7:00 p.m.-SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS FOCUS ON OTHER NEEDS AFTER JIMMY GARAPPOLO SIGNS LONG-TERM DEAL
Plenty of teams headed to Indianapolis ready to look at the quarterbacks at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine with the mindset of finding the guy that best fits their scheme and can lead the franchise for the foreseeable future, but the San Francisco 49ers are not one of them.
The 49ers got the guy they believe could be their franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, in a mid-season trade last year, and recently, reached a deal on a five-year contract extension, which coach Kyle Shanahan believes will be important to the development of the team moving forward.
“It’ll be nice in free agency when anybody we’re going after doesn’t ask me who our quarterback’s going to be,” Shanahan said while addressing the media at the Combine.
“They know. That’s nice. I don’t always have to say, ‘We’ll have one, I promise. Just wait. We’ll see.’ That makes it a little easier. I think that makes it a little more attractive. People can see where we’re going, what our situation is, and now, you can be focused on getting better at the position. It eases everyone.”
In just six games with the 49ers last season, Garoppolo completed 120 of his 178 attempts (67.4 percent) for 1,560 yards and seven touchdowns against five interceptions. Garoppolo completed 20 20-yard passes and five 40-yard throws after the trade.
“I think everyone could see his arm talent right away,” Shanahan said. “There was a lot of buzz about that right when we got him, and his personality, I think everyone gravitated to.
“I think our team started to get better in that month, even before he started playing. We got our first win in a couple weeks before his first start, and once he got in, he played very well and the team started to get better every week after that.”
The 49ers got Garoppolo from the New England Patriots for the paltry sum of one second-round pick.
“He gave us a chance to get him and we strongly appreciated that,” Shanahan said. “It was a heck of an opportunity for us and we didn’t want to pass at that.
“They weren’t interested early on, at this time last year. I think it became a lot more realistic at the trade deadline. I think that pushes a lot of teams to have to make certain decisions. I think they tried to hold onto him as long as possible, but a few days before the trade deadline, it came up and I think they had to make a move to help their team and their future, and fortunately, it helped us also.”
Now, with Garoppolo in the fold long-term, the 49ers are focused on building around him in order to get the organization back into the postseason picture soon.
“We were hoping that we would have our quarterback by our second year, so I think that it’s gone as planned,” Shanahan said.
“You’d like to get it the first day you got somewhere, but that’s not as easy as everybody might think it is. We got him, and we feel great. I think it’s nice going into free agency and the draft when we feel pretty good about our quarterback room. It’s just part of the process, and we’ve got to keep adding a lot.”
6:00 p.m.-SEATTLE SEAHAWKS COACH PETE CARROLL COMFORTABLE WITH RUSSELL WILSON PLAYING PRO BASEBALL
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has had a unique offseason, spending some of his down time from the National Football League taking up another hobby, the sport of professional baseball for one of the foremost franchises in the game, the New York Yankees.
Wilson, 29, has maintained a strong connection to the game of baseball during his offseasons and on February 7, was traded to the Yankees from the Texas Rangers, which gave him the opportunity to fulfill his goal of playing for “The Bronx Bombers.”
“I think it’s awesome,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told media at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. “He’s going to be working out and doing something anyway and reports are he’s in impeccable condition. He’s extraordinarily dedicated to doing everything he can to be right.
“He’s playing ball, playing baseball, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all. The focus that it takes to play at this level, whether it’s baseball or basketball or football, to compete at that level and the mentality you have to be at, I think it’s only enriching, so I’ve got no problem with that.”
While Wilson has no designs on becoming a next-generation Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders, he is still doing what can be done to improve himself as an athlete, and Carroll volunteered some advice while speaking to the media.
“So far, he’s not doing a great job with the pitches going away from him,” Carroll said. “We’re hoping he’s going to start putting the ball into right field a little bit more and going with the pitch, but aside from that, the curveball is still giving him problems like it always did back in the day, so we’ll see what happens.”
A four-time Pro Bowl quarterback for the Seahawks, Wilson has completed 1,815 of his 2,834 career attempts (64 percent) for 22,176 yards and 161 touchdowns against 56 interceptions. He has completed 314 passes of at least 20 yards and 61 40-yard throws during his six years in Seattle.
Additionally, as a quarterback running a read-option offense, Wilson has rushed for 3,275 yards and 16 touchdowns. Wilson has 21 20-yard rushers and three 40-yard scampers to his credit.
During the 2017 season, Wilson matched a personal best with 34 touchdowns, but his 11 interceptions also matched a previous high. Despite the fact that Wilson completed a career-low 61.3 percent of his 553 throws last fall, Carroll is confident his franchise quarterback will be a much better passer in the years ahead.
