Amendola ready for hits or handshakes

Published 4:25 pm Thursday, September 27, 2018

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — For any New England Patriots wanting to say hello Sunday to former teammate Danny Amendola, they most likely can find him running over the middle.

But they already knew that. That’s where Amendola made his living for five seasons with the Patriots, and that’s where he has made an impact so far with his new team, the Miami Dolphins.

The veteran receiver faces his former team this week and said he’s excited to return to Foxborough, although he’s not sure what form the reunion will take.

“They have a lot of great people there,” Amendola said. “I can’t sit down and talk to all of them. I’m going to just focus on the game, and whoever I get to hit or handshake, that’s fine with me.”

He’ll likely be hit, too. Amendola’s hallmark is pass patterns over the middle, where he willingly exposes his 5-foot-11, 190-pound frame to jarring blows.

He has been effective that way for the surprising Dolphins, leading them with 11 receptions. While he has totaled only 100 yards, he has drawn attention and opened up the flanks to speedier receivers Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant.

As a result, Ryan Tannehill ranks third in the NFL in yards per attempt, and the Dolphins this week have a chance at their first 4-0 start since 1995.

Tannehill loves Amendola’s contribution to the offense, and his willingness to work between the hash marks.

“It’s huge,” Tannehill said. “To have the confidence and the bravery — I don’t know the politically correct word to use here — to stand in there and make those catches in tight windows, knowing that you’re going to take some punishment afterward, is huge. Some guys can’t do it, but if you look at Danny, he’s a guy who has done it for his whole career and continues to do it. So, yes, it’s awesome to have. It definitely keeps the chains moving for us.”

Miami coach Adam Gase wanted to improve the culture of his team after going 6-10 last year. So the Dolphins parted with high-maintenance receiver Jarvis Landry and signed Amendola to a $12 million, two-year deal.

With 13 postseason games and two Super Bowl rings on his resume, Amendola has brought to Miami the anticipated intangibles, Gase said.

“Just seeing him every day in meetings doing things the way that he does them, and the intensity that he brings, and everything he does has been great for our guys to witness,” Gase said. “He has been a positive influence.”

Stills agreed.

“It takes a lot of heart and courage to go across the middle and take some of the hits he has taken throughout his career,” Stills said. “That energizes a group. It makes our group stronger. That’s a high bar he sets for the rest of us.”

If it annoys Amendola that the Patriots didn’t re-sign him, he’s won’t say so. Instead, he said his years with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick provided a lasting education.

“Some of the things I learned there I’ll carry with me forever,” Amendola said. “What I’ve learned most is how to prepare for a game, what goes into the weekly routine leading into a game. I’m just using my preparation skills against them now.”

When asked if Dolphins coaches picked his brain this week about the Patriots’ system, Amendola said: “They’re smart.”

Amendola’s smart, too, and knows better than to gloat about the struggling Patriots (1-2) trailing his new team in the AFC East standings.

“It’s early in the season,” he said. “Everybody in the whole league is trying to figure some things out and trying to get moving, including us.”

The Dolphins have already figured out they can get moving by throwing over the middle to Amendola.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans now are without their top two receiving threats this season, releasing wide receiver Rishard Matthews after they couldn’t trade the veteran.

General manager Jon Robinson said Thursday morning that Matthews talked with him last week about being unhappy, then came to him Monday requesting to be traded or released. The Titans talked with several teams, but Robinson said nothing came from those discussions with Matthews unhappy over his role in the offense.

“It had reached kind of maybe a point of no return for him,” Robinson said. “I told him several times, several times, that I know you can help this football team. I believed in him. That’s why we signed him a couple years ago, and he’s been good for our football team the last couple years.”

The Titans currently are without three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker who broke his right ankle in the season opener.

Matthews was one of the first free agents signed by Robinson after he became Tennessee’s general manager in 2016. The wide receiver led the Titans with 1,740 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns combined over the past two seasons and started 20 of 30 games in that span.

Coming off injuries that limited him through the offseason and preseason, Matthews had not started once. He also had only three catches for 11 yards.

The receiver, who turns 29 on Oct. 12, wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday that “Daddy’s home for good. That is unless someone Calls him to get off the couch.” Matthews did not practice Wednesday with what Titans coach Mike Vrabel said at the time were personal reasons.

Vrabel declined to talk about Matthews after practice, saying he would talk about the players on the Titans and Sunday’s opponent in the Eagles.

