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Atlanta Falcons adding AJ McCarron to serve as Matt Ryan’s backup

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The Atlanta Falcons have found their backup for Matt Ryan at quarterback, agreeing to terms with AJ McCarron on a one-year deal Friday.

The addition comes a day after the Falcons decided to pass on two of the five quarterbacks taken in the first round of the draft to select tight end Kyle Pitts out of Florida. After the first round of the draft, general manager Terry Fontenot said the team would still be looking to acquire a quarterback. He just didn’t indicate how.

But the Falcons needed one because, prior to McCarron, the only quarterback on the roster had been Ryan.

“There’s still a chance we could definitely draft a quarterback,” Fontenot said Thursday night, before the agreement with McCarron was announced. “We got a long way to go, and there are some good quarterbacks that I believe [are] in the draft still. Still a chance we could draft a quarterback or, again, we could get out of the draft and there could be a trade.

“There are still a lot of other opportunities to acquire quarterbacks and to fill out the roster the right way.”

McCarron, 30, has played for three teams since being a fifth-round choice by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014. He played in 17 games between Cincinnati, Houston and Oakland with four starts — three for the Bengals in 2015 and one for the Texans in 2019. He has completed 109 of 174 passes in his career for 1,173 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

Last season, McCarron threw just one pass — a 20-yard completion to Steven Mitchell in a 41-38 Week 17 loss to the Tennessee Titans and his new boss, then-Titans offensive coordinator and now-Falcons coach Arthur Smith.

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New Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence has the mane of a man who means business

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When Trevor Lawrence stepped off the plane and onto his new home soil of Jacksonville, Florida, this past Friday, his first instinct wasn’t to smile or give a thumbs up. It wasn’t to shout “Duuuval!” and yank a Jacksonville Jaguars cap atop his head.

Instead, as the quarterback reached out with his right hand to accept the greetings of his new team, he placed his left hand atop his head, where his fingers caught a handful of glorious caramel blond hair before those locks could cascade down to cover his chiseled face and block it from the lenses of the waiting cameras. Then he strode toward those cameras with a handclap, a smile and a hair flip worthy of a gasp from Tyra Banks on the runways of “America’s Next Top Model.”

Yes, Jags fans, Trevor Lawrence has finally arrived, with his No. 1 arm, No. 1 throwing ability and, more importantly, his No. 1 head of hair. They are football follicles of such fortitude, they have made others famous by association, “others” ranging from social media sensations to nicknames, and lookalikes to faux tweets from the hair itself. Barbershops in his hometown have offered “The Trevor.” His mop has been chronicled by TMZ. And, after Lawrence dismantled Alabama in the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship game, GQ wrote, “He is Fabio if Fabio could drop a 60-yard dime against college football’s most perennially feared defense.”

When he once casually revealed he uses Pantene Pro-V to porter his plumage, drug stores in Upstate South Carolina saw a run on the shampoo from high school boys seeking to recreate Lawrence’s secret serum. Troy Polamalu, the pioneer of NFL hair wash endorsements, has offered up the advice of tucking in the hair, lest Lawrence get yanked down by it as Polamalu famously was following an interception against the Chiefs in 2006.

When filament-filled photos taken throughout Lawrence’s spring were sent by ESPN.com to multiple high-profile hairstylists for analysis — from his pro workouts, the Masters, his wedding, the cover of Sports Illustrated — the responses ranged from shock to jealousy.

It is the mane of a man who means business.

“It is definitely a new spin on helmet hair,” said celebrity hair and makeup artist Bryce Carey, who has worked with opulent head tops ranging from Rosario Dawson and Laura Rutledge to Ryan Lochte and Jesse Palmer. “It is as equally impressive in a headband as it is in a black-tie blowout. It is obviously well maintained, conditioned and groomed to perfection. It totally gives me fourth Hanson brother vibes.” And Carey means that as a compliment.

