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Lured out of the broadcast booth with a $100 million contract that makes him the highest-paid football coach ever [url=http://www.officialhockeypanthersshop.com/authentic-adidas-aleksander-barkov-jersey]Adidas Aleksander Barkov Jersey[/url] , Jon Gruden sauntered up to the podium and flashed that mischievous smile.
”I’m very excited to be back here in Indianapolis,” Gruden declared. ”I sure have missed the combine.”
Gruden is navigating an offseason NFL landscape that’s changed drastically since he last roamed the sideline nearly a decade ago.
”It’s a lot different because you’re not allowed to have any interaction with the players, and I’ve always complained about that since the new (collective bargaining agreement) came into place,” Gruden said Wednesday. ”A lot of players would come to see me in Tampa to get their football fix.
”So, you’re not allowed to have contact with these guys. But what’s most discouraging to me is we’ve got to make some decisions on our roster, on salaries, on players and their futures and you can’t even meet them,” Gruden grumbled.
”I don’t know these guys. I’ve never coached them. I never met half of them. So, that’s been very, very difficult for me and I’ve been emotional about it at times.”
On the next podium was Matt Patricia, who, unlike his former colleague Josh McDaniels, didn’t balk at leaving Bill Belichick’s brigade.
Then there was Andy Reid, in the midst of another major roster shakeup, and his protege, Doug Pederson, still basking in Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl triumph in just his second season as coach of the Eagles.
All are gathering this week in Indianapolis hoping to better their chances of winning in 2018.
Top college prospects, including a group of quarterbacks that could produce five first-round draft picks, will spend four days getting poked and prodded [url=http://www.atlantabravesteamshop.com/authentic-mike-foltynewicz-jersey]Mike Foltynewicz Atlanta Braves Jersey[/url] , tested and timed.
GMs and coaches will pepper them with questions either in formal 15-minute interviews or during a mixed zone after their physical assessments.
”It’s a chance to get to know these guys, to know exactly what you’re getting when they come into the building,” said new Texans general manager Brian Gaine.
He said their athleticism and acumen are already well-known, and they’ll flash their strength, speed and swiftness this week at Lucas Oil Stadium.
What the GMs and coaches want to do is get a look under the hood.
”We’d like to talk about football as much as we can, but we need to know everything we can to find out about these players,” Gaine said. ”So when they come into our building (we know) that they’re a good fit for us in the locker room, in the weight room, in the training room, in the meeting rooms, out on the practice field.”
After this week, teams will retreat to their headquarters and begin preparing for the annual flood of free agents that will hit the market in mid-March.
NFL.com reported this week that teams will soon receive in-game player-tracking data on every NFL player in the league, something that could change the way they scout opponents and evaluate free agents.
The league has gathered the data since 2014 through sensors in players’ shoulder pads. Until now, teams only had data on their own players.
Some teams have embraced the new tools more than others.
”Are you talking about the analytics, the GPS, all the modern technology?” Gruden said. ”Man, I’m trying to throw the game back to 1998.
”You know, really as a broadcaster, I went around and observed every team [url=http://www.authenticsdallascowboys.com/cheap-dorance-armstrong-jr.-jersey]Dorance Armstrong Jr. Color Rush Jersey[/url] , asked a lot of questions, took a look at the facilities, how they’re doing business, there’s a stack of analytic data or `DAY-tuh,’ however you want to say that word, people don’t even know how to read it. It’s one thing to have the data – or DAY-tuh – it’s another thing to know how to read the damn thing.
”So, I’m not going to rely on GPSs and all the modern technology. I will certainly have some people that are professional that can help me from that regard. But I still think doing things the old-fashioned way is a good way, and we’re going to try to lean the needle that way a little bit.”
Also meeting in Indianapolis this week is the league’s competition committee, which is looking into fixing the catch rule, something commissioner Roger Goodell said was his top offseason priority.
The committee is also pondering whether to change the defensive pass interference rule from a spot foul into a 15-yard infraction as it is in college.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph dismissed that possibility because of the harm it could cause to a league that just gave us a thrilling Super Bowl featuring 1,151 yards of offense, more than any NFL game ever played.
”The DPI rule’s not going to change, guys. That’s nice media talk,” Joseph said. ”The catch rule? It has to clear up what’s an actual catch and what’s not a catch. But the DPI rule’s not going to change. It’s a fun game. We like to see points being scored. If that rule changes, there’s going to be a lot of defensive backs grabbing and pulling guys, so that won’t change.”
