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Four years after transitioning to new Ravens era, QB Lamar Jackson and Jets’ Joe Flacco prepare to face off

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Four Years After Transitioning To New Ravens Era, Qb Lamar Jackson And Jets’ Joe Flacco Prepare To Face Off
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There was considerable potential for awkwardness, friction even.

In one corner, with a battered hip, sat the most accomplished quarterback in Ravens history — a former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and one-time owner of the richest contract in NFL history. In the other sat the team’s most recent first-round pick — a Heisman Trophy winner with dazzling legs and a suspect arm, at least if you listened to his sharpest critics.

Between them lay the fate of a team that had not made the playoffs in four years. Would coach John Harbaugh stay with the rookie, Lamar Jackson, or go back to Joe Flacco, the calm hand who’d won him so many big games?

Harbaugh texted Flacco on a Tuesday morning to tell him the news he would share with the world the next day: Jackson would be the Ravens’ starter going forward. “Every decision is based on what makes us the strongest possible team we can be,” Harbaugh told reporters.

With this blunt statement on Dec. 12, 2018, he kicked off a new era of Ravens football, one that has included gaudy regular-season records, innumerable Jackson highlights and less playoff success than the team achieved in the first five years of Flacco’s run.

The Ravens will face their former quarterback for the first time Sunday when he fills in as starting quarterback for the New York Jets in the 2022 season opener. This sets up an inevitable time of reflection on what the team achieved with Flacco, what it might achieve with Jackson and on the moment of transition from one quarterback to the other.

Jackson and Flacco never came off as close over their year together in Baltimore. When the Ravens traded for the last pick in the first round to select Jackson, they set a loudly ticking clock on the remainder of Flacco’s time with the franchise. It was just that no one knew exactly when the alarm would go off. The two men are 12 years apart in age and nearly as far apart in demeanor: Flacco so understated that teammates and coaches make fun of him for it, Jackson easygoing but boisterous. As quarterbacks, they could not be more different: Flacco the thrower of beautiful balls from a fixed position in the pocket, Jackson one of the most fluid improvisers we have ever seen on a football field.

For all that separated them, however, Flacco and Jackson handled the 2018 season gracefully. The rookie spoke deferentially, always reminding us that Flacco had been where he wanted to go. The veteran said he was not ready to concede his starting spot but that he admired the way Jackson ran the team when he had to step in.

“They both handled it great,” Harbaugh recalled. “If I think back quickly, Lamar was excited to be with Joe and learn from Joe, in terms of what Joe could teach him as a quarterback, and he did a great job, I thought. Joe was great with Lamar; Joe supported him and helped him, and even at the end there — when Joe came back and Lamar was the quarterback — Joe was very supportive of him there.”

This extended to the team’s home playoff loss against the Los Angeles Chargers, in which Jackson played poorly and heard loud boos from fans who wanted Flacco inserted in relief. “If you remember the story in the playoffs, Joe wanted Lamar to stay in the game there,” Harbaugh said.

The decision to switch quarterbacks began organically. Flacco had started the season well, but the Ravens were about to lose their fourth game in five weeks when Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt drove him to the ground and injured his hip. Flacco played the rest of that afternoon but was out when the Ravens returned two weeks later against the Cincinnati Bengals. Jackson was the starter because he had to be, but the team transformed with him at its center, winning his first three starts and surpassing 200 rushing yards in each of those games.

By the time Flacco was ready to play again, the Ravens had a clear path to the playoffs, and Jackson was the most obvious reason. Harbaugh made the unsentimental decision to stick with what was working.

“It’s not easy standing on that sideline, knowing that you have no hand in what’s going on,” Flacco said at the time. “But … you have to be a professional about it.”

Perhaps because of the way Flacco and Jackson conducted themselves, teammates never felt they had to choose a camp.

“They were both extreme pros about it,” tight end Nick Boyle said. “Stuff like that happens all around the NFL, and a lot of times, it’s a huge media thing, a huge turmoil thing within the locker room. But Joe handled it awesomely, Lamar handled it awesomely, and I think they still have a great relationship.”

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey noted that even though the transition happened just four years ago, it feels like a lifetime in NFL terms (only 12 current Ravens were on the roster in 2018). “I kind of remember it happening seamlessly,” he said. “I think Joe got hurt, so it was kind of an injury thing, and then Lamar started winning all these games and we were just riding behind him. … I just remember it being a little weird, because when I got here, Joe was the QB, Super Bowl MVP, had done a lot. So, it was interesting in that point, but as far as how it went, I thought both guys handled it really well.”

