Redskins

Jones, SMU return to Hawaii in familiar role

Jones, SMU return to Hawaii in familiar role

HONOLULU (AP) SMU coach June Jones felt and looked right at home when he walked into Aloha Stadium.

Dressed in slacks and flip flops, he strolled down a corridor where portraits of Hawaii's biggest stars hung on the wall, most of them players that Jones coached during an eight-year tenure that made him so popular in paradise that some suggested he run for governor. When Jones left a news conference for the Hawaii Bowl, he flashed the ``Hang Loose'' symbol to faces he has seen for years.

Never mind that Fresno State knows this island and stadium from playing at Hawaii every other year in the Mountain West Conference. Or that the Bulldogs, who have won their last five games by an average of 26 points, are favored by nearly two touchdowns against SMU on Christmas Eve.

Jones has ample reason to feel the Hawaii Bowl is a home game.

``Coming into the stadium it sure does,'' Jones said. ``We're in the same locker room. I know where everybody is. I recognize all the workers. From that standpoint, it does. But it all comes down to seeing friends. I try to teach my kids that you play the game and you want to win, but there's more to it than that. It's about the people around you and all the intangible things that make an ordinary team better.''

Jones will be coaching for the 75th time in Aloha Stadium when his Mustangs (6-6) face Fresno State (9-3) in the Hawaii Bowl. He hasn't lost in this stadium since Oregon State beat Hawaii on Dec. 2, 2006. Hawaii had a perfect regular season in 2007, and then Jones bolted for SMU over what he felt were hollow promises about upgrading facilities.

SMU, which had gone 25 years without a bowl game dating to its NCAA penalty, ended that drought when Jones brought it to the Hawaii Bowl in 2009 and, despite being nearly a two-touchdown favorite to another MWC team, scored the first 38 points in a 45-10 win over Nevada.

Fresno State, however, presents a different kind of test.

Since losing to Boise State, the Bulldogs have averaged just over 47 points in winning their last five games. They swept all the conference awards this year - offensive player of the year (quarterback Derek Carr), defensive player (strong safety Phillip Thomas) and top freshman (Davante Adams).

``To a fan watching this game, they'll see two spread offenses that can light up a scoreboard, and two defenses that can take it away,'' Tim DeRuyter, who set a Fresno State record for most wins in his first season as head coach.

Jones has seen plenty of Fresno State from his day at Hawaii when it was part of the Western Athletic Conference, except that these Bulldogs don't look all that familiar. He is not used to seeing them spread the field with so many playmakers - Adams with 13 touchdown catches, Robbie Rouse, the 5-foot-7 running back who rushed for 1,498 yards, and Carr.

Jones tried to recruit Carr, who was living in Houston while his brother - David Carr - played for the Houston Texans. Carr said it came down to SMU and Fresno State, though he always wanted to get back to his roots in California's central valley. Jones apparently knew what he was missing. During the press conference leading up the game, Jones raved so much about Carr that some clarification was in order.

``I think he's the best quarterback we'll face this year,'' Jones said. ``He throws the ball very accurately. He can run. He can move a little bit. I thought the quarterback from Central Florida (Blake Bortles) was probably the best one we played. I think Derek is ahead of him.''

Yes, but the Mustangs also played Texas A&M, whose quarterback had a pretty good season. Johnny Manziel, the first freshman to win the Heisman, ran for 124 yards and two TDs and threw for 294 yards and two scores in a 48-3 drubbing of SMU.

``He wasn't playing `quarterback.' He was running around making plays,'' Jones said later. He said his reference to Carr was a dropback passer.

SMU linebacker Taylor Reed still has clear visions of that Texas A&M loss and said it was difficult to compare Manziel with Carr.

``I'm not taking anything away from Johnny Manziel. He made moves on the field that I have never seen in my career,'' Reed said. ``I can talk from experience. I thought I had him wrapped up in a sack and he got away and threw a touchdown. Derek Carr ... it's apples and oranges. Derek has a much stronger and accurate arm, and he's going to be a great player on the next level.''

Carr is motivated by having to sit on his couch a year ago as 35 bowl games were being played, Fresno State not in any of them for only the second time in the last 13 years. It's his first time playing in a bowl game, and Fresno State has not won one since beating Georgia Tech five years ago in the Humanitarian Bowl.

``Being the only game on Monday night, on Christmas Eve, is awesome,'' Carr said. ``It's cool for our program. And it's a chance for people on the East Coast to see us play.''

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Chris Cooley remembers mostly positive reaction to Redskins' name from Native Americans

Chris Cooley remembers mostly positive reaction to Redskins' name from Native Americans

With the Washington Redskins' name change dominating headlines across the sports world, former players have been asked a multitude of questions to get their thoughts on the team's controversial nickname.

One of those has been, "Do you remember people having a problem with the name while you were on the team?"

The answers have, of course, been mixed. Santana Moss told NBC Sports Washington's Matt Weyrich that he first noticed a problem years into his Washington tenure getting off the team bus in Seattle, while Brian Mitchell has said he's been dealing with the negative reaction around the name since the start of his career in 1990.

On Thursday, former Washington tight end Chris Cooley joined the Kevin Sheehan show on The Team 980 and described his unique experience receiving feedback from Native Americans on the team's name.

