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Niners’ Dee Ford underwent ‘extensive’ knee surgery after Super Bowl LIV



SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After dealing with knee tendinitis that plagued him as far back as last year’s training camp, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Dee Ford made it an offseason priority to fix the issue.

Ford revealed Friday that he underwent a “pretty extensive cleanup” surgery on his left knee in Pensacola, Florida, a couple of weeks after Super Bowl LIV. Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery and Ford has been rehabbing in Alabama since.

“We were spot-on with the injury as far as diagnosing it in training camp,” Ford said. “I had a severe case of tendinitis. … With my position, that’s a blown tire. I feel great right now. I’m able to actually explode off of this knee. Thinking back on it, I can’t believe I played a whole season on it, and we knew at the end of the day what we had to do. It had to be surgical, but I didn’t want to miss the season. We had too much going on. I didn’t want to miss that. It’s in the bag now, though, I’m confident in that.”

Asked what the timeline was on his rehab, Ford demurred, noting that because the tendinitis has been a chronic issue, it’s hard to determine when or if it will return. And because the coronavirus pandemic has forced the offseason to become exclusively virtual, Ford hasn’t had much of a chance to test his knee in football situations.

“Anytime you are dealing with a chronic issue, you are always on the clock,” Ford said. “So if I’m able to play, I’m going to play. As of right now, I’m just getting as healthy as I can. … I know exactly what I felt like last year, [and] doing the things that I’m doing now, it’s like night and day. We’ll just play it by ear once everything gets going. We haven’t really had an offseason, no one has really been in competition, so it’s just really hard to measure where you’re at. So we are going to take it one day at a time and just keep getting this thing as strong as we can possibly get it so we can sack some quarterbacks.”

Previously, Ford has said the knee (and corresponding quadriceps issue) plagued him for many of his previous six seasons in the NFL — perhaps never more so than last season, his first in San Francisco.

In March 2019, The 49ers sent a 2020 second-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for Ford, whom they promptly signed to a five-year, $85 million contract. With Ford in place as their designated speed rusher off the edge and No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa providing a strong bookend on the other side, the Niners envisioned a dominant pass rush.

That mostly was the case. During the regular season, the Niners had 24 sacks on 164 snaps when Bosa and Ford were on the field together. They had 24 sacks on 801 snaps on all other plays.

Ford had 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 11 regular-season games, adding one sacks in three postseason contests. But even when Ford was available to play, he was limited to an average of just 21.9 snaps per game.

As the Niners surged to a 13-3 record and an NFC championship, Ford declined to have the knee worked on so he could attempt to contribute in any way possible. Still, he said the inability to stay on the field was frustrating.

Before the season finale against Seattle with the No. 1 seed in the NFC on the line for the Niners, Ford had re-injured the hamstring that had kept him out for most of December but he offered to play, even if meant playing the role of decoy.

Instead, the Niners continued to rest him in hopes that he’d be more available for a postseason run.

“It was so tough,” Ford said. “When the stage is that big and the stakes are that high, big time players come out in those type of games and the fact that I was missing those opportunities, it definitely hurt. But we sat down as a training staff… and we were all on the same page with ‘we’ve got one shot to do this right’ because we are definitely going to be in the postseason. I had to forget about how I felt and just move forward. It was tough but it was just what we had to do so I could be available for the Vikings and the Super Bowl and all that.”

Moving forward, Ford hopes that the surgery will give him a chance to play a more prominent role on a defensive line that has become the focal point of the team. With defensive tackle DeForest Buckner traded to the Indianapolis Colts, Ford will be expected to replace some of that production even though he plays a different spot on the line.

Before the knee slowed him early last season, Ford said the game was coming to him a bit easier, which he hopes will help if his health holds up.

“For me, I was able to see a lot more, I was a lot more confident, I just wasn’t able to stay out on the field,” Ford said. “So, alleviating that problem is definitely going to put me in an advantageous situation this year. I’m trying to rack up as many sacks and TFLs as I can and help our team get back to the Super Bowl.”

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Bengals’ Joe Burrow partners with food pantry for hunger relief fund



Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow has partnered with local organizations in Southeast Ohio to create a hunger relief fund named in his honor.

