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QB Sam Darnold says uncertainty ahead of trade to Carolina Panthers was ‘tough’ to deal with

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As thrilled as Sam Darnold appears to get a second chance with the Carolina Panthers, he admitted it was tough moving on from the team that drafted him and even tougher being kept in limbo the past three months while the New York Jets explored their options at quarterback.

“That was tough. I’m not going to lie,” Darnold said Monday in his first public comments since the Jets traded him a week ago. “That was the tough part for me, just because … I’m a planner. I like to have things planned out and what the next step was going to be.

“The uncertainty there was, for lack of a better term, driving me insane.”

The Jets never committed to Darnold, the third pick of the 2018 draft, after the 2020 season as they evaluated what they might do with the second pick of this year’s draft. It wasn’t until Ohio State’s pro day on March 30 that talks with Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer escalated.

Six days later, the Panthers gave New York a sixth-rounder in 2021 and a second-rounder and fourth-rounder in 2022 to complete the deal.

Darnold called the trade “bittersweet” because he never accomplished the goals he had set for himself coming out of USC.

“Obviously, getting drafted as high as I did, my expectations were to go in there, play 20 years and win Super Bowls,” he said. “That was the dream, but obviously it didn’t work out.

“Anytime you go somewhere and set lofty goals and those goals aren’t met, that’s tough. When I heard the news they wanted to trade me, that was tough. Anytime you’re not wanted somewhere, that’s always a tough pill to swallow.”

Darnold was 13-25 in three seasons with the Jets, including 2-10 last season. He had 45 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions with a completion rate of 59.8%.

He finished as the NFL’s lowest-rated passer in 2020 (72.7), 36th out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks. His career passer rating of 78.6 ranks 39th out of 39 since 2018.

Asked if the Jets gave up on him too soon, Darnold danced around with his answer.

“For me, personally, I believed I could make it work in New York,” he said. “Now that the trade has happened, obviously that frame of thinking doesn’t do me any good anymore. I’m ready to start here at Carolina and hit the ground running.”

Darnold had some fun when asked what kind of advice he’d give his successor, who is likely to be BYU’s Zach Wilson, according to draft analysts.

“Have fun and don’t pay attention to the media,” Darnold said with a laugh. “Nah, I’m joking, guys. The first part is definitely true. Just have fun with it. At the end of the day, it’s football.”

The Panthers traded for Darnold after failing to complete a deal for then-Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford and realizing that the top three picks of the draft — belonging to Jacksonville, the Jets and the San Francisco 49ers — likely would be quarterbacks.

Coach Matt Rhule doesn’t believe Darnold’s statistics or record define who the quarterback can be.

“You see his arm talent,” he said on a Zoom call prior to Darnold’s. “I don’t think there’s a game you watch where he doesn’t make a play that makes you say, ‘There it is.’ He can fit the ball into tight windows and create with his feet. He moves around a ton. He extends plays with his legs.

“His arm talent and movement are a great fit for the players we have here that he’ll be playing with.”

Rhule acknowledged that Carolina has given last year’s quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, permission to talk to other teams.

“We’ll just have to let that play out,” he said. “Obviously we brought Sam here because we think he can play at a very high level.”

Rhule said Darnold, who doesn’t turn 24 until June, gives Carolina the flexibility to take the best player available at No. 8 in the draft. He didn’t rule out taking a quarterback there even though there are needs at left tackle and cornerback.

“We’ll look at anything and everything,” he said. “We recognize maybe there are positions we’d like to address in the draft, either via draft-day trades, post-draft trades or in the draft. I do think with the eighth pick you take the best available player. Now, if two guys are close, you take the guy that fits your need as well.”

Darnold said everything you would expect him to say about the Panthers and what they offer in terms of giving him a chance to win. He laughed about how owner David Tepper said he could come to him for advice on business or finance anytime.

He can’t wait to play with running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Robby Anderson, his favorite target with the Jets in 2018-19, in addition to other pieces.

Reminded that Jets general manager Joe Douglas once promised Darnold’s mother “to do everything in my power to take care of Sam with protection and playmakers,” Darnold said he had nothing but respect for Douglas.

“With the promise to my mom, we all know how it is by now,” he said. “It’s a business. It’s just what it is. I’ll be able to go home and make sure she feels a little bit better now.

“Like I said, it’s a business. My mom, I think she understands that now.”

