'Old soul' Tavecchio channels Aristotle as he lives out his Raiders dream


'Old soul' Tavecchio channels Aristotle as he lives out his Raiders dream

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Giorgio Tavecchio has a typical autumn Sunday routine. He’ll go to mass in the morning and watch sports the rest of the day. Catching an Inter Milan soccer game comes first. That is, after all, his hometown team. Then it’s on to the NFL slate, with a keen eye on the Raiders. The dog gets a walk at some point, and his Moraga neighbors get some company.

“That’s the simple life,” Tavecchio said. “I’m an old soul.”

And an emotional one. That’s why eyes welled after a major change in his Sunday routine and one his very best days.

Tavecchio converted all four of his field goal attempts in his NFL debut, including two 52-yard bombs and a 43-yarder that iced a 26-16 Raiders victory over the Titans.

He stood still amid the postgame celebration, just trying to soak Nissan Stadium in. His mind drifted some, focusing away from the moment’s euphoria toward the friends and family, teammates and coaches who helped him get here. Tears came with it.

“It wasn’t just me kicking out there,” Tavecchio said. “It was hundreds of people of have taken every step with me on this journey.”

This last part was intense. Tavecchio was working out at Campolindo High this week when the Raiders rang. They needed the recently cut kicker on the practice squad as insurance in case Sebastian Janikowski’s ailing back wasn’t right. It was so bad the 18th year veteran was placed on injured reserve Saturday afternoon.

That’s when Tavecchio got promoted for the first time at age 27. His NFL debut came after four teams, six years and seven cuts. Each one hurt, even if they were expected. That included this last one, which ended his fourth offseason/preseason with the Raiders.

There were times when Tavecchio thought his day would never come. Doubt became reservation. Those voices told him to quit.

He stuck with it this fall, hoping one day he wouldn’t be watching football from the couch. That dream was realized on Sunday, and he did not wilt. He nailed each attempt without hesitation.

“I have been dreaming about this moment for a very long time,” Tavecchio said. “It is special. I’m feeling gratitude, catharsis. You spend so much time waiting, hoping, imagining, dreaming, and then when it happens you can’t get too caught in the moment and what it means to you. This isn’t about me, this is about the Raiders playing the Tennessee Titans. I am just grateful I got the chance to contribute. You can imagine it’s been a crazy week with all the highs and lows. I am Italian, so I live fully. This was a great week of life for me.”

So Giorgio, was the experience what you expected?

“Aristotle said anticipation can be the greatest form of pleasure,” Tavecchio said. “I think it was a little exaggerated in my mind. The reality of the moment is sweet. That’s something that is subtle but special. When I look back on this time, when all this is said and done, I’ll always be grateful for this day.”

He was instantly congratulated for be the first NFL player to quote Aristotle.

The Cal product smiled and laughed.

“Go Bears.”

Aaron Hernandez lawyer: Brain showed 'most severe case' of CTE for 27-year-old


Aaron Hernandez lawyer: Brain showed 'most severe case' of CTE for 27-year-old

BOSTON — Tests conducted on the brain of former football star Aaron Hernandez showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and his attorney said Thursday that the player’s daughter is suing the NFL and the New England Patriots for leading Hernandez to believe the sport was safe.

In a news conference at his offices, Hernandez’s attorney Jose Baez said the testing showed one of the most severe cases ever diagnosed.

“We’re told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron’s age,” Baez said.

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, concluded that the New England Patriots tight end had stage 3 of 4 of the disease, and also had early brain atrophy and large perforations in a central membrane.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston on Thursday claims that the team and league deprived Avielle Hernandez of the companionship of her father. It is separate from a $1 billion settlement in which the league agreed to pay families of players who suffered brain damage because of repeated head trauma while playing football.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined comment, saying the league had not seen the lawsuit.

Baez said Hernandez had been playing football because the NFL led him to believe it was safe.

“Those representations turned out to be false,” Baez said.

