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NFL approves sale of Panthers to David Tepper

The stage is set for David Tepper to complete his purchase of the Carolina Panthers.

Tepper previously owned a piece of the Steelers, which means he’d been vetted by the league before bidding on the Panthers and that helped make for a smooth trip through the approval process. The deal is expected to become official in July.

Arizona is the sole bidder to host Super Bowl LVII, and New Orleans is the sole bidder to host Super Bowl LVIII under the NFL’s new process for hand-picking potential host sites and negotiating directly with them.

Nashville is expected to be named host of the 2019 NFL draft at this week’s owners meetings in Atlanta, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Owners will vote on the two hosts after hearing their final pitches Wednesday at the league meetings in Atlanta, according to multiple sources. The news was first reported by the Sports Business Journal.

Both are expected to be approved, barring any surprises.

Byron Scott’s team had posted just one winning record in the previous seven seasons and hadn’t won a playoff game since May 4, 1994. The key transaction saw the Nets trade Stephon Marbury as part of a package to acquire Jason Kidd, who finished second in MVP voting.

It has been suggested that the Golden Knights benefited from a kinder expansion draft than their predecessors, but as ESPN’s Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski point out, the idea that people knew the Golden Knights were going to be good is revisionist history. This is a stunning achievement from an organization everybody was counting out before the campaign began, in an era when it should be tougher than ever to surprise fans.cowboys_032

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Brian Gutekunst expects Bryan Bulaga to remain with Packers

A recent report indicated that Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga refused to take a pay cut after being approached about doing so and that can often be a precursor to getting dropped off the roster altogether.

There’s been no roster move involving Bulaga in Green Bay, however, and General Manager Brian Gutekunst said at the conclusion of the draft on Saturday that he doesn’t plan on making one in the future. Bulaga tore his ACL last November, but Gutekunst said the team expects him back on the line once he’s healthy enough to play.

Hyde signed with Cleveland in free agency. Marcus Martin never quite took at center and is now a backup in Dallas. Chris Borland took—big time—but became the first marquee player of his era to proactively retire before 25 due to concussion concerns. (At the time, people worried if that would set a trend. So far, no. ) Remarkably, San Francisco’s six picks after Borland turned into notable contributors. However, none ever became difference-makers, and some disappointed after showing early signs of overachievement. Most importantly, none are still on the roster

We knew they were going to be like that, he said. We expected every game was going to be close, with the talent both teams have. We’re very similar teams. We both have great teams. We both have competitive players, and it’s really fun. I’ve been on both sides and I appreciate that.

Almost a quarter of the way through the 2018 baseball season, the Yankees and Red Sox were tied atop the American League East standings with 26-11 records after their showdown series at Yankee Stadium.

Bortles, 26, led the Jaguars to a 10-6 record and a berth in the AFC championship game last season. He signed a three-year, $54 million contract extension with the team in February.

Cora also echoed the sentiments of Yankees players and coaches about the playoff-like atmosphere at Yankee Stadium for the three-game series in the middle of May.

The first two wins of the series gave the Yankees eight straight victories overall, and the Red Sox manager knew any lapse could let the home team steal Thursday’s series finale.

After all, Cora and the rest of baseball saw the Yankees do it plenty over the past couple weeks.colts_027

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Report: Patriots cutting Antonio Garcia

The Patriots are parting ways with last year’s third-round pick.

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Patriots are releasing offensive tackle Antonio Garcia with a failed-physical designation.

Garcia didn’t play last year because of blood clots in his lungs, spending the season on the non-football injury list. They traded up to take him 85th overall last year.

After the case was dismissed, Patricia surely fretted over the possibility that his future had been derailed by the false accusation. And he undoubtedly spent the last 22 years fearful that news of the indictment based on a false allegation would come to light. (He probably is relieved that can now stop worrying about it, issues caused by the disclosure notwithstanding.)

There’s a chance Patricia at some point in the past 22 years researched the question of whether employers can or can’t ask applicants about arrests/indictments. Most responsible employers will ask only about convictions. (Indeed, the NFL specifically advises teams not to ask incoming players about mere arrests.)

While Murray doesn’t have Mayfield’s arm strength or precision, he does boast home run speed, which, paired with bruising running back Rodney Anderson, could give the Sooners a devastating ground attack. And Murray can be a capable passer, which figures to only be enhanced by the return of wideouts Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb and emergence of Calcaterra as a flexed-out tight end.

