Month: April 2018

Bob McNair says he regrets apologizing for ‘inmate’ comments after NFL protests

Texans owner Bob McNair made headlines last season when he referred to the NFL as inmates running the prison. Although months have passed since he made those comments, McNair admitted he is only sorry for apologizing afterward.

The main thing I regret is apologizing, McNair said, adding, I really didn’t have anything to apologize for.

McNair told the Wall Street Journal he doesn’t think he was in the wrong for the remarks he made at the NFL owners meeting in October. While discussing the ongoing national anthem protests, McNair used a figure of speech for an analogy, saying, We can’t have inmates running the prison.

Washington hadn’t lost that many consecutive games since a seven-game rut in June 2016.

Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman went 0 for 4, dropping his season batting average to .097. His early production is getting a lot of scrutiny because he took only two Grapefruit League at-bats, instead opting to prepare in spring training on back fields and against minor league pitchers.

Molina’s version was he said a bad word to me and I reacted that way. He called me [it] twice. You can’t allow that.

I know he was frustrated with what I said, and I can’t blame him, Lovullo said. I was giving him more of a compliment in saying that he’s very good and didn’t necessarily follow through, to execute the right way of my words to tell that that’s what I was thinking.

Lovullo had not tried to reach out to Molina.

I just want everything to settle down and go away, Lovullo said. I know that it’s a big story. It happened, and I can see why it’s a big story, I’m not trying to downplay it, I just want the dust to settle a little bit and think through it through a really clearer lens.

Lovullo said he expects to be fined for the ejection.

I’ll deal with the consequences, he said.cardinals_138

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NFL’s message to teams looking for head starts in offseason: slow down

The NFL earlier this week displayed something that continues to dwindle among its non-Super Bowl teams. Patience.

For the second straight year, that characteristic was evident in the tabling of a rules proposal that would allow a franchise to hire an assistant from another club as its new head coach while the latter is still alive in the postseason.

Nowadays, any franchise waiting that long to start putting moves in motion is being lapped by its competitors.

Here’s an example of how things have changed: In late January, Kansas City and Washington did something once heavily frowned upon by league headquarters. That was reaching terms on the kind of major trade that took attention away from the NFL’s showcase game.

Five days before Philadelphia played New England in Super Bowl 52, the Redskins not only acquired Alex Smith in exchange for a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller. Washington also had already worked out Smith’s contract extension that helped set the market price for other quarterbacks trying to finalize new deals.

The 2016 seventh-rounder from Western Kentucky has spent the last two years on the practice squad.

The Dolphins have shown plenty of interest in Baker Mayfield, but have also been looking at quarterbacks who could come later than the first round (bringing Luke Falk in for a visit), as they work to improve the position.

They let longtime backup Matt Moore walk as a free agent, and though they’ve signed Brock Osweiler and David Fales, there’s no reason to think they don’t want to upgrade, even if it’s just for a backup.

Indeed, the Cavs went 51-31 last season with Irving in the fold. Last season, James sat eight games and Cleveland went 0-8 when he rested. This season, for the first time in his career, James will play all 82 games when he suits up against the Knicks on Wednesday in the season finale.

“I’m healthy,” James said. “So, I’m playing.”texans_134

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Cowboys had interest in Kony Ealy in 2014 draft

If DeMarcus Lawrence wasn’t still on the board in the second round of the 2014 draft, when the Cowboys moved up to take him 34th overall, Dallas wanted Kony Ealy. This season, they get both.

“He’s a young, developing player, and we feel like he’s got a lot of football left in him,” Garrett said.

Ealy played in the Jets’ 3-4 defense last season. But in his first three seasons, Ealy played defensive end in Carolina, so the Cowboys are confident he fits their Tampa 2 scheme.

“That’s always a challenge when you’re talking about players you get from other teams, players you get coming out in the draft,” Garrett said. “What their exposure has been, what system they’ve played in. We’re fortunate that Kony has played in a system similar to ours in Carolina. We saw him as a four-down type of player coming out of school. So we don’t feel like he has any physical limitations. He’s been exposed to some different systems now as a pro, so we feel like that will benefit him.”

As Mehta notes, Mayfield had off-the-charts completion percentage at Oklahoma. The Jets, however, have concerns about his footwork.

Ultimately, the decision will be made by G.M. Mike Maccagnan, who surely has at a minimum a strong lean, with the draft only 19 days away. Through it all, the reality remains that the Jets need to be willing to take whichever quarterback is third on their list, because the chance remains that No. 1 and No. 2 will be long gone by the time the Jets are on the clock.

