From intern to Ravens GM


Staff & Wire Reports

FILE - In this July 28, 2017 file photo, Baltimore Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, from left, general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome and owner Stephen Bisciotti look out at practice fields during NFL football training camp in Owings Mills, Md. DeCosta is already hard at work in his new role as the Ravens' general manager, trying his best to make the transition from Newsome as seamless as possible. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

FILE - In this July 28, 2017 file photo, Baltimore Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, from left, general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome and owner Stephen Bisciotti look out at practice fields during NFL football training camp in Owings Mills, Md. DeCosta is already hard at work in his new role as the Ravens' general manager, trying his best to make the transition from Newsome as seamless as possible. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

DeCosta: Former Ravens intern lands dream job as team’s GM


AP Sports Writer

Wednesday, January 30

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — In his new role as general manager of the Baltimore Ravens, Eric DeCosta has no intention of filling the shoes of his highly successful predecessor, Ozzie Newsome.

“I have size 10½ feet and I think Ozzie is a 13, so there you go,” DeCosta said Wednesday, standing alone in front of a gathering of the media and team employees at his first news conference since taking the job on Jan. 11.

Newsome, who held the post since the franchise moved from Cleveland in 1996, will stay on as an adviser. The first African-American GM in NFL history, Newsome drafted wisely and shrewdly combed the free agent market to build the Ravens into a perennial contender and two-time Super Bowl champions.

DeCosta was there for all of it. As an intern, DeCosta’s duties included taking then-coach Ted Marchibroda’s car for oil changes. The coach gave him $100 and told him to keep the change, so DeCosta found a place that charged $9.99.

“Sometimes people would think that maybe I’d be embarrassed that I started off as an intern now that I’m a GM, that I want to forget that,” DeCosta said. “To be honest with you, I cherish the fact that I could start out as a young person and really do a lot of different things.”

DeCosta moved up the corporate ladder to become assistant general manager in 2012. He began to attract the interest of other clubs, so owner Steve Bisciotti promised him a promotion after the 2018 season. Now that the job he long coveted is his, the 47-year-old DeCosta is already hard at work trying to improve a team that won the AFC North before being eliminated with a first-round playoff loss.

He has overseen personnel meetings, huddled with top team officials in Florida, attended a couple college all-star games and given plenty of thought to the draft.

“There are times I look at the challenges and they are daunting. But I’ve been blessed that I’ve had a lot of time to think and prepare for this,” he said. “Had I had gone to another team, with all new faces, new organization, new people, that would be a little more challenging.”

This job has plenty of obstacles to clear, most notably a tight salary cap and some important pending personnel decisions. Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley is a pending free agent, the status of safety Eric Weddle and guard Marshal Yanda for 2019 is uncertain and quarterback Joe Flacco is almost certainly heading elsewhere.

“If there’s one team interested, yeah, we’ll probably trade him,” DeCosta said of Flacco. “If there’s nobody interested, we’ll have to make another decision.”

Having Newsome on his side will make those kinds of choices a whole lot easier.

“I am extremely happy that Ozzie is going to play such a significant role moving forward for this organization,” DeCosta said. “It just gives me immense joy that I can still mess around with him like I do.”

Having learned so much from Newsome, DeCosta has no intention of straying from the lessons provided by his mentor.

“We’ve done a lot of really good things in the past, and we would be foolish to change things overnight,” he said.

DeCosta revealed that Bisciotti actually broached the subject of his ascension to general manager in 2007. Eleven years later, it finally happened. Along the way, DeCosta spurned several opportunities to land a GM job in another city.

“Did I have chances? Yeah. Did I have a lot? Yeah. Did I ever really consider it? Not really,” DeCosta said. “Every time I’d go to bed, thinking that maybe I would consider something, I’d wake up and say, ‘What are you crazy? You know you’re going to have the job someday that you’ve dreamed about, so just wait and make it perfect.’”

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Lots of questions for Goodell, not a lot of answers


AP Pro Football Writer

Thursday, January 31

ATLANTA (AP) — Faced with a blitz of officiating questions and queries about the effectiveness of the Rooney Rule, Colin Kaepernick’s football unemployment, and the cancellation of a news conference for a Super Bowl halftime show that has drawn hefty criticism, Roger Goodell scrambled.

