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”Oh, I stayed away from him,” a smiling Shepherd said of Darnold on Saturday during rookie minicamp. ”No sir. You see the red (jersey) and you turn the other way.”
Quarterbacks are off-limits to contact in NFL practices, so would-be sack-happy defenders such as Shepherd need to tread lightly – especially when the No. 3 overall pick and future of the franchise is in the pocket.
But games are another story, of course, and the Jets will be counting on Shepherd and fellow rookie Folorunso Fatukasi to help make Sundays miserable for opposing offenses. New York went big in the draft – after taking Darnold in the first round – by adding heft to its defensive line.
Over 630 pounds worth.
Shepherd is a 6-foot-4, 315-pounder from Fort Hays State. Fatukasi, a sixth-rounder from UConn, is 6-3 and 318.
”Same size, different players,” coach Todd Bowles said last week after the draft.
Shepherd and Fatukasi could get plenty of opportunities to play as rookies. Bowles said both can play nose tackle and spell Leonard Williams at defensive end, and the Jets will have them slotted for certain roles depending on what defensive scheme they want to use.
They might also be able to help offset the loss of Muhammad Wilkerson, who was cut during the offseason and has since signed with Green Bay. The Jets still have Williams and Steve McLendon on their defensive line, as well as Mike Pennel, Xavier Cooper and Henry Anderson, who was acquired in a draft-day deal with Indianapolis.
”I think that whatever the opportunity the Jets have for me is going to be more than enough for me,” Shepherd said. ”If they need help in a certain area, then I would certainly feel honored that they would come and look to me for that.”
Boosting a pass rush that has struggled to consistently get to the quarterback the last few seasons might be one.
”We’ll see Youth Marshall Newhouse Jersey ,” Bowles said of Shepherd. ”We expect him to have an impact as a defensive lineman, but sacks come differently for different people. As long as he does what he is supposed to do, which we’re sure he will, we’ll get better and we’ll see where the pass rush is and if the sacks come.”
Shepherd is a study in patience and perseverance . The native of Ontario, Canada, redshirted his first season at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and then became a starter before leaving school for financial reasons.
Shepherd worked several side jobs for the next two years, dreaming of returning to football someday while fighting to keep motivated every day.
”Yeah, most mornings,” he said. ”You’re thinking, `OK, I’ve got to go to work and this check isn’t really doing anything to improve my life today, that I can see.’ So, that was difficult, but you’ve just got to keep the dream alive and know that you’re that much closer.”
Shepherd landed at Fort Hays State in Kansas in 2015, became a starter and was the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association defensive player of the year as a senior. He finished his three-year career at Fort Hays with 168 tackles, including 27 for loss, and 10 sacks.
Now, he’s in the NFL – something he’s still trying to grasp.
”I was fortunate enough to be able to keep my same number, so I’ll be No. 97 Cheap Customized Arizona Cardinals Jerseys ,” he said. ”I have my jersey from college, so I think when I take that picture of my college jersey and my pro jersey, that moment will sink in for me.”
For Fatukasi, this marks sort of a homecoming. He grew up in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, New York, and ended up going to UConn. He went through three coaching changes while he was there but thrived despite the constant turnover.
He had 45 tackles, including 7 for losses, as a senior and was tied for second on the Huskies with four sacks. Fatukasi finished his college career with 168 tackles and 14 sacks in 48 games while playing several positions on UConn’s defensive line.
”Having three different head coaches – and if you include the interim head coach, it’s four – and having a various amount of defenses, I’ve kind of been all over,” Fatukasi said.
That versatility will be valuable for the Jets, who tend to move players around on the line to keep them fresh. Both Shepherd and Fatukasi could quickly find themselves part of that rotation, but they first need to get adjusted to playing in the NFL.
”I had to quickly get off the high of being drafted,” Fatukasi said, ”and realize there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Tony Parker went to San Antonio as a teenager nearly two decades ago, quickly became part of the Spurs’ legendary Big Three and celebrated four championships while wearing silver and black.
He’s not done playing.
He’s just done in San Antonio.
