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18.11.2019 06:42
ng yourself," said captain David Backes, a second-rounder in 2003 who has delivered leadership and gritty play Antworten

This story appears in ESPN The Magazines December 12 NFL Chemistry Issue. Subscribe today!RYAN HARRIS ABRUPTLY pauses an interview on race in NFL locker rooms after overhearing two teammates discussing interactions with police over speeding tickets. You see? the offensive tackle says. Thats all the time.The Steelers fight for extra yards three hours each week; the rest of the time, they share whats on their minds. From NFL policies to politics to sex to religion to foreign relations -- you can find it all here, running back DeAngelo Williams says. We get that watercooler talk because were essentially next to the watercooler all day.An NFL locker room is the rare setting where diversity is built in, perspectives flow freely and interaction among people of different backgrounds is unavoidable. Ben hangs out with the damn kickers, center Maurkice Pouncey says of QB Ben Roethlisberger. There are no cliques here. We like to have conversations about different things all the time, not just 22-double and 52-protection.So to better understand the social consciousness of an NFL players sweat-drenched office, we asked more than a dozen Steelers about their workplace.Whats it like inside your locker room, and how does it compare to other NFL teams?JARVIS JONES, LINEBACKER: This is the only locker room Ive been in, but guys I talk to from other locker rooms, it sounds like there are a lot of cliques in other places or maybe you cant speak your mind the way youd like. Here, its all about coming together as one. I feel free to speak my mind at any time. Its really a no-judgment zone.DEANGELO WILLIAMS: When we go home, we dont get the opportunity to discuss what we need to discuss. My next-door neighbors, and most players next-door neighbors, are 40 and 50 and 60 years old, probably businessmen and women. You cant knock on their door to discuss politics or religion or something that could potentially help you. And Im 25, youre 54. You cant connect. You have to get that connection in the locker room.LAWRENCE TIMMONS, LINEBACKER: I hear a lot of people say this is the closest-knit group in the league. I feel like thats how they run the organization, and it carries down to the players. Antonio Brown will talk to anyone; Ben will talk to anyone. Everyones cool.LEVEON BELL, RUNNING BACK: We can say whatever we want to each other. We have that type of relationship. For us, when we see race or things play out from the outside, we can discuss it and we can still have an open mind to what someone is saying. Our locker room is very open, and it should be like that.What role do you think race plays in locker room dynamics?RYAN HARRIS, OFFENSIVE TACKLE: You cant help but talk about race. It matters to a lot of us, both black and white players. I read that 67 percent of white Americans dont have African-American friends. They are missing an interaction that we have multiple times a day.CAM HEYWARD, DEFENSIVE END: Its crazy to hear some of these guys stories. It doesnt matter where you came from. Everybody had to work with what theyve got. You hear about [police encounters among teammates]. Its unfortunate. We dont understand why anyone would be treated like that.ALEJANDRO VILLANUEVA, LEFT TACKLE: African-Americans are not a minority [in NFL locker rooms]. They are a majority. So their voices are going to be heard. The one thing I can truly take away from this: I feel something inside is not right. My teammates that I care so much about wake up in the morning with the feeling of not being equal.WILLIAMS: Im a firm believer that a person -- doesnt matter what color they are -- can learn a lot from someone if they are willing to learn. Not based on what theyve heard or what theyve seen but if theyre going in with the mindset of I want to learn about a day in the life of this person or that person. It opens a ton of doors, man.What experiences have shaped your thoughts on this topic?MARKUS WHEATON, WIDE RECEIVER: Some things I go through are normal to me. Through my eyes, it doesnt look out of place. But if you walked in my shoes, you would notice it a lot more. I once went to a city where there were no blacks. I met a few people there, and they actually said theyve never seen a black person in person. Kids were afraid of me. I walked down the street and they wouldnt walk down the same side as me. Its things like that that are kind of normal to me and shouldnt be. And if youre not exposed to it, youre not wrong -- its just different.HARRIS: There are a lot of guys in this locker room who have been affected personally by police brutality. A lot of guys have been affected personally by gun violence that doesnt include police. You get a lot of racial conversations, but its all said out of