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New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s mother dies at 98



New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s mother, Jeannette, died of natural causes Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland, a club spokesman confirmed. She was 98.

Jeannette and Steve Belichick met at Hiram College in the 1940s, where Jeannette taught Spanish and French, and Steve was a coach. They married in August of 1950, and Bill was born in 1952.

In 2015, Bill Belichick made a donation to Hiram College, located in Hiram, Ohio, to honor the legacy of his parents in the areas of campus life upon which they made a lasting impact.

The Jeannette Munn Belichick ’42 Endowed Fund was created to provide support to the school library in purchasing books and other resources related to foreign languages. In addition, the Jeannette Munn Belichick ’42 Reading Room named the space on the first floor of the school library.

Steve Belichick died in 2005 at 85. At Hiram, there is now the Coach Steve Belichick Olympic Training Center.

The Belichicks raised Bill in Annapolis, where the Patriots coach received the first-ever key to the city earlier this year.

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Can Sheila Ford Hamp’s lifetime experience help turn around Lions?



Soon after Sheila Ford Hamp became owner of the Detroit Lions in June, she reached out to an old friend. They trade emails frequently, discussing grandkids, life and memories of their time together at Yale. However, this conversation would be different.

The friend had written a book, one she felt her employees should read. The author, at first, suggested something shorter. Perhaps the New York Times op-ed he wrote in April. Hamp said no. She wanted them to read the 320-page book instead.

In many aspects of her life, Hamp has gone beyond words to action. She had already publicly backed her players’ right to speak out on racial and social issues. Those topics, she said, had “finally, finally, thank goodness, gotten national attention.” She approved if her football staff chose to sign free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began protesting police brutality during the national anthem in 2016.

Those were the words. What happened next provided action.

Her friend is Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, author and documentarian Henry Louis Gates Jr., who wrote “Stony The Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and The Rise of Jim Crow,” which was published in 2019.

Along with a letter Hamp and Gates co-wrote to the team “talking about this particular moment in history and race relations and why this moment was very similar to the collapse of reconstruction and the rise of white supremacy,” Hamp distributed copies of the book to everyone in the organization and invited Gates to speak to the Lions.

The meeting took place over Zoom on Aug. 28. Three days earlier, and long after the Gates meeting had been set up, the Lions became the first pro team to protest police brutality and systemic racism over the shooting of Jacob Blake by canceling their practice.

“What the Lions have not gotten credit for is that had they not boycotted practice, the NBA would never have done what they did,” Gates said. “It was the Lions who really started this process leading to the Wednesday boycott. I think the NBA was just following the Lions’ lead.”

The presentation began with a 20-minute clip of one of Gates’ documentaries. Socially distant and wearing masks at the indoor practice field, those in the room stayed silent. Gates addressed the players’ protest in his opening remarks.

Then Hamp led a question-and-answer session with Gates, focusing on the history of race, the rise and fall of reconstruction, the importance of voting rights and getting out the vote. She asked him, ‘Why is reconstruction important?’ and ‘Why did you choose to do this now?’ Her third question, before opening the floor to players, was, “What can these Lions players do to address systemic racism?”

The whole session lasted 90 minutes. Players had enough questions that it could have gone much longer.

“This was all Sheila’s idea — to buy the book, to distribute it, to have me do a presentation,” Gates said. “To give people on the team a chance to talk to me and a way for them to brainstorm about channeling all of the anxiety and fear and anger that we all have about George Floyd and other things we have happening in the United States.

“That’s the kind of person she is. It’s a long-winded way of saying: How many owners of the NFL are calling Black scholars to talk about race?”

During Hamp’s senior year of high school at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, Yale announced it would allow female undergraduates for the first time.

Hamp, a high-level tennis player with family history at the school, applied. In 1969, she moved into Vanderbilt Hall as one of the first 230 freshmen women to enroll.

“They weren’t really ready for it then,” said Margaret Pfister, a member of the second class of Yale female undergraduates and one of Hamp’s Yale tennis teammates. “Like, what are we going to do with these girls? Oh, we’ll lock all the freshmen up in the Vanderbilt dorm, put a guard there and see what happens.

