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NFL Week 9 fantasy football questions and answers



Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water …

COVID-19 has reared its ugly head again in NFL circles, and while the Green Bay Packers managed to hand the Arizona Cardinals their first loss on Oct. 28 without leading receiver Davante Adams after he was sidelined with the coronavirus, how will they do it again without quarterback Aaron Rodgers?

These are the times that try fantasy managers’ souls. And those of Packers fans, too. Certainly it’s a huge opportunity for Jordan Love, but in fantasy football it’s more probable managers will turn to other, better-known quantities at the position, whether already on their rosters or otherwise.

Love is playing against the Kansas City Chiefs, though, who rank 29th in total defense and have looked shaky at pretty much everything over the past month. If ever you were going to take a flier on Love (how romantic!), this is the time: Signal-callers playing against the Chiefs have ended the week as top-five options in fantasy four times this season.

ESPN fantasy sports researcher Kyle Soppe, who generates the fantasy questions, wonders what Love will mean for the Packers’ ground game. He also has questions about the running games in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Houston and Kansas City. And our reporters have answers.

On byes this week and thus not included below are Washington, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Seattle. Away we go.


Was the big Cole Beasley game the result of Dawson Knox missing this game?

Somewhat. A portion of the targets that Knox might have gotten in the middle of the field went to Beasley in his first 100-yard game of the season, but he’s not going to be a reliable substitute going forward. Beasley also missed multiple days of practice this week with a rib injury, and might be a less reliable option against the Jaguars. The Bills are going to get different weapons more involved on a week-to-week basis, and until Knox returns, there is not one person who will benefit in his place. — Alaina Getzenberg

DeVante Parker or Jaylen Waddle the rest of the season (PPR scoring)?

It’s close, but Parker hasn’t seen fewer than seven targets in any single game this season and has cleared 70 receiving yards in three of five games. Waddle’s usage is convenient for PPR scoring, but Parker is without a doubt WR1 in this offense. The problem is that Parker is now on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, which could see more targets for Waddle and tight end Mike Gesicki. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Jakobi Meyers has been held under 60 receiving yards in four straight games: Without much scoring equity, does he need to remain rostered?

If there is a week to take Meyers off the roster, this might be it. Here’s the thinking: He’s still Mac Jones‘ go-to guy in got-to-have-it situations, but that might mean the Panthers put Stephon Gilmore on him on third down. The Patriots know first-hand how well Gilmore can lock down receivers. — Mike Reiss

For dynasty managers: What is the long-term outlook/upside of Elijah Moore? Does he remind you of any former or current player?

After a slow start, Moore is demonstrating big-time potential the past two games (13 catches, 151 yards, two TDs). He’s a silky-smooth route runner, reminiscent of former Jets Santana Moss. At 5-foot-10, Moore won’t win with size, but he has every other trait for a WR1. He has a next-level ability to separate from defenders because of precision at the top of his routes. — Rich Cimini



Stephania Bell examines what happened to Mike White against the Colts and whether the Jets QB will miss any games.


Can this offense sustain three viable pass-catchers (Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews)?

Absolutely. The Ravens have become a passing team because they’re not getting consistent production from their running backs. Over the past five games, Lamar Jackson has thrown the ball an average of 33.8 times while the running backs have averaged 17.2 carries. Baltimore is going to continue to push the ball downfield to Brown, Bateman and Andrews because only two of its remaining opponents rank in the top 10 in pass defense (Packers and Browns). — Jamison Hensley

Tyler Boyd showed signs of life on Sunday: Capitalize on the increase in value or trade him, thinking that the role won’t be consistent enough?

I still have my concerns about Boyd’s consistency. However, QB Joe Burrow issued a great sign when he said Boyd has made the most strides in being able to go off-script when Burrow scrambles. “His route’s not open,” Burrow said, “then he sees me break the pocket and his scramble reaction happens a lot faster.” Still, Boyd is likely a flex option at best. — Ben Baby



Field Yates and Kyle Soppe react to Tyler Boyd’s nice fantasy performance vs. the Jets.

The touchdown was nice, but will D’Ernest Johnson get enough work to hold weekly value?

What you saw last weekend is probably going to be what you get with Johnson. He will get a few carries to spell Nick Chubb. But probably not enough to warrant a starting spot, unless he can keep the two-game scoring streak alive. — Jake Trotter

Seven targets in consecutive weeks for Pat Freiermuth: A role we can bank on?

