Niles Paul received some sage advice from Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe when they two talked earlier this week.He said this is one of two steps. The next one of out the door, said Paul. Theyre trying to find you a home, he said. Coach Shanahan believes in you enough to find you a home.The home they are trying to find him is at tight end. After a rookie season spent at wide receiver, Mike Shanahan decided to move Paul to tight end this spring.A lot of those guys that can run, can catch and have that speed arent very good blockers, said Shanahan. I think hell be able to do both.He hopes to be able to exploit Pauls speed (4.5 in the 40) to create some mismatches in the secondary.Paul has added about 10 pounds and says that hes maintaining his weight at 234. Thats on the light side in a league where most tight ends are in the 250-pound range.Im fine at 234, said Paul. Shannon Sharpe told me he did it at 228. Im not saying Im Shannon Sharpe but it gives me hope.Shanahan said that Paul has maintained his speed despite the weight gain.Sharpe earned his Canton bust playing for Shanahan in Denver and the coach thought it would be a good idea to have him come in and talk to Paul about playing tight end at a lighter weight.Paul got some practical advice from Sharpe as well as reality check noted above.Sharpe told me when I was talking to him, that Im a smaller guy and Im not going to win every battle and my role is to protect the running back and the QB, he said. As long as Im doing my job, thats all that matters.The move to tight end is a step up both in terms of physical demands and playbook knowledge.With the receiver part, its the exact same thing as if I lined up at Z (wide receiver), he said. When it comes to running Ive got to pick up on combo blocks, Ive got to read the defense a lot better than I had to at receiver.During the OTAs that the media has been able to see, it looks like Paul is doing well with the receiver portion of the job. We wont know much about his blocking ability until the pads go on and full contact is allowed when training camp starts late next month. But Shanahan thinks its so far, so good for Paul in the blocking department.Hes done a good job getting in his stance and simulating as many blocking techniques as a tight end can do without pads on, Shanahan said. Hes done well in almost every area.As long as Paul can do well enough to keep from going out of that door, hell be happy.
When the Carolina Panthers unexpectedly rescinded Josh Norman's franchise tag in late April, the Redskins quickly swooped in and landed the dynamic, ball-hawking cornerback. But if all had gone the team's way, Norman would have been just the icing on the cake.
A few weeks prior to Norman becoming a member of the Redskins, the Seattle Seahawks signed former "Legion of Boom" member Brandon Browner to a one-year deal after a failed stint with the New Orleans Saints.
On Thursday, Browner spoke to Seattle media members, and let it slip that the Redskins had made an offer to him.
Brandon Browner says he had an offer from the Washington Redskins but that it was "a no-brainer'' to come back to Seattle.— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) May 26, 2016
Now, it's hard to know if the Redskins would have so quick to pursue Norman if they were able to sign Browner, what with Bashaud Breeland progressing nicely at the other corner.
But it is fun to imagine the possibilities.
It’s very easy to get jaded when thinking about professional sports and social media, especially where those two things intersect, particularly when fans spew vitriolic comments after nearly every event.
But, sometimes, pro sports and social media can produce great stories, and tremendous results. The recent story of Cameron Carrera counts as one of those stories.
A first-grader at Urbana Elementary School in Urbana, Md., Cameron was born with Spina bifida, a birth defect that damages the spinal cord and leads to other lifelong health issues.
Despite his condition, Cameron is a fun-loving kid, and like many young boys, loves football.
“He loves the Redskins, typical boy, the only thing that’s different for him is he can’t walk,” Amanda Carrera, Cameron’s mom, explained.
“He just loves the Redskins,” Carrera said of her 7-year-old son. “He always says one day when he’s older he wants to be a Redskins player. I say ‘we will figure it out.’”
Cameron, who uses a wheelchair, also has two sets of braces for his legs. His request? Put the Redskins logo on them. Twice a week Cameron endures tough physical therapy sessions - though he is paralyzed from the knees down he is working to walk using a walker. Despite the PT and obvious hurdles, Amanda remains amazed at her son’s positivity.
“He always says ‘I’ll walk when I’m older’ or ‘when I’m bigger I’ll play football,’” she said. “I don’t want to crush his dreams. We’ll figure it out.”
