NFL to vote on kickoff rule changes to improve player safety

The NFL is continuing to figure out ways to make kickoffs safer and will vote next week on several proposed changes aiming to reduce the number of high-speed collisions which happen during returns.

The proposals, which need to be approved by two-thirds of NFL team owners before going into effect for the 2018 season, will be discussed at next week’s Spring League Meeting in Atlanta. The proposals were made with special teams coaches and members of the league’s Competition Committee during a player safety summit earlier this month.

“If you don’t make changes to make it safer, we’re going to do away with it,” Packers president Mark Murphy, a member of the NFL’s competition committee, said of kickoffs last month. “It’s that serious. It’s by far the most dangerous play in the game.”

But the demand for resolution at this Atlanta gathering guarantees little. And the league’s owners may have been telegraphing that two months ago from the Orlando meetings, when at best, the only thing promised was that protests would be discussed this week.

“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a release. “This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.

“We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it.”

The NFL Players’ Association said shortly after the announcement that its members were not consulted about the changes and the union would review the new policy and “challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.” The NFLPA also said the move contradicts statements Goodell and Giants owner John Mara had made to union leadership “about the principles, values and patriotism of our league.”cowboys_002

Wisconsin’s Nick Nelson tears meniscus while working out for an NFL team

Wisconsin cornerback Nick Nelson worked out for a team in an effort to bolster his draft stock, but he may have hurt his draft stock instead.

Nelson tore his meniscus during a private workout, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Nelson needs surgery and will be out three or four months.

Third, a good agent will prepare the player for the Wonderlic test, boosting his score to something higher than it otherwise would have been. (Whatever Jackson’s score was — and we’ll post none of them here — having a good agent wouldn’t have made it worse and likely would have made it better.)

Fourth, a good agent will advise the player on whether and to what extent to engage in Scouting Combine activities, and whether and to what extent to engage in pre-draft team visits and private workouts. A good agent will prepare the player regarding what to say and how to say it when meeting with teams. A good agent will serve as the buffer between the player and teams that may not be happy to hear that, for example, the player won’t be visiting the facility or throwing privately for its coaching staff.

“It’s been a battle all year. It’s been a grind, but we’re in that position,” said Patrice Bergeron, who assisted on Pastrnak’s tying goal 8:08 into the second period.

The Bruins host Florida on Sunday night in a game postponed by a winter storm Jan. 4. Boston is one point behind Tampa Bay, which lost in overtime at Carolina, for the top spot in the East and the Atlantic Division.

Danton Heinen also scored for Boston, which added late goals by Noel Acciari and David Backes in the final two minutes to put away the Senators and complete the season sweep.

Anton Khudobin stopped 26 shots for the Bruins.

“We have a chance to move into first. That’s what we all can ask for — to have a chance,” Boston captain Zdeno Chara said. “It’s in our hands tomorrow.”

Ryan Dzingel scored both goals for Ottawa and Colin White had two assists. Daniel Taylor made 29 saves for the Senators, who finished 28-43-11 one year after reaching the Eastern Conference finals.

Report: Clowney, Texans making progress on ‘mega-extension’

Jadeveon Clowney is on the verge of setting the market for defensive linemen who can get to the quarterback, and it sounds like his peers are going to like the end result.

Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, is under contract for $12.3 million this upcoming season after the Houston Texans picked up the option on his rookie deal. Albert Breer of The MMQB reported on Thursday that the sides are working on a new contract and are making a lot of progress on a mega-extension.

New York Giants: OK, it still seems most probable that the G-Men won’t divorce their most talented, most marketable and most entertaining performer. And, with the No. 2 pick of the draft in his quiver, Gettleman is well equipped to rebuild on the fly if needed, even if that means investing in a quarterback of the future. And given what new coach Pat Shurmur did with Minnesota’s offense in 2017, Beckham has to be pretty excited about his own prospects by merely staying put.

Smith left his first visit with the LA Chargers late Thursday afternoon without a contract and flew north to audition for Pete Carroll in Seattle.

The former Jets and Giants QB had a Thursday night dinner and Friday facility visit planned.