From a P.R. standpoint, this makes it critical for Maccagnan to keep his cards close to the vest. Ultimately, he needs to be able to say that he got his No. 1 guy at No. 3. Even if he didn’t.texans_104

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Allen Robinson: “Exciting” to learn a new offense

Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson is working his way back from the torn ACL that brought his 2017 season to an early end and one might wonder if learning a new offensive system at the same time would be too much for the free agent acquisition.

Robinson doesn’t see things that way. He said it has been “exciting” to learn the system being put in place by Bears head coach Matt Nagy and used the same word to describe what it’s like to work with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on getting the scheme down pat.

“It’s been a tremendous blessing to have Jordan,” Allen said.

Allen isn’t the only highly touted QB that Palmer is training, which actually has an ancillary benefit to the former. Darnold and Allen have become close by going through a shared experience while pushing each other on the field.

At a press conference introducing Cooks on Thursday, General Manager Les Snead said there won’t be an impact on those talks.

“None of it affects Aaron Donald,” Snead said, via Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register. “He’s one of 53 and he’s budgeted into the budget. We didn’t do all this and forget about him.”

The Rams have plenty of cap space in 2019 and they’ll have money to spend even if Donald is taking up a big chunk of it. Holding onto everyone would be a bit more difficult, especially with players like Jared Goff and Todd Gurley coming up on new contracts relatively soon, so Snead’s plate should remain full for quite a while.

For the immature and media-hungry Beckham, it’s just more fuel for his oversized ego.

Trevone Boykin was accused of viciously beating his girlfriend last Tuesday. It wasn’t until this Tuesday — a day after the victim went on Dallas’s WFAA-TV to tell her story — that the Seahawks released him, although they reportedly knew of the investigation into the incident soon after it happened.

The NFL might never get a grip, collectively or with each team, on how to deal with players in these situations. The way the Seahawks handled this one doesn’t create much confidence. Until this, Boykin was the only backup for Russell Wilson under contract. Until this, they were ready to ride with him.texans_092

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Belichick ripped Gronk in front of teammates for using TB12 Method

Talk that Patriots coach Bill Belichick and tight end Rob Gronkowski don’t see eye to eye may stem from the same source as the reports during the season that Belichick and Tom Brady weren’t seeing eye to eye.

The earlier reports centered around Brady and his trainer Alex Guerrero, and a new report says that Belichick got on Gronkowski’s case during the 2017 season because Gronk began following the teachings of Guerrero and Brady’s patented TB 12 Method.

The trade chatter from two weeks ago flowed from nothing Beckham specifically did but from the fact that Giants co-owner John Mara publicly bristled at questions about Beckham and his contract. On that point, Cowherd said that teams that did their homework about Beckham in advance of a potential trade didn’t like what they found. Though Cowherd didn’t mention any specific behaviors, he clearly implied that there was/is something unsavory that caused teams to shy away from trading for and paying Beckham.

“He played well,” Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said Wednesday at LSU’s Pro Day, via Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune. “Look, familiarity is just a little piece of that factor. It’s more about his ability as a player, and what was demonstrated last season, and what we feel like he can do for us in the upcoming season.”

The Saints wanted Jimmy Graham, but he signed with the Packers. Watson was the Saints’ Plan B.

Watson, 37, spent three seasons with the Saints, catching 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns in 2015.

“One thing about the familiarity, we know Ben is A-plus-plus in the character department and is good for a locker room, good for a team and good for an organization, so we’re excited about that, too,” Loomis said.

Rick Neuheisel: Although he is best known for his 12 seasons as a college head coach, Neuheisel spent three years on Baltimore’s staff as quarterbacks coach (2005-06) and offensive coordinator (2007). He remains close to the sport as a television and SiriusXM analyst.cardinals_010

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Humboldt president tells mourners: ‘We will find strength in each other’

It conceivable that he might draw one pitching assignment with a matchup unfavorable enough — think Week 6 with the two games at Coors Field, or Week 8 with three apiece at Toronto’s Rogers Centre and New York’s Yankee Stadium — that he’d be more useful as a hitter, but it’s still highly unlikely that it’d be so much so to tilt the balance (a pitching assignment at Coors where he’d be slotted at hitter, then perhaps draw 2-3 games against Minnesota Twins right-handed starters during the subsequent weekend series being a possible exception).

