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New England Patriots OC Josh McDaniels says Cam Newton has ‘different grasp of offense’ in Year 2



FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has declared Cam Newton the team’s top quarterback at this time, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has already noticed a difference in Newton’s second year with the club.

“When he got here, that was a unique situation having really no experience and exposure to our system prior to training camp starting. I honestly can’t remember another time in my career where we’ve had a player that has done that. So it was a unique scenario,” McDaniels said Thursday in his first public remarks of the offseason.

“He worked his butt off last year to do it, and then he came back certainly this year at a much different position. He has a different grasp of the offense, a different understanding of the terminology. Now we’re working on refining the precision, the details.”

That has included focusing on fundamentals, which McDaniels said is important for all quarterbacks. He commended Newton, noting that “he’s worked really hard at it.”

Newton, 32, has been taking part in voluntary organized team activities, and Belichick highlighted his leadership and professionalism last week.

Meanwhile, the Patriots are naturally optimistic about rookie quarterback Mac Jones, their first-round pick (15th overall) from Alabama. Belichick said Jones “dove into the playbook,” and McDaniels noted that the goal for all rookies in the spring is to teach them the system so they have a chance to compete with more experienced players come training camp in late July.

As for what the Patriots liked in Jones, McDaniels said: “He won a lot of games in the last year-plus at Alabama. He played in some big games, some pressure situations. He takes care of the football. He’s demonstrated an ability to function at a pretty high level in their system and offense, with their terminology. He competed in a league that is widely regarded as one of the top conferences, if not the top conference, in all of college football.”

Jones has been wearing temporary No. 50 in Patriots practices, which is a recent Belichick tradition for all rookies to put them in non-traditional numbers in the spring. Jones joins Newton, veteran Brian Hoyer and third-year man Jarrett Stidham on the quarterback depth chart.

“We’ve got four great guys in the room,” McDaniels said. “To be able to give them all opportunities this spring is invaluable, and it is a great opportunity for us to make progress in that room collectively to prepare them to compete in August.”

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This Philadelphia Eagles player found key to happiness: He quit social media – Philadelphia Eagles Blog



PHILADELPHIA — Eagles offensive lineman Andre Dillard was asked last week about the competition with Jordan Mailata for the starting left tackle spot and speculation Dillard will end up on the trading block should he lose said competition.

“I haven’t heard anything because I don’t have any social media anymore as of last year,” said Dillard, the Eagles’ 2019 first-round pick out of Washington State, who has faced sharp criticism since arriving in Philadelphia for having not yet lived up to expectations. He started four games as a rookie, with mixed results, then missed all of last season after tearing his biceps in late August.

“I try not to pay attention to any of that stuff because it’s all noise. My job is to just keep my head down and work.”

Dillard came across as a man transformed during his Zoom session with reporters. Indeed, he said he felt like a “completely different” person in some aspects, from the physical strength he gained in the offseason to the surge in confidence that was on full display. Once withdrawn, guarded and at times defensive in his interactions with the media, he was at ease, forthright and engaging. He seemed healthier. Lighter.

One of the changes he made over the past year was ditching social media, joining a growing number of athletes who are deleting apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to eliminate distractions and improve their mental health. In March, renowned former Arsenal soccer player Thierry Henry announced he will no longer be using social media until the platforms do more to tackle racism and bullying. New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso revealed he got rid of social media in February, noting he wants to “live in real life.” And then-Kentucky Wildcats basketball forward Isaiah Jackson said in December he and “a lot of guys on the team” temporarily deleted their social media accounts because of severe fan reaction to their 1-6 start.

Some of the reasons Dillard, 25, gave for the move were relatable: He’d open his phone and start browsing through videos and whatnot, and the next thing he knew an hour had flown by and he had nothing productive to show for it. He wanted to block out the “general negativity in the world” that social media can bring. He learned of the dangers and behavior manipulation associated with social media, brought to the fore by documentaries such as “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix.

But one element was more unique to his profession. The public now has unprecedented access to pro athletes. Fans are able to send their praise, and vitriol, directly to a player’s feed. Criticism en masse is a scroll away.

