Kliff Kingsbury on Fitzgerald: ‘He has an incredible desire to be great’

In his 16th season, Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald is still playing at a fairly high level in 2019. After six games, Fitzgerald is leading the Cardinals in receptions(35), receiving yards(427), and is second on the team in receiving touchdowns(2). He is doing all this at the age of 36.

In his first season as Cardinals head coach, Kliff Kingsbury is seeing up close and personal what makes Fitzgerald so great.

“He has an incredible desire to be great, you watch it in practice, I watched it all spring,” Kingsbury said during a conference call on Wednesday. “He is going full speed in every rep he took all spring, all training camp, every practice. You have to kind of pull him off the field because he wants to get every rep and wants to continue to get better and wants to be coached. He’s just a unique talent, a unique person, and I feel very lucky to be around him.”

Obviously, when his career ends, Fitzgerald is going to the Hall of Fame, and fortunately for Arizona, they have a veteran that can show their rookie QB and number one overall pick in this year’s draft, Kyler Murray, how to be a professional. Murray has been solid thus far this season, and having a guy like Fitzgerald around will only make him better. 

After six games, Murray has thrown for 1664 yards, seven touchdowns, and four interceptions. Also, Murray is doing it with his legs, as he has rushed for 238 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. If Murray continues to play well, it could prolong Fitzgerald’s career, and according to Kingsbury, Murray is doing everything the team has asked of him.

“He’s shown he is willing to work and progress,” Kingsbury said. “He’s really adjusted his game over the first month and a half to fit what we do offensively and limit his negative plays. He’s doing all the things that we’ve asked him to do, which has been huge. We knew he had the talent to be a special player, and it’s all about work ethic and the price you are willing to pay once you get here, and he’s starting to show those things.”

If Fitzgerald can continue to play well, maybe the Murray to Fitzgerald connection can keep going for years to come in Arizona, which would make for good times in the desert. 

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Jones on his four starts: ‘I’ve been inconsistent overall’

One month ago tomorrow, Pat Shurmur shook up the Giants’ world when he announced that rookie Daniel Jones was replacing 16-year veteran and franchise icon Eli Manning as the starting quarterback.

Jones has since started four games – a quarter of an NFL season – winning the first two and losing the most recent two, including a 35-14 defeat at New England last Thursday. The 2-4 Giants are preparing to host the 2-3-1 Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, but today marked a natural point to reflect on the transition at the game’s most important position.

“I talked to him last week, I said it’s kind of an interesting month he had,” Shurmur said. “He went through a lot in the first month, learned a lot and did a lot of really good things. We’re looking forward to him continuing to improve in all facets of playing quarterback.”

On Sept. 22, Jones had the best starting debut of any quarterback in Giants history. He led the team from an 18-point halftime deficit to a 32-31 victory at Tampa Bay while completing 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 112.7. Jones did lose two fumbles. But he also led the team with 28 rushing yards on four carries, including two seven-yard touchdowns, the last which scored the deciding points on fourth down with 1:16 remaining in the game. Two days later, he was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

The following week, Jones threw for another touchdown, and his first two interceptions, in a 24-3 trouncing of Washington. But losses to Minnesota and the Patriots have evened Jones’ record at 2-2. And he has thrown more picks (six) than touchdown passes (five).

“I think it’s been, looking back on the month, kind of up and down,” Jones said. “I’ve been inconsistent overall. I’ve been good and been bad. I think there are certainly a lot of things to learn. When you look at the scheme or some of the decisions, some of my habits or bad habits, I think there are a lot of things to learn. So, I’ll kind of separate those problems, (and) those individual issues and try to improve. But also, just getting more comfortable and getting more accustomed to what we are doing. I think I’ll continue to learn and grow, but I’ve certainly had the opportunity to learn a lot this month.”

Shurmur was asked today about Jones learning to find a balance between throwing the ball away and keeping it in an effort to make a play. It’s one of the many facets of quarterback play the 22-year-old is continuing to work on.