The Ravens have not looked back. They finished with the league’s best record in Jackson’s first full season as the starter, and he was named Most Valuable Player, an individual honor Flacco never came close to winning. They made the playoffs again in 2020 and held the AFC’s top seed last season before injuries, including one to Jackson’s ankle, dismantled them.

Flacco did not fare as well, going 2-6 in one partial season as a starter for the Denver Broncos before returning to the East Coast as a seasoned backup for the Jets, who are hoping 2021 first-round pick Zach Wilson is their quarterback of the future. At 37, with the end of his career likely drawing near, Flacco is the same steady presence.

“He’s been the same since the day I met him,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said on a conference call with Baltimore reporters. “I’m sure you guys are familiar with his personality; he’s very even-keeled, same guy every single day, does a great job in preparation, very likable in the locker room, and he’s just been a very calming force, if you will, just running the offense.”

What do Flacco and Jackson, the principals in the drama (or non-drama) of 2018, think of each other now?

“He meant a lot [to me],” Jackson said. “Playing with a Super Bowl quarterback, seeing what he did on the field, stuff like that, how he took apart the game, took apart practice and stuff like that. Seeing him sling the ball from one side of the field to the next side of the field, from our 20 [-yard line] to the opposite opponent’s 20 [-yard line] … It was ridiculous. It will be great seeing him.”

In a classic narrative twist, Jackson is now in the position Flacco was entering the 2012 season, playing on the last year of his rookie contract with no extension signed and a potentially elite team on his shoulders. That scenario led to Flacco’s defining achievement: a flawless run through the playoffs capped by his MVP performance in Super Bowl XLVII and a record contract soon after.

Flacco laughed recently on the Jets’ official podcast when former teammate Bart Scott suggested Jackson might “harness his inner Joe Flacco” by betting on himself. But he does not expect to talk contract when they see each other Sunday.

“I’m sure that will not come up,” he said. “Lamar’s a good kid, and I’m sure he’ll be worried about just playing the football game.”

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After overcoming physical and mental hurdles, Chicago Cubs prospect Ben Brown sets his sights on greatness: ‘I’m not looking to just skate by’

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After Overcoming Physical And Mental Hurdles, Chicago Cubs Prospect Ben Brown Sets His Sights On Greatness: ‘I’m Not Looking To Just Skate By’
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Ben Brown knows it might sound crazy.

The 6-foot-6 right-hander is earnest, though, in his belief that Tommy John surgery was the best thing for his career— beyond the physical necessity to repair his ulnar collateral ligament in 2019. The procedure transformed him. Brown took it as an opportunity to make everything he did competitive, from his diet to his workout routine, all before he could starting throwing a baseball again.

His mantra through the rehab grind, from his dad, Jody: Nothing extraordinary comes out of ordinary effort.

Brown was determined to not let the lengthy recovery derail him.

“I put everything I could have into that rehab,” he told the Tribune. “And it took a while, but I think eventually I started to reap the benefits of that.”

Brown’s maturation and breakout season in the Philadelphia Phillies organization put him on the Chicago Cubs’ radar ahead of the trade deadline. The Cubs acquired him Aug. 2 for veteran reliever David Robertson, adding another promising young pitcher to their minor-league system. After joining the Cubs, Brown, who turned 23 on Sept. 9, finished with a 4.06 ERA, 32.1 K%, 9.5 BB% and 31 innings in seven starts at Double-A Tennessee, his first time pitching at that level.

Brown, ranked the Cubs’ No. 7 prospect by MLB.com and No. 11 from Baseball America, started his career by being drafted in a round that no longer exists.

“I prepared myself to make the most out of every opportunity I was given,” Brown said. “I was very lucky to be given a lot of opportunities from the Phillies and once I started showing them that I had pretty good stuff I kind of ran with it. I was no longer a 33rd rounder. I became a guy who can pitch a little bit.”

Between losing most of 2019 to Tommy John surgery and the pandemic canceling the 2020 minor-league year, Brown entered this season looking to gain valuable experience. Between the Phillies and Cubs, he threw 104 innings in 2022, more than his first five pro seasons combined (99 ⅔). Brown jokes that coming into this season, he estimated he had more innings in the instructional league than at affiliates, calling himself an “instructional-league veteran.”

For the first time in his career, Brown has learned what it takes to get through a full six-month minor-league season. He incorporated important between-start bullpen work and worked to grind without his best stuff, something Brown wasn’t challenged by in shorter instructional-league or spring starts. He credits Brad Bergesen, his former High-A pitching coach with the Phillies, who endured injuries in his career and made it to the big leagues, for his “huge” role in monitoring his workload. That level of management carried over to the Cubs.