It was clear from early on Dillard was scrolling. “Most of ’em roast my hairline because I have my widow’s peak. Little do they know, I want that there,” Dillard said of the fans on social media following his first day of rookie minicamp in 2019.

“They all think I’m oblivious, but I like it. They all like to joke around. They’re all very passionate, happy for me to be here overall. … It’s really fun to be a part of this culture.”

The judgment didn’t stop there that season, however. He was dinged for getting emotional on the field following a training camp scrap with defensive end Derek Barnett. He was bashed for yielding a blindside sack during a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars that left quarterback Cody Kessler concussed. (The sack, coaches later said, was not on Dillard). He came under fire for his play over his four starts, particularly against the Seattle Seahawks after he was abruptly moved from left to right tackle that week, struggled and was benched at the half.

Dillard was 23 at the time.

“In terms of social media and stuff that’s directly aimed at me … I never realized that’s kind of how it is once you get to [this] level. Just whatever sort of negativity gets pointed at you, it was kind of a shock for me,” Dillard said. “But as the years went on, I kind of learned how it goes, and certain things, you can’t feed into it. You can’t feed the negativity or else it’ll just keep growing and growing and weigh on you.”

Social media and the expectancy theory

Ben Newman is the mental conditioning coach for the Alabama and Kansas State football teams and works one-on-one with more than 25 players in the NFL.

Part of his job is to provide athletes with the tools to mitigate distractions, including those brought on by social media.

“Certainly there are games where people become impacted,” Newman said. “There’s one player that I can think of right now, where as a result of social media getting in his head, there was a string of games where he was actually listening to the noise of the fans at the game. So it went from reading it on his screen to actually actively listening when he was at the game. And then finally, once there was the awareness and the acknowledgment, we had a conversation with it, he realized what it was doing and then shut it down.

“There’s a psychology principle called expectancy theory, that what you focus on expands, so if they don’t do anything to replace the negativity, all they’re going to focus on is the negative. … They’ll almost be inclined to actually search their own name on Twitter. ‘Can I find more? What are people saying?’ When the reality is, we have to teach the athletes to not even be inclined to do that. Just stay focused on what you can control.”

That’s not a discipline easily learned, especially when you’re young and the critics are in full throat. Such was the case for Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor, the No. 21 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. He was hampered by injuries as a rookie and, like Dillard, did not match the lofty expectations of a first-round pick.

Reagor was also the victim of circumstance. The Eagles chose him over LSU’s Justin Jefferson, who was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the very next pick and went on to tear up the league to the tune of 88 catches, 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games. Reagor had 31 catches for 396 yards and a score over 11 games. Comparisons between the two were relentless, as was the critiquing of Reagor’s game.

“What everyone does is, they go directly to social media and voice their opinion, so now [Eagles quarterback] Jalen Hurts‘ family is seeing it on social media, Jalen Reagor’s family is seeing it on social media, Andre Dillard’s family is seeing it on social media and now … they have to answer questions by the media that was generated from Joe Blow on social media,” said Jason Avant, the former Eagles wide receiver who served as an assistant receivers coach in 2020.

“So yes, I saw it last year: Social media affected Jalen Reagor, Dillard, a bunch of different people. Because social media tries to steal the narrative of the expectation; the expectation is no longer on the team’s schedule, it’s on whoever is coming up with the big-eye talent assessment. Jalen Reagor didn’t have a chance to please Philadelphia because of the firestorm that is on social media about Justin Jefferson and all those things.”

Added Eagles receivers coach Aaron Moorehead: “[If] you start listening to everything, whether it’s good or bad, it can affect you. And that’s not just Jalen [Reagor], that’s every young player. They want to see their name on social media and they kind of get off on that. We all have egos, right? … But in reality, you do your job to the best of your ability and it all takes care of itself.”

Moorehead said Reagor is being “very diligent” about listening to the voices in the building and within his family structure in an attempt to block out the noise.

Everybody’s distractions look different

The impact of social media certainly has the attention of the NFL Players Association.

The NFLPA has recently made it a point to have at least one session focusing on social media at all of its major events, from the annual board of player representatives meeting to the Collegiate Bowl to the Rookie Premiere, focusing on the good (how to leverage and monetize the players’ brand and platform) and bad (how to silence the noise, ignore the trolls and stay focused on the job).

