TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — When Tom Brady announced he was ending his brief retirement and returning to the NFL for a 23rd season, Leonard Fournette wasn’t caught off guard.
The Tampa Bay running back recalls having a conversation with the seven-time Super Bowl winner a few days after the team’s NFC divisional-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams last January — a defeat that ended the Buccaneers’ bid to repeat as champions.
“I’m like ‘TB, we can’t go out like that.’ He agreed with me,” Fournette said.
“As a champion,” the sixth-year pro, who re-signed with the Bucs shortly after Brady unretired, added, “I knew he wouldn’t want to go out like that for his legacy.”
Brady, who turned 45 a week into training camp, cited “unfinished business” as one of the reasons for changing his mind.
Before taking an 11-day break from the team during the preseason for personal reasons, he shrugged off questions about his ability to defy the odds and continue to excel at his advancing age.
“I don’t think you can do anything without incredible support. This is not about me, it’s about all of the people that have supported me to get to this point and I’m very grateful,” Brady said. “I’m just super grateful to everybody who has played an important role, and you can’t take anything for granted.”
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Brady’s retirement/unretirement wasn’t the only development during a busy offseason. Todd Bowles begins his second stint as a head coach after being promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Bruce Arians, who retired and became a consultant to general manager Jason Licht. Bowles coached the New York Jets from 2015 to 2018.
Brady led the NFL in completions, passing yards and touchdowns in 2021. Injuries and uncharacteristic mistakes during the loss to the Rams were factors in Tampa Bay failing to get back to the Super Bowl after setting a club record for regular-season victories with 13.
“I don’t think there’s any excuses. You either get the job done or you don’t. There’s only one team that is really happy at the end of the year, and it is the team that wins,” Brady said. “You have to come out the next year and do everything you can to put yourself in position.”
Licht traded for former New England guard Shaq Mason to fill an opening created by losing Alex Cappa in free agency. There likely will be at least two other new starters playing in front of Brady after center Ryan Jensen suffered a knee injury on the second day of training camp and left guard Aaron Stinnie suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second preseason game. Young players will be counted on to step up, with second-year pro Robert Hainsey taking over at center and rookie Luke Goedeke and second-year pro Nick Leverett vying for the job at left guard.
“It’s not about experience, it’s about experience playing. Luke and Nick do a great job right now. They’re getting a lot of reps, so they’ve earned that right to compete for that spot,” Bowles said. “We don’t mind playing rookies. … It’s just a matter of them getting in-game experience.”
The Bucs remain determined to surround Brady with everything he needs to win an eighth Super Bowl ring. That includes bringing in receivers Julio Jones and Russell Gage to bolster an already strong group of playmakers led by Fournette, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph was signed after Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement, and ex-Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks was added to replace Ndamukong Suh.
Licht credits Brady, as well as the championship culture the Bucs have developed, for the success he’s had landing established players looking for an opportunity to play for a Super Bowl contender.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think in all those negotiations one of the top priorities that they had on their list was going to a team that they had a good chance of getting a ring. … It’s a very attractive (factor),” the general manager said. “I’m not saying we’re definitely going to win the Super Bowl. We have a long road to go here and short time to get there. We just all feel we’re on the same page and we have a good chance.”
Tampa Bay’s defense, which has been one of the best against the run over the past three years, will face three of the NFL’s top quarterbacks in the first four weeks of the season. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett welcomes the challenge.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’ve always loved playing against the best players in the league because it’s a chance to make your mark on the league,” Barrett said.
“I’m always trying to prove myself and trying to earn my keep in this league and on this team,” Barrett added. “Going against those guys and making plays against those guys will help me do that. And if I do that, it will help the team succeed, too.”
Jaguars Deliver Victory in First Home Game of the Season
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (FNN Sports) – The Jacksonville Jaguars beat their AFC South rival Indianapolis Colts 24-0 in their first game at TIAA Bank Field this season. The Jags’ victory was the Colts’ eighth straight loss in Jacksonville.
The Jags scored the first touchdown of the game late in the first quarter, as QB Trevor Lawrence completed a ten yard pass to WR Christian Kirk in the rain, followed by K Riley Patterson’s extra point. That 68 yard drive started with an interception by S Rayshawn Jenkins, and featured a bold choice several plays later to “go for it” facing fourth down and three yards on the Colts’ 47 yard line. Lawrence delivered, completing an eight yard pass to WR Zay Jones to keep that drive alive. The Jags led the Colts 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Jaguars RB James Robinson had an impressive 37 yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter, followed by another Riley Patterson extra point, putting Jacksonville ahead 14-0. Riley Patterson added a 52 yard field goal shortly before halftime, extending the lead to 17-0.
Late in the third quarter, the Jags again went for it on fourth down with a yard to go, as Trevor Lawrence completed a short five yard pass to Christian Kirk, and Patterson added another extra point. The Jaguars ended the third quarter up 24-0.
