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GREEN BAY Will Harris Jersey , Wis. (AP) — In Baltimore, Za’Darius Smith played second fiddle to Terrell Suggs.In Washington, Preston Smith was the trusty sidekick to Ryan Kerrigan.With Green Bay, Kyler Fackrell toiled behind veteran starters Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.In a sweeping revamp of the outside linebacker group, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst signed the Smiths to massive free-agent contracts, released Perry, allowed Matthews to sign with the Rams, and used a first-round draft pick on Rashan Gary.The Packers are betting on the new starting tandem of Smith and Smith to give the pass rush a much-needed lift. It could hardly be worse. Matthews got only 3 1-2 sacks,the fourth consecutive season with less than eight sacks for the six-time Pro Bowler. Perry had 1 1-2 sacks in an injury-plagued 2018 season, a far cry from his career-high 11 in 2016.The Smiths, however, never were the best pass rushers on their former teams. Za’Darius Smith had a career-high 8 1-2 sacks for the Ravens last season, giving him a total of 18 1-2 in four seasons. Preston Smith had a career-low four sacks for the Redskins last season Austin Bryant Jersey , giving him a total of 24 1-2 in his four seasons.Nonetheless, with a four-year, $66 million contract for Za’Darius Smith and a four-year, $52 million contract for Preston Smith, the Packers’ new outside linebacker tandem should be tone setters on defense.“You said ‘should be?'” Za’Darius Smith said after Wednesday’s organized team activity. “We are. They brought us here for a reason.”The reason is to get after the quarterback. While the Packers ranked seventh in sack percentage, their pass rush on a play-to-play basis was lacking. With the additions of the Smiths and Gary, plus the return of Fackrell, who had a career-high 10 1-2 sacks last season, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine hopes he can get more pressure through personnel rather than scheme.Yet, their skill sets will allow Pettine to be creative. With the Ravens, Za’Darius Smith lined up at outside linebacker on some plays, but moved to defensive tackle in passing situations. Gary is viewed as having the same skills. Preston Smith is more of a traditional outside linebacker. Fackrell had a big season as a pass rusher but is comfortable dropping into coverage.“What I like about the room is that it’s not all the same guy,” Pettine said last week. “I think in every position room you need to have that variation in skill set so that way you can do some different things with different guys and move them around. We’re obviously very encouraged about that room and what they’re going to be able to do for us.”With Za’Darius Smith and Gary having the size to rush from the interior Rashan Gary Jersey , outside linebackers coach Mike Smith said the Packers will use the Smiths, Gary and Fackrell as a foursome in some passing situations.“It really challenges you if you want a certain protection scheme and you have no idea where he’s going to line up. It’s hard to do that because some of the protections are totally dictated upon how you call a concept,” first-year coach Matt LaFleur said.The key for the Packers will be turning potential into defense-changing production. Neither of the Smiths has reached double-digit sacks in a season. Fackrell’s breakout season came on the heels of a total of five sacks his first two seasons. Gary, the 12th overall selection in last month’s draft, had only 9 1-2 QB traps in three seasons at Michigan.Nonetheless, Mike Smith last week said he rated Gary the best outside linebacker prospect in the draft – even ahead of Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, who went No. 2 overall to San Francisco. While the Smiths are embracing their new opportunities, Gary is embracing the high expectations.