"It's probably time to change the name, and we're in that world where you can change it, but it doesn't mean that I believe it had anything to do with anything racial. It didn't," Cooley said. "Guys I played for didn't believe that, over 75 tribes that I traveled to didn't feel that way six years ago when I went to those reservations and 30 or 40 more that I went to by myself.

"You know what, it's completely fine if you change your mind on something like that," Cooley said. "And I'll be all for it, but when I was with the Washington Redskins I don't believe anybody felt it was a racially driven name."

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Cooley traveled to several reservations across the country to gain an understanding of a culture his former team's likeness was representing. Instead of having to tie his opinion to polls and other methods for gathering a group of people's opinion, he got his information straight from the source.

"The overwhelming majority was, 'Don't forget us,' 'Don't care,' 'That's fine but I'm a Cowboys fan,'" Cooley said. "It was just a conversation that was had very comfortably."

Cooley emphasized going to reservations alone in order to get honest answers from its residents. If he were there with the Redskins in a larger group, he feared he wouldn't get the same feedback as if he were alone. Ultimately, after speaking to hundreds of Native Americans, the Wyoming native got a similar response to his questions.

RELATED: NEW NAME REPORTEDLY WON'T INCLUDE NATIVE AMERICAN IMAGERY

"We would go to casinos, we would go to rodeos, and [I'd] ask them like 'Hey how do you feel about the Redskins' name?'" he said. "People would tell us, and it was more than 9-to-1 that felt positively about it, at least on the trips that I went."

However, as Cooley acknowledged, people can and are allowed to change their minds. The response a few years ago may have been positive, but that may not be the case anymore. 

According to a report from the Associated Press, more than a dozen Native American groups sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asking the league to force Washington to change its name. 

So, in the end, Cooley isn't going to be "an old man on the front porch" as he called it, and push against change just to keep things the way they were. 

"Times change with people and all I'm saying is I don't feel like in my time there it was ever racially driven," he said. "But I'm also not going to sit here argue for it. If people want it changed then let's change it."

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Redskins assistant coach witnessed former Raider Barret Robbins' early mental-health issues

Redskins assistant coach witnessed former Raider Barret Robbins' early mental-health issues

Sports Uncovered is a six-part weekly podcast series that explores the stories that took the national sports world by storm. The newest episode, The Mysterious Disappearance That Changed A Super Bowl, dives into how Oakland Raiders star center Barret Robbins missed Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003 after 24 hours of partying. 

Barret Robbins was just a junior at Texas Christian when his manic episodes began. 

A potent mixture of steroids, alcohol and marijuana left the future NFL offensive lineman in a daze. It felt like he was sleepwalking. Driving to Austin from his school in Fort Worth, not really knowing what he was doing, seeking some level of attention, he smashed the window of a car dealership. 

Robbins had no intention of taking anything. But it looked like he was trying to burglarize the place. So, Austin police arrested him. It was so out of character, his TCU coaches, including current Redskins tight ends coach Pete Hoener, weren’t sure what to make of the episode. 

“My first inclination on something like that with him was ‘Man, he must have been really drunk,’” Hoener told NBC Sports Bay Area for the sixth episode of NBC’s Sports Uncovered podcast. “You know, been with the wrong person or something.”

Robbins went to jail and then to rehab before being allowed to play his senior year at TCU. But it was the beginning of a descent that continued long after Robbins failed to post for the Raiders’ appearance in the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. 

The latest Sports Uncovered podcast by NBC Sports takes a look at Robbins' infamous Super Bowl disappearance and what has happened to him since then. Listen to the full episode below or by subscribing wherever you get your podcasts:

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Who knows if the outcome would have changed? Oakland lost 48-21. But Robbins’ life has never been the same. One of the best offensive linemen in football was out of the NFL by 2004 and left alone to deal with the depression and bipolar disorder that plagued him since college. 

The incident at the car dealership led to a diagnosis of depression by the TCU medical staff. Robbins’ story is difficult to listen to. He spoke with NBC Sports Bay Area for a 2011 interview that serves as the basis for the podcast, but otherwise few know his whereabouts now, including his former Raiders teammates. 

Robbins told NBC Sports Bay Area he likely had episodes before that one in college. But nothing where he ended up in trouble. It wouldn’t stay that way. He managed a nine-year career in the NFL before things fell apart. 

That saddens Hoener, who left TCU in 1997 and has spent the past 20 years as an assistant in the NFL, including nine with Rivera on the Carolina Panthers’ coaching staff and again this season with the Redskins. 

Hoener knew Robbins when he was just a teenager. The answer when odd things happened to a player back then was he must be drinking too much. Robbins just didn’t have the same support system that would be in place today for players at almost any level of football. Mental health is treated so much differently now. It might have made a difference for Robbins. 

“I think the thing that’s come of all this is there’s much better communication now with the medical staff and psychologists,” Hoener said. “And everybody up through the college level – maybe even the high school level – up through our level. So that a lot of those things don’t slip through.”

Want more Sports Uncovered? Check out Sean Taylor, the NFL superstar we didn't get to know, also part of the Sports Uncovered podcast series.

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