“You have to be a good decision-maker early, in the middle and late in downs.” Shurmur said. “Young players that are hyper competitive like he is, they try to make a play all the way throughout. But as you go through this as a quarterback, there are times when it’s important you use your legs and unfortunately throw the ball away. They get used to that as they go. Just like he’s getting used to every single thing.”

Jones has yet to play without a full complement of offensive weapons. That will likely happen again on Sunday, as wide receiver Sterling Shepard and running back Wayne Gallman remain in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

In his first two starts, Jones was without wide receiver Golden Tate, who was serving an NFL suspension. Saquon Barkley sprained his ankle in the first half against the Buccaneers and has not played since. He was joined on the inactive list for the New England game by Shepard, Gallman and tight end Evan Engram (knee).

But the Giants’ most valuable ball-handlers are working their way back. Tate played in the last two games, and against the Patriots caught six passes for 102 yards, including a 64-yarder for the team’s only touchdown.

Both Barkley and Engram were full participants in practice today, seemingly making it more likely they will play against Arizona.

But when asked if it is “reasonable to assume” they will play on Sunday, Shurmur said, “We’ll just see what the week holds. I’m sure everyone has questions with regard to it, but they practiced today and they did well. So we’ll just see.”

Jones was similarly cautious when asked how the offense changes with Barkley in the backfield.

“I think we’re going to take it day by day and see how he feels,” Jones said. “I know he’s been working hard, so we’ll see. Hopefully, we’ll have him out there.”

Engram reiterated today what he said Monday, that he feels good and will play.

“It’s going to be good getting back out there,” Engram said. “I was pretty down about missing last Thursday and I’m definitely really hungry. Getting back out there is going to be fun. I’m going to be a kid in the candy shop again and just go out there and have fun, make some plays.”

Barkley is scheduled to speak to the media tomorrow.

Tate is looking forward to lining up with Barkley. He has yet to play in a game with the splendid running back, including the preseason (when Barkley didn’t play a down).

“I’m excited to be on the field with him and block for him and whatever is needed to help him score and help us win,” Tate said. “He’s a huge part of this offense, we’re excited about it. We have to do our jobs the best we can to spring each other.”

If Barkley, Engram and Tate all play, it will give the Giants a good chunk of the arsenal they envisioned having, and perhaps help makes Jones’ second month more successful than the first.

“Just more options, we can spray the ball everywhere, which makes it tough to cover us,” Tate said. “The more options we have the better off we are, the better team we are. I know we are all excited.”

*Rookie cornerback Corey Ballentine did not practice after becoming the fourth Giants player to enter the NFL concussion protocol.

The other three – Shepard, Gallman and defensive tackle Olsen Pierre – were on the field with non-contact restrictions and were officially limited.

Courtesy: Michael Eisen

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone talks Jalen Ramsey

It finally happened! The Jacksonville Jaguars finally traded fourth-year CB Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a 2020 first-round draft selection, a 2021 first-round draft selection, and a 2021 fourth-round draft selection.

Ramsey, who requested a trade from Jacksonville, had missed the past three games with a back injury.

On Wednesday, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone discussed the trade of Ramsey.

(On how relieving it is to have the Jalen Ramsey trade situation over)

“I never really looked at it that way. I looked at it as obviously I had a good relationship with him and we were working together to get him healthy and get him on the field, and that’s where my focus was, so he can get on the field and help us win football games. Now I’m concentrated on the players that are here and getting our guys focused on Cincinnati.”

(On if he respects the way Ramsey handled himself over the past month)

“I respect everyone that’s in that locker room in the way they handle a lot of their things. I think it’s difficult, especially when a player’s injured and doing everything they can to get back, so I have no issues.”

(On if he was surprised that Ramsey was traded yesterday)

“I think in this league nothing ever really surprises me anymore, especially from the business side of things. I found out kind of like everybody else did late last night. [General Manager] Dave [Caldwell] came in and told me.”

