Author: Shalise Manza Young

Jets set to welcome first female coach for training camp internship

The New York Jets are poised to make some franchise history this summer during training camp.

According to the New York Daily News, the Jets have offered a coaching internship to Collette Smith, who will work with the defensive backs. Smith will be the first female coach for the team and just the third in the NFL, following Jen Welter, who interned with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015, and Kathryn Smith, who spent last season as a quality-control special teams assistant with the Buffalo Bills (she was not retained after the Bills fired Rex Ryan).

The 44-year old Smith is a native of Queens and lifelong Jets fan. She is currently a coach and marketing executive with the New York Sharks, part of the Independent Women’s Football League.

Collette Smith will be a coaching intern with the Jets this summer. (Twitter)
Collette Smith will be a coaching intern with the Jets this summer. (Twitter)

“I’m over the top. I’m humbled and I’m proud,” Smith told the Daily News. “This could have happened with any NFL team. But it just so happened that it was with my beloved New York Jets. This is bigger because of that. God forbid it would have been with the Patriots. But I still would have done it.”

She was a player with the Sharks for three years before a knee injury ended her playing days. After the injury, former Sharks coach Richard Harrigan made her an assistant on his staff.

Smith had practice-field access with the Jets last year, and gravitated toward the defensive backs. That’s how she met head coach Todd Bowles, himself a former safety, and as they chatted, Bowles discovered Smith is serious about football.

“He called over all the defensive backs,” Smith said. “He told them who I was and that I’d be hanging around from time to time. Everybody was polite and respectful.”

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She won’t just be hanging around this summer. Smith sees herself as a small part of the bigger picture.

“This is a way for me to help empower women. Don’t dream small, play big and go for it,” she said. “One day a woman will come to a football team, and it won’t be a big story. It’ll just be football. When that day comes I’ll be more honored and even more proud.”

It’s likely Bowles spoke with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians about how Welter was received by players; Bowles was defensive coordinator in Arizona before being hired by New York.

Former Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette has emotional reunion with Texas paramedics

Ricardo Lockette had a tear-filled reunion with Texas paramedics this week. (AP)
Ricardo Lockette had a tear-filled reunion with Texas paramedics this week. (AP)

Ricardo Lockette’s NFL career ended on Nov. 1, 2015. You may remember seeing the then-Seattle Seahawks reserve receiver and special teams player being carted off the field at AT&T Stadium after suffering a terrible neck injury against the Cowboys.

Lockette was hit by Dallas’ Jeff Heath while covering a punt, and lay motionless at midfield for several minutes. Paramedics from the Arlington (Texas) Fire department tended to Lockette and brought him to an area hospital.

This week, Lockette was addressing members of the Washington State Fire Chiefs’ conference and was surprised to learn that two of the members of the team at AT&T Stadium that fateful day were in the audience.

Their reunion got emotional.

Lockette met with deputy chief Gerald Randall and engineer chief John Robinson, embracing both as tears ran down his cheeks.

Dabbing at his eyes with the sleeves of his jacket, Lockette told those in the room, “I think you got me,” as they laughed and he turned to address Randall and Robinson.

“A privilege; a blessing. Something that I don’t take lightly and I am forever indebted for,” Lockette said of getting to see the two men again.

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The injury didn’t just lead to his retirement from football several months later; it could have been far more devastating. Lockette has said that he could have died in the moments after the hit.

“The doctor told me that pretty much my skull, all the muscles, all the ligaments that connect my vertebrae and the cartilage between that — so the cartilage is out, the ligaments torn. He said if I would have stood up then, the weight of my head, left, right, front, back, I would have died,” Lockette described.

Buccaneers' coach Dirk Koetter apologizes to Falcons for epic 28-3 tweet

The NFL inched away from its “No Fun League” moniker earlier this week when the decision was made to relax the strict-to-the-point-of-silly rules on touchdown celebrations.

But not everyone in the league is ready to fully embrace a fun-loving new attitude.

On Thursday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter publicly apologized to his team’s NFC South rival, the Atlanta Falcons, for a tweet sent from the Bucs’ official account earlier this week.

In our opinion, it was a fantastic tweet. But for Koetter, who worked for the Falcons as offensive coordinator for three years, it was “unprofessional” and “not smart” on the part of whichever member of the team’s social-media group sent the tweet.

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Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter apologized to the Falcons for a tweet he thought went too far. (AP)
Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter apologized to the Falcons for a tweet he thought went too far. (AP)

Here’s what happened, and you decide:

On Monday, the Buccaneers sent a tweet promoting team-branded “fidget spinners,” the new gadget that’s supposed to help relieve stress. As we’ve seen other teams do, the Falcons responded by tweaking Tampa Bay: “Are you nervous about something?,” the post said.