In the fourth quarter, the Jaguars defense stole the show with interceptions by LB Devin Lloyd and FS Andre Cisco, each picking off passes by the Colts’ new QB Matt Ryan. The final score remained 24-0.
Trevor Lawrence finished with 235 yards and two touchdowns. James Robinson led the Jaguars rushing with 60 yards and a touchdown. Christian Kirk was the leading receiver with 78 yards and two touchdowns.
Indianapolis has lost eight straight games in Jacksonville dating back to their last win in 2014. The Colts were knocked out of the playoffs after they lost the final game of the 2021 season at TIAA Bank Field. No one on the Colts’ current roster has experienced a victory in Jacksonville while playing for Indianapolis.
Colts’ Head Coach Frank Reich and Jags’ Head Coach Doug Pederson were both part of the Philadelphia Eagles’ championship team five seasons ago. They greeted each other with big smiles and a warm handshake prior to kickoff.
Today’s attendance was 58,360. The Jaguars travel west to take on the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium, Sunday, 9/25 at 4:05 p.m. Be sure to follow www.FloridaSportsChannel.com for more sports news.
Addition Financial, UCF Extend Naming Rights Agreement for Arena
ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – UCF has extended its naming rights partnership with Addition Financial Credit Union for an additional dozen years—in the process continuing to identify Addition Financial Arena on the UCF campus as the Knights’ home for men’s and women’s basketball games and a variety of other events.
The new agreement is a 12-year, $20 million partnership that follows up the original naming rights pact signed by UCF and Additional Financial in 2013. The new deal takes effect Jan. 1, 2023.
The UCF Board of Trustees approved the name at its meeting this morning, and the full deal is expected to be approved Aug. 25 by the UCF Athletics Association.
“We’ve had a partnership with Addition Financial for nearly a decade, and we’re excited that Kevin Miller and the Addition Financial Board have agreed to extend our relationship for an additional 12 years,” says UCF vice president and athletics director Terry Mohajir. “This is a great new venture with outstanding community partners.
“Resources will be paramount as we transition into the Big 12 Conference a year from now, and Addition Financial will play a key role for us as we invest more resources to enhance our education and athletics missions!”
In 2013, Addition Financial was named the Official Financial Institution of the UCF Knights and is the exclusive credit union for UCF Athletics. Since that time, Addition Financial has partnered with UCF Athletics to provide scholarships, financial education workshops and other sponsorship support. Addition Financial is also the home of the official UCF Knights debit cards, with designs featuring the new Knight head and the Citronaut.
“Addition Financial is proud to continue our longstanding partnership with UCF Athletics and to align with Orlando’s hometown teams. Knight Nation has truly inspired us along their journey to the Big 12, and we look forward to embarking on that journey alongside them as we extend our partnership,” said Kevin Miller, Addition Financial president and CEO.
The 10,000-seat Addition Financial Arena has been home to the UCF men’s and women’s basketball programs since the start of their 2007-08 seasons. Located in the heart of Knights Plaza on the north side of campus, the state-of-the-art facility opened in the fall of 2007 and also hosts premiere concerts along with UCF commencement ceremonies.
LeBron James Inks 2-Year, $97.1 Million Deal with Lakers
LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James has agreed to a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension through the 2024-25 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, his agent announced Wednesday.
Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul said the league-maximum deal makes James the highest-paid player in NBA history. His new deal includes a player option that would keep the second-leading scorer in NBA history with the Lakers past his 40th birthday in December 2024.
The 37-year-old James is headed into the final year of his most recent contract with the Lakers, who signed the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and four-time league champion in July 2018. The new deal means the 18-time All-Star will make $46.7 million this season.
Barring injury, James is likely to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s career scoring king this winter. James and the Lakers also still hope to be in contention for another title if James and Anthony Davis can return at full health after an injury-plagued 2021-22 ended without a playoff appearance.
James’ new deal syncs with Davis’ most recent contract extension with the Lakers, allowing both to leave the Lakers or to negotiate new deals in 2024. Both superstars are represented by Klutch.
James’ recommitment to the Lakers also silences persistent talk of his possible departure as a free agent or in a trade. James hasn’t appeared to be going anywhere on social media or in his public appearances, and he praised the hiring of new Lakers coach Darvin Ham.
James has missed significant portions of the season due to injury in three of his four years with the Lakers. He was largely healthy in the elongated 2019-20 season when the Lakers won the franchise’s 17th NBA title in the Florida bubble, and he has been every bit the dominant player of his prime when at full strength in the ensuing two years.
Although his contract status inspired plenty of offseason chatter, James seemed unlikely to relocate after spending the past four seasons of his 19-year career with the storied Lakers. His family is settled in Los Angeles, where his eldest son, Bronny, is a 17-year-old senior and college basketball prospect playing at Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth.
James has occasionally said he intends to play on the same team with Bronny when his son reaches the NBA. Although plenty of obstacles remain between the younger James and the NBA, he could be draft-eligible in the summer of 2024.