(On what is preventing other players from exaggerating an injury with the purpose of refusing to play)

“I think we have to be careful when we say that this is a blueprint with the injury and wanting to move, because obviously he did have an injury. So, I don’t even want to go there. How to stop anyone else from doing it? I can’t answer that question, I really can’t.”

(On what he believes went wrong with Ramsey)

“Well I was doing everything I can. We were talking every day. We talked last night afterwards, so I can’t speak for that. I was trying, busting my butt, to get him healthy and get him out there. That’s a great question for him. I think he’s the only one that’s going to be able to answer that.”

(On how he addressed the trade with the team today)

“I said, ‘We made the trade last night and that [we] appreciate what Jalen has done for our football team and being part of this football team. And we wish him the best of luck and we have to focus on Cincinnati. We’re going to get a lot of questions today from the media about what’s going on. I’m not telling you guys what to say, I’m just telling you what I’m going to say and I’m going to get my focus back on the team which is my job.’ And that’s exactly what I told them almost word for word.”

(On if a leader of the team had ever said to him that the Ramsey situation was a distraction)

“No. Other things, yes, that’s part of it. We have a committee and there’s things that come up. ‘Hey coach, what do you think about this?’ And you work with the players. And I think they’ll tell you that we’ve worked through a lot of things. I think it’s helped this football team. I think it will continue to help this football team. The more communication in anything that you do, the better it’s going to be. I really believe that.”

(On if he feels that what the Jaguars received in the Ramsey trade is a fair resolution of the trade demand)

“My son asked me the same question. I told him, ‘I don’t know the analytics of all that.’ So, like I said, that future stuff, I’m concentrated on now.”

(On if he needs analytics to formulate an opinion on the Ramsey trade)

“I’m sure five years from now, 10 years from now, someone will be able to write about it. It’s not my job to do that. And again, I know you guys are probably frustrated, but you’re talking to a guy that has a big job to get the players ready. That we’re discussing something that has nothing to do with where my mind is right now, honestly, and I respect the hell out of you guys, you know that. I just wish I can give you the insight and the answers that that question needs to be answered. I don’t have that. And I wish we could get someone up here that can answer it, I do, but it’s me. So, I really – you don’t know. You don’t know until down the road.”

(On what the feeling was like with Jalen Ramsey)

“I keep trying to tell everyone, we had a very good relationship. I told him the same thing – I appreciate what you have done, I wish you the best and I’ll see you in the summer. I see him in the summer. We are right down the road from each other [in Tennessee]. I wish him the best. I really do.”

(On why Jalen Ramsey didn’t play Sunday)

“Everything is, like I said before, a collaborative effort. Doctors, trainers, players, for all injured players. We are working out and we are progressing, and it got to a point where [his back] wasn’t where we would be able to put him out there and be able to perform. That’s exactly what happened. No different than a lot of the other guys that [have injuries] happen, nothing unusual of how that goes.”

(On if he spends any time looking back and trying to figure out where things went wrong with Jalen Ramsey or second-guessing how the franchise approached his situation)

“I don’t have the time honestly. I am always disappointed in myself first that I couldn’t do a better job. That is just how I am wired. I am not a martyr or anything like that. My job is the coaches, myself, getting the team ready.  How the franchise [does things] … that’s above me. I don’t have the time to think about that.”

(On if the Jalen Ramsey situation made his job harder)

“I don’t see it harder or easier. I think being a head coach in the NFL is always hard. I don’t think that ever changes. I think it’s a privilege. It’s an honor. It’s one that I don’t take lightly, so I put a lot of effort into doing the best job I can and being the best leader I can. That is what I’m trying to do. I don’t look at outside forces creating things for me. I think sometimes you have some tough luck. I think last year with the injuries, that was kind of tough. That’s the only thing that I really look at that makes it tough, when you have a lot of injuries and you can’t go out there full strength.”