The point was raised at the virtual Rookie Premiere last month that the union’s efforts to protect the health and safety of its members aren’t limited to the field or the locker room, they now stretch to social media.

A panel was put together for that event in which former wide receiver Brandon Marshall served as moderator and Brittany O’Hagan (head of athlete/sports talent partnerships at Twitter), Dev Sethi (head of sports at Instagram) and Horace Flournoy (SwayBrand founder) were panelists.

Speaking on the benefits of social media for athletes, Marshall got the players’ attention by telling them he is projected to make $250,000 a month on social media by the end of the year, according to a source who attended the event. Clearly, there can be a benefit to logging on from a dollars and cents standpoint, as well for branding purposes and to champion causes athletes are passionate about.

For some players, the benefits go even further.

“There are athletes who social media actually fuels them, right? They actually enjoy the engagement,” Newman said. “And those players who understand they’re fueled by that, I think social media is not a bad thing. But the players who clearly understand, when I read something negative, that impacts how I show up to the facility, those individuals need to set some barriers or parameters.”



Joon Lee, Buster Olney, Tim Kurkjian and Jeff Passan discuss the culture shift in baseball as players understand and use social media and marketing more than in previous generations.

One practice for athletes is to shut down social media once the season starts. Others will go dark in the days immediately before and after a game. Newman notes it’s typically wise for a player who didn’t play well to avoid social media afterward, as his name might be trending for all the wrong reasons.

Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said this week there’s “definitely” a battle between Dillard and Mailata for the left tackle spot heading into training camp. Mailata has the benefit of starting 10 games last season, but in Dillard, Stoutland sees a player who is now “hungrier” and “more serious.”

“I really do like what he’s done in the offseason,” Stoutland said.

Competition at his position or not, for Dillard, staying off social media was the answer. He said it feels like he’s leading a simpler life now. He gets up, goes to work, studies, reads and relaxes. He gets his news, but “not once do I flip open my phone and just read stuff,” Dillard said, “and it’s helped me a lot, I think.”

“You’re willing to do so many things to become a better football player, right — what you put in your body, how you work out,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “The sacrifices that you give to be a good football player are almost endless. So if a distraction to you is social media, and you feel like you’ve got to give that up, you’re doing all these other sacrifices, why not make it that as well?

“Andre is aware of what his potential distractions are. That’s the first step, being aware of what is going to stop you from getting better every single day. So I heard about that and his comment there, and I was really excited for him that he’s figured out what his distraction is.”

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Austrian Bernhard Seikovits gets second shot at NFL with Arizona Cardinals – Arizona Cardinals Blog



TEMPE, Ariz. — When Arizona Cardinals tight end Bernhard Seikovits looks back at his path to the NFL, he thinks he should’ve been a little more patient, maybe even a little more objective.

Thanks hindsight.

The NFL wasn’t on Seikovits’ radar as he grew up playing for the Vienna Vikings of the Austrian Football League in his home country. Then the NFL invited him to its International Combine in Germany in the Fall of 2019. From there, he was invited to the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program (IPPP) and started training at IMG Academy in Florida. But that opportunity was was cut short by the pandemic and he wasn’t allocated to an NFL team.

He was disheartened but didn’t let it put a damper on his new goal of playing in the NFL.

“If I would have looked at it a little bit more objective, maybe I would have said to myself, ‘Yes, maybe it’s going to be a two-year thing,'” Seikovits, 23, said. “But when I came in, of course I went in and I thought I did a really good job and I thought a team would pick me. So, I was, of course, really disappointed.

“But my family and my friends really lifted me up again after the decision and I really used this as motivation for the next year, so I really devoted the last year to get better, stronger and faster.”

Seikovits, a former quarterback, transitioned from wide receiver to tight end after the NFL International Combine. The NFL wanted him to participate in the IPPP, which he started on Jan. 23, 2020, as a tight end because of his 6-foot-5 frame. They also advised him to start gaining weight, a recommendation he took to heart.

Seikovits went back to Vienna and honed his skills at tight end, getting help from his coaching staff. He was in the Vikings’ gym every day and even built a weight lifting platform in a friend’s garage so he could work out outside of the team’s facility. It paid off. He’s now 262 pounds and built like a tight end.

