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Bills' Marrone feels he's 'best person for job'

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Bills' Marrone feels he's 'best person for job'

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) It's been such a whirlwind of a week for Doug Marrone - from a bowl game at Yankee Stadium to NFL interviews in Arizona - that it was difficult for the Buffalo Bills new coach to get his bearings on Monday.

All that mattered was that he ended up in the state of New York, a place where the Bronx-born Marrone has always felt at home: Be it playing and then coaching at Syracuse, and now getting his first NFL head-coaching shot in Buffalo.

``I had some opportunities to make a choice, and I've chosen to be here,'' Marrone said, shortly after being introduced as the 16th coach in the Bills' 53-year history. ``You have to be at the place where you're most comfortable, and I'm most comfortable here in western New York.''

Capped by a 38-14 win over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 28, Marrone went 25-25 in four seasons at Syracuse. He was credited for reviving a program that had gone 26-57 in its previous seven seasons.

In Buffalo, the 48-year-old Marrone takes over a week after Chan Gailey was fired following three consecutive losing seasons.

Marrone becomes the Bills' fifth coach in 12 years, and inherits a franchise that newly promoted team president Russ Brandon described as having a ``tarnished'' reputation.

``We wanted to identify top talent to lead this organization to where all of our fans and stakeholders deserve to be, and that's back to a championship contender,'' Brandon said. ``And we believe we just did that.''

Marrone was the second of only five candidates Buffalo interviewed over a four-day span in Arizona as part of what Brandon vowed would be an ``exhaustive'' search.

Brandon described the search as being ``thorough'' and ``exhilarating,'' noting the Bills met with Marrone four times before identifying him as their candidate on Saturday.

General manager Buddy Nix went further in saying the Bills didn't have time to waste or risk missing out on Marrone.

``We could have gone another day, and we would have been starting over,'' Nix said. ``We knew the guy we wanted when we interviewed him. And there he is. So why go further?''

Marrone also interviewed with the Cleveland Browns, and was also linked as a potential candidate for job openings in Philadelphia and San Diego.

Marrone's challenge in Buffalo is turning around a team whose 13-season playoff drought is the NFL's longest active streak, and a team that's not had a winning record since 2004, when it finished 9-7.

``I'm not going to talk about the coaches that were before me, and I don't know what their philosophy was. But I do understand the responsibility that I have,'' Marrone said. ``I'm excited about this. I've done this before. I've been in this league as a player, been here as a coach. I've gone through this change. And I'm excited to work with the players in this change.''

Described as a no-nonsense disciplinarian, Marrone returns to the NFL where the former offensive lineman spent two seasons as a player, and seven more as an assistant. He was an offensive line coach with the New York Jets from 2002-05. He then served as the New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator from 2006-08, where his arrival coincided with the team signing star quarterback Drew Brees.

The Bills also interviewed former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

The Bills were scheduled to meet with Mike McCoy in Denver on Saturday, but the Broncos offensive coordinator postponed the interview.

Marrone has had little time to enjoy a 38-14 victory over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl, which he called his ``greatest win.'' On Dec. 31, after driving home, he attended the men's basketball game in which the Orange beat Central Connecticut, 96-62. He celebrated new year's eve at Orange coach Jim Boeheim's home. Soon after, his phone started ringing with news about potential job offers.

As a result, Marrone on Monday was short on answers when it came to his vision regarding the Bills.

He said he'd have to begin looking at film before determining the status of starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who's future in Buffalo is in question. Nix has already said he intends to improve the position in the draft and potentially in free agency. Fitzpatrick is also due a $3 million bonus in March from the six-year, $59 million contract extension he signed in October 2011.

It was too early to ask Marrone about who he might hire as assistants. He would only say he's looking for coaches with NFL experience to fill his two coordinators' jobs.

Same thing about how Marrone intends to improve a high-priced but underachieving defense that was one of the NFL's worst during Gailey's three seasons.

``I'm excited to get back to work soon,'' Marrone said. ``It's a lot of responsibility. I feel I'm the best person for this job.''

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When will the NFL kick off play? NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith not ready to predict

When will the NFL kick off play? NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith not ready to predict

A world without sports was impossible to imagine just a few weeks ago.   

Even under the worst circumstances, sports brings us together, provides hope during times of adversity, heals the broken and offers a glimpse of better times to come. That isn’t available now to help us distance ourselves from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

The NBA, NHL, and MLS seasons are suspended. MLB’s season is delayed. College spring sports are cancelled. This is the new reality of social distancing and quarantine.  