“That’s really what happened on the old campus.”

Female athletes had to change in their dorms and bus to the courts. Tennis started as a club sport — the first coach essentially had only high school coaching experience — and became one of Yale’s first varsity teams. They mostly competed against other Ivy League schools and took a spring break trip, raising money for it through their families. They had uniforms, practice time and, eventually, locker rooms, but little else.

“We had to apply some pressure in order to move the university in the right direction,” former tennis teammate Linden Havemeyer Wise said.

By the spring of her junior year in 1972, Hamp became one of 16 rising seniors and part of the second group of women chosen to in Book and Snake, a prestigious Yale secret society on which she still sits on the board.

Part of the allure of Book and Snake, besides her family history in it, was its diversity. Among the new members was her future lifelong friend, Gates, who said five women and five Black people were in their class.

Tradition required attendance at dinners Thursday and Sunday nights. Part of society requirements was presenting an autobiographical accounting of your life called “The Auto.”

“This was all Sheila’s idea — to buy the book, to distribute it, to have me do a presentation. … How many owners of the NFL are calling Black scholars to talk about race?”

Emmy-winning historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Sheila Ford Hamp

“You had to tell them what’s good about you, what’s bad about you, your hopes, your dreams, your fears,” Gates said. “I don’t know how the tradition started, but that’s the heart of the experience, so you really get to know people intimately.”

As much as she loved tennis, football was her passion. Gates recalled her “mastery on the subject.” While she majored in art history, Hamp was one of two women admitted into a 15-person seminar called “Sports and American Society,” taught by legendary sportswriter Red Smith.

As part of the once-a-week course that discussed social issues of the time and their relation to sports, they wrote papers for The New York Times writer and future Pulitzer Prize winner to read.

“Red critiqued our papers,” said Lawrie Mifflin, the other woman in the seminar who became a sportswriter for the Daily News and The New York Times. “So there was an element of writing, of getting that kind of input from him, criticism of your writing, which was fantastic.” Hamp got an A on one. She still has it.

When Hamp graduated in 1973, she wanted to work for the NFL. She spent years going to events and games with her father, then-Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. Times were different. No job existed for her.

She’d wait more than four decades for the chance, finally starting to have a large input in an NFL franchise when her mother took over ownership after her father died in 2014.

Harold Skramstad was inside his suburban Chicago home 40 years ago when his doorbell rang. Hamp, in her late-20s, stood unannounced outside with a plea. Come work for her and her family.

Skramstad was happy in his job as the director of the Chicago History Museum. He had been contacted by a headhunter about this position. He said no. Then Hamp showed up, asking him to reconsider, explaining the importance of the job.

She had no reason to think Skramstad would change his mind and run The Henry Ford Museum, where she sat on the board. Still, she went after her target to try to persuade him.

“It was an impressive showing,” Skramstad said. “I was impressed that a board member of the organization was that interested in it, that they were willing to go out and take some bold moves.”

Hamp’s visit led to Skramstad going through the interview process and taking the job. Together, they turned The Henry Ford from an also-ran into a state-of-the-art museum.

After his first board meeting, Skramstad saw the passion. She pushed for change, bringing in outside board members with fresh ideas, including recruiting Roger Penske, among others, to help.

Hamp, who remains on the board as vice chair, helped negotiate securing and transporting the Firestone Farmhouse to the museum. She and Penske earned the first sizable donation from General Motors to the museum. Everything as a team — their plan, not her plan.

It’s that type of collaboration and forward thinking that could be a benefit for the 68-year-old in perhaps her biggest challenge: Owning the Lions.

After decades of watching, she spent five years at her mother’s side. Part of it was apprenticeship, but she had input on massive moves, including retaining general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia last year and the mid-season firings of then-team president Tom Lewand and then-general manager Martin Mayhew after a 1-7 start in 2015.

When her mother stepped down and made Hamp the controlling owner, she became the third Ford to run the team in more than a half-century of futility, with one playoff win and no Super Bowl appearances.