For three years, Clemson students have worn blond wigs with white headbands to games at Death Valley, to parties at the Esso Club and along every fashion mag/Insta post pose-worthy point in between. (If you want one of your own, you can order it via the internet from San Diego-based Watt’s Wigs. For $19.99, the “Star Athlete Headband Wig” comes adorned with a “#16” headband in either Clemson orange or Jaguars’ teal.) When the topic of his grand strands is inevitably raised at news conferences held from the CFP to the 904, his hair hastily hijacks the proceedings, as it did continually last week during his pre- and post-NFL Draft appearances.

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at this point when I get questions about my hair, but I am,” the 21-year-old said last week during the buildup to his impending selection atop the draft. “I guess I thought maybe people would be used to it. I mean, I’ve had it for a while now.”

How long has his ‘do been this long? The literal roots of it go back to his freshman year at Cartersville (Georgia) High. Believe it or not, Lawrence’s first days as a Purple Hurricane were spent wearing a buzz cut. He was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and then moved to Cartersville, located about 45 minutes northwest of Atlanta. Neither location will ever be confused with Haight-Ashbury or the Sunset Strip, so short is how he had worn his hair his entire young life, sitting side-by-side with childhood buddy Joshua Mayo as his mom, Mrs. Rose Mayo, got out the clippers and sheared them like sheep.

But during his first days of high school, Lawrence and three teammates dared one another to not cut their coiffures for as long they could stomach it. The goal was to see both who could hold out the longest and if any of them could actually pull off the look. The answer to both challenges was Trevor Lawrence, though the early returns were not promising.

“It got a little rough-looking there in the middle,” recalled dad Jeremy Lawrence, a steel plant safety and environmental manager who has worn a buzz cut his entire life. “But he’s young and it grows fast.”

It grew a little too fast for the coaching staff at Cartersville, an old-school bunch who prefer their players’ lettuce be high and tight instead of long and lustered. But young Trevor had already taken over as starting QB as a freshman, throwing for 3,053 yards and 26 touchdowns, leading the Canes to the Georgia state semifinals. The coaches, looking around the “Friday Night Lights” town of 22,000 and seeing kids and adults alike wearing No. 16 jerseys and a smattering of blond wigs, decided that allowing Lawrence to keep his hair was probably the best way for them to keep their jobs.

Another gig positively affected by T-Law has been that of Cartersville hairstylist Scott Holder, who owns and operates the Hair Techniques salon with wife Holly. You know the place, down there off South Dixie Avenue, between Picketts Guitar Shop and Wilson Pools Depot. The Holders are longtime family friends of the Lawrences, so when Trevor decided he wanted to go as long off his neck as he did down the field, his mother, Amanda, called Holder, and he has been the caretaker of football’s most famous fibers since 2015. Throughout his college career, including last week’s draft, whenever Lawrence has felt the need to shape his strands, he has made the two-and-a-half-hour drive home for Holder’s handiwork, a quickly but carefully layered effort that takes about 20 minutes.

By the way, Hair Techniques is not the salon that offered up “The Trevor” — it was a rival shop elsewhere in town, but the good people of Cartersville didn’t bite. They had long seen the Holders sitting alongside the Lawrences at Hurricanes home games and then every Clemson postseason game, so they knew a cosmetology counterfeiter when they saw one.

Speaking of fur fakers, no one has ever had a problem with a pair of digital Trevor tributes that originated just down the road from Cartersville. From an undisclosed location described only as “near where he grew up,” a fan who prefers to remain anonymous runs the @TLawHair account and posts every latest great photo of Lawrence’s ‘do with the hashtag #GoWithTheFlow. The account’s big break came when Clemson retweeted it on the video board at Death Valley. Lawrence himself has responded multiple times with emojis. “It’s opened my eyes to how many guys complain on social media about his hair, and several ladies want to know the secrets to maintain the golden flow,” the Twitter user wrote to ESPN.com on NFL draft night. “We’ll see if Trevor lands a Pantene gig to go along with his Adidas, Gatorade and other endorsements!”

