All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey wants to cover the No. 1 receiver each opponent has to offer. He welcomes the challenge. He even requests it.
In the AFC championship game at New England on Sunday Authentic Blake Wheeler Jersey , it’s a tight end. Rob Gronkowski is considered the NFL’s best at the position, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound behemoth and a daunting matchup for nearly every defender in the league.
Not for Ramsey, who might get a chance to test his skills against the fellow All-Pro.
”He hasn’t played a corner like me before,” Ramsey said Friday.
Ramsey has held his own and then some against a handful of the most dynamic receivers in the league: DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, Keenan Allen, Larry Fitzgerald, Doug Baldwin, Marqise Goodwin and others.
The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Ramsey has the size, speed, athleticism, instincts and body control to stay with anyone. Gronkowski would create other issues Tobias Rieder Jersey , mainly because of his strength and agility.
Asked what advantage he would have against Gronk, Ramsey replied: ”Everything.”
The Jaguars certainly have faith in their trash-talking, second-year pro.
”If I had to bet on a corner to cover (Gronk), I’d put money on Jalen Ramsey for sure,” quarterback Blake Bortles said. ”I’ve been impressed with everything I’ve ever seen out of him. His physical tools and obviously his mental toughness and what he’s able to do throughout the game and kind of getting in guys’ heads and doing different things.
”I think it’ll be awesome, and I think it’s a great challenge for him, and I think it’ll be a cool experience to watch those guys go head to head if they get the opportunity to.”
It wouldn’t be the first time a cornerback has lined up across from Gronkowski. Teams often do it when he shifts wide in hopes of getting a favorable matchup against a linebacker or safety.
Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash, as expected, offered few hints about what could be in store for Gronkowski, who caught 69 passes for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season.
”We have to get the right guy on him in man situations and obviously know where he is at in zone coverage,” Wash said. ”Nobody around the league has stopped him, so we have to have a plan. We feel very confident with our plan and we have to go in there and execute it.”
Is Ramsey covering Gronk part of the plan?
”In a basketball game, I think we would,” Wash said. ”But Jalen is a corner and we’re going to run our system. I think the last thing you can do is to go into a game like this and you try and reinvent the wheel. … Jalen is a good corner and he plays against wide receivers.”
Gronk is as dangerous as any receiver in the league, and the Jaguars know it. So don’t count out seeing Ramsey across from him at some point.
”Jalen is a freak Ondrej Palat Jersey ,” Jaguars veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said. ”Tall, rangy, long arms and physical and can run. It’s tough for a tight end because a lot of us are long striders. When you get a guy disrupting stuff and punching you and messing up your stride, it can be tough.
”Even if you come off the line and try to do something early, he’s probably going to punch you in the mouth right back. He doesn’t shy away from anything. It’d be a matchup that would be interesting.”
Chris Borland knows firsthand all about the challenges of early retirement, having stepped away from a promising football career after one year because of concerns over head injuries.
Instead of playing in front of boisterous crowds on the big NFL stage, Borland spends his time now helping other football players and military veterans make that adjustment to their new lives that often lack the thrill and competitiveness of life in the armed forces or professional sports.
"One healthy thing I'd like for players to know, whether they're active or former, is you likely can't replicate the thrill of playing before 100,000 people and big hits and making that much money," Borland said. "We can get ourselves into trouble trying to. Coming to terms with transitioning is one of the harder lessons I've had to learn the last couple of years, is that life is a little more methodical than in sports. The peaks aren't as high and the valleys aren't as low.
"That's an adjustment we have to make."
Borland, whose brothers Joe and John serve in the Army, sees similar retirement challenges for veterans, who like football players often have to deal with physical injuries and mental problems that are far less obvious as they go into society.
"It would be ill-advised to compare war and a sport, but I don't think the brain knows the difference Authentic Connor Brickley Jersey ," Borland said. "With post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries in blasts with veterans, we see a very similar and somewhat unique issue with repetitive brain injuries in football. There are very similar physical struggles, but also two populations that have a hard time transitioning out whether it is the military or football and reintegrating into society."
Borland has tried to bridge those two populations with his work with the After the Impact Fund , which facilitates custom treatment plans for veterans and athletes with traumatic brain injuries.
He is raising money and awareness for the issue this week by taking part in "Pat's Run" on Saturday in Tempe, Arizona, alongside his brothers Joe and John. The run is named after Pat Tillman, who gave up his own promising NFL career to join the Army in 2002 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and died while serving in Afghanistan in 2004.
"A lot of what you do as a teammate is you sacrifice for others and support others," John Borland said. "There are people we've all been teammates with, for us it's soldiers. For Chris, it's ex-football players. You don't just forget your teammates as soon as the game is over. They're still your teammates. There are people who still need support, who worked hard and are with you. These are guys you shared blood with."
John Borland is a major in the U.S. Army, an instructor at West Point and also served in Iraq. Joe Borland is a captain in the US Army JAG Corps who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, returning just last month from his latest tour.
They see plenty in common with what their friends in the military deal with after leaving the service and what ex-athletes go through as well.
"The similarities and the overlap is they both are young when they start off and young when they're done as well for the most part," Joe Borland said. "They potentially would have suffered similar injuries but in a different way. The impacts in the NFL and the impacts we might have with an explosion or trauma in the military can be similar."
Those brain injuries are why the 27-year-old Borland retired from football three years ago in a decision that shocked many outsiders, but was one his brothers knew came from careful consideration.
Borland was a third-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft by San Francisco after a stellar college career at Wisconsin, where he was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a second-team All-American in 2013.
Borland led the 49ers in tackles as a rookie and was named to the all-rookie team and was a Pro Bowl alternate before stepping away for a post-playing career that includes a company he started Youth Tyler Pitlick Jersey , T Mindful, to help bring meditation into sports.
"About 10 percent of the time, I miss 3 to 5 percent of the game," Borland said. "I look back and I'm happy that I played. I'm not wistful. You miss big games. I miss the locker room camaraderie. Sometimes I miss the lifestyle. It's great to get around old players because in a society where people like to dance around topics, it's good to be around like-minded people who cut the BS and are able to rib one another. I enjoyed that. But I don't long for it or reminisce daily. A piece of my heart will always be in football, but my mind ended it."
Borland, who started playing tackle football in ninth grade, finds it preposterous that children are still playing the sport with fewer rules protecting them than the adults in the pros.
Even the rules in the NFL like limits on contact in practice and a recent rule change to outlaw leading with the helmet are only small steps.
"Those are all incremental improvements," Borland said. "A lot of it is PR. When they do those things, they're able to say the game is safer than ever. Safer than ever is a euphemism for dangerous and football is inherently dangerous. The way it's played, if it's going to retain what it is as a game, it will always be dangerous. What's not being done that could be are measures outside the lines like waiting until high school to play and having high schools and colleges adopt the same contact rules as the NFL."
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