“It’s almost like I’ve got to remind myself every once in a while, this isn’t a three-week season anymore,” Brown said. “Like, this is a long haul. … It’s been a very collaborative group effort keeping me on the field.”

However, to get to this point ― including allowing one earned run over four innings Wednesday night in the decisive final game for the Smokies’ Southern League championship series — Brown needed to address the mental side of the game. It hit him after grinding through the pain, sadness and struggles of not being on the field because of Tommy John surgery and then losing another season to the pandemic.

“Oh, my gosh, I don’t know how to pitch.”

Brown recalled plenty of times in spring training and early this season when was a self-described “bonehead.”

“Like, I wouldn’t know what I’m doing, and I wouldn’t have the right approach,” Brown said. “And it was pretty embarrassing, honestly, to think I had some pretty good stuff, but I really didn’t know what I was doing mentally on the mound.”

In mid-May, an hour-and-a-half conversation with Phillies minor-league mental performance coach Brea Hapken and a 45-minute bullpen session with Bergesen got him on track. His season took off from there. Brown recorded a 2.93 ERA over his next 11 starts, allowing one run or less in eight of the outings until he was traded to the Cubs.

Heading into the season, Brown hadn’t considered whether he would be used as a trade chip by the Phillies. But as the August deadline approached, the right-hander understood the situation and realized he soon might be pitching for another organization.

“As I started to emerge in the Phillies system and knowing that a lot of our top prospects are first-rounders who are pretty unmovable, it looked like I was the odd man out sometimes,” Brown said. “Not in a bad way. I mean, I’m kind of getting later in my minor-league career. And so I was thinking about it and obviously hear things online and stuff like that. But when it happened, it definitely felt like I wasn’t expecting it.”

Since the trade, the Cubs have avoided implementing many changes, preferring to get eyes on Brown, build a relationship and figure out what works best for him. They let Brown focus on competing and working with Double-A pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea, who took him under his wing and made this an easy transition.

Beyond his overall numbers, Brown has thrived in tough spots. He has limited opposing hitters to a .190/.291/.261 slash line with runners on base compared with .241/.294/.405 splits with the bases empty. During the regular season, he allowed only one multirun homer in 179 plate appearances. Brown felt he struggled in that area early in the season, seemingly loading the bases in every start, “so I guess I just got pretty comfortable with it,” he joked.

“The mindset when a runner gets on second base or third base is it’s crunchtime and it doesn’t matter if it’s the first inning or the sixth inning — that guy’s not scoring,” Brown said. “I’m going to do whatever I can do to get some strikeouts here, and that’s really helped me out this year.”

Brown, who utilizes a fastball, curveball and slider, has been working on a changeup, though he limits its usage to between-start bullpen sessions.

“I have a lot of trust behind those three and it took me a very long time to have that kind of trust,” Brown said. “The slider itself was like something I really battled with in-season as far as pitch usage-wise. I was mostly fastball-curveball, and it took me months to really figure out the slider when I was with the Phillies. I don’t even think it’s where it needs to be right now.”

Casey Jacobson, Cubs coordinator of pitching development, is encouraged by the data and video on Brown’s changeup. He expects the organization will take a closer look at the pitch in the fall, but Jacobson believes the changeup is in a better place than previous seasons. Jacobson also expects the Cubs to tinker with Brown’s slider to try to add more glove-side movement.

“The one thing we’ll obviously want to be mindful of is he does have the ability to throw the slider for strikes at a pretty high rate and he does have pretty solid performance numbers with that,” Jacobson told the Tribune. “So it’s that risk-reward. We don’t want to take a step backward, but if we can make it slightly better and maybe give it a little bit better chance to be a true put-away to a right-handed hitter, we would explore that for sure.”

Brown plans to spend as much time as he can in the offseason in Arizona where he can use the Cubs’ resources at their complex in Mesa. He knows he must improve against left-handed hitters and wants to solidify a third pitch. To dominant in the big leagues, Brown understands that means taking the next step in his development.

He has already welcomed the first step of taking the Cubs’ suggestions.

“I do believe my stuff right now plays at the next level, but also I’m not looking to just skate by,” Brown said. “I want to make sure I have the best opportunity to do as well as I’m capable of doing.”

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Ravens vs. Bills scouting report for Week 4: Who has the edge?

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Ravens Vs. Bills Scouting Report For Week 4: Who Has The Edge?
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After a tense road win against the New England Patriots, the Ravens will return home to face the Buffalo Bills, who have largely lived up to their preseason hype as Super Bowl favorites. In a series of exciting matchups, topped by Most Valuable Player candidates Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, who has the edge?