Kovalev: ‘Why everybody thinks that I have a problem with the body shot?’

As his career winds down, WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev hopes to beat the cash cow in the sport of boxing when he battles unified middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez on November 2 in Las Vegas.

While he is moving up two weight classes, Alvarez is the favorite in this fight, and part of the reason that he is the favorite is that many believe Kovalev is slowing down, but the last time we saw him, he was able to stop Anthony Yarde. However, before stopping Yarde, Kovalev was almost stopped himself in that fight, and like others, including Andre Ward, Yarde had a lot of success going to Kovalev’s body.

Even with the evidence, the 36-year-old Kovalev believes that his vulnerability to the body is a myth.

“Why everybody thinks that I have a problem with the body shot?” Kovalev said on a conference call on Tuesday. “Why? I never was attacked by body shot, you know.”

When reminded about the second fight with Ward(Kovalev stopped by body shots), Kovalev had this to say.

“Second fight Andre Ward was a low blow, low blow,” he said. “It wasn’t a punch to the body. Was a low blow. I said already like after the fight, it was a low blow.”

Of course, Kovalev is not going to admit that he issues dealing with body shots, but it’s clear that Kovalev does not like it to the body, and Canelo is a vicious body puncher. So, expect Alvarez to spend a lot of time going to Kovalev’s body on November 2, and if he can handle it, maybe Kovalev walks out of the ring still a champion.

Photo/courtesy: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Jaguars trade Jalen Ramsey to Rams

The Jacksonville Jaguars have traded fourth-year CB Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a 2020 first-round draft selection, a 2021 first-round draft selection and a 2021 fourth-round draft selection.

The Jaguars now have 18 picks, including four first-round selections, over the next two drafts.

In 2020, the Jaguars currently hold nine selections (Jacksonville’s first-round pick, Los Angeles Rams’ first-round pick, Jacksonville’s second-round pick, Jacksonville’s third-round pick, Jacksonville’s fourth-round pick, Los Angeles Rams’ fifth-round pick, Jacksonville’s sixth-round pick, Seattle’s sixth-round pick and Jacksonville’s seventh-round pick).

In 2021, the Jaguars currently hold nine selections (Jacksonville’s first-round pick, Los Angeles Rams’ first-round pick, Jacksonville’s second-round pick, Jacksonville’s third-round pick, Jacksonville’s fourth-round pick, Los Angeles Rams’ fourth-round pick, Jacksonville’s fifth-round pick, Jacksonville’s sixth-round pick, and Jacksonville’s seventh-round pick).

In 2022, the Jaguars currently hold their original seven selections.

Shurmur on Barkley’s return: ‘He practiced today, so we’ll see when he comes in tomorrow how he feels’

The Giants today welcomed back two key offensive players to practice in running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram. They hope each will be available to play Sunday, when the Giants host the Arizona Cardinals.

Barkley has missed three games because of the sprained ankle he suffered in the victory at Tampa Bay on Sept. 22. Engram did not play last Thursday at New England because of a knee injury.

Coach Pat Shurmur wasn’t specific about how many reps Barkley took at practice but did reveal what the team’s leading rusher must do to return to the field against the Cardinals.

“He has to handle practice well and be ready to play,” Shurmur said. “He practiced today, so we’ll see when he comes in tomorrow how he feels. Then the next day and so on and so forth.”

Asked about his hopes for Barkley playing on Sunday, Shurmur said, “We’ll just have to see. I’m going to let the week kind of determine that.”

Shurmur said Engram “did a lot” in practice.

“I feel really good,” Engram said. “Got out there, was running around. It was good to get out there moving around. I’ve got a long week to get ready, so coach is taking care of us, but we did get some good work in. It felt good today.”

Engram was hurt against Minnesota on Oct. 6, giving him scant time to recover in time for last Thursday night’s game in New England.

“Definitely, last week was tough, and the short week didn’t really help, but today with the rest that I got, I felt really good,” Engram said.

