Give Robert Griffin III credit: On a night in which his Cleveland Browns played awfully, Griffin did what he could.
But RG3 was the second-best quarterback on the field Friday night. Top honors belong to Jameis Winston, who backed up offseason hype that was heaped on him.
Griffin had his moments. First he hit Josh Gordon — remember him? — on a 44-yard double move early against Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Brent Grimes. Then later, after the Bucs had built a 27-3 lead, Griffin fired a nice deep ball to Gordon again, delivering the pass before the safety could help and putting it where only his gifted receiver could make a play. The result was a 43-yard score.
Those glimpses should give Browns fans hope that they have two potentially great reclamation projects on their hands this season; three if you count Terrelle Pryor, who was quiet Friday (two catches, 15 yards) but has had a strong August. But there is a lot to work on around those players — and Gordon won’t be available until Week 5, which is also the return date for Tom Brady.
The Browns’ offensive line looked abysmal. Griffin was pummeled in the game, and though some of it might have been on him, there were times when he effectively scrambled from pressure and showed more awareness for his self-preservation than he did for most of his Washington Redskins career.
Winston got the help from his team that Griffin did not. The Buccaneers were challenged by head coach Dirk Koetter to start faster — in all three phases — after some so-so performances, both in the two preseason games and joint practices with the Jacksonville Jaguars. They did just that. Although the Bucs’ defense gave up some chunk plays, Griffin’s other six completions (besides the two Gordon bombs) netted a mere 32 yards. The Bucs did a solid job against the run and harassed Grffin thoroughly.
Meanwhile Winston looked terrific in his own right. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 259 yards and two TD passes, and helped convert 5 of 9 third downs, all from 5 yards or longer. Mike Evans might see 200 targets this season. He caught five passes for 115 yards and a pretty touchdown pass in which Winston put it up high where Evans could get it. A year after Evans battled the ball a lot, it appears he has his catching confidence back.
Winston also used his feet well, stepping up and sliding amid pressure and finding Charles Sims on a pretty 3-yard TD pass that was off script. It’s a terrific sign that Winston had that kind of control on Friday, and he did a good job of spreading the ball around well to Evans, Sims, Vincent Jackson and Adam Humphries, who appears to be nailing down the No. 3 WR role. Surely, Humphries running back a punt for a 73-yard touchdown won’t hurt his chances to have a significant role this season.
The Browns’ Hue Jackson and Koetter were named head coaches this offseason because of their ability to cultivate quarterbacks. The work Koetter did with Winston last season was noteworthy, and turning the ball over to him fully this season — with more of a hurry-up approach — could make Winston a sleeper MVP candidate. Jackson squeezing the most out of RG3 — and keeping defenses off balance with pace and formation variation — to the point where he’s a Comeback Player of the Year favorite.
There’s a lot of work ahead, and Winston was the stronger of the two on this night — and he appeared to have a far better supporting cast, too. But there is hope that we still could be talking about two of the better young (yes, RG3 is only 26) quarterbacks in the game this season.
The San Francisco 49ers don’t have a choice. Blaine Gabbert will be their Week 1 quarterback. As much for what Gabbert has done to this point as what Colin Kaepernick has not.
Friday’s game against the Green Bay Packers illuminated this point. Gabbert started and was fine: 2-of-3 passing for 14 yards, leading a scoring drive and scrambling for a nice 9-yard gain that showed off his athleticism. But hardly anything shocking — good or bad. Gabbert has been mostly steady, with a handful of really good days and a few poor ones, since the start of training camp, according to reports.
Kaepernick was running a clear second in that battle prior to missing time with shoulder soreness, and his Friday preseason debut didn’t do anything to change the pecking order. He completed two of his first three attempts (though looking a bit shaky and inaccurate on both) before misfiring on his next four passes. Kaepernick’s athleticism is still excellent, but his poise, pocket comfort and fluidity in running Chip Kelly’s offense all looked to be off-kilter.
The 49ers might have a solid run game and screen game, but they don’t have elite playmakers at tight end or wide receiver. So the likelihood is that the more accurate and poised of the two quarterbacks is going to be the one who is out there for the second game of the Monday night doubleheader in Week 1 vs. the Los Angeles Rams. Right now it’s hard to picture Kaepernick being that man.
There’s a sense that perhaps the 49ers are not in terrible shape defensively. But offensively is another question. The line is still in flux, the pass catchers are underwhelming and — most concerning — the quarterbacks have not been great. Gabbert has been fine, and that could work for Week 1. But how long will Kelly ride him? There’s no indication that either man is the apple of Kelly’s eye, or that anyone else on the roster (Jeff Driskel? Christian Ponder?) is either.
The way things are going in the preseason, Kirk Cousins might lead the NFL in pass attempts this season. The Washington Redskins’ run game looked bad entering Friday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, and another dose of bad news arrived when seventh-round running back Keith Marshall was knocked out of the game with an elbow injury (MRI scheduled for Saturday).
Keith Marshall left locker room with his left arm in a sling.
— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) August 27, 2016
But it made a problem worse, as expected starter Matt Jones already was sitting out this game with a shoulder injury. That might be good news for camp surprise Rob Kelley, who has impressed enough to perhaps earn a roster spot, or Mack Brown, who had a few moments in this game. But it’s likely bad news overall for a Redskins team that likely has held their only other experienced back, Chris Thompson, back out of fear of injury.
Cousins put up mostly good numbers against the Bills: 12-of-23 passing for 188 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. But most of that good work came in the final 10 minutes of the first half; prior to that Cousins didn’t look so good.
On the first TD pass, receiver Ryan Grant did much of the work. On the second scoring drive, Cousins benefitted from four Bills penalties — one negating an interception — before hitting Jordan Reed for a 20-yard score. The third drive right before the half was Cousins’ prettiest effort, driving 60 yards in 41 seconds, but he also left enough time on the clock to allow the EJ Manuel-led Bills to tack on a field goal before halftime.
Some of this is nitpicking. But Cousins is best when his attempts are kept down. Last season was as clear an indication of that as there could be.
In the first half of last season, he attempted 38.5 passes per game. Cousins averaged a mere 6.3 yards per attempt in that span and had 10 TDs to nine interceptions, and the Redskins were 3-5 in those games.
But once head coach Jay Gruden cut down his pitch count last season, Cousins was markedly better. In the final eight games — a night-and-day difference — Cousins attempted more than nine passes fewer per game (29.4) and yet had more passing yards. He averaged a whopping 9.4 yards per throw and had 19 TDs to only two INTs.
Call it how you like, but in Cousins’ franchise-tag season, he needs to throw less. Sadly, with the state of the run game right now, it’s hard to imagine the Redskins doing much on the ground if this carries over into the regular season.
Patriots 19, Panthers 17: It’s rare when Cam Newton is the third-most talked about quarterback in a game. But that was the case in Charlotte as Jimmy Garoppolo started for the Patriots, watched Tom Brady pitch a few innings of relief and then took the ball back. Brady was better than Garoppolo for sure. Newton also struggled, as both of these defenses had good moments. Former Panthers running back Tyler Gaffney, making a case to make the Patriots, had a solid night against the team that waived him with the hopes he’d slide through to injured reserve. The Patriots had other ideas two years ago when they claimed him — and they showcased him a bit Friday night.
Steelers 27, Saints 14: Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown looked to be in midseason form, as the two connected on all four passes between them. Brown totaled 87 yards and a 57-yard touchdown. No big deal. The mild surprise was how much Le’Veon Bell played, carrying the ball three times for 21 yards and catching five passes for 37 yards and looking good. But he was in the game after the Steelers’ starters left. The big news might be the injury to defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, who hurt his ankle and was seen in a walking boot. Losing him for any significant length of time would be massive.
• Good for Roberto Aguayo. The beleaguered Bucs kicker took a beating in public for the past week as he wasn’t right through the team’s first two preseason games. He turned things around beautifully on Friday, making 3-of-3 extra-point attempts and both field-goal tries, including a 48-yarder right down Broadway.
• Rex Ryan gave a number of Bills starters the night off against the Redskins. But not Tyrod Taylor, who took a beating in the game and likely will not suit up for the fourth preseason game. He was hit early, such as on his first two passes of the game, and often for such a short performance. It was a scary sight and a frightening reminder that the Bills can’t afford for Taylor to go down.
• The Redskins will hold their breath with the Ryan Kerrigan groin injury. He left after only one series against the Bills. They can’t lose their best all-around defender right as this group is starting to come into form. Luckily, Preston Smith made several big-boy plays in the game and appears ready for prime time. He has had an excellent summer.
• The Panthers also have to be a bit concerned. They saw their two starting offensive guards, Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell, plus punter Mike Scifres, go down against the Patriots. It’s not known how serious Turner (shoulder) and Norwell (ankle) are. Scifres has not looked good. The veteran’s knee has been an issue, and he left the game after his first kick of the night. The Panthers might be combing for his replacement as cutdown day approaches.
• The Patriots appear to have drafted an excellent punt returner. Cyrus Jones, who was exceptional at the job at Alabama, showed off that prowess with a 60-yard return (which he almost broke for a score) that set up a New England touchdown. The team typically has given Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola those duties, but both are working their way back into full health. Having Jones back there can allow the Patriots to feel comfortable about the duties, even with a rookie handling them.
• The Steelers still need help in the secondary. Rookie Sean Davis failed to find the ball in the air as Saints wide receiver Willie Snead hauled in a juggling touchdown on Davis’ watch. First-rounder Artie Burns has been out of action with injury. There might not be solutions on the roster to help at corner. The next few weeks will be interesting as they start looking ahead to get ready for the Redskins and good group of pass catchers in Week 1.
– – – – – – –
Phil Jackson has been the center of much media discussion since he took over as president of the New York Knicks in 2014. Every decision he makes regarding the team’s personnel is analyzed endlessly both for its impact on the Knicks’ future and his outlook on the sport as a whole. As one of the NBA’s best-ever coaches and a regular commentator on the state of the sport, Jackson’s moves carry an extra level of intrigue that others do not.
However, all that analysis has largely overlooked what Jackson says has been his worst move during his 18 months with the Knicks. He revealed that regret during a discussion with his old friend Charley Rosen, now of Today’s Fastbreak:
“I don’t consider hiring [Derek Fisher] a mistake because he worked hard and got the guys to stay as positive as possible while the losses piled up. I think the biggest mistake I made was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder.
“Anyway, for all of us, making mistakes are part of the learning process.
James Herbert of CBSSports.com notes that Jackson has confused some details — the Celtics weren’t involved in the trade — but the mistake is understandable given that Crowder now plays for Boston and because the conversation with Rosen is fairly loose. The point is the same no matter the details. Jackson had the chance to take Crowder and decided to go for the second-round pick that became a player who has not contributed much.
Nevertheless, it was an understandable error for Jackson. The fact that the Mavericks were willing to part with Crowder in the deal speaks to his perceived value at the time. The 6-6 wing turned 24 in July 2014 and had played 78 games (with eight starts) for a Dallas team that won 49 games and finished eighth in the West. He performed well as a young role player, but not so fantastically that he registered as anything more than a spot-up shooter and effort-minded defensive type off the bench. Crowder’s development into one of the league’s premier “3-and-D” wings didn’t really occur until the Mavericks traded him to the Celtics in the deal that brought back Rajon Rondo in December 2014. Players thrive in certain environments, and there’s no guarantee that Crowder would have blossomed in the same way at Madison Square Garden.
If Knicks fans can quibble with Jackson’s choice of his biggest mistake, it’s perhaps only in the sense that he picked a relatively minor decision instead of the kind of big-picture thinking that often determines a franchise’s priorities and long-term success. The quality of any one front-office move often comes down to luck — which players got drafted when and where, a personal preference in free agency, a secondary trade inclusion like Crowder, etc. The best general managers set a course for a franchise and make good moves more often than not, and the worst do the opposite. To put it another way, former Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn wasn’t bad at his job just because he picked two other point guards ahead of Stephen Curry. It was because that mistake was just one of several that indicated he was in over his head.
That explanation isn’t meant to slam Jackson, not least because he has to know a decision-maker is ultimately judged on his body of work. But it is a reminder that missing out on Jae Crowder will not mean much to his success with the Knicks. We care if he helps the Knicks transition into a brighter future built around a new core, not if he wins every single transaction.
– – – – – – –
Duke starting quarterback Thomas Sirk will miss the season after reinjuring the Achilles tendon he tore in February, according to multiple reports.
According to reports, the injury occurred Thursday and Sirk was evaluated Friday. The school has not made an official announcement.
This is the third Achilles injury for Sirk since 2013.
Sirk led the Blue Devils in passing with 2,625 yards and rushing with 803 yards last season. Sirk was the co-MVP of the Pinstripe Bowl.
In Sirk’s absence, redshirt freshman Daniel Jones has been taking the bulk of the first-team snaps.
For more Duke news, visit DevilsIllustrated.com.
– – – – – – –
It turns out baseball players are good for more than just throwing a baseball hard or hitting it far. They also serve as very good Olympic medal holders.
Much like Bryce Harper did for Katie Ledecky during her first pitch this week at Nationals Park, David Ortiz was put in charge of holding and protecting the Olympic medals of decorated American gymnast Aly Raisman while she threw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday night at Fenway Park.
During the 2016 games in Rio, Raisman added one team gold and two individual silvers to her two golds and one bronze from the London games in 2012. That’s a lot of hardware to lug around. They make throwing a ceremonial first pitch nearly impossible. So Ortiz pulled double duty, acting as the catcher for Raisman’s first pitch while sporting her medals around his neck.
That’s pretty awesome.
In a final season that’s been filled with milestones and parting gifts for Oritz, we’re guessing this ranked high among his favorite moments of the season. Ortiz himself has never appeared in the Olympics, which ls kind of a shame if you think about it. The next opportunity would come four years from now during the 2020 games in Tokyo, but he’ll be far removed from his playing days by then.
Oh well, at least on this one occasion he can say he felt what it’s like to have an Olympic medal placed around his neck.
Here’s to you, BIg Papi. And to you as well, Aly Raisman, for making your country proud.
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) August 27, 2016
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
Nykea Aldridge, a mother of four and cousin of NBA superstar Dwyane Wade, was shot dead as an innocent bystander on Friday afternoon in the Chicago area. Investigators indicated that Aldridge was pushing a baby stroller when a gunfight began in the Parkway Gardens neighborhood.
The city’s ABC 7 News has more details of the tragic shooting:
Nykea Aldridge, mother of four and cousin of Chicago Bulls star Dwyane Wade, was shot and killed by crossfire Friday afternoon in Chicago’s Parkway Gardens neighborhood. […]
Police said Aldridge was walking from the Dulles School of Excellence around 3:30 p.m. in the 6300-block of Calumet when two men approached another man in the vicinity and opened fire.
Aldridge, 32, was struck in the head and arm by crossfire. She was taken to Stroger Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Family members, including Wade’s mother, Pastor Jolinda Wade, to speak about Aldridge. Pastor Wade held her sobbing sister close the entire time.
“Just sat up on a panel yesterday, The Undefeated, talking about the violence that’s going on within our city of Chicago, never knowing that the next day we would be the ones that would be actually living and experiencing it,” Pastor Wade said.
Pastor Wade is referring to a panel on gun violence broadcast on ESPN on Thursday. Dwyane Wade also participated in that event but was not in Chicago on Friday. He voiced his heartbreak and anger over the news of Aldridge’s death on social media:
My cousin was killed today in Chicago. Another act of senseless gun violence. 4 kids lost their mom for NO REASON. Unreal. #EnoughIsEnough
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) August 27, 2016
Wade has been increasingly vocal about social issues in recent months, including during a high-profile appearance at the ESPYs in July. He has also said that he opted to join the Chicago Bulls over other suitors this summer because of the responsibility he feels to his hometown.