To which Tampa Bay’s account responded, “We ain’t worried ’bout nothing!,” with a photo of Vernon Hargreaves (No. 28) fist-bumping Jameis Winston (No. 3).

28-3. Get it?

@AtlantaFalcons We ain’t worried ’bout nothing! pic.twitter.com/7rIpy9gxtE

— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) May 22, 2017

As the kids say, the Bucs’ response was pretty savage. No matter what happens this season or beyond, the Falcons will never be able to escape their second-half collapse against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, and Tampa Bay’s tweet went for the cheap dig in a creative way.

But Koetter wasn’t happy.

“I want to make sure, on behalf of the Bucs organization, that I apologize to the Falcons,” Koetter said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “Whatever it was supposed to be that went out on social media, that’s not what our organization is all about. That was totally unprofessional and not smart on our part, whoever was responsible for that. Heck, we want to be playing in the Super Bowl, and we were home sitting on our butt while they were playing. We have no room to be making fun of anybody that was in the Super Bowl, whether they won or not.”

Koetter made the statement unsolicited, before taking any questions from the assembled media after the Bucs’ OTA practice.

So what do you think: did Dirk overreact? Or was he right to apologize?

Victor Cruz says Giants intentionally kept his 2016 production down

At least one current New York Giants receiver isn’t around the team this week for various reasons, and a former Giants receiver is pointing fingers at his longtime club.

Victor Cruz, released in February after seven seasons with the Giants, appeared on the nationally-syndicated radio show The Breakfast Club on Thursday morning, and implied that New York intentionally suppressed his production last year.

Holding his numbers down, Cruz said, both made it so the Giants wouldn’t have to pay incentives in his contract and to make it easier to cut him.

“I felt it all year long. Halfway through the year I’m ballin’, the other half I’m not getting the ball,” Cruz said. “And you’re just like, ‘what’s going on?’ It was like, ‘ok, I see what’s happening. They don’t want me here anymore.’

“A lot of people probably don’t know this… Let’s say I played well, was a 1,000-yard receiver last year, it would have been more difficult from a fan perspective to cut me.”

Victor Cruz accused the Giants of negatively impacting his stats last season. (AP)
Victor Cruz accused the Giants of negatively impacting his stats last season. (AP)

Cruz returned to the field in 2016 after missing most of 2014 and all of 2015 to injury. Playing in 15 games, he totaled 39 catches for 586 yards and just one touchdown (he was targeted 72 times).

Looking at his game-by-game numbers does lend some credence to Cruz’s argument: through the first seven contests, he was targeted 41 times, with 24 catches. Over his final eight games, he had just 15 receptions, nearly half of those – eight – coming in the season’s penultimate game, against the Eagles.

Cruz was asked if he believed quarterback Eli Manning played a role in his diminished second-half numbers, but he said he doubted that was true.

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“It’s hard to believe. Even just to think about someone coming up to the quarterback and saying, ‘hey, don’t throw it here’ or ‘don’t give it to this guy’ – it’s hard to even fathom that thought, which I don’t even know or think that happens. I doubt it,” Cruz said. “But when you look at the film and look at how it goes down, it’s the only way.”

The 30-year old, who has reportedly visited with Chicago and Jacksonville this month, became a salsa-dancing sensation in 2011, when he shot from undrafted rookie the season before to an 82-catch, 1,500-yard performance.

Cruz admitted it hurt to be released by the Giants.

“It hurt, to be real. I gave so much to them. Seven years,” he said. “It definitely hurt…but every run has to stop at some point.”

Former Bears tight end has moved on to tasty post-playing career

There are lots of former NFL players who have gone on to great post-playing careers.

But few are as tasty as Dustin Lyman’s.

Lyman, who played 55 games over five seasons for the Chicago Bears, has been CEO of Famous Brands International for the last nine months. If you’ve never heard of Famous Brands, you’ve almost certainly heard of two of its subsidiaries: Mrs. Fields cookies and TCBY frozen yogurt.

Former Bears TE Dustin Lyman, shown here in 2012, has been CEO of Famous Brands International since September. (AP)
Former Bears TE Dustin Lyman, shown here in 2012, has been CEO of Famous Brands International since September. (AP)

The 40-year old’s rise to one of the country’s sweetest jobs is chronicled by Dan Pompei on The Athletic.

A third-round pick out of Wake Forest in 2000, Lyman was a linebacker in college. But at 6-foot-4 and with 4.70 speed in the 40, then-Bears personnel director Mark Hatley thought Lyman might be better suited as a tight end.

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Over the next five years, Lyman lined up at tight end, starting 21 games, including 10 of 16 in 2004. Early in training camp in 2005, he suffered a sprained ankle that prevented him from getting on the field to show that he still deserved the job, and Lyman was cut by Chicago.