Meanwhile, in Alpharetta, located on the road between Cartersville and Clemson, high school student Bella Martina became a TikTok sensation two years ago, when classmates told her she looked like Lawrence. Her brother posted shots of Martina posing like famous photos of Lawrence. As of last week, the video had 2.4 million views, and its sequels, including a side-by-side of Lawrence’s reaction to her look and images of a trip to Clemson where she met the QB and head coach Dabo Swinney, have totaled more than 36 million views and counting. Martina became such a phenomenon on the Clemson campus, she was recruited by candidates for student body president and vice president to record campaign videos on their behalf. They won. Following the draft, Bleacher Report flew her to Jacksonville in Jags gear to see if the locals might mistake her for their new hero. They totally did.

Only days away from high school graduation, Martina’s latest viral video shows her posing in her customary No. 16 Clemson jersey and headband, with the promise of announcing where she will attend college this fall. She raises her arms in triumph and mimics a QB who was a high-round NFL draft pick last week … but it’s Alabama’s Mac Jones! Yes, after two years of wearing nothing but orange, Martina is rolling with the Tide down to Tuscaloosa!

“Clemson fans have been pretty lighthearted, which I appreciate. They know I am capable of having my own life outside of Trevor Lawrence, and we’re mostly making jokes about us being rivals,” said the Artist Formerly Known as Trevor Lawrence Girl. Speaking of, is she going to have to get a new nickname? Because, like her doppelganger, she certainly isn’t getting her hair chopped off. “Maybe Trevor will get a new nickname in the NFL that will trickle down to me.”

Lawrence’s hair has spawned nearly too many nicknames to count, but we will anyway. GQ certainly wasn’t the first to look at his wondrous wool and think of Fabio, the waterfall whiskered king of romance cover novels and reality television. But how does Fabio feel about the comparison? Reached by email, he responded saying he loves it, adding: “I wish Trevor well. I hope he has a good conditioner and good O-line, but I’m still a Seahawks fan. Go Hawks!”

Others have drawn a comparison between the god of Touchdowns and the god of Thunder, and it is a very literal interpretation of a drawn comparison. We reached out to Marvel Studios for a statement from Thor himself, but we were informed he is currently off planet with the Guardians of the Galaxy filming “Thor: Love and Thunder” (in theaters February 2022!).

But on the same day of the NFL Draft, Marvel Comics released a series of superhero-inspired cover images depicting some of the most likely big first-round picks. While there was much debate and discussion about what to do with the likes of Najee Harris and Zach Wilson, as soon as the artists saw a photo of Lawrence, there was no conversation needed. “Come on, this was too easy, right?” Marvel expert and podcaster Angelique Roche exclaimed when talking about Lawrence’s treatment as the legendary Thor #177 cover art by Jack Kirby. “Just look at his hair!”

Then, there is the perm treatment of Lawrence nicknames, tagged on Lawrence in high school and amplified the instant his spun gold could be seen bouncing from beneath his helmet as he touched Howard’s Rock and ran down The Hill.

“Yeah, I’ve heard ‘Sunshine’ pretty much my whole life,” Lawrence explained last fall, referring to the moniker bestowed upon Ronnie Bass, the Californian-turned-Virginian QB in “Remember The Titans,” a film that hit theaters the week before Lawrence’s first birthday. Bass, played by Kip Pardue, shows up for his first practice sporting a flowy long blond head of hair, drawing the ire of the T.C. Lawrence coaching staff, not unlike the reaction of Lawrence’s coaches in Cartersville, though head coach Herman Boone makes Sunshine get out the scissors before he’s allowed to suit up as a Titan.

“Yeah, that’s not how that went down,” the real Ron Bass clarifies today. First, “Sunshine” didn’t stem from his hair, but rather his sunburned skin. As a protest of having to move away from California, he stayed on the beach for a solid month in the, you know, sunshine. Second, as the son of an Air Force officer, Bass had a buzz cut, but when he joined the Titans, they were all sporting shaggy ‘dos. “Remember now, this was Washington, D.C. in 1971. Long hair was in, so I had to grow mine out to fit in with those guys.”

Bass went on to play college football at South Carolina, where he kept his high school nickname secret. It didn’t resurface until the movie was released. So, does it bother him there is now a second Sunshine, and he played at archrival Clemson?!