Ravens passing game vs. Bills pass defense

Lamar Jackson is off to the best start of his career, leading the league in passer rating, ranking second in ESPN’s QBR and punishing blitzes better than any quarterback in the league. He’s second in the league in air yards per attempt and fourth in air yards per completion, signs of his eagerness and skill as a downfield thrower, and he has connected for at least three touchdown passes in each of the Ravens’ three games. His top targets are all thriving one way or another. Mark Andrews is again the league’s top-graded tight end, according to Pro Football Focus, after he caught two touchdown passes in the Ravens’ 37-26 win over the Patriots. No. 1 wide receiver Rashod Bateman just missed another long touchdown against the Patriots and lost a fumble thanks to a questionable call, but he’s averaging 28.3 yards per catch. No. 2 wide receiver Devin Duvernay has caught all eight passes thrown his way this season and has demonstrated his toughness as a red-zone target with three touchdowns. The Ravens suffered through a brief stretch of panic against the Patriots when rookie Daniel Faalele had to step in at left tackle for an injured Patrick Mekari (ankle) and allowed sacks on each of his first two series. But Faalele settled down and helped give Jackson a clean pocket in the second half. With Mekari and Ronnie Stanley (ankle) potentially unavailable against the Bills, however, the Ravens are back to facing significant questions about their tackle depth.

Buffalo is confronting its own injury woes in the secondary, with safety Micah Hyde and cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Christian Benford (hand) out and cornerback Dane Jackson (neck) and safety Jordan Poyer (foot) dealing with injuries that sidelined them in a 21-19 Week 3 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Despite their health woes, the Bills have held opposing quarterbacks to 4.9 yards per attempt. Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds are every-down linebackers who have excelled in coverage. Eight-time Pro Bowl selection Von Miller (two sacks, four tackles for loss) is off to another strong start at age 33, and second-year edge rushers Gregory Rousseau (3 1/2 sacks, five tackles for loss) and Boogie Basham round out a stellar group that will sorely test Jackson’s pass protection. The Bills blitz less than any team in the league, because they don’t need extra rushers to create pressure.

EDGE: Ravens

Bills passing game vs. Ravens pass defense

The Ravens struggled to prevent long completions by Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa and New England’s Mac Jones. Now, they’ll face one of the league’s elite players in Allen, who ranks third in QBR and has completed 71.2% of his passes with nine touchdowns against two interceptions. The Bills struggled in the red zone against Miami but controlled the ball for 90 plays and more than 40 minutes of game clock as Allen completed 42 of 63 passes. He moves the ball around, but former Maryland star Stefon Diggs (27 catches, 344 yards, four touchdowns) remains his unquestioned top target. The Ravens could not cover New England’s DeVante Parker, so what might Allen and Diggs do against the league’s 32nd-ranked pass defense?

On the plus side for the coordinator Mike Macdonald’s defense, starting cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters resumed full workloads and played well against the Patriots. Rookie safety Kyle Hamilton also produced his best game as a pro, helping to clinch the win with a vital punch-out in the fourth quarter. The Ravens excelled when they went to their dime formations (six defensive backs) with the game on the line. Meanwhile, young cornerbacks Jalyn Armour-Davis and Brandon Stephens and to a lesser degree, Damarion “Pepe” Williams, struggled in coverage. The Ravens also need more from their thin crew of edge rushers, which grew thinner when veteran Justin Houston hurt his groin early against the Patriots. We’ll see if they receive an immediate contribution from Jason Pierre-Paul, who signed this week. Second-year outside linebacker Odafe Oweh has struggled to produce against increased blocking attention, with no sacks or quarterback hits in 183 defensive snaps. In their two victories, the Ravens have masked their defensive shortcomings by creating turnovers; their four against the Patriots were more than they managed in any game last season.

EDGE: Bills

Ravens running game vs. Bills run defense

With J.K. Dobbins back in the lineup after a lost 2021, the Ravens finally revved up their ground attack against the Patriots, gaining 188 yards on 26 attempts. Jackson was the star of the show, surpassing 100 yards for the second straight week and putting the Patriots away with several clutch option keepers. Justice Hill continued to make the most of his limited opportunities with 60 yards on six carries, including a 34-yard gain to set up the Ravens’ go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Dobbins (seven carries, 23 yards) is still working his way back to peak form but showed flashes of the balance and quickness that made him a standout rookie two years ago.

The Bills rank second in run defense and have allowed opponents just 2.8 yards per carry. They held Tennessee Titans superstar Derrick Henry to 25 yards on 13 carries in a Week 2 blowout. Milano is the centerpiece, but their edge defenders have also done excellent work bottling up opposing backs. The Bills ranked a more middling 13th against the run last season, and Jackson will present a unique test for them.