The NFL commissioner did provide some nuggets of news on Wednesday. He noted establishing a quarterbacks summit at Morehouse College in June to help get more minority coaches into the pipeline of higher-level assistant coaching jobs that are quicker pathways to head coaching opportunities. Otherwise, Goodell generally ducked the rush at his annual State of the NFL appearance as effectively as Russell Wilson.

Naturally, Goodell was peppered with questions, some bordering on demands, to upgrade the officiating 10 days after a non-call late in the NFC championship game pretty much cost the Saints a spot in the Super Bowl.

While agreeing that game officials missed the helmet-to-helmet hit and pass interference penalty by Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman — league officiating chief Al Riveron called Saints coach Sean Payton after the game and admitted the blown call — Goodell said the league will re-examine the officiating process.

He didn’t rule out adding such plays to the video review system, and he definitely didn’t endorse such a move.

“We will look again at instant replay,” said Goodell, who added that league executives recognize the frustration of Saints fans. “There have been a variety of proposals over the last — frankly 15 to 20 years — of should replay be expanded? It does not cover judgment calls. This was a judgment call.

“The other complication is that it was a no-call. And our coaches and clubs have been very resistant and there has not been support to date about having a replay official or somebody in New York throw a flag when there is no flag (thrown). They have not voted for that in the past. It doesn’t mean that we won’t. It’s something that we’re going to put to the competition committee to see if there’s an answer to that, but the reality is that’s been at least an opposition philosophically for many clubs.”

Goodell completely ruled out any use of commissioner’s powers to change the call or resume the game; a lawsuit was filed in New Orleans seeking that. He also stressed that he and the competition committee will examine a potential expansion of replay to include helmet-to-helmet hits.

“We have worked very hard to bring technology in to try to make sure we can do whatever possible to address those issues,” Goodell said. “But technology is not going to solve all of these issues. The game is not officiated by robots, it’s not going to be. But we have to continue to go down that path.”

The path to top coaching positions has been a rocky one for minorities. In a report Wednesday, the AP pointed out that on 2018 coaching staffs, only four minorities held the stepping-stone jobs of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, just 7.1 percent of 56 jobs. That lack of minority coaches in the pipeline helped contribute to the NFL’s sharpest-ever one-year drop in minority head coaches, from eight to three, with Brian Flores soon to become the fourth when he moves from the Patriots to the Dolphins.

Many advocates of diversity in the league have questioned the current effectiveness of the Rooney Rule, in which teams are required to interview at least one minority candidate for any head coach or general manager vacancy.

Goodell defended the rule, which has been used in other industries, emphasizing it has opened opportunities that didn’t exist previously.

“We don’t look at the success or failure of the Rooney Rule in one-year increments,” Goodell said. “We’ve had the Rooney Rule around for nearly 20 years. It has had an extraordinary impact on the NFL. Over 20 clubs have hired minority (head) coaches in that period of time.

“We want to figure out how we can create a deeper pool of coaches so that they have that opportunity when the coaching opportunities arise.”

— On Kaepernick, who some claim has been blackballed by the league for sparking social injustice and police brutality demonstrations during the national anthem, Goodell said:

“I think if a team decides that Colin Kaepernick or any other player can help their team win, that’s what they’ll do. They want to win and they make those decisions individually in the best interest of their club. Our clubs are the ones that make decisions on players they want to have on their roster. They make that decision individually in the best interests of their team.”

— On the cancellation of the halftime news conference following widespread condemnation of the choice of Maroon 5 and several artists refusing to participate as a sign of support for Kaepernick:

“We’re extremely pleased with the diversity, quality and the excitement surrounding our entertainers. This is the biggest stage in the world, and I know people want to be part of that.

“Just to be clear, as I mentioned we have close to 200 million fans. “We know there are segments that are going to have different reactions to different things that go on in our league. Ultimately I think people respect and admire the things we do and want to be part of it.”

— On where owner Mark Davis will have the Raiders play in 2019 after the city of Oakland filed a lawsuit against the team that is headed to Las Vegas in 2020:

“I think the hope of Mark is to continue to be in the Bay Area with the Raiders’ fans.”

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Develin is ‘the hammer’ that powers Patriots’ running game


AP Pro Football Writer

ATLANTA (AP) — James Develin will reach into his past every now and then by pulling out one of his notebooks from his junior and senior years at Brown University.

The New England Patriots fullback flips through a few pages, shakes his head and can barely recognize what he scribbled on them on his way to earning a degree in mechanical engineering in 2010.

