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Ex-NFL star Matt Ryan: Seems like Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce 'having a blast'

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Ex-NFL star Matt Ryan: Seems like Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce 'having a blast'

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Former Atlanta Falcons star Matt Ryan is among those on board with how Taylor Swift is being covered in NFL circles and her impact on the league this season.

Ryan said on radio row at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas that he thinks the relationship has been good for the league, and he’s happy she and Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce seem happy in their relationship.

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“I think it’s been good. It’s bringing more fans into our game and maybe some fans that otherwise maybe wouldn’t be watching. And they get to see what the NFL is all about and the entertainment it provides to people.

Taylor Swift and Brittany Mahomes cheered on their guys at the Kansas City Chiefs’ game in Wisconsin. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

“So, I think that part of it is great. It looks like her and Travis Kelce are having a blast and enjoying their life together, and I think it’s a really good thing for the NFL.”

Swift made the journey from Tokyo to Las Vegas to watch Kelce go up against the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium.

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Travis Kelce wraps his arm around Taylor Swift at NFL playoffs

Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce  (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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Ryan was raising awareness in Vegas about the 10th anniversary of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Raising money to cure the disease is something that hits close to home for Ryan. His friend Pete Frates battled the disease before his death in 2019. Frates was credited with starting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised to find a cure.

Matt Ryan hugs Matt Schaub

Former Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub embrace prior to an NFL game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Oct. 15, 2023, in Atlanta.  (Kara Durrette/Getty Images)

“Just out here today to continue to remind people that progress needs to be made in fighting ALS,” Ryan said.

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Sloppy defense and poor shooting plague UCLA's starting guards in loss to rival USC

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Sloppy defense and poor shooting plague UCLA's starting guards in loss to rival USC

It was only a week ago that UCLA’s starting guards seemed to have fully rewritten the previously unpleasant narratives about their season.

Once derided for lacking point guard skills, Dylan Andrews’ two-way stardom was prompting worries that he might leave early for the NBA.

Long criticized for wild, selfish play, Sebastian Mack was becoming a galvanizing force.

Often condemned by fans as being unworthy of playing for UCLA, Lazar Stefanovic was fully embraced.

Any honest accounting of their play swerved once again Saturday night, and not in a way that would make any of them want to keep reading.

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Andrews was sloppy on defense, missed all seven of his shots and offset his five assists with an equal number of turnovers. Mack made three of 10 shots, burying his only three-pointer with 8.8 seconds left in the game. Stefanovic repeatedly dribbled into the paint and turned the ball over.

It got worse. After the threesome was basically a big zero during the Bruins’ 62-56 loss to USC at Pauley Pavilion, their coach seemed to suggest that he was open to bringing in new players with the grit that his team lacked.

Asked if he could teach fight, UCLA coach Mick Cronin said, “I’d rather recruit fight. I’d rather recruit heart and toughness.”

Cronin went on to list four of his former Bruins who possessed that fight. He acknowledged that his current team had played better lately in winning eight of its last 11 games but had no chance against the Trojans given a week of listless practices that preceded it, playing hard for only about five minutes Saturday.

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Perhaps most troubling was the Bruins’ lack of defensive focus considering what was written on a board in the locker room regarding USC guard Boogie Ellis.

“Do not let him get the ball,” Cronin said of the message. “Do not let him shoot. Make somebody else beat us.”

Ellis wrecked the Bruins almost by himself, scoring 24 points on nine-for-18 shooting in a strong rebuttal to his eight-point effort in the rivalry game last month at the Galen Center. Andrews had capably shadowed Ellis in the first game between the teams but was repeatedly beaten in the rematch.

“I want to say a little bit of lack of concentration, I guess, being aware of where he is,” Stefanovic said of the collectively crummy defense on Ellis. “We knew that we shouldn’t let him shoot, and he is one guy that really needs to score for them to win games and we weren’t able to stop him.”

A sellout crowd that included UCLA basketball luminaries David Greenwood, Norman Powell and Jim Harrick — not to mention highly coveted recruit Khaman Maluach — had little to cheer besides the introduction of new football coach DeShaun Foster during a timeout. Foster announced that his team would hold a spring game April 27 at the Rose Bowl, ending the practice under his predecessor of staging just a glorified practice in front of fans.

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For most of the game, the Bruins played with the urgency of an exhibition. Their perimeter defense was passive and their ball movement was bottled up by the active Trojans.

“I don’t know what was the reason for it,” Stefanovic said of slow starts to each half that led to double-digit deficits, “but obviously, me as one of the veteran guys have to do a better job of having everybody ready, and myself included, to bring in more energy and right away from the start.”

The loss removed some lingering drama in that the Bruins (14-13 overall, 9-7 Pac-12) now have no choice but to win the conference tournament next month to reach the NCAA tournament. But they have no chance if their guards contribute another no-show.

Stefanovic, a junior transfer from Utah who is the most veteran member of the rotation, said he had one message for his teammates afterward, and it might sound familiar to the Trojans: keep fighting.

“When we’re winning, we’re winning for one reason, and that’s because we’re playing harder than our opponent,” Stefanovic said. “Whenever we came down needing a rebound, we would get a rebound, offense or defense. We shut a team down whenever we needed to, and we would get a stop.”

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As Saturday showed, it becomes a tale of woe when the three Bruins guards go 0 for 3.

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Eric Bieniemy will become UCLA offensive coordinator: reports

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Eric Bieniemy will become UCLA offensive coordinator: reports

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Many wondered when Eric Bieniemy would take the next step from offensive coordinator to head coach in the NFL.

Things didn’t look promising when he was not retained by new Washington Commanders head coach Dan Quinn, but not many could have predicted this.

