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Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer challenges WR DJ Chark to be ‘big and strong’

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When Jaguars coach Urban Meyer watched film of the 2020 season shortly after he was hired to get an idea about the talent on his roster, he didn’t like what he saw from wide receiver DJ Chark.

Meyer expected a big, strong, physical receiver. That’s not what he saw, which just wouldn’t be good enough in 2021 and is exactly what Meyer told him.

“I just didn’t like his size. His strength, I just thought, was way below average, way below what we expect from our receivers, and he was told that,” Meyer said. “He’s a big guy that played little last year, and that can’t happen. Guys like [Saints WR] Mike Thomas and [former Florida and NFL WR] Louis Murphy are those big, strong, fast receivers, and he’s got to play big and strong.”

Get in the weight room, Meyer told Chark. Get bigger and stronger because if you don’t, you won’t be able to help us. It was a hard thing to hear but Chark, who rebounded from a disappointing rookie year in 2018 to make the Pro Bowl in 2019, accepted it and started working.

Five months later, the 6-foot-4 Chark is 7 pounds heavier — now weighing 210 pounds — and said he enjoys looking at the scale and seeing a bigger number as well as looking and feeling bigger.

“I love the challenge,” Chark said. “I love talking to Coach Meyer. He’s a competitor. He’s going to push me.

“… But I love it, man. He’ll push me to be better than what I am.”

Chark caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019, becoming just the fifth player in franchise history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards despite struggles from quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler. Last year, however, Chark missed three games because of injury and dealt with a sore shoulder and back the first part of the season. He caught 53 passes for 706 yards and five touchdowns and at times was visibly frustrated with the inconsistent quarterback play of Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton and Mike Glennon.

“I mean, we was 1-15. I don’t think anybody played as well as we wanted to,” Chark said. “Yeah, it wasn’t my best at all. There were times where I let the circumstances get a little bit — you know, control my output. I feel like if I’m going to be the guy I want to be, I’ve got to be that guy all the time.”

Meyer said he was pleased to see how Chark embraced some pretty pointed criticism.

“It tells you he’s a smart player,” Meyer said. “This whole world’s about increasing someone’s value, and DJ Chark can increase his value by getting bigger and stronger and playing that way. And he can also help us win. I mean, I love the fact there was no resistance. He acknowledged it, and [receivers coach] Sanjay [Lal] has been working with him. I love where he’s at.”

Chark should benefit from the additions of rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence and veteran wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. Jones will draw attention and won’t allow opposing defenses to concentrate on stopping Chark, who said he sometimes struggled with that late in 2019 after he established himself as the team’s top receiver.

Chark’s goal is to always be better than 2020, he said.

“I definitely think I could be way better than what I was last year,” he said. “That’s definitely the floor for me the rest of my career. I won’t be going back there.”

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Seahawks’ Russell Wilson says there were ‘unfortunate frustrations’ after last season but he wants to stay in Seattle

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RENTON, Wash. — As frustrated as Russell Wilson was after last season, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback never wanted to play anywhere else.

He made that point clear Thursday as he spoke with reporters for the first time since February, when his public criticisms of the organization led to speculation about a possible trade.

“Obviously I love Seattle, I love playing here,” Wilson said. “I’ve had a great career here so far. I’ve always wanted to play here for my full career obviously. I think there was some unfortunate frustrations after the season. Obviously you want to win it all and do it all and do everything you can. I think everybody on our team does. You want to win it, and I think unfortunately I think it got a little blown out of proportion a little bit.”

Two days after the Super Bowl, Wilson voiced his frustrations about his pass protection and perceived lack of say in personnel moves relative to other top quarterbacks. He said Thursday that he didn’t intend his comments as criticism of his offensive line and that he didn’t need to have any conversations with those players in order to clear the air.

The drama reached its peak when Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the quarterback would accept a trade to only four teams. Wilson, who has a no-trade clause, said Thursday that was made public because he wanted to set the record straight that he did not request a trade and — with the rumor mill buzzing — to clarify where he would play if Seattle was interested in dealing him.

Wilson said his relationship with coach Pete Carroll is as strong as ever and that the two are on the same page.

“I did not request a trade,” Wilson said. “I’ve always wanted to play here, and the reality is, I think calls were getting thrown around, this and that, and I think that’s just a reality. But I think at the end of the day, the real reality is that I’m here and I’m here to win and I’m here to win it all.”

