Tagged in: Super Bowl

Cincinnati Bengals WR Tee Higgins to miss offseason workouts following shoulder surgery

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins is expected to miss offseason workouts while he recovers from shoulder surgery, coach Zac Taylor stated Monday.

Higgins had the procedure following the team’s trip to the Super Bowl and was sporting a protective brace on his left shoulder during an appearance at the Cincinnati Reds’ home opener.

Taylor stated he expects Higgins to be out for a couple of months.

“Made a decision to get it fixed,” Taylor said. “[I] don’t expect him to be part of the offseason.”

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Higgins missed the third and fourth games of the regular campaign because of a shoulder issue.

He returned to play in every remaining game for the AFC champions, aside from the regular-season finale in which Cincinnati rested nearly all of its starters.

The team’s second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft is coming off his best season as a pro. In 14 matches, he had 74 catches for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns. Higgins appeared in all four playoff games.

In the team’s Super Bowl LVI loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Higgins had four catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s first championship appearance in 33 years.

The Bengals will start offseason workouts on May 2 and hold six voluntary organized team activities. Cincinnati will not have a mandatory minicamp, Taylor said on Friday.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Leonard Fournette reach 3-year, $21 million deal

Running back Leonard Fournette, who spent Monday visiting with the New England Patriots, is re-signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a three-year, $21 million deal, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday.

The deal involves $11 million guaranteed, sources told ESPN’s Jenna Laine, and it could reach $24 million with incentives.

The Buccaneers are also nearing a one-year contract with defensive end William Gholston, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Gholston, who had a career-high 4.5 sacks last season, had interest from other teams but wanted to chase another Super Bowl with the Buccaneers.

Fournette ranked sixth among all NFL running backs with 1,266 yards from scrimmage, averaging a career-best 4.5 yards per carry, when the Bucs placed him on injured reserve with a hamstring injury after Week 15. He missed the wild-card game and returned for the Bucs’ divisional-round loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

After signing his second one-year deal with the Bucs last offseason, Fournette, 27, rushed for 812 yards and scored 10 total touchdowns (eight in the regular season). He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards.

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His best game came in Week 12, when Fournette, in addition to delivering a memorable halftime speech when the Bucs fell behind, rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries and had seven receptions for 31 yards versus the Colts.

The last of his four touchdowns in that 38-31 victory was a 28-yard run with 29 seconds left.

Fournette earned the nickname “Playoff Lenny” — and later, “Lombardi Lenny” — while leading the Bucs with 448 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns in a postseason run to Super Bowl LV, where he rushed for 135 yards as Tampa Bay beat the Kansas City Chiefs.

After backing up Ronald Jones for the majority of the 2020 season — an experience that he and the coaching staff believe humbled him and helped prolong his career — Fournette seized the opportunity when Jones was sidelined for the final few weeks of the season by injuries and a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Fournette was the fourth overall pick in 2017 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who declined to pick up his fifth-year option and released him after the 2019 season.

After a difficult 2018 season in which he was on the bench in crunch time, fined and criticized, Fournette responded with his best season statistically with the Jaguars in 2019, rushing for a career-best 1,152 yards and catching 76 passes for 522 yards with three total touchdowns.

He has 3,810 rushing yards with 31 rushing touchdowns and 239 receptions for 1,696 yards and four TD catches in 63 career regular-season games.

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Tom Brady returning to Buccaneers to play 23rd season in NFL

Tom Brady’s retirement lasted 40 days.

Brady stated Sunday he’s returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his 23rd NFL season.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion revealed his decision on Twitter and Instagram, saying he has “unfinished business.” The news stole the spotlight from the NCAA’s Selection Sunday.

“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady wrote. “That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa.”

Brady led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title following the 2020 season and NFC South championship last season. He teamed with coach Bill Belichick to win six Super Bowls during 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.

The 44-year-old Brady led the NFL in yards passing (5,316), touchdowns (43), completions (485) and attempts (719) in 2021, but the Buccaneers lost at home to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round.

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“Tom Brady loves to play football as much as anyone I have ever been around,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said. “As Tom said, his place right now is on the football field. He is still playing at a championship level and was as productive as anyone in the league last season. We are ecstatic that he decided to continue playing and working toward winning another championship.” 