He tore through the bench press with a prosthetic hand, putting 225 lbs. up 20 times, and then he ran a blistering 4.38 40 the next day. Those were sick numbers for any linebacker, let alone one who was kicking down walls like Jack Bauer in a climactic scene of 24. This was no longer just some saccharine, sepia-toned tale. Griffin was putting people on notice. He’s very athletic, says Hughes. He can put anybody on the ground. Now there was a real debate: how high should he go in the draft In terms of game film and stats and character, he was up there at the top. Did the missing hand mean all that much

Washington cutting quarterback Stephen Morris

Washington found a third quarterback last week, so they no longer needed the guy who was third on the depth chart.

PFT has confirmed that Washington is releasing quarterback Stephen Morris.

He was surplus to requirements after Kevin Hogan was acquired in trade, giving them a third-stringer behind Alex Smith and Colt McCoy with a bit of experience.

Morris had spent time with the Jaguars, Eagles, and Colts before signing a future deal with Washington in January. He’s been hanging around since 2014, but hasn’t attempted an NFL pass.

“The thing he is doing better is he’s making plays for other people,” Clifford said.

Clifford has noticed Monk’s assists-to-turnovers numbers have been solid recently as well.

“That to me is as much of an indicator as anything of the growth that he’s made in terms of learning how to play in a manner that both he can score and the rest of the guys can play well when he’s on the floor,” he said. “In this league at his size (6 feet 3), pick and roll is going to be a big part of it.”

The joint practice idea isn’t new to Patricia or the Lions. Detroit has had practices with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts the last two years. The Patriots have held joint practices for six straight years as the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins have all shared a practice with New England over that span.

The Lions don’t yet have an agreement in place with another team for this summer. However, it’s typical that such a plan comes together with one of the team’s four preseason opponents.

A healthy shoulder is the first thing Luck needs to get back on track as a potentially elite QB who’s worth his second NFL contract. The second is Indianapolis actually giving him all the support he needs to be successful.

Jets sign former Seahawks RB Rawls

The New York Jets have signed free-agent running back Thomas Rawls, the team announced Friday. Rawls, 24, played the first three years of his career with the Seattle Seahawks, having his best season as a rookie in 2015 when he ran for 830 yards with four touchdowns. Rawls’ production drastically fell off the last two years as he rushed for just 157 yards in 2017 while being inactive on multiple occasions. The former undrafted free agent is the second running back the Jets have signed this offseason after adding former Cleveland Browns rusher Isaiah Crowell. Rawls will have to compete with Crowell and veteran Bilal Powell for snaps in a crowded backfield.

The rule’s new wording, proposed by the league’s competition committee and unanimously approved by the league’s 32 owners, eliminates the controversial requirement to complete the process, maintaining possession of the ball throughout going to the ground.

The Minnesota Vikings are gambling on new quarterback Kirk Cousins, but Cousins doesn’t need to live up to his $28 million salary in 2018 for Minnesota to contend for a championship.

The Vikings surrendered a league-low 15.8 points per game last season, and a defense that contains five 2017 Pro Bowlers should be even better with the addition of stud defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.

Both Cousins and Richardson are boom-or-bust signings. If they boom, Minnesota will be the team to beat in the NFC. If they bust, the Vikings will still be strong.

Minnesota made the NFC Championship Game in 2017 with Case Keenum at quarterback and without rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who tore his ACL after picking up 444 scrimmage yards in the first four games. Cousins is a more accomplished, more talented quarterback than Keenum, and Cook should be back and ready to pick up where he left off.

When center Ryan Jensen signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last month, the Baltimore Ravens lost a solid offensive lineman in free agency for the third time in as many years. That’ll take a toll on a team that still lacks weapons and support for veteran quarterback Joe Flacco. patriots_380-223x223

Report: Bills to re-sign Travaris Cadet to one-year deal

“It really gives me a chance to show the rest of the team who the leader of the franchise is. It’s going to be Tyrod Taylor,” Jackson told reporters. “We’re going to get in line with him and follow him and he’s going to lead this organization to winning.”

Cousins’ contract comes with a base salary of $22.5 million in 2018, $27.5 million in 2019, and $29.5 million in 2020 with resulting cap hits of $24 million, $29 million, and $31 million in the next three seasons. He can be franchise tagged a final time in 2021 but it would cost the Vikings $44.64 million, according to The MMQB’s Albert Breer.