respect. It all starts on the foundation of respect vs. Im right and youre wrong.JONES: I had a gun pulled on me before. I was back home in Georgia, and I was speeding when [an officer] pulled me over. I was probably going 85. I pulled over about a mile down the road, and he came from behind me. He already had his gun out. I was on the road with no tint, both of my hands on the steering wheel. We were talking. It was all good, but Im like, Bro, you pulled your gun on me and I didnt do anything.B.J. FINNEY, CENTER/GUARD: Theres nothing I can do personally to understand what [African-American teammates] go through. And I know that. I can listen to them. I can try to understand. I can empathize with them and understand where theyre coming from on certain topics and be there to support them and help them with whatever they need.RAMON FOSTER, GUARD: Theyll never really understand it. And thats not their fault. You have to live through that. Even with us, not many of us get it. To be honest with you, being an athlete kind of separates you from a lot of different things. I hadnt directly had a person call me the N-word to my face -- for one, because of my size, and two, because of what I do. I dont know if they say it behind my back, but I feel Ive surpassed some of that stuff. Other guys have heard it, though.VILLANUEVA: Having an African-American head coach, our awareness is very high with race and America. Someone like Coach [Mike] Tomlin can make you think how much football has given to you, how much sports means to everybody in the NFL in terms of how weve been able to help our families financially. When you put in perspective someone like Coach Tomlin, who comes from a really tough neighborhood, youre appreciative of his side of the story.How does having a teammate who was in the military (Villanueva is a West Point grad and former Army Ranger) change your thoughts on anthem protests? Has your stance evolved throughout the season?WILLIAMS: Its a different dynamic, and we also get his perception from the military background: Somebody in our locker room that we know has been on both sides -- in the military and as an athlete.ROSS COCKRELL, CORNERBACK: We all know and recognize that Al has done a great service to this country, and we want to respect him by showing our respect for the flag. Having Al, having some other guys around, you recognize theres a lot more going on outside of this NFL bubble were in. Were definitely aware. We have good conversations about the things we see on TV and whats going on in current events, and that leads to openness.VILLANUEVA: We all feel very American, extremely proud of our country. In conversations with [James] Harrison, DeAngelo, there isnt a single person who doesnt disagree with injustices. We want justice for everyone. But we understand our platform. We understand who we are. We dont spend 12 hours a day reading the law and studying the news and cases and trials. We are football players. Our extent of knowledge on this subject is very limited.POUNCEY: Colin Kaepernick giving money back, making a difference instead of just talking and doing political stands, I respect the hell out of that. I can respect a guy who does that, whos putting his money forth and going out there and really making a change. Anybody else whos doing that and not following the same path as him, then its a little different situation for me. Its more talk than action. I like action. People who want to talk, get a radio show.What do you discuss about the election, both pre- and post-results?WHEATON: The election has been a hot discussion. Hot discussion.TIMMONS: I cant talk about that. [Imitating Tomlin] If you say anything about that, Lawrence ...VILLANUEVA: When you read the news, its very slanted toward one side or the other. But the thoughtful conversations Ive had with teammates have helped me become a better person.COCKEREL: Im happy its over with. Now that its over, Ive kind of settled in, like, hey, this is the direction the countrys going in for the next four years. Im ready to see wherever its going to go. I want Donald Trump to do well. If Trump does well, America does well.WILLIAMS: We talked about it a lot pre- and post-, but there was nobody visibly or emotionally upset or emotionally distraught by the decisions made by the majority. We all stay to our sides. There are obviously some policies that a lot of people dont agree with. There are a lot of policies that Barack Obama put in place before that. There are going to be ups and downs to each presidency and policies people dont like, and it wont be any different with Donald Trump. Its one of those things, man; Donald Trump is the president-elect. Were going to move on with it. Whether we want to or not, we have to. Rollie Fingers Jersey . PETERSBURG, Fla. Stitched Brewers Jerseys . R.J. Umberger scored twice to lead the Blue Jackets to a franchise-record for consecutive wins with a 