This terrible news only makes it more likely that Wade and other prominent NBA players will only continue to speak out on gun violence and other issues affecting American cities. A matter that was already very important to and deeply felt by Wade just got substantially more personal.
– – – – – – –
If it seems like there’s never a dull moment in the minor leagues, that’s because there’s truly never a dull moment in the minor leagues.
Even when Mother Nature unleashes her fury, minor league players find ways to turn a negative into a positive by making it something fun.
There’s no better example of that mindset and the creativity of said minor leaguers than the scene that played out Friday in Indianapolis.
The Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, were literally flooded out of the visitor’s dugout before their scheduled game against the Indianapolis Indians. But rather than heading for higher ground or leaving the ballpark all together, they turned the dugout into a recreational lake by turning inter-tubes into boats and their bats into paddles.
— Kevin Shackelford (@Shackeldaddy) August 26, 2016
— Rookie Davis (@rookdavis24) August 26, 2016
This is not behavior we would necessarily endorse, but who’s going to stop boys from being boys? Especially boys who have a game to play.
Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, the game would ultimately be postponed. That means they had to get out all their energy by rowing around the ballpark before getting in a bus to drive to Columbus for Saturday’s series opener. It’s not a long drive, but we’re guessing it will be an interesting one.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
You can call the third preseason game the dress rehearsal for NFL teams if you wish. But Andy Lee might just laugh at you. And we’re going to laugh at him.
It’s clear tat the Cleveland Browns punter is directionally kicking to the regular-season opener, if you know what we mean. Check out the effort — rather, the lack of — as Tampa Bay Buccaneers punt returner Adam Humphries flies by Lee to give the Bucs a 17-3 lead in the first quarter Friday night.
— NFL (@NFL) August 27, 2016
Yes, we get it. Lee has no business getting himself killed out there or pulling a hamstring and missing regular-season time. But the effort was so painfully bad, we just had to show you.
Naturally, the reaction on Twitter was mostly hilarious.
Andy Lee just ran slower than a 3rd grader coming in from recess.
— Dellavedova Facts (@DellyFact) August 27, 2016
Don't knock Andy Lee He is our best player we can't have him getting hurt.
— Shane Kline-Ruminski (@Skr_TNBA) August 27, 2016
— Ryan Beck (@beck_ryan8) August 27, 2016
Ryan has a point, you guys. Lee might have multiple Pro Bowls on his resume, but the numbers appear to back up his reputation as a terrible tackler in the regular season, too — even by punter standards. He has eight career tackles in 192 games according to NFL.com, and zero since 2010.
So yes, Andy, you get a pass on this one. But it doesn’t mean we can’t laugh at you for a moment.
– – – – – – –
It’s been a long time – a long time – since Tom Brady came off the bench for the New England Patriots.
And it is just the preseason, but that’s what happened Friday night, with the Patriots in Charlotte to play the Carolina Panthers in their third preseason game.
It was the first time since Sept. 23, 2001 that Brady was in uniform for New England but was not the starter. If that date doesn’t ring a bell, that’s the day Drew Bledsoe was crushed by the New York Jets’ Mo Lewis.
Jimmy Garoppolo, who will start the first four games of the regular season due to Brady’s suspension, started and played the first three offensive series. Brady came into the game with 1:56 left in the first quarter, and his first attempt was a quick 37-yard catch-and-run to Aaron Dobson.
It’s the first appearance of the preseason for Brady, who did not play in the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints (the team said he was out of town due to a death in the family), and last week against the Chicago Bears, when the Patriots scratched Brady after a mishap with scissors.
With the third-year Garoppolo getting his first starts, it made sense that he would start against the Panthers’ defense, which is one of the best in the NFL, particularly along the front seven. But Brady also wanted to get some live snaps; he isn’t tackled in practice, and getting to play in a game changes things.
“You’re getting hit so just the space awareness, guys around you and ball security and things like that,” Brady said at his news conference this week. “For whatever, the last 30 practices, quarterbacks aren’t touched. Just standing there in the pocket, holding the ball knowing that they’re coming to get the ball and knock it out of your hands, hitting the ground, those types of things and so forth are important.
“You just have to feel things out and the game is really the only place to get it because it’s regular speed. You don’t know what’s coming. We prepare, but we don’t obviously get to walk through the looks that we’re going to get. When you get out there you just have to make good decisions and go play quarterback the way that I’ve always tried to do.”
Brady’s second series ended with a perfect, 33-yard sideline touchdown to free-agent pickup Chris Hogan.
The player two former Kansas rowers accused of sexual assault reportedly transferred to Indiana State to continue his football career.
According to the Kansas City Star, someone familiar with one of the allegations identified the player as long snapper Jordan Goldenberg. He transferred to the FCS school but was taken off the school’s roster this week. Here’s what Indiana State said in a statement to the Star.
“Jordan Goldenberg Jr. has been removed from the Indiana State University football team, effective Aug. 25. The upper administration of the athletics department and football team recently learned more information about Goldenberg and after a review, decided it was best for him to focus on obtaining his degree.”
“Steps have been taken to ensure this situation is not repeated. Because of privacy limitations, the University will not release further details.”
– – – – – –
Basketball fans got a nice little diversion from the intensity of the NBA Finals this June when Under Armour released Stephen Curry’s signature Curry 2 Low “Chef Curry” sneakers, an all-white look seemingly built for nurses and dads. The internet mocked them without reservation or end, and you’ll still see a joke now if you hang around Twitter for an hour or two.
Under Armour says the shoes are selling well, which isn’t terribly surprising given that style-averse people make up a large portion of the nation’s consumer base. If you need more proof of their popularity, take a look at this video from GQ. They sought out dad-looking guys on the streets of New York City with a pair of the Chef Currys in tow and got some rave reviews:
I mean, yeah, that seems about right. The whole premise of the jokes about these sneakers was that they look like the anonymous all-white shoes that dads go for, so they obviously were totally into the Curry Lows. We appreciate that they took time away from making sure no one fusses with the thermostat to confirm it.
That doesn’t mean the video is unnecessary. We already knew that dads like these shoes, but that doesn’t detract from the value of seeing them show their appreciation with such supreme dadness. Get a load of how the first dad turns the shoes every which way to decide that they are “pretty sharp,” or how the dad at the 0:10 mark assuages our concerns that it might be too heavy to wear comfortably. The glasses dad at 0:20 even appears to be wearing an entirely khaki outfit!
In the end, there is no dad joke that can substitute for the image of a dad in his native environment.
– – – – – – –
With the college football season a week away – unless you’re Cal and Hawaii – teams are running out of time to name starting quarterbacks. And numerous teams made their starters known on Friday.
• Indiana said junior-college transfer Richard Lagow would start the team’s season-opening game vs. Florida International on Sep. 1. Lagow beat out Zander Diamont and Danny Cameron for the starting gig. Both Cameron and Diamont are listed as the team’s No. 2 QB. Lagow wears No. 21, which will take some getting used to. Not too many players start at quarterback while wearing No. 20 or greater.
Diamont threw 31 passes in 2015 while Cameron threw 16 as Nate Sudfield was the team’s primary quarterback.
• Western Kentucky named South Florida transfer Mike White its starter. White succeeds Brandon Doughty, who was a senior in 2015. White transferred from South Florida after the 2014 season. He spent time as the team’s starter in both 2013 and 2014 and had a completion percentage of 51.5 percent in those two seasons. That percentage will have to be much higher if WKU wants to continue the success it had with Doughty at QB.
• Oregon named FCS tranfer Dakota Prukop as the opening day starter. Given Prukop’s production at Montana State, it would have been incredibly surprising if Jeff Locke had won the starting job.
• Justin Holman will start at QB for Central Florida. Holman, who threw the majority of passes for the team in 2015, beat out Boise State transfer Nick Patti. Holman was 127-250 passing for 1,379 yards, seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season as UCF failed to win a game.
• Tulane said redshirt freshman Glen Cuiellette would start against Wake Forest in Week 1. Cuiellette beat out Johnathan Brantley and Darius Bradwell for the role, though new coach Willie Fritz said two quarterbacks would play. According to the Advocate, he declined to name who the second quarterback would be. Fritz came to Tulane from Georgia Southern and Bradwell had previously committed to GSU.
– – – – – – –
One of the biggest draft weekends is upon us. Let’s get down to brass tacks. Here’s a list of the main players in my fantasy portfolio to this point, a chunk of players who will define the success of my season, for good or for bad. (If you want the players I’m not drafting, that list is over here.)
And for what it’s worth, I’ve never drafted and pre-drafted as often as I have this summer. I’ve put in the reps. We’ll see where it takes us.
• Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks: It’s perfectly reasonable to use the R Word — Regression — when discussing Baldwin. Just make sure you start the conversation there, you don’t end it there.
Baldwin was the No. 2 fantasy receiver in the second half of 2015, a torrid two months (47-724-12). You’ll find no one who expects Baldwin to approach those numbers again. You don’t have to caution anyone about chasing last year’s stats, no one’s doing that.
But what will Baldwin regress to? Should we be more optimistic or pessimistic on him entering 2016?
I see all sorts of positives here. Baldwin got paid in the offseason; the Seahawks are committed to him as their No. 1 downfield option. He’s never going to be heavily peppered with targets, but every pass he sees comes from Russell Wilson, an elite quarterback. Seattle’s offense had a different shape to it down the stretch last year, a wildly-successful approach that will probably be replicated. And while Baldwin’s TD count isn’t something to go after, last year’s catch-and-yardage volume seems attainable to me.
Baldwin’s work ethic deserves some mention — he’s one of those players who desperately wants to be great. He’s got some Steve Smith in him, some Anquan Boldin; and let’s not kid ourselves, not everyone in the league approaches their craft this seriously. I’m taking Baldwin in the fourth round in most formats, an easy and comfortable slot. I see floor and upside here.
Fantasy Theme: Fade the Regression Police (sometimes)
• A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: Green was already on everyone’s radar, for the lovely fantasy floor he provides (WR14, WR4, WR5, WR23, WR8). But now the Bengals need to replace a boatload of targets — Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are gone, and Tyler Eifert is in limbo. Green averages 141 targets a year, but you get the idea he’s going far past that number in 2016 (stork notwithstanding).
Fantasy Themes: Increased opportunity; high floor meets high upside
• Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints: A common draft fork is Cooks vs. Mike Evans, a couple of dynamic third-year receivers. Cooks gets the check mark because he’s tied to a much better quarterback and offense. It doesn’t hurt that the Saints play indoors, and might have a shoddy defense again.
Fantasy Theme: When receivers are tied, let the quarterback break the tie
• Philip Rivers (and friends), QB, Chargers: Rivers was the No. 2 fantasy QB for two months last year, then Keenan Allen got hurt and things fell apart. A dream setup is in place for 2016: sketchy defense; sketchy running game; all sorts of weapons (Allen, Antonio Gates, even a reunion between Rivers and OC Ken Whisenhunt). You can get a solid QB value almost any time you want it in 2016; when I dip into the middle-round market, Rivers is my preference. I’m also significantly invested in Allen (a PPR god) and Gates.
Fantasy Themes: Boring but reliable veteran; go where the carnival is
• Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals: Although Hill’s efficiency fell through the floor last year — a fumbling problem didn’t help — he still led the NFL in rushing touchdowns, cushioning his fantasy tumble (RB13). And bless Hill for recognizing the problems in his game; he’s come to camp a more dedicated and prepared player this year. Don’t sweat the timeshare in the Cincinnati backfield; Hill and Gio Bernard (who I also have multiple shares of) are good at different things, and there isn’t a notable third option to get in the way.
Fantasy Theme: Not all time-shares are killers
• Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars: No matter what you think of Blake Bortles, I still want a healthy share of his receivers. Robinson has proven to be a bankable stud, dating back to his Penn State days — shining in spite of spotty quarterback play. Not everyone is sold on Robinson as a sure first-round fantasy pick, but he’s become my go-to in the second half of the first round, assuming Green is gone.
As for Hurns, if he merely comes in somewhere between his rookie season and last year’s breakout, you’ll at least get your investment back, perhaps some profit. I don’t see great receivers after the Allens, either; Jacksonville has a somewhat narrow usage tree, always a fun fantasy hack.
Fantasy Themes: Fade the regression police; invest in a narrow tree
• Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns: Hue Jackson might have another Hill-Bernard on his hands with Crowell (the banger) and Duke Johnson (the satellite player). Okay, it might be a discount rack Hill-Bernard imitation, but Crowell is for the lion’s share of carries here. The biggest reason I have so many Crowell shares — there’s nothing particularly exciting to his game. I’ve been gobbling up a boring value in the double-digit rounds.
Fantasy Theme: A solid-floor, low-ceiling player can make sense at the right price
Quick Hitters: When I get the No. 1 pick, I take Antonio Brown. No questions asked. When I get the No. 2 or No. 3 pick, I lean Odell Beckham over Julio Jones — more touchdown upside — but I’m fine with either . . . My Kamar Aiken stance hasn’t changed from a few weeks back, when this propaganda piece ran . . . Baltimore’s backfield is awfully crowded — you get the idea a big name will be cut between now and the opener — but Javorius Allen has youth and pass-catching ability on his side . . . Bilal Powell and Charles Sims are lottery tickets who might be immediately playable while we’re dreaming of a bigger role down the line . . . When I’m chasing a fantasy defense, the first thing I look for is a team in a winning situation. Week-to-week, let the point spread be your guide (and roll with favorites). Preseason, the over/under market is a good meter to follow. They’re unlikely to be the absolute best fantasy defenses, but in my Best Ball leagues, I have a number of Cincinnati, Green Bay, Pittsburgh and New England shares. They should be playing with leverage more often than not.
I don’t want to see Jamaal Charles get hurt, but I can’t overlook the medical file. Spencer Ware is a preferred lottery ticket of mine . . . I’d say Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are close to even money to outscore Cam Newton, but they come so much cheaper. I grabbed a few Luck and Wilson shares during the MFL season (where I drafted 55 times). Mind you, you can play this same game against any tier of quarterbacks — there’s always someone cheaper, always a value play later on. Rivers, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins are my favorite middle-round guys, and I have some Joe Flacco and Marcus Mariota interests . . . Has anyone ever regretted an Eric Decker investment? He always seems to be a good value . . . Jonathan Stewart is an Ibanez All-Star, the boring vet again . . . The Niners might be a mess, but someone has 70-80 catches coming. Is it Bruce Ellington? His abilities might best line up with Blaine Gabbert . . . In full PPR, I’m fine with Jarvis Landry in the third round. His reception floor is extremely high, and his touchdown count last year has to be a little bad luck given how much he saw the ball. The same general theme applies to Gio Bernard, a good target for the Zero-RB crowd (count me in). Bernard’s efficiency was fine last year, and I dare him to only score two touchdowns this time around. He had 15 in the two previous seasons. Think of it like a batter’s hit rate, a low BABIP unlikely to repeat. It’s not all luck, but some of it comes down to chance.
If you’re one of those baseball fans who loves a top-flight pitching matchup, then Friday night has a great game for you: Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox hosting Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners.
It’s two of the best pitchers in the American League the last five years and, great news, you can stream the game free, right here on Yahoo Sports. It’s our Free MLB Game of the day on the Yahoo Sports app, Yahoo’s Sports Home, MLB index, video home and this very post. Local blackouts apply, per MLB rules. First pitch is 8:10 p.m. ET.
King Felix isn’t having his best year, he’s just 8-4 with a 3.26 ERA, which is good by anyone else’s standards but just so-so for him. That’s because he’s been a perennial Cy Young candidate since 2009 (he won the award in 2010). So when you’re talking about the best pitchers in the AL, you’d still be wise to have his name in your mouth.
