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|The big day finally arrived Sam Mills Jersey , and Sam Darnold had the perfect plan for celebrating his 21st birthday. ”Playing football,” the New York Jets rookie quarterback said with a huge grin.
The birthday boy is now officially of the legal drinking age, but Darnold wasn’t expecting to toast the milestone Tuesday night.
”Probably not,” he said, smiling. ”I’ll probably just stay in and go to sleep early, like I have been every single night.”
Partying is not high on the list for Darnold, who’s the youngest player on the Jets’ roster – and the fresh-faced future of the franchise.
The No. 3 overall draft pick out of USC has taken a businesslike approach to his introduction to life in the NFL. Eat, sleep and dream football.
Those are Darnold’s days. Every day.
”I’m making a ton of strides, but at the same time, I’m not exactly where I want to be,” Darnold said. ”But I know it’s going to take time and it’s a process. I’m aware of that and it’s exciting, though, to understand the playbook the way I am and the strides I’m making. I’m really excited about where I’m going right now.”
Darnold will compete with veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater this summer for the starting job, and he’s giving Todd Bowles and his coaching staff plenty to consider early in this offseason.
The youngster looked predictably shaky in his first practice of organized team activities two weeks ago, but has appeared increasingly more poised in the sessions open to the media since.
”He’s just more comfortable with the playbook and obviously seeing things a couple of times will make you more comfortable,” Bowles said. ”He’s just hard-working. Everything we thought coming in. He’s going to work every day, wants to be good, understands the mistakes he makes, works at them night and day, and watches film and asks questions.
”At this time of year, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”
During Tuesday’s practice George Iloka Jersey , Darnold tossed a badly underthrown pass that safety Jamal Adams, last year’s first-rounder, easily intercepted.
For a guy who was celebrating his birthday, it was certainly a gift – but for the defense.
”Yeah, I just made a bad read on it,” Darnold said. ”I should’ve just dumped it down to the back, but I tried to force one in there.”
”He retains things when you tell him,” Bowles said. ”He makes mistakes, but doesn’t make the same one twice, so he’s very good from that standpoint as far as retaining information.”
Late in practice, though, Darnold had perhaps his prettiest play as a pro. He zipped a deep pass down the sideline that dropped over the reach of safety Kacy Rodgers II and right into Chad Hansen’s hands. It was a terrific throw and a reminder of why so many labeled Darnold as ”special” in the months leading up to the draft.
But such is the up-and-down life of a rookie quarterback that Darnold overthrew his final pass of practice on a deep toss to a wide-open Jordan Leggett. There’s no doubt Darnold would be spending part of his birthday night breaking that down in the film room.
Darnold’s development has included lots of rewinding and fast-forwarding through plays, and dissecting every move. He’s got that type of time now, because football is the only thing that matters these days.
”I don’t have class, so I’m spending every single day in the film room or on the practice field,” he said. ”So in regards to that, just being able to spend time watching football and playing football is awesome. To be able to come in here every single day and do it for a living, that’s pretty sweet.”
Darnold also recognizes the value of working with McCown and Bridgewater on and off the field.
”What makes it really cool is that they’re really good players,” Darnold said. ”They’ve experienced ball and they understand what’s going on on the field all the time, at all times. It’s amazing to be able to learn from them. After that play with Jamal, to be able to talk about it with them is something that is really cool Cody Parkey Jersey , to be able to do that right after the play and get that feedback.”
Darnold has had to make several adjustments since coming to the Jets, including calling plays in the huddle – something he hadn’t done much of at USC. He also says the increased pace of the game is evident, even in practice.
”It’s faster, which is what I thought it would be, so it’s been awesome,” he said. ”It’s just been a learning experience, just learning every single day and getting used to it has been awesome.”
Darnold says ”awesome” a lot and sounds like a kid who’s happy to be doing what he loves.
”You know, no, I don’t feel any different,” a smiling Darnold said of his milestone birthday. ”It’s cool to be 21, but at the same time, I’m just coming here every single day ready for practice. Nothing’s changing for me.”
So long, Gordon Howe.
Bye-bye, Robert Hull.
Au revoir, M. Richard.
Those Hockey Hall of Famers and the rest of the players who won an NHL championship from 1954-65 are being stripped off the Stanley Cup this spring to create room for a new layer of names without making the trophy too big to be skated around the ice by the winning captain or checked on an airplane for its next journey.
