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Shaquem Griffin's inspirational story not limited to football fans

Shaquem Griffin’s story is an inspirational one, and it moved to another level after he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL draft. His legion of well-wishers continues to grow.

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Griffin, who was drafted in the fifth round, received encouragement and best wishes from players and fans on Twitter. 

The outside linebacker had his left hand amputated as a child because of amniotic band syndrome, but was a two-year starter at the University of Central Florida and was a first-team all-conference selection both seasons. 

He was reunited with his twin brother Shaquill when the Seahawks made him the 141st overall pick. That brought Griffin full circle from the NFL scouting combine, when he bench-pressed 225 pounds 20 times with a prosthetic left hand.

"I couldn't breathe," Griffin told ESPN said after he was drafted. "I didn't know what to say. I was trying to get the words out, but I couldn't talk."

Griffin’s well-wishers included pro athletes and people who have faced the same hurdles as the linebacker. They were joyous in their posts.

“Thrilled for you,” former major-league pitcher Jim Abbott, who was born without a right hand, wrote on Twitter. “Beyond words.”

“So grateful for this moment!!!” Twitter user Gienelle wrote, showing a picture of her son displaying a prosthetic left hand. “This pick is powerful for my boy!! His dreams just went through the roof!! “

Chris Pugh, whose daughter lost fingers to amniotic band syndrome, called Griffin “inspirational.”

“No matter what team he plays for, I'm a big Shaquem Griffin fan,” he wrote.

Drew Carfrae, a Steelers fan from Iowa who said he used a wheelchair, wrote that “to see someone that other people would say had a ‘disability’ prove doubters wrong, is amazing.” 

“Cheering and crying that his dreams came true,” wrote Amy Eldridge, whose son has one hand. 

Twelve-year-old Julianna Linton was born with amniotic band syndrome and posted a video before the draft. She also got to meet Griffin when the Knights played Houston in 2016.

On Twitter, Griffin thanked “everyone who has helped push me, motivate me and support me. Most importantly, thank you Seahawks.”

Buffalo superfan 'Pancho Billa' announces team's 3rd-round pick

The Bills Mafia took care of its biggest fan during the NFL draft Friday night.

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Ezra Castro, known as “Pancho Billa,” was called to the podium by Buffalo Bills legends Andre Reed and Fred Jackson to read the team’s third-round pick, The Buffalo News reported.

Castro, a Dallas resident, was in attendance at the draft, which was held at AT&T Stadium in nearby Arlington, Texas. 

Castro is president of the Dallas Fort-Worth Bills Backers chapter and a lifelong Bills fan. He has been battling cancer since last fall and recently had chemotherapy, the News reported.

At the podium, Jackson acknowledged Castro, calling him “one of the most recognizable fans in Buffalo’s history.”

Then Reed, the Bills’ the Hall of Fame wide receiver, said that Castro “has been battling cancer, but this is not to dampen his spirit and his love for the game and his Bills.

Jackson returned to the microphone and invited Castro on stage to read the Bills’ draft choice.

"With the 96th pick, the Bills Mafia selects Harrison Phillips, defensive tackle, Stanford," Castro said, his voice cracking.

Reed and Jackson presented Castro with a Bills No. 18 jersey that had “NFL Draft” stitched on the back.

General Manager Brandon Beane said Castro’s moment at the podium “sent chills up everybody’s spine in the draft room."

“We’re all praying for him,” Beane told the News.

Who's Honor? Vince Young fumbles Harold Landry's name during NFL draft

New Tennessee Titans linebacker Harold Landry suddenly has a new nickname thanks to a verbal gaffe by Vince Young during Friday’s NFL draft.

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The NFL allowed each team to select a “franchise legend” to announce its second-round pick, ESPN reported. When Young stepped to the podium in Arlington, Texas, to announce the Titans’ pick, he butchered Landry’s name.

“Titan Up. Titans Up, baby. With the 41st pick in the 2018 draft, the Tennessee Titans select Honor, Honor Landry,” Young said during the live broadcast.

Landry, who starred at Boston College, has never been called Honor.

Young apologized to Landry in a tweet, while Landry responded on Twitter that the former quarterback’s name fumble was not a big deal, ESPN reported

Tampa Bay Buccaneers will use parrot to deliver 4th-round pick in NFL draft

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be winging it during the latter stages of the NFL draft.

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The NFL announced Monday that the Bucs will have a parrot deliver its fourth-round selection from the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium to an announcer during Saturday’s televised Day 3 draft show.

The parrot, a Catalina macaw named Zsa Zsa, is based at the Florida Exotic Bird Sanctuary in Hudson, Florida.

The bird is not the first animal to participate in an NFL draft. Last year, an orangutan aided in the Colts announcing their fourth-round selection of offensive lineman Zach Banner, the NFL reported on its website. 