EDGE: Ravens

Bills running game vs. Ravens run defense

The Bills are a pass-first team without a scary running back, but Allen is such a threat with his combination of power and speed that they still present a challenge on the ground. Allen leads his team with 113 yards on 19 carries, and his mobility makes Buffalo the league’s most efficient team on third down with a 61% conversion rate. Devin Singletary (23 carries, 80 yards), Zack Moss (13 carries, 78 yards) and rookie James Cook (13 carries, 58 yards) have shared the rest of the load from the backfield. The Patriots ran for 145 yards on 28 attempts against the Ravens, and coach John Harbaugh said his defenders need to find better fits to close gaps and to cut out the garbage yards they allowed against the slow-footed Jones.

Allen will present a vastly greater challenge on scrambles and could beat the Ravens with his legs if they’re insufficiently attentive. The burden of monitoring him will fall on linebackers Patrick Queen and Josh Bynes and safeties Chuck Clark and Marcus Williams. Up front, veteran defensive end Calais Campbell played his best game of the season against the Patriots, and third-year defensive tackle Justin Madubuike is off to the best start of his career. But the Ravens would miss the interior power of nose tackle Michael Pierce, who tore his biceps in Week 3 and as of Wednesday, was deciding whether to have season-ending surgery.

EDGE: Even

Ravens special teams vs. Bills special teams

The Ravens’ special teams continue to rank first in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker has made all three of his field-goal attempts this season, hitting from 51 and 56 yards the last two weeks. Duvernay followed up his 103-yard kickoff return in Week 2 with a 43-yard punt return to set up a touchdown against the Patriots. He’s the league’s most dangerous returner. On the downside, rookie Jordan Stout was inconsistent again in Week 3, nailing a 55-yard punt in the first quarter only to come back with a 23-yard misfire in the fourth.

The Bills lack the Ravens’ star power, but they’re also solid on special teams, ranking eighth in DVOA. Kicker Tyler Bass has made four of five attempts this season, and Jamison Crowder has averaged 11.6 yards on eight punt returns.

EDGE: Ravens

Ravens intangibles vs. Bills intangibles

Though they both lost to the Dolphins, these are the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the league by DVOA, so there’s plenty of confidence to be found on both sides. Harbaugh is one of the top veteran coaches in the league. Buffalo’s Sean McDermott (51-33 in the regular season) is one of the best in the generation behind him. Franchise quarterbacks Jackson and Allen have been unstoppable so far. Both teams are coping with accumulating injuries at key positions. Both would like to put their Miami hiccups in the rearview mirror.

There’s not a lot to separate the combatants in this glamour matchup. Rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ian could be an X-factor.

EDGE: Even

Prediction

These are two of the NFL’s top three scoring teams, with Jackson and Allen at or near the top of early Most Valuable Player lists. The essential matchup will be Allen vs. the Ravens’ erratic pass defense. Can the Baltimore secondary clamp down on big plays while continuing to generate turnovers? The Bills are the safer bet, because they’ve been sounder on both sides of the ball. Bills 30, Ravens 27.

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Ken Griffin says Fed hasn’t done enough, must continue on course to reset inflation expectations

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Ken Griffin Says Fed Hasn'T Done Enough, Must Continue On Course To Reset Inflation Expectations
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Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel, believes the Federal Reserve still has work to do to bring inflation down, even after a series of big rate hikes.

“We need to continue on the path we’ve taken to make sure we re-anchor inflation expectations,” Griffin said at CNBC’s Delivering Alpha Investor Summit in New York on Wednesday.

The billionaire investor said there is a psychological component to inflation and that Americans shouldn’t start assuming inflation above 5% is the norm.

“Once you expect it widely enough, it becomes reality, becomes the table stakes in salary negotiations, for example,” Griffin said. “It is therefore important that we do not allow inflation expectations to become unanchored.”

The consumer price index rose 8.3% in August year-over-year, near a 40-year high and beating consensus expectations. To rein in inflation, the Fed is tightening monetary policy at its most aggressive pace since the 1980s. Last week, the central bank raised rates by three-quarters of a percentage point for the third time in a row, promising to further increases to come.

Griffin said he thinks the Fed has a tough job of getting inflation under control without slowing the economy too much. He said there could be a chance for a recession next year.

“Everyone likes to predict recessions, and there will be one. It’s just a matter of when, and frankly, how bad. Is it possible that at the end of 23 we’ll have a hard landing? Absolutely,” Griffin said.

Citadel is having an exceptional year despite market turbulence and a difficult macroeconomic environment. Its flagship Wellington multi-strategy fund rebounded 3.74% last month, taking its 2022 performance to 25.75%, according to a person familiar with the returns.