With the Alliance of American Football planning to start a year earlier than the XFL — and already dropping teams in non-NFL cities like Orlando — the XFL will need to factor the AAF’s apparent goals and objectives into the crafting of the new XFL game. Will the XFL put teams in the same cities where the AAF will be playing? If the AAF picks non-NFL cities, will the XFL decide to put football teams in towns that already are served by the NFL?

The biggest philosophical question relates to the style of play. The XFL, according to Vince McMahon, will attempt to be at the forefront of player safety. With the NFL taking safety to the extreme via the new helmet rule, the looming elimination of the kickoff, and the eventual (possibly) removal of the three-point stance, maybe the XFL’s vow to “reimagine” football should include turning back the clock.

With tailbacks Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara still on hand, Line’s return means the Saints have all the key pieces from their backfield back for another year.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys and some big names missing. It could have been easy yesterday or today to come up with a poor effort or a lack of commitment,” Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said. “We were making some mental mistakes and stuff but I think the effort was there from the beginning until the end.”

After falling behind 1-0 on Dzingel’s goal 12:31 into the game, Boston tied it on Pastrnak’s power-play goal 8:08 into the second period. The tie lasted less than a minute before Wingels fired a wrist shot that Taylor got his glove on but couldn’t hold and the puck bounced over the goal line at 8:59 of the second.

Heinen made a steal at the Boston blue line and took it the other way, beating Taylor on a wrist shot with 2:59 left in the second.

Dzingel pulled Ottawa to 3-2 at 7:07 of the third with his second goal of the game, but Acciari added an insurance goal for Boston with 1:51 left and David Backes scored on an empty net with 43 seconds left to play.texans_007

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With 17 days until the draft, it’s nit-picking time

For Allen, it may be staring down a receiver. For each of the other top-tier quarterbacks, it’s something else. The challenge becomes figuring out who will overcome those deficiencies and become great players at the next level.

Yes and no.

The Broncos initially had strong interest in Kirk Cousins, but as the odds of signing him diminished, Denver quickly turned its focus toward securing what many feel was the second-best option on the free-agent market. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, considering the huge gamble Minnesota took by signing Cousins to an unprecedented three-year, $84 million deal.

Elway also was wise to quickly change gears: Keenum told co-host Mark Dominik and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio that “there were honestly a few teams” showing interest.

“We got with our agents and went through the options of what teams might be looking for quarterbacks,” Keenum said. “Denver was on the list and far-and-away, as we did our homework, emerged as the top one. Not only the team, organization, city, but the players, coaches, all the staff here.”

That includes one of the biggest factors in Keenum’s arrival: his former head coach, who now has Elway’s ear when it comes to building rosters.

That would match the record of six quarterbacks set in 1983, when John Elway went first overall to the Colts (and then was traded to the Broncos), Todd Blackledge went seventh to the Chiefs, Jim Kelly went 14th to the Bills, Tony Eason went 15th to the Patriots, Ken O’Brien went 24th to the Jets and Dan Marino went 27th to the Dolphins.

This year’s draft will certainly see more quarterbacks drafted at the top of the first round. It’s possible that Darnold, Allen, Rosen and Mayfield will all go within the top half dozen picks. In 1983, teams would wait for a quarterback to fall to them, but these days teams will move up to take a franchise quarterback. When it’s all said and done, six teams may get their man in the first round this year.

I occasionally did this with descending players who still had value to the team in their playing abilities and leadership skills but whose contracts needed to be adjusted. Hitting a veteran player and his agent with this option was tough, as prideful vets typically don’t want to face their teammates after taking pay cuts. Word always gets out quickly.patriots_110-223x223

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Odell Beckham has managed to steal the spotlight at an Annual League Meeting which features a long-awaited change to the NFL’s vexing catch rule.

The Giants aren’t shopping their superstar receiver, but they are keeping the phone lines open.

What would it take to land one of the sport’s most dynamic talents when the general manager in question doesn’t believe in quitting on such obvious talent

Kickoffs are the most harrowing play in football: Eleven men running at full speed down field at 10 men running directly toward them, with the sole intention of colliding in order to create space for a single ballcarrier. There have been rule changes to limit damage at various levels of the game — removal of multiple-man wedge blocking, for example — but the danger still exists. It doesn’t take a pile of spreadsheets to tell you the game’s participants are at the most risk when approached from a blind side, especially when not moving at full speed. This play seems to create a higher chance of such a thing happening, simply due to the nature of it.

