, said he’ll primarily stick around the team’s facility in Loudoun County, Va., where he has his first-ever NFL training camp to plan.

But he also has a couple other responsibilities – a new house in the area to get settled into, as well as spending time with his newest grandchild.

“We just moved into a house so we’re probably just going to hang out here and get that all situated and try to enjoy the house,” he said. “But I’m going to try to stay here for the most part and try to make sure training camp is getting organized and ready to go. I’m a little paranoid from that regard, but I’ll try to get away, go see my new grandkid in Tampa and go from there.”

As for the shape of the franchise heading into the 2014 season, Gruden said he’s been impressed with how the team has gelled as a unit over the past few months.

tempDSC_0247--nfl_mezz_1280_1024He said he’s excited to see that develop even more July 24, when training camp practices begin in Richmond.

“I think the thing that I’ve been most impressed with is I think with the locker room in general – how they’re getting along and how they’re playing together, working together, you see them in the weight room working out together,” Gruden said. “We haven’t had any bickering or any arguing or any fighting so to speak.

“Overall I feel like the team together is coming along great and the unity is where it needs to be at this point and then we when come back to training camp with the knowledge of the system and people knowing one another, hopefully we can take off from there.”

Packers Family Night’ tickets on sale Monday

Aug. 2 event to benefit Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program

Tickets for ‘Packers Family Night, Presented by Bellin Health,’ go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday, June 23.

Priced at $10, tickets for the Aug. 2 event will be available through Ticketmaster and may be purchased in person, over the phone or via the Internet. Tickets also can be purchased at the Packers’ ticket office in person. Parking for the ticket office is available by the Bellin Health Gate. All individuals, regardless of age, require a ticket for admittance.

Online ticket sales information can be found at http://pack.rs/18o11 starting on June 23 at 9 a.m.

Over the phone, tickets can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster’s toll-free sales number at 800/745-3000. The toll-free Ticketmaster Express number, 866/448-7849, also can be used. It is a self-service information line utilizing an automated system. A TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) number also is available at 800/943-4327.

In-person sales will be conducted at a number of Ticketmaster locations, including the Milwaukee Theater and numerous Wal-Mart stores throughout southern, central and northeastern Wisconsin. Fans who wish to buy tickets from the Packers ticket office should park by the Bellin Health Gate for access to that area.

Family Night this year will feature a full practice instead of a scrimmage. As the team has continually assessed its preparation methods in recent years, it was determined a full practice is necessary to accomplish its preparation goals for the regular season. The full practice will include 11-on-11 sessions that will feature live contact.

The evening remains family-focused and will feature a game-like atmosphere with use of the video boards, gameday music and a fireworks show at the end of the night.

Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. and the Packers’ 2013 highlight film will be playing on the video boards as fans enter the stadium. Warm-ups will begin on the field at 6:25 p.m. and team introductions will follow at 7:30 p.m. The practice will begin at 7:45 p.m.

Activities include the popular Chili’s “Jerseys Off Our Backs” promotion with Packers jerseys – all of which will have been worn by Packers players in the just-completed practice – to be given away in a random drawing, the Copps–Pick ‘N Save Family Night Picnic and the spectacular Copps–Pick ‘N Save Fireworks Show to conclude the night.

Other on-field activities include an NFL flag football game, a performance by the Green Bay Elite Dance Team and other to-be-determined entertainment highlights. More details will be announced in the near future.

The Packers will also welcome representatives from the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association to Family Night as their official community guests. More than 40 representatives of the organization will make up the Packers Ambassador Line as the players take the field.

Parking for the event will be $5, with net proceeds to be donated to the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Program.

In case of inclement weather, no refunds will be issued unless all stadium activities – from 5:30 p.m. until the end of the fireworks show – are cancelled.

For fans not attending the event, WLUK-TV FOX 11 again will originate a statewide telecast. In addition to Green Bay, the event will be televised on WITI-TV in Milwaukee, WMSN-TV in Madison, WFXS-TV in Wausau, WLAX-TV in La Crosse and WEUX-TV in Eau Claire. It will be hosted by Drew Smith and other members of the Fox 11 sports and news staffs.

Webb getting up to speed at QB

140619_webb_insideCHARLOTTE – Joe Webb has always been a student of the game, and that’s even more so the case with a new playbook and a position switch on his list of assignments.

Like most students, Webb enjoys field trips.

“You can sit there and look at the Xs and Os in the classroom, but there’s nothing like coming out on the field, getting the actual reps, learning from your mistakes and capitalizing on your chances,” Webb said. “It’s helping a lot.”

Webb got ample opportunity to reacclimate to the quarterback position with his new team during the Panthers’ nine-week offseason workout program that concluded Thursday. With starting quarterback Cam Newton taking part in his first team drills of the offseason Thursday – three months after ankle surgery – Webb, along with returning quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Matt Blanchard, got more reps than usual.

Webb took advantage.

“Joe has been doing a really good job, and especially in our offense, which isn’t an easy one for quarterbacks,” center Ryan Kalil said. “These camps are meant to throw a lot of information at guys and see what the guys can handle and what they can’t, and he’s done a really good job with it.”