Regarding the Bank of England’s intervention in the bond market, Griffin expressed concern about the ramifications of declining investor confidence. The central bank said it would buy long-term government bonds in whatever quantities necessary to end the chaos caused by the government’s plans to cut taxes.

“I worry about what the loss of confidence in the UK represents. This is the first time we’ve seen a large, developed market in a very long time lose investor confidence,” Griffin said.

Why Everyone Is So Obsessed With Inflation

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Goran Dragić can joke about his place in Chicago Bulls lore: ‘This is my nightmare.’ Now 36, he’s motivated to ‘be their spark.’

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Goran Dragić Can Joke About His Place In Chicago Bulls Lore: ‘This Is My Nightmare.’ Now 36, He’s Motivated To ‘Be Their Spark.’
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Goran Dragić was already famous in Chicago long before he signed a contract with the Bulls.

Infamous might be more accurate.

Dragić co-starred in one of Derrick Rose’s top highlights of the 2009-10 season. It was one of those vicious, acrobatic, clutch-your-pearls dunks that raised both the hopes and blood pressure of fans throughout Chicago.

Rose caught a pass in transition, racing toward the basket. Dragić — then a second-year guard trying to find his place with the Phoenix Suns — threw himself in the way, but it was already too late. Rose floated toward the rim, pulled the ball behind his head with both hands and posterized Dragić, then 23.

“What are you doing, Dragić?” Bulls commentator Stacey King bellowed as Rose’s teammates watched the replay in awe on the sideline. “Did you not get the memo? Derrick Rose can go upstairs.”

That highlight has followed Dragić through the past 12 years of his career — and now to his new home in Chicago.

“This is my nightmare,” Dragić joked during Bulls media day Monday.

Dragić pointed out in his defense that Rose is the only NBA player to dunk on him throughout his 14-year career. But that dunk is everlasting, crystallized in Bulls history.

Dragić has kept his humor about the play more than a decade later.

“I was young — that was my second year in the league — so I had to go for that play,” Dragić said. “Of course, if I knew I would never go, but it is what it is. At least I’m on TV all the time.”

Plenty has changed in the 12-plus years since that play. Now Dragić, 36, is embracing his role as the most experienced player on the Bulls roster while acclimating to his new team in training camp.

Coach Billy Donovan noted Dragić’s 14 seasons of NBA experience as a strength for the Bulls. The 6-foot-3 guard adds ballhandling and playmaking to the rotations, helping offset Lonzo Ball’s absence from the backcourt.

“I’ve got a lot of experience being (the) vocal guy in the locker room,” Dragić said. “If they need me, I can come from the bench and be their spark. I’m at that point of my career where whatever is needed from me, I’m glad to do it.”

Dragić isn’t likely to start this season. Donovan acknowledged the challenges of playing starter’s minutes at Dragić’s age, envisioning him instead as a complementary player off the bench. But Dragić proved this summer he still can carry a sizable load when he came out of a five-year international retirement to represent Slovenia in the Eurobasket tournament.

Dragić cited Luka Dončić and Rasho Nesterović as the driving forces in pulling him out of retirement from international play. The pair persuaded Dragić to participate in the tournament, in which he averaged 14.9 points, 3.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals in seven games.

Eurobasket is known for its grueling physicality, often striking fear in NBA fans and coaches as players compete aggressively only weeks before training camps open. But Dragić said the Bulls encouraged him to represent his country.

“As an international player, when you don’t play for your national team, it’s really tough to go back home,” Dragić joked. “When you walk on the street and the fans are yelling at you … it’s tough.”

Despite the disappointment of an upset loss in the quarterfinals to Poland, Dragić said Eurobasket prepared him for the physical challenge of the 2022-23 season. Donovan didn’t feel the need to put Dragić on a minutes limit for training camp, although the team will monitor the veteran guard for any needed rest throughout the preseason.

After facing Dragić in the 2020 NBA Finals, new teammate Alex Caruso said he’s well-versed with the physical endurance of the Bulls’ newest guard.

“You don’t have to worry about toughness with him,” said Caruso, whose Los Angeles Lakers beat Dragić’s Miami Heat in six games. “I know Goran’s tough. He’s not afraid of moments. I’m excited to be his teammate and not play against him.”

The 2020 Finals still weigh heavily on Dragić, fueling his desire to compete in his 15th season. He tore the plantar fascia in his left foot in Game 1 of the series but returned in Game 6 in a desperate attempt to help keep the Heat alive.

After being two wins from a trophy, Dragić said he feels as motivated as ever with his new team.