Cousins and his agent first approached the Washington Redskins in 2016 with the idea of a three-year, fully guaranteed contract, Breer adds, but the club opted instead to franchise tag him for two seasons.

Cleveland acquired Taylor from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a third-round pick last week. He’ll turn 29 in August and is coming off a 2017 season in which he recorded 2,799 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and four interceptions with a completion rate of 62.6 percent. He added another 427 yards and four touchdowns as a rusher. Taylor has never played a full 16-game season in his three years as a starter.

And while Cleveland lost franchise stalwart Joe Thomas to retirement, they signed right tackle Chris Hubbard to a five-year, $37.5 million deal, taking him away from division opponent Pittsburgh. They also added tight end Daniel Fells, whose specialty is blocking. If the Browns nail their draft, they could turn things around in a hurry. 2) Chicago Bears The Bears wanted to give Mitch Trubisky some serious options next season, and they have succeeded at doing so. Chicago signed wide receiver Allen Robinson to a 3-year, $42 million deal with $25 million guaranteed.

But regardless of what happens in the draft, Jackson said, the starter will be Taylor, whom the Browns acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Bills earlier this month. Jackson, who has won just one game in two seasons as Cleveland’s head coach, said it is the first time in his coaching career that he’s decided on a starting quarterback at this point in the offseason. 

Wright identified two potential emerging players in safeties Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson.

“Watching what he did off the field was just amazing,” Wright said. “He stood up when things were going on with police brutality and the stuff he does with his football camp and the way he stepped up to lead this team whenever we faced controversy.”

Besides having to replace all the talent, Wright said the Seahawks must now form camaraderie with new players and with backups being elevated to more prominent roles.

“You don’t get mad or upset at management,” said the 28-year-old Wright, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent himself in 2019. “It’s just that when a guy leaves like Sherm, for example, you have to rebuild that chemistry with someone else.”

Wright said the recently re-signed McDougald “is going to be tremendous for us” and pointed to Thompson having gotten “a few interceptions” off quarterback Russell Wilson during practice last season as a rookie.

“This is the NFL. A lot of guys are real talented,” Wright said. “I believe we have people who will step up for us.”

He has also been one of the league’s worst goal-line backs over the past two seasons.

There’s always a non-zero chance that a player like this takes a sudden leap forward in a new situation — Marshawn Lynch in Seattle is the famous example — but far more frequently, teams stifle their chances at finding a guy who will actually make a difference for them at running back at a fraction of the cost.

Crowell is more likely to block a useful Jets halfback than be one.

CB TJ Carrie, Browns Grade: C In a move which makes the Terrance Mitchell deal even more curious, GM John Dorsey made another move at cornerback by signing away Carrie from Oakland.

The 27-year-old gets four years and $31 million with $10 million in guarantees, suggesting he’ll challenge Jamar Taylor for a starting role across from Jason McCourty.

Carrie is a Bay Area native who suggested he didn’t want to leave Oakland, so it’s perhaps telling that the Raiders released both of their starting cornerbacks from last season and didn’t think it was worth matching this offer for a guy who was their best corner last season.

With Richard Sherman on the way out of Seattle, oddsmakers have already reacted.

At the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the Seahawks began the day as 25/1 long shots to win it all next season, the same as the 49ers, Chargers, and Chiefs. Within hours of Sherman’s release, those odds had slipped all the way to 30/1, placing the Seahawks in the same boat as the Panthers and Broncos.?

Bovada noted that Wilson’s presence will keep the Seahawks’ Super Bowl odds somewhat stable. The NFC West, however, isn’t the doormat it has been in recent seasons. Sean McVay led a resurgence in Los Angeles last year, the 49ers caught fire down the stretch behind new franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and the Cardinals still have a playoff-caliber defense. Few will count Seattle out completely, but winning their division, much less another Super Bowl, could prove to be a challenge with a new-look roster.

Arizona may feel that it’s a quarterback away, so it may make a heavy run towards Cousins. The Cardinals don’t have the money that the Vikings do at the moment, but the Vikings have a lot of players on young contracts that they’ll have to pay. With that in mind, the Cardinals may be able to give Cousins longevity. It would depend on how competitive he views Arizona, and if he believes the Cardinals truly are “a quarterback away.” The Vikings made it to the NFC Championship Game last year, so that will be hard to challenge.

