NFL

Lawrence 'comfortable and poised' as Lance enjoys dream moment

By Sports Desk August 15, 2021

Trevor Lawrence felt "comfortable and poised" in his NFL debut while Trey Lance enjoyed a dream moment on his San Francisco 49ers bow.

Lawrence, Lance and fellow first-round rookie quarterbacks Zach Wilson and Justin Fields all took the field for the first time on Saturday.

Long seen as a generational quarterback prospect, the pressure is on Lawrence to inspire a turnaround for a Jacksonville Jaguars team that went 1-15 in 2020.

The early signs were positive for Lawrence, who completed six of his nine passes for 71 yards in the Jaguars' preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns, the former Clemson star bouncing back after he fumbled after being sacked on his first play.

"I feel like the first time out there, I felt comfortable, felt poised," Lawrence said. "Obviously, the first play's not kind of what you want for the first play, but after that, I thought we did a good job.

"We communicated well up front. They did a really good job of protection. At least one of those sacks was on me, for sure, just holding the ball too long. That's something I'll work on.

"Just manoeuvring in the pocket is something I've always got to work on. Other than that, I missed an easy one to Marvin [Jones], a little quick out I wish I would have hit.

"But other than that, I felt good out there. I think we were seeing it, all on the same page. There's obviously things to clean up, but I thought it was a pretty good day."

Lance didn't complete as many passes, going five of 14, but he had the most spectacular play of the four rookie quarterbacks, hitting Niners wide receiver Trent Sherfield for an 80-yard touchdown throw in their meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The third overall pick, whom San Francisco selected after trading three first-round picks to move up in the draft, said: "It was super exciting. Kind of the moment you dream of scoring your first touchdown.

"Even though it's preseason, it's pretty cool. With my team-mates, the guys in that locker room, that they were so excited for me and for Trent making that play. It was for sure a special moment and I wish I could've capitalised on the opportunities that came after that."

Former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is now head coach of the New York Jets and witnessed an encouraging performance from Wilson.

Wilson went six of nine for 63 yards as the Jets beat the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

"I thought it was good," said Wilson of his showing. "Of course, still things to clean up. It was a great experience. I really enjoyed having that game-like setting.

"The introduction to kind of like the NFL, the whole game, it's great for everybody, no matter how much football you've played, it was awesome to get out there."

Fields fell to the 11th pick in the draft, with the Chicago Bears trading up to select him, and they will be more confident in that decision after he threw for one touchdown and ran for another against the Miami Dolphins.

An uneven opening gave way to a performance that will increase calls for him to start over veteran Andy Dalton and afterwards Fields said of the speed of the game: "It was actually kind of slow to me, to be honest.

"I think I was expecting it to be a little bit faster but practicing game speed, going at it with my team-mates every day, of course, you know, we have a great defense so, me going against them every day, it definitely slowed the game up a little bit for me. So, I felt comfortable out there.

"Of course, I have room to grow, so I'm just gonna try to get better each and every day."

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    New York Jets coach Robert Saleh laid it out bluntly when addressing Zach Wilson's availability for the NFL season-opener against the Baltimore Ravens on September 11. 

    In his first public comments since Wilson had successful arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday in Los Angeles to repair a torn meniscus, Saleh did not rule out Wilson taking the field against the Ravens.

    ''If Zach is ready to play, he's going to be the Week 1 starter,'' Saleh said on Thursday. "'If he's not, Joe [Flacco] will. That's no secret." 

    Wilson was injured while scrambling in the Jets' preseason opener last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, and the original diagnosis was he would be sidelined for two to four weeks.

    The timeline remained the same after the surgery, and his availability will come down to if he is healthy enough to take the field. 

    "It's really going to dictate on how he feels and when he's ready to go," Saleh said. "We're going to make sure we do right by him in terms of making sure that he's 100 per cent healthy. Whenever that is, that's when he'll hit the field."

    The Jets plan to be cautious with the 23-year-old, who they selected second overall in last year's draft, as they hope he will be the franchise's long-term answer at quarterback. 

    When Wilson hurt his knee last Friday, some feared his injury could miss the upcoming season.  However, he has already returned to the team facility after a cross-country flight and eager to get back to work. 

    '"Zach flew back last night and he's here today,'" Saleh said. "'He's already walking. He's in really good spirits. And he's champing at the bit to get to rehab."

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    The 26-year-old faced 24 civil lawsuits over sexual assault and misconduct allegations. He was not charged by two grand juries and settled 20 of 24 lawsuits in June, with a further three settlements reported ahead of a hearing verdict early this month.

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    Having denied any wrongdoing after the accusations were made, Watson last week apologised to "all of the women that I have impacted".

    A similar message came on Thursday in a statement from the Browns, in which Watson said he wished to "apologise once again for any pain this situation has caused".

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    He spoke of needing "to grow as a person", but refused to offer a view on the level of punishment dished out.

    "I can't speak on the fairness," Watson said. "The NFL did what they had to do, and the NFLPA communicated with the legal side. I'm going to keep my opinion to myself."

    Watson was not mincing his words when he added: "I'm moving on with my career and my life, and I'm continuing to stand on my innocence. Just because a settlement's been paid, it doesn't mean a person is guilty for anything."

    When asked about whether he would tell all at some point, Watson said: "That's definitely the plan, that's definitely the goal. I've felt like through this whole process I've been trying to tell my side of the story, but a lot of people didn't really pay much attention to it."

    He said he needed "to do what's best for Deshaun Watson" and said he could not control public opinion.

    On top of the ban and fine, Watson will be required to commit to an evaluation with behavioural experts while also following a mandatory treatment programme. He says he wants to prove himself to the Cleveland community.

    "Counselling is definitely a big part of that," Watson said. "I'll continue to show my face and show people who I really am."

    Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam issued a joint statement in which they spoke of "a real opportunity to create meaningful change", saying they were "committed to investing in programmes in Northeast Ohio that will educate our youth regarding awareness, understanding, and most importantly, prevention of sexual misconduct and the many underlying causes of such behaviour".

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