Parker agreed to a two-year, $10 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, ending a 17-year run with the Spurs. And he’s not the only veteran on the move, with Oklahoma City and Carmelo Anthony having mutually agreed they will part ways and Dwight Howard set to sign with the Washington Wizards once he clears waivers.
All of those deals were confirmed Friday to The Associated Press by people involved in the negotiations. Each of the people spoke on condition of anonymity because none of the moves were finalized – but the Parker move was confirmed by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich Deadrin Senat Color Rush Jersey , who thanked his now-former point guard in a statement released by the team.
”It’s difficult to put into words how important Tony Parker has been to the Spurs franchise over the past two decades,” Popovich said. ”From his first game in 2001 at age 19, TP has impressed and inspired us – day-after-day, game-after-game, season-after-season – with his passion, dedication and desire. We are grateful to Tony for 17 years of truly amazing memories.”
The move reunites Parker with new Charlotte coach James Borrego, who most recently was an assistant in San Antonio. And Parker is close friends with Charlotte’s Nicolas Batum, who predictably was thrilled by the news.
”Number 9, I see you soon in Buzz City my big bro,” Batum wrote on Twitter.
Parker averaged career lows of 7.7 points and 19.5 minutes last season, when he lost his starting job. He was part of 137 playoff wins with Popovich, the second most by any coach and player in NBA history. Popovich and Spurs star Tim Duncan combined for 157 playoff wins.
Parker told ESPN that it was a difficult decision, ”but I had to move on.”
Parker was part of the Spurs’ Big Three with Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Duncan has retired, Parker is now gone and Ginobili’s status for next season is unknown.
”The biggest joy for me has been to have the pleasure of watching TP grow up before our eyes,” Popovich said. ”All of us in the Spurs organization will miss having Tony in our program and wish him and his family the best as he continues his remarkable career in Charlotte.”
Parker has also appeared in 17 consecutive postseasons; only Karl Malone and John Stockton’s run of 19 straight playoff trips are longer.
He has his rings.
Anthony and Howard will be on the move, seeking theirs.
Anthony has likely played his last game for the Oklahoma City Thunder – with the sides having mutually decided that he will not be on the team next season. It remains unclear how that departure will actually happen, as in whether it will be through a buyout, the Thunder waiving him or a trade.
Anthony is due to make $28 million this season, his last in a five-year Authentic Erick Aybar Jersey , $125 million contract he signed with New York before getting moved to Oklahoma City. He has said he will not accept a reserve role, and by parting with him – somehow – the Thunder could save more than $90 million in luxury tax payments.
Anthony averaged 16.2 points on 40 percent shooting last season, both career lows. But there will be suitors for him, with the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Miami Heat all believed to have interest.
Howard started Friday on Charlotte’s roster, then was traded to Brooklyn – a deal agreed to days ago, but one that couldn’t be completed until Friday when the league’s offseason moratorium on player movement ended. The Nets will buy him out, which will pave the way for Howard to eventually sign with the Wizards.
A person familiar with the terms told AP that Howard would play on a one-year, $5.3 million deal. Later Friday, ESPN reported that Howard will actually be signing a two-year deal in Washington – with the second year at his option.
Buyout terms with Howard, who was due to make $24 million this season, were progressing Friday and Nets general manager Sean Marks said they should be wrapped up quickly.
”This is something that we mutually want,” Marks said. ”Neither one of us is trying to have this drawn out. I think we’re going to leave on good terms. It’ll hopefully work out for both sides.”
The lifting of the moratorium meant a slew of moves that have been agreed to in recent days could be finalized, such as Paul George’s four-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Rajon Rondo’s signing to play with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Rondo agreed to join the Lakers earlier in the week, but couldn’t sign until Friday.
”I love shake-ups in the summertime, as far guys switching teams or the NBA looking a little bit different,” Rondo said not long after putting his signature on his one-year, $9 million deal to join the Lakers – a team he faced twice in the NBA Finals when he played for Boston. ”It’s going to be very interesting this year and I look forward to a lot of exciting basketball.”