The third-year pro missed three games last season with a knee injury but said the two issues are dissimilar.

“It’s definitely not as severe,” Engram said. “That was kind of the thing, I could tell a good difference from experiencing what I went through last year. So, it was definitely kind of a common feeling, but the trainers have done a good job of getting me ready and getting the recovery going.”

Engram said he is “pretty optimistic” he will play on Sunday.

Two other key offensive contributors – wide receiver Sterling Shepard and running back Wayne Gallman – remain in the concussion protocol. Both were on the field wearing yellow “no contact” vests over their jerseys.

“Anytime there’s an individual in the protocol or coming back from a concussion, the doctors will let us know when they’re allowed to be playing,” Shurmur said. “So, that’s where we’re at. I really don’t have anything to add. I understand the interest in all of this, but there’s really nothing that I can add.”

*Barkley, Engram and Shepard didn’t travel to New England for the game last week, but that didn’t preclude them from being good teammates.

“We watched the game together, it was fun,” Engram said. “It was definitely hard not being out there with the guys, but the team played their butts off and we were in it. But yeah, we watched it together.”

*The Giants today bolstered their wide receivers unit with a familiar face when they re-signed Bennie Fowler, who was released on Oct. 1. Fowler played in the season’s first four games with two starts and caught 12 passes for 99 yards with a long reception of 17 yards and added a 20-yard run. Since joining the Giants on Oct. 16, 2018, Fowler has 28 catches for 298 yards and one touchdown in 14 games, seven of them starts.

To create room on the roster, the Giants terminated the contract of linebacker Nate Stupar, who played in three games with one start since he was re-signed on Sept. 24. A Riley Dixon punt caromed off Stupar’s (who was the up-back) helmet, which resulted in a Patriots touchdown at New England.

This was the third roster move the Giants made since their loss last week. On Friday, they re-signed quarterback Alex Tanney and cut running back Austin Walter. The previous day, the Giants released their No. 3 quarterback and signed Walter off the practice squad because they wanted to have a third running back available for the game.

Also Friday, the Giants signed running back Javorius “Buck” Allen, who played in 54 games with six starts for the Baltimore Ravens from 2015-18. His career totals include 340 carries for 1,249 yards and eight touchdowns, plus 129 receptions for 814 yards in six scores. Last year, Allen played in 14 games and had 41 carries for 110 yards and three touchdowns – one in each of the first three games – and caught 35 passes for 196 yards and two scores.

Allen was signed as a free agent on May 28 by the New Orleans Saints, who released him on Aug. 9.

“We’re glad he’s here,” Shurmur said. “He was available, we worked him out and we’ll get him going as quickly as possible.”

“It’s a blessing, we have great talented guys here,” Allen said. “You don’t miss anything until it’s gone, and I missed it. It’s a blessing to be on this team, I am here to do whatever they need me to do. If that’s running, catching, hitting, whatever it is, I’m here to do it.”

In a corresponding move, the Giants waived running back Jon Hilliman, who rushed for 91 yards on 30 carries, but lost a fumble in each of the last two games.

Courtesy: Michael Eisen

Crawford-Mean Machine, Commey-Lopez set for 12/14 at MSG

Terence “Bud” Crawford will defend his WBO welterweight world title against undefeated mandatory challenger Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas Saturday, December 14 at Madison Square Garden as part of a special ESPN-televised tripleheader that will immediately follow the 2019 Heisman Trophy Presentation (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). ESPN Deportes will provide the Spanish-language telecast.

The triple-header on ESPN and ESPN Deportes will also feature IBF lightweight world champion Richard “RC” Commey defending his title against human highlight film and Brooklyn native Teofimo Lopez. Additionally, in the 10-round featherweight special attraction, Irish sensation and New York fan favorite Michael “Mick” Conlan will battle unbeaten Russian Vladimir Nikitin in a rematch of their highly controversial 2016 Olympic quarterfinal bout.