Sale, meanwhile, is a Cy Young contender this year. He was the AL All-Star game starter and ranks top 10 in wins, strikeouts and ERA. His 15-4 record puts him beyond only Rick Porcello and J.A. Happ if you care about pitcher wins. Sale’s ERA has jumped up a bit in the last few months — it was 2.29 at the end of May. His current 3.15 is nothing to scoff at, either way.
What makes Sale one of the most daunting pitchers in baseball is that he has the stuff to throw a no-hitter any time he’s on the mound. In his last start, Sale threw eight shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out eight.
Hernandez comes into the game looking to continue his best month of the season. He’s 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA in August. The Mariners have won each of his four starts.
You don’t have to be a fan of either team to appreciate this game. You just have to admire great pitching.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
In a surprising swap of respected veteran catchers, the Philadelphia Phillies sent Carlos Ruiz to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for A.J. Ellis on Thursday.
We say surprising, because it was a trade that literally no one saw coming. Both players were held in such high esteem by their now former teammates and seemingly by their former organizations that a straight-up deal would have been laughed off even if rumored.
There was no time for laughing though on Thursday. Not after the reality of the trade set in. There was only time for goodbyes, which were reportedly quick but emotional on both sides.
Here’s a pretty strong example courtesy of Jim Salisbury of Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. He shared a photo of the special goodbye note the man affectionately known as “Chooch” left on the whiteboard in the Phillies clubhouse.
In clubhouse. pic.twitter.com/FlCZ2cJx6C
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) August 26, 2016
The note reads:
I will miss all of you guys. Good luck the rest of the season. Love you all, Chooch.
He then ends with gracias, which of course means thank you in Spanish.
Ruiz had been a beloved member of the Phillies organization since signing as an amateur free agent in 1998. He was a big part of their string of five straight postseason appearances from 2007-2011, which included a World Series championship in 2008, and held a special bond with teammates past and present. Among them is former Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who shared the following quote in tribute to Ruiz on Thursday.
Chooch was the little engine that could for a team loaded with big names, but no player was more valuable to the team as a whole than Carlos! He was so humble and grateful, you couldn’t help but just want to do anything for him including win! He flawlessly handled one of the greatest pitching staffs ever assembled and was just as important offensively, as well. It was nothing short of miraculous that he could handle so many different personalities and approaches on a day-to-day basis the way that he did. He was the best catcher I’ve ever thrown to and, in my opinion, the best catcher in baseball in the years I was with him.
It’s going to be sad to see him without a Phillies uniform on and not seeing him sitting in his chair in the clubhouse with a smile. And just the way the fans treated Chase last week, Chooch is also deserving of that hero’s welcome. They are my two favorite players of all-time as well as favorite teammates. I was fortunate to have both of them in the clubhouse. I want to wish good luck to Carlos. Maybe one day when we’re old and gray we can come back to Philly!!
Ellis, on the other hand, had been with the Dodgers since being selected in the 18th round of the 2003 draft. Since debuting in 2008, he’s built a strong relationship with every pitcher he’s worked with. That’s especially true of Clayton Kershaw, who reportedly shed tears with Ellis after learning the news.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of history and a lot of emotion involved in a trade that may have only a minimal impact on the standings. But it also highlights the business side of a game that’s fueled by winning.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
Can Joey Logano win from the pole again at Michigan?
Logano got his second pole of the season Friday during qualifying for Sunday’s race at Michigan. He started first at the track in June and won the race, leading 138 of the race’s 200 laps.
“I was surprised after the first couple of rounds when we weren’t as fast as the last time we were here,” Logano said about Friday’s three-round qualifying session. “We were eighth going into the final round but great adjustments to find a little bit more speed out of this thing. I was down there waiting and [crew chief Todd Gordon] said, ‘Take it’ So I said, ‘Yeah, I am going to take it.’ So I got pumped up and I had the attitude that we were going to grab it or we were going to crash. It worked out well.”
Sunday’s race at Michigan will use the same lower-downforce rules tweaks that the Cup Series experimented with at the track in June. The reductions in downforce are expected to be used for the entire 2017 season.
Here’s how the field will line up behind Logano.
1. Joey Logano
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Chase Elliott
6. Alex Bowman
7. Ryan Blaney
8. Jamie McMurray
9. Carl Edwards
10. Ryan Newman
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Kyle Larson
13. Matt Kenseth
14. Martin Truex Jr.
15. Tony Stewart
16. Kyle Busch
17. Austin Dillon
18. Brad Keselowski
19. Kurt Busch
20. Paul Menard
21. Chris Buescher
22. Greg Biffle
23. Danica Patrick
24. Trevor Bayne
25. AJ Allmendinger
26. Aric Almirola
27. Clint Bowyer
28. Casey Mears
29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
30. Brian Scott
31. Regan Smith
32. David Ragan
33. Landon Cassia
34. Matt DiBenedetto
35. Sam Hornish Jr. (Michael McDowell will drive Sunday)
36. Michael Annett
37. Cole Whitt
38. Josh Wise
39. Reed Sorenson
40. Jeffrey Earnhardt
– – – – – – –
East Carolina dismissed defensive tackle Darius Commissiong on Friday after he was charged with felony animal cruelty.
If you’re brave enough to read the gory injuries Commissiong is alleged to have inflicted on a one-year-old Shih Tzu, you can click here to read the Greenville, North Carolina, Police Department’s Facebook post. The dog suffered multiple and incredibly severe injuries and died from the trauma. It’s especially harrowing to read on what’s been deemed National Dog Day.
Per the police, officers responded to an apartment at approximately 2 a.m. Friday. The apartment’s resident, a female, let the officers in and they saw the dog and its injuries. Witness descriptions of a person who was in the area at the time of the alleged incident led police to Commissiong.
“While we always want to be in a position to guide young people, unacceptable behavior such as this clearly crosses the line of humanity and simply will not be tolerated,” East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery said in a statement. “There’s a level of accountability which defines our program, athletics department and East Carolina University, and any conduct which isn’t congruent with those values is unwelcome here.”
Commissiong, a projected starter, is already no longer listed on East Carolina’s roster. A junior in 2015, he had 10 tackles. He transferred to ECU after he was dismissed from Georgia Tech in 2014 because of an NCAA student-conduct violation. He was one of three GT athletes dismissed at the time.
– – – – – – –
Conor McGregor may wear the crown as the UFC’s current pay-per-view king, but UFC president Dana White believes that the Irishman may simply be keeping the throne warm for a certain woman’s highly anticipated return to the Octagon.
White appeared on “The Herd” and stated that Ronda Rousey’s return would topple all UFC pay-per-view records set by McGregor, including his UFC 196 fight with Nate Diaz that raked in 1.5 million PPV buys and what appears to be yet another a million-plus buys estimated for UFC 202, where McGregor defeated Diaz by majority decision.
“I think that Ronda Rousey’s return will be the biggest pay-per-view we’ve ever done,” White said.
Despite being a huge star with crossover appeal, Rousey had only eclipsed the one million pay-per-view buy mark once as a headliner during her UFC tenure. And that particular fight was her shocking knockout loss to Holly Holm last November at UFC 193. Up until that point, Rousey was deemed as unbeatable by many and became must-see television whenever she fought. With each fight, her legend grew and the gap appeared to grow wider between her and the rest of the women’s bantamweight division. According to SportsBook Review, Rousey’s veil of invincibility was a huge factor during her rise as she was a heavy favorite in each of her UFC fights. Heading into the fight with Holm, Rousey was a -1250.
Her dominance in the Octagon led to roles in TV and film. But just as she appeared to peak as a mainstream superstar, she suffered the first loss of her MMA career against Holm and hasn’t been back in the Octagon since.
There was initially hope that Rousey would return in time for the UFC’s first event in New York at UFC 205 on November 12. However, White stated under no uncertain terms that Rousey would not be available to compete. She has reportedly been healing from a number of minor surgeries in preparation for her return. It’s likely that Rousey will return early in 2017 and White is optimistic that she’ll shatter the PPV numbers set by McGregor, UFC 100 and UFC 200.
“If you had told me 15 years ago that women would be fighting in the UFC – and if you told me that women would be as technically sound as the men and the fights would be loved by millions of people all over the world and it’d be the hottest thing going on in the UFC – I would have never believed it,” White said.
White had promised that Rousey would be immediately thrust into a title fight upon her return. Since her loss, the UFC women’s bantamweight champion has belonged to three different women (Holm, Miesha Tate and the current champion, Amanda Nunes).
Baseball as it looks right now has a decent number of sure things considering it’s still August: The Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals would have to really mess up to miss the playoffs.
Despite that, there’s not a lack of contenders around baseball. Both the AL and NL wild cards look wide open, with a dozen teams within four games of a postseason berth. They won’t make it, of course. That’s the nature of these things. So for this week’s Big League Stew roundtable, our staff is looking at which teams are most likely to blow it down the stretch.
Take a look at our picks, then add your own in the comments.
The Dodgers have gone from big spenders to underdogs thanks to a historic rash of injuries. On Tuesday, they tied a dubious major-league record by placing their 27th different player on the disabled list. That goes beyond being unlucky into the realm of the absurd, yet they’ve still managed to climb to the top of the NL West. The question now though is can they continue holding strong down the stretch? I have my doubts about that.
The war of attrition that is baseball season challenges every team. When you’re fighting uphill as long the Dodgers have been though it’s going to catch up eventually. Even with the newfound optimism surrounding Clayton Kershaw, they’re going to be digging deeper and deeper into their talent pool after losing Scott Kazmir and Brett Anderson … again. And there’s really no guarantee Kershaw will hold up either.
There are too many questions and not enough healthy bodies to bet on the Dodgers finishing strong. It may not be a matter of them falling apart though as much as running out of the duct tape that’s currently holding them together. (Mark Townsend)
For months now, the Orioles have exceeded expectations despite an iffy pitching staff. Some of that was expected, as the team loaded up on 30-plus home run hitters and hoped for the best.
While Baltimore is clearly a good team, and a much better one than people expected coming into the year, a recent run of injuries and ineffectiveness have put them in a shaky spot. Chris Tillman’s 3.76 ERA resurgence had become a key part of the club outperforming early on. Now, he finds himself on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. And though Dylan Bundy has looked solid as a starter thus far, he’s never shown the ability to hold up in the role and could wear down in the next few weeks.
Those things make it tough to count on the Orioles hanging in the race down the stretch. Sure, they’ve proved people wrong all season, but their path to the playoffs looks a lot more difficult now that Tillman is out of commission. (Chris Cwik)
With the AL East race so tight, it won’t take much of a stumble to eliminate one of them from the race. And the Toronto Blue Jays have plenty of potholes they could fall into. Their rotation, which has been strong all year, has been remade into a six-man rotation to limit Aaron Sanchez’s innings. But to do that, that means everyone gets a longer rest between outings. And for pitchers who are used to pitching every fifth day, that could be dangerous.
Even more dangerous is the Blue Jays’ offense, which hasn’t exactly been inspiring. They’re currently 13th in the American League in average, beating only Houston and Tampa Bay. Plus, Jose Bautista has had a disappointing season that’s included two trips to the DL and his worst numbers since 2008. Quiet bats have killed the playoff chances of many teams, and it’s possible that the Blue Jays could be next. (Liz Roscher)
I’m probably picking the lowest common denominator here, but there’s only one true answer to this question for me: The Miami Marlins. And if you’ve followed baseball even remotely the past few you’re years, you’ve read those words, nodded your head and said, “Truuuuuue.”
The Marlins have a knack for messing everything up. So why should we expect anything else from the 2016 version? Kudos to them, they’ve been better than expected and hung in there despite losing Dee Gordon to a PED suspension, having to trade back one of their trade-deadline acquisitions and eventually losing Giancarlo Stanton to injury.
Somehow they’re still in the wild-card hunt (1.5 out coming into Friday’s action). My anti-Marlins pick isn’t just piling on to their bad reputation. Andrew Cashner has been pretty good since coming over from San Diego, but not so good that they don’t have rotation questions anymore. And losing Stanton makes their offensive a lot less dynamic. It’s hard to imagine these Marlins — as surprisingly good as they’ve been — beating out the rest of the field in the NL wild-card hunt. (Mike Oz)
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
A woman believes Kansas coach David Beaty saved her son’s life in 2013 at a trampoline park.
Beaty, then an assistant at Texas A&M, was in the Houston area at a Cosmic Jump with his family. Max Menchaca was on a trampoline slide at the park and ended up falling through a tear in the trampoline at the end of the slide.
He landed head-first five feet below on a concrete surface and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Menchaca’s mother, Trace, posted the story of Beaty’s kindness after the accident to Facebook on Thursday. Beaty was nearby when Max fell through the trampoline and Trace said Beaty “literally dove in after him. He talked to him, comforted him, reassured him and held him tight during his grand mal seizures.”
sweet lil story pic.twitter.com/MQomKVPtvo
— lea(h) (@leamenchaca) August 26, 2016
A jury awarded the Menchaca family $11.5 million in damages in February. Max suffered a serious brain injury as a result of the impact with the concrete and has needed to undergo both physical and speech therapy.
While the family are Oklahoma State fans, Trace said they’ll be cheering for Beaty when the Jayhawks play the Cowboys on Oct. 22. She said they’ll be in attendance at the game at Kansas as Beaty’s guests.
“We are honored to be his invited guests at the Kansas v. OSU game in October. What an exciting blessing to get to meet this amazing person. yes we are now OSU Cowboys, but on that day we will all be wearing blue for the man in blue.”
– – – – – – –
Arizona football is at it again. This time, with “Gladiator.”
Roughly a year after the team did a James Bond parody where coach Rich Rodriguez played the role of Bond and even rappelled in the stadium.
Now he’s channeling Russell Crowe. We are definitely entertained.
Arizona’s video department deserves a hearty raise after this series of videos. The program did a “Speed” parody when pace of play and substitutions were a hot topic and started the series off with a western.
We’re also wondering what movie the team should parody next. Rodriguez would be a good Austin Powers. Jason Bourne, maybe?
– – – – – – –
Fantasy experts Andy Behrens and Scott Pianowski closed out Yahoo Sports’ six-straight days of Facebook Live Q&As on the Yahoo Sports page on Friday. They kicked things off by talking players they own the most shares of and then took your questions.
Scott loves Doug Baldwin, while Andy sees Michael Floyd riding the momentum of the end of last season into 2016 and has WR 1 upside.
Here are some of the other highlights:
3:15 mark: How do you think Josh Gordon will do this season?
4:45 mark: Do you take Golden Tate over Doug Baldwin?
6th minute: Does Tyler Lockett have top 15 potential?
7:40 mark: Why is Latavius Murray so low on Yahoo rankings?
12:45 mark: How is Kevin White coming along and is he in Jay Cutler’s Circle of Trust?
13:55 mark: Finishing off on the Bears, Andy is worried about Alshon Jeffery.
14:55 mark: Is Amari Cooper a top 10 WR?
15:50 mark: Which Browns RB is going to emerge?
17:10 mark: Does drafting WR heavy work ? And if so, when should you take your first RB/QB?
18:55 mark: Christine Michael in later rounds or Thomas Rawls in earlier rounds?
21:15 mark: Andy and Scott came away impressed with Ezekiel Elliott against a tough Seattle defense.
25:20 mark: Is Michael Thomas good enough to command enough looks from Drew Brees to become a consistent TD producer?
26:40 mark: Best TE after Gronk?
28:43 mark: What do you expect out of C.J. Anderson?
30:22 mark: Is Carlos Hyde worth a fourth-round pick?
