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Browns coach admits late draw play a ‘bad call’

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CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens admitted that it was a “bad call” to try a draw play on fourth-and-nine during Sunday night’s 20-13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Browns had the ball at the Rams’ 40-yard line in the fourth quarter, with a chance to take the lead. But instead of trying to get the first down with a Baker Mayfield pass, Kitchens called a draw to Nick Chubb, who was stuffed for a two-yard gain.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, no NFL team had attempted a draw on fourth-and-nine or more since at least 2007, when ESPN began tracking such calls.

“It just didn’t work. It was a bad call,” said Kitchens, who is Cleveland’s offensive playcaller. “We’re trying to win the game and we’re on their side of the field. Bad call.”

With solid field position, the Rams drove down to kick a field goal and extend their lead.

Mayfield was also asked about the playcall, as well, but blamed execution for coming up short.

“I know what you guys are gonna try and do is talk about the playcalling,” Mayfield said. “But you know what, that’s why I said execution’s the most important thing. Whatever we have called, we have to do our job.”

The Browns still had a chance to send the game to overtime late, with Mayfield driving the offense to the Rams four-yard line with 43 seconds remaining. But after three incompletions, Mayfield’s desperation heave was picked off in the end zone, sealing the victory for Los Angeles.

Considering the Browns still had all three timeouts, Kitchens was asked why he didn’t try to run the ball with Chubb then.

“I should’ve run it one time,” Kitchens confessed. “I should’ve — that’s why I’m kicking myself in the ass for it right now.”

Kitchens, who took over as Cleveland’s interim offensive coordinator midway through last season as the Browns surged down the stretch, went on to take responsibility for Sunday’s loss, which dropped the Browns to 1-2 on the season.

“I gotta do a better job during the course of the week, putting these guys in better situations and then on game day,” he said. “So, if you’re looking to blame somebody, blame me. Don’t blame any of our players; don’t blame any of our other coaches — just blame me, because I can take it.

“Go write your article and say I messed the game up. Go write your article and say it’s my fault things [are] not looking like it did last year. Because it is.”

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Saints’ Drew Brees says he’ll ‘never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag’

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METAIRIE, La. — After earlier sharing a message of unity on social media, Drew Brees attracted backlash later Wednesday when he reiterated his stance on how he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America” during an interview with Yahoo Finance.

They were his first comments in the wake of George Floyd’s killing last week.

The star New Orleans Saints quarterback gave a lengthy response to ESPN when asked about the perceived conflict between those two stances — including the potential divide in his own locker room, where players like Malcolm Jenkins and Demario Davis are among the leaders of the Players Coalition seeking social justice and racial equality.

“I love and respect my teammates and I stand right there with them in regards to fighting for racial equality and justice,” Brees said. “I also stand with my grandfathers who risked their lives for this country and countless other military men and women who do it on a daily basis.”

Brees was outspoken in 2016 when he said he supported Colin Kaepernick’s desire to speak out against racial injustice, but he disagreed with Kaepernick’s method of protest during the national anthem.

He has not wavered from that stance — though he insisted Wednesday that his actions should represent what kind of a person he is.

“I believe we should all stand for the national anthem and respect our country and all those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms,” Brees said via text message. “That includes all those who marched for women’s suffrage in the 1920s and all those who marched in the civil rights movements and continue to march for racial equality. All of us … EVERYONE … represent that flag. Same way I respect all the citizens of our country … no matter their race, color, religion.

“And I would ask anyone who has a problem with what I said to look at the way I live my life. Do I come across as someone who is not doing my absolute best to make this world a better place, to bring justice and equality to others, and hope & opportunity to those who don’t have it? That’s what I meant by actions speak louder than words. … My ACTIONS speak for themselves.”

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Words to unite.. A mentor of mine once told me that if you listen closely, the sound of children playing is the same no matter where you are in the world. The laughing, shouting, screaming, giggling… No matter what language you speak, no matter what your race, color, religion… the exact same. At some point we all change… The reasons… Our environment, experiences, education…The voices and influences around us. If you are reading this, you are probably one of those whose voice and influence is very powerful in the life of a young person. So when you ask what difference you can make in this world… It’s exactly that. Raise, teach, but most importantly model to young people what it is to love all and respect all. There is a saying in every locker room I have been in… Don’t just talk about it, be about it. Acknowledge the problem, and accept the fact that we all have a responsibility to make it better. “Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying”

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Brees was referencing his social media post from Wednesday morning, which began with the header, “Words to unite” and talked about the importance of teaching and modeling to children “what it is to love all and respect all.”

“There is a saying in every locker room I have been in,” Brees wrote. “‘Don’t just talk about it, be about it.’ Acknowledge the problem, and accept the fact that we all have a responsibility to make it better. ‘Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.'”

Brees and his wife Brittany have been heavily involved in charitable efforts throughout his 19-year NFL career, including a recent donation of $5 million to help Louisiana during the coronavirus pandemic.