“It’s just like looking at a whole different language,” Develin said with a big smile at the Patriots’ team hotel Wednesday. “I have no idea the stuff I did.”

That’s because the 30-year-old Develin has been fully focused on football the past nine years. More specifically, as the bruising, bulldozing fullback who smashes holes through defensive lines and powers the way for the Patriots’ running game.

“You’ve just got to be tough, got to be nasty, got to be physical,” running back James White said. “And he’s all of that.”

Develin is a bit of an anomaly in today’s NFL, playing a position that doesn’t even exist on many teams. Only 14 of 32 squads regularly lined up a fullback — something that would have been unheard of up until a handful of years ago as two-back sets were common for decades.

With a shift to faster, spread-out offenses, the need for a big bopper in the backfield has dwindled.

Except in places such as New England, which has used Develin on 68 snaps this postseason — a number that could represent a whole regular season’s worth for some of today’s fullbacks.

“I think the fullback position has always kind of got the moniker that it’s a dying breed, that it’s kind of on its way out, but I think football is such a matchup game and things work so cyclically,” Develin said. “As defenses get smaller and try to stop the passing attack, it kind of leaves them susceptible to, with lighter, faster guys on the field, for a power running game.

“I think there’s always going to be a legitimate use for a fullback and I’m just happy to be out there doing what I do.”

What Develin, who can squat 670 pounds and bench press 500, does isn’t always seen in the game stats. Taking on defensive linemen and blitzing linebackers looking to blow up plays in the backfield is the fullback’s responsibility.

For Develin, that means bursting open holes for the likes of White, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead. He thinks of himself as the “bodyguard” for the running backs.

“He’s definitely our protector out there,” White said with a laugh.

On the AFC championship-clinching 2-yard TD run by Burkhead, it was Develin who made a terrific block to clear things in front of him.

“I want to be the hammer,” Develin said. “Not the nail.”

That’s how it is during most games for the 6-foot-3, 255-pound bruiser. He has 13 career regular-season carries for 23 yards and five touchdowns, including four this season. Develin also set a career best with 12 catches for 61 yards.

He has two rushes for 5 yards in the playoffs this year, and a 9-yard catch, all while setting the tone for a Patriots running game that has averaged 165.5 yards this postseason — second only to New England’s Super Bowl opponent, the Los Angeles Rams (175.0).

Not bad for Develin, who didn’t exactly take a direct route to get here.

He was a defensive lineman in college, racking up 15 sacks in four years while earning that Ivy League education. But he went undrafted and began lining up interviews for jobs as an engineer before insisting on giving football a final try.

He had a few tryouts with NFL teams, but was told he wasn’t fast enough or flat-out good enough to make it as a pro. He played one game for the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz of the Arena Football League.

“I never thought I’d abandon it,” Develin said. “This is a dream of mine. You know, I love the game of football and I was willing to do whatever it took to make it my livelihood. I never took no for an answer and just kept chugging away, no matter how many doors were slammed in my face. I just kept on going and working as hard as I possibly could and knew that the cards would eventually fall my way.”

Develin decided to give a switch to fullback a try, and got an opportunity with the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League in 2010. He showed enough to land a spot on Cincinnati’s practice squad later that year, and was reunited with his former Tuskers coach in 2011 when Jay Gruden became the Bengals’ offensive coordinator.

The following year, Develin was one of Cincinnati’s final cuts out of training camp. Then came a call from the Patriots — and he has been a valuable piece of the Tom Brady-led offense since.

“He does so much for us,” Patriots center David Andrews said. “He’s such a dependable football player. He’s a tough football player. He adds that extra pressure to the defense and that extra toughness to our football team.”

So, Develin will keep pounding defenders for now. And, maybe one day after his football career is long over, he’ll hit the books again.

“I thought an engineering degree was a pretty good thing to have in my back pocket, so I went out there and got it done,” he said. “Then, I just followed my first dream, which was football, and it all worked out.”

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The Conversation

Scientist at work: I’m a geologist who’s dived dozens of times to explore submarine volcanoes

January 30, 2019

Author: Michael Perfit, Distinguished Professor of Geology, University of Florida

Disclosure statement: Michael Perfit receives funding from the National Science Foundation. He is affiliated with the University of Florida.

Partners: University of Florida provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Staring up into the night sky as a kid and wondering what was out there started my journey to a career that involves diving in a cramped submersible vessel into the darkness of the deep sea to see what’s there.