Vienna Vikings offensive coordinator Max Koessler adapted the offense around Seikovits, who played “sporadically” at tight end before last season.

“Just used him solely as a tight end to show give them a chance to showcase his skill set and try to coach him up as as good as we could,” Koessler said. “And just to put some tight end plays on film.”

Added head coach Chris Calaycay: “That was a huge part of our 2020 season is making sure that he was in that position to put that on film and work on it.”

Seikovits finished the season with plenty of good tape to show NFL teams. He finished 2020 with 21 catches for 262 yards and four touchdowns in three games. His stat line from last season had him on a pace for career highs in all three categories.

Seikovits was given another chance at this year’s IPPP and with a better grasp of the position, especially the schematics of playing tight end and improved techniques, he was picked, getting allocated to the Cardinals in early May.

Koessler, who’s known Seikovits since he was about 11, called and just yelled into the phone with excitement. Seikovits will be on the roster until the end of training camp and then will be eligible for either a practice squad exemption for international players or the active roster.

“I couldn’t be more glad to be honest that they didn’t pick me last year,” Seikovits said. “So, I think, however it goes in life, it always has a meaning, and I’m really glad I landed here.

“And I wouldn’t have been here if, last year, they pick me so I’m glad how it turned out.”

Seikovits, who took part in the Cardinals’ rookie minicamp in May, isn’t nervous about taking the field with veterans. The last two years have been building toward this moment.

“He’s got great ball skills and great hands and great football awareness,” Calaycay said.

Seikovits has a rare combination of size and speed. He can block like a tight end, move like a receiver and see the field from a quarterback’s perspective. Add it all up and Seikovits may just have what it takes to make the team.

“He played — and still plays the game — through the eyes of a quarterback so route adjustments, change-ups in the blocking scheme depending on front movement was like second nature,” Koessler said.

Seikovits’ first throw as a quarterback was an interception but he recovered to throw more than 400 yards and six touchdowns that game, Koessler said. He played the position until the Vikings added Kevin Burke, an American quarterback who went to Case Western and played for the Memphis Express of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football before he was released and replaced by Johnny Manziel. Once Burke was signed by the Vikings, Seikovits asked to change positions so he could play, which set in motion his ascent to the NFL.

Still, the call from general manager Steve Keim to welcome him to the Cardinals made Seikovits a “little bit anxious.”

He’s watched plenty of NFL football, whether it was on local stations in Vienna or through NFL Game Pass. The 1 p.m. ET slate of games started at 7 p.m. in Vienna, prime viewing time. Seikovits knows watching hours of games won’t be the same as seeing it up close on the field.

“It’s gonna be more physical, faster,” he said. “But, at some point, I think it comes down to effort and work ethic and how bad do you want it? And I really don’t know. I never saw a live NFL game and I never practiced with the guys. I just saw it on TV. So, of course, I don’t know what to expect, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Calaycay thinks Seikovits’ skill set will fit in well in Cardianls coach Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme, creating mismatches for tight ends — somewhat in the mold of former Cardinals tight end Dan Arnold, who’s now on the Panthers.

Koessler thinks it may take a year or two for Seikovits to get his chance on Sundays.

Seikovits has been playing football since he was 9 years old, then flag football. He switched to tackle football a year later. Like almost every kid in Europe, Seikovits’ foray into sports began with soccer but he didn’t enjoy it enough to commit. He also tried swimming when he was about 5 because his father was a swimmer but it got boring to “look in the water for two hours.”

The team aspect and physicality of football kept luring Seikovits further and further in.

“What I like most about football is, like, the physicality,” he said. “You can do stuff you can really not do in real life, like you can hit people and you can just lose your mind, basically, sometimes.

“So, that really, is, like, I don’t know, that really excites me.”

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Logan Thomas a vital part of Washington’s upgraded offense – Washington Blog



ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas won’t surprise anyone anymore. Not after topping his previous high catch total by 56 receptions; not after establishing himself as a quality red zone threat. Duplicating his breakout 2020 season could be difficult.

But …

Washington added more offensive playmakers around him, including a quarterback who loves to throw the ball, two more wide receivers with speed and another who has succeeded in the slot.