Brees’ comments were not specifically addressed by teammates immediately on Wednesday, though receiver Michael Thomas replied with an emoji to a reporter’s comment that read, “How can anyone watch George Floyd get murdered and their first response when asked about it is ResPEcC tHe fLAg.”

Thomas also retweeted other comments directed toward Brees’ statements.

Saints coach Sean Payton offered a passionate stance Tuesday, saying on social media that Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery were “murdered not killed” and calling for change in the November elections.

Saints and New Orleans Pelicans owner Gayle Benson released a lengthy statement Monday, decrying police brutality and announcing the creation of a Social Justice Leadership Coalition within both organizations involving Davis, Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick.



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Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott pledges $1 million to improve police training

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On an Instagram post, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has pledged $1 million “to improve police training and address systematic racism through education and advocacy in our country.”

It was Prescott’s first comments on social media regarding George Floyd, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis last week.

“As our communities take action, protesting and fighting for the justice of George and every black life, I am with you!” Prescott wrote.

Prescott said he has battled anxiety while facing the coronavirus pandemic without football. He also is mourning the death of one of his brothers, Jace, in April.

“He and I shared the same mission: Find a bigger purpose,” Prescott wrote. “As I process the passing of my brother, I have come to realize we are not given a voice to pronounce how much we matter. It is our obligation to tell our neighbor how much they matter to us and take a stand for the greater good of each other.”

Born to a black father and Native American and white mother, Prescott said being multiracial “is beautiful and that is what this country is.”

Floyd, who was black, died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin and three other officers subsequently were fired, and Chauvin was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Floyd’s death sparked protests across the United States.

While expressing respect for police, Prescott also asked them to change:

“I have the utmost respect for those of you with a passion for protecting and serving your communities. When you chose to wear the badge of a police officer, you pledged to PROTECT life and property through the enforcement of our laws and regulations. How can you claim to uphold the law when those within your ranks don’t abide by it? You need to hold your own accountable. Each of you are as guilty as the men who stood beside Derek Chauvin if you do not stand up against the systemic racism plaguing our police forces nationwide. TAKE ACTION!”

He said he would stand alongside the police in the reform.

“We will clean our streets and our communities not only of the looting and violence,” he wrote, “but most importantly the racism, racial-profiling and hate!”



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Texans won’t hold meetings so players can attend George Floyd’s funeral

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HOUSTON — The Texans will not hold virtual meetings on June 9, the day of George Floyd’s funeral, so that those players in Houston can attend if they are able, head coach Bill O’Brien said on Wednesday.

O’Brien is planning to attend the funeral.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man from Houston, died last week in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

On Wednesday, O’Brien spoke at length about Floyd’s death and the state of race in the United States, saying, “We stand by you, and we are ready to do our part in this community.”

“I think everyone has to admit their mistakes along the way,” O’Brien said. “We all have to stand up and understand that what is going on in this country right now is wrong. It’s wrong. Relative to many, many things.

“It’s not just police brutality, although that’s what we’re talking about right now. It’s corporate America. It’s professional sports. It’s the medical area. It’s the legal area. We all have to do our part. We all have to do it now.

“It’s 400 years ago, slavery. It’s segregation. It’s police brutality. It’s not equal opportunities. It’s so much deeper. … And we have to stand with the black community and we have to heed the call to action and challenge each other to live out the change that we want to see. I’m emotional. … I’m sad. I’m frustrated because I’m questioning, ‘What can I do?’ I’ve got to do more.”

O’Brien said his opinion surrounding the recent public issues have been shaped by conversations he’s had with players, including quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Kenny Stills, who was one of the more notable players to follow Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest during the national anthem.

“Listening to their life stories, and many others, like I said, has helped me cement my belief that we all must do what it takes to improve our country, especially as it relates to race relations,” O’Brien said. “It is horrendous what we are seeing and what we saw eight or nine days ago. What is great about our country right now is to me, the protests. The peaceful protests. The peaceful protests that we see on TV every night [have] just been an amazing example of what our country is all about.”

O’Brien’s comments took place before a scheduled call with safety Michael Thomas, who thanked his new head coach for what he said.

“Coach, that was encouraging to hear from you,” Thomas said. “Just looking back in 2016, 2017, being in Miami with Kenny, to hear a head coach say that, man, you don’t know how much [that means].

“To a young African American male in this country, it means a lot. So thank you Coach.”

In 2017, when the majority of Texans players took a knee after then-team owner Bob McNair made the comment, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison” during an owners meeting in reference to player demonstrations and protests during the national anthem, O’Brien was supportive of his players.

“When it comes to the players’ right to express themselves, I’m always for that,” O’Brien said in March 2018. “I think the players in this league, the players on our team, they have educated, intelligent opinions on what’s going on socially in the world.”

O’Brien said on Thursday, the team will meet with the players about Floyd’s death and the resources the team has available to help.

“I’ve told my players since 2014 that I have their back,” O’Brien said. “I told my players in 2017, ‘I have your back.’ I will continue to tell them that I have their back. If they need time to themselves, they can have time to themselves. If they need resources from us to try to begin to heal, we’ve got to help them. We’ve got a lot of resources here to do that. They will get it.”

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