While Cameron’s football playing future may be in doubt, it’s remarkable what has happened for the Carreras during the last six months to dramatically improve their lives.
“We’ve needed a handicap accessible van,” Amanda said, explaining that the van required a special mechanical seat for Cameron, “and $10,000 for this chair was just out of our reach.”
So knowing they needed the chair, the family started a Go Fund Me account last fall.
“It’s crazy how much social media can help,” Amanda said. “Within two or three months, we have more than 200 people donate for our van.”
Once the Go Fund Me account became so popular, friends of friends joined in the effort to help Cameron. A friend offered tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll, where Cameron got to meet Ryan Kerrigan.
In May, the Mom’s Club of Urbana held a fundraiser to benefit Cameron, but prior to the fundraiser, Amanda explained to the group that her son loves the Skins. So what happened next? A signed Kirk Cousins jersey.
From there, through the help of more social media and more friends of friends, things really started to snowball. Once he learned more about Cameron’s condition from CSN Director of Strategic Partnerships Eric Shuster, Kerrigan sent along a video.
“It’s gotten bigger and bigger and bigger,” Amanda said. “It’s really been a whirlwind and Cameron is just loving all the attention.”
After Kerrigan’s video, Redskins LB Will Compton joined the party, only with a distinct take. It seems Cameron had not heard of Compton, so the linebacker did his best to clear up any confusion.
“That video was hilarious,” Amanda said of Compton’s video. “That made it really special for him, he said, ‘Oh wow, he wants to meet me.’”
Kerrigan, reached for comment, made clear he didn't intend for his message to become a news item. He just wanted to reach out to Cameron after meeting him at the White House.
"It's a pleasure as a professional athlete to help bring a smile on a child's face," Kerrigan said of his video.
One interesting wrinkle in the Carrera family dynamic: Amanda is a lifelong Skins fan, and she obviously passed that on to her son. Her husband Danny, however, likes the Cowboys.
“That’s the funny part, my husband is a Cowboys fan,” Amanda said via text, before adding Danny is obviously “so thankful” for what the Redskins players are doing for Cameron.
Amanda, who works as a civilian at Fort Detrick, and Danny, who manages a Bed, Bath & Beyond, don’t know what to expect next from the Redskins. The videos have been surprises, though Amanda said she would love to bring Cameron to a practice to meet the players.
In late June, Cameron will celebrate his eighth birthday. With about a month lead time, maybe the ‘Skins players will come up with something fitting.
After two days practicing against Kirk Cousins, new Redskins CB Josh Norman knows how fiery the quarterback can get. And remember, Norman faced off against Cam Newton for years with the Panthers, so the corner knows a bit about excitable passers.
Minor sparks flew a bit on Wednesday when, after a 20-yard completion to Pierre Garçon, Cousins ran down the field to hug the receiver and celebrate what would have been a first down. Cousins' excitment outpaced the rest on the practice field and Norman was asked after the OTA session about his new quarterback.
"I was like - God, calm down," Norman said. "I don’t want to go there yet. I'm gonna be cool."
Perhaps Norman doesn't want to go there yet because he's new to the team, or maybe because it's May, but one way or another he will need to get used to Cousins. Off the field, Cousins is cerebral, soft-spoken and courteous.
On the field, it's different story. It's been evident in practice since Cousins took over as the starting quarterback, and the world saw Cousins' passion with the famous "You Like That" explosion.
That doesn't mean Norman will back down.
"I came back out here and he looked away a couple times and didn’t throw the ball so I got a little jubilant," he said.
For a corner, the QB going a different direction almost means as much as being able to make a play on the ball. But the play in question, the completion to Garçon?
Norman knew exactly what happened.
"The last play the [starters] were out he threw a ball and he completed it and got excited again," Norman said. "I was like Kirk, man, we whipped y’all butt today. Calm it down a little bit."
At Wednesday's practice, the Redskins defense looked better than the offense. It's not worth taking much from a May session with no pads on, but the competition is real.
"We're only gonna make each other better," Norman said. "We just gotta keep challenging them, and they keep challenging us."