By the time I was 15 years old, I discovered I was already too big to fit in those small early space capsules as an astronaut. My focus shifted toward inner space, thanks to Jacques Cousteau’s documentaries, detailed maps of the seafloor and historic dives to the deepest parts of the ocean in submersibles.

In college, I was introduced to the wonders of geology and how the spreading seafloor was one of the keys to understanding the newly developing theory of plate tectonics. I was hooked.

After obtaining my Ph.D., my grad school colleague Dan Fornari connected me with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who were using the HOV (Human Occupied Vehicle) Alvin to study the geology of the Galapagos Rift – a spreading ridge where deep sea hydrothermal vents and animal communities were first discovered in the late 1970s. They needed a “hard-rock” geologist with a marine geology background to collaborate with them – and I was thrilled to join their expedition leaving from Acapulco. A plate tectonic event nearly stopped me from joining the cruise when the 1985 Mexico City earthquake delayed my flight for hours.

My first Alvin dive into the active volcanic rift was nearly beyond description: frightening, exhilarating, fascinating, tiring and the most exciting event in my life to that point. Although pre-cruise training by the Alvin pilots is very thorough, the fear of the unknown lingered until the hatch was shut and we were lowered into the water.

What will I see? How dangerous is this really? Will the sealed sphere really protect me from the crushing pressure at depth? What is it like to be in such a small space with two other people for eight hours? Will I remember all that I am supposed to do? Do I dare drink the coffee provided? To my amazement, we were heading back to the surface before I knew it – my adrenaline level still high.

That cruise and the results that came from the successful research marked the beginning of my career as one of the few geologists who work and study volcanoes on mid-ocean ridges. Since that dive series in 1985, I’ve had around 40 dives in Alvin to depths of nearly 13,000 feet – until recently close to the limit of Alvin’s capabilities. Since each dive typically spends six hours on the bottom, I have spent a total of about 10 days on the bottom of the ocean – as an “aquanaut.”

Preparing to dive into the deep

My typical dive preparation actually starts in the planning stages of a cruise soon after an expedition is funded and a specific oceanographic ship is scheduled. The research vessel Atlantis is specially outfitted to host Alvin and operate multiple deep submergence vehicles during a single dive. Most cruises last about a month, with around 20 to 25 dives planned in advance. A few days before each dive, researchers study maps of the dive area, discussing sites for specific sampling and measurements.

The night before the dive, scientists each prepare a bag (generally a pillow case) full of the clothing and recording materials they’ll need. This typically includes a warm hat, pants, sweater and extra socks to put on while on the bottom because the sub rapidly gets cold and damp in the near-freezing seawater at depth. I try to get a good night’s rest because a typical eight-hour dive can be mentally and physically exhausting.

I generally don’t eat or drink much on the morning of a dive and spend some time stretching before I have to squeeze myself into the “ball,” as the interior of the sphere is called. By 8 a.m., Alvin has been checked out, wheeled into off-loading position and is ready for the three aquanauts to slip down into the hatch and settle into position.

Interior of Alvin’s titanium sphere during a dive on the East Pacific Rise in December 2018 showing the pilot in the middle and two scientists tucked under the electronics on either side. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, National Deep Submergence Facility and National Science Foundation

The pilot sits upright in the middle of the ball, while my colleague and I are tucked on either side under racks of electronics in a semi-prone position. There’s not enough room to fully extend my legs in this position. The heavy hatch above us is closed and sealed air and water tight to maintain atmospheric pressure throughout the dive – no turning back now.

The pilot flicks on carbon dioxide scrubbers that recycle the air we breathe for the entire dive and adjusts the regulator that slowly leaks extra oxygen into the sphere. At just under 6 feet tall, I can just stand upright behind where the pilot sits, but there is only room for one. Other than to stretch my legs, most of the time I am on my knees looking out of the forward or side portholes or scribbling notes on sample sheets.

Alvin lurches back and forth as it’s lifted off the deck and swung out over the ocean to be launched. Then there’s the comforting sound and feel of our entry into the ocean as seawater starts to cover the five small circular windows. I can see the skin divers swimming around the sub, checking to make sure our equipment is still in place while they undo the recovery line to the ship.

After running through a number of equipment and safety tests, we get the OK to begin our slow descent – descending at about 110 feet a minute, it will take over an hour to reach 8,000 feet. Bright light from the surface reflects off millions of small bubbles streaming around Alvin as we release some air to help us sink. Fairly quickly the sounds of the ship fade and the rocking from surface waves stops. Compared to all the motion and noise on the Atlantis, the interior of Alvin is pleasantly quiet and calm except for the hum of the air scrubbers and some music, picked by the pilot, playing in the background.

