• The Canadian Press

    Jets activate Mims from IR, downgrade Crowder to doubtful

    NEW YORK — Jets rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims is on track to make his NFL debut Sunday against Buffalo after New York activated him from injured reserve.The second-round pick out of Baylor had been sidelined since training camp with hamstring injuries. Mims should help a struggling Jets offence that ranks last or close to last in several categories.The Jets also announced Saturday they activated rookie offensive lineman Cam Clark from IR, and elevated kicker/punter Sergio Castillo and linebacker Bryce Hager from the practice squad.The Jets were hoping that with Mims activated, they would have their projected starting wide receivers on the field for the first time this season. But, New York downgraded leading receiver Jamison Crowder to doubtful with a groin injury. Crowder, who has 29 catches, 383 yards receiving and two touchdowns, was limited at practice Friday after sitting out Thursday.Mims joins Breshad Perriman, Braxton Berrios, Vyncint Smith and Jeff Smith as healthy wide receivers on the roster.Quarterback Sam Darnold had no change in his status for the game Sunday against Buffalo, so it appears he will start — as expected — for New York after missing two games with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder.Clark was a fourth-round pick out of Charlotte who missed some time in training camp with a shoulder injury and then hurt a knee shortly before the regular season began. He could help offset the absence of left guard Alex Lewis, who is doubtful with a shoulder injury.Castillo was elevated from the practice squad to replace kicker Sam Ficken, who injured his right groin early in the week and was listed as doubtful. The 29-year-old Castillo, who was signed to the practice squad last week, has never kicked in a regular-season NFL game. The former West Texas A&M standout was with Atlanta in training camp in 2014 and has since kicked in the CFL and XFL.Hager was a seventh-round pick of the Rams in 2015, and played for current Jets defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams that season. He spent five years with the Rams and was in camp this summer with the Raiders. Hager, who was signed to the Jets' practice squad last month, has 48 tackles, three passes defenced and a forced fumble in 69 career NFL games.___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFLDennis Waszak Jr., The Associated Press

  • The Canadian Press

    Former Toronto Argonaut Joe Spaziani embarking on his coaching career at alma mater

    Joe Spaziani always figured he'd become a football coach, but a return to his alma mater expedited the process.The 24-year-old Calgary native is in his first season as a graduate assistant on Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall's staff. Spaziani finished his collegiate career playing for Mendenhall, and an opportunity to return to the school prompted him to retire after one season with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts."I've been around coaching pretty much my whole life and I've always known it's something I wanted to do," Spaziani said during a telephone interview. "It was tough to stop playing, for sure."I don't think any coach says, 'I wish I would've quit playing earlier.' But I'm happy. I think I was ready to make the switch."Spaziani knew exactly what he was getting into when joined Virginia's staff. His father, Frank, is a veteran coach who spent nine years as an assistant at Virginia (1982-91) and time in the CFL as a defensive co-ordinator with Winnipeg (1992-93) and Calgary (1994-96).Frank Spaziani also spent 16 years with Boston College, including four as head coach (2009-12). He's currently New Mexico State's defensive co-ordinator."I thought it was one of the coolest things that he was a coach," Joe Spaziani said. "I thought that was such an awesome profession where you get to help young men train and be a leader of a team . . . it's such a unique thing."Growing up I always loved football and watching him do it at a high level was very cool."Spaziani appeared in 30 career games at Virginia as a long-snapper before graduating in 2018 with a foreign affairs degree. He added a master’s in higher education in 2019.Toronto selected Spaziani in the sixth round of the '19 CFL draft. He appeared in seven regular-season games with the Argos (4-14)."We didn't have a great season but I had such a great experience," Spaziani said. "I got to play in the Touchdown Atlantic game (28-22 loss to Montreal in Moncton, N.B.) and see the East Coast, I got to go to Winnipeg and Regina and get back to Calgary for the first time since I was basically a baby and play in Vancouver."I also got to experience how great a city Toronto is from a local's perspective . . . it was awesome. I couldn't have asked for a better experience."But a return to Virginia, reuniting with Mendenhall and starting a new football journey were too good for Spaziani to pass up."It was really tough to call (Argos director of scouting Vince Magri) and tell him I was retiring," Spaziani said. "I knew if I ever had the chance that I'd love to be back at my alma mater and with coach Mendenhall's staff."The way I saw it, if I didn't do it now I wouldn't know what might come in the future and so I jumped at the opportunity."Spaziani works predominantly with Virginia's offensive linemen but is also deeply involved with "The Mad Hatters," the Cavaliers' scout team."I work with about 15 guys," he said. "We meet in the morning, we install, we talk about scheme and we get guys lined up."Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday practices are our game week. On gameday, I'm up in the booth helping scout the defence and let the offensive-line coach (Garett Tujague) know what's going on.''Players often celebrate individual accomplishments on the field. But as a coach, Spaziani derives his greatest pleasures from seeing his players grasp whatever concepts he's coaching and their hard work being rewarded."Some of the most fun I've had has been watching guys who're willing to try hard," he said. "I believe that's one of the only ways you improve, just through being willing to try hard and put yourself out there."The tasks and day-to-day operations (of coaching) are different and the hours are definitely longer but I expected that . . . I've seen how taxing it is from a time standpoint."But much like he did as a player, Spaziani is again relishing all elements of the college experience."These are 18-, 19-, 20- or 21-year-old kids who, like me, are learning and finding their way and also getting an education," he said. "The growth and development I experienced (as collegian) was something I hope I can give back to guys who're basically coming after me and help develop that culture even more."Spaziani also plans to work towards his doctorate in higher education during his second tenure at Virginia."Something I never thought would be a positive of being a football player was getting an advanced education," he said.Spaziani's long-term goal is to become a head coach, but he readily admits that's still a long way off."There's just so much I have to learn," he said. "There've been points where my head has been spinning."I'm just excited to be a graduate assistant right now. I believe strongly in the benefits of this game, the people and what it can do for developing young men."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020 Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