”People in Saskatchewan are a little upset Gordie’s name is coming off, but that’s the tradition,” said Mike Bolt, one of the Hall of Fame staffers assigned to escort the Cup around the world. ”It can’t get any bigger. … We wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
Perhaps the most iconic trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup is unique among major prizes because the NHL passes it from team to team instead of producing a new one for every champion. It’s also the only one that includes the name of every player to win it in each season – though the names come and go.
Since it was first donated in 1892 by Lord Stanley, the governor general of Canada, the Cup has grown from a 7-inch-high bowl to a 3-foot trophy more the size of a large wedding cake Tarell Basham Jersey , with three small layers under the original bowl and five more bands under that that fit about 13 years of champions apiece.
The top one of those bands, honoring much of Toe Blake’s Montreal Canadiens dynasty and three of Punch Imlach’s four titles in Toronto, will be removed in a matter of weeks. It will be flattened and displayed along with two previously retired rings – covering the 1927-40 and ’41-53 championship teams – at the Hall of Fame in Toronto. (In place of the name-by-name listing, teams are engraved on the upper rings).
The process will need to be repeated every 13 years, meaning a player’s name lasts on the Cup a maximum of 65 years.
”I run into some of the older timers, like from the `70s, even the `80s. They’re always like, `Hey, Mike. How many years have I got left on the Cup?”’ Bolt said. ”Some guys start doing the math, `Oh, I won’t be around anyway.’ But if you win it when you’re young, you’re going to be around when your name comes off.”
On tour to promote the start of the NHL playoffs on April 11, Bolt stopped at The Associated Press bureau in Boston this week after visiting a children’s hospital and before going to a hockey arena to surprise another group of kids. He dons white gloves and unsnaps the latches to reveal the Cup in its form-fitting, blue velvet travel sanctuary.
The black base is chipped and dinged from years of celebrations by joyous champions. There are also a few misspellings, and one name is crossed out. Still, seeing the trophy remains a thrill for many fans; earning a spot on it is the ultimate goal for every NHL player who has ever laced up a pair of skates.
”That’s the best part of the job, watching the reaction. That’s one of the things that does not get old,” said Bolt, who accompanies the Cup on its travels for the traditional summer tour that allows every player on the winning team to spend a day with it – often in his hometown, no matter where on the globe he grew up.
”I’ve seen grown men cry; they can’t believe they are this close to it,” Bolt said. ”It’s like a celebrity. Everybody’s always happy when the Cup’s around.”
Players like Gordie Howe JC Tretter Jersey , Bobby Hull and Maurice ”Rocket” Richard might not have known that their immortality has an expiration date, but modern players realize getting one’s name on the Cup isn’t forever any more.
”We knew it’s going to be there for about 40 years,” said Patrice Bergeron, a member of the Boston Bruins‘ 2011 championship team who is hoping to extend his time on the Cup with another title this year. ”It’s still pretty special.”
Brad Marchand, who also won it all in 2011, was consoled by the knowledge that the band with his name will go on permanent display at the Hall of Fame after it is removed.
”You can’t take away the fact that we won,” he said. ”We’ll still have all the memories.”
VULCANIZED RUBBER SOUL
Fans in Nashville have come up with a way to pass the time while waiting for video reviews. When the referees skate over to check on a Predators goal, the in-house public address system plays the Beatles song ”Let It Be.” Fans sing along, waving their cellphone flashlights as if at a concert.
Referee Tom Kowal worked his last game on Saturday when the Bruins played the Panthers in Boston. When the milestone was noted in the arena, fans gave him an ovation and both teams gave him the customary salute by banging their sticks on the ice or boards. After the final buzzer, the players remained on their ice to shake hands with him.
Kowal, who worked 1,094 regular-season games and 12 in the playoffs over 18 years, is the third and last official to retire this season, according to the NHL Officials Association. Thirty-year linesman Shane Heyer worked his last game on Friday, and referee Dave Jackson hung up his skates after 25 years in Los Angeles on Thursday.
LEADERS (Through Tuesday’s games)
Points: Connor McDavid (Edmonton), 103. Goals: Alex Ovechkin (Washington), 46. Goals-against average (minimum 40 games): Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas), 2.14. Save percentage (min. 40 games): Fleury, .931.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Tantalizing matchups with postseason positioning and outright berths at stake in the final week of the season include Pittsburgh at Columbus on Thursday and Authentic Womens Nate Solder Jersey ,
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