Though other teams showed interest and Lyman worked out with Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Detroit, he never got a job offer. Lyman wound up being OK with that, filing his retirement papers the following year.

“I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to on the field, but I proved to myself I could play at that level, and that was important to me,” Lyman said. “Looking back, I feel proud of my career. I have no regrets. I didn’t want to hang onto sports beyond a reasonable time period. Maybe I was worried about making a successful transition and because of that I prepared myself mentally knowing that day would come, and I would not look back.”

He also knew what could happen if he kept playing, in terms of diminished mental and physical health and the impact it could have on his life.

Lyman’s post-NFL career began as an annuities salesman, and included two years of night classes to earn his MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. In 2013, he joined Famous Brands as director of finance.

He quickly climbed the ladder, named CEO last September and put in charge of a company that does $200 million a year in revenue and has almost 500 franchises in the United States and another 100 around the world.

Pompei’s full profile of Lyman is extensive, and worth your time; he also touches on those in football who influenced him and his thoughts on concussions.

Fresh off Columbia graduation, Andrew Hawkins says he's signing with Patriots

Andrew Hawkins announced that he's joining the New England Patriots. (AP)
Andrew Hawkins announced that he’s joining the New England Patriots. (AP)

It’s been quite a month for Andrew Hawkins. One week ago, the veteran receiver graduated from Columbia University with a master’s in sports management, earning a 4.0 GPA despite pursuing the degree while an active NFL player.

And on Wednesday, the 31-year old announced that he’s signed with the New England Patriots:

BREAKING: @Hawk announces signing with @Patriots on UNINTERRUPTED. pic.twitter.com/bQpVblBO1W

— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) May 24, 2017

In the video, posted on Uninterrupted, the LeBron James-fronted multimedia site, Hawkins said he’s excited to join the “reigning football champions” and that New England’s program is top-notch. He said he passed up on deals that would have paid him significantly more, but he’s all about a chance to win right now.

And can you blame him? Hawkins spent the last three seasons with the Cleveland Browns, a team that won a total of 11 games in that time. The Patriots won more than that just last season.

But he’s joining a deep receiver group: the 5-foot-7 slot player will be fighting for reps with Brandin Cooks, whom New England acquired from New Orleans earlier this year, as well as Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola, all experienced in the Patriots’ complex offensive system.

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“Nothing is for sure, I’ve got my work cut out for me; it’s an opportunity,” Hawkins said. “I’m excited to get there, get to work and hopefully I can be part of something special and be part of that Patriot legacy.”

Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweeted that Hawkins turned down offers from four other teams to sign a one-year minimum with New England.

Cowboys holding Ezekiel Elliott out of OTA practices after car accident

Ezekiel Elliott will not participate in Dallas Cowboys offseason workouts again on Wednesday, the second straight day he’s missed.

Via ESPN’s Todd Archer and Adam Schefter, Elliott was involved in a car accident on Sunday; he was a passenger in the car.

Not this week: Dallas is holding RB Ezekiel Elliott out of OTA practices after he was in a car accident over the weekend. (AP)
Not this week: Dallas is holding RB Ezekiel Elliott out of OTA practices after he was in a car accident over the weekend. (AP)

The pair further reported that Elliott “did not suffer any significant injuries” but the Cowboys are being cautious with the running back, who led the NFL in carries and rushing yards last year as a rookie and was named All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in the process.

Cowboys’ in-house reporter Nick Eatman confirmed the accident, adding that Elliott suffered a head injury in Sunday night’s crash.

Head coach Jason Garrett spoke with reporters on Wednesday afternoon and gave a brief update on Elliott. Garrett said Elliott will be held out of practice on Thursday as well due to his “body soreness, neck soreness.” But Garrett added that the team expects the running back to take part in OTAs next week.

It hasn’t been a good year for Elliott and cars: in January, he was involved in a “fender bender” on his way to the Dallas team facility in the days leading up to the Cowboys’ first playoff game.

Rashad Jennings wins Season 24 of 'Dancing with the Stars' over MLB's David Ross

Free agent running back Rashad Jennings and pro partner Emma Slater won Season 24 of
Free agent running back Rashad Jennings and pro partner Emma Slater won Season 24 of “Dancing with the Stars” on Tuesday night. (ABC)

Rashad Jennings lamented during Monday night’s episode of “Dancing with the Stars” that he’d never won the big game. In seven seasons, with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and New York Giants, Jennings has made but one playoff appearance.

But on Tuesday night, Jennings got to call himself a champion and raise a gleaming silver trophy.

He’s champion of the ballroom, and the trophy was a small mirror ball. But hey, a title is a title.

The free agent running back was crowned the winner of Season 24 of “Dancing with the Stars” with his partner, professional dancer Emma Slater.