“This is the best fight card of the year, and Madison Square Garden is a fitting venue for what will be a special night,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Terence Crawford is a generational talent, but he’ll have his hands full against the ‘Mean Machine.’ Teofimo Lopez is taking a giant step up against Commey, and it will be a tremendous fight. Mick Conlan has been asking for Nikitin since the day he signed with Top Rank. He finally gets his wish, and I know he wants to correct the tremendous injustice of the Rio Olympics.”

“Egidijus Kavaliauskas is a two-time Olympian and I can’t take him lightly,” Crawford said. “He’s got everything to gain and nothing to lose and that makes him dangerous. I never overlook any opponent, and this will be no exception. I’ll be ready for anything and everything he brings on December 14 when I return to my second home, Madison Square Garden, and live on ESPN.”

Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs), the pride of Omaha, Nebraska, has been impeccable since turning professional, winning world titles in three weight classes and unifying all four major world titles at super lightweight. He is 13-0 with 10 knockouts in world title bouts and has knocked out his last six opponents, including Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz, bitter rival Jose Benavidez Jr. and Manny Pacquiao conqueror Jeff “The Hornet” Horn. In his last bout, April 20 at Madison Square Garden, Crawford neutralized former unified super lightweight world champion Amir “King” Khan en route to a sixth-round TKO after Khan could not continue following a low blow. Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) will be the fourth undefeated fighter Crawford has faced in his last five bouts.

A native of Kaunas, Lithuania, Kavaliauskas represented his homeland at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, rising the professional ranks with convincing victories over perennial contenders Juan Carlos Abreu and Roberto Arriaza. Kavaliauskas has a February 2018 TKO win over David Avanesyan, who is now the current European welterweight champion. He has never been knocked down as a pro or amateur and trains out of the famed Boxing Laboratory in Oxnard, California.

Commey (29-2, 24 KOs) has had a career year, winning the vacant IBF lightweight title February 2 in Frisco, Texas with a devastating second-round TKO over Isa Chaniev. He defended the belt June 29, knocking down former lightweight world champion Ray Beltran down four times before stopping him in the eighth round. A native of, Accra, Ghana, he has won four in a row by knockout.

Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs), at 22 years old, is one of boxing’s budding superstars a big-punching, big-talking fighter who has become the sport’s latest viral sensation. His post-fight Fortnite celebrations and backflips are the exclamation point to his highlight-reel knockouts. He fought last year on the post-Heisman Trophy celebration telecast, knocking out Mason Menard in 44 seconds and then putting on the jersey of Heisman winner Kyler Murray. Lopez is 3-0 in 2019, most recently prevailing via 12-round decision July 19 over Japanese veteran Masayoshi Nakatani in a title eliminator.

“I’m very excited to fight at the Mecca of Boxing, Madison Square Garden, in my second world title defense against Teofimo Lopez,” Commey said. “My lifelong dream of becoming a world champion became a reality through many years of hard work in my homeland of Ghana through the UK, Europe and finally in the United States. I want to thank everyone on my team for making this possible. On December 14, I will put on another spectacular performance in defending my world title for my fans in the arena and those watching on ESPN and around the world.”

“Richard has fought all over the world for many years to achieve his lifelong dream of not only becoming a true world champion, but also becoming a boxing star, and on December 14 against Teofimo Lopez, I believe that he will successfully defend his title for the second time in spectacular fashion,” said Lou DiBella, Commey’s promoter.

“I’m finally back at Madison Square Garden, the place where I always wanted to win my first world title,” Lopez said. “I believe this fight will shut up all of the critics and prove to everyone that I back up my talking in the ring. I respect Commey as a champion, but when we’re in that ring, it’s going to be lights out for him. Come December 14, I am officially taking over the lightweight division.”