“Every athlete, every basketball player wants to win a championship,” he said. “It’s the same thing with me. I’ve already been close with Miami. Unfortunately I got hurt in the Finals, and still to this day I cannot sleep well because I want to be back.

“I still have that hunger and I feel good, I feel healthy. I’m not the youngest anymore, but I still have that passion and that is the most important.”

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Michelle Goldberg: Trump’s heartless QAnon embrace

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The title of the Reddit post this month seemed almost too shocking to be true: “My Qdad snapped and killed my family this morning.”

The post — by Rebecca Lanis, a 21-year-old from Michigan — was on a forum dedicated to people who’ve lost loved ones to QAnon, the sprawling conspiracy cult that imagines that Donald Trump is waging a secret war against blood-drinking pedophiles who run Hollywood and the Democratic Party. As The Detroit News would soon report, Lanis’ father, 53-year-old Igor Lanis, had indeed gone on a murderous rampage.

Lanis described how her father had fallen down the QAnon rabbit hole after the 2020 election. He wasn’t violent, however, until the morning of Sept. 11, when he shot her mother, her sister and their dog, and was then killed in a shootout with the police. Lanis’ sister, despite being shot in the back and legs, survived. Her mother and the dog did not.

The killings weren’t the first to be linked to QAnon radicalization. Last year, a 40-year-old California man confessed to killing his two young children; in an affidavit, an FBI agent said he “explained that he was enlightened by QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories” and had come to believe that his children had serpent DNA. In 2019, a QAnon devotee stabbed his brother to death after being convinced that he was a lizard. However bizarre, the idea that the ruling elite are really lizards or reptiles seeking to enslave the human race is an old conspiracy theory that has been subsumed into QAnon’s paranoid omnibus mythology.

All these men appear to have been mentally ill, but QAnon played a role in shaping and reinforcing their delusions, as it has for many committing lesser crimes. On Friday, an Iowa man named Doug Jensen became the latest QAnon follower to be convicted in connection to his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. The existence of the Reddit forum where Lanis posted, QAnon Casualties, is itself a testament to the way QAnon destroys lives.

Which is why Trump’s embrace of the movement is not just dangerous, but cruel.

Trump has long played footsie with QAnon, whose adherents prophesy an apotheosis, or “storm,” in which Trump is returned to power and his enemies rounded up and executed. “I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate,” Trump said in 2020. When he was still on Twitter, he regularly retweeted QAnon followers.

But in recent weeks, as Trump’s legal troubles have mounted, his endorsement of QAnon has become more forthright. On Sept. 12, he reposted an image of himself wearing a Q lapel pin and the words “The Storm Is Coming” on his social media platform, Truth Social. An Associated Press analysis, published Sept. 16, found that of nearly 75 accounts Trump has reposted on Truth Social in the past month, more than one-third have promoted QAnon.

“What he’s doing on Truth Social is a massive escalation,” said Mike Rothschild, author of “The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything.”

At a rally on Sept. 17, Trump spoke over mournful music that was, as The New York Times reported, “all but identical” to a QAnon theme song; many in the audience raised a pointed finger in the air, a QAnon salute. On Friday, the former president reposted a video full of QAnon memes on Truth Social. (Some around Trump may believe it’s unhelpful for him to openly court an apocalyptic cult; at a rally Friday, staff reportedly made people giving the QAnon salute lower their arms.)

Many have speculated about why Trump is moving closer to QAnon. My own guess is that he’s deepening his connection with his most fanatical fans to more easily whip up a vigilante mob if he’s indicted on any of the many charges he appears to be facing. What’s clear, though, is how little he thinks of those fans, whom he is blithely encouraging down a ruinous path.

“We tend to see the danger that these movements represent, but we don’t talk about the people who are in them,” Rothschild told me. It’s easy to write off QAnon followers, he said, many of whom have reprehensible beliefs. But “this movement, and this philosophy, it finds an audience because it tells people things that they want to hear, and it creates a world for them that is much safer and makes a lot more sense than the world that we’re in now.”

It is deeply comforting for people to feel that they’re part of an epochal battle between good and evil in which good is destined to triumph. The world of QAnon, said Rothschild, “becomes the only meaningful thing to them.”

Trump is making it much harder for people to leave that world, because the man they admire most is endorsing all their wild, violently millenarian fantasies. “It blows away the doubt,” said Rothschild. Much was made in 2016 of Hillary Clinton calling Trump supporters “deplorables.” But few have demonstrated as much contempt for the people who love Trump as Trump has himself.

Michelle Goldberg writes a column for the New York Times.