Reaction on the Buccaneers’ upcoming pick ranged from humor to squawks of surprise. One website, JoeBucsFan, posted a video of The Three Stooges’ 1936 comedy short, “Disorder in the Court,” where a parrot is figured prominently in the climactic court scene.

Undoubtedly, some fans will post the iconic parrot sketch from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Regardless, the Bucs will be giving the NFL the bird on Saturday.

Ex-NFL QB Mark Rypien said mental health issues led to attempted suicide

The MVP of Super Bowl XXVI said he once tried to kill himself after suffering “from a complex stew of mental health conditions,” KHQ reported.

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Former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien spoke with the Spokane television station and The Spokesman-Review in separate interviews about his problems, citing “Dark places, depression, anxiety, addictions, poor choices, poor decisions” that were caused by the concussions he suffered during his playing career.

The 11-year NFL veteran said he was speaking out after the January suicide of Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski and the apparent self-inflicted gunshot death of Coeur d’Alene High School principal Troy Schueller in Idaho, ESPN reported.

Rypien’s cousin, former NHL player Rick Rypien, also suffered from depression and died in an apparent suicide in 2011, ESPN reported..

"Let's address this now," Rypien told the Spokesman-Review. "Let me share my story so others can share theirs. Let's get rid of this silence that happens when you're caught up in this cycle and you don't know how to find the help I've been afforded.

"My story is impactful because people see me in a different light. I want them to see me in an accurate light. I've been down the darkest path. I've made some horrible, horrible mistakes. But I've given myself a chance to progress forward.”

Some of those mistakes included trips to Spokane spas that were closed down as part of a prostitution ring, ESPN reported.

Rypien, 55, said he also tried to commit suicide on the same day as his daughter Angie’s birthday, ESPN reported.

“I took 150 pills and a bottle of booze,” Rypien told KHQ. “If it wasn’t for my wife (Danielle) coming home and finding me on the floor, and shoving hydrogen peroxide down my throat, and charcoal, to throw up all these pills, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Rypien also had an episode of domestic violence with his wife in November 2017, according to a police report obtained by KHQ. Rypien admitted to the violence and blamed it on new medication he was taking to battle his mental issues.

"Part of this thing is getting the right medications,” Rypien told KHQ. “When you use something that doesn't address that? That impulse control? You go from zero to 60 very quickly.

“I don't remember that night. I remember losing control.” 

"They had warned us when they put him on it," Danielle Rypien told the Spokesman-Review. "We're not talking about an antidepressant. We're talking about an anti-seizure med they added to his antidepressant, and it was the second one they had tried. The first one was also a disaster. They had warned us ... maybe he'll adjust into the medication after a rough patch, but expect weirdness.

"This is not a snapshot of our relationship. This was a unique and crazy night."

The charges were dropped and the case was eventually dismissed, KHQ reported. 

Mark Rypien’s history of concussions and their effects may not deter other young athletes from playing football. But he said he wants to persuade people with mental challenges to bring them out into the open, he told the Spokesman-Review.

“It’s hard,” Rypien said. “There’s a lot of guilt and shame just to be in front of your own family in situations like this. When I was really dark, I felt there was no hope. That’s kind of the message I want to get out – that there is hope. I’m getting help.”

Horse named for Gronkowski qualifies for Kentucky Derby

A horse named for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski earned a spot at the Kentucky Derby, ESPN reported.

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The 3-year-old colt, named Gronkowski, won the Burradon Stakes in England on Friday, qualifying the thoroughbred for the Run for the Roses on May 5 at Churchill Downs.

For the first time, the Derby is reserving one spot in the 20-horse field to a European horse, ESPN reported.

"We've had this dream, and now the dream is alive," trainer Jeremy Noseda told At The Races after the horse's victory.

The Patriots’ tight end has attended the Kentucky Derby before, attending Millionaires Row with teammate Tom Brady.

The colt won his last four races, with two victories coming in March, ESPN reported.

"It sounds strange, but I haven't yet seen on the racetrack what I believe this horse is capable of. I'm sure there's more to come," Noseda said.

Deputies: Florida deputy mayor spent $7K museum donation on memorabilia, NFL tickets

A deputy mayor in a Central Florida city was arrested and accused of stealing a $7,000 donation while serving as executive director of a charity and using the money to buy tickets to NFL games, memorabilia and to pay off personal debt, authorities said.

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The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office said that John Tice, 65, the deputy mayor of West Melbourne, was arrested Thursday. In 2015 he was executive director of Melbourne’s Liberty Bell Memorial Museum.

Deputies said they began investigating Tice in May after the Melbourne City Council received a tip that he had diverted the donation from the museum's financial accounts for personal use.