31:45 mark: Mike Evans or Jordy Nelson?
35:15 mark: Where does Jarvis Landry fit in on the WR tier?
36:25 mark: Odell Beckham Jr. or Julio Jones with the second pick?
39:02 mark: Who will be Bills running back at the end of the season?
42:50 mark: How soon is too soon for Derrick Henry?
45:05 mark: Eddie lacy or Mark Ingram in .5 PPR?
46:02 mark: Andrew Luck or Drew Brees?
47:25 mark: Why are Andy and Dalton down on Matt Ryan?
50:15 mark: Projecting Isaiah Crowell’s season
51:05 mark: What is Jamal Charles’ outlook?
Fantasy experts Andy Behrens and Scott Pianowski handed out free advice during the fifth of six-straight days of Q&As on Facebook Live on the Yahoo Sports page. They kicked things off by talking overall draft strategy and then took your questions.
Scott, who has completed a mind-boggling 55 drafts, is going receiver heavy early. Andy doesn’t want to lock into a particular strategy going into a draft and would rather see how things unfold and react accordingly. He does admit the “swing for the fences” way to go is still sticking with a running back.
Here are the other highlights:
3rd minute: Strategy in a PPR league with the 12th overall pick.
5:45 mark: What sleeper is a good stash for your bench?
9:10 mark: Amari Cooper or Brandon Marshall?
11:30 mark: Who are your top 3 RBs in PPR?
13:40 mark: Fifth pick in PPR league. Who would you pick?
14:55 mark: In a 12-team league, is Rob Gronkowski a definite keeper?
15:55 mark: Thoughts on Thomas Rawls.
18:21 mark: Examining the Denver QB situation and how it could impact other key fantasy assets.
21:30 mark: Best discount defense?
23rd minute: Where do you see Marvin Jones going in the draft in a standard league?
24:45 mark: Andy and Scott are both high on Philip Rivers
27:30 mark: Keenan Allen or Mike Evans in PPR?
30th minute: Will Ben Roethlisberger be hurt by the injuries and suspensions to teammates?
32:20 mark: Jeremy Langford or Arian Foster?
34:35 mark: Prospects for Jaguars various assets.
38:55 mark: Will Marcus Mariota take a step forward?
41:23: Breakout WR candidates? Any of the second-year guys jump in production?
44th minute: Is there any reason to stress about Antonio Brown as the top pick?
45:50 mark: Advice for an auction draft
46: 45 mark: Carlos Hyde getting overlooked?
48:30 mark: ZeroRB strategy
50th minute: If you have Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, when do you drop Williams or do you keep both?
51:10: Is Devonta Freeman worth a first-round pick off a big 2015?
Marshall has dismissed one of its most-experienced defensive backs.
Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday announced Friday that safety Tiquan Lang is no longer with the team “due to a violation of team rules and policies.”
Lang was a key member of the Herd’s secondary in 2015, but was arrested in May on multiple charges. According to the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, Lang was found asleep in a running vehicle and police found a firearm “partially concealed” under the front seat and Xanax in the center console. He was facing misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence, possession of a concealed deadly weapon and possession of a controlled substance.
He missed Marshall’s spring game following the arrest.
In three seasons with the program, Lang totaled 195 tackles, 15 pass breakups and four interceptions in 36 games. In 2015, he had 91 tackles and two interceptions, both of which were returned for touchdowns against Purdue.
Coming off a 10-3 record in 2015, Marshall opens its season Sept. 10 against Morgan State.
For more Marshall news, visit HerdNation.com.
– – – – – – –
A man wearing hockey goaltending equipment broke into a Russell, Manitoba convenience store and stole three cases of Budweiser.
According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the thief and an accomplice threw a rock through the store’s glass door before breaking in to take the brew.
“It was different,” RCMP Cpl. Brett Church told the Free Press. “I’ve never seen that before. Very bizarre.”
He later added, “He was wearing everything but a (goalie) mask.” The man reportedly had a tuque pulled over his head. A video of the Aug. 15 theft is above. Another similar robbery reportedly happened a day earlier.
The manager of the store seemed to find humor in the heist, according to the Free Press.
Jean Betke manager of the convenience store, told the Free Press the vendor was broken into the previous night. Early Sunday, a suspect threw a rock through the exit door, rushed in and grabbed two cases of beer.
Early Monday morning, the rock went through the entrance door — and the bandits made off with three cases.
“Budweiser,” Betke said.
Betke said she provided the RCMP with surveillance video without seeing it first. She learned it was a hockey-themed heist when she read the RCMP report published Tuesday in the Russell Banner.
“I just laughed out loud,” she said.
The robbery captured the attention of former NHL defenseman Cale Hulse, who tweeted out a photo of a newspaper story about the heist.
Only in Canada pic.twitter.com/1z7NNdzgIP
— cale hulse (@calehulse32) August 25, 2016
According to Global News, the RCMP sent out a release also poking fun at the robbery.
“He may have been a defenceman or forward in disguise as he was wearing jersey number 17 – a non-traditional number for goalies,” the RCMP said.
The RCMP also tweeted out their tip hotline with the video.
“#17 in your program but #1 on the Russell
#rcmpmb wanted list. Call 204-773-3051 with information,” they said.
Global says that no arrests have been made and the damage of the robberies equated to about $2,500.
– – – – – – –
Someday, Vladimir Sobotka will return to the NHL and fulfill the year of service he owes the St. Louis Blues following the 2014 arbitration decision that was made a week after he signed with Omsk of the KHL.
He could have returned this past season, but Sobotka elected to remain in the KHL and posted an 18-goal, 34-point season and helped Omsk to within a game of the conference final.
The 29-year-old Sobotka could have left after the 2015 IIHF World Championships via an out clause in his contract, but chose against making an NHL return after signing a three-year, $12 million-plus deal to play in Russia in 2014. Once again, it’s the off-season and speculation has been rife about whether or not he’ll be in the Blues’ lineup this fall.
Sobotka’s agent, Petr Svoboda, has consistently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford and Blues GM Doug Armstrong that his client would be coming back to the NHL for the 2016-17 season. Omsk’s GM, however, told Russian media last week that the forward would be back with his side after he recovers from off-season back surgery. “Forget about St. Louis and other nonsense,” he added.
On Thursday, following the naming of Alex Pietrangelo as the team’s new captain, Armstrong reiterated that Svoboda has told him Sobotka will be a Blue this season and will join the team following the World Cup of Hockey, where he’ll represent the Czech Republic.
Armstrong, who is general manager of Canada’s World Cup entry, will get an early look at Sobotka when the two sides meet on the opening day of the tournament in Toronto. And like Blues fans everywhere, he sounds like he won’t believe the player will be back on the roster until he sees it.
“It’s one of those ones where I understand everyone’s nervousness because he’s not here,” Armstrong said via the Post-Dispatch. “But he’s not going to be here until after the World Cup, so I think the questions are going to persist until he gets off the plane at Lambert (Airport) and comes into the Mills or to Scottrade. When he does that, this will finally be behind us.”
St. Louis currently has 13 forwards under contract and a little over $3 million in cap space, according to General Fanager. Sobotka’s one year of service will mean $2.725 million added to the Blues’ cap.
– – – – – – –
When Tyler Eifert started jogging this week he said he was hoping to play in the Cincinnati Bengals’ regular-season opener. That seemed overly optimistic, considering he was just starting to jog this week.
A more realistic timetable was given on Friday. The Bengals’ tight end should be able to return from ankle surgery sometime about Week 4-6. The surgery was a result of an injury in the Pro Bowl. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on the new timetable, and said Eifert is hoping the return comes in Week 4.
Of course, try to find an athlete who hasn’t predicted he’d be back at the earliest possible date. Even if Eifert is right and he’s back in Week 4, or even Week 6, there will still be a big hole in the Bengals’ offense. Cincinnati lost receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency. Eifert had 13 touchdowns last season and was one of Andy Dalton’s favored targets, especially in the red zone. Aside from A.J. Green (and heck, maybe even he will miss a game), the Bengals won’t have much of their very successful pass game from last year on the field for the start of the 2016 season.
There’s no real guarantee Eifert just picks up where he left off, either. He didn’t even start jogging until the preseason was half over, about seven months after the Pro Bowl injury, so obviously this was no minor injury. It’s just as likely we don’t see the Eifert we’re used to seeing until the second half of the season.
At least there’s a timetable for his return now. The Bengals just have to figure things out until he’s ready to come back.
– – – – – – –
Former Mississippi State defensive back Deontay Evans has landed in Conference USA.
Evans has officially been added to Middle Tennessee’s roster after deciding to leave the Bulldogs in July. Evans, a fifth-year senior, is listed on MTSU’s website as a graduate student and should be immediately eligible to play in 2016 for the Blue Raiders.
Evans played in 39 games (three starts) for MSU over the past three seasons but was unlikely to crack the starting lineup this season. During his time with the Bulldogs, he totaled 86 tackles, five passes defended and one forced fumble.
The 5-foot-10, 207-pound Evans will provide depth for the Blue Raiders at safety. Per the Daily News Journal, Jovante Moffatt and Alex Dale are expected to start.
Middle Tennessee opens its season Sept. 5 at home against Jackson State. The Blue Raiders went 7-6 in 2015.
– – – – – – –
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A photo posted by @jfranzen93 on Aug 26, 2016 at 4:33am PDT
• Johan Franzen figured out what happened to Dwight Schrute’s cousin Mose after the The Office went off the air. Turns out he’s actually Dylan Larkin. [@jfranzen93]
• Jhonas Enroth will replace Robin Lehner on Team Sweden for the World Cup of Hockey. [NHL]
• Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray explains why the team felt it was better for Lehner to skip the World Cup and continue to rehab his nagging ankle injury. [@BuffaloSabres]
• Marc Savard spoke at length about life after hockey, a career with the Bruins, health, and family, and how complicated the intertwining of all of them are now. [Stanley Cup of Chowder]
• Getting to know the new coach of the Colorado Avalanche, Jared Bednar, from the players who’ve played for him before. [Denver Post]
• New York Rangers sign free agent forward Brandon Pirri to a one year deal worth $1.1-million. [Blue Seat Blogs]
• Taylor Hall speaks honestly about the trade that sent him to the New Jersey Devils. He took it personally and likened it to a breakup. [THN]
• Scott Luce, former Director of Amateur Scouting with the Florida Panthers, has been hired to the same position with the Las Vegas franchise. [Sin Bin]
• Why the David Bolland and former first-round pick Lawson Crouse trade to the Arizona Coyotes from the Florida Panthers by ‘new school management’ with both teams is ‘bad optics’ for the NHL brass. [Ottawa Citizen]
• Tyler Ennis played in only 23 games last season after suffering two concussions. The forward admitted he was scared he wouldn’t recover and details his attempts to rebuild his career. [Edmonton Journal]
• Highlights from Roman Josi’s chat with Scott Burnside about the P.K. Subban for Shea Weber trade and getting over the Game 7 loss to San Jose. [On The Forecheck]
• Hampus Lindholm contract negotiations, Vegas franchise name, veterans available, and more storylines that need resolutions as the offseason winds down. [USA Today]
• “All Dawn Braid wanted was an opportunity to do what she loved – teach skating – at the highest level possible. While she may not have broken through the glass ceiling, she certainly cracked the Plexiglas. Braid was hired by the Coyotes Wednesday as a skating coach and is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.” [AZ Central]
• Exploring why has it taken the men’s professional leagues so long to add female full-time coaches to their staffs? [Arctic Ice Hockey]
• Catching up with new Boston Bruin David Backes (still weird) as he heads home to Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minnesota. [Bruins]
• Patric Hornqvist was the Mr. Irrelevant of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He never let that stop his drive for success. Seems to have worked out well being a Stanley Cup winner and all. [ESPN]
• Mike Heika’s theories on why Dallas Stars fans are insistent on trading Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi. [Dallas News]
• Why Zach Parise is Team USA’s best option at captain for the World Cup. [Gone Puck Wild]
• Debating the World Cup of Hockey jerseys from first to worst. [Lightning Shout]
• Toronto Leafs approached Los Angeles Kings prospect Nikolai Prokhorkin about coming to the NHL. Prokhorkin, playing in the KHL, has drawn interest from several teams, but they shouldn’t expect to see him in North America soon. [Leafs Nation]
• The New York Riveters struggled with depth scoring this past season. Rookie forward, Miye D’Oench, could be the fit the team needs to balance out the scoring lines. [Today’s Slapshot]
• Projecting the Top 25 defensemen for the 2016-17 season. [Yahoo! Sports]
• Fantasy hockey: Part One of a series on players expected to regress from their 2015-16 season stats. [Dobber]
• Danil Antropov, son of former NHL’er Nik, left his family in their native Kazakhstan (where his day played in the KHL) at 13-years-old to go back to Canada to purse his hockey dreams. Now 15, he’s starting to turn heads as he preps for his first season with the Oshawa Generals. [IIHF]
• Reflecting back on the historic 1972 Summit Series pitting Canada against the USSR. [The Bloggers’ Tribune]
• Finally, the official trailer for the documentary ‘Ice Guardians’ about enforcers and controversial role they play in hockey right from many of the men who’ve lived the role.
– – – – – – –
The Chicago Cubs had a day off Thursday before starting a weekend series in L.A. against the Dodgers, so Ben Zobrist earned himself about a million dad points by taking his kids to Disneyland.
We’re in the dog days of August, folks, the time of year that baseball players cherish their days off. Doing a full day at Disneyland with three young children is exhausting for anyone, let alone someone whose job it is to play 162 baseball games per year.
So kudos to Zobrist for not only braving Disneyland but also singing “Let It Go” from “Frozen” at the top of his lungs with his daughter during the evening fireworks show. It’s nothing short of adorable.
It started at the crack of dawn on a sunny morning in LA…14 hours and 14 theme rides later I found myself belting let it go while flurries fell and fireworks lit up the sky. Daddy duty till I literally got caught drooling on myself this afternoon. I would not trade one second of this for all the me time in the world. #offdayatdisney
A video posted by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on Aug 25, 2016 at 11:04pm PDT
His caption reads:
It started at the crack of dawn on a sunny morning in LA…14 hours and 14 theme rides later I found myself belting let it go while flurries fell and fireworks lit up the sky. Daddy duty till I literally got caught drooling on myself this afternoon. I would not trade one second of this for all the me time in the world. #offdayatdisney
It’s not easy to be a baseball dad, not with the intense schedule and long road trips. So apparently when Zobrist has the opportunity to go into full Dad mode at Disneyland he just … can’t hold it back anymore.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
Let’s be clear: Both sides are to blame for the Joey Bosa holdout.
This shouldn’t happen anymore. We haven’t seen a holdout like this since 2009, when Michael Crabtree held out until early October after being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. The new collective-bargaining agreement was supposed to eliminate these disputes.
But the San Diego Chargers and Bosa, the third overall pick out of Ohio State, have found a way.
Bosa hasn’t signed because of offset language and the timing of his signing bonus, and the Chargers turned it into a public battle this week by making details of negotiations public. Everyone seemed to take a side.
Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman wrote that he talked to unnamed NFL general managers and there was “unanimity” that the Chargers were to blame.
“I cannot stress this enough. Every team I speak to thinks the Chargers are ruining Bosa. They are laughing at the Chargers,” Freeman wrote.
Freeman cites three unnamed general managers, and you have to assume there are others around the league who would not side with the player holding out over what seems like a relatively minor contractual detail. But it’s clear at least some teams don’t understand why the Chargers are taking this stance.
The Chargers made a point to say Bosa would get 85 percent of his signing bonus in this calendar year, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. Bosa’s agents didn’t want to negotiate in public so we’re stuck with the Chargers’ side of that story.