Yes, as much as you can bank on anything in this offense. His production might vary by week, but Freiermuth is going to continue to be more involved with JuJu Smith-Schuster out. In the past two weeks, Freiermuth has played 78% and 60% of snaps. Roethlisberger is clearly developing a chemistry with the rookie, and he’s showing signs of being a much-needed reliable offensive weapon — especially in the red zone. — Brooke Pryor


If you had to roster a Texans running back moving forward, who would it be?

David Johnson. Rex Burkhead led the way in Week 8 against the Rams, but coach David Culley said it was just because the Texans had gone to a “hurry-up mode.” It seems more likely that Johnson ends the season leading the Texans in carries and rushing yards, so don’t give up on him yet. — Sarah Barshop

Michael Pittman Jr. had one TD reception through 17 career games, but has been on a tear over the past month. Is this his peak value, or can he sustain his success in the red zone?

Pittman has all the things necessary — speed, size and catching ability — to be able to sustain the success he has had this season. He has 20 more receptions, 339 more yards and four more receptions of at least 20 yards than his next-closest teammate. The passing game will continue to go through Pittman no matter where the Colts have the ball. — Mike Wells

Dan Arnold is looking like a fantasy asset: Should we be banking on 6 to 8 targets a week?

Arnold has 25 targets in his four games with the Jaguars so expecting 6 to 8 per week is pretty spot on. Arnold is already third on the team in YAC (104) despite playing in three fewer games than the two guys ahead of him (Laviska Shenault Jr. has 174 and James Robinson has 137). Definitely worth a pickup, especially since the Jaguars should be trailing big in games. — Michael DiRocco

We’ve seen efficient Ryan Tannehill in consecutive games: Can he keep it up and provide more value in the second half of the season than he did the first?

Tannehill should continue his efficiency as a passer as long as the Titans don’t evolve into a wide-open passing attack. Maintaining the run-heavy offense and mixing in some play-action is the best formula for Tannehill. Since 2019, Tannehill’s 11 completions of 50 yards or more off play-action lead all QBs. However, not having Derrick Henry on the field could take a toll. Tannehill’s QBR since 2019 without Henry dropped from 79 to 55 and his touchdown-to-interception ratio goes from 4.0 to 2.5. — Turron Davenport



Field Yates and Kyle Soppe expect that Ryan Tannehill will be throwing more touchdown passes without Derrick Henry.


Even targets across the board in Jerry Jeudy‘s return: Do you expect this to be the case moving forward, or will a top option emerge?

Jeudy’s target share will go up slightly if the Broncos put Teddy Bridgewater under center more when they can protect him enough to get Jeudy free down the field. But tight end Albert Okwuegbunam is developing some chemistry with Bridgewater and will bear keeping an eye on. Overall the Broncos want to push the ball down the field to Jeudy so they need to protect better to do that. They are 4-0 when Bridgewater splits under center and in the shotgun close to 50-50, 0-4 when they lean heavily on the shotgun. — Jeff Legwold

Are we looking at a full-blown committee the rest of the way in this backfield?

It’s starting to look that way. Derrick Gore was impressive enough against the Giants to have earned a spot in the rotation. Darrel Williams will get his work, as will Clyde Edwards-Helaire when he returns. I would expect the committee to continue at least until Edwards-Helaire returns and has a chance to reestablish himself as the RB1. — Adam Teicher

Darren Waller has underwhelmed a bit since the big Week 1. Are you confident that he can rediscover his elite form coming out of the bye?

Yes. And for a simple reason: The Raiders are going to need him to be even more productive going forward. As QB Derek Carr said, it’s tough to answer these types of questions now, given Henry Ruggs III’s car crash that killed a young woman and saw him cut by the team. The Raiders and media alike want to respect the loss of life and will continue to do so. Yet, as Carr referenced, there is a job to do, a game to play, and for the Raiders’ offense to stay on schedule it needs Waller. In more ways than one. — Paul Gutierrez

Two tough games in a row for Mike Williams: Who is the WR1 for the Chargers the rest of the way?

