How NFL players spent early-season byes – Wedding planning, hockey and more

Through six weeks of the season, eight teams have already had a bye week. How do players spend the off week that early in the season?

Our NFL Nation reporters asked around locker rooms, gathering downtime activities from Weeks 4-6, including wedding planning, deep-sea fishing and NHL games.

Planning a wedding during a grueling NFL season can be tough, but a Week 5 bye week can certainly help. Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow thought his off weekend would be filled with visiting various wedding venues after proposing to his fiancée, Lucy Rogers, earlier this year. But when the couple returned to their native Minnesota, they only visited one on Friday — a vineyard and apple orchard in Waconia, Minnesota, about 30 minutes from where they grew up.

“I told Lucy right away that you can pick everything. It’s your day,” Ragnow said. “I really, I will marry you wherever you want to get married. But I just want to pick the food. The only thing I really care about is the food so far, that’s about it.”

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But because the Waconia venue requires use of its own caterer, Ragnow would be taken out of the food game if they choose it. So he has already started giving her a hard time about the vineyard, though mostly joking.

After the shortened wedding planning, Ragnow went to Pioneer Ridge Middle School in Chaska, Minnesota, where his mom, Marty, works. Marty recently met a student, Evan Connolly, wearing head-to-toe Lions gear and, after starting a conversation, learned he recently lost his father.

“My mom knew I was coming home for bye week and found out it was his birthday on Friday,” Ragnow said. “So she set it up, and I came by the school and surprised him, wished him a happy birthday, got to know him, signed a few things for him and talked for a little while. Met his mom, gave her a big hug and talked to her. Really, my mom set everything up, she’s an angel. It was pretty cool being able to see a big smile on his face.”

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Ragnow can relate. His father, Jon, died in 2016 when Ragnow was in school at Arkansas. Connecting with children who have lost parents at a young age has been a large part of the foundation he’s still working to set up.

Otherwise, it was a low-key weekend for Ragnow and Rogers. They went to a Chanhassen High School football game Friday night and celebrated Rogers’ grandmother’s birthday on Sunday before heading back to Detroit on Sunday night to pick up their dog, Bear, who spent his bye weekend at Camp Bow Wow in Ann Arbor. — Michael Rothstein

New York Jets nose tackle Steve McLendon, voted a team captain in large part because of his indefatigable work ethic, devoted his Week 4 bye to … well, working. He returned home to Atlanta and spent the time at his training facility — Team MVP (McLendon Vision Performance) — which is set to open after the season. McLendon owns the facility, which includes a field house and indoor track, and has four employees. McLendon used his days off to get the weight room up and running. He describes himself as a hands-on owner.

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When he wasn’t working at his facility, McLendon simulated a typical NFL week, making sure he did his daily workouts in the weight room. That included a game-day workout, which he did on Saturday because of family obligations on Sunday. His credo is, “The gym is always open.” Asked why he didn’t escape to a tropical beach on the bye week, McLendon said, “My beach is in front of that iron. That’s my beach. I’m built different.”

But Jets safety Jamal Adams? He used the off week to escape to Turks and Caicos. He didn’t watch football and tried not to think about football. He totally unplugged, although he admitted he kept his phone with him on the beach. “Had a glass of wine and relaxed,” he said. “That’s all I did.” — Rich Cimini

Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer spent his Week 6 bye at his Florida home with his wife, Rachel, and daughter, Aliyah. An avid angler, Poyer made sure to take advantage of Florida’s ample coastline and fishing opportunities. It’s something he did while growing up in Oregon, but his passion for it really took off once he moved to the Sunshine State.

“I do [a lot of fishing], especially since I moved to Florida,” Poyer said. “It’s kind of something that everybody does down there. The first time I went out deep-sea fishing was one of the first weekends I was in Florida, and I fell in love with it.” — Marcel Louis-Jacques

After the team’s London game, Oakland Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs was in Las Vegas on Saturday for the Week 6 bye to coordinate a charity event and meet with Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak when the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights heard he was in town and reached out. Jacobs had already played in a charity softball game this summer with Knights players, so he was familiar with the NHL team to a degree.

“They hit me up and was like, ‘We heard you was in town, we want you to come to the game,'” Jacobs said Monday. “I was like, ‘Sure, I ain’t never been to a major hockey game.’ And they were like, ‘When you get here, we’ve got some stuff for you.’ I’m like, all right, they’re just going to sit me somewhere, let me meet the players again. But they were like, ‘You’re going to start the game off with the siren.'”

Indeed, Jacobs was the celebrity guest to sound the pre-puck-drop, old-school-sounding siren to rally fans before the Knights’ showdown with the Calgary Flames.