This is her job, to try to change the fortune of a franchise badly in need of one.

“One of the things she learned very young and has stayed with her is, ‘Can I really make a difference at this organization? Because that’s the only way I can do it,'” Skramstad said. “For Sheila, she’s got to be all-in or all-out.

“… The thing that excited me the most about the change at the Lions is she’s going to do this with the same sort of sense of commitment and research and as a competitor, she’s not going to let anything get in her way.”

While she knows she’ll have to become more public in her new role, Hamp values her privacy. Her bio in the team’s media guide is six paragraphs — two of which are devoted to her taking over ownership and working as vice chair. She declined interview requests for this story.

After marriage, she and her husband, Steve, settled into an older Ann Arbor, Michigan, neighborhood where they had three kids and largely blended in. The children played sports — particularly soccer, and, for years, Hamp was “Coach.”

“The main thing that sticks out to me now is how much you would never know that Sheila was a Ford or a member of a family of that stature or was that well off,” said Ace Anbender, one of the kids-turned-adults Hamp coached on her son Peter’s team. “She was very much like your average soccer mom turned coach.

“She was great at overseeing the team, making sure things were organized.”

High-level tactics were unnecessary. These were elementary school kids. Yet she spent time studying soccer and tried to create the best experience possible. As the team advanced in age, she brought in an assistant to handle intricacies of the game.

For years, she led purple-jerseyed Rampage players in the Ann Arbor Rec & Ed League with varying levels of seriousness and humility.

“Our first season, the first or second game, I let in my first-ever goal,” said Greg Brown, one of her players. “There are certain sports experiences that are traumatic, if you will. In this instance, I let the goal in and then I completely and utterly broke down on the field. I’m there in the goal box, having just let the goal in, crying and sobbing, thinking the world was over.

“Sheila was the first one to rush right out and comfort me and console me. That is the kind of person she is, the kind of friend, the kind of coach she was.” Brown was 5.

Hamp traditionally held end-of-season parties at their home with video game consoles in their basement and cans of Orangina for the kids.

Sheila and Steve Hamp became friends with the parents of other children on the team, including Peter and Roseann Brown. Doug and Greg Brown played on two separate teams with the Hamp children, Kiff and Peter. Roseann became Sheila’s co-coach.

They couldn’t have been more different: Hamp the former college athlete, Brown the graphic artist who knew nothing about soccer. Hamp ran drills. Brown focused on the mental side — one practice teaching visualization instead of skill development.

A close friendship formed. The Hamps and Browns were frequent dinner partners. Sometimes, Greg and Doug tagged along with Hamp to Lions training camp.

When Roseann received a breast cancer diagnosis, the Hamps were there and helped wherever possible for years. When Roseann became sick at a soccer function, Sheila took Greg back to the Hamp home and he spent the night — a small measure of comfort remembered decades later. Sheila took Roseann’s sickness hard, but remained positive. When Roseann’s condition worsened in 2001, Sheila visited several times. A pre-Christmas dinner gave Roseann brief respite near the end of her life.

When Roseann died in January, 2002, at age 46, Peter asked Sheila to give a eulogy at the memorial service. Sheila declined. It was a private moment of grief and too hard for her to speak. She called back hours later to say she’d do it.

At the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor, Sheila told the story of getting lost on a walk in northern Michigan and Roseann asking if she’d ever seen how clouds always look flat on the bottom — something Sheila still looks for.

Decades later, memories of Roseann remain: Several pieces of her work are displayed in the Hamp’s Ann Arbor home.

While Hamp is passionate about sports and that part of the family business, she also held her love of the arts. It led her to a small theater company in Chelsea, Michigan, called The Purple Rose. Its founder, actor Jeff Daniels, is a massive Lions fan. One day, a development director brought Hamp to see the theater. The company was rehearsing for a production.

Perhaps she saw an organization in need of her help — Daniels was busy working, and artistic director Guy Sanville said the Board of Directors was “in disarray.” Maybe she just liked the play. It was enough to get Hamp and her husband to join in 2009.