“Just keep growing, just keep getting better,” Carroll said. “I’ve said this for a couple years now that I think one of these years, he’s going to be a 70-percent completion guy, and that just means he’s cleaned things up a little bit more, just being more efficient and more precise. He’s grown so much, and he’s so much more aware than he was in earlier years, but this is the process that it takes.
“Every one of these years is another opportunity to grow, and he’s been compared to the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in this league, and we always look at them when they’re in Year 13 or 14 or 11. He’s not even there yet. He’s halfway to that kind of a number. I think there’s tremendous upside and I know he thinks that too. He’s looking forward to getting better and finding his way to contribute in a bigger way and be a bigger factor.”
2:20 p.m.-CLEVELAND BROWNS GM JOHN DORSEY OPEN TO TRADING NO. 1 PICK IN 2018 NFL DRAFT
CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey is willing to listen to trade offers for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Dorsey spoke with the media at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis Thursday, and described how he is approaching his first offseason running the personnel side for a Browns organization looking to reverse their fortunes after posting a 1-31 record under the previous front-office regime.
“There’s a lot of things I can do at No. 1, and not just get a quarterback,” Dorsey said. “My door is wide open. If someone wants to come up and talk to me about a trade, I’m willing to trade.
“Any good GM wants to field phone calls from his peers, so why wouldn’t I? That’s why I say, ‘Guys, give me a call and see what’s up.’”
In each of the last two years, the Browns have traded down in the first round and given up on the idea of taking a quarterback high in the NFL Draft, choosing instead to select quarterbacks Cody Kessler (third round) and DeShone Kizer (second round) in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
In 2016, the Browns traded the No. 2 overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, who selected their franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz. After the deal was struck, Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta said on the record that he did not believe Wentz had the potential to be a top-20 NFL quarterback.
In 29 career NFL games, Wentz has completed 644 of his 1,047 attempts (61.5 percent) for 7,078 yards and 49 touchdowns against 21 interceptions.
Prior to tearing multiple ligaments in his left knee, including the anterior cruciate ligament, in a win over the Los Angeles Rams in mid-December, Wentz completed 265 passes for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns against seven interceptions and was considered a potential MVP candidate during the 2017 season.
During the 2017 NFL Draft, the Browns traded the No. 12 pick to the Houston Texans, who spent it on former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, a National Championship winner in his own right.
Before tearing the ACL in his right knee during a practice in early November, Watson completed 126 of his 204 attempts for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions to go along with two rushing scores.
Knowing the Browns’ history with trades in the NFL Draft, Dorsey says that when the decision is made on a deal, it is part art, part science.
“You have to strategically think about who needs certain positions, if it’s the same position you’re willing to go up with,” Dorsey said.
“Once you’ve identified those teams and position that are willing to go up, then you have to put yourself in the position and be willing to give up a little bit of currency to go get the player who you think can change you. That’s why you make moves like that.”
Whether Dorsey and the Browns elect to trade either the Nos. 1 or 4 picks, he understands that it must be the best move for the team.
“I’m going to do what’s best for this organization, and I will do that,” Dorsey said.
1:30 p.m.-CLEVELAND BROWNS EXPECT DECISION ON JOE THOMAS’ FUTURE SOON
After going 1-31 over the last two seasons, the Cleveland Browns have plenty of needs they plan to address with picks in the 2018 NFL Draft and through free agency, but they are waiting on a decision to know if there will be another major position open for competition.
Following a mid-season injury, veteran left tackle Joe Thomas talked about needing time to discuss his future with family and close friends before deciding to return for the final year of his contract or step away from the game once and for all.
“I’ve talked to Joe Thomas several times, and I think Joe is going to make a decision, hopefully, fairly soon here, but again, it’s on his time,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.
“Joe has been a tremendous Cleveland Brown, has done anything and everything we’ve asked of him, so I think it’s only right to give him the opportunity to work through this and make the best decision for him.”
Thomas suffered a torn triceps tendon in his left arm in a 12-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday, October 23.
On first-and-10 from Tennessee’s 27-yard line, Browns running back Duke Johnson ran behind the left side of the offensive line for a three-yard gain. Thomas emerged from the pile holding his left arm and writhing in pain as he fell to the turf.
Tended to for several moments on the field, Thomas was helped to his feet and walked to the sidelines while talking with Browns medical personal.
Prior to the injury, Thomas played 10,363 consecutive snaps, which is believed to be the longest such streak in NFL history.