That’s a tough call that more than likely will be determined by Chargers’ opponents and how they choose to cover Williams and Keenan Allen. Williams has three games this season with five or fewer targets, and his totals in those games are horrific (five receptions, 51 yards, 0 TDs). In the other four games he has had at least nine targets in each, scored in each, and averaged over 100 receiving yards. The Chargers want him involved, but they’ll continue to target Allen plenty, too. — Shelley Smith


The targets continue to be there for Dalton Schultz. Despite a slow week, do you view his role as stable enough for fantasy managers to rely on weekly?

I feel like I say this every time regarding the Cowboys’ offense: Things will change week to week. They won’t feed a player for the sake of feeding a player. The same is true for Schultz. The Vikings squeezed the middle of the field, which meant some of those seven targets were difficult (and he had a drop) but also meant big days for Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. The return of Dak Prescott should help, although the Cowboys might cut back on some of their bootleg and waggle looks because of the quarterback’s calf strain. But Schultz will continue to be a factor in this offense. — Todd Archer

Do you expect Saquon Barkley to be inserted into the feature role right away or see a gradual increase in work as he proves his health?

This isn’t the week for Saquon Barkley. He was already a long shot to play even before the COVID-19 situation. But after the bye week, that is a different story. Barkley should be back in a feature role and getting plenty of touches. There will be no bringing him along slowly. — Jordan Raanan

Is Boston Scott going to be the featured back in this offense with Miles Sanders on the shelf?

I’m expecting more running back by committee, with Scott, Jordan Howard and Kenny Gainwell splitting reps. The snap distribution could fluctuate depending on the opponent/situation, with Gainwell being featured more prominently when the Eagles are leaning on the pass game, making it difficult to forecast production in a given week. But Scott will have a role and has largely made the most of his opportunities to this point in his career. — Tim McManus



Field Yates and Kyle Soppe agree that Boston Scott could be useful but do not see him outperforming himself last week.


Justin Fields was on the move early and often on Sunday: Part of the game plan or just an aberration?

Part of the game plan. The Bears want at least five designed runs for Fields each week. The rookie is unbelievable on the move. Fields’ 22-yard touchdown run against San Francisco was the Bears’ most exciting offensive play in years. Look for Fields to keep running, and therefore to improve his fantasy value. — Jeff Dickerson

With Aaron Rodgers out, do you think the run game gains volume and puts AJ Dillon in position to surpass his career-high 16 touches from last week?

No question. We saw a hint of that last week at Arizona when the Packers were without their top three receivers. Even if they get some or all of them back this week, they’re going to do everything they can to protect Jordan Love from having to carry the weight of the offense. Matt LaFleur called designed runs on 45% of the snaps last week, the second-highest rate of the season. It could be higher this week unless the Packers fall behind big early. — Rob Demovsky

At least five targets in four of his past five games. Is Tyler Conklin a viable fantasy option alongside a pair of high-end receivers in an offense that wants to establish Dalvin Cook?

As a TE2 or backup option, yes. Conklin’s targets aren’t overwhelming, but his usage has been consistent the past month and should stay that way in a game with the third-highest over-under (49.5) in Week 9. Conklin has carved out a role for himself in the Vikings’ pass game, having run routes on 73.6% of Kirk Cousins’ dropbacks over the past four games. Minnesota wants to get back to running the ball effectively with Dalvin Cook, and even if the Vikings can do that, Conklin should still have a steady presence as a pass-catching threat over the middle of the field. — Courtney Cronin


Is there a single player on this roster we can start with the utmost confidence weekly outside of Calvin Ridley (when active)?

Yes, because you shouldn’t freak out about the production — or lack thereof — last Sunday. At this point you can start Cordarrelle Patterson consistently in a PPR leagues. Patterson has been one of the most effective Falcons throughout the season. Considering the lack of depth at tight end in the NFL, you should be starting Kyle Pitts in all but the shallowest leagues as well. Those two have been worthwhile. And depending how deep your league is, Matt Ryan is a viable option at quarterback more weeks than not. Otherwise — stay away. — Michael Rothstein



Field Yates and Matthew Berry consider Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Pitts the only Falcons pass catchers worth starting.

Any snap/touch limitations to worry about as Christian McCaffrey nears his return?

Yes. Research shows that a high volume of touches coming off an injury increases the chances for re-injury or another injury. The Panthers, whether McCaffrey returns this week or next, probably will have him on a snap count and spread the wealth as they did last week when three backs and Sam Darnold contributed to a season-high 47 carries for 203 yards. — David Newton

Do you think Mark Ingram‘s involvement will increase with time, or is he simply backfield depth that won’t much impact Alvin Kamara‘s bottom line?