They assisted in redeveloping the board, including splitting Sanville’s roles to create separate artistic and executive directors to manage the theater. They brought in outside help — like she’d done at The Henry Ford years earlier — and helped turn a small operation into a modern nonprofit.

They helped create Ford Fridays, offering reduced costs for new theater customers with benefits to help convince them of membership, and developed a 10-year capital fundraising campaign to sustain The Purple Rose for the next 25 years. With other board members, they formed a Backyard Barbecue fundraiser in 2012 that began small — raising $25,000 — and grew into a 300-person event raising $250,000 per year.

“She is not someone who, you can see some boards where people are on it and perhaps you write a check. There’s not that kind of engagement,” said Maria Leonhauser, a Purple Rose board member and friend of Hamp’s. “She’s engaged. She does her homework. She is really prepared for all the meetings. It’s really, it’s a joy because I have served on other boards where it’s not the same, you know.

“Sheila gets things done. When she commits, they get all that she can do. My theatre company is better because of Sheila and Steve’s leadership. The Lions will be as well.”

Actor Jeff Daniels

“That’s what I mean by she’s been grooming herself for it. It’s grooming herself for this to continue to really, whatever she’s going to undertake in a leadership role she’s going to make sure she does it correctly using that kind of governance she’s demonstrated.”

When the Hamps became co-chairs in 2014, Sheila made her intentions clear in a short, to-the-point speech. She said they were going to do things the right way, preached accountability and put people in positions to succeed.

The Hamps have seen every play The Purple Rose has performed since joining the board — often on opening night. They know every person in the company, something Sanville called a rarity. “Sheila gets things done,” Daniels said in a statement to ESPN. “When she commits, they get all that she can do. My theatre company is better because of Sheila and Steve’s leadership. “The Lions will be as well.”

Throughout many aspects of her life, Hamp has shown an openness to learn and willingness to take chances, and understands the importance of loyalty.

It’s what she did at the museum. At the theatre. At Yale. And, potentially, with the Lions — where she mentioned wanting to understand football analytics to help her in her job.

The competitiveness of being a high-level former college athlete remains, too. In one answer at her introductory news conference, she said “I hate to lose” three times in 20 words. She has waited almost a half-century for this. Prepared, in some ways, her whole life for it.

Sheila Ford Hamp will push change when necessary. You might see it. You just might not hear she was the one who did it.

“It’s never about her. It’s not,” Leonhauser said. “It’s all about these responsibilities that she takes on but not so she can toot her own horn about it. She just goes about her own business and does what she thinks is right.

“And that’s her strength.”

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NFL early-season QB awards – Russell Wilson’s historic start, Kyler Murray’s weaving scrambles, more



The quarterback star of the 2020 NFL season thus far is hardly a new name. Here’s the best thing I can say about Russell Wilson after the Seattle Seahawks‘ first two games: He has thrown almost as many touchdown passes (nine, a league high) as he has incompletions (11).

Against all odds, the campaign to “Let Russ Cook” has worked! In a dramatic departure from coach Pete Carroll’s typical philosophy, the Seahawks have called the eighth-fewest designed running plays in the NFL (44). Wilson’s 610 passing yards is a career high for the first two games of a season, and the Seahawks are 2-0 amid what is likely to be a fierce NFC West race.

The Seahawks’ shift behind Wilson provides an ideal starting point for the first edition of our periodic handing out of quarterback awards, using unique data culled from ESPN Stats & Information and NFL Next Gen Stats unless otherwise noted. Let’s get started.

According to Elias Sports Bureau data, Wilson has the highest completion percentage (82%) in NFL history after the first two weeks of a season with a minimum of 50 attempts. And he has achieved exceptional accuracy despite making throws that in some cases are quite difficult. Wilson’s off-target percentage is 6.7%, by far the lowest in the league, and he has been able to connect on passes that NFL Next Gen Stats regards as among the least likely to have been completed.

