Patriots

Patriots awed by Air Force stories of survival training

Patriots awed by Air Force stories of survival training

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. - Do you think of yourself as tough? As self-sufficient? Well has Air Force Academy football coach Troy Calhoun got a story for you. 

Calhoun spoke to the Patriots earlier this week as the team trains at high altitude in Colorado Springs preparing for Sunday’s game in Mexico City against the Raiders. Calhoun's players have to check a lot more boxes than running a good 40-yard dash and completing a certain number of reps on the bench press.

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“He told us a story about them going into the mountains and living for like two or three weeks,” said a wide-eyed Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

As part of their curriculum, students at the Air Force Academy must take survival training. So, not only do they get dropped in the middle of nowhere with no shelter but also have to hunt for their own meals. Ah fellas, do you think you could handle that?

“This is obviously not for me,” said Duron Harmon before laughter overtook him. 

“I don’t know if it works for me either,” added James White, shaking his head.

Gilmore continued to be amazed at what he heard, even days later, “They got to kill stuff and eat it. I don’t know if I could that. I don’t know where I’d sleep. I don’t know what I’d kill. That’s a hard situation.”

Only Rob Gronkowski appeared ready to accept the challenge. Do you think you could live in the mountains and kill animals to survive?
 
“If I had to, I would have to.”
 
Ok, but what animals would you hunt?
 
“I like animals, so I don't know.”

I’m not sure that bears want to be scratched behind the ear, Gronk. Call me crazy. Anyway...

Calhoun spoke to the team at the behest of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. We know about Belichick’s love for the service academies and one of the points behind Calhoun's speech was to give his players a much greater understanding of just how difficult life can be for this select group of student-athletes.

“It was a super-strong message,” acknowledged Gronkowski. “Knowing what they go through, it just shows how strong they are and shows what type of person it takes to be able to make it here in the Air Force Academy, which takes a lot – a lot of dedication for sure.

“There’s only a certain type of guys that they recruit and you have to be a certain type of person to do what they do, “ said Gilmore. “You’ve got to respect them for what they do.”

Said Harmon: “All those guys go out there and play football but we don’t see their basic training they have to do when they first come in, the survival training and still going to all these classes, still playing football. You just have a real respect for them because those are the guys that are going to be protecting us, keeping the country safe.”

That resonated among the players, who understand while what they do is important to a lot of people, and they can impact the happiness of an entire region, it’s just a game, not life and death like the men and women who go to the Academy and know they could find themselves at war one day.

“It makes you appreciate what you have for sure,” said Gronkowski, while Gilmore added, “anytime I think I’m going through something, I need to appreciate it looking at their situation and not complaining, just doing what needs to be done.”

When Belichick reads that, he’ll smile. That’s part of what the coach always wants from his players and coaches - just do what needs to be done. Perhaps hearing it from someone else - Coach Calhoun - will keep the message fresh as the Patriots press on through the second half the season and what they hope will be a long postseason run as well. 

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Panthers owner Richardson selling NFL team

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Panthers owner Richardson selling NFL team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Carolina Panthers have announced that owner Jerry Richardson is selling the NFL franchise amid an investigation by the league into allegations of sexual and racist misconduct by Richardson in the workplace.

The team announced on Twitter that Richardson is selling the team, linking to a five-paragraph letter by the franchise's only owner.

Richardson said in the open letter "I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership. Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of the NFL season."

The NFL awarded Richardson an expansion franchise in 1993 and he has been the team's only owner.

The letter did not directly address the investigation.

Jimmy Garoppolo leads 49ers to third straight win

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Jimmy Garoppolo leads 49ers to third straight win

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Jimmy Garoppolo led one final scoring drive in the closing seconds to cap a fantastic first home start, Robbie Gould kicked a game-winning 45-yard field goal as time expired, and the San Francisco 49ers topped the Tennessee Titans 25-23 on Sunday.

Garoppolo threw for a career-high 381 yards and a touchdown during a dominant day to give the 49ers (4-10) a three-game winning streak in a lost season. And Tom Brady's former backup showed he could do it at home as well as on the road - and against a playoff contender, no less - outdueling Marcus Mariota down the stretch as the teams traded field goals.

Gould kicked three of his six field goals over the final nine minutes: 50, 48 and 45 yards and has now gone 20 consecutive without a miss.

Gould put the Niners out front on a 48-yarder with 3:08 remaining. Mariota then drove the Titans (8-6) to a lead as Ryan Succop kicked a 50-yard field goal with 1:07 to play, then Garoppolo and the San Francisco offense got one last shot.

It took three tries this season, and first-year coach Kyle Shanahan finally found his reliable, playmaking quarterback after acquiring Garoppolo from New England at the October trade deadline. Garoppolo showed that in 67 seconds when forced into late action in a loss to Seattle three weeks ago at Levi's Stadium, then in back-to-back road games before shining again Sunday.

Marquise Goodwin made 10 catches for 114 yards and Garoppolo completed 31 of 43 passes to go over 300 yards passing for the second straight game after last week's win at Houston.

Mariota put Tennessee ahead on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews early in the fourth as the Titans rallied back from an early 13-point deficit.

The 49ers were in good position the ensuing possession before Garoppolo was sacked by Wesley Woodyard for a 10-yard loss. Then, Gould converted a 50-yarder.

Tennessee came out of intermission a new team, totaling 22 offensive plays to San Francisco's five in the third quarter.

Garoppolo became the first 49ers quarterback since the merger in 1970 to win each of his first three starts and just the second QB to do so in franchise history. Y.A. Tittle did so spanning the 1951-52 seasons.

He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to tight end Garrett Celek - whose great play in recent weeks has earned the nickname of "Celek Time." Celek later had a 41-yard catch.

Garoppolo didn't even have Trent Brown to block for him after the right tackle went on injured reserve with a right shoulder injury that will require surgery. Mariota threw a 4-yard TD pass to former 49er Delanie Walker late in the first half to keep the Titans close.

Garoppolo was 5 of 6 passing on his opening possession as San Francisco mixed its play calls well to catch the stingy Titans defense off guard. Gould's 38-yarder capped the 12-play, 64-yard initial drive. Gould hit a 48-yarder late in the first and then kicked one from 28 yards just before halftime.

The Titans played a second straight road game against the NFC West after losing last week to the Cardinals and staying in Arizona for the week of practice.

Their first visit to Levi's Stadium - Tennessee last played the Niners on the road at Candlestick in November 2009 - began slowly, the team's second straight week playing a stadium for the initial time.

Mariota, in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his three-year career, threw for 241 yards completing 23 of 33 passes.

DEFENSIVE FLOP

Tennessee's typically tough defense was a far cry from that dominant unit in the first half.

Garoppolo threw for 189 yards and the Niners outgained the Titans 219-136 in the first half. The 49ers didn't punt until more than midway through the third quarter.

Last week, the Titans allowed only four field goals, the second time this season they'd done so. From Week 5, Tennessee had been allowing only 295.1 yards per game.

INJURIES

Titans: CB Logan Ryan sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter.

49ers: WR Aldrick Robinson suffered a concussion in the first quarter. He went to the locker room with head and wrist injuries after he was hit hard by Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson along the Tennessee sideline. Robinson was stretching out trying to make a catch when he got slammed and went down for several minutes with 5:24 to go in the opening quarter.

UP NEXT

Titans: Host Rams next Sunday and home the final two weeks.

49ers: Host Jaguars next Sunday.