Brady cited his wish to spend more time with his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and three children when he decided to walk away from the game on Feb. 1. But he changed his mind about staying home, a day after attending the Manchester United match versus Tottenham Hotspur. Brady sat with the Glazer Family, who own Manchester United and the Buccaneers.

His reversal sent shock waves throughout the sports world, and his teammates and Buccaneers fans reacted with jubilation.

All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs called it “unreal.” Receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin shared their joy in emojis.

Giants safety Logan Ryan said Brady’s return is “good for football.” Rams star cornerback Jalen Ramsey tweeted: “THANK YOU! throw that last touchdown on somebody else.”

Brady’s decision comes right before the NFL free agency period begins. The Bucs have several key players set to hit the open market: running back Leonard Fournette, cornerback Carton Davis, safety Jordan Whitehead, linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Gronkowski and others.

They kept one of those key players when Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen agreed to a three-year contract late Sunday night, his agent Mike McCartney said on Twitter. 

Brady’s return should impact their decisions and the team’s plans. Tampa’s odds for winning the Super Bowl went from 25:1 to 7 1/2:1, tied with Green Bay for second-best behind Buffalo at 7:1, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

“We are thrilled that Tom has decided to come back this season,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. “We said we would leave all options open for him should he reconsider his retirement and today’s announcement is something we have been preparing for in recent days.

Brady has won three NFL MVP awards, been a first-team All-Pro three times and selected to the Pro Bowl 15 times. He is 243-73 in his career in the regular season and 35-12 in the playoffs. He’s back to build on all those numbers.

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Seattle Seahawks agree to trade QB Russell Wilson to Denver Broncos, get three players, picks

After weeks of negotiations, in one of the biggest trades in NFL history, the Denver Broncos have agreed to send a significant package of players and draft picks to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, sources told ESPN.

The Broncos have agreed to trade quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defensive lineman Shelby Harris, two first-round picks (2022 — No. 9 overall — and 2023), two second-round picks (2022 — No. 40 overall — and 2023) and a 2022 fifth-round pick to the Seahawks for Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick, sources said.

The trade gives Denver the quarterback it has sought since Peyton Manning retired, and it gives Seattle a foundation on which to rebuild without the quarterback who led the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl title.

Upon Wilson’s approval to waive his no-trade clause, the Seahawks will send him to Denver, concluding his historic 10-season run in Seattle that included nine Pro Bowl selections, one Super Bowl title and more wins than any quarterback ever has posted during his first 10 seasons in the league.

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The Broncos were Wilson’s preference, if he was traded, sources told ESPN’s Brady Henderson.

Wilson also will have to pass a physical. The trade can’t be officially announced until Wednesday, March 16 at 4 p.m. ET, which is the beginning of the 2022 league year.

Denver acquiring Wilson has nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers’ decision to return to Green Bay. Denver general manager George Paton initiated trade talks with Seattle for Wilson at least two weeks ago. But in recent days, as trade talks with Seattle heated up, it became clear that Wilson was the Broncos’ Plan A.

The Broncos and Packers have not discussed a Rodgers trade this offseason.

The Seahawks quietly were listening to offers for Wilson and got calls from multiple teams. One league source estimated the total to be over a dozen teams.

Wilson sensed he was going to have to move on, and if he did, he wanted to be going to a winning program. Denver, with all its offensive talent and its tough defense, is in “win-now” mode.

Denver has been trying to find a suitable quarterback since Manning retired, just as the organization tried for years to find a suitable quarterback after John Elway retired. Enter the 33-year-old Wilson.

Wilson will join a Broncos team managed by new head coach Nathaniel Hackett. The team’s offense includes wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and running back Javonte Williams.

The Broncos’ odds to win the Super Bowl improved from 25-1 to 12-1 Tuesday at Caesars Sportsbook. Only three teams — the Buffalo Bills (15-2), Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) and Green Bay Packers (10-1) have better odds to win the Super Bowl than the Broncos at Caesars Sportsbook.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, saw their odds to win the Super Bowl fall from 40-1 to 75-1 at Caesars. Wilson beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII and will become the first quarterback to start for a team he defeated in the Super Bowl, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

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Safety Jessie Bates III, with ‘a real role on our team,’ lands franchise tag from Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals placed their franchise tag on safety Jessie Bates III, the team revealed Monday.