But the problem, which Freeman wrote about, is Bosa’s rookie season is pretty much a waste at this point. Unless he’s a transcendent player, you have to figure he will be nothing more than a role player as a rookie — and that assumes he signs relatively soon, which is no guarantee.
Here’s roughly what this comes down to, if you believe the Chargers. They have offered to pay Bosa 85 percent of his signing bonus this year, according to the Union-Tribune. His signing bonus is about $17 million. The Union-Tribune reported that Bosa’s side came down from their demand of 100 percent being paid out this year (which is the typical concession when there’s no offset language included), but not enough for the Chargers to agree. So let’s guess when Bosa’s agents came down off 100 percent, they asked for 95 percent to be paid out this year. That would be a 10 percent difference: $1.7 million. So the third pick of the draft is not with his team because both sides refuse to budge over when, not if, $1.7 million is paid to Bosa.
Although both parties have more than their share of blame over the situation, the Chargers have more to lose. For anyone who says that Bosa is giving up a year of earning ability, there’s no logical reason why sitting out this season would cut a year off his career expectancy. If Bosa re-enters the draft — granted, I still think it’s a long shot he’ll sit all season — he’ll still be a high pick. Maybe his 2017 rookie deal will be worth less because he won’t go third overall again (hence, why he’s screwing this up too), but he’d still be a high pick and get paid well. The Chargers, if they don’t sign Bosa, lose the third pick of the draft and get nothing in return. All over setting a precedent over the timing of probably about $1.7 million in bonus money.
Perhaps this fiasco comes to an end soon. But you have to wonder what kind of damage has already been done, for both sides.
– – – – – – –
Texas Rangers relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress was arrested for DWI after an early Friday morning traffic stop that, according to authorities, was equal parts dangerous and embarrassing.
Take it away, Dallas Morning News:
He was stopped about 2:30 a.m. Friday in Uptown, in the 2400 block of Mahon Street near Maple Avenue and Cedar Springs Road, after he changed lanes without signaling and almost hit a car, police said.
An officer reported Jeffress’ breath smelled like alcohol and his eyes were “bloodshot, watery and glassy,” the warrant says. He told the officer that between 12:15 and 1:15 a.m., he had three or four cups of Hennessy cognac mixed with Coca-Cola.
During sobriety tests, he could not keep his balance or stand on one leg, an affidavit said. He also urinated on himself.
Wait, what? Oh. That’s quite a final detail.
The rest of this ordeal is bad enough — the alleged drinking and reckless driving certainly isn’t something to gloss over — but actually peeing on himself during the traffic stop is going to earn Jeffress a special spot in the annals of Athletes Behaving Badly.
According to The Morning News, Jeffress, 28, was released on $500 bail at 11 a.m. local time Friday after spending about six hours in jail. Rangers GM Jon Daniel said Friday afternoon that Jeffress was placed on the restricted list for Friday night’s game, but the move will only be for one day. Earlier in the day, the team released a statement acknowledging what happened:
“The Texas Rangers are aware of the situation involving Jeremy Jeffress that took place early this morning. At this time, we are in the process of gathering information and have no further comment.”
Jeffress is a recent addition to the Rangers. He came over from the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline. He has a 4.00 ERA in nine games since joining the club. In the minor leagues, he was suspended twice for using marijuana, which cost him a total of 150 games between 2007 and 2009. Jeffress, however, said he used marijuana to control his epilepsy.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
College football coaching is a competitive business and if you’re not winning now, you could find yourself out of a job.
Several coaches are facing that very real possibility as we head into the 2016 season after struggling the season before. It’s never too early to get the coaching carousel up and running, so here’s a look at the Top 10 coaches facing the hot seat this season.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
It wasn’t long ago when Sumlin was the king of College Station. In his first year with the program, Sumlin won 11 games and had a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Johnny Manziel. The school started investing in the program by upgrading its facilities and giving Sumlin a raise. However, the honeymoon was short-lived and the Aggies’ win totals have declined while off-field incidents involving players and coaches have been on the rise. Still Sumlin has won 36 games in four seasons at A&M, more than any Aggie coach in a four-year span since R.C. Slocum in the early 90s.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Holgorsen was almost on his way out last year, but a half-hearted vote of confidence kept him in his current position. Holgorsen won 10 games in the Big East in his first season with the Mountaineers, but it’s been tough for him to field a competitive team in the Big 12, and the win totals have declined because WVU can’t pad its schedule with five nonconference games. Last year’s eight wins was Holgorsen’s best as a member of the Big 12, but that’s not going to cut it this year if he wants to keep his job.
Les Miles, LSU
Miles was all but fired heading into the final regular season game against Texas A&M, but his AD created such an epic PR nightmare that Miles ended up keeping his position and now he has a team that’s capable of winning a national title. That’s what he might have to do to satisfy boosters and fans. Miles is a shocking 112-32 during his time at LSU, but he hasn’t beaten Alabama since 2011 and coach Nick Saban has won four national titles since Miles won one in 2007. If LSU lets Miles go, there are about 120 other schools that would be quick to grab him.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
It’s shocking to say Malzahn, who is just two years removed from playing for a national title, is on the hot seat but that’s the situation in Auburn. Since that national title game, Auburn’s records have declined. The Tigers started last season ranked preseason No. 6 and won just two SEC games. Most teams would be thrilled to have a coach with Malzahn’s resume, but this is the SEC West and rival Alabama is making the Tigers look bad. Malzahn will have to get Auburn back to national prominence or he could be looking for work.
Charlie Strong, Texas
Strong hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity to show what he can do at Texas, and if he doesn’t finish his third season competing for the Big 12 title, he probably never will. Strong is 11-14 in his two seasons and while the Longhorns have shown some flashes of greatness there also have been times when they’ve been unexpectedly flat. It’s unclear what kind of season Strong would need to stay in Austin — at the very least a winning one — but things will heat up fast if Tom Herman, a man many want to see in burnt orange, leads Houston to another stellar season.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Kentucky has had some of the school’s best recruiting classes during Stoops’ three seasons, but it has little to show for it. Stoops is 12-24 and hasn’t been able to get to more than five wins in any season. Kentucky’s college football pressure might not be nearly as high as its basketball pressure, but Stoops probably needs to have a winning season to keep his job.
Darrell Hazell, Purdue
It’s surprising Hazell still has a job considering Purdue has been the doormat of the Big Ten during his tenure. Hazell won 11 games in his final season at Kent State and he’s won six in three seasons with the Boilermakers. It’s important to note that only three of those wins were against FBS teams. That said, Hazell’s team showed signs of life a year ago with a win against Nebraska, but the Boilermakers will need to make significant strides this season for Hazell to be around for a fifth season.
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
When MacIntyre took over the Colorado program in 2013, he inherited the worst Power Five program in the country. And that’s not hyperbole. Colorado went 1-11 in Jon Embree’s final season and wasn’t even competitive. MacIntyre was the Buffs’ fourth coach in eight years. He’s made Colorado more competitive, it is not getting blown out, but the Buffs are not winning games either. He’s won just two Pac-12 games and 10 games overall, but if he can take the Buffs to a bowl game, he’ll likely get an extension. Otherwise, he’s probably on his way out.
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
Clawson didn’t inherit a good team, but he also hasn’t done much to make the Deacons much better. He’s 3-9 in each of his two seasons with the program with just two total conference wins. Wake Forest hasn’t had a winning season since 2008, but Clawson still needs to show some positive progress this season to give the university confidence that he was the right choice.
Paul Petrino, Idaho
Let’s face it, going 1-11 for two consecutive seasons would have doomed any coach from a Power Five program, but Petrino has had the advantage of coaching at Idaho, which doesn’t even have a conference and is dropping to the FCS. That said, the Vandals might want to head into their new classification with fresh blood. Petrino’s team showed improvement with a 4-8 record last season, but he’ll need that upward trend to continue if he wants to make the transition with the program in 2017.
More college football at Yahoo Sports
– – – – – – –
As Joe Sakic thanked the Columbus Blue Jackets for the improbable opportunity to hire away their American Hockey League coach, his voice had the timbre of someone whose wealthy relative surprised him by posting his bail.
“It was a time-sensitive matter,” said the Colorado Avalanche general manager, with a virtual exhale.
Yeah, no [expletive]. Patrick Roy quits on Aug. 11, and two weeks later Sakic announces that Jared Bednar is the new coach of the Avalanche. The same Jared Bednar that coached the AHL Lake Erie Monsters to a Calder Cup in June, and the same Jared Bednar that won the Kelly Cup with the South Carolina Stingrays in 2009. He has a 251-158-42 career record in six seasons as an ECHL and AHL head coach.
“You have to be doing something right,” said Sakic.
It’s fairly obvious what Sakic liked about Bednar.
- Bednar doesn’t have NHL head coaching experience, much like Marc Crawford and Bob Hartley didn’t when they were hired to coach Sakic with the Avalanche, both leading him to Stanley Cup rings.
- Bednar has paid his dues in the bush leagues but has never indicated that an NHL job is somehow owed to him, nor that any significant personnel decision-making power should be afforded him. Which is, let’s say, a nice change from the predecessor.
- He was available.
We can’t stress that last point enough: This is a coach many considered to be a top-flight AHL prospect, with the potential to make the leap to the NHL. But he was stuck behind John Tortorella – a John Davidson hire – in Columbus. He was going to have to leave the organization to take the next step. It’s just incredible that the Jackets allowed him to take it with a month before the season.
“He did a great job for us, both in player development and, obviously, in winning games,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said, via Puck Rakers. “I’ve always said it publicly that I’m all about getting people ahead in their careers and their lives. We’re not going to stand in the way of that. This could be the best chance (Bednar) has to get an NHL coaching job, with the timing of winning the Calder Cup.”
That’s doing your guy a hell of a solid.
But beyond why Sakic liked Bednar, there’s the other aspect of this hiring that you have to admire, which is that Bednar, in theory, is an incredible fit for the Avalanche.
The easy analysis is to say that this is addition by subtraction. Roy had diminishing returns, showed an inability to adapt defensively (with a stubborn luddite approach to analytics) and it was obvious in the post-resignation fallout that some of the team’s young core felt his selective discipline as head coach was unfair. (The vets loved him; the rest of the team, less enamored.)
But what matters isn’t what you subtract; what matters is what you add.
Bednar gets it when it comes to how you have to play in today’s NHL. It’s not enough to demand speed and aggression – Roy did, quite frankly. Your best use of that speed is going to come from your structure at even strength, which even a fleeting glance at the Pittsburgh Penguins under Mike Sullivan would have revealed.
“The game is getting faster and faster every day,” said Bednar on Altitude 950.
“Get everyone on the same page in the structure, in the system. When everyone knows what they’re doing, you can play fast. Puck support’s a big thing for me. Moving around the ice as a group of five. All the players become faster and better players within the group.”
He says defense is as important as offense, especially in pace and speed: “Defend in numbers and defend quickly.”
The Colorado Avalanche averaged the fourth-most shots against per game at 32.7 during Roy’s three years as head coach. That’s simply unacceptable in today’s game for an alleged contender.
Bednar gets the analytics thing, or at least gives it more lip service than Roy was willing to do.
“The information that’s out there, you have to look at it. It’s information that can help your team build on its strengths, and improve its weaknesses. So I think you have to pay attention to it. It can help decipher some of the areas you can improve on but also build on the strengths of your team. So I like to have that information, and look at it, and apply it to out system and how we play. It helps reinforce what we do on the ice,” he said.
As for his temperament and ability to work with the players, Patrick Williams (who covered Bednar in the AHL) had this take:
Bednar: Consistent standards. Won't play favourites. Performance rather than status determines who plays. https://t.co/BCVZMYqFVi
— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) August 25, 2016
More Bednar: Drama-free. Player-friendly but don't cross him. Smart. Forward-thinking but w a traditonal foundation. https://t.co/BCVZMYqFVi
— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) August 25, 2016
Bottom line on Bednar is that this will be a major change of pace in Colorado. He is a very even-keeled type of coach.
— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) August 25, 2016
Defenseman Erik Johnson said that “90 percent” of the players loved Roy, and that included the team’s veterans. But for that 10 percent, there was some inequity in the way the veterans weren’t called out with the volume that the younger players were.
Which is something that, again, Bednar gets. “You treat everyone similar. Everyone is handled differently, but they’re all held to the same standard,” he said.
So there’s a lot to like here. My favorite thing about Bednar, in learning more about the guy after the initial “wait, whooooooo!?” of his hiring, is that being the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche or any NHL team was never going to come at the cost of his readiness.
“I’ve never been trying to get on a fast track to get into the NHL,” he said. “The goal is to do a good job where you are. Be consistent. Hone your craft.”
I like a guy who kicks around the ECHL for 10 years as a player; who leaves an ECHL head coaching gig to learn from Jim Playfair in the AHL; who latches on with the Springfield Falcons and then heads to Lake Erie when the Blue Jackets take them over; who doesn’t feel the need to toil in the NHL as an assistant coach but instead “hones his craft” as a head-coach-in-waiting.
That’s the kind of career that players can respect. It’s not exactly Bruce Boudreau in terms of work history, but then it’s not a Patrick Roy juniors-to-the-NHL journey either.
“I take this very seriously,” said Bednar. “I’ve been preparing for this my whole career.”
Right place. Right time. Right coach for the Avalanche, or so it appears.
Hear the latest episode of Nerdist’s PUCK SOUP podcast featuring Greg Wyshynski and Dave Lozo! WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE.
Your browser does not support iframes.
Usually when an animal delays a baseball game by running onto the field, it’s a little critter like a squirrel, a cat, or a possum. So when an animal stops a game, you don’t expect to see anything too large frolicking around the field. But on Thursday night at a minor league baseball game, a goat blew away everyone’s expectations by getting loose and taking a tour of the outfield.
The State College Spikes were at home facing the Batavia Muckdogs, and as you might expect during a minor league baseball game, there are hijinks of all sorts. Every time the Spikes score a run, the Nookie Monster (a friend of Spikes mascot Ike the Spike) bursts from his home in the outfield wall to dance and celebrate. That’s how the goat got loose. The Spikes scored a run in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Nookie Monster came out to dance, and the goat zipped through the hole in the wall.
This wasn’t just a random goat, of course. State College is in the middle of Pennsylvania among mountains and farmland, but there aren’t just goats roaming the streets. The goat was part of the between-innings entertainment, which on Thursday was Cowboy Monkey Rodeo.
The goat was pretty casual for awhile, leisurely trotting around the outfield without a care in the world. He went past a Muckdogs outfielder who seemed too stunned at the presence of the goat to even move. Then he halfheartedly followed the goat until the little guy trotted right into a gathering of grounds crew members.
For a minute it seemed like the goat would go quietly, but it wasn’t to be. They had to grab him by the horns and make him walk back behind the outfield wall. According to the announcers, the Nookie Monster actually ran out to help herd the goat, but sadly none of that was caught on camera. So, so sadly.
It’s hard to blame the goat. A huge, open field of lush, green grass? That’s got to be a goat’s dream.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – –
The Cincinnati Bengals’ schedule has them playing the Miami Dolphins in Week 4 on Sept. 29. The following day, star wide receiver A.J. Green’s first baby is due.
Green says he’ll skip a game if the baby arrives on a Bengals game day, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. The baby, which is officially due Sept. 30, would be the first born for Green and his wife.
“I can’t play,” he said. “First one, definitely. I want to be there.”
For Green, who skipped Thursday practice to attend a doctor’s appointment with his pregnant wife, it was a non-starter; he’s going to be at the birth no matter what. And for the Bengals, it’s apparently more than fine, too.