Tice, who was tasked with finding a contractor to repair the museum's roof, secured a proposal from a roofing company to make the repairs, which were to be paid for by the museum and the city of Melbourne, investigators said.

Deputies said the roofing company donated $7,000 to the museum after receiving the first payment for the project, but Tice told the company to take the check back and reissue it to the Brevard Hall of Fame, which was an inactive charity at the time, deputies said.

Tice spent the money on Miami Dolphins NFL season tickets, professional football memorabilia, dining and repaying personal debt, investigators said.

Deputies said Tice was relieved of his position at the museum in February 2016 for an unrelated matter.

"When you're elected to office, you have the public's trust," Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said during a Thursday news conference. "They wouldn't elect you if they didn't trust you. And when you violate that trust, it sends a horrible message.

"When you're taking money meant for a charitable organization and you're using it for personal gain or watching a football team play, there's no explanation for that," Ivey said. "It's absolutely despicable."

Tice was booked into the Brevard County Jail on charges of scheme to defraud under $20,000, communications fraud, depositing an item with the intent to defraud and grand theft. He was released after paying a $20,000 bail.

Although the allegations are unrelated to Tice's duties as deputy mayor, West Melbourne Mayor Hal Rose called the accusations "shocking" and said he was "saddened by the course of events."

A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott said his office is investigating the allegations.

"Gov. Scott expects all elected officials to behave ethically and responsibly," she said. "Our office is reviewing the details, and we will keep you updated on any action taken."

NFL owners unanimously OK simplified catch rule

Jesse James may have felt robbed last season, but a new catch rule unanimously approved by NFL owners Tuesday will help eliminate controversy over what constitutes a reception, ESPN reported.

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James’ catch, fall and reach into the end zone in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game against the New England Patriots last Dec. 17 would have been a touchdown under the new rule adopted by the owners. The catch, made with 28 seconds to play, erased New England’s 27-24 lead, but officials reversed the call on replay; the incomplete pass helped the Patriots hold on for the victory.

The catch rule was proposed by the NFL’s competition committee. There are three guidelines to define a catch, according to NFL.com: control of the ball; two feet down or another body part; and a football move such as a third step, reaching or extending for the line to gain; or the ability to perform such an act.

There were two other rules changes approved, ESPN reported. One was to grant authority to Al Riveron, the league’s senior vice president of officiating, to eject players for non-football acts even at the expense of overruling on-field referees, ESPN reported. The other was to put touchbacks after kickoffs to the 25-yard line on a permanent basis. It was used on a temporary trial run in 2017.

Former cheerleader sues Saints, claims team rules discriminatory

A former New Orleans Saints cheerleader fired by the team for posting a photo of herself in a one-piece outfit, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accusing the team of holding its cheerleaders -- who are all women -- to different standards than its male players, The New York Times reported.

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Bailey Davis, 22, who cheered for the Saints for three seasons, said she followed team rules by making her Instagram page private, so only people she approved could view her posts. 

When she posted a photo of herself in a one-piece outfit in January, Saints officials accused her of breaking rules that forbade cheerleaders from appearing nude, seminude or in lingerie, the Times reported. The team also accused her of attending a party with Saints players -- the Saints have a rule against fraternizing between players and cheerleaders, either in person or online -- and fired her despite her denials, the Times reported.

According to the Saints’ handbook for cheerleaders, the women are required to block players on social media and are not allowed to post photos of themselves in team gear. Players are not required to do that, the Times reported.

“If the cheerleaders can’t contact the players, then the players shouldn’t be able to contact the cheerleaders,” Sara Blackwell, Davis’ lawyer, told the Times. “The antiquated stereotype of women needing to hide for their own protection is not permitted in America and certainly not in the workplace.”

“The Saints organization strives to treat all employees fairly, including Ms. Davis,” Leslie A. Lanusse, a lawyer who is representing the Saints, wrote in an email to the Times. “At the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum, the Saints will defend the organization’s policies and workplace rules. For now, it is sufficient to say that Ms. Davis was not subjected to discrimination because of her gender.”

Former Patriots lineman Nate Solder thanks New England fans in full-page ad

Former Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder is thanking New England fans for their support while he played and raised his family here.

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Solder recently signed a contract with the New York Giants after playing in Foxborough for seven seasons.

"Respect. Hard Work. Dedication. Team. Success. Seven years and thousands of life lessons later I know this much: you are all first class in every Patriot Way," he said in a newspaper ad.

Solder was diagnosed with and treated for testicular cancer in 2014. He and his wife Lexi had a son, Hudson, a short time later. In 2017, solder and his wife had a daughter named Charlie.

When Hudson was a 1-year-old he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He is recovering after being treated in Boston.

"We will miss you, New England, but we leave here happy with memories, relationships and friends that will last a lifetime. And two super nice rings too!" Solder closed out the letter.

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