“Nah, man, he’s so good, I can’t be mad about that,” says Bass, 65, now a TV sales director in North Myrtle Beach. “I coached my son in football for years, and every team he ever played against, from youth league through high school, if they had a kid with long blond hair he was called ‘Sunshine.’ There will be more. Trevor just happens to be the best one.”

If we start reading between the hairlines here, have we uncovered the real source of Trevor Lawrence’s power? Not the weight room or the passing drills or even all of those Chick-fil-A sandwiches he eats after wins. Think about it. It was only after the original Sunshine grew his hair out like his teammates that the Titans became so remembered. Thor and his Avengers teammates couldn’t take down Thanos until after he had regrown his buzz cut back to shoulder length. And since Lawrence entered into his hair club pact with his high school teammates, he has posted a combined high school/college record of 86-6 with zero regular-season losses.

Wait, has this story turned into a Dan Brown novel? Have we followed those tiger paws painted on the streets of Clemson until we’ve stumbled out of the playbook and into the Good Book? Strength derived from hair length?

“The strength of Samson was in the vow, not the hair, but still, nothing good happened after Samson got the trim,” Commander Nathan Solomon, longtime U.S. Navy Chaplain and biblical scholar, explained. Solomon is referring to the Nazarite Vow, a series of devotional actions that includes a refusal to cut one’s hair. When Samson, a.k.a. The World’s Strongest Man (prior to that Magnus Samuelsson guy on ESPN2), had his hackles hacked off in his sleep, he became mortal. “Yeah,” the preacher says of anyone who might try to talk T-Law into a makeover of his mane. “Let it be a sign unto them. Leave it alone.”

It does feel a bit prophetic that Lawrence is moving not to New York or Chicago or some other place where perhaps a head of hair such as his would be met with scoffs and scrutiny. But he is in Jacksonville, located just a Hail Mary toss below the Georgia state line. It is, after all, the hometown of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and what was it they wrote in “Gimme Three Steps?”

Hey there fellow with the hair colored yellow, whatcha tryin’ to prove?

“Oh, he won’t get any resistance down here for that haircut, not in Jacksonville,” says Brent Martineau, who covers the Jags for, among other outlets, ESPN 690 AM. “This was the home of [Gardner] Minshew Mania, with the mustache and hair. And if you’ve ever been in this town, we have no lack of long hair, especially when the guy with the long hair is the No. 1 pick in the draft.”



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Did Raiders again ‘reach’ in the draft? Depends upon your definition – Las Vegas Raiders Blog

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HENDERSON, Nev. — Still trying to figure out how the Las Vegas Raiders could reeeaaach, yet again, for their first-round draft pick — this time Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood?

After taking Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 overall in 2019. After making Henry Ruggs III the first receiver selected in an historically-deep draft for wideouts in 2020.

Stop.

As in, stop trying to figure it out. Because it all depends upon your definition of “reach,” and who, exactly, is defining it.

Look, the Raiders, like 31 other NFL teams, have their own draft boards and rankings and really don’t care about your mocks or what Mel Kiper Jr., Daniel Jeremiah or anyone else thinks heading into the draft.

“I ignore it 100 percent, except for the fact that I think it’s part of my job to understand league value,” said Raiders general manager Mike Mayock, who, before being hired by the Raiders in 2019, used to make a living placing values on college players and producing his own mock drafts for NFL Network.

“So if you’re going to move up or down the board, you have to know what league value on players are.”

This is not to defend, or decry, the Raiders’ thinking as much as it is to explain how they could select Leatherwood, nowhere near a consensus Top 5 offensive tackle, at No. 17 overall.

To paraphrase Sally Field, the Raiders loved him. They really, really loved him. And at the end of the day, that’s all that mattered. Or did you miss Mayock, who used to make a living alongside the likes of Kiper and Jeremiah, saying that, ratings be damned, Leatherwood was their guy at No. 17?

“In all honesty,” Mayock said, “he was the highest-rated player on our board at that time — offense or defense.”

And there it is. As in, per the Raiders’ draft board, the notions of specific need and best player available intersected when Las Vegas came on the clock. And from Las Vegas’ perspective, the pick was a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, much of Raider Nation was ready to leap from the Stratosphere Tower after the Leatherwood pick, what with both Christian Darrisaw and Teven Jenkins still available. Surely, the Raiders could have traded back and still got their man, no?