Bates was on the verge of becoming a free agent once his rookie deal expired at the end of the league year. The franchise-tag deadline for all teams is Tuesday.

“Over the past year, we’ve tried to extend his contract here in Cincinnati,” Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn said in a statement. “While that hasn’t come to pass, we want him here for 2022 to be a part of what we think should be an exciting football season and bright future for our organization.”

The franchise tag allows the Bengals to be in prime position to retain Bates’ services for the 2022 season. The franchise tender amount for safeties is $12.911 million, according to a memo obtained by ESPN on Monday.

At last week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Bengals executive Duke Tobin reiterated that the franchise’s intention was to keep him in Cincinnati.

“He’s a guy that developed and that has played well that has a real role on our team in a lot of different areas, particularly in leadership and playmaking skill,” Tobin said. “He’s a guy we want going forward.”

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The franchise tag allows Bates and the Bengals to negotiate a long-term deal until July 15 at 4 p.m. ET. If no multiyear contract is reached by then, Bates will not be eligible for a contract extension until after the season, according to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA.

Bates played a pivotal role in the Bengals reaching their first Super Bowl in 33 years.

In four postseason games, he had six pass deflections, 20 tackles and two interceptions, including one in the 23-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI.

The safety, who turned 25 in February, sought a contract extension with the Bengals after a breakout 2020 campaign; however, those preseason discussions did not lead to a new deal.

He started 15 games last campaign, making 88 tackles with an interception, four passes defended and a fumble recovery.

Since joining the Bengals, the 2018 second-round pick has been one of the team’s most dependable starters. He has appeared in 63 of a potential 65 games in four NFL seasons, starting all of them.

A neck injury suffered in a Week 3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers snapped Bates’ streak of 51 consecutive starts, the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.

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Eric Bieniemy returning as Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator for 2022 season

Eric Bieniemy is returning to the Kansas City Chiefs as offensive coordinator for the 2022 season, a source confirmed to ESPN on Thursday.

The news was first reported by NFL Network, which also reported he will be returning on a one-year deal.

Bieniemy’s contract expired after last season, and he and head coach Andy Reid recently met to discuss his future with the team. Bieniemy also worked on an expiring contract in 2020.

He had contemplated coaching in college, listening to other offers or even taking off a year after a physically and mentally draining season in which the Chiefs fell one game short of the Super Bowl and Bieniemy was again bypassed in the head-coach hiring cycle, ESPN’s Adam Schefter had reported.

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The Chiefs still have to fill their quarterbacks coach job after Mike Kafka left to become the New York Giants’ offensive coordinator.

Bieniemy has been on the Kansas City staff since 2013 and has spent the past four seasons as the offensive coordinator. His tenure as coordinator has coincided with Patrick Mahomes’ four-year stretch as Kansas City’s starting quarterback, and the Chiefs’ offense has ranked no worse than sixth in the NFL each season under Bieniemy.

Bieniemy, 52, has been a candidate for multiple head-coaching jobs in recent seasons and had interviewed for the Denver Broncos’ and New Orleans Saints’ positions this year.

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores included a section on Bieniemy’s inability to land a head-coaching job despite his success as an NFL assistant in his lawsuit versus the NFL and three teams (the Broncos, Giants and Dolphins) that alleges racial discrimination in the league’s hiring practices.

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Minnesota Vikings hiring Los Angeles Rams’ Wes Phillips as offensive coordinator

The Vikings are hiring Wes Phillips to join Kevin O’Connell’s staff as the team’s offensive coordinator.

Phillips has been with the Rams since the 2019 season and was the passing game coordinator and tight ends coach during the team’s Super Bowl run in 2021.

During his first two campaigns in Los Angeles, the 43-year-old coached tight ends, including Tyler Higbee, who set single-season franchise records in receptions (69) and receiving yards (734) by a tight end in 2019. Higbee was also the first tight end since 1970 to record four straight games of seven or more receptions.

Phillips started his NFL coaching career with the Cowboys in 2007 as a quality control coach/offensive assistant before serving as Dallas’ assistant offensive line coach (2011-12) and tight ends coach (2013).

Phillips then spent four seasons with Washington as the tight ends coach, where he overlapped with O’Connell during the 2017 and ’18 seasons.