Matthews had criticized Tennessee’s offense late last season. The Titans hired a new coach in Vrabel, who brought in offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to install a new offense.

Injuries limited Matthews with the new offense being installed this offseason. He wasn’t removed from the physically unable to perform list Aug. 26 . The Titans even signed Matthews to an extension through 2019 on Aug. 21, a deal the receiver negotiated on his own.

Matthews returned just as quarterback Marcus Mariota hurt his elbow in the season opener, severely limiting the Titans’ offense with Tennessee even pulling out the wildcat at times over the past two games.

Robinson said he repeatedly told Matthews that the receiver could help the Titans.

“He felt differently,” Robinson said. “He felt like he needed to move on, and that’s what we’ve done.”

This leaves the Titans with very little experience at wide receiver. Matthews had 82 games and 228 receptions in his career. The remaining Titans receivers: Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe, Darius Jennings and Nick Williams have a combined 81 games and 156 career catches.

Davis is the top receiver after being the fifth overall draft pick in the 2017 draft, and Taylor was a third-round pick. Sharpe now is the most tenured receiver with the Titans after being the first pick in the fifth round draft in 2016. Sharpe said Matthews was like a big brother to the group.

“We understand he has his own personal things going on,” Taylor said. “He wants to go about it his way.”

The Titans (2-1) host the Eagles (2-1) on Sunday with Mariota improving giving hope that the Tennessee offense might open up.

“We can’t look back,” Sharpe said. “We got to get rolling with the guys that are in this locker room, so that just gives opportunities for more guys to step on the field and make some plays for us.”

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NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL is sticking with its officiating emphasis on quarterback hits, including those in which the tackler uses all or most of his body weight when falling on the quarterback.

NFL football operations chief Troy Vincent said Thursday that the powerful competition committee has clarified to game officials the techniques used in such hits, which have been a source of debate through the first three weeks of the schedule. Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews has been called for three of them, two of which appeared to be normal tackles.

A lack of consistency on such calls also has been a source of contention throughout the league. In its regularly scheduled conference call, the committee reviewed video of such plays from 2017 and this year.

“In reiterating its position on quarterback protection,” Vincent says, “the committee determined there would be no changes to the point of emphasis approved this spring, or to the rule of which the body weight provision has been in place since 1995.”

The inconsistency led Matthews to suggest the league has gone soft. He argued that what constitutes a clean hit is anybody’s guess nowadays.

Compounding the complaints: Dolphins DE William Hayes tore his right ACL trying to avoid landing on Raiders QB Derek Carr.

“He was trying to not put body weight on the quarterback,” coach Adam Gase said of Hayes. “His foot got caught in the ground.

“He’s one of our leaders and best run defender. That’s going to be a tough one for us to swallow.”

Many of the calls have been difficult for defensive players and their coaches to swallow, and they’ve even gotten some support from quarterbacks.

“It helps me out because I’m a quarterback,” said Deshaun Watson of the Texans. “But some of the calls are just kind of crazy.”

The competition committee’s decision to remain with the status quo doesn’t mean there will continue to be a flurry of such penalties. By clarifying the technique, the league is attempting to find some uniformity in the calls.

“I think we all have felt like it’s all gone a little bit too far,” said Fox analyst Mike Pereira, the former head of NFL officials. “But I think it’ll seek a level that will get it back in sync with what the players think and what we all think.

“You know any time you put a new point of emphasis in, there’s a point of adjustment to the players and the officials … so again, an adjustment by both groups, the players and the officials.”

There have been 34 roughing-the-passer calls so far. While that works out to just one flag for every 100 pass attempts, it represents a massive increase over previous years. There were 16 such penalties through three weeks last season and 20 the year before that.

Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, the top overall pick in the 2017 draft who had a roughing penalty in Week 1 rescinded by the league, sympathizes with Matthews and fellow defenders.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said Thursday. “I feel bad for Clay Matthews. He just can’t win at this point right now. I mean I’m going to take them down how I have to. I saw what happened with Willie Hayes and that was, I wouldn’t say depressing, but it was sad to see him doing his best to abide by the rules and get hurt.”

Garrett added he wouldn’t risk injury to ” lay him on the ground like he’s a child.”

You just have to do what’s best for you,” he said. “He’s going to be all right. Football is about getting hit and taking hits and giving hits. So if I get a penalty for saving my skin and trying to make big plays, then, oh well.”

There’s only been a handful of flags, meanwhile, for players lowering their helmet, another point of emphasis, showing that players, coaches and officials have all adjusted accordingly to that rule change.