  • Jets' Darnold to start vs. Bills, barring shoulder setbacks
    The Canadian Press

    Jets' Darnold to start vs. Bills, barring shoulder setbacks

    NEW YORK — Sam Darnold is set to return as the New York Jets' starting quarterback Sunday against the Buffalo Bills as long as he has no further complications with his injured shoulder.Coach Adam Gase said Darnold, who was limited all three days at practice, would be monitored Friday to determine his playing status. The quarterback was officially listed as questionable on the team's injury report.“Things are trending in the right direction," Gase said. "Hopefully, barring any setbacks, we'll get him going on Sundays — this Sunday.”Darnold has missed the last two games with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder suffered in New York's loss to Denver on Oct. 1. He returned to finish that game, but has sat out since while Joe Flacco has started in his place.If Darnold got through practice Friday with no issues, he'll be under centre against the Bills."We'll roll, yeah," Gase said. “He'll be good.”Despite being limited Wednesday and Thursday, Darnold was able to show the Jets enough progress in his recovery to make them optimistic about his chances of playing.“He's looked good,” Gase said. "It's like one of those things where you don't see anything that is alarming or looks different. I'm sure he doesn't feel like he did in Game 1 of Week 1, but he's not giving us any indications where I don't see any lack of velocity. I haven't seen him throw any balls where they either die or he couldn't get the distance. I haven't seen any of that.“Everything looks normal.”Darnold said Thursday he was eager to get back on the field, but acknowledged there was still some pain in his shoulder at times — "but it’s nothing crazy. I feel like I’m capable of dealing with it.”Gase said the team had to weigh that with what the doctors thought in order to make the best decision for Darnold and the Jets.“It's not really like I'm worried about him re-hurting his shoulder or anything,” the coach said. “It's just more that he's in pain. There's a little bit of pain there for him that he's not complaining about to the extent where it's like we shouldn't play him type of deal.“He wants to play. That was the biggest decision we had to make as a group was, is this the right thing to do? He wasn't really looking to take no for an answer.”The 0-6 Jets have struggled on offence all season, even when Darnold was playing. They rank last or close to last in the league in several significant categories. But having the athletic 23-year-old quarterback in the lineup at least gives Gase some flexibility with his play calling as opposed to having the 35-year-old Flacco in.“Getting him back out there, he's able to kind of create some things when things aren't going the right way with his legs,” Gase said. “It just gives (opponents) another element to have to worry about. That's the biggest difference between the two guys is really the movement, as far as being that threat to have an explosive run at some point or extend a third down if the protection isn't there.”Rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton is also on track to return after missing most of the last three games with an injured left shoulder.“Unless we have some kind of weird setback today, it looks good,” Gase said.Becton was limited for the third straight day, and listed as questionable for the game — but expects to play.“It's going to be real great,” a smiling Becton said. “Like a little kid in a candy store. I can't wait to get back out there. Ready to have fun.”The 6-foot-7, 363-pound Becton laughed when a reporter pointed out he used the words “little kid” while describing his emotions.“Big kid,” Becton said. “Big little kid. There ya go.”Kicker Sam Ficken (right groin) did not practice and was listed as doubtful. The Jets would promote former CFL and XFL kicker Sergio Castillo from the practice squad if Ficken can't go.“We're kind of day to day right now, but we're running out of time,” Gase said. “So, we're going to have to make a decision pretty soon.”Left guard Alex Lewis also sat out practice for a third straight day with a shoulder injury and is doubtful to play.Wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who leads the team with 29 catches, 383 yards receiving and two touchdowns, was limited after sitting out Thursday with a groin injury. He is questionable to play.“He didn't feel good enough to go, so we thought it was smart to hold him back,” Gase said. “We'll see if he'll feel better today, so right now, the plan is for him to be able to practice.”Offensive lineman Chuma Edoga (calf) was also limited and questionable for the game. Linebacker Tarell Basham was a full participant after missing a day with an illness.Offensive tackle George Fant is questionable after he injured a knee in practice Thursday and sat out Friday. Gase said it could be a game-time decision.Rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims appears on track to make his NFL debut after sitting out with hamstring issues since training camp. But with several other injuries, Gase said the Jets might need to make other roster moves before activating the second-round pick.“I feel like I can bring a lot of energy,” Mims said. “I feel like I can make plays for the team.”___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFLDennis Waszak Jr., The Associated Press