His 38-yard touchdown pass to receiver David Moore in Week 2, for example, carried a 6.3% completion probability — by far the lowest for any quarterback throw this season. The ball traveled 55 yards in air distance and hit Moore, who was 0.4 yards away from the sideline and tightly covered (within 0.8 yards) by New England Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty.

Overall, Wilson leads the NFL with a 13.9% completion percentage over the expected rate (CPOE). We shall see if Carroll continues to allow Russ to cook. Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, it would be head-scratching not to.

While Wilson leads the NFL in CPOE, Brees ranks near the bottom. He is completing 8.4% below his expected rate this season, No. 33 in the NFL.

Part of the reason is that he isn’t attempting many difficult throws. Through two games, he ranks No. 32 in the NFL in completion percentage outside of the numbers (48%) after leading the NFL in such throws (74%) last season. He has also thrown only two passes that traveled 20 or more yards past the line of scrimmage.

Overall, he is averaging 4.8 yards per attempt, the lowest of any quarterback through his team’s first two games since Brett Favre averaged 4.0 in 2009. In that season, his first with the Minnesota Vikings, Favre was returning from offseason surgery to repair a partially torn biceps tendon. The Vikings purposely started him off slowly, but Favre eventually had one of the best passing seasons of his career in leading the team to the NFC Championship Game.

You could connect Brees’ struggles on outside and deep throws and wonder if his arm strength has waned. But similar questions were being asked about Favre in 2009. We’ll find out the answer soon enough.

Yes, I mean that literally. Jackson, who won the 2019 MVP in part because of the electrifying runs he made en route to 1,206-yard rushing season, has the NFL’s best Total QBR on passes thrown from the pocket in 2020.

To be fair, Jackson has left the pocket before throwing on nearly half of his attempts. But when he has remained inside the pocket, Jackson has completed 30 of 36 passes for 369 yards, four touchdowns and a QBR of 97.

This is not to make any dramatic conclusions about Jackson’s stylistic trajectory. He still has the second-most rushing attempts by a quarterback (23) and the third-most QB rushing yards (99) in the league. And we should also note that his pocket QBR last season (78.9) ranked No. 2. But if you needed any reminder of Jackson’s well-rounded game, we’ve gotten it in the first two weeks of the 2020 season.

In his second year, Murray ranks No. 5 overall in QBR (83.8) in large part because of his open-field running ability. He has scrambled 11 times on dropbacks, gaining 120 yards and scoring twice. That’s the most scramble yards through Week 2 since ESPN began tracking it in 2006.

Murray’s QBR is lower on passing plays — he ranks No. 21 in the NFL at 72.7 — but the Cardinals’ quick-throw offense seems well suited for a young quarterback growing into the role. Murray has thrown 35.9% of his passes to targets at or behind the line of scrimmage, the highest rate in the league. And he is releasing his average throw 2.58 seconds after the snap, the NFL’s eighth-lowest rate.

The second-year QB hasn’t had much success yet on deeper passes, having completed four of 12 attempts on throws that traveled at least 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. But the Cardinals are 2-0 and their average of 27 offensive points per game ranks No. 11 in the league. That’ll do.

Before Week 1, Allen had never thrown for more than 266 yards in a game. But he lit up the New York Jets in Week 1 for 312 yards, and then dropped 417 on the Miami Dolphins in Week 2.

That production is due in large part to some impressive downfield gains. Boosted by the acquisition of receiver Stefon Diggs, Allen has completed an NFL-high 14 passes that traveled at least 15 yards in the air (in 17 attempts), including two for touchdowns. He has a perfect 100 QBR on those throws.

It’s fair to point out that Allen has still struggled with his accuracy at times. His off-target rate is 16.3%, putting him at No. 16 in the league. And when the season is over, we might look back and realize that he lit up two of the NFL’s worst teams in Weeks 1 and 2. But he is still making plays in the running game, rushing for 75 yards and one touchdown. And at this moment, at least, he is the most improved quarterback in the league and one of its best overall.