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Bruce Arians to Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians hasn’t felt the need to bring in a specialist to talk to his players about the COVID-19 vaccine, which some players leaguewide have expressed skepticism about in recent days.

While Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera brought Harvard immunologist Kizzmekia S. Corbett in to speak to his players Tuesday night, Arians said Thursday, “I’m the specialist.”

He told players, “If you want to go back to normal, get vaccinated.”

Arians said the Bucs are holding a vaccine drive for players and their families at the facility.

“There’s going to be a long line over there right now,” Arians said. “We were pretty short up until now. Hopefully we have a pretty good line.”

Previous vaccine drives have also taken place at the facility for coaches and support staff members. The goal is to have 85% of the team vaccinated, which Arians feels they’ll be much closer to after the drive.

“Everybody’s tired of meeting out here and eating outside, and doing all those things we had to do last year,” Arians said. “It’s still a personal choice, but I don’t see a reason not to be vaccinated.”

When asked if any players expressed concern or skepticism, as Washington’s Montez Sweat did Wednesday, Arians said, “I haven’t spoken to anybody that’s resisted it. They’re just too lazy to get one.”

Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett said he and his wife, Jordanna, both received the vaccine. Their four children aren’t old enough to qualify for the vaccine at this time, as the CDC currently recommends children ages 12 and older receive vaccines.

Barrett missed the season finale against the Atlanta Falcons because he was a close contact of a teammate who tested positive, despite never testing positive himself. Still, he was forced to quarantine for five days. His children were home-schooled in 2020 and did not have play dates with other children because of concerns about the virus.

“It’s ‘to each their own.’ I recommend it,” Barrett said Thursday. “I don’t know why people wouldn’t get it. But whatever makes you comfortable, whatever helps you sleep at night, you do that. But I would like for 85% of the team to be vaccinated.”

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Kansas City Chiefs hope Kyle Long back by start of regular season after leg injury in practice

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs are hopeful guard Kyle Long can return for the start of the regular season after he injured his leg Wednesday, sources told ESPN.

Long was signed by the Chiefs in the offseason after he ended his retirement after one year. He wrote about the injury on Thursday on his Twitter account.

“I did everything I could to get back for football,” Long said. “Zero regrets. … Focusing on controlling the things I can control. Yesterday was not one of those things!”

Long, 32, was working as the starting right guard at offseason practice. Other candidates to start include Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and rookie Trey Smith.

Drafted 20th overall by the Chicago Bears in 2013, Long missed just one game over his first three seasons, in which he was selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls, but appeared in just 30 regular-season contests over his last four years with the team because of a variety of injuries. He announced his retirement in January of last year.

NFL Network first reported that Long had suffered a leg injury.



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Fantasy Football cheat sheets – Updated 2021 player rankings, PPR, non-PPR, depth charts, dynasty

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If you’re seeking a one-stop shop for updated 2021 fantasy football rankings and cheat sheets throughout the summer, you’ve come to the right place. Below, you will find them for PPR and non-PPR formats, as well as dynasty leagues.

PPR positional cheat sheet

One sheet with players broken down by position, including overall rank, salary-cap value and bye weeks for leagues that award one point for each catch. Download »

PPR top-300 cheat sheet

This sheet features 300 players in order of overall draft value, with positional rank, salary-cap value and bye-week information for leagues that reward each catch with a point. Download »

Non-PPR positional cheat sheet

For leagues using the scoring format that doesn’t award an extra point for each reception. One sheet with players broken down by position, including overall rank, salary-cap value and bye weeks. Download »

Non-PPR top-300 cheat sheet

This sheet features 300 players in order of overall draft value, with positional rank, salary-cap value and bye-week information. Download »

Mike Clay’s team-by-team projection guide

If you want the full breakdown for all 32 teams, you’ve come to the right place. Download »

NFL team depth chart cheat sheet

Fantasy depth charts for each NFL team: top two QBs, three running backs, four wide receivers, two tight ends and a kicker. Prioritized by fantasy value in PPR leagues rather than role defined on a traditional NFL depth chart, includes players’ positional ranks. Download »

Dynasty cheat sheet

Features the top 240 players and 60 best rookies to make all of your keeper and dynasty league decisions. Includes the age of players at the start of the 2021 season. Download »

*All cheat sheets are in PDF format. Your device must be equipped with a PDF reader for you to access and print the cheat sheet.

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