“It was good for Coach [Marvin] Lewis,” Green said. “I didn’t even ask him, he just said I could go.”
The good news is that the Thursday night Dolphins game is in Cincinnati. Four days earlier, the Bengals host the Denver Broncos on Sept. 25.
So that means the Bengals and Green should be in Cincinnati — and therefore close to the hospital — from the time they return from their Week 2 game at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 18 to before they leave to face the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 9. Assuming the Bengals leave, as is customary, for that Cowboys game the day prior that would put the Bengals at home for a 20-day span.
“Just not a game day,” he said. “Anything before a game day would be ideal.”
Babies, of course, arrive on their own time. But these things also seem to have a weird way of working out. Richard Sherman mulled missing Super Bowl XLIX if his baby was born on game day, but he later decided to play either way. The baby held out and was delivered after the game.
But for Green, we doubt he’d regret the decision to miss one game for such a big moment. No one else in the regular workforce would even think twice about taking time away from their jobs to watch the arrival of any of their children, not to mention their first. And yet this somehow becomes a talk-radio debate — “he should play!” or “he’s letting his teammates down!” — or manufactured outcry from the fantasy-football-obsessed universe.
Forget about all that, A.J. Stick with your decision. Go meet your new child. It’s the only call, really.
– – – – – – –
[Ed. Note: Some lists chronicle the best in hockey. Others the worst. Others the most memorable or greatest or essential. What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. Moments that defy prediction or, in some cases, logical explanation. Welcome to WEIRD NHL.]
By: John Fontana, JustinG., and Brett of Raw Charge
1. Failing finances and fuzzy faxes
The 1996-97 Tampa Bay Lightning season didn’t go as far as the previous endeavor by the Bolts; the club had an 86 point regular season which led to the NHL playoffs for the first time ever. That next season, Tampa Bay was 14 points lower in the standings and that alone could lead to a weird story… Heck, isn’t that the truth with every team, though? Going over a single season and the gaffes that happen on ice and off?
The Lightning may have ended the season short of its second ever playoff berth in the then-26 team league, but the promise for the future was there in a lot of ways. The Bolts had just played their first season in their new arena (then known as Ice Palace, now known as Amalie Arena) with roster talent a solid mix of NHL veterans and up-and-coming young talent, such as #77 Chris Gratton.
It was Gratton’s season of ’96-’97 that raised optimism; a 21 year old in his 4th NHL season had 30 goals and 32 assists! Along with the contributions of Roman Hamrlik and Jason Weimer, Gratton’s young career gave Lightning fans optimism. They were all tools to build around and…
…and the Philadelphia Flyers saw this, specifically with Gratton. I can’t find a history reference to how restricted free agency had changed in the 1990’s but what I can tell you about is Gratton’s restricted free agent status in the summer of 1997. Unsigned, that is, up until inking an offer sheet with the Flyers on August 4th.
Now, player history itself could be credited as the weird factor here: Gratton only scored 30 goals once in his NHL career and only did 60+ points twice (’96-97 and ’97-98). The fact the man drew a $9 million signing bonus from Philadelphia is weird too.
We’re not writing about the history of the Flyers, though, we’re engaged with the Tampa Bay Lightning on a regular basis and the weirdness belongs to team founder and then-GM Phil Esposito and his quite fuzzy handling of the situation.
The offer sheet was signed on August 4th, 1997. While the simple summary of how things played out is that it became an example of the poor state of affairs that were in place for the Bolts organization. A $9 million signing bonus tacked on to the five-year, $16.5 million deal from the Flyers is what led to Esposito making a claim of smudges on the Gratton contract were illegible and voided the deal.
In an article summarizing Lightning organizational despair in 2000, Esposito told columnist Gary Shelton:
“You could figure it out by the total,” said Esposito, who later compared himself to an attorney trying to keep a client from the electric chair. “But I was trying to buy time. I knew we didn’t have a hope in hell.”
An excuse made like that, claiming a fax was illegible and thus negated things, seems odd in retrospect (though it also seems somewhat irrelevant now. Ain’t technology grand?). Espo tried to pull off a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks (Ethan Moreau, Steve Dubinsky and Keith Carney were rumored to be coming back for Gratton) which was nixed by an arbiter as the powers-that-be explored the “smudge”.
What also seems odd in retrospect is the ironing-out of the situation for the Flyers and the Lightning. Instead of Tampa Bay accepting five first-round draft picks from the Flyers organization as part of RFA signing compensation, the Bolts traded those draft-pick rights (though the trade was made to look like for Gratton himself) back to the Flyers for right wing Mikael Renberg and defenseman Karl Dykhuis.
The oddness of it all – the overall weak situation with finances in Tampa Bay, the contract offer and immense signing bonus, the settlement — is complimented by the fact Gratton only lasted 108 games in Philadelphia, a single full season and 26 in 1998-99, before being traded back to the Lightning for Mikael Renberg. Heck, Dykhuis only last 110 games in Tampa Bay, just a few weeks longer than Renberg, before being traded back to the Flyers for Petr Svoboda.
Though it’s looked at as a mistake by Bobby Clarke in Flyers history, the situation was more pronounced and profound in the young hockey market in Tampa Bay.
2. The Lightning give new new meaning to playing in a “barn”
In a little over a year from now the Las Vegas something-or-anothers will take the ice for the first time in a shiny state-of-the-art building and join the NHL as the newest franchise. Twenty-four seasons ago the Tampa Bay Lightning were the newest franchise. The building that they skated in for the first game wasn’t state-of-the-anything.
It was Expo Hall.
An arena in the middle of the Florida State Fairgrounds that more in common with livestock than line changes was where the Lightning would play their first season.
As with most of the inaugural season for the Lightning, securing a place to play was a bit of a scramble.
Originally Phil Esposito, Lightning Governor David Lefevere and CFO Mel Lowell were looking to play in the newly built Florida Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg. However, negotiations were dragging on as the city was working hard to attract a baseball team at the time. With time running out the Lightning agreed to lease the space at the fairgrounds in April of 1992, roughly six months before they would open the season.
The Lightning were busy during the summer converting the pavilion a few miles east of downtown Tampa into a practical hockey arena. When it was completed it was the smallest building (and most literal “barn”) in the NHL.
At one point during a planning session at the fairgrounds Lowell nudged Lefevere. The lawyer looked to see a cow defecating just outside the window.
Seating only 10,400 fans the building was so small that the Zamboni’s were parked outside. If the weather was nice, the team would move the massage tables outside under a palm tree. The players would often move the workout equipment outside as well.
Distractions were aplenty. Not only during the Florida State Fair where thousands of people were enjoying rides and deep fried foods just steps outside of the arena, but also during things such as team meetings. Head Coach Terry Crisp remembers one instance where young defenseman Roman Hamrlik wasn’t in attendance. Crisp was informed that the 18-year-old was out fishing in a pond about a football field away from the back door.
No matter the troubles, the Lightning did manage to put everything together in time for the season to start. And what a start they had. Led by journeyman Chris Kontos’ four goals they thrashed the storied Chicago Blackhawks 7-3 on opening night.
The fans (and staff) were still getting used to hockey in Florida. When Kontos scored his third goal of the night, a few fans tossed their hats onto the ice to celebrate the hat trick. Those fans were promptly escorted out of the building by security.
The team lasted one season in Expo Hall before finally moving to the Suncoast Dome which was quickly anointed the ThunderDome. They would play in the converted baseball stadium for a few more seasons (and set an all-time NHL attendance record) before finally moving into their current home.
3. Art “Dud or Stud” Williams
Art Williams blew into the Lightning world like a Florida hurricane. His tenure was brief, noisy and shook some things up.
“You can be a stud or a dud”.
For Lightning fans, that sentence is his lasting legacy. The former insurance mogul only owned the Lightning for one year, but what an entertaining year it was. From comparing newly drafted Vincent Lecavalier to Michael Jordan instead of The Great One because in his own words he was “a football coach, and knew a little bit about basketball, so I didn’t know who [Wayne] Gretzky was…I haven’t gotten the terminology yet”.
Fans can forgive an owner that doesn’t know anything about hockey as long as he cuts the checks and stays out of the way. Art Williams wasn’t a stay out of the way owner. In fact he was the type of owner that could make things uncomfortable for players and the press as Sports Illustrated noted:
“Ira [Kaufmann, writer for the Tampa Tribune], why didn’t you award Darcy [Tucker] one of them three stars?” Williams says. “You gave one to [Lightning defenseman Pavel] Kubina, and that boy didn’t play but one quarter. Tucker here’s a stud.”
“You’re right, Art,” Kaufman replies. “He played great.”
“Great, Tucker, hear that?” Williams says. “Used to call you ‘sorry.’ Now they’re writin’ how great you are ’cause it comes from your soul. Yessir, ain’t that right, Ira?
There was also the numerous pregame pep talks that he liked to give to fire up the team. They often didn’t work out as he planned. After one of his “dadgum” filled meetings the Lightning went out and lost, at home, to the New York Rangers 10-2. They would then depart on a road trip that saw them lose 11 out of 12 , not exactly Zig Ziglar levels of positive motivation.
He also fired the only General Manager the organization ever knew in Phil Esposito and placed that responsibility on head coach Jacques Demers.
As damaging as thunderstorms can be they do often provide some beautiful rainbows. Williams did do a lot of good for the franchise. First of all he was an owner that people in the organization had actually met unlike the mysterious previous owner. When he bought the team he eliminated most of the $100 million debt that they had acquired under the previous regime. He upgraded the Ice Palace and put some money into the product on the ice. He didn’t screw up the Lecavalier draft (no offense David Legwand).
While the team wasn’t much better during his brief ownership (they finished 19-54-9) some of the groundwork was laid for what would become the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Of course, he couldn’t leave without one last intrusion.
Per the St. Petersburg Times as the paperwork was being finalized for the sale to Bill Davidson and the Palace Sports & Entertainment Group, the Lightning were trying to improve their goalie situation. Dallas’ Roman Turek, believed by many to be a promising young netminder, was available and Rick Dudley had a deal in place with the Stars to trade Darcy Tucker for Turek.
Williams, in a fit of stubbornness, refused to sign off on the deal and Dallas instead traded the goaltender to St. Louis. That move sent the Lightning down a long path of suboptimal goaltenders before finally acquiring Nikolai Khabibulin. Could Turek have led the team to a Stanley Cup sooner than 2004? It’s hard to say, but it was a solid hockey trade that would have helped the team. To have it blow up because the sale of the team wasn’t moving along fast enough is somewhat pathetic.
With a Stanley Cup banner hanging from the rafters it’s easy to look back and laugh at some of his antics. After all, Art Williams doesn’t even rank as the worst owner in the team’s history.
4. OK (Not Really) Hockey Group
We’ve already touched on ownership weirdness with Art Williams, but a more pronounced and competitive odd was in the form of former NHL player Len Barrie and Hollywood producer Oren Koules in 2008 through March 2010. OK Hockey Group LLC, pairing Oren Koules and Len Barrie as team owners, purchased the Lightning from Palace Sports and Entertainment. Koules had previously been part of a failed potential ownership group in Absolute Hockey.
Three weeks before the ownership group formally introduced itself in Tampa Bay, management parted ways with John Tortorella as head coach. While the previous season had been a letdown for the Lightning in results, Torts had largely been successful in his time with the Bolts, going 239-222 with 38 overtime losses and 36 ties in his time as coach.
On the day after OK Hockey revealed itself to the masses, the news leaked out that Tortorella’s replacement would be ESPN studio analyst and former NHL coach Barry Melrose. Let’s stress that former NHL Head coach status a bit here; Melrose hadn’t coached in the NHL since 1994-95 with the LA Kings. He’d coached some singular games in the UHL in 2003-04 and ’05-06, but to be given head coaching responsibilities on a revamping club?
Oh, sure, the Lightning drafted Steven Stamkos with the No. 1 overall pick in 2008, and there’d be a few player moves of note in the 2008 off-season but to bring Melrose back to coaching is the spotlight of the absurd introduction of OK Hockey. Koules and Barrie were involved with the hype, a-la Jerry Jones in the NFL, but positive results by way of their team building method was not on the agenda.
When your head coach hiring of much fanfare lasts only 16 games in the position, something’s wrong. When the record of said-head coach is 5-7-4, something sure doesn’t fit… But it’s probably broader than coaching alone.
Melrose was told he wasn’t living up to expectations, and yet that would be the extent of the OK Hockey Group’s tenure of ownership in Tampa Bay: not living up to expectations (or competitiveness). Coach Rick Tocchet, who had been an assistant for Melrose, took over as coach. His tenure in control lasted until the end of OK Hockey’s reign over the Bolts: 148 games total and a lackluster 53-64-26 record.
5. Mike Smith’s butter fingers cost the game
Soon after Melrose’s termination, it became apparent the Mullet wasn’t the only curse of (anything but) OK Hockey’s regime. Things didn’t get better as three out of the first five games Tocchet coached were lost in a shootout. With a dismal 7-15-8 record going into a home game against Colorado in mid-December the Bolts surrendered another shootout loss, but in extreme bizarre fashion long before questionable plays were reviewed on iPads, or before iPads were even invented for that matter.
The third round was to begin with both sides still scoreless after Milan Hejduk was unsuccessful on the Avalanche’s second attempt, or so it seemed. Despite Mike Smith’s blocker save, his dropped goalie stick raised suspicion of interference even though it had no impact on the play. Sure, there have been plenty of instances with goaltenders deliberately throwing their twig, typically at an unguarded net, to prevent the puck from going in, but this was not the case.
Was Smith concocting a sneaky, disguised plan to throw Hejduk off track in a surefire attempt to completely turn around Tampa Bay’s trainwreck of a season, or did he just innocently lose grip of his stick as he quickly slid across the crease? We’ll likely never know since the play was deemed unreviewable for whatever reason, but on the bright side Tim Peel probably picked up the tab that night to make up for it.
Martin St. Louis was unsuccessful on the Lightning’s third attempt, automatically making Colorado the game’s winner despite not putting the puck in the net. This is likely to be the only ever officially recorded NHL shootout to have neither team actually score a goal. In hindsight it didn’t really matter. The season was already thrown away, as was the next one. Fortunately, the ownership & management the entire League has grown to admire eventually came along 14 months later, but it felt like an eternity.
Honorably Weird: Has your team mascot appeared on Jerry Springer?
Previous Weird NHL Posts: Anaheim | Arizona | Boston | Buffalo | Calgary | Carolina | Chicago | Colorado | Columbus | Dallas | Detroit | Edmonton | Florida | Los Angeles | Minnesota | Montreal | Nashville | New Jersey | New York Islanders | New York Rangers | Ottawa | Philadelphia | Pittsburgh | San Jose | St. Louis
– – – – – – –
About the authors: John Fontana is site manager and co-founder of Raw Charge. He’s blogging about the Lightning since February 2004. A long time. A really long time. You can follow him on Twitter at @johnny_fonts, but you better not expect constant and only hockey chatter.
JustinG is a staff writer at Raw Charge. He’s one of two Lightning fans who live in Chicago (no really, he counted). He had the pleasure of talking on the phone with Darren Puppa right after the Lightning won the Stanley Cup. He tweets about hockey, Chicago food and nonsense @TorchRamrod
Brett has been a Raw Charge staff writer for the past three seasons. His hockey coverage has had no happy medium split between the collegiate club level sitting next to a leaky Zamboni and in a comfy swivel chair from the press box of NHL arenas.
As much grief as the Cleveland Browns get, give them credit for not being dumb and trading Josh Gordon right now.