Somewhere in between. Kamara is still the most vital part of New Orleans’ offense — especially in the wake of this week’s news that Michael Thomas won’t be coming back this year. The Saints will keep Kamara involved as much as possible, and he’ll keep getting high-value touches in the run game, passing game and red zone. But they also want to keep him fresh, so maybe something like 18 to 22 touches for Kamara and 8 to 12 for Ingram is a reasonable expectation. — Mike Triplett


Which RB do you think will be more productive the rest of the way in PPR leagues: Chase Edmonds or James Conner?

This isn’t really a debate: It’s Edmonds. He has six times the amount of receptions as Conner and will continue to be a crucial part of the Cardinals’ passing game, especially while quarterback Kyler Murray deals with an ankle injury. Conner may take away some of Edmonds’ carries but won’t make a dent in his catches. — Josh Weinfuss

Robert Woods was used in the run game for the first time in a while. Is that role here to stay?

Since Sean McVay’s arrival, the Rams have used their receivers in both the run and pass game. Woods’ versatility allows him to be a short, intermediate and deep-threat receiver, and as we saw against the Texans, he can also make plays out of the backfield. What makes the Rams hard to defend? It’s unpredictable who, when and how any of their playmakers will get the ball, so expect to see Woods used in both the run and pass going forward — but predicting how often that will happen is anyone’s guess. — Lindsey Thiry

Brandon Aiyuk peaked in the second half of last season. Could his seven targets on Sunday be a sign of another late-season rise in value?

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan has certainly taken a more optimistic tone when it comes to Aiyuk of late, particularly after the win in Chicago which he said was Aiyuk’s best game of the season. Does that mean his role will expand to where it was near the end of last season? The 49ers would like that to be the case, especially with Deebo Samuel doing the work of multiple players so far this year. However, Samuel has been outstanding and tight end George Kittle is also on the way back, which means it’s probably best to see it before you believe it when it comes to Aiyuk offering substantial production from a fantasy perspective. — Nick Wagoner

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Cleveland Browns place tight end David Njoku on COVID-19 list



The Cleveland Browns placed tight end David Njoku on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, putting his availability for Sunday’s key NFC North game against the Baltimore Ravens in question.

The Browns (6-6) also could be without tight end Harrison Bryant, who suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 12 against the Ravens in a 16-10 loss, the Browns’ most recent game before their bye last week. Njoku had a touchdown reception in that game.

It wasn’t announced if Njoku tested positive for COVID-19 or if he is being placed on the list as an unvaccinated close contact.

If he is vaccinated and tested positive, he can return once he is able to produce two negative tests 24 hours apart. If he’s unvaccinated and tested positive, he would be sidelined for a minimum of 10 days. If he is a close contact, he must quarantine for five days and can return after that time period if he produces a negative test.

Njoku leads the Browns with 407 receiving yards this season and is third on the team with 27 receptions. He also is tied for the team lead with three touchdown receptions.

The Browns signed Miller Forristall to the active roster in a corresponding move. The Browns also have starting tight end Austin Hooper, who is second on the team with 28 receptions and has 261 yards and two touchdowns, on the active roster.

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Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers balancing recovery, preparation during short week



PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger knows playing the Minnesota Vikings on a short week after a physical game against the Baltimore Ravens is going to require little extra help.

“Just have as many people help as you can: chiropractors, masseuses, training staff,” the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said Tuesday. “Getting in the pools and just doing whatever you can to get yourself ready. Everyone has to do this throughout the year.

“I don’t think anybody really likes it except for the NFL and all the money that they make. Players, it’s tough. Obviously, the back end of it is the benefit, right? The weekend, some time off. That only really feels good if you get the win. But you’ve just got to find a way, really.”

To balance the team’s recovery and preparation, the Steelers are only lightly practicing this week. Tuesday’s shortened practice was more like a walkthrough.

“Yeah, so I’ll participate fully today,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s the craziest thing. Typically, I don’t even practice until Friday, and now we’ve got to play on Thursday. So I’ll be a full participant [Tuesday] and Thursday.”

Roethlisberger, 39, has fought through injuries and COVID-19 this season, dealing with injuries to his pectoral and hip early on. He said Tuesday that his elbow, which was surgically repaired in 2019, feels fine.