While Thomas, who turns 30 on July 1, doesn’t see himself as a finished product, he does view himself as on the rise. He says he can still add to his game, especially as a downfield threat. That’s why he spent part of the offseason studying tight ends such as the San Francisco 49ersGeorge Kittle, Kansas City ChiefsTravis Kelce and Las Vegas RaidersDarren Waller.

“When I talk about a complete tight end, he has to be in the top 5, 6 or 7 in the league,” Washington tight ends coach Pete Hoener said of Thomas. “The way he blocks, his total attitude as a real pro, his leadership qualities and then his production as a receiver. I look for that to keep going up and up.”

Thomas caught 72 passes and six touchdowns last season after finishing with 16 catches the season before with the Detroit Lions. Washington’s scouts and coaches liked how he moved, especially his first-step quickness. They knew he was athletic, having been drafted in the fourth round out of Virginia Tech by the Arizona Cardinals as a quarterback in 2014. He moved to tight end three years later, catching a combined 35 passes his first three seasons.

“It’s crazy to think how far I’ve come,” Thomas said. “A couple years ago I’d never believe I’d be in the position I am now. I’m excited to prove what [Hoener] said true.”

For the first time, Thomas said, he’ll play in the same offense for a second season. That eliminates another year of learning the details of the offense. He also has a feel for how defenses will play him, allowing him to adjust accordingly. He can run more routes.

“For me, that’s huge,” Thomas said of another season in Washington. “You’re just building off last year.”

Washington wanted more speed outside at wide receiver, so it added Curtis Samuel and third-round draft pick Dyami Brown to pair with speedy Terry McLaurin. It also signed a solid slot receiver in Adam Humphries. Running back Antonio Gibson could have a bigger role, too. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has plenty of options besides Thomas.

But in the past two seasons, Fitzpatrick averaged 9.98 yards per attempt on throws to the tight end; his career average is 7.86. Also, 10.6% of those throws were for 20 air yards or more compared to 5.7 for his career.

That plays well with where Thomas wants to develop. Last season, he averaged 7.39 air yards per target, 15th best among tight ends, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And he was tied for 19th with five plays of 20 yards or more. He averaged 9.31 yards per catch, 24th among tight ends.

“Last year, I proved that I made a good amount of plays underneath,” he said.

But he does want more. Kelce and Waller ranked first and second in the NFL on plays of 20 or more yards with 23 and 16, respectively. Thomas also watched a lot of Kittle, who has 24 such plays in his past 17 games.

Thomas studied their releases — at the line and down the field when confronted with another defender. He watched how Waller used a physical style and length to win, getting his hand into the body of the defender. From there, he said, Waller puts the defender where he wants him and makes himself “friendly to the quarterback.”

“That’s what makes them special,” Thomas said. “The defense knows what they’re going to do and how to attack it, but he still does what he wants.”

But Thomas said perhaps the biggest help will come from having McLaurin, Samuel and Brown.

“With the guys we have on the outside, maybe there’s more space on the inside to make plays down the field,” Thomas said. “If I can keep my speed up and make plays down the field, that would be great.”

He also needs to remain a red zone threat — Thomas was a consistent target there in practice and games in 2020, ranking second among tight ends with 15 catches inside the 20 — and tops with 117 receiving yards. He was tied for fifth with five touchdowns. In minicamp this week, Thomas made a one-handed grab in the red zone.

“It’s his mental part of it,” Rivera said, “and just having the sense that he’s really starting to take what we do offensively and his knowledge of the game and using it to help himself understand how to do things better. That’s the other part of that I can anticipate on him improving.”

Hoener said Thomas has improved the way he’s getting out of his breaks and his understanding of running routes. He’s a steady weapon for the quarterbacks.

“He was probably the most reliable offensive player and dependable player we had on the team last year,” Hoener said.

At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds — with 11-inch hands — Thomas remains a big target.

“I’ve been really impressed with Logan,” Fitzpatrick said. “His willingness to work and his understanding of the game is huge for us, to have a target that can see it through our eyes and really understands spacing and where we expect him to be in zone. … He has a little of everything. He’s definitely going to be a weapon for us this year.”

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