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Golf at Bank of America Stadium? Panthers’ DJ Moore brings new meaning to deep target – Carolina Panthers Blog

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — DJ Moore couldn’t help himself.

The Carolina Panthers wide receiver knew the objective was to hit targets and score points, but he didn’t know if he’d ever have another chance to knock a golf ball out of Bank of America Stadium.

So he gave it a rip.

Several rips.

“I got it to the other side of the stadium wall,” Moore said with a laugh after participating in Topgolf Live’s 2021 stadium tour in late March. “I couldn’t get it into the other side of the stands.’’

Neither could Brandt Bronico, a member of the MLS’ Charlotte Football Club that will begin playing soccer at the stadium in 2022.

“I definitely tried,’’ he said. “I was able to reach the back of the other side, the lower section. Maybe if I had a 6- or 7-iron …”

Panthers backup quarterback Will Grier admittedly didn’t try, thinking ahead to the consequences as he would with a pass that might be intercepted.

“I didn’t want to want to go tell Mr. [David] Tepper I broke his scoreboard,’’ he said, referring to the Panthers owner.

Tiger Woods in his prime probably couldn’t have done that. No more than an 8-iron was allowed and the balls were designed to make it almost impossible to go beyond the 160 to 170 yards from the tee located in a bay area of the west end zone below the owner’s suite to the east end zone stands.

There also are protective nets in front of the video/scoreboard and suite windows.

That doesn’t mean at least a few among the 4,300 that attended the four-day event, like Moore, weren’t tempted to land a ball on Mint Street to show off their length.

Seattle’s Safeco Field, home of baseball’s Mariners, hosted the first stadium event in 2017. Since then it has grown and expanded to more stadiums across the nation, such as Chicago’s iconic Soldier Field and Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Grier, an avid golfer, understands the temptation to knock it out of the park. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“If you shape it, you can hit it out,’’ he said, referring to a big hook or big slice needed to go out of the stadium sideways.

And even then it would take a precision shot.

“I sliced one into the stands,’’ Bronico said. “Other than that, I was relatively accurate.’’

Grier, Moore and Bronico appreciated the opportunity to participate in the event. But for Grier, as a Topgolf rep, it wasn’t as eye-popping looking over the stadium wall onto the skyline of Charlotte as other moments he’s experienced.

“I did an event in San Diego where we hit golf balls off the USS Midway to a floating target in the bay,’’ he said of the aircraft carrier. “That was super cool.’’

For Moore, who doesn’t own his own clubs and has limited his golf game to Topgolf venues thus far, this event rivaled catching a touchdown pass at BOA.

“They’re close,’’ he said.

This definitely was the highlight of Moore’s day, which included an informal throwing session with Grier to stay sharp. This was his thought as he set up for his first shot.

“Like, I’m really about to hit a golf ball into Bank of America Stadium,’’ he said, his voice growing an octave higher. “It was unique for us … we got to do something other people can’t say they got to do.’’

The objective of Topgolf is to hit one of the six targets 60 to 140 yards from the tee. You score the most points by hitting the blues that are 110 to 140 yards away. Yellows are 55 to 85 yards and reds are 40 to 60 yards.

The most you can score is 4,000 points, and it would take five holes-in-one to do that.

“It’s never happened,’’ Tomasik said.

Grier felt good with the 450 he recorded, considering he’d spent much of the day throwing.

“I was a little sore,’’ he said. “So I shot mostly at the shorter targets.’’

The score wasn’t a priority, anyway. It was the visuals of hitting into the stadium with the breathtaking backdrop of the city that made this special and made questions about the upcoming season an afterthought.

It was particularly spectacular at night when the targets lit up like the office buildings towering a few blocks away.

Grier’s wife, Jeanne, had just as much fun as anyone and she sent a few balls into the stands.

“It’s hard to take your eyes off the skyline,’’ Grier said. “That’s definitely very scenic. My strategy was nice and smooth, try to hit the shorter targets. My wife’s strategy was just trying to hit the ball.’’

Then there was Moore and Bronico, who tried what many wanted to do.

“It was real competitive in there,’’ Moore said. “I was looking at people that bought bays and I was seeing them hit it to the back wall, and I was like, ‘All right. I can do that, too.’

“So I was competing with people who didn’t even know I was competing with them. . . . That was a unique experience.’’

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Minnesota Vikings name Phil Rauscher new O-line coach because of COVID-19 protocols; Rick Dennison still with team

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The Minnesota Vikings announced Tuesday that Phil Rauscher will replace Rick Dennison as the team’s offensive line coach this season.

Dennison, who isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19, will remain with the team as a senior offensive adviser.

In addition, Ben Steele has been added by the team as assistant offensive line coach.

ESPN had reported on Friday that Dennison was out because he wasn’t vaccinated, but the Vikings later said they were in discussions with him on the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols.