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In a shocking move, he is reportedly headed back to UCLA, where he coached two decades ago.

Washington Commanders assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy gestures during minicamp at OrthoVirginia Training Center at Commanders Park in Ashburn, Va., June 8, 2023. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

“This is a great opportunity for me to help support DeShaun [Foster] as a new head coach, to work with him and for him as well,” Bieniemy told CBS Sports.

“It is an opportunity for my family and I to return back to a place we once called home. This is a great opportunity for me to utilize all of my experience working with future Hall of Fame players and a Hall of Fame head coach [Andy Reid] to help teach and inspire young men what it takes to be successful on and off the field.”

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ESPN says it is a two-year deal for the 54-year-old.

“I chose to fly under the radar during this hiring process, and my experience generated a lot of interest from a number of NFL teams prior to coming to this decision.”

Eric Bieniemy during Washington Commanders training camp

Assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy of the Washington Commanders reacts during training camp at OrthoVirginia Training Center July 28, 2022, in Ashburn, Va. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Bieniemy became a hot candidate after his success as the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs. He spent 10 seasons with the Chiefs, and he won two Super Bowls with Kansas City before heading to Washington.

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Bieniemy did not have similar success in the nation’s capital, though. Washington quarterback Sam Howell is no Patrick Mahomes, but the Commanders went 4-13, and their offense ranked 21st in yards per game.

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UCLA has had some coaching turnover this offseason. Chip Kelly left his head coaching gig with the Bruins to join Ohio State as offensive coordinator earlier this month.

Eric Bieniemy and Andy Reid

Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, left, talks with head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs prior to an AFC divisional playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Arrowhead Stadium Jan. 21, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo.  (David Eulitt/Getty Images)

UCLA went 8-5 last season but finished 4-5 in conference play. The Bruins will play in the Big Ten next season.

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Eric Bieniemy set to join DeShaun Foster's UCLA staff as offensive coordinator

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Eric Bieniemy set to join DeShaun Foster's UCLA staff as offensive coordinator

DeShaun Foster’s first hire has a throwback feel.

The new UCLA football coach is enlisting an old Bruins assistant as his offensive coordinator, finalizing an agreement to bring in Eric Bieniemy nearly two decades after he was the team’s running backs coach and recruiting coordinator.

The move to hire Bieniemy was confirmed Saturday by a person close to the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not officially completed. ESPN reported Bieniemy would receive a two-year contract.

Bieniemy, 54, has spent most of his time since leaving UCLA in the NFL, winning two Super Bowls in five seasons as offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs before faltering in his only season in the same role with the Washington Commanders.

He will presumably bring a pro-style offense to the Bruins, whose personnel is suited for that scheme because it’s similar to what they ran under former coach Chip Kelly before he left this month to become Ohio State’s offensive coordinator. Bieniemy’s hiring also provides the first clues as to Foster’s stylistic preferences given Foster said he intended to hire someone who shared his football DNA.

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While at UCLA, Bieniemy recruited star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, among others, earning a massive raise and the title of recruiting coordinator in addition to his role as running backs coach after then-Texas coach Mack Brown tried to add Bieniemy to his staff. The Bruins also provided assistance from the UCLA/Orthopaedic Hospital Center for Cerebral Palsy for Bieniemy’s then-10-year-old son, Eric Bieniemy III, who suffered from the disorder that impairs motor functioning.

Eric Bieniemy stands on the sideline during a game between the Commanders and Denver Broncos in September.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

During a 2005 interview with The Times, Bieniemy said the root of strong recruiting was relentlessly building personal relationships.

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“It’s all about being aggressive throughout that recruiting process,” Bieniemy said. “It’s all about being seen, also. If we’re doing those things in the right way, any kid in his right mind, if they have the opportunity to go to school here, they wouldn’t turn down that opportunity.

“We know we’re going to lose some battles. But you know what, we’re going to win more battles than we’re going to lose.”

Leaving UCLA before the 2006 season to become running backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings, Bieniemy has spent most of the last two decades in the NFL with the exception of two seasons as offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Colorado. The school offered Bieniemy the head coaching job in 2020, but he declined.

In recent years, Bieniemy has reportedly interviewed for 15 NFL head coaching jobs without landing an offer, making some question his people skills and others lambaste teams for passing him over so many times.

Born in New Orleans, Bieniemy and his family later moved to Southern California and he starred at running back for Bishop Amat High before choosing Colorado over USC.

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During his time with Kansas City, Bieniemy combined with coach Andy Reid to devise one of the NFL’s top offenses centered on quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But Bieniemy’s brief stint in Washington, where he was given full play-calling duties, was far rockier, leading to his departure earlier this month after Dan Quinn replaced Ron Rivera as the Commanders coach.

In an email to ESPN on Saturday, Bieniemy disputed reports he was let go.

“Contrary to what some think and what has been put out in the media, I was not fired,” Bieniemy wrote. “I actually just chose not to stay. Learned a lot and that is always a good thing.”

A recent story in the Washington Post described Bieniemy as falling short beyond his role as the architect of an offense that ranked tied for No. 23 in the NFL in scoring. While he was universally praised as hardworking, Bieniemy was known for a stubborn overreliance on throwing the ball and failing to cultivate strong relationships with players.

However, Bieniemy remained so popular in Kansas City that the team received permission to have him speak with players before its appearance in the AFC championship game.

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“Just having him back in the building was really cool, listening to him talk, his energy,” Mahomes told reporters earlier this month. “I think guys had a little bit of chill bumps, like, ‘Hey, EB’s back here.’ Obviously, he didn’t get that head coaching opportunity, but I’m excited for him to continue to coach football and to continue to make his impact on the game.”

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