As the league moves toward legislating a safer game, the extinction of kickoffs could be next. It’s already missing from some of the lower levels of the game (think middle school football). Sure, it might cost a handful of return specialists their jobs in the long run, but could keep far more players healthy. In the end, that’s what is most valuable.

It’s tough to blame Prescott for all of the Cowboys’ woes in 2017, but even he knows he has to up his game. At the annual league meetings this week, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett acknowledge that they need more from their quarterback — and he knows it too.

He’s done a lot of good things, but he knows, we know, everybody knows he’s got to get better, Garrett said, per ESPN. One of the exciting things about him is he has such a determination to get better every day. He has a great spirit. He loves the game. He’s going to work very hard at it. I think he has to work on the physical part. The fundamentals have to continue to be refined. And that’s everybody. That’s footwork, delivery, getting away from center, his mechanics in the gun, getting the ball out quicker, being more accurate. All the things that every quarterback in this league is working on, he has to continue to refine those.broncos_018-500x500

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Mets rout Cardinals in opener behind Yoenis Cespedes’ 3 RBI, Syndergaard’s 10Ks

Yoenis Cespedes drove in three runs and newcomer Adrian Gonzalez hit a go-ahead double to lead Noah Syndergaard and the New York Mets past the St. Louis Cardinals, 9-4, in their opener Thursday.

Syndergaard (1-0) struck out 10 and walked none in six innings after missing most of last season with a torn lat muscle. Leadoff man Brandon Nimmo, subbing for injured All-Star Michael Conforto, reached safely four times and scored twice as the Mets chased a furious Carlos Martinez in the fifth inning to make Mickey Callaway a winner in his first game as a manager.

Bo Melton is having an outstanding spring. He’s had a good offseason, Ash said. There are a lot of things on a freshman that’s playing, but he’s learned to handle it. He understands what to expect, he understands how to handle his business. He’s really matured. When he shows up to football, he can focus on football and not be distracted from a lot of other things. I really like where Bo is at.

Teams had asked him to also go through wide receiver drills for a potential position change, despite the fact that he’s never played the position. Jackson told reporters at the combine he is not open to switching positions and highlighted his skills as a quarterback.

I’m mobile, Jackson said. I can hit any target on the field. I love the game with a passion. I can lead my team; I feel like I’m a field general when I’m out there. I love to score. I love to put the ball in other people’s hands. I’m not a ball hog at all. It may look like it, but I’m not. I just love winning.

Jackson won the 2016 Heisman Trophy and holds a number of career and single-season records at Louisville. He has struggled with accuracy and ball placement at times, but those questions have come in stark contrast to potential No. 1 overall pick Josh Allen. patriots_038-223x223

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Cowboys’ coaches think Dez Bryant is slipping physically

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is 29 years old, and may already be past his prime.

That’s the word from Albert Breer of SI.com, who reports that the Cowboys’ coaches began to see Bryant slip physically in 2015 and now think he just isn’t the same player he was when the Cowboys signed him to a five-year, $70 million contract. That physical decline is measurable, as Bryant has lost inches on his vertical jump.

“Based on last year,” one member of the Cowboys’ staff told Breer, “he does very few things really well.”

Spurrier wouldn’t have to worry about that with the Alliance. Plus, he’d be able to do what he misses most working with quarterbacks while still having plenty of time for his golf game.

Jeff Fisher: Multiple NFL sources have told Sporting News that Fisher believed he had a strong chance to become an NFL head coach again in 2018. The rapid rise of the downtrodden Rams in the first year after his firing didn’t help Fisher’s cause. The Alliance would give him a chance to reinvent himself; a chance that might not be coming in the NFL again unless it comes as an assistant.

He started his career in Minnesota after the Vikings made him a seventh-round pick in 2013. He played 23 games and made 18 tackles in two seasons with the Vikings.

Mauti didn’t make the Saints’ season-opening roster last season but signed October 18 and played 11 games with two starts.

Vander Esch has displayed the type of skill set that would make him attractive to a linebacker corps missing Ryan Shazier, whose NFL career is in question because of last December’s spinal cord injury. Vander Esch enjoyed a brilliant junior season that featured 141 tackles, four sacks and four forced fumbles as a do-it-all weakside linebacker.

Suffice to say, Vander Esch has made a successful transition from playing eight-man football at a high school (Salmon River) that had less than 100 students.

“I feel like we didn’t really have like a specific assignment or anything,” Vander Esch said. “It was just, ‘Go out there and play ball and call the plays and run them.’

“You get to the (FBS) level though — the 11-man side of it — and it totally changes.”texans_043

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