Dennison had served as the Vikings’ offensive line coach/run-game coordinator the past two seasons.

The vaccine is required for all Tier 1 staff, including coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers and scouts. Players are not required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but will face strict protocols during training camp and throughout the season that vaccinated players will be able to forgo.

In a memo released by the league this summer, the NFL said any unvaccinated Tier 1 staff member must provide a valid religious or medical reason for not receiving the vaccine. Losing Tier 1 status prohibits coaches from being on the field and in meeting rooms and having direct interactions with players.

ESPN’s Courtney Cronin contributed to this report.

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Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson wants to win Super Bowl, then change jersey to No. 1

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If Lamar Jackson has his way, he won’t be wearing No. 8 for much longer.

On the Ravens‘ team podcast “The Lounge,” Jackson said he has a personal reason to change his jersey number, although he has to achieve something in order to make the switch. “If we win the Super Bowl, I’m going to No. 1,” Jackson said. “I want the No. 1. That’s my first number ever. My dad told me, ‘Get No. 1 because that’s the best. You’re the best.’ And it always stuck with me.”

Jackson, who wore No. 7 in high school, was given No. 8 when he got to Louisville. He kept No. 8 because his mother said the number represented “new beginnings.”

Jackson’s No. 8 has become a hot commodity among the Ravens. Inside linebacker Patrick Queen wore that number at LSU and jokingly tried to pry it away from Jackson this offseason, when rules changes allowed more options for players.

But Jackson made it known he has his sights set on owning two numbers. “I want to retire No. 8 and No. 1,” Jackson said. “I want to do that here at the Ravens. So, I want to win a Super Bowl with No. 8 on, do as much as I can with No. 8 on, then come back and do the same thing with 1 on.”

The Ravens don’t officially “retire” uniform numbers. There are a handful of jersey numbers that have not been used since certain players retired, including linebacker Ray Lewis (No. 52), offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (No. 75), safety Ed Reed (No. 20), linebacker Terrell Suggs (No. 55) and guard Marshal Yanda (No. 73).

Jackson has led Baltimore to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, compiling a 30-7 record in the regular season. But he has struggled in the postseason, where he is 1-3 and has failed to advance past the divisional round.

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New York Jets open training camp without unsigned No. 2 overall draft pick Zach Wilson

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets opened training camp Tuesday without rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, who remains unsigned.

There’s more than the usual sense of urgency to resolve the contract dispute because Wilson, drafted No. 2 overall, is the presumptive starter. The Jets have no veteran quarterbacks on the roster, only James Morgan and Mike White, neither of whom has regular-season experience.

If Wilson doesn’t sign by Wednesday, the Jets — with a new coach and a new energy — will conduct their first practice with Morgan or White under center.

Coach Robert Saleh didn’t sound alarmed by the prospect of Wilson missing practice time.

“It’s something he’ll have to navigate through,” Saleh said. “I’ve got a lot of faith in Zach. He’s incredibly intelligent and he’s got a tremendous drive. When he does get here, I know somehow, someway he’ll make up for it.”

Saleh offered a glimmer of optimism, saying he has “a lot of faith” in general manager Joe Douglas and “we’ll see what happens in the next couple of hours.”

Wilson’s contract is slotted at $35.15 million over four years, including a $22.9 million signing bonus, but the two sides are squabbling over offset language.

The Jets include an offset in every contract, which provides financial protection if they release the player before the contract is complete. This isn’t an unusual stance. It’s believed that 30 of the 32 teams typically include an offset with contracts that have guaranteed money.

Like all first-round picks, Wilson’s contract will be fully guaranteed at signing.

The sticking point is that two of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round received deals with no offsets — Trevor Lawrence (No. 1 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars) and Justin Fields (No. 11 by the Chicago Bears).

The Lawrence contract came as no surprise because the Jaguars, along with the Los Angeles Rams, don’t use the offset clause. Fields has a partial offset; his 2021 base salary and roster bonuses from 2022 to 2024 have no offset. That’s almost 25% of the value of his entire $18.9 million contract.

An offset clause allows a team to cut a player before the end of his four-year contract is completed and have the remaining money reduced by the amount of his next contract. This is deeply rooted in the Jets’ negotiating philosophy, and they don’t want to create a new precedent.

Without an offset, a cut player collects the guarantee from his old team, plus the money he receives from his new team — a.k.a. double dipping.

Saleh said he’s not frustrated by Wilson’s no-show, saying, “No, this is business.” Tackle Mekhi Becton added, “I can’t wait to see him play.”

In 2018, the Jets and then-rookie quarterback Sam Darnold were involved in a brief contract dispute, which stemmed from payment schedule and specific language pertaining to guaranteed money. He wound up missing three days of practice.

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