As we steadily drift to the bottom, the light outside quickly starts to fade, becoming greenish at first, then slowly very dark blue. Tiny red reading lights illuminate the interior of the sphere. We keep Alvin’s external lights off to save the battery power needed for propelling us on the bottom. After 10 minutes, deeper than 600 feet, it’s almost lightless and hundreds of glowing bioluminescent organisms stream past the portholes. This magical light show reminds me of the night sky I gazed at in my youth.

A half hour goes by and around 3,300 feet we are in the “midnight zone” where no light penetrates and the shimmering blue-green phosphorescence seems even brighter and more dramatic. By this time, I’m feeling comfortable but anxious to get to work on the seafloor, trying to anticipate what we might see.

Science on the seafloor

Approaching the seafloor, Alvin’s external lights turn on and we scout to let the pilot know when we see the bottom. For me, this is one of the most exciting and awe-inspiring parts of a dive because one never knows what will be there. Very slowly the lava- and sediment-covered floor of the ocean begins to appear as if out of a fog into the headlights.

On most of my dives, we land away from the volcanically and hydrothermally active rift zone for safety reasons. These areas typically are covered with different types of lava flows – pillows, lobates and sheet flows dusted by sediment. Nearer the rift axis, areas where lava lakes filled, overflowed, and then drained and collapsed are common. Some areas have hundred-foot-high mounds of pillow lavas that have oozed out of vents or sheer walls hundreds of feet tall that have been thrust upward by tectonic forces.

In some of the most volcanically active areas, I’ve found white, cotton-like organic mats covering the black lava flows that are formed by microbes living in the warm subsurface. Sometimes pieces of them are blown upward by streams of hot water flowing out of cracks and pits in the lavas. I’ve seen hydrothermal vents emitting black, sulfur-rich smoke, typically surrounded by communities of tubeworms, crabs, clams, mussels, shrimp and unusual fish – creatures that can survive this extreme environment thousands of feet below the surface.

For six hours on the bottom, I direct the pilot where to go and what to sample or measure using Alvin’s two remarkably agile yet strong hydraulic arms. Multiple digital still and video cameras mounted on Alvin’s external frame record our journey along the seafloor while mini voice recorders and handwritten notes document our observations. Time goes by quickly and rarely do we get everything we planned done before the pilot notes our batteries are running low and drops hundreds of pounds of iron weights to start us on our hour long transit to the surface.

Even with our extra clothes on, it gets quite cold by the end of a dive so the extra blankets come out and I typically settle in with one of our packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The glow of light announces our approach to the surface and I always hope the seas have remained calm or else we will experience some uncomfortable bobbing around while waiting for Alvin to be recovered.

Once on board Atlantis and the hatch is opened, it’s a relief to fill my lungs with warm, fresh air and be able to stretch my legs again. Watching the recovery, congratulating the divers, particularly new divers, and checking out the samples we recovered is an evening event for the scientists.

It’s been more than 45 years I’ve been researching the geologic features of the seafloor and I’m still excited about taking dives in Alvin. We’re still sampling, photographing, filming and observing, trying to answer questions about how over 60 percent of Earth’s crust is formed. How do submarine volcanoes erupt and what are they made of? Where and why do deep sea geysers – also known as hydrothermal vents – spewing 750 degree fluids form? And how does life thrive in these inhospitable environments?

Even though there are many unmanned robotic subs that can dive to deeper depths for longer periods of time, what scientists see on shipboard video screens from remotely operated vehicles cannot compare to actually being on the bottom and seeing it in three dimensions.

FILE – In this July 28, 2017 file photo, Baltimore Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, from left, general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome and owner Stephen Bisciotti look out at practice fields during NFL football training camp in Owings Mills, Md. DeCosta is already hard at work in his new role as the Ravens’ general manager, trying his best to make the transition from Newsome as seamless as possible. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) – In this July 28, 2017 file photo, Baltimore Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, from left, general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome and owner Stephen Bisciotti look out at practice fields during NFL football training camp in Owings Mills, Md. DeCosta is already hard at work in his new role as the Ravens’ general manager, trying his best to make the transition from Newsome as seamless as possible. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Staff & Wire Reports