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Veteran Chiefs lineman Lilja announces retirement

Veteran Chiefs lineman Lilja announces retirement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Veteran offensive lineman Ryan Lilja, who helped block for Peyton Manning during the Colts' Super Bowl-winning 2006 season, announced his retirement Monday.

Lilja said he was going to ``hang it up'' after the Kansas City Chiefs finished a 2-14 season with a 38-3 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Lilja had played guard his entire career until injuries along the Chiefs' line forced him to play center the majority of this season.

``I'm ready to shut it down and move on with my life,'' said Lilja, who grew up in Kansas City and starred for Kansas State before signing with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2004.

Undersized by NFL standards, the 6-foot-2, 285-pound Lilja was waived by the Chiefs and quickly claimed by Indianapolis, where he became one of Manning's most trusted blockers. He played in 11 games the year the Colts beat the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.

He returned to Kansas City three years ago, and would have become a free agent.

``I think I'm done,'' Lilja said while cleaning out his locker Monday. ``I've made a ton of dynamite relationships, but I think it's time I shut it down.''

The 31-year-old Lilja said he had a feeling before the season that this would be his last, and a series of injuries - including a nagging back injury that forced him to miss a game - served to reassure him that walking away was in his best interest.

He wound up starting 104 of 111 career games over eight seasons.

``Physically, you kind of hit a wall,'' said Lilja, who started 104 of 111 games over eight seasons. ``Your body tells you to start thinking about it.''

Lilja had never played center until this year, when a season-ending injury to Rodney Hudson moved him to the middle of the Chiefs' patchwork offensive line. Lilja had his struggles, too, with several botched handoffs and a few cases of costly miscommunication.

Still, his willingness to take on a new role impressed his teammates.

``I can't say enough about how professional he is,'' right tackle Eric Winston said. ``This organization is going to miss him and the guys in the locker room are going to miss him.''

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What lessons the rest of the NFL should, and shouldn’t, take from the league’s top rushing teams

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What lessons the rest of the NFL should, and shouldn’t, take from the league’s top rushing teams

A glance at the NFL over the final two months of the season gave an interesting glimpse where the league was headed. 

The Ravens, the NFL’s best offense, were a predominantly rushing team. They rushed for a league record 3,296 yards in the regular season and were the league’s top regular season team. 

The Titans rode running back Derrick Henry all season, which led to him finishing as the league’s leading rusher. Over the final nine games he rushed for an average of 24.6 carries per game, including 30 or more carries in three of the team’s final four games. 

And most recently, the 49ers won the NFC in dominating fashion over the Packers with just eight passing attempts and 42 rushing attempts. 

With a handful of the league’s best rushing teams advancing in the playoffs, there appeared to be a change in the way teams attacked defenses in the NFL.

But those stats have been a bit misleading for the crowd that wants to establish the run for the sake of establishing a ground attack. What the Ravens and Titans did was make rushing the football more efficient than any other team in the league. 

Baltimore rushed for 5.5 yards per carry in the regular season, half-a-yard more than any other team in the league. They were only one of three teams to surpass the five yard-mark — one other team was the Titans. 

When compared to passing stats across the league, however, none of the qualified quarterbacks had worse than a six-yard average when passing the ball. Speaking strictly from the numbers, passing is still more advantageous than rushing the ball, no matter what teams that advanced far in the playoffs accomplished. 

What the Ravens and Titans do have, however, are two athletes that are unique in the NFL. Lamar Jackson was the league’s best rushing quarterback of all time and Henry led the league in total rushing yards. 

So the Ravens and Titans didn’t reinvent the wheel and show the NFL the ground game was more effective, but instead showed the league to lean into the special talents that both teams had. 

While the Titans were clearly better when Henry had his best days on the ground, there’s not a direct relationship to more Henry touches equaling a better day for the Titans. 

When the Ravens fell behind 14-0 to the Titans, Henry had just seven rushes for 28 yards on the ground. Down the stretch, he rushed 23 more times for 167 yards — a 7.26 yard average. Essentially, the Titans used Henry most effectively when they had already scored the winning points. 

The same can be said for the 49ers in the NFC Championship, who barely used Jimmy Garoppolo's arm. But when Raheem Mostert averages more than seven yards per carry, it’s difficult to get away from the run. 

So while it might seem that simply running the ball got teams to the playoffs, and championship games, it was the fact that they were able to run the ball more efficiently than other teams across the league. Rushing attempts weren’t the reason those teams won, but how they used those rushing attempts instead.

And when Jackson and Henry are leading the charge, it’s hard not to give them the ball.

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DC United acquires midefielder Julian Gressel from Atlanta United

DC United acquires midefielder Julian Gressel from Atlanta United

One week after paying a record-breaking transfer fee to acquire Edison Flores, DC United added another midfielder to the roster in the form of Julian Gressel. 

DC United acquired Gressel from Atlanta United via transfer Tuesday for $650,000 in 2020 Target Allocation Money (TAM) and $100,000 in TAM for 2021. Additional compensation could be owed to Atlanta based on performance incentives. 

Gressel was the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft and has led the league in assists since debuting with Atlanta in 2017. Over his first 98 career appearances, he's recorded 32 assists to go along with 15 career goals. 

"[Gressel] has impressed throughout his time in MLS and has been a major component to Atlanta’s success in the league since 2017," DC GM and VP of Soccer Operations Dave Kasper said in a statement. "Last year, he led Atlanta in assists and chances created while also scoring eight goals so we’re looking forward to adding his impressive goal creating ability and eye for goal to our roster in 2020 and beyond."

Gressel was the 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year after scoring five goals and recorded nine assists in his first 32 appearances as a pro. 

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