• August 16, 2018 at 2:06 am

    <div id=”content_id”>The big day finally arrived Deion Sanders Jersey Limited , and Sam Darnold had the perfect plan for celebrating his 21st birthday.”Playing football,” the New York Jets rookie quarterback said with a huge grin.

    The birthday boy is now officially of the legal drinking age, but Darnold wasn’t expecting to toast the milestone Tuesday night.

    “Probably not,” he said, smiling. “I’ll probably just stay in and go to sleep early, like I have been every single night.”

    Partying is not high on the list for Darnold, who’s the youngest player on the Jets’ roster 鈥?and the fresh-faced future of the franchise.

    The No. 3 overall draft pick out of USC has taken a businesslike approach to his introduction to life in the NFL. Eat, sleep and dream football.

    Those are Darnold’s days. Every day.

    “I’m making a ton of strides, but at the same time, I’m not exactly where I want to be,” Darnold said. “But I know it’s going to take time and it’s a process. I’m aware of that and it’s exciting, though, to understand the playbook the way I am and the strides I’m making. I’m really excited about where I’m going right now.”

    Darnold will compete with veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater this summer for the starting job, and he’s giving Todd Bowles and his coaching staff plenty to consider early in this offseason.

    The youngster looked predictably shaky in his first practice of organized team activities two weeks ago, but has appeared increasingly more poised in the sessions open to the media since.

    “He’s just more comfortable with the playbook and obviously seeing things a couple of times will make you more comfortable,” Bowles said. “He’s just hard-working. Everything we thought coming in. He’s going to work every day Austin Corbett Browns Jersey , wants to be good, understands the mistakes he makes, works at them night and day, and watches film and asks questions.

    “At this time of year, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”

    <p dir=”ltr” lang=”en”>#Jets birthday boy Sam Darnold turns 21, feels he鈥檚 making 鈥渁 ton of strides鈥?but knows he鈥檚 got plenty of work to do. s://t.co/XPUJv3HYja pic.qgQAZKp2Kt</p>
    鈥?Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73) June 6, 2018

    During Tuesday’s practice, Darnold tossed a badly underthrown pass that safety Jamal Adams, last year’s first-rounder, easily intercepted.

    For a guy who was celebrating his birthday, it was certainly a gift 鈥?but for the defense.

    “Yeah, I just made a bad read on it,” Darnold said. “I should’ve just dumped it down to the back, but I tried to force one in there.”

    Rookie mistake.

    “He retains things when you tell him,” Bowles said. “He makes mistakes, but doesn’t make the same one twice Authentic Markus Wheaton Jersey , so he’s very good from that standpoint as far as retaining information.”

    Late in practice, though, Darnold had perhaps his prettiest play as a pro. He zipped a deep pass down the sideline that dropped over the reach of safety Kacy Rodgers II and right into Chad Hansen’s hands. It was a terrific throw and a reminder of why so many labeled Darnold as “special” in the months leading up to the draft.

    But such is the up-and-down life of a rookie quarterback that Darnold overthrew his final pass of practice on a deep toss to a wide-open Jordan Leggett. There’s no doubt Darnold would be spending part of his birthday night breaking that down in the film room.

    Darnold’s development has included lots of rewinding and fast-forwarding through plays, and dissecting every move. He’s got that type of time now, because football is the only thing that matters these days.

    “I don’t have class, so I’m spending every single day in the film room or on the practice field,” he said. “So in regards to that, just being able to spend time watching football and playing football is awesome. To be able to come in here every single day and do it for a living, that’s pretty sweet.”

    Darnold also recognizes the value of working with McCown and Bridgewater on and off the field.

    “What makes it really cool is that they’re really good players,” Darnold said. “They’ve experienced ball and they understand what’s going on on the field all the time, at all times. It’s amazing to be able to learn from them. After that play with Jamal, to be able to talk about it with them is something that is really cool, to be able to do that right after the play and get that feedback.”

    Darnold has had to make several adjustments since coming to the Jets, including calling plays in the huddle 鈥?something he hadn’t done much of at USC. He also says the increased pace of the game is evident, even in practice.

    “It’s faster, which is what I thought it would be Jim Kelly Bills Jersey , so it’s been awesome,” he said. “It’s just been a learning experience, just learning every single day and getting used to it has been awesome.”

    Darnold says “awesome” a lot and sounds like a kid who’s happy to be doing what he loves.

    “You know, no, I don’t feel any different,” a smiling Darnold said of his milestone birthday. “It’s cool to be 21, but at the same time, I’m just coming here every single day ready for practice. Nothing’s changing for me.”

    Joe Thornton talked to several teams last summer when he made his first trip to the free-agent market before ultimately deciding to return to San Jose on a one-year deal.This time there was never any doubt.

    ”Obviously there were some teams calling, but I told my agent/brother let’s keep it quiet this year, I want to go back to San Jose,” Thornton said Monday. ”Obviously talking to you guys at the end of the year that’s no secret. I feel this team is just getting better and better. … Our window is always open it seems in San Jose, and it’s a good feeling.”

    Thornton signed a one-year, $5 million contract on his 39th birthday, taking a $3 million pay cut from the previous year to help make sure the Sharks have the room to add other top players. Thornton had been willing to take even less had John Tavares decided to take San Jose’s offer instead of signing a $77 million, seven-year deal with Toronto on Sunday.

    But Thornton still believes strongly in the group that general manager Doug Wilson, coach Peter DeBoer and owner Hasso Plattner have put together and feels the pieces are in place for that elusive Stanley Cup run.

    ”It would have been nice to get Johnny Leonard Williams Jersey , but I think if you look at our team still, Doug and Hasso and Pete, they’ve allowed us to compete every year, and I think there’s no difference again this year,” Thornton said. ”We’re going to compete for a Cup. But yeah, I was going to be flexible and will always try to help out the franchise in that way.”

    The Sharks also locked up restricted free agent forward Tomas Hertl with a $22.5 million, four-year deal on Monday that buys out the first two years of unrestricted free agency.

    Hertl took on a bigger role last season after Thornton went down with a season-ending right knee injury Jan. 23. Thornton had torn the ACL and MCL in his left knee the previous season but said he’s ahead of where he was at this point last summer and expects to be 100 percent at the start of training camp.

    Thornton started slowly last season while recovering from knee surgery but was back near his top form by the end of November. He had 11 goals and 15 assists in his final 28 games before the injury.

    ”I’ve never seen anybody train like this. You look at his birth certificate and it says a number there. But he’s childlike when it comes for his passion and love for the game,” Wilson said. ”He’s had so much time now and was so close to playing that I t6hink he’ll come back way ahead of where he was last year.”

    Thornton has been the face of the franchise in San Jose since arriving in 2005, helping the team reach three Western Conference finals and one trip the Stanley Cup Final in 2016.

    He ranks 12th in NHL history with 1,030 assists and is 16th with 1,427 points. With seven more games, Thornton will become the 19th player to reach the 1,500-game mark for a career.

    The 24-year-old Hertl is just coming into his own after being slowed by knee injuries early in his career. He had a career-high 22 goals to go along with 44 assists this past season and was strong on both ends of the ice.

    Hertl was even better come playoff time with six goals and three assists in 10 games. He also won 57.7 percent of his faceoffs. The Sharks are counting on more of that kind of play in the future.

    ”I just think his best hockey is ahead of him,” Wilson said. ”He truly wants to be a great player. Watching him in the playoffs this year, I think everybody saw him take that step that not only we expected but he expected of himself.”

    The Sharks still have one more restricted free agent to sign in forward Chris Tierney.

    AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this story

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