5-3 victory Tuesday night over the Los Angeles Kings. . -- The Missouri Tigers might not have a roster full of superstars. Bobby Wahl Jersey . It was just business as usual for the Thunder at home. Durant scored 32 points and the Thunder beat the Bulls 107-95 on Thursday night for their eighth straight win. Manny Pina Jersey . -- Former San Diego Chargers safety Paul Oliver was found dead at his Atlanta-area home Tuesday night, and a medical examiner said Wednesday that the ex-player committed suicide.ST. LOUIS -- Mouth agape, Ken Hitchcock struggled to process the buzzer-beater that crushed the St. Louis Blues season. Goalie Brian Elliott sank to his knees in disbelief. For the second straight playoffs, the Blues finished with four straight losses to the Los Angeles Kings. They didnt get swept this time, it just felt that way. Especially to Hitchcock, who called out the cluster of high draft picks that have had several chances without making a splash in the post-season for a franchise still awaiting its first Stanley Cup. The roll call of first-rounders found wanting on the latest fade-out would be a long one. "What Im going to tell them is its not good enough," Hitchcock said after the 2-1 eliminating loss in Game 6 Friday night. "If you want to be a champion, its not good enough. "If you want to be a champion, youre going to have to find a way." T.J. Oshie, a first-rounder in 2005, was minus-3 in a game that included his first two career playoff goals. Patrik Berglund (06) had one goal and David Perron (07) none. Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko (10) was not a factor in his single appearance. Berglund had the best chance to tie it in the third but came up empty on a break-in, then was seen head in hands on the bench. Theyll carry the memory of Dustin Penners game-decider for months. "On that play youre just kicking yourself," said captain David Backes, a second-rounder in 2003 who has delivered leadership and gritty play. "Those are the little things that get magnified. They dug deeper than we did, the fate is were going home and theyre continuing on." While quick to credit Conn Smythe-winning goalie Jonathan Quick as the best player in the series, Hitchcock said the window of opportunity remained open for the Blues. But only, he was quick to add, if the core steps up. "Quite frankly, we need more from the people that are homegrown," Hitchcock said. "And thats something well address the off-season and in conversations with each individual. "We need the boys we built around." The ones they traded for, too. Among the disappointments they didnt draft were Chris Stewart, held to one assist after leading the team with 18 goalss, and Andy McDonald, held scoreless.dddddddddddd. Alex Steen and Vladimir Sobotka were among the few standouts at forward, Steen with a handful of clutch goals and Sobotka with consistent play all over the ice. The checking line of Adam Cracknell, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves lived up to its "CPR" nickname. Goaltending and improved defence led the April surge. Elliott led the NHL with 11 wins in April and before Game 5 had allowed a single goal in eight consecutive games. Trade-deadline pickups Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold provided needed stability and composure to the back line, to the benefit of another former first-rounder, Alex Pietrangelo (08). The Blues had won 14 of 17 after taking the first two games of a physical series that featured three goals in the final minute of regulation, two overtimes and every game decided by a single goal. With no margin for error against the defending Stanley Cup champions, they paid for their lapses. Up 2-0 in the series and 2-0 in Game 3, they relaxed and lost. They failed to take advantage of several opportunities in Jonathan Quicks 1-0 shutout in Game 4. After carrying play most of the second period in the 2-1 Game 6 loss on Friday night, they let up in the closing seconds. "We hit a few posts and a couple sitting right there in the crease," Backes said. "Its beginning to be a broken record." Hitchcock absolved Elliott of blame on the deciding goal, just as he did after Slava Voynovs overtime goal in Game 5 because a Blues stick interfered with the flight of the puck both times. On Penners goal, he judged the puck jumped 4 feet. He blamed everyone else. "We didnt get the puck deep twice when we had a chance to clear, we didnt check the right player and then it went off our stick," Hitchcock said. "We panicked with the puck and it ended up in our net." Players, who planned to clear out lockers Sunday, know theres room for improvement. "This team was hot going into the playoffs, added pieces at the deadline," Backes said. "We took on some big players and we were expecting better than this. "I dont know what the next step is, but right now its just sour." ' ' '

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