“It’s my shoulder that hurts more than my elbow,” Roethlisberger said. “My elbow feels great, thanks to the doctors. It’s just dealing with throwing. Wish someone could keep track; like I’ve thrown a million throws in my life, so at some point your shoulder starts to wear down a little bit. Just like any quarterback, your arm always hurts a little bit.”

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Why 169 former NFL players have turned to coaching high school football



ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — They played football at its highest level — some for years, some for moments — and when playing was no longer an option, the game reeled them back in as coaches.

Some were drawn to college football, others to work for a former position coach or head coach in the NFL.

But some returned to the places that launched them, to high school football.

Starting with an NFL database that included the known 545 former NFL players who had coached youth or prep football over the past three decades or so, ESPN’s research discovered 169 former NFL players were varsity high school football head coaches during the 2021 season and 175 more were varsity high school assistants, including ESPN’s Matt Bowen.

Also among them is Zach Line, who played seven NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints before becoming the coach at Oxford (Michigan) High School, from which he graduated. A 15-year-old student at the school has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder in a shooting that killed four people and wounded seven others, including a teacher, last Tuesday.

One of Line’s players, sophomore Tate Myre, was among those killed. Line posted on social media in the days that followed that Myre “was and will always be a beaming light for Oxford. It’s hard to put into words what he meant to me.”

The worst kind of heartaches parents fear, the struggles of life, intermingled with sorrows and joys.

As former NFL quarterback and current high school head coach Jon Kitna put it in recent weeks: “You are in a position to help young people. Maybe you’re not ready for everything that might come to you, but in the end you’re dealing with happiness, struggle, daily needs — for some basic daily needs are a struggle long before it’s about football. Wins are great — we all love to win — but you discover there’s a lot more about life that has to be done if you’re really going to win.”

High school football is filled with former NFL players, from Pro Bowl players such as former Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who coached their first high school seasons this year in Texas and Alabama respectively; to former Dolphins and Chiefs cornerback Patrick Surtain, whose national powerhouse at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida, annually churns out a list of Division I prospects; to those whose NFL careers were far shorter than hoped before they found their real calling in the game.

And that’s just scratching the surface. Our research found more former NFL players who had coached at least one varsity season over the past decade, but had stepped down, retired from coaching or were between coaching jobs this past season. Several had moved into the college ranks. There are also likely some unaccounted-for NFL alumni who serve as volunteer coaches at their local high schools or where they might have one of their children on the team.

“High school was not on my radar,” former Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson said. “If you would have asked me a few years ago, I would have said I didn’t think about it. But then somebody asked me to do it and I thought about doing it. And after I thought about doing it, really thought about doing it, I really thought it was too good an opportunity to miss.”

Anderson just finished his first season as head coach for Monte Vista High School in Danville, California. He’s one of the newest NFL alumni coaching in the prep ranks. The standard might be Cherry Creek (Colorado) High School coach Dave Logan, who played 119 NFL games with Cleveland and Denver combined. Logan just won his 300th game as a varsity high school coach in November and won his 10th state title Saturday.

With so many former NFL players coaching high school football, we took a look at some of their stories, from coast to coast.

“Love it, there’s a responsibility I feel, I’ve got 25 kids on the team, iron man football, and we coach them in every way we can,” said longtime NFL kicker Nick Novak, who coached Maranatha Christian High School, in San Diego, this past season. “It’s been awesome.”

Jon Kitna, Burleson High School

Location: Burleson, Texas

NFL résumé: Signed as an undrafted rookie by the Seattle Seahawks in 1996 and spent that season on practice squad; 14 NFL seasons with Seattle, Cincinnati, Detroit and Dallas; 29,745 career passing yards, 169 career touchdowns; 141 NFL games.

Kitna was 23 when he graduated from Central Washington University. Thinking the NFL was a long shot, he applied for the head-coaching position where he had received his high school diploma: Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington.

“I didn’t get it, but I think even then, right out of college, I knew I wanted to be a coach,” Kitna said. “It just took a little bit more of NFL time than maybe I had expected.”

It took 141 NFL games, 14 seasons on an active roster and a Comeback Player of the Year award, but in 2012 a recently retired Kitna applied again to Lincoln and got his first head-coaching job. Shortly after he got the nod, he received confirmation he was on the right path.