On Thursday, the Athens County Food Pantry and Foundation for Appalachian Ohio announced the creation of the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund that will serve the region. Between the pantry’s donation and a dollar-for-dollar match from the FAO, the fund held $700,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

“I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support from people across the country around the food insecurity issues faced by those in my region,” Burrow said in a release. “The initial funds that were raised have had an immediate impact for people throughout Athens County, and I am honored to lend my support and voice to this new initiative that will ensure that impact lasts long into the future.”

The Bengals’ rookie quarterback has been vocal about the topic long before he led LSU to the College Football Playoff championship in January and was the top overall pick in this April’s NFL draft.

When Burrow won the Heisman Trophy in December 2019, he mentioned the issue of hunger in Athens County, where he spent the majority of his childhood. A fundraiser sparked by Burrow’s comments elicited roughly $650,000 in donations.

Karin Bright, president of the Athens County Food Pantry, said that once donations started to pour in, the organization wanted to not only address immediate needs but also look at any long-term impact that could be made. That sparked the idea for the endowment that was announced Thursday.

“It sends a very clear message that as a food pantry, we really are looking at things in a long-term way and we are looking at supporting this region,” Bright said.

According to a report released by the Ohio Development Services Agency in January 2019, Athens County had a poverty rate of 30.2%, which was the highest of any county in Ohio and doubled the statewide average. Per the Athens County Food Pantry, an estimated 12,900 people in the county — nearly one in five people — were food insecure before the spread of COVID-19.

In establishing the relief fund named after Burrow, Bright said there was a significant amount of discussion with Burrow’s parents, Jimmy and Robin, throughout the process that culminated with Thursday’s announcement.

Cara Dingus Brook, the president of the FAO, said the fund named after Burrow will help provide the level of support required to creating lasting change when it comes to food insecurity in the region. Brook said naming the fund after Burrow was “a fitting thing to do” because of the impact Burrow has made throughout the community.

“It has been a shot in the arm for everybody here,” Brook said. “So often in an area that has suffered from persistent poverty, with it can come a culture of diminished expectations.

“And so to see this success and this success to say to everybody else, ‘You can do it, too,’ it just totally embodies everything we as a foundation believe is going to lead our region forward and help solve some of these really generational issues, whether it’s economic issues or food insecurity.”

The new fund named after Burrow will be operated by the FAO and help the Athens County Food Pantry continue its efforts throughout Southeast Ohio.

“Being able to create this endowment is just another incredible way we’re going to be able to continue our work and support our region,” Bright said.

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Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie’s documentary film company finishes ‘The Meaning of Hitler’



Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie’s documentary film company, Play/Action Pictures, on Thursday announced the completion of its inaugural project, which has been in the works for three years: “The Meaning of Hitler.”

Lurie is an executive producer for the film. The threat of white supremacy is a topic that has been important to him for some time, and this is an example of his commitment to addressing social issues.

The announcement comes as Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has received widespread condemnation for his social media posts, including an anti-Semitic message that he attributed to Adolf Hitler.

Jackson spoke with Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman — both of whom are Jewish — on Tuesday, a source told ESPN’s Tim McManus, with Lurie expressing deep disappointment about the social media posts. Jackson expressed a desire to educate himself and to work directly with the Jewish community, and his camp contacted the rabbi at Chabad Young Philly a short time later to discuss ways for Jackson to donate to and work with the organization.

The documentary, which uses the 1978 best-selling book of the same title as a guide, was filmed in nine countries over three years.

“We couldn’t be prouder that ‘The Meaning of Hitler’ is the first completed film made by our new documentary production company, Play/Action Pictures,” Lurie said in a statement. “I envisioned Play/Action to be a leading creative force for films that engage with the most crucial and challenging issues of our time. The rise of white supremacy and neo-fascism in the United States and the world over are among the most important and serious threats we face today.”

Lurie and his former wife, Christina, won an Academy Award in 2011 as executive producers of “Inside Job,” a documentary that examined corruption on Wall Street.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter contributed to this report.

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No more jersey swaps? NFL players mock new game-day protocols



As the NFL plans for how to play through the coronavirus pandemic, the league distributed new game-day protocols to teams on Wednesday. As word spread, some of the rules — such as a ban on postgame jersey swaps — drew the ire of current and former players on social media, even though the NFL Players Association has signed off on the policy.

Here’s a roundup of what players are saying about the new rules that will take effect for 2020 preseason and regular-season games.

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