In these trying times, the NFL has provided some sense of normalcy because its offseason could go on despite some necessary adjustments. Free agency went off without a hitch and the NFL Draft is expected to do the same later this month. But what happens after that? Will the season begin on time? 

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is taking the cautious approach.  

“I think it’s hard, if not impossible, to make concrete projections on what things might look like three, four, five, six months from now,” Smith said.  

Where we are today could not have been predicted months ago, leaving uncertainty in its wake. Yes, sports fans are desperate for football. But this scenario is just bigger than the business of the game. So, we pause. 

“The country is in desperate need of good leadership right now to make sure that we halt the spread of the virus, that we try to make sure that we are doing everything to make the peak of this outbreak happen as quickly as possible,” Smith said.  

Teams are not allowed to meet with players currently. And while the league has yet to cancel off-season training activities, Covid-19 is disrupting day-to-day business. Virtual contact is expected soon, but when players and coaches meet for the first time in person may not come until training camp in July.  Even that is in question. The 2020 Summer Olympics were scheduled for the same time in Tokyo and they were postponed weeks ago.  

While we don’t know when football will return, we do know it will.  But will it be different?  It’s been suggested games could be played without fans. Smith says contingency plans are coming together, but games without fans seems unlikely.  If the virus hasn’t been contained, don’t expect players to come out first and play alone.  

“I certainly am a fan, like everybody else out there,” Smith said. “Whether it was being a fan of basketball, baseball, or being a fan of hockey – all of that got cancelled because it was in the public’s best interest.” 

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A team could test all of its players and be in the clear, but what about when they go home to their families?  Or resume normal activities outside of football?  It’s too much of a risk.    

“Football certainly has a strong and meaningful place in American culture, whether it’s played in high school, college, or played on the professional level,” Smith said. “But first and foremost, we have to make decisions that are in best interest of the public and best interest of the players.” 

The NFL and the NFLPA have gathered the best doctors they can to monitor the safety of their players and organization staffs.  The biggest determining factor on when football, and all sports, return is what you do at home to help slow the spread.  

Do your part, stay home and don’t expect football to return before it returns with you, the fan, who hopefully will be cheering from the stands, from your homes. Soon enough it will be safe to return. And when that happens, the players will be ready, too.  

“I know that there is going to be a group of people that are going to love to play football on the field,” Smith said.  

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John Carlson is enjoying family time but gets glimpse of what his wife 'had to deal with' at home

John Carlson is enjoying family time but gets glimpse of what his wife 'had to deal with' at home

This time of year is typically one of the busiest times for a hockey player, especially for a team like the Washington Capitals. Had the season not been put on pause by the coronavirus, this would have been the first week of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That means a lot of travel, a lot of practice, a lot of games and not much time for family.

While stuck at home, John Carlson is taking full advantage of the extra time to just be a dad.

“Yeah, it’s interesting and great," Carlson said on a video conference Wednesday. "I think just being able to see what my wife’s had to deal with for the last couple months is pretty sobering, I would say. But, yeah, it’s fun to get to do a lot of things. Although we are quarantined to the house, it is fun to see them more. Hearing my name screamed around the house a lot more is fun."

Carlson and his wife are the parents of two boys: Lucca, who will turn 5 in June, and Rudy, who will turn 2 in May.

More family time is great, but it also comes with challenges. Those are difficult ages for kids to be stuck inside. Carlson noted he had to do his workout early in the morning or his kids would make it difficult.

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Findings ways to keep them occupied is a frequent struggle as well which is bad news for their Easter baskets.

"We've been doing our best trying to come up with as many activities as we can," Carlson said. "I think we're almost down to none of our Easter stuff that we got the kids just from pulling things out and trying to find some ways. It's been great to spend a lot of time with them, but it's a change."

As every parent knows, the days are long, but the years are also short. As exhausting and trying as it may be to try to parent with everyone stuck at home, Carlson knows this is time with his kids he would not have otherwise gotten.

While no one is happy about the coronavirus or how it has disrupted all of our lives, more time with the family is a blessing and is something Carlson is very thankful for.

"I think when we look back," Carlson said, "and hopefully this thing turns around and everything is going to be able to finish out like it was, it will definitely be a moment that I’ll remember, that I got to spend that much more time with them and see them kind of grow and turn into real human beings. It’s pretty special."

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