It would be tough to wrap up a quarterback awards column without noting who leads the NFL in both QBR and NFL Next Gen Stats’ expected points added. That’s Rodgers, who is 36 years old and already the target of a clear succession plan following the team’s decision to make quarterback Jordan Love its top draft pick in April.

Like Wilson, Rodgers has completed some of the most difficult passes of the young season. His throws of 40 and 24 yards to receiver Davante Adams in a Week 1 dissection of the Vikings rank as No. 3 and No. 4 on NFL’s Next Gen Stats’ list of lowest completion probability receptions. On the first, Adams had only 0.7 yards of separation from the nearest defender. On the second, Rodgers scrambled 19.7 yards toward the right sideline before firing to Adams in the corner of the end zone.

To be sure, Rodgers has gotten plenty of help from his teammates. He has been pressured on just 12 of his 77 dropbacks, fewest in the first two weeks of a season in his career. But Rodgers’ start to the season has effectively quashed the offseason narrative.

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Falcons’ Hayden Hurst shares support for Cowboys’ Dak Prescott speaking on mental health



Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst said he approached Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott after Sunday’s game to express his support in the wake of what Hurst called “disgusting” comments made by Fox Sports 1’s Skip Bayless about Prescott’s opening up about his mental health.

Prescott recently shared in an episode of “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” that he sought help in the offseason for anxiety and depression brought on by the death of his older brother, Jace, and the coronavirus pandemic. Jace Prescott died by suicide in April. Dak Prescott also lost his mother to colon cancer in 2013.

In response to Prescott’s comments, Bayless said on his “Undisputed” show, “I don’t have sympathy for [Prescott] going public with, ‘I got depressed’ and ‘I suffered depression early in COVID to the point that I couldn’t even go work out.’ Look, he’s the quarterback of America’s team.” Fox later issued a statement condemning Bayless’ remarks.

Hurst, who has been open about attempting suicide and dealing with anxiety and depression, said he was appalled by Bayless’ words.

“To be totally honest with you, when I saw what Skip Bayless said, it just really upset me — that Dak had the courage to come out and talk about that and how it affected his family, how it affected him — and those [Bayless] comments, I thought, were just disgusting,” Hurst told ESPN on Tuesday night. “For a guy to come out and talk about that topic and use his platform to try and help and save lives, I’ve got nothing but respect for him because I know how hard it is going through stuff like that.

“It hit my family hard. My uncle killed himself. My cousin killed himself. And I had my own stuff with addiction and my attempted suicide. I know how much courage it takes to come out and talk about that. And for a guy like [Bayless] to blast Dak on his show, on national television, I think that’s just wrong. So I wanted to go up to Dak and talk to him and tell him how much I appreciated it.”

Following the Cowboys’ 40-39 win over the Falcons on Sunday, video captured Hurst stopping Prescott to say, “Hey, I’ve got a lot of respect for what did, came out and talked about. Me and my mom have a foundation about suicide prevention. Respect the hell out of you for talking about it, man.”

Prescott responded with a suggestion that they collaborate one day, to which Hurst replied, “Absolutely.”

“I thought it was awesome,” Hurst told ESPN. “I’m sure Dak Prescott doesn’t really know who I am. But I know the courage that takes, because a lot of people don’t like talking about mental health. They’re afraid to talk about it. They’re embarrassed. If guys like Dak Prescott can come out and talk about it, I think he’s going to save a lot of lives. I think that’s cool. I admire him. And I’ll be a Dak Prescott fan forever. I think he’s an awesome guy.”

Hurst previously shared his story about attempting suicide in January 2016 when he was in college at South Carolina. He had an unsuccessful stint in minor league baseball as a pitcher due to a throwing condition known as “the yips,” started using drugs and drinking heavily, then tried to slit his wrist. He survived what he called his “come to Jesus moment” and now tries to educate others about dealing with depression.

Hurst established the Hayden Hurst Foundation with his mother, Cathy, to raise awareness of mental health issues in children and adolescents by funding mental health services and programs through donations and fundraising events. The foundation will host a charity golf event Oct. 19 in Atlanta.

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