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O’Connell stated during his introductory news conference on Thursday that he plans to call offensive plays during the 2022 season.

The role Phillips will hold in Minnesota is expected to be similar to the one O’Connell had as offensive coordinator in Los Angeles in 2020 and ’21.

While head coach Sean McVay served as the team’s playcaller, O’Connell helped build and develop the team’s game plan, which in Minnesota will mirror many of the concepts utilized in the Rams’ offense.

“We’re doing a lot of things that are simple for us, but maybe a little bit more difficult for a defense to defend,” O’Connell said last week. “Simple as things starting out looking the same but are different … things that people have seen our offense do in L.A. that they will absolutely see our offense do here in Minnesota.”

Phillips is the son of former Rams defensive coordinator and longtime NFL head coach Wade Phillips and the grandson of former Oilers and Saints coach Bum Phillips.

The Vikings already announced nine additions to O’Connell’s staff: assistant head coach Mike Pettine, defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, defensive line coach Chris Rumph, quarterbacks coach Chris O’Hara, assistant quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson, tight ends/passing game coordinator Brian Angelichio, offensive line coach Chris Kuper, assistant offensive line coach Justin Rascati and running backs/run game coordinator Curtis Modkins.

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Bucs beat Panthers 41-17, earn No. 2 playoff seeding in NFC

Once the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took care of their own business, the defending Super Bowl champions permitted themselves to become scoreboard watchers.

Sunday’s 41-17 rout of the Carolina Panthers set a franchise record for regular-season victories, and the win — coupled with the Rams losing to the 49ers in overtime — also gave the Bucs (13-4) the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC.

Tampa Bay will host Philadelphia in the wild-card round next week. Earning the No. 2 seed ensures a second home game in two weeks if the Bucs beat the Eagles.

Tom Brady’s not looking ahead, though.

“It just felt good to win today. Whatever happened with other teams, you can’t ever control any of those things. Even for the next game. … you’re worrying about two games from now. I’m not worried about two games from now, I’m worried about one game from now, which is the Eagles,” Brady said.

“I don’t care if the Rams would’ve won … that’s alright, we’ve still got the Eagles and that’s going to be the biggest game of our season,” Brady added.

“If we win, whoever we play, wherever we play, we’re still going, and that’s what we want to do.” Brady topped 5,000 yards passing for the second time in his career, joining Drew Brees as the only players in NFL history with multiple 5,000-yard seasons.

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“We had to do what we had to do,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had seven receptions for 137 yards.

“That’s what really matters,” Gronkowski added. “We did what we had to do, and the rest took care of itself.”

Brady completed 29 of 37 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns before taking the last half of the fourth quarter off, finishing with a career-best 5,316 yards passing and a Bucs single-season record 43 TD passes for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Mike Evans caught two of Brady’s TD passes, giving him a club-record 14 scoring receptions this year.

He also became the first player in NFL history to start a career with eight consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving.

Tampa Bay broke the club record for victories in a regular season set in 2002, when the Bucs went on to win the Super Bowl for the first time.

Carolina (5-12) finished on a seven-game losing streak that leaves coach Matt Rhule’s future in question. The Panthers are 10-23 in two seasons under the former Temple and Baylor coach, who signed a seven-year contract to move to the NFL in 2020.

The Panthers wasted a chance to go up by double digits, turning the ball over on downs at the Tampa Bay 1 before the Brady turned the game around with an eight-play, 92-yard touchdown drive in the final minute of the first half.

Completions of 37 yards to Evans, 19 yards to Gronkowski and 24 yards to Breshad Perriman helped Brady move into position to give his team a 10-7 halftime lead with a 1-yard TD pass to Le’Veon Bell.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s 2-yard TD run early in the third quarter built the lead to 17-7. Evans caught TD passes of 3 and 20 yards, and receiver Scotty Miller scored on a 33-yard run in the fourth quarter for the Bucs.

Darnold completed 29 of 42 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the Panthers, who fell to 0-4 against Tampa Bay under Rhule and have been outscored 150-63 by their NFC South rival in those matches.