Eh, no. Not according to Mayock.

“Just when we got on the clock a team did call us and inquired about moving up but they gave us a very poor trade offer and it was a team that needed a tackle,” he said. “So the combination of the poor offer and their need kind of pushed us away from that.

“There’s a risk/reward scenario and, in this case, we didn’t feel that it was worth it.”

Looking back, the only team after Las Vegas to select an offensive tackle in the first round was Minnesota, who took Darrisaw at No. 23 (Jenkins went 39th to Chicago).

The Raiders trading up in the second round to get the consensus top-ranked safety in Trevon Moehrig at No. 43 seemed to quell Raider Nation. Because, really, had you flipped those two picks — Moehrig in the first round and Leatherwood in the second — many would have celebrated on the Strip.

In reality, the Raiders addressed two real and specific needs at right tackle and free safety and both Leatherwood and Moehrig should start this fall.

Same as in 2019, when the Raiders needed a defensive end and they took the highest-guy on their board at the time in Ferrell, and last season with Ruggs.

“He was the only person I wanted in this draft,” Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN.com of Ruggs during training camp.

Hate the player, not the game … or somesuch.

“I mean, it definitely put a chip on my shoulder,” Leatherwood said of his pre-draft rankings, despite being the reigning Outland Trophy winner and a captain for the national champs. “It bothered me a little bit, but at the same time I’m not a media guy. I’m not the type of dude to get caught up in all that garbage, because I know what my film said about me. And the GM and the coach, they know that as well. I’m just grateful that they watched that film and they saw me as good enough to be the 17th overall pick.

“I’m more than excited to get to the program and prove them right. Not necessarily prove the haters, the people who made all the mock drafts and all this stuff wrong, but to prove to myself and the Raiders organization right.”

And so it went for the Raiders the remainder of their draft — taking an edge rusher who was deemed a late-round prospect at No. 79 in Malcolm Koonce, selecting a receiver-turned safety who will be converted into a weakside linebacker in Divine Deablo one pick later, trading up to draft another safety in Tyree Gillespie at No. 143 before addressing the secondary again it with cornerback Nate Hobbs at No. 167 and then bookending their draft with another offensive lineman in center Jimmy Morrissey.

Yeah, offensive line coach Tom Cable has some juice within the walls of Silver and Blackdom.

Really, the biggest surprise was that five of Las Vegas’ seven picks were on the defensive side of the ball, as it was the first time in franchise history the Raiders did not draft an offensive skill position player.

Or have you forgotten Jon Gruden coaches the Raiders and has final say on personnel decisions?

Mayock laughed.

“I love Jon,” Mayock said at the conclusion of the draft. “He was so good. I mean, we went into Day 2 and we attacked the defensive side of the ball and he was more excited than I was …

“And at the end of the day, you’re right, Jon Gruden is an offensive guy, but what did we do all weekend, we tried to help our defense get better and I give him a ton of credit for that. He was all in.”

Still trying to figure it out?

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Detroit Lions sign ‘Lance Chance U’ RB Rakeem Boyd as undrafted free agent

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The Detroit Lions announced Monday that they’ve agreed to terms with 13 undrafted free agents, including Rakeem Boyd, whose name may ring a bell for football fans.

Not only was Boyd a star running back at Arkansas, he also starred in Season 3 of Netflix’s “Last Chance U” docuseries.

“Swear ima make em pay.. been in this position before,” Boyd tweeted Saturday.

Boyd fits the mold of tough-nosed players that the new regime added during this year’s draft class. In 2018 and 2019, he led Arkansas in rushing before opting out of the end of the 2020 regular season to focus on the NFL draft.

As a junior, he rushed for 1,133 yards with eight touchdowns in 12 games.

He entered the national spotlight on the “Last Chance U” Netflix series during his stint at Independence Community College in Kansas where he rejuvenated his career after transferring out of Texas A&M due to early academic issues.

By 2020, Boyd would clean up his act to finish his Arkansas career averaging 5.81 yards per rush, which was sixth-highest in school history.

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