🚨 @iAM_JoshJacobs IS IN THE BUILDING!!!! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/HywLn6ehZX

— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights)

“Then they gave me my own jersey and everything,” Jacobs said. “It was dope. And the atmosphere was crazy. Production? Crazy. They had a whole five-minute video before they played. I was like, this is lit. I didn’t think it was going to be fun, honestly. It’s hockey. But this is lit. I will definitely go to another game. Definitely.” — Paul Gutierrez

Three former Ohio State Buckeyes turned Miami Dolphins — linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker and offensive tackle Isaiah Prince — spent their Week 5 bye back on their old stomping grounds in Columbus, attending Ohio State’s 34-10 win over Michigan State.

Fields leads Ohio State to win with 3 TDs

Justin Fields throws two touchdown passes and runs for another to propel No. 4 Ohio State to a 34-10 win over Michigan State.

“Them boys are looking good,” McMillan said. “We got a chance to make some noise this year.”

He played for the Buckeyes from 2014-16 before being drafted in second round by the Dolphins in 2017 and said he goes back once a year, usually during the bye. Baker and McMillan both have much of their immediate family living in Ohio, so they split bye-week time between hanging on their old campus and seeing friends and family.

“It’s always a great vibe. Got a great chance to catch up with coaches and just be fans,” said Baker, who played at OSU from 2015-17 before becoming a Dolphins third-round pick in 2018. “This team got something real good brewing. It didn’t even seem like [Michigan State] had a chance.” — Cameron Wolfe

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Gordon Sondland, hotelier turned diplomat, wasn’t always a Trump supporter

Gordon Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, finds himself in the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry after the State Department blocked him from appearing before three congressional committees on Tuesday.

Sondland has been a player in Republican politics for a number of years but wasn’t always a Trump supporter.
Sondland was previously the founder and CEO of the Provenance Hotels chain, which boasts 19 hotels across the country.
Sondland was confirmed to the ambassador role on June 29, 2018.

A frequent donor to the GOP

During the 2016 election, Sondland donated to Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign and to the former Florida governor’s Super PAC, FEC filings show. After Trump locked up the nomination, Sondland, a frequent donor to the Republican National Committee, joined Trump and the RNC’s joint finance operation.
George W. Bush
However, after Trump attacked a Gold Star family, Sondland sought to distance himself from Trump after The Seattle Times obtained an invitation to a August fundraiser for Trump that showed Sondland listed as an event sponsor.
A spokeswoman for Sondland said at the time that he would not be hosting or attending any Seattle or Portland fundraisers for the Trump campaign, Willamette Week reported.
“Mr. Trump’s statements have made it clear that his positions do not align with” his personal beliefs and values, Provenance Hotels spokeswoman Kate Buska told the Portland newspaper.
“Historically, Mr. Sondland has been supportive of the Republican party’s nominees for President,” she added. “However, in light of Mr. Trump’s treatment of the Khan family and the fact his constantly evolving positions diverge from their personal beliefs and values on so many levels, neither Mr. Sondland or Mr. Wali can support his candidacy.”
After the election, Sondland donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee through four limited liability companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Although the bulk of his donations have been to GOP candidates, he gave over $5,000 to Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s reelection campaign in 2015, according to FEC filings.
Wyden had vouched for Sondland during his confirmation hearing in 2018, saying he knew the hotelier for a quarter century by way of Oregon’s “really small Jewish community.”
He also touted Sondland’s contributions to the Oregon community, including a $1 million endowment to the Portland Art Museum, where he served as its chairman from 2009 to 2011, to allow free admission for children.

Limited prior work in government

Sondland is a first generation American of refugee parents, who fled Nazi Germany and eventually settled in Seattle, Washington.
Before he took on the diplomat role, Sondland’s work in government had been limited. He was appointed by George W. Bush to serve on the Commission for White House Fellowships.
He had worked on the transition team for Oregon Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who was governor from 2003 to 2011. Sondland also worked as a principal Republican liaison for Oregon and the White House. He also chaired the governor’s Office of Film and Television.
While he is ambassador to the European Union, he has stated that he has a specific interest in Ukraine.
“President Trump has not only honored me with the job of being the US ambassador to the EU, but he’s also given me other special assignments, including Ukraine,” he told a Ukraine media outlet in July.
Sondland was set to be on the hot seat Tuesday as House investigators pressed him about text messages he exchanged related to Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky and the freezing of foreign aid to Ukraine.
In text messages released last week by the former US special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, Sondland told a US diplomat concerned over the withhold of funding in exchange for an investigation that he is mistaken about Trump’s intentions.
But on Tuesday morning, the State Department ordered Sondland not to appear before Congress.
“He is a sitting ambassador and employee of State and is required to follow their direction,” Sondland’s attorney Robert Luskin said.

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