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Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay in ‘better mood’ since Matthew Stafford’s arrival

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay has been rather chipper recently. On Thursday, McVay admitted that new quarterback Matthew Stafford has brought it out of him.

During a news conference at SoFi Stadium conducted by the Super Bowl host committee, McVay was asked for his thoughts on Stafford.

“I think I’ve been very happy,” McVay said, smiling. “Everybody says, ‘Man, you just seem like you’re in a better mood this offseason,’ and I said, ‘Damn right I am.'”

Two weeks after losing to the Green Bay Packers in a divisional playoff, the Rams traded quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Stafford.

Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, had spent five seasons with the Rams, including four with McVay. However, after winning back-to-back division titles and an NFC championship together, their relationship began to falter after a difficult loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. Ultimately, Stafford’s request for a trade after 12 seasons with the Lions marked the end for Goff in L.A.

With Stafford’s arrival, the Rams are hopeful to return to the Super Bowl, which will be played next February at SoFi Stadium.

“This guy, he’s a special guy,” McVay, 35, said about Stafford. “I think one of the best ways that I can describe him when you hear people that have been around him, there’s a known confidence where when he walks into a room, you feel his presence, but he’s got a great humility about himself. Everybody loves being around him, and he’s one of those guys that’s a true igniter. He makes everybody around him better.”

Stafford, 33, said working with McVay has been “great.”

“Obviously I’ve got a lot of respect for what he’s been able to do and accomplish at a young age as a head coach in the NFL and gotten to play against some of his offenses at certain times, so I got a lot of respect for him,” Stafford said. “It’s been great working with him and just trying to get this thing rolling.”

The Rams will conclude their offseason program Thursday with a mandatory minicamp practice at SoFi Stadium in front of an anticipated crowd of about 30,000.

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Mac Jones on Patriots QB competition — ‘We’re all in this together’

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton didn’t practice Thursday due to a right hand injury, and first-round draft pick Mac Jones mostly worked behind Jarrett Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer as he prepares for a possible training-camp competition in late July.

“I’m the rookie so I’m just learning from them. We’re all in this together. There’s competition but people want to have a misconstrued word there like it is a bad competition or unhealthy,” Jones said. “We’re all close. We’re all going to get better together. That’s what we’re going to do.”

How fast Jones improves and puts himself in position to be the starter is naturally a hot topic in New England after the Patriots selected him 15th overall, the first time coach Bill Belichick has picked a quarterback in the first round.

Belichick often makes the point that the spring is a time for teaching, and the real competition begins at the start of training camp in late July. He previously declared Newton the team’s top quarterback, saying time will tell if anyone will challenge him. Meanwhile, Jones called Newton “a good mentor” to him.

“He calls me ‘Mac and Cheese,’ so I’ve got my nickname,” he said, adding that Stidham and Hoyer have also helped him in the film room as he works to measure up to them in mastering the playbook.

“They can do it really fast. My goal is to hopefully be able to do it even faster every day and I’ve tried to do that. It’s kind of like second nature for them. I have to figure out how to do it fast and execute the plays really fast to a level in a new offense.”

Assessing his own progress, Jones, 22, acknowledged that he’s had some good days, and then some bad ones.

“It’s not going to be perfect every day. It’s hard when you’re competitive and you want it to be really good every day. It’s not going to be like that at first. Eventually you get it and things start rolling your way,” he said. “I think it just goes back to following my rules and there’s a lot going on in my brain. You’re just trying to seeing everything. Sometimes you see too much or whatever. And then you see nothing. So I have to figure out, in this offense, how I can do that — how I can break down the plays, what’s my job, what do I have to do on this specific play, and then slot the plays individually.

“I did that obviously good in college, or whatever, but this is the pros and I have to figure out how to do it here.”

Jones, who led Alabama to the national championship last season while competing a record 77.4% of his passes, described how he has been approaching each day.

“I kind of have two buckets. Things I know in one bucket, and things I keep messing up — or things I’m not getting — I have to put them in another bucket and figure out what’s wrong,” he said. “You have to improve on the bad and keep the good in the good.”

The Patriots are scheduled for a final voluntary organized team activity on Friday, and then have their three-day mandatory minicamp starting Monday.

As for what Belichick has seen from Jones’ learning of the playbook, he said: “Mac’s working at it just like everybody else and there’s a lot for all these guys to learn and absorb and it just keeps piling up each day. But as a group, they’ve worked hard and we’re making progress … things are moving in the right direction.”

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