There have been reports all week that multiple NFL teams have been asking about Gordon’s availability, and why wouldn’t they? Gordon was reinstated by the NFL this month, the Browns can’t have too much patience left with the oft-suspended receiver, and Gordon is really talented. And the reports on him from practice have been glowing. My guess is the Browns didn’t get one offer that matches with Gordon’s talent level. Teams are digging around in the clearance rack, hoping to find a nice shirt was mistakenly tagged and put there. You can’t blame them. We all have that crazy guy in our fantasy league who can’t help himself from making really bad trades. In the real NFL world, the Browns are that team.
The Browns said they aren’t “looking to trade” Gordon. NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo said the Browns have told teams they want “a second-round pick and then some.” Which means a deal isn’t getting done. Not now, anyway.
There’s no reason for the Browns to trade Gordon low right now. He’s making about $817,000 and because of all his suspensions, is not yet eligible to hit unrestricted free agency in 2017. He’ll be restricted. And of all the players who have ever led the NFL in receiving yards, Gordon is the youngest. He’s just 25. That’s two years younger than Julio Jones and three years younger than Antonio Brown.
The risks are there, for sure. You can’t really trust Gordon to stay out of trouble at this point, even though Gordon will start this season on a four-game suspension. But a middling draft pick isn’t worth the possibility of Gordon reviving his career. Giving away a player who had 1,646 yards in 14 games catching balls from Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer, which is what Gordon did in 2013, is what bad teams do.
And that’s an easy cue for another Browns joke, but maybe things are finally changing. They worked this year’s draft well, trading down to stockpile a lot of valuable picks. Hue Jackson seems like a very good hire, Robert Griffin III has looked pretty good in a very limited sample size so far this preseason, and even receiver Terrelle Pryor seems like he might be a legit and unexpected weapon in the offense. It’s not going to all happen in one offseason. You have to build, piece by piece. Gordon could be a big piece.
I know it can all come crashing down quickly because it’s the Browns. But maybe the days of taking a homeless guy’s advice on drafting Johnny Manziel are over. Resisting the urge to dump a valuable asset, who is making peanuts this year and is practically under team control next year too, is smart.
Browns? Smart? Hey, let’s see if this lasts.
– – – – – – –
Washington Nationals ace pitcher Max Scherzer may be magic. No, it’s not just his brilliant start against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night. (He allowed just two hits over eight innings with no walks and ten strikeouts, which is magic of a different kind.) In the middle of the game, he appeared to catch a ball without looking. He just decided to catch it and then it happened.
It was the top of the fifth inning, and Scherzer was cruising. Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop was at the plate, and he bounced the 1-1 pitch right back to the mound. That’s when Scherzer entered the matrix. He turned around with his back toward home plate, put his glove between his legs, and caught the ball. Then he casually threw the baseball to first for the out.
How did he do that?! How did he catch the ball between his legs without looking? The obvious answer is that he’s just so good that he doesn’t need to see the ball, he knows where it’s going with his mind. But before we start asking Scherzer to use his magic to tell us what the future will hold, take a look at this gif, courtesy of Cut4. You can see how he managed to do it.
His no-look catch is an optical illusion. Scherzer isn’t a wizard, he had the ball tracked right off the bat. He saw the path of the ball, positioned himself to grab it between his legs, and set his head in just the right position to see the ball coming with enough time to scoop it up with his glove. So while Scherzer isn’t magical, he’s extremely smart and talented, not to mention a quick thinker on the mound. He knew he had the ball from the moment it left the bat.
Of course the inimitable Dusty Baker had the best response to Scherzer’s magical catch. Via Cut4:
After the game, manager Dusty Baker told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier that it was the “First time I’ve seen that. Good thing that ball didn’t hop up on him, know what I mean?”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that, either. The only other time I can remember a pitcher being that sure he was going to make a catch was almost seven years ago when Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee pulled off the most casual pop-up grab ever.
Your browser does not support iframes.
When you’re an ace, you’re an ace all the way, from the on-the-mound catch to your last pitch of the day. And that’s what Max Scherzer is.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – –
Auburn defensive back Stephen Roberts was arrested Wednesday night.
According to Al.com, Roberts, who was taken into custody just before 10 p.m., is facing charges of “attempting to elude an officer” and “possessing a firearm without a license.” Both charges are misdemeanors.
Auburn police told Al.com Roberts was in possession of a handgun. The junior was released from the Lee County Detention Center late Wednesday night.
Roberts played in all 13 games, starting the final four, for the Tigers in 2015, registering 26 tackles. He also had three tackles and had a forced fumble in 12 games as a true freshman in 2014. The Opelika, Alabama, native was slated to start this season.
An Auburn spokesman told Al.com that head coach Gus Malzahn is “aware” of the situation and is “gathering all the facts.”
Roberts’ incident makes him the fifth Auburn player arrested during the offseason. Byron Cowart, Carlton Davis, Ryan Davis and Jeremiah Dinson were arrested in April for marijuana possession. Malzahn disciplined the four internally and said they will not miss game action.
“Those four men made a mistake, we punished them and they won’t miss any time,” Malzahn said at SEC Media Days. “That’s behind us. Four fine young men, they made a mistake and i’m confident they won’t make any more.”
Coming off a 7-6 record in 2015, the Tigers open their season at home against Clemson next Saturday.
For more Auburn news, visit AuburnSports.com.
– – – – – – –
It appears that Eric Berry’s holdout with the Kansas City Chiefs is nearing an end.
According to Kansas City Star’s Terez Paylor and other media reports, Berry will end his hiatus from the team on Sunday. The Chiefs travel to face the Chicago Bears on Saturday for their third preseason game, which is usually a dress rehearsal for the starters, but Berry clearly will not play in the game.
Earlier this week Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said he hoped that Berry, who has missed all of training camp and the preseason to date, would be ready to go for the Chiefs’ season opener against the San Diego Chargers. Reid even believed that the four-time Pro Bowler could be good to go even if he did not appear in the preseason finale next Thursday.
Berry was franchise tagged this offseason but has yet to sign his one-year tender, which likely will happen upon his return. The deadline to dole out a long-term contract passed more than a month ago, so Berry would have to play this season on the tender salary of $10.806 million for the 2016 season and go through another round of free agency in 2017.
If there were hard feelings on either side, they appear to have subsided. Signs pointed toward Berry getting that long-term deal prior to the July 15 deadline, but Berry’s camp reportedly was upset at the Chiefs’ insistence at him signing team-benefited injury protection, which is a fairly common request in NFL contracts. However, the circumstances following Berry returning to the field last season following a December 2014 diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma made the issue a little more sticky and personal.
In recent days, hope grew about Berry’s return. It now appears that one of their more important defenders is close to getting back on the field, even if he might be rusty without much work with his teammates this offseason.
– – – – – – –
The Dallas Cowboys got a glimpse Thursday night of what rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott can accomplish on the field. But before the game, they were disappointed in his actions off of it.
TMZ reported that Elliott visited a marijuana dispensary, Herban Legends in the Belltown area, just a few minutes away from where the Cowboys later that night would play the Seattle Seahawks in a preseason game. Not only did TMZ shoot video of Elliott inside the store but also posted a picture he took with a fan.
Marijuana is legal in Washington state, and there’s nothing wrong with just visiting the shop; many tourists do so when in town. But the drug is not legal in the NFL, and players can be suspended for recreational use — just as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell, who will sit out the first three games of the season after multiple failed or missed tests.
To the Cowboys, it was a bad look.
“It’s just not good,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “That’s a part of just really getting the big picture here.”
In his first action of the preseason, Elliott had seven carries — all on the first drive when Tony Romo went down with a back injury — for 48 yards and looking very good after being sidelined during camp with a hamstring injury. Elliott twice ran over the Seahawks’ hard-hitting safety, Kam Chancellor, before leaving the game.
Certainly, Jones seemed disappointed in his rookie’s decision making. But Jones also has a funny habit of defending people — such as Greg Hardy, up to a certain point — whose missteps appeared to be far worse. We assume this will serve as a good lesson for the rookie about image and perception and that no major fault was committed until we hear otherwise.
Of course, the NFL likely has its eye on this story — as well as the allegations of domestic violence against Elliott, even though no charges have been filed, by his ex-girlfriend.
#NFL continues to follow investigation into allegation by former girlfriend that Ezekiel Elliott committed domestic violence against her
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) August 26, 2016
Elliott is an exciting NFL prospect who could be a standout rookie. But he’s very much under the microscope now based on a few recent incidents.
– – – – – – –
Remember when news emerged that Army starting quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw had left the program? Well, apparently he changed his mind, and is now back in line to start for the Black Knights when their season opens against Temple.
Army coach Jeff Monken said Thursday that it’s “likely” Bradshaw, a junior, will start over sophomore Chris Carter.
“He’s so far ahead in the repetitions that he has taken,” Monken said of Bradshaw per the Times Herald-Record.
Things were much different last week. From the Times Herald-Record, Aug. 16:
Junior quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw led Army’s first-team offense in a preseason scrimmage on Saturday. Bradshaw’s play had positioned him to be Army’s opening-day starter for the second straight season. Afterward, he talked about the unit’s progress. Just a few days later, Bradshaw, who made seven starts last season, has left the football team and is leaving West Point.
The news comes after West Point held its Affirmation Ceremony on Sunday before the start of the academic year. Juniors take the oath to complete their final two years at West Point and the ensuing commitment to serve five years of active duty following graduation. Bradshaw didn’t attend Tuesday’s practice, Army’s first since classes began on Monday.
“He has some administrative stuff for something on campus,” Army coach Jeff Monken said after practice. “There’s things, especially with the start of school, just stuff you can’t control.”
A day later, Bradshaw apparently changed his mind and subsequently “pledged his commitment to the academy.” In seven starts in 2015, Bradshaw rushed for 468 yards and five touchdowns while throwing for 429 yards and five scores.
Coming off a 2-10 record in 2015, the Black Knights open up the third season of Monken’s tenure Sept. 2 at Temple.
– – – – – – –
Not everyone can be Jeff Gorton.
On Thursday, Gorton signed Brandon Pirri to a one-year, $1.1 million contract, capping a summer in which he added a slew of inexpensive bets that come as low-risk and potentially high-reward acquisitions.
So far this summer, the New York Rangers lost Keith Yandle, Dan Boyle, Viktor Stalberg and Eric Staal (who was a rental that wasn’t sticking around in the first place) to free agency, and Derick Brassard and a seventh-round pick via trade. It has brought in Mika Zibanejad and a second-round pick via trade as well, and added UFAs Pirri, Jimmy Vesey, Josh Jooris, Nathan Gerbe, Michael Grabner, Adam Clendening, Michael Paliotta and John Gilmour. Maybe none of those guys work out, but even if a few of them do, that’s a win for a team that is perpetually bumping up against the cap ceiling.
One thing that goes unmentioned in that trade with Ottawa is the fact that it saved the Rangers almost $2.4 million against the cap. Vesey-and-Pirri money, you might say. The Rangers won that trade not just because they got a comparable player to the guy they conceded, who is also much younger, but because they freed up that money as well.
It took a long time for the league as a whole to come around to the idea, but space against the cap is extremely valuable, and something teams that have cap flexibility should exploit whenever possible. You see it so far this summer with the Arizona Coyotes, right? John Chayka, who’s new to the whole “NHL GM gig” thing, has acquitted himself well in the first few months on the job; he’s gotten some good players on reasonable contracts, and made some savvy swaps. Because he also knows that he doesn’t have the ability to spend to the cap, he’s willing to take on all sorts of dead-weight contracts as long as teams are willing to give something up as well.
Case in point: Detroit’s in a cap crunch, so Chayka says, “Sure we’ll take on that dead-weight, no-actual-dollars contract if you give us your first-round pick.” Detroit is so hard-up that they do it, and Arizona moves up several slots to grab Jakob Chychrun in addition to Clayton Keller, who went seventh overall.
They did it again Thursday, taking on that ill-advised Dave Bolland deal (which will actually cost them some money, though there’s reason to believe the contract is insured at least in part) from Florida in exchange for a couple picks, but they also got former first-round pick Lawson Crouse. And if you need to know how likely Bolland — who may never actually play again given how bad his various injuries are — is to actually suit up for the Coyotes at any point, please understand that the only player involved who gets a quote from Chayka in the official press release is Crouse, and not the guy who once scored a Stanley Cup-winning goal.
This comes a summer after the Coyotes also traded out-of-favor Sam Gagner to Philadelphia in exchange for Nicklas Grossmann and, perhaps most notably, Chris Pronger’s dead-money deal.
So to recap: In the past two summers, the Coyotes have given up Sam Gagner (who they didn’t want), Joe Vitale (another dead-money injury contract), the pick that became Dennis Cholowski, the pick that Filip Hronek, a 2017 third-round pick, and a 2018 second-round pick. In return, they got Grossmann, Chychrun, and Crouse. And all it really cost them was money they weren’t going to spend anyway. Between Pronger, Datsyuk, and Bolland, the Coyotes have more than $17.9 million in dead cap space, because honestly, what does it matter to them?
They’re certainly not the first to take this road, of course. The team with which they just completed the Bolland/Crouse trade did it for some time as well, most notably in recent years by prying Reilly Smith out of Boston for Jimmy Hayes, a massive upgrade. And all it took was an actuarial shift to be the team that dealt with Marc Savard’s insurance company.
The point of this kind of trade is to procure assets for the future, so that you can one day spend to the cap to retain good players you’ve cultivated, rather than spending in the free agent market to make big splashes. As Florida illustrates, that should really only be done when you need an extra shove or two.
Years of not being very good and spending relatively little money netted the Panthers a lot of young-ish toys to play with, most of which they’ve drafted or developed themselves. They’ve brought in their share of mercenaries over the years (who can forget when they spent a ton of money to acquire 11 mediocre players and became a mediocre team for a season or two?) and that includes even recent additions like Keith Yandle and Jason Demers. Today, even after dumping a $5.5 million contract and trading Savard’s contract to New Jersey, the Panthers stand closer to the cap ceiling than the floor.
And they might not yet be done. The Panthers have made a few trades this summer beyond the one from Thursday, and in the end they came out pretty far ahead in many respects. They now control other teams’ second-round picks in both 2016 and 2018, a 2016 fourth, a 2017 third, Jared McCann (a former first-round pick who’s still just 20 years old), and a couple AHLers. In exchange they gave away dead-money contracts for Savard and Bolland, a 2018 second-round pick, a 2016 fifth-round pick, and Lawson Crouse.
The lesson here: Just because you can spend more money doesn’t mean you should take your eye off the ball when it comes to finding draft opportunities. Too often, teams will do what the Rangers did forever: Trade first-rounders in pursuit meaningfully competitiveness. But you can’t make that work forever, which is why they had to sign Jimmy Vesey to stock the cupboard despite the fact that he’s redundant at best on that roster. They did the same thing (when they had a more pressing need) with Kevin Hayes years earlier.
The Panthers had a brilliant summer that got better, despite the fact that they gave up what some believe was their best prospect. Being rid of Dave Bolland’s deal is that important to their long-term success. After all, they have to re-sign Jonathan Huberdeau next summer, and that won’t be cheap.
What Florida is doing, and has done, might just become the blue print for success in the NHL over the next few years. They spent years drafting high — “tanking,” some might say, but that seems unfair to a team wholly unwilling to spend — and have made mostly judicious free-agent investments and taken on other teams’ problem deals.
(You might even consider Roberto Luongo among those trades, though obviously he is still an almost world-class goaltender at an advanced age.)
Now that they’ve gotten some bounces to go their way development-wise, and done such a good job on the open market, they’re pivoting away from that strategy but still keeping the concept of acquiring young talent and draft picks close to their hearts.