Jennings beat out finalists David Ross, the two-time World Series winning catcher with the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, and Normani Kordei, a member of the pop group Fifth Harmony.

Over the two-night finale, Jennings and Slater performed three dances: a re-do of a Viennese Waltz from earlier in the season, an anything-goes freestyle, and a cha-cha/tango fusion dance the pair learned in just 24 hours.

The show’s judges gave the two a near-perfect score of 119 (out of 120) for the three dances; combined with the votes from fans, Jennings came out on top.

Show co-host Erin Andrews revealed that Jennings rehearsed for 362 hours over the course of the show, 100 hours more than either of the other finalists.

“I pushed myself so hard because working hard is the only thing I know,” Jennings said.

The 40-year-old Ross, partnered with Lindsay Arnold, wasn’t the most natural dancer of the season, but his joie de vivre and willingness to commit to whatever was thrown at him made him a fan favorite. Ross and Arnold became known as “Team Lady and the Gramp,” which is a little unfair to Ross, even with his grey hair.

Jennings, who was released by the Giants in February, is the fourth NFL player to win “DWTS.” Emmitt Smith won Season 3, Hines Ward won Season 12, and Donald Driver won Season 14. Calvin Johnson finished in third place last year.

 

Bye bye, Brandon: Sheldon Richardson says Jets locker room better without Marshall

Sheldon Richardson implied the Jets locker room is a better place without Brandon Marshall. (AP)
Sheldon Richardson implied the Jets locker room is a better place without Brandon Marshall. (AP)

Veteran receiver Brandon Marshall, now with the New York Giants, has certainly figured out how to endear himself to reporters. In part by becoming a member of the media himself.

Teammates? Maybe not so much.

New York Jets defensive lineman/linebacker Sheldon Richardson was on the roster with Marshall for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, and on Tuesday as he spoke to reporters during the Jets’ offseason program, he made it pretty clear that he’s not missing the receiver:

Sheldon Richardson and the “15 reasons” #Jets locker room is better/more comfortable this offseason. pic.twitter.com/FWWIV3VwvI

— Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73) May 23, 2017

Richardson said the locker room is “a whole lot easier to get along with now,” and when pressed as to why he felt that way, Richardson initially jokes that the assembled media are “so thirsty.”

Then he quips, “let’s just say there are 15 reasons why,” a reference to Marshall’s jersey number for much of his career.

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It wasn’t a secret that Marshall and Richardson were far from friends; while Richardson wasn’t the only Jets player who believed Marshall wasn’t sincere, he was the only one unafraid to call Marshall out on it.

After a Pro Bowl season his first year with the Jets, including an NFL-best 14 receiving touchdowns, drops and a rotation of quarterbacks contributed to a significant dropoff for Marshall last season. He asked the team for his release in March, and it was granted. He signed a two year, $12 million deal with the Giants days later.

Reggie Bush hopes to play a 12th NFL season in 2017

As veteran running backs have come off the free-agent market – Adrian Peterson, LeGarrette Blount, Marshawn Lynch – another over-30 back is hoping to be in a uniform this coming season.

Fresh off an statistically sad season for a running back – with 12 carries for minus-3 yards for the Buffalo Bills last season he became the first ballcarrier in over 60 years to have 10 or more carries and finish with negative yardage – Bush says he wants to come back for more, and doesn’t want his 2016 season to serve as his NFL swan song.

One more chance? Reggie Bush hopes to play a 12th season in the NFL in 2017. (AP)
One more chance? Reggie Bush hopes to play a 12th season in the NFL in 2017. (AP)

“Going into year 12, I still feel like I have a lot left to prove, a lot left to give this game before I’m done,” he said on NFL Network. “I don’t want to put a number on how many years I have left. I think once you get past year 10, you just gotta take it one year at a time and go from there. I’m still excited, still looking forward to playing football again this season, still staying in shape, still working out. I plan to be somewhere in September.”

While his rushing stats were nothing to write home about, Bush, who turned 32 in March, did score a rushing touchdown and had seven catches for 90 yards in 13 games (no starts) with Buffalo.

Bush says he’s had discussions with teams, though he didn’t specify which had shown interest in signing him.

“I’m going to be patient and make sure I make the right decision for me and for my family,” he said. “I started playing football when I was 8 years old, and it’s always been a strong passion, and it’s always been a passion that’s never gonna leave. For me at this point, I’ve made plenty of money and it’s not about the money for me.

“I want to get a chance to go out there on the football field and just continue to play the sport that I love to play. I’m so passionate about football and I love it, and I’m not ready to hang it up yet. I want to make sure I exhaust everything before I hang it up so I don’t have any regrets once I do hang it up.”

The No. 2 pick out of USC in 2006, Bush’s want to play is understandable; whether a team will make a spot for a 32-year old back who hasn’t made a significant contribution on the field in three years seems like a longshot.