“Joe and I have had numerous conversations,” Browns general manager John Dorsey said.
“I have greatly admired Joe from his playing days at Wisconsin all the way up to the Cleveland Browns. Anybody in his right mind knows how talented he is. With that said, I think he deserves a little bit of respect, and when it comes time for the proper decision, he’ll make it.”
In December of 2016, Thomas was selected to his 10th consecutive Pro Bowl, and went 10 for 10 in all-star game nods since entering the league via the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft out of the University of Wisconsin. Thomas was the first Browns player ever selected to participate in 10 Pro Bowls.
When Thomas made an appearance at the 18th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards back in January, he looked to have dropped a significant among of weight.
Additionally, Thomas has shown interest in building a career in media, as he co-hosts a very popular podcast, “ThomaHawk,” with former Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, and made the rounds at several ESPN shows in recent weeks.
“I’ve seen him putting it back on here recently,” Jackson said of Thomas’ recent weight loss indicating an impending decision to step away from the game.
“He’s Joe. He knows how to get himself ready to play if he decides to play, and for us, as an organization, we’re going to do everything we can to be prepared, whether he plays or doesn’t play, and I think that’s what our responsibility is.
“I think he understands too because he wants what’s best for the organization as well. I think he’ll come out and let us know fairly soon what he wants to do.”
11:45 a.m.-RON RIVERA: CAROLINA PANTHERS TO FOCUS ON RUNNING BACKS AT 2018 NFL SCOUTING COMBINE
Prior to the start of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, the Carolina Panthers released veteran running back Jonathan Stewart, which left the organization with a younger, less experienced backfield combination of Christian McCaffrey, Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne.
As such, coach Ron Rivera and the Panthers are focusing in on the running backs, who will go through their drills at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday.
“I think there’s several really good looking backs in this draft, and it’s really about the guy that best fits what you want,” Rivera said.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it goes. I’m anxious to see that group because I think it’s a dynamic group from top to bottom. I just started watching tape on that group, so I don’t really have a feel for them, but I do think there is a guy that could potentially help us.”
Stewart will not be an easy rusher for the Panthers to replace.
Not only did Stewart rush for 7,318 yards and score 51 touchdowns in his 10 years with the organization, but also, he proved to be an invaluable leader capable of leading through his words, and more importantly, with his actions.
“Jonathan’s meant an awful lot to this team,” Rivera said. “He’s been the physical presence on the offense that sets the tone and tempo for what we can be as a physical football team. A physical downhill runner that, at times, can really set the tone for a game.
“Last year, we went to Tennessee for a preseason game and they got after us pretty good in the first quarter. We ran a couple straight downhill plays with Jonathan and you could see everybody kind of pick up after that point. That’s what he’s meant for us.”
With Norv Turner running Carolina’s offense for the 2018 season, Rivera is confident that no matter who the Panthers plug into the scheme, the veteran play-caller will get the most out the running back position.
“I wouldn’t say you need a guy like Jonathan because you go back and look at what he did when he had LaDainian (Tomlinson) or when he had Frank Gore in San Francisco, he’s had dynamic guys that are multi-faceted, that can run the ball inside, outside, catch the ball and pass protect, so that’s what you’re really looking for, that type of guy,” Rivera said.
“Going back to the 2013 season, you saw DeAngelo (Williams) and Jonathan both setting the tone for us. I think you do need to have that. In the NFL today, it’s tough to have one guy that just dominates the game for you. You’ve got to have guys that have similar characteristics, but also, do something special that can separate them as well.”
9:00 a.m.-DAY TWO OF 2018 NFL COMBINE SET TO GET UNDERWAY
The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine got underway on Wednesday with press conferences from general managers and coaches across the National Football League, and now, on day two, players will address the media.
Running backs, offensive linemen and specialists will speak with the media ahead of their on-field workouts, which are slated to kick off the football portion of the Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Friday.
Additionally, Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey will be one of the decision-makers who is scheduled to meet with the media Thursday.
Dorsey is expected to field questions about the Browns, and their future at quarterback.
With a year-ending loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, the Browns went winless in a 16-game season for the first time in franchise history, and their 17th consecutive loss overall dropped the organization to a league-worst 1-31 since the opening game of 2016.
The Browns have not won on a Sunday afternoon since December 13, 2015, and those 33 straight Sunday losses are an NFL record.
Last season, the Browns set the record for the worst 28-game stretch in NFL history, as they bested the previous mark of 2-26 set by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 1976-1977 seasons with a 1-27 mark that got four losses worse over the final month of play.
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