Conlan (12-0, 7 KOs), who is ranked in the top 10 as a featherweight by three of the major sanctioning organizations, is looking to avenge the final, and most controversial loss, of his amateur career. With a semifinal berth — and a guaranteed Olympic medal — on the line, Nikitin was the beneficiary of a decision most experts believe Conlan deserved. The indelible image of the Rio Olympics was Conlan’s double middle-finger salute to the judges. Conlan’s disappointment motivated him for what has been a flawless professional campaign. A proven ticket-seller at Madison Square Garden thanks to his annual St. Patrick’s Day appearances, Conlan is coming off a rousing TKO win over Diego Alberto Ruiz on August 3 in front of 10,000 hometown fans at Belfast’s Falls Park.

Nikitin (3-0, 0 KOs) did not turn pro immediately following the 2016 Olympics, electing to fight as an amateur throughout 2017. He signed a professional contract in 2018 with Top Rank, in large part because he wanted to face Conlan as a pro. Nikitin’s come-forward style has translated to the pro ranks, as he’s won a trio of decisions. He has fought on the same card as Conlan twice as a professional. The message was clear: Conlan and Nikitin were destined to meet again. They were supposed to fight August 3 at Falls Park, but Nikitin suffered a torn biceps in training.

“I’m beyond excited to fight for the sixth time in my favorite venue in the world, the Mecca of Boxing, Madison Square Garden,” Conlan said. “The boxing fans in New York City have been incredibly supportive of my career, and I look forward to putting on another great show for them, as well as my Irish fans coming over for this massive holiday event.

“Vladimir Nikitin and I have unfinished business from the 2016 Olympics, and I can’t wait until December 14 to set the record straight.”

“Michael Conlan has done a lot of talking about me and our Olympic fight over the last few years. The talking finally ends December 14,” Nikitin said. “He’s bitter over our last fight and can’t accept the result. Well, my hand will be raised once again.”

Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Eagles’ Pederson: ‘Never said guarantee a win; I’d never do that’

On Sunday in Minnesota, the Philadelphia Eagles had a very forgettable day, especially their secondary, who was torched by Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ offense, as Philadelphia was defeated by Minnesota 38-20. Cousins threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, and Vikings WR Stefon Diggs had three touchdown receptions.

At this point, the Eagles’ defense is struggling, and the team is currently 3-3, but fortunately for Philadelphia, they are tied for first place in the NFC East with the Cowboys, who they play next Sunday night in Dallas.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is very confident in his team’s chances against Dallas, and on Monday morning in a radio interview on 94.1 WIP in Philadelphia, Pederson had this to say.

“We’re going down to Dallas, and our guys are gonna be ready to play, and we’re gonna win that football game, and when we do, we’re in first place in the NFC East,” he said. “We control our own destiny. We’re right where we need to be.”

This afternoon during a press conference, Pederson denied that he guaranteed victory.

“Never said guarantee a win,” Pederson said. “I’d never do that. No.”

Pederson went on to say the following:

“We’re tied for first place in the NFC East. We have a great opportunity against a great football team on Sunday night to go down and attempt to win a football game. Our goals don’t change, to try to go 1-0, and you put the tape on this morning and you watch it, and we’re just missing on a couple little detail things and obviously it starts with the coaches and it starts with me. We have to make sure that there’s great communication in the meetings, in the walk-through and how we practice and what we do in practice to make sure that we don’t make these mistakes in game. For instance, the coverage that we talked about, the blown coverage in the secondary, or the communication up front on run plays or pass protection, things of that nature.

“There’s enough good and positive that came out of this game from that standpoint to get better, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to continue to improve. Again, Dallas is a great football team. They are reeling like we are, and they are going to come out and play hard. They always have. They beat us twice last year. We have a lot of things stacked against us going down there, but as the head football coach, I’m going to stand here and show confidence in my football team because that’s what I have. I have confidence in my football team, the guys that are on the football field, and it’s our job as coaches to prepare them, get them ready to play, and we go play.”