“At the time I believe it was 83% of the kids at our school were from families at or below the poverty line,” Kitna said. “That first year we took them on a 7-on-7 trip, a one-day thing we had to drive an hour or so to get there. Took 42 kids on that trip, got back at 11:30 at night. When we got back, the [city] buses aren’t running, none of our kids drive, there were no parents to pick them up.

“We got all the kids in cars, split the group up among the coaches, and I was dropping my last kid off from my car at 1:30 in the morning, my son [Jordan] was sleeping in the front seat, I’m looking at him as a ninth grader, my son, and we had dropped all these young men off, I just broke down in tears. These young men didn’t have a lot of people in their lives who had a vested interest in them. The lights were off when I dropped them off, sometimes they pounded on the door until someone let them in. It was just a realization that I wanted to help, do what I could do, to get them to college, to get the academic piece even if football wasn’t going to be their long-term thing. To help people chase dreams.”

Kitna, who also coached at an Arizona prep school, Waxahachie (Texas) High School and spent a year as Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach, just finished his second season at Burleson. He said he had offers to remain in the NFL after he was not retained by Mike McCarthy on the Cowboys’ staff, but high school football was what was next.

His youngest son, Jamison, is a freshman and all four of his children and his wife, Jennifer, have been involved in his coaching career.

“Sure, if I could coach Dak Prescott for the rest of my life, maybe I would stay in the league,” Kitna said. “Maybe when my youngest graduates from high school, maybe that’s something I would do again, but we really like what we do. … These young people, they have a lot coming at them … some of these kids have to go through hell just to get to school every day. Maybe they’re working to put food on the table, or taking care of their siblings because their mom works nights, or they don’t know where the next meal is coming from, and here we are asking them on top of all that to give us incredible effort on the field, be focused in the meeting room, to get straight A’s, have the best character in school. I’ve learned you have to have compassion, have grace-giving in that, help them, be there for them. But down the road when they send you pictures of their baby, invite you to their wedding. That’s the money in this; that’s the ultimate reward.”

Reggie White Jr., Milford Mill Academy

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

NFL résumé: NFL sixth-round pick by Chargers (1992); played in Super Bowl XXIX; 4.5 career sacks, 6 forced fumbles; 38 NFL games.

Start with the name, because many of his players start there, too.

“I get mail for Hall of Fame Reggie White all the time, so does my dad, who lives not too far from me,” White said with a hearty laugh. “I wonder how big of fans they can be, the man passed on some time ago, but I’ll often have a student who says, ‘Coach, Coach, I just Googled you but only the other Reggie came up.’

“My dad, God bless my dad, he’s 84, he comes to every game and maybe six weeks ago we’re at an away game, he comes down to the sideline during the game and says, ‘You got some mail.’ I’m like I’m getting ready to call ‘over, Cover 3,’ but thanks very much and you can probably set it on the bench. Yes, he brought the mail on the sidelines.”

White, whose father was a steelworker, has been at Milford Mill for 19 seasons and graduated from the school. He teaches Algebra I and put together an 8-1 season in 2021 that had the Millers as the No. 1 playoff seed in their region.

“I went to school here, this school system, we’re here in the Baltimore public schools, it’s family and that’s how I was treated by my coaches,” White said. “It made me want to be the person helping someone find their way, to achieve, get to college.”

COVID-19 wiped out the playoffs in 2020 after an abbreviated season, and White said the windup into the 2021 season/school year became a little more at times about checking in on students’ and players’ day-to-day situations more than conditioning drills.

White has 44 players on the varsity this season, and “we’ve been a little closer to normal.” He became one of only 25 active coaches in Maryland to win his 100th game back in 2016, but he does confess the years have brought him to a different way of looking at things.

“I’ve got my first son of a kid I coached on the team now, and if you ask me what brings joy after all these years, I can’t lie — the younger me would have said wins, I loved wins,” White said. “I think now it’s success stories. They come back and tell you, when you were wondering if they were listening, they heard what you said. Doesn’t mean I still don’t tell them that just because you say you want it, doesn’t mean you get it, spots are earned Monday through Thursday. That’s always.”

C.J. Anderson, Monte Vista High School

Location: Danville, California

NFL résumé: Made Broncos roster as undrafted rookie (2013); one Pro Bowl, started Super Bowl 50; 3,497 career rushing yards; 71 NFL games.