Webb signed with the Panthers as an unrestricted free agent less than a week after Newton’s surgery. Webb spent his first four NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, predominantly playing quarterback the first three years before switching to wide receiver in 2013.

He said Carolina presented the perfect opportunity for him.

“For one, I wanted to get back to quarterback. Coach (Ron) Rivera gave me that chance here, and I appreciate him for that,” Webb said. “Second, the offense fits my style of play. Plus, everything felt like home, just felt right when I came up here on my visit and my workout. It just felt right, and mom and dad always tell you, ‘Go with your heart.’

“It’s been great. I love the city, and my new teammates have accepted me with open arms.”

Webb rushed for 2,774 yards at Alabama-Birmingham, the third-most in NCAA history for a quarterback but a number that could have been even bigger if he had just played quarterback. As a sophomore, Webb was the team’s second-leading passer, rusher and receiver, completing 65 passes while catching 30 catches.

Known for his blazing speed, there’s no truth to the rumor that the former Blazer completed some passes to himself.

“The playbook they have in, I ran a lot of that in college at UAB with the zone read and things like that,” Webb said. “Whatever wisdom I have, I’m sharing it. That includes coming from receiver and understanding where those guys are coming from. That helps me communicate with them on a whole different level.”

Webb’s strong summer hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“He’s competing,” general manager Dave Gettleman said. “He’s athletic. He’s got a big arm. He’s done a real nice job in the two-minute stuff.”

Last year, the Panthers carried just two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. Could Webb change that approach?

“You’ve got to see how it plays out,” Gettleman said. “It all depends upon what your roster looks like at 53.”

If Webb isn’t able to crack the roster as a reserve quarterback, that doesn’t mean he won’t be on the roster.

“I’m open. Whatever Coach Rivera has for me in the future, I’m open,” Webb said. “I’m a team guy. Right now, they have me focused on quarterback, so I’m just putting all my energy into the quarterback position. I hope it pays off.”

Tuesday in Hawkville: Marshawn Lynch reports, but likely won’t practice

The wait has ended, as Marshawn Lynch reported for the Seahawks’ mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. But the wait to see him carry the ball continues, as the team’s leading rusher has a sore ankle – and he never gets the ball much until the regular season begins anyway.tempRM2_9360-2--nfl_mezz_1280_1024

FOCUS ON: MARSHAWN LYNCH

Shortly after his teammates took the practice field for the start of the Seahawks’ minicamp, Marshawn Lynch emerged from the locker room wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

Yes, the team’s leading rusher is present for the mandatory minicamp. But it’s unlikely that he will participate because of a sore ankle.

But just the will-he or won’t-he report frenzy in the media leading up to the three-day minicamp had even coach Pete Carroll cracking wise after practice.

“That was a big story. We expected him to be here and he’s here,” Carroll said.
Even if healthy, Lynch would not have done a lot in this final stage of the offseason program. That has been the team’s approach the past three years, and it’s understandable considering Lynch has more carries (901) than any back in the NFL since 2011.

Last summer, Lynch got five carries in the preseason and then carried the load in the Seahawks’ run to the Super Bowl – 301 carries for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season; 65 carries for 288 yards and four TDs in the postseason. In the summer of 2012, Lynch also had five preseason carries and then produced career-highs in carries (135) and yards (1,590). In 2011, it was six carries in the preseason, followed by 285 carries for 1,204 yards and 12 TDs in the regular season.

“We have rested him a lot in the offseason,” Carroll said. “He takes a big pounding during the year and it takes him a long time to get his body back to where he doesn’t feel the rigors of the season.

tempRM2_9296-2--nfl_mezz_1280_1024“In this case it’s unique, but he is a unique player and he has a unique role on our football team. So we have to do what we have to do to take care of him.”

During Lynch’s absence from the just-completed OTA sessions, incumbent backup Robert Turbin and second-year back Christine Michael have been getting the first-unit reps and making the most of their opportunities. But Lynch remains the legs that will carry the offense.

Asked if Lynch is still the bell-cow back, Carroll said, “Absolutely. We expect him to come right back in battling and doing the things that he does. Turbo and Christine, those guys want some time, too. And they’re battling. They’ve had great offseasons for us.

“But Marshawn really has been the guy for us, and we love everything about the way he plays and what he brings to this team.”
DARRINGTON COMES TO THE SEAHAWKS
In March, a contingent from the Seahawks paid a visit to the Darrington community in the aftermath of a mudslide that has claimed 42 lives. Tuesday, a 22-member group from the Darrington High School football team watched practice from the sideline.

Afterward, senior-to-be quarterback Trent Green – yes, his name really is Trent Green, just like the former NFL QB – was cradling a football that contained autographs from All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas, Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Percy Harvin, among others.

“Just being around these guys is a crazy feeling. I can’t even explain it right now,” Green said. “Getting to watch them, it’s pretty cool to see them and be this close to them.”

What does Green plan to do with his autographed football? “This is going to go in a case in my bedroom,” he said.

IT’S OFFICIAL: RUSSELL WILSON IS A GOOD GUY

Russell Wilson isn’t just a good player; the Seahawks’ third-year quarterback is a good guy.

Such a good guy, that Wilson has been selected as the 2014 Good Guy Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America. Wilson is the 10th recipient of the award, but the first Seahawk to be honored.