Philadelphia must address a lot of issues if they want to get back on track. The secondary is bad, and maybe some help could be on the way with the possible return of  Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills. Unfortunately, it might not be the Jalen they need(Ramsey), but hopefully, the secondary can get better over time, or the pass rush can improve, but for now, it’s on to Dallas.

Bridgewater: ‘I’m definitely getting comfortable just with all the guys’

When Saints QB Drew Brees injured his thumb in Week 2 against the Rams, many thought New Orleans would struggle without their 12-time Pro Bowler. But, fortunately for the Saints, the defense has stepped up, special teams have stepped up, and so has their backup QB, Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater, 26, is 4-0 as a starter since replacing Brees, and each week he keeps getting better. In Week 5, Bridgewater threw four touchdowns passes against Tampa Bay. On Sunday, Bridgewater was solid as the Saints were able to go on the road to defeat the Jaguars 13-6.

Against Jacksonville, the six-year veteran completed 24 of 36 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown, and more importantly, the Saints are 5-1.

“We had a couple struggles early in the game, but great teams always try to find a way to win each football game, and that’s what we were able to do today,” Bridgewater said on Sunday. “Specialists did a great job with changing the field position, defense did a great job of, you know, keeping those guys from crossing the 50, and we came home with the win.

“Like I said, great teams find a way to win football games. We knew that there was going to be a fight coming out this way, with different elements and things like that, but it feels to get back on the plane and heading back to New Orleans with a win.”

Bridgewater, who signed a one-year, $7.25 million deal with New Orleans in the offseason, is the highest-paid backup QB in football, and as the weeks go by, Bridgewater feels he is getting more and more comfortable with his teammates.

“Yeah, I’m definitely getting comfortable just with all the guys,” Bridgewater said. “Of course, we scored a little today, mainly me with some accuracy things. But overall man, these guys, we work extremely hard throughout the week just trying to continue to build that chemistry. Today, Jared(Cook) had a solid day for us, and Mike(Thomas), even Mike, had some catches. It’s good to just continue to get those guys involved, and they help this team win football games.”

In five games this season, Bridgewater has thrown for 1,089 yards with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions. Bridgewater is doing his job, and hopefully, for Saints fans, he can continue to hold down the fort until Brees returns.

 

Thielen on Cousins: ‘He is going to prove that he is a top quarterback in this league’

In the last two weeks, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins is starting to play like the “84 Million Dollar Man.” In Week 5 against the Giants, Cousins threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns, and on Sunday against Philadelphia; he threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns as the Vikings defeated the visiting Eagles 38-20.

After struggling in the first few weeks of the season, Cousins, who signed a three-year, $84 million contract in 2018, seems to have hit his stride, which is a good thing for Minnesota. Vikings WR Adam Thielen, who criticized Cousins after their loss to the Bears, believes Cousins is playing like the guy that they thought he would be in 2019.

“That is just the kind of guy he is,” Thielen said on Sunday. “He is going to learn from his mistakes each week. He is going to go back and watch the film and figure out what he needs to do better, just like we all do. You go back after a win or loss, and you look and say, “Well, could I do better?” He is a guy that we trust every week, he is going to give us his all, and he is going to keep getting better. He is going to prove that he is a top quarterback in this league and that he can play at a high level. You saw that today.”

On Friday, Cousins’ former teammate in Washington and current Eagles LB Zach Brown, called Cousins the “weakest” part of the Vikings’ offense. According to WR Stefon Diggs, who caught seven passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns against Philadelphia, Cousins answered a lot of questions on Sunday.

“As for former teammates, their personal opinion doesn’t matter,” Diggs said. “I think Kirk answered all your questions. He went out there and played his butt off.”

Cousins had a great two weeks against some bad secondaries(Giants and Eagles), so let’s keep that in mind, but to see him play this well has to be exciting for anybody associated with the Minnesota Vikings. And if it continues, Minnesota is going to be tough to beat moving forward.