Length and athleticism make the Milwaukee Bucks a dangerous team with the ball.
When they defend the way they did on Friday night against the Boston Celtics, they’re nearly unstoppable.
Khris Middleton scored 23 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 19 and the Bucks used a dominating first half to overwhelm the Celtics 116-92, narrowing their deficit in the first-round playoff series to 2-1.
Eric Bledsoe and Jabari Parker each added 17 for the energized Bucks [url=http://www.cardinalscheapshops.com/cheap-authentic-josh-rosen-jersey]Cheap Josh Rosen Jersey[/url] , who held the Celtics without a field goal for nearly an 11-minute stretch of the first half.
Milwaukee found its defense after a disheartening 14-point loss in Game 2, getting contributions from up and down the roster.
”We realized how important this game was … Everybody that played came in ready to go,” Antetokounmpo said.
Backup center Thon Maker scored 14 points and had five of the Bucks’ 12 blocks. Pesky guard Matthew Dellavedova, a veteran of a championship run with the Cleveland Cavaliers, helped hold young Celtics point guard Terry Rozier to nine points on 2-of-7 shooting.
The Bucks were the aggressors all night long.
”The activity, if you take the stat sheet out of it, the activity and the energy that we brought … as you go through the game, that’s what you need, is the energy first,” coach Joe Prunty said.
Al Horford scored 16 for the Celtics, who fell behind by 23 at halftime and got no closer than 76-62 with 3:06 left in the third quarter on Jayson Tatum’s 3-pointer.
The game was so well in hand that the Bucks closed out the victory with Antetokounmpo on the bench for much of the fourth quarter with five fouls. Middleton had eight points in the fourth.
Game 4 is Sunday in Milwaukee. The Celtics will need to get off to a much better start if they want to avoid going home with a 2-2 series tie.
”We got into a hole. This is new for our group,” Horford said. ”They had it going … and we really didn’t have an answer for them tonight.”
Milwaukee hustled for loose balls and stayed active around the paint, using its length to get deflections and disrupt Boston in the lane.
The 7-foot-1 Maker, in particular, provided a huge boost to help Milwaukee counter what had been a decisive edge off the bench for the Celtics. Maker got extended minutes only because starting center John Henson missed the game with a sore back.
Nearly everything else went Milwaukee’s way, too.
Parker, who voiced displeasure this week after playing just 24 minutes over the first two games, was 7 of 12 from the field and played 30 minutes. Bledsoe, outplayed by Rozier in the first two games [url=http://www.cincinnatibengalsteamonline.com/billy-price-jersey]Billy Price Youth Jersey[/url] , shot 8 of 13.
”Obviously, it was all in the first half,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said about his team’s downfall. ”They were in such a rhythm offensively.”
Celtics: Rozier had five turnovers, but four came in a first quarter in which the Celtics fell behind 27-12. He had nine assists … Boston held a 45-37 edge in rebounding, including 17-7 on the offensive glass. But the Celtics allowed the Bucks to shoot at least 57 percent for a second straight game.
Bucks: Malcolm Brogdon replaced Tony Snell at guard alongside Bledsoe. Brogdon, who missed two months late in the season with a quad injury, scored five points but helped limit the Celtics’ backcourt of Rozier and Jaylen Brown (11 points). … Middleton added eight rebounds and seven assists.
Maker made his teammates proud, especially after having a conversation with Antetokounmpo a couple weeks ago.
”I told him we had to bring killer mentality back,” Antetokounmpo said. ”He was hungry.”
Maker was 3 of 4 from the 3-point line. He also played with passion, getting in opponents’ faces at times.
”We can’t get too sped up or get slowed down,” Maker said. ”We’ve just got to find our rhythm and play with pace.”
Colorful comments made by Rozier and Bledsoe earlier in the series fueled speculation that there might be a budding feud between the point guards.
Bledsoe outplayed his counterpart on Friday night.
”There’s nothing about me and Bledsoe. There’s nothing that he did differently today,” Rozier said. ”They punched us in the mouth early. We’ve got to do a better job of responding on Sunday, and we will.”
HE SAID IT
”For me, it’s about seeing the offense, finding my spots to be aggressive … just playing in rhythm.” – Middleton after he shot 10 of 17 from the field.
Game 4 is Sunday afternoon at the Bradley Center.
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