CTE can be caused by repeated head trauma and leads to symptoms like violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive difficulties. Hernandez killed himself in April in the jail cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for a 2013 murder. His death came just hours before the Patriots visited the White House to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory.

CTE can only be diagnosed in an autopsy. A recent study found evidence of the disease in 110 of 111 former NFL players whose brains were examined.

CTE has been linked with repeated concussions and involves brain damage particularly in the frontal region that controls many functions including judgment, emotion, impulse control, social behavior and memory.

“When hindsight is 20-20, you look back and there are things you might have noticed but you didn’t know,” Baez said.

A week before his suicide, Hernandez was acquitted in the 2012 drive-by shootings of two men in Boston. Prosecutors had argued that Hernandez gunned the two men down after one accidentally spilled a drink on him in a nightclub, and then got a tattoo of a handgun and the words “God Forgives” to commemorate the crime.

Baez said he deeply regretted not raising the issue of Hernandez having CTE during his murder trials. He said they did not blame CTE for the murders because Hernandez’s defense was actual innocence.

A star for the University of Florida when it won the 2008 title, Hernandez dropped to the fourth round of the NFL draft because of trouble in college that included a failed drug test and a bar fight. His name had also come up in an investigation into a shooting.

In three seasons with the Patriots, Hernandez joined Rob Gronkowski to form one of the most potent tight end duos in NFL history. In 2011, his second season, Hernandez caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns to help the team reach the Super Bowl, and he was rewarded with a $40 million contract.

But the Patriots released him in 2013, shortly after he was arrested in the killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. Hernandez was convicted and sentenced to life in prison; the conviction was voided because he died before his appeals were exhausted, though that decision is itself being appealed.

No rust at all for Carr coming off broken leg: 'He doesn't make mistakes'


No rust at all for Carr coming off broken leg: 'He doesn't make mistakes'

ALAMEDA –Derek Carr has been shockingly efficient early this season, even by his own standards. The Raiders quarterback has 492 yards, five touchdowns, no picks and a 126.5 passer rating over two games.

Not half bad for the $25 million man.

He nearly threw a perfect game against the New York Jets. Carr completed a career high 82 percent of his passes in Week 2, going 23-for-28 for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Accounting for receiver drops and throwaways (one each), Carr only misfired on three passes. All darn day.

The Raiders scored six touchdowns in 10 drives and punted only three times. It’s the type of game this Raiders offense is capable of, with maybe the league’s best offensive line and a stable of skill players.

Nothing, however, happens without the triggerman. Carr expectedly deflected praise for recent performance.

“The O-line, and the wide outs, running backs did great,” Carr said. “With the way we’re able to pick up blitzes, we’re able to hit go-routes for touchdowns, we’re able to push the ball on deep. (Michael) Crabtree going across the middle on a deep route a couple times. You know, without them doing their job, I can’t do it by myself. Everyone gives the quarterback credit and all those things because you always touch the ball, but I give all those guys the credit.”

Carr has been accurate and decisive working with offensive coordinator Todd Downing, operating with great comfort at the line of scrimmage, before the snap.

“I think he’s done a nice job,” Downing said. “And we’re not trying to make it a scenario where every play he’s walking up to the line of scrimmage and has to evaluate something. We want to him to be able to go play fast. It’s probably not as frequent as it may seem, but when he does have those opportunities, he’s really done a nice job of helping us out. As I told him, if he sees something that makes me look like a better play caller, have at it.”

The offense is in great sync at this early point, which has been noticed by the opposition. Carr has long commanded respect, but it’s certainly heightened after an MVP-caliber year in 2016.

"He's about timing," Washington cornerback Josh Norman said, via ESPN. "...He's precise at what he does. It's cool to see. He doesn't have any turnovers, and he doesn't make mistakes. So it's more for us as defensive backs to make plays on the ball because he's so methodical and timing-based on how he does things. He's a good quarterback. He really is. We've got our work cut out for us."