Last season, as Mayfield’s backup, Murray completed better than 85 percent of his passes for 359 yards and rushed for another 142.

“We’re two totally different people,” Murray said of he and Mayfield. “But, obviously, he’s one of the best to ever do it here and in college football. It was great to watch him for however long I did. … I just keep grinding and proving myself every day.”

Stevens has endured almost perpetual roster change throughout his five seasons in green, but maybe nothing as jarring as last summer’s overhaul, which culminated with the Celtics dealing Thomas, Jae Crowder and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick to the Cavaliers in exchange for Irving.

So while Ainge shops for the groceries, Stevens is like a “Chopped” contestant whipping up all sorts of fancy dishes with the different ingredients he’s been presented. It’s a partnership that leaves Boston poised for a long and successful stay as a prime contender in the East.orioles_052

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Ravens sign QB Robert Griffin III to 1-year deal

Robert Griffin III is back.

The Ravens on Wednesday announced they have signed the free agent quarterback to a one-year contract to serve as Joe Flacco’s backup.

“He came in last week, worked out. Had a real good workout and we were able to come to an agreement late yesterday,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Wednesday. “He will probably be here early next week to sign the deal.”

Bucks: Prunty said Brogdon (left quad) was evaluated Saturday and it was determined he wasn’t ready to go. The Bucks hope last season’s Rookie of the Year can play Monday. … Parker had averaged 20 points in his last three games.

Knicks: Coach Jeff Hornacek said he expected that Kanter and Hardaway would play again this season if healthy, refusing to rule them out for the final two games. “Those guys are all competitors and that’s what we like about them,” Hornacek said. … Knicks starters had no turnovers in the first half and the team had just two total, both by Luke Kornet.

The Knicks held Latvian heritage night in celebration of Latvia’s 100th anniversary. The New York Latvian Concert Choir sang the national anthem and Latvia President Raimond Vejonis was presented with a personalized jersey by Knicks All-Star Kristaps Porzingis, who is from Latvia.

Chicago is the last major league team to hold its home opener. It began the season with a 5-4 road trip to Miami, Cincinnati and Milwaukee.

The Cubs’ new-look bullpen has shined so far. It has a major league-best 0.94 ERA through 38 1/3 innings. Brandon Morrow picked up his first two saves over the weekend since he signed with Chicago in the offseason.

“We’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of good stuff,” Morrow said. “When we’re going to continue to be in the strike zone like we have been, I mean you see the results. Guys are getting quick outs and strikeouts when they need to. Been limiting the free passes for the most part, and just really going in with a lot of confidence.”

Pittsburgh is off to a surprising 7-2 start. It took three of four against Cincinnati in its previous series.cardinals_049

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Max Scherzer caps complete-game shutout with first career stolen base

Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, not content with just another lights-out pitching performance, decided to add another weapon to his arsenal against the Atlanta Braves on Monday night — his blazing speed.

Scherzer singled to right field, leading off the top of the seventh inning with the Nationals holding a 2-0 lead. Then, with Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman playing behind him and an 0-2 pitch to leadoff hitter Trea Turner, Scherzer took off and stole second base.

With the combination of Scherzer’s great jump and a low-outside pitch by Braves pitcher Peter Moylan, catcher Kurt Suzuki had no chance and never attempted a throw.

He struck out 10 and walked none, not allowing a Braves hitter to get past first base while throwing just 102 pitches in his ninth career complete game.

And Scherzer’s stellar performance came at a good time for the Nationals, who got back to .500 after losing five in a row.

Gronkowski has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks as coach Bill Belichick’s aggravation with him seemingly grows. Earlier this week, Gronkowski said he was pretty certain he’d return to the Patriots as long as quarterback Tom Brady remains with the team. However, lingering frustrations remain and Belichick has questioned whether Gronkowski is all in after he reportedly considered retirement to pursue a career in acting.

There are only a few options on tonight’s slate, as the wise fantasy manager will be building around a motivated star. If you want to go full stars and scrubs, I fully condone it, but Davis is the high-end player I am making sure I get as much exposure to as I can. As the Pellies look to qualify for postseason play, they have not been shy about leaning on The Brow (nearly 37 minutes per game over the past two weeks), and I’ll happily invest in that level of court time against a checked-out Clippers team that has given up at least 110 points in all four April games.cardinals_093

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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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