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Pro Bowl players loose in final walkthrough

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Pro Bowl players loose in final walkthrough

HONOLULU (AP) Adrian Peterson signed and tossed miniature footballs into the Aloha Stadium stands, then chatted up Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson and Marcus Allen. Arian Foster played Peyton Manning's bodyguard for stadium cameras and told fans he recently walked on hot lava.

The Pro Bowl players practiced a little, too, on a sunny Saturday in Honolulu one day before an all-star game that will likely be used to determine its own future.

But the game's main purpose is fun, said several players including Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph and Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles.

``I feel like there's no responsibility, it's just all about fun,'' Charles said. ``You work hard during the year - it's not like a competitive game.''

Competition - or at least the appearance of it - is exactly what the NFL is looking for from its stars on Sunday as it uses the game as a measurement of whether it's worth putting on in future years. Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the game will stop if play doesn't improve, drawing mixed reactions from top players all over the league.

Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman says he doesn't want this year's Pro Bowl players to be known as the group who led to the game's cancellation, taking away an honor and privilege for future players.

``I don't want this to happen on my watch,'' he said.

Rudolph said the players' natural competitiveness will help make the game entertaining.

``It's a game we want to win, so it'll be fun,'' Rudolph said.

The game should see plenty of scoring, thanks to limits on blitzing and defensive schemes. Bookmakers in Las Vegas expect a combined 81 1/2 points scored, with the AFC squad slightly favored. The NFC and AFC have won five Pro Bowls each in the last 10 meetings.

Houston tight end Owen Daniels says fans won't see many big hits.

``You're not going to see people play dirty or giving it up like a playoff game, but that's just the way it is,'' Daniels said. ``I think you've got to accept that and . know that we love being out here and I think you've got to know that the people here love having us out here.''

Daniels said he's been motivated to return to the Pro Bowl after making his first all-star team in 2009. He said he sees the Pro Bowl as a good consolation for players who would rather be in the Super Bowl.

Peterson said moments like his chat with two NFL greats are what make the trip worthwhile for him.

``It's the best part,'' he said. ``It's a bonus, man.''

Charles said he's enjoyed watching the leadership of other Pro Bowl players as he's been taking on a bigger leadership role with the Chiefs.

``I'm just trying to keep grinding and working hard,'' he said. ``Trying to be where I'm at right now - trying to get back here next year.''

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Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/oskargarcia .

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Lamar Jackson’s play this season has begun to make some analysts and fans backtrack 

Lamar Jackson’s play this season has begun to make some analysts and fans backtrack 

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson is starting to make people reconsider what they think of him. 

After the Ravens’ 49-13 win over the Bengals on Sunday, the rest of the NFL is starting to take notice about Lamar Jackson’s status in the NFL. Especially considering his spin move through the Bengals defense.

Hall of Fame NFL general manager Bill Polian recently admitted that he was wrong when he said that Jackson should be an NFL wide receiver during his draft process in 2018.

“I was wrong, because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was,” Polian told USA TODAY Sports. 

Jackson is currently building an MVP case for himself and is on-pace for over 30 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards of total offense. 

It’s a nice change of pace for the 22-year-old quarterback in his second year as a pro. Jackson had to face heavy criticism after he left Louisville for a variety of reasons headed into the draft. Even after he took over as the Ravens quarterback, those evaluations persisted. 

“We always knew what he was about,” Ravens center Matt Skura said. “We always knew his ability to make plays and all that stuff. I think it’s just people right now seeing it on a much larger scale and it’s just getting the attention now.”

At this point, however, it’s clear that not only is Jackson a quarterback, he might even be the MVP of the league.

Of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the 2018 Draft, only four are starting and just two have led their teams to a winning record. Jackson leads all of his draft counterparts in total yards and total touchdowns. 

But as anyone in the Ravens’ locker room will say, the accolades don’t concern Jackson — only the record does.

“I think he’s more concerned with winning than anything,” Orlando Brown Jr. said. “As individuals, we’ve all got people to prove wrong and things that we used to put a chip on our shoulder. At the end of the day, I know he’s more concerned with winning more than anything.”

Still, it’s noteworthy that it only took Jackson a complete season of starts, through two partial seasons, to begin the backtracking across the NFL landscape.

“If you watch ESPN or you watch TV, it’s going to come up no matter what,” Skura said. “Even on your Instagram feed it’s going to come up. I think for a lot of us, just in one ear and out the other as far as people pumping us up. You’ve kind of got to stay level-headed and ride the rollercoaster, so to say.”

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Hayden Hurst set on helping those with depression, anxiety with new documentary titled “Headstrong”

Hayden Hurst set on helping those with depression, anxiety with new documentary titled “Headstrong”

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Hayden Hurst immediately saw the impact of his documentary last week when, just hours after it aired, people reached out to him to tell their stories. 

Hurst was a part of a documentary titled “Headstrong” that aired on NBC Sports Washington last week, which detailed his struggles with depression and anxiety as a baseball player. The documentary will air on NBCSN on Nov. 20.

Now, Hurst is reaching out to tell his story in hopes of impacting those who struggle with mental illness, as he did.

“I think it’s going to reach a lot of people,” Hurst said. “Some people even reached out to tell me stuff that affects them in their lives. It’s very cool, it’s very humbling.”

Hurst was a standout baseball player in high school and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 17th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He signed immediately and began his professional baseball career. 

But shortly thereafter, Hurst developed the “Yips,” and he was unable to throw strikes like he once did. On the mound, his hands shook when he attempted to pitch. Off the field, his condition began to deteriorate. 

He said he began to self-medicate and that’s when he started to seek help. 

After he retired from baseball, he decided to play football at the University of South Carolina and began to treat his mental illness. In 2018, he was a first-round pick of the Ravens.

“It’s night and day from where I was,” Hurst said. “Back in the baseball days, my lack of success in baseball kind of led to my off the field issues. I kind of self-medicated a little bit to make everything go away. Where I’m at now, I’m so much more mature, I’m so much more in-tune with the person that I am, I’m close with my family.”

Hurst is now set out on telling his story to help others who might be in the same situation that he was in. With his background as a professional baseball and football player, he’s hopeful that people will see his situation and feel compelled to talk about what they’ve been going through.

“I really want to tell my story so I get it out there and people can relate to it and they can see it and read it and see the silver lining in it,” Hurst said. “I think a lot of people struggle with things and not a lot of people like talking about it.”

It’s difficult for him to make speeches and speak with others during the NFL season, but he’s got plans to travel to Columbia, South Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida to reach out to people who might be in need of help in the offseason.

He’s already begun work in Baltimore and wants to continue to help through his foundation, the Hayden Hurst Family Foundation. 

For now, though, he wants everyone to know that it’s OK to not be OK. Hurst’s story proves that. 

“I think more people are affected by it than we think,” Hurst said. “It’s a sensitive topic and not many people like talking about it. I’m in a position where — this sounds worse than it is — I really don’t care what people think about me. I am who I am, it’s part of the make up of who I am and I’m going to tell my story.”

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