That should keep them well-stocked with talent throughout the lineup for many years to come. And if they ever need to move on from a deal — say, Keith Yandle’s in four or five years — they’re probably more likely to both find a willing taker with cap space, and have the additional assets to make it worth that poorer team’s while.
Welcome to The Walk Off, the nightly MLB recap from Big League Stew. Here we’ll look at the top performers of the night, show you a must-see highlight and rundown the scoreboard. First, we start with a game you need to know about.
Atlanta Braves pitcher Matt Wisler couldn’t have asked for a much better return to the majors. The 23-year-old tossed a dominant start against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, flirting with a no-hitter in the process.
Wisler, who was demoted to Triple-A in late July, returned to the big leagues and did not disappoint in his first start back. Over the first six innings, Wisler did not allow a hit against the Diamondbacks.
While the start was impressive, it wasn’t historic. D-Backs first baseman put an end to that quest by leading off the seventh inning with a single. Wisler then walked the next hitter, moving Goldschmidt to second. He would come around to score on a ground out later in the frame, but Wisler was able to limit the damage otherwise.
Wisler returned for the eighth, and though he gave up another hit, he kept the D-Backs from tacking on any extra runs. All told, Wisler tossed eight innings, giving up just one run on two hits. He issued three walks and struck out four during the 3-1 victory.
Amazingly, Wisler wasn’t the only pitcher to carry a no-hitter deep into a contest Thursday. In fact, one player came within an out of accomplishing that feat. That player was …
Your browser does not support iframes.
Matt Moore: San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Moore turned in the most dominant pitching performance of the night. Moore came just one out away from a no-hitter during the Giants’ 4-0 win over the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. With two outs in the ninth inning, Corey Seager blooped a single to right to end Moore’s bid for history. While the lefty cruised through the game early, he piled up a big pitch count in the last few innings. As he got through the eighth, there was some uncertainty as to whether Moore would return to pitch the ninth, but manager Bruce Bochy gave him the opportunity to chase the no-no. Once he gave up the single, Moore was removed from the game. He allowed just one hit over 8 2/3 scoreless innings. Moore struck out seven and walked three during the outing. He threw 133 pitches.
Alejandro De Aza: The New York Mets were led by an unlikely hero during Thursday’s 10-6 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Alejandro De Aza came to play, picking up half the club’s RBIs during the contest. De Aza kicked things off in the fourth inning, singling home two runs to extend the Mets’ lead. In the fifth, he belted a three-run homer to put the Mets up 7-0. De Aza finished the contest 2-for-4, with two runs scored and five RBI.
Max Scherzer: Thursday was the night of the pitcher around Major League Baseball. It wasn’t just Wisler and Moore, though. Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer also got in on the act. Scherzer tossed eight scoreless innings against the Baltimore Orioles during the Nationals’ 4-0 win Thursday. He gave up just two hits, did not issue any walks and struck out 10 during the outing. It was the 11th time this season Scherzer notched double-digit strikeouts in a game.
We’re just a few games into Dansby Swanson’s rookie season, but the shortstop is already finding ways to amaze us. The 22-year-old sure looked like a 10-year veteran during this excellent diving play from Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In the bottom of the second inning, Chris Owings ripped a low liner near the hole between short and third. Swanson quickly turned to his left and dove to make the stop. The ball took a hop just before reaching his glove, but Swanson was able to smoothly pick it in the air. He then somehow effortlessly glided from his slide to his feet, and fired a strike to first to nail Owings for the second out of the frame. Swanson’s great play was part of the reason starter Matt Wisler was able to take a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Without Swanson’s excellent defensive stop, that wouldn’t have been the case.
THE REST OF THE SCOREBOARD
Tigers 8, Twins 5: James McCann went 4-for-5, with a home run, a double and a single. He scored two runs and drove in three during the win.
Rays 2, Red Sox 1: Jake Odorizzi gave up just one run over seven innings. Mikie Mahtook knocked in the go-ahead run for the Rays with a seventh inning double.
Angels 6, Blue Jays 3: Mike Trout went 3-for-4, driving in four runs during the win. The Angels scored four runs off J.A. Happ, handing him his first loss since June 6.
Rangers 9, Indians 0: Carlos Gomez hit a three-run shot during his first at-bat with Texas. Jason Kipnis managed to make the entire Rangers bench laugh after an interaction with Rougned Odor.
White Sox 7, Mariners 6: The White Sox scored four runs in the last three innings to complete the comeback. Todd Frazier played the hero, knocking a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.
Pirates 3, Brewers 2: Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-5, with a home run and two singles in the win. He scored one run and drove in all three of the Pirates’ RBI.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
Preseason ball is underway… and so are fantasy drafts. But with buzzy nuggets of news emerging on a daily basis it becomes difficult to keep track of what matters and what doesn’t. In an attempt to streamline managers’ FF experience, each Friday I’ll highlight the biggest headlines and explain how they might affect fans of the virtual game.
Tony Romo gets hurt early in third preseason outing.
Three snaps into the Cowboys’ regular season dress rehearsal, Romo went down with an apparent back injury. He later begged to come back into the game, but head coach Jason Garrett made the decision to keep the 36-year-old on the sideline. In his stead, rookie back-up Dak Prescott impressed, completing 17-of-23 passes for 116 yards and 1 TD.
Romo will be ready to start Week 1, but I’m not interested in owning him. There are plenty of other similarly priced QBs (Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford, to name two) with fewer durability concerns. That said, Prescott has done enough to win me over and quell any fears that the offense may be sunk sans Romo.
Delivering in three straight preseason showings, Prescott has demonstrated poise and anticipation beyond his years. A multi-dimensional player who has shown chemistry with Dez Bryant and can open up lanes for the run game, the fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State may very well end up Dallas’ accidental savior in 2016. Bottom line: don’t worry about Dez or Zeke. They’re still money (go ahead and click the links if you don’t believe me).
The NFL is eliminating the “probable” classification from injury reports.
Previously there existed three classifications listed on injury reports: “probable,” “questionable,” and “doubtful.” The “questionable” tag was reserved for a player who had a 50/50 chance of playing and “doubtful” usually indicated a player was unlikely to suit up. Reportedly, 95 percent of players who were listed as “probable” saw the field. Under the new rule, “questionable” implies a player is “uncertain” to participate (less than 100 percent) and “doubtful” means a player is “unlikely” (less than 49 percent) to get in the game.
Confused yet? Well get used it. This is going to be a mega-migraine for fantasy managers. No more setting and (kind of) forgetting. Keeping a close eye on injury reports and inactive players (released 90 min before kick off) will be of paramount importance. Deciding to roll out a less favorable option on Thursday night and assuming that one of your dinged up dudes might not start on Sunday will be a regularity.
Unfortunately, there’s not much that fake footballers can do to combat the new rule. Perhaps league benches will grow in order to accommodate more back-ups, but for right now we’ll just have to grin and bear it.
Jeremy Hill expected to have a big year.
Carrying the ball three times for 16 yards in back-to-back preseason outings, Hill is drawing rave reviews. Scoring in the second week of the preseason, the big-bodied bruiser looked confident and determined. Hill recently vowed to work hard in order to return to 2014 form, promising to clean up his fumbling issues.
If the preseason is any indication, Hill’s burst is back. Running with a seemingly renewed zeal and power, the 23-year-old is a buzzy bounce back candidate, currently available in the fourth round of 12-team exercises. Our own Dalton Del Don predicted on a recent Facebook Live chat that he expects Hill to finish among the top-three producers at the position, racking up over 1,100 yards and 14 scores. I’m not quite as bullish, but I do think the 6-foot-1 and 235-pound specimen is an awesome value as the nineteenth RB off of the board.
Interestingly, the weeks in which Tyler Eifert was sidelined last year were also the weeks in which Hill received the most totes (22, 19, and 19 in Weeks 13, 15, and 16). Given Eifert’s ankle issues, it’s entirely likely that the Bengals rely heavily on their RB1. While Gio Bernard figures to be the primary option on third downs, Hill remains the favorite to handle the early downs and goal line duties. An RB2 with RB1 upside, Hill is an obvious target for owners planning to load up on wideouts early.
Eagles OC determined to feed Darren Sproles.
When discussing an expanded role in the offense for passing downs specialist Sproles, Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich admitted that he’s particularly interested in finding ways to “get this guy the football.” Labeling the 33-year-old RB an “original,” Reich added that he was “excited” to use a guy like Sproles.
It’s worth noting that Reich was the OC in San Diego last season when Danny Woodhead piled up 80 catches, 755 receiving yards, and 6 TDs. Clearly, the man likes his receiving backs to be over the age of 30 and ultra-productive.
Philly’s lack of receiving talent further points to an uptick of targets for Sproles. Jordan Matthews has a knee issue (though is expected to play Week 1), Nelson Agholor has a consistency problem, Rueben Randle is on the roster bubble, and Dorial Green-Beckham isn’t exactly a quick study. The most reliable offensive weapon may very well be Sproles. Available in the double-digit rounds of drafts (126 overall in PPR), the vet is a steal (and two rounds cheaper than Bilal Powell). Stash and smile, fantasy friends!
Follow Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF
No matter how well he plays this season, it will be tough for Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor to shake his reputation as the guy who punched Jose Bautista in the face. For all we know, Odor could be the nicest guy in the world. On the field, however, he’s now a dude you don’t want to mess with.
Need proof of that? Look no farther than Thursday’s game against the Cleveland Indians. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Odor attempted to advance from first on a double-play ball off the bat of Jonathan Lucroy.
As he neared second, Odor slid into second baseman Jason Kipnis, knocking him off his balance. Kipnis was able to complete the play, but the whole thing seemed similar to the start of the Bautista/Odor incident. This time, Odor was the one performing the takeout slide.
Any chance of a repeat brawl was quickly dashed. Almost immediately after the slide, Kipnis taps Odor on the shoulder and then pretends to back away cautiously, as if to say “please don’t give me the Bautista treatment.”
Eventually, Kipnis starts laughing and heads toward the dugout. Odor also cracks a smile after realizing Kipnis is giving him a hard time.
The best part of the whole exchange, however, happened in the dugout. Both Adrian Beltre and Nomar Mazara erupted with laughter upon seeing Kipnis’ reaction after the slide. It’s not unusual to see Beltre have a good time on a baseball field, but Mazara is known for being calm and level-headed in every situation. There’s a reason he’s nicknamed “The Big Chill.”
While Odor’s slide wasn’t particularly egregious, we’re happy to see cooler heads prevail here. Credit to Kipnis for having a sense of humor about the whole thing. Even the Rangers thought it was funny.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
The very last thing the Dallas Cowboys wanted to happen happened in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks: Tony Romo got hurt.
And once again, it’s his back.
It happened on just the third play of the game – on second-and-7, Romo took a short drop out of the shotgun, and rookie Ezekiel Elliott put a good block on K.J. Wright, and Romo tucked and ran. Cliff Avril gave chase, and as Romo tried to awkwardly slide, Avril tackled him from behind.
Romo immediately clutched his back and rolled on the turf. He was slow to get up.
Tony Romo said they didn't do an X-ray. Said felt a sensation of like a stinger in his shoulder right away but went away.
— Brandon George (@DMN_George) August 26, 2016
Tony Romo: "That was probably as tough a hit as I've had on my back the last 5 years."
— Brandon George (@DMN_George) August 26, 2016
Romo walked off the field on his own power. He tried some throws on the sideline, but it was a coach’s decision to keep him out of the game. Romo was not taken to the locker room and instead stayed with the rest of the Cowboys team, which was taken as a positive sign.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, speaking on the team’s broadcast, said, “We don’t think it’s a serious thing.”
Rookie Dak Prescott took over and completed 17 of 23 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks’ 27-17 victory.
More NFL on Yahoo Sports
A U.S. District court judge on Thursday denied a motion from ESPN and reporter Adam Schefter to dismiss Jason Pierre-Paul’s invasion of privacy lawsuit, paving the way for a potential trial.
As outlined by Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, the ruling by Judge Marcia Cooke was a bench ruling, meaning it was read aloud in court; Cooke will explain her decision in a subsequent written order.
Pierre-Paul’s lawsuit stems from a Schefter tweet on July 8, 2015 that showed a copy of Pierre-Paul’s medical chart and that he had undergone a finger amputation in the wake of his July 4 fireworks accident.
Before Schefter’s tweet, it was known that Pierre-Paul had been in some sort of accident, but the extent was unclear.
The reaction to his post was mostly condemnation, as fans went after Schefter for doing something “unethical” and telling him he should be ashamed. Many also mentioned HIPAA laws, which ensure protection of individuals’ medical information.
But it is medical professionals who must adhere to HIPAA; as a journalist, Schefter is not bound to that law. Pierre-Paul did come to a settlement with Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Fla., and two workers believed to be tied to the leak of the New York Giant’s records were fired.
McCann believes that the lawsuit will not go to trial; rather, he expects ESPN to offer Pierre-Paul a substantial amount of money – he estimates it will be in the seven-figure range – as a settlement.
While Thursday’s decision was not a literal win for Pierre-Paul and his legal team, it is, McCann notes, a metaphorical one: Pierre-Paul’s lawyers know that ESPN has the financial resources to pay a sizeable amount of money, and both the network and Schefter would likely prefer to avoid the discovery process that would happen before the trial began.
It is during that phase that Pierre-Paul’s team could demand that Schefter, under oath, reveal how he got the medical chart. As a journalist, Schefter would want to avoid such questions, since he likely promised his source/sources that he would protect their identity in exchange for the information.
But, McCann writes, ESPN may want to go to trial, believing that its legal arguments are sound, and knowing that there is a history of courts ruling on the side of the press thanks to the First Amendment.
The world knows a few things about James Harden above all others — he has a beard, he gets to the foul line, he scores a lot, and he displays some of the most embarrassing defense in the NBA. That last bit has proven to be especially damning to Houston Rockets star’s reputation. Despite making four straight All-Star teams and scoring at an elite level for a team that made the Western Conference Finals just 15 months ago, Harden is known as a player with effort issues and the sort of temperament that might not be suited to leading a contender. A massively disappointing, often infuriating 2015-16 season for the Rockets certainly didn’t help matters.
Luckily, this upcoming season offers a fresh opportunity for Harden and the Rockets to win over the hearts and minds of basketball fans. Dwight Howard is gone, free agents Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon are around to provide help, and Mike D’Antoni is in as head coach.
But the fun won’t stop there. If one of Harden’s teammates is to be believed, the four-time All-Star is going to commit himself to excelling at the defense end this season. Here’s what veteran wing Corey Brewer said during an appearance on ESPN (via PBT):
“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”
We know that Brewer is just trying to stick up for a teammate, but this doesn’t come across as the strongest endorsement around. Saying that Harden is going to play defense this year implies that he hasn’t in the past, which is off-message for the Rockets this offseason. Just read these quotes from a recent article by Oliver Maroney of Basketball Insiders:
“He’s only a polarizing figure to people who don’t watch,” [general manager Daryl] Morey told Basketball Insiders. “Players voted him MVP [in 2014-15] for a reason. He’s had a winning team every season of his career, with multiple Conference Finals appearances.” […]
[Point guard Patrick] Beverley also said that Harden’s mentality and approach seems to have changed since last season.
“Yes it has,” Beverley said. “James is like a brother to me, so I’ve seen him improve each year in [regards to] him being a leader.”
Brewer’s comments are too far off those examples, but they suggest some kind of change in the way Harden will approach this season rather than the gradual growth indicated by Morey and Beverley. The difference is minimal but important nonetheless. In Brewer’s construction, Harden has to prove his dependability and fit to be a leader.
On the other hand, it’s possible that focusing on whether Harden commits himself to defense misses a greater issue with this season’s Rockets. Put simply, Morey has constructed a