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Baltimore Ravens fear RB Gus Edwards, CB Marcus Peters have torn ACLs

The Baltimore Ravens fear they lost running back Gus Edwards and cornerback Marcus Peters to season-ending knee injuries Thursday, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Ravens think Edwards and Peters tore their ACLs during Thursday’s practice, sources told Schefter. Baltimore wasn’t practicing in full pads Thursday. Both players are undergoing testing to confirm the initial diagnoses.

This continues a horrid run of injuries for Baltimore and delivers a major blow to the Ravens’ Super Bowl aspirations.

Edwards becomes the third running back to suffer a season-ending injury in a span of 12 days. J.K. Dobbins tore the ACL in his left knee in the preseason finale Aug. 28, and Justice Hill hurt an Achilles tendon Sept. 9.

Ty’Son Williams, a practice player from a year ago who doesn’t have an NFL carry, becomes the Ravens’ lead back. The other two running backs on the roster –Trenton Cannon and Le’Veon Bell (practice squad) — only started practicing with the Ravens on Wednesday.

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The Ravens are also signing free-agent running back Devonta Freeman to their practice squad on Thursday, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told Schefter.

It is expected that Freeman will be promoted to the active roster.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown took to Twitter to wish the best for their injured teammates.

The Ravens have had the NFL’s most dominant ground attack, leading the league in rushing the past two campaigns. Dobbins and Edwards totaled 1,528 yards rushing last season, which accounted for 81% of the output by Baltimore running backs. Edwards signed a three-year, $12.38 million deal in June that included $8 million in guaranteed money.

The loss of Peters would represent the most significant injury to the defense this year. The Ravens have depth at cornerback, but it will be difficult to replace Peters’ playmaking ability. His 31 interceptions leads the NFL since he entered the league in 2015.

Since Peters was traded to Baltimore in Week 9 of 2019, the Ravens have permitted the fewest yards per pass attempt (6.1) and tied for the second-fewest touchdown passes allowed (31), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Anthony Averett, a fourth-round pick in 2018, would be a candidate to replace Peters and start opposite Marlon Humphrey. The Ravens open the season at the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football.

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Brady, Buccaneers begin defense of title against Cowboys

Lofty, maybe even gargantuan, expectations don’t faze Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The reigning Super Bowl champions open the 2021 NFL season versus the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, confident they have what it takes — at least on paper — to become the first team to collect back-to-back titles since Brady led the 2003 and 2004 New England Patriots to consecutive crowns.

No one knows what it’s like to have a target on your back every week more than Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl winner who turned 44 during training camp — a few days after reminding teammates the first order of business is leaving last season behind.

The Bucs return all 22 starters from a top 10 offense and defense, however Brady and coach Bruce Arians stress talent alone doesn’t guarantee continued success.

“In one way, you’re not really defending it much, it’s kind of in the books. They can’t take away what we’ve done. It’s really just a whole other year and experience,” Brady said.

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“We have a lot of continuity. We have a lot of things to build on and a lot more experience together,” Brady added. “That’s really all you can ask for as players is to be in the position that we’re in. I’d just like us to go out and take advantage of that.”

With Brady entering his second season working with a bevy of playmakers that includes receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard, the Bucs think they can be even more potent on offense.

The defense returns intact, too, with linebackers Devin White, Lavonte David, Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett leading the way and a youthful group of cornerbacks and safeties looking to make names for themselves.

“As good as we played with the same group of guys, I’d love to see where we can get this year,” Brady stated.

“Again, all of it is earned. There’s nothing given. It’s not about a bunch of hype or a bunch of buildup. We have to go do it,” Brady added. “I think that’s about a bunch of guys that are really mature and see ourselves as professional athletes. We want to go out there and put our best out there.”

The Cowboys are coming off a 6-10 finish in which they played most of the season without quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott returns Thursday night for the first time since suffering the severe ankle injury that ended his year last October. He didn’t play in the preseason, either, after straining his right shoulder early in training camp.

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy is excited to get Prescott back on the field and spoke to his team about the opportunity to face a seemingly ageless Brady and the defending champs in the season opener for the entire NFL.

“We talked about … just how fortunate we are to be part of it on whatever level, most importantly the players,” McCarthy said. “There’s definitely a youthfulness that has to exist to be successful, and I think (Brady’s) a good example if there ever was one that has played the game, or any sport, of the way you need to go about it,” McCarthy said.

“He exudes with that every time he lines up. Very consistent. I think it’s a big part of his continued success.”

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