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Mike Preston: Ravens offensive line needs stability, and Ronnie Stanley could provide it

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Mike Preston: Ravens Offensive Line Needs Stability, And Ronnie Stanley Could Provide It
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As the Ravens continue to tinker and revamp their team, the offensive line remains perhaps the biggest question mark.

Right now, the unit is a revolving door, although it seemed to find some rhythm in Sunday’s 37-26 win over the New England Patriots. The Buffalo Bills will be a much bigger challenge as they have the NFL’s No. 2 ranked running defense led by Von Miller, Gregory Rousseau, Boogie Basham and Jordan Phillips.

The Ravens will counter with guards Ben Powers and Kevin Zeitler, rookie center Tyler Linderbaum and right tackle Morgan Moses, but the left tackle remains a mystery. It could be Patrick Mekari, rookie Daniel Faalele or maybe the All Pro himself, Ronnie Stanley, who has only played one game in the past two seasons due to injury. at the ankle. Stanley dressed in shorts and shoulder pads on Wednesday, but Faalele took rehearsals with the first team.

The constant shuffling is a big reason the Ravens are ranked No. 15 in rushing offense, well below their top five in previous seasons. Offensive line play is all about chemistry and timing, and the Ravens lacked consistency at left tackle, the most important position on the line.

“We strive to achieve that,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s a position we want to be in, that’s for sure. There’s value in having backup guys, a backup plan, with guys who can play in different positions because things happen. Ideally you want to have a group there, just like in defense, just like in the secondary, where you have a group there as much as you can.

Starting left tackle Ja’Wuan James ruptured his Achilles tendon in Week 1 and is out for the season. Mekari sprained his ankle against New England and did not practice Wednesday. Faalele replaced Mekari against the Patriots and played reasonably well after a slow start, but he will struggle against the Bills defensive line.

This situation was somewhat predictable. James was struggling to make it through training camp after missing all of the 2020 and 2021 seasons and Mekari has been struggling with back pain for years. It was only a matter of time before they missed a lot of playing time due to injuries.

The Ravens need Stanley to play. He’s had nearly two years to heal, and Harbaugh basically said a week ago that Stanley has to decide for himself when he can return.

It is now.

“It’s what he sees, it’s what he feels, those two things have to be considered,” Harbaugh said. “Ronnie doesn’t want to go and we don’t ask him to go if he doesn’t feel ready to go. It is a priority for him to be at his best on his return. At some point, he’s going to have to jump in there. It could be this week.

In his first five seasons in Baltimore after being selected No. 6 overall in the 2016 draft, Stanley became one of the NFL’s top left tackles. Coming out of Notre Dame, however, he was criticized for his work ethic and there were times earlier in his professional career when Stanley decided against training when he should have been on the job. ground.

There are whispers of the same criticism again from Ravens fans and some in the organization, but it takes patience. When a player that big (6-foot-6 and 315 pounds) injures his ankle and has multiple surgeries, it will take time for him to heal.

But let’s be honest. Stanley will never be mentioned in the same breath as tough guys like Orlando Brown Sr. (nicknamed Zeus), guard Jeff Blackshear or nose tackle Tony Siragusa.

His return, however, could mark a turning point. In the past, the Ravens have bragged about gaining possession time, but this year opponents have held the ball nearly five minutes longer per game.

The Ravens have given up the most passes and total yards in the league this season, which doesn’t bode well against Buffalo. If you want to keep players like Bills quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs off the field, the best way to do that is to control the tempo.

There’s nothing more demoralizing in a game of football than attacking with a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter while effectively chasing the ball. It’s almost as good as any defense.

This Ravens offense still has that potential, especially with the return of JK Dobbins as the starting running back and Judge Hill emerging as his primary backup. But the key is for all five starters on the offensive line to play consistently.

Against the Patriots, quarterback Lamar Jackson powered the rushing game with 107 yards on 11 carries. It worked on Sunday, but a quarterback shouldn’t be so exposed to penalties, especially against Buffalo.

The idea is to be balanced enough to run or pass depending on the opponent’s weaknesses, down and distance. Buffalo could be without top guards Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer and cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Christian Benford on Sunday, giving the Ravens some breathing room.

Faalele isn’t the best response to left tackle, but at least he’ll have more playing time to develop. Another option the team could consider is moving Moses to the left side due to his athleticism. If Mekari returns, the Ravens should insert him as a left guard because he’s technically stronger than Powers, but Harbaugh prefers to have bigger bodies on the line. Mekari weighs 305 pounds compared to Powers’ 338.

The Ravens have plenty of options, including David Sharpe, who could be brought up from the practice squad in an emergency. Versatility is good, but the best offensive lines are consistent because they’ve played together consistently.

The Ravens need to find that kind of rhythm.

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