“I don’t put nobody in front of me,” Gary said. “I feel like I’m the best at what I do and now that I’m here I’m still working for that. I learn from Z, I learn from Preston, so there’s still a long way I’ve got to go, but I never put nobody in front of me.”Notes: Five players did not practice Wednesday. S Josh Jones continues to skip the voluntary offseason workouts as he pushes for a trade, and center Corey Linsley was a late arrival due to travel issues. DT Mike Daniels and rookie LBs Ty Summers and Greg Roberts were present but recovering from injuries. . WR Davante Adams Darnell Savage Jr. Jersey , who did not practice in front of reporters last week, was on the field. “It’s good to be out there with the team, getting some reps in, working with the new offense,” he said. . Incumbent K Mason Crosby went 4 of 5 on field goals while challenger Sam Ficken made all five attempts. ST. LOUIS (AP) — Consider St. Louis a big fan of the New England Patriots on Super Bowl Sunday.Seventeen years after the Patriots beat the Rams for the NFL championship, fans around here will again be watching when the two go at it in Atlanta. Thing is, allegiances have changed since the Rams moved back to Los Angeles three years ago, leaving behind a legacy and some bruised feelings.Rams haters will have plenty of company in bars this Sunday.At the 11 Hotshots sports bars around St. Louis, fans will get discounted pitchers of beer for every Patriots touchdown. Photo likenesses of Rams owner Stan Kroenke will be placed on dartboards — and in urinals.“It’s just something kind of fun we can add to the mix and hopefully give St. Louisans some solace as they watch the game,” Hotshots marketing director Justin Boyd said.Sports fans Bob Rothschild and Phil Heidemann frowned at the mention of Kroenke’s name as they lunched at a Hotshots in the St. Louis suburb of Fenton. Despite their disdain, both plan to watch the Super Bowl.“I’ll be watching, but I’ll be rooting for the Patriots,” said Heidemann Elgton Jenkins Jersey , 60.Rather than a Super Bowl party, the Tick Tock Tavern is hosting a “Superb Owl” party with jazz music and a movie — but no football.Even in baseball-crazy St. Louis, the Rams were the toast of the town in their “Greatest Show on Turf” days. They won the 2000 Super Bowl and were heavy favorites to win again in 2002, until a second-year quarterback named Tom Brady led a last-minute drive culminating in a game-ending field goal and a 20-17 New England win.After that, football in St. Louis was never the same.The Rams got old and the glory days faded into a five-year stretch starting in 2007 when they went a dismal 50 games under .500, 15-65. Attendance dropped. Georgia Frontiere, the St. Louis native who brought the franchise to her hometown in 1995, died in 2008 and Kroenke, a minority owner since the relocation from Los Angeles, bought the team two years later.At first, the native Missourian denied any intention of moving. But by 2015, it became clear Kroenke had his eyes on California. In January 2016, despite St. Louis’ proposal to build a $1 billion stadium on the Mississippi River that would have been largely funded with public money Jace Sternberger Jersey , NFL owners OK’d the move back to LA.Turns out St. Louis can hold a grudge. In the shadow of the Gateway Arch, Kroenke and his team are even less popular than the Chicago Cubs, the Cardinals‘ archrival. It didn’t help that Kroenke’s lawyers put together a scathing evaluation of St. Louis as an NFL market on their way out of town.The departure even spurred lawsuits that linger to this day. The St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, St. Louis city and St. Louis County alleged in a 2017 suit that the Rams’ move violated a 1984 league guideline that was established after the Raiders moved from Oakland to Los Angeles. That case is still pending. The Rams also recently agreed to pay $24 million to personal seat license holders in St. Louis who filed a class-action lawsuit.Of course, the fact that the Rams got good so fast has been another blow.Randy Karraker, host of The Fast Lane afternoon radio show on 101 ESPN in St. Louis, figures that about 90 percent of St. Louisans are anti-Ram. He’s among them, so much so he can’t even bear to watch the Super Bowl.“It’s impossible to derive pleasure from that game,” Karraker said. “I hate the Patriots for what they have done to football, and I hate the Rams. So it’s a no-win situation for me.”Many ex-fans took to Twitter after the Rams beat New Orleans in the NFC championship game. One wrote that St. Louisans still rooting for the Rams “are the same people who wanna be best friends with their exes.” Former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill tweeted a meme of the late Bob Ross painting a serene landscape.“This is what I’m watching on Sunday February 3 at around 5:30. For 3 plus hours,” she wrote. “Better than the alternative.”


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