After his NFL career, Anderson spent a year as an offensive assistant at his alma mater, Cal, before Monte Vista came calling. The 30-year-old had already decided coaching was his next chapter, but saw himself on a college sideline.

“I went for the Adams State job [in Alamosa, Colorado], didn’t get it, but Aristotle Thompson [Cal’s running backs coach] knew somebody who had turned down the Monte Vista job and he asked me if I was interested,” Anderson said. “And away I went … next thing I know I’m talking to players who probably went home and Googled me.”

Anderson, who played seven NFL seasons after making the Denver roster as an undrafted rookie in 2013, said he has evolved into an “old-school guy” with an old-school approach to conditioning, effort and some “tough love.”

But he has embraced how his players consume information and his substantial contact list. He has used FaceTime on a tablet or his phone to have former teammates such as Aqib Talib, Demaryius Thomas and Hall of Famer Champ Bailey make a point to his players.

He says he often finds himself repeating the words once spoken to him by former coaches he calls mentors, such as Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, Dolphins co-offensive coordinator Eric Studesville or former Broncos and Texans coach Gary Kubiak.

“Sometimes if a player’s career ends and it’s outside of his terms, it can be hard to come back to the game and give more to it, but a player like C.J., a self-made guy who had a good career, can see coaching in a different light, maybe so he can help kids, his future is in coaching,” Joseph said. “Guys like C.J. as players, they will ask you questions, they will ask you the whys. And those guys make you a better coach because you just can’t show up and say, ‘Because I said so.’ And I think they remember that when they’re coaching.”

Anderson’s team finished 7-3 and made the playoffs this season.

“I would tell people, ‘Embrace all that comes with it, relationship with your players, the parents, the community,'” Anderson said. “My high school coaches changed my life, in terms of structure and discipline. If you get a couple kids to holler at you like 20 years from now, well, that would be amazing.”

Rodney Lossow, South High School

Location: Minneapolis

NFL résumé: 10th-round pick by Patriots (1988); practice squad with Patriots, Rams; time with Calgary Stampeders (CFL) and Orlando Thunder (WLAF); 0 NFL games.

Lossow perhaps speaks for many players who discovered they loved football more than it loved them.

“In some ways, I think it’s how some of us come back to football,” Lossow said. “I’ll be real with you, I wasn’t exactly loving football when my playing days were done, the business aspect of it, that you’re done playing long before you thought you would be or just that almost no part of the decision is yours.”

Lossow has spent almost three decades coaching, first at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, then at area youth football programs and then at South High School. He recently announced at the team’s football banquet that this season, after a 4-5 finish, would be his last.

“I’ll keep teaching, I’ll stay invested in the game,” Lossow said. “I hope we can make it so people don’t have to worry about where the next dollar is going to come from or the next helmet, that is my goal.”

Lossow said he appreciated and pursued wins with as much zeal as any coach, but he said he has always tried to help his players look beyond the game. South is blocks from where George Floyd was murdered in May of 2020, and many of the students, many of his players, have been greatly affected.

“There are three of our high schools here that are in the neighborhood where the murder was and the protests that followed,” Lossow said. “At the time we were all on Zoom because of COVID, so I knew our young men were going to be out in it. I wanted them to use their voice to be heard and I wanted to hear from our young people who would just speak truth.

“As a man, as coaches, we needed to hear and really ask ourselves, what are you going to do in your program? How are you going to make change? It was important for our players, our students, to be able to address the race issues they face, and for us as coaches to ask ourselves, ‘What are key, essential things that would help them find their hearts, souls and identity?'”

Lossow’s youngest of three sons, Elijah, just finished his senior season, another reason for the longtime coach “to step away.” But in the end he feels comfortable in the knowledge he discovered what the game means to him “and what it’s given to me.”

“A couple years ago, we lost, 73-0, to [Minneapolis] Southwest with a group of young sophomores just trying to play against a bigger, more experienced team, and it all just racks your soul as you stand there through that and try to help them,” Lossow said. “But then you think — and I told my coaches this too — if your whole purpose is solely to win football games, there are other places you can coach. But what’s our purpose here? Our purpose is to help these young men grow. And I work with two young coaches who are incredible young people as well, and I said to myself, when I feel like it’s time to reroute myself and the coaches are ready they’ll take it and they’ll find their niche in it all and keep their purpose on things greater than winning a football game.”

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