Long Beach NFL players join in weekend’s protests, Marcedes Lewis’ big day

Long Beach Poly alum and Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis (89) dances as he leaves the field after an NFL football game between the Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Sept. 24, 2017. Lewis caught three TD's in the Jags' 44-7 win. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Long Beach Poly alum and Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis (89) dances as he leaves the field after an NFL football game between the Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Sept. 24, 2017. Lewis caught three TD's in the Jags' 44-7 win. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The talk of the day during Sunday’s Week 3 NFL games was how different players and teams responded to President Donald Trump’s criticism of the growing protest movement in professional sports. Trump had made reference to the protests at a speech on Saturday, calling the football players who’d kneeled at games in protest of police violence and racial injustice “sons of bitches.”

Every team in the NFL led some form of protest, with some refusing to take the field for the national anthem, some linking arms, and other kneeling.

The most pointed response of the Long Beach athletes in the league came from the Titans’ Jurrell Casey, a Poly alum who was one of the first players to join the protests last year. Casey and his teammates — including fellow Poly alum Jayon Brown — did not take the field for the anthem prior to their game against the Seahawks.

After the game was over — a 33-27 Titans victory — Casey tweeted, “To ignore the facts does not change the facts…great win today on and off the field.”

Casey had five tackles in the game, while Brown had four.

Poly alum Marcedes Lewis had the best game of any local product on Sunday, and one of the best games of anyone in the NFL. Lewis’ Jaguars were in London to face the Ravens and came away with a surprise blowout win, 44-7. Lewis came into the game with no catches but grabbed four receptions for 62 yards and three touchdowns against the Ravens.

Lewis has had a superlative 12-year Pro Bowl career with the Jags, but has been mostly a blocking tight end, due in part to the team’s struggles at quarterback. In his 11 prior seasons, he had more than four touchdowns just once, and his three scores on Sunday equaled his touchdown catches from the last three seasons combined. He also became just the third player in Jags history to catch three touchdowns in one game.

Lewis was also a part of the demonstration, as he and his teammates linked arms. As a captain, Lewis was at the center of the line with Jaguars owner Shad Khan on his left, linking arms with him.

After the game he explained.

“I know where I came from, and the struggles that I was faced with every day growing up,” he said. “I also know my stepfather (Mike Withers) is a Purple Heart veteran. I wanted to respect my family but also make it clear that I’m aware of the situation that we are in as a country.”

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Poly alum DeSean Jackson also had his first touchdown catch of the season, and his first as a Buccaneer. Jackson had four catches for 84 yards and the touchdown. He and teammate Mike Evans both knelt during the anthem, the first time he’s done so.

Jackson tweeted some of his thoughts on the president’s comments, including the succinct, “Dude is a joke.”

JuJu Smith-Schuster and his Pittsburgh Steelers also didn’t take the field for the anthem on Sunday. Smith-Schuster continued to grow his role in the Steelers’ offense, with two catches for 39 yards.

Poly alum Jamize Olawale made his 2017 debut for the Raiders on Sunday night after fully recovering from a quad injury that had sidelined him the first two weeks. Olawale, a captain with the Raiders, was one of a majority of Oakland players to sit on the bench during the national anthem.

Poly alum Kaelin Clay played in his second game with the Bills, and had his first NFL catch after three years in the league as a return specialist. His reception was for 28 yards and shows that his quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, may have been right in predicting he could grow into a legitimate receiving threat in Buffalo.

Jordan

Unfortunately, Jordan alum John Ross missed his second game in three weeks with the Bengals, once again sidelined with knee issues. The wide receiver may get an MRI this week, which could determine how long he’s out.

John Timu got a good break over the last week. Thanks to an injury to a Bears linebacker, Timu was promoted from the practice squad to the Bears’ 53-man roster. He had two tackles in the Bears’ overtime win over the Steelers.

Wilson

Offensive lineman Joel Bitonio and the Browns fell to 0-3 after a 31-28 loss to the Colts on Sunday. Bitonio started and the Browns’ rushing performance improved, as their backs combined for 21 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

Compton

Defensive end Datone Jones reached an injury settlement with the Vikings at the end of the preseason and has been working out for teams, looking to sign as a free agent. In the last two weeks Jones has worked out for the Patriots and Lions.

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About the Author

Mike Guardabascio

Mike Guardabascio is an award-winning sportswriter who's been covering the Long Beach sports world since 2008. A Long Beach native, he's a member of the CIF Southern Section Media Advisory Committee and the California Prep Sportswriters Association. A two-time winner of the Century Club's Keith Cordes Award for best promotion of the city through sports, he is also the author of a book, Football in Long Beach, available through the History Press. Reach the author at mguardabascio@scng.com or follow Mike on Twitter: @Guardabascio.