Cousins threw for 4,093 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2017 before the Redskins agreed on a trade for Alex Smith. Although Cousins is still technically a Redskin until March 14, he’s not expected to suit up in burgundy next year.

Johnny Manziel is desperate for a return to the NFL, so it should come as no surprise that he would love to join the New England Patriots if given the opportunity. A TMZ cameraman ran into Manziel outside a restaurant in Los Angeles over the weekend and asked the former Heisman Trophy winner whether he would go to New England, which was suggested by an NFL Network analyst. Manziel said he would “in a heartbeat.”

Carlos Correa wants to be the best player in MLB

Carlos Correa has had lofty goals from the time he was nine-years-old, when he asked his father to put him in a bilingual school to learn english so he would be prepared to do interviews in MLB.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft has never been one to accept mediocrity and he has been anything but since coming into the league in 2015, and while he may not think he is the best player right, now he is willing to work to get there.

“I feel like I had a really great year last year, but there’s still many holes in my game I can fix in order for me to get better,” he said. “Obviously, my expectations are even higher than last year. With the experience I acquired last year and the things I’ve learned through the 2 1/2 years I’ve been playing in the big leagues, I’m thinking about becoming an even better player this year, and I know what I need to do in order for me to do that.”

Lucroy slashed 265/.345/.371 last season while splitting time between the Rangers and Rockies. Although he only hit six home runs last year he’s only one season removed from a career-high 24 homers.

He has been regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball during his career, even though the 31-year-old backstop’s defensive metrics have declined the past couple of seasons.

No, really. Actual rain in the Arizona desert. It rained for a long time Wednesday, in fact. Hours, not minutes.

That wasn’t exactly expected. Until Wednesday, this had been the ninth-driest winter in recorded Phoenix history, at just 0.44 inches of rain since the beginning of December. Ohtani, the two-way baseball superstar from Japan, is in Arizona for his first spring training with the Angels. In Anaheim, Calif., where his new — and very excited — franchise plays its home games, not much wet stuff falls from the sky during the season, either: 0.79 inches in April, 0.28 in May, 0.12 in June, 0.04 in July, 0.0 in August and 0.24 in September. seahawks_043_26981f75b9011279-180x180

Wizards need to start living up to expectations, Bradley Beal says

Bradley Beal is excited to be selected to his first All-Star game, but he has more on his mind than accolades.

When interviewed Tuesday by TNT, Beal was asked if he was frustrated by those calling the Wizards one of the more disappointing teams in the NBA. Beal isn’t upset because he can’t argue with the claims.

“Sometimes after the game we’re like, ‘Man, what just happened? What’s going on?’ We’ve got to figure it out,” Beal told TNT, via the Washington Post. “Granted, it’s a long year, we’re an experienced team, we’ve been in the trenches before, we’ve played in the playoffs, we know that we’re capable of making a run like everybody expected us to, but we’ve got to be more consistent with everything.”

Frontcourt: Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves. Towns had my vote as a starter. His scoring is down, but only because he’s taking fewer shots to accommodate Butler. He takes heat for the Wolves’ defensive problems, but they’ve improved there, and the guy is averaging 20.2 points and 12.0 rebounds while shooting 41.5 percent on 3s.

Frontcourt: LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs. Aldridge has held the Spurs together through the injury woes of star Kawhi Leonard, with 22.3 points and 8.7 rebounds. He will be a shoo-in for the All-Star team.

Both teams are obviously stacked with exceptional talent, but which one has the advantage according to an “NBA 2K18” simulation? In terms of pure ratings, that edge goes to Team LeBron, which totaled 10 more Overall ratings points.

In a game that sees very little effort on the defensive end of the court, however, there are other ratings categories that may better project an outcome. Again, any advantages are slight, but Team Stephen rates out better in 3-point shooting and passing while Team LeBron comes out on top in rebounding and finishing near the rim.

With all that in mind, a simulation was run in “NBA 2K18” with anticipated minutes and rotations, along with slider adjustments that were made to better represent the style of play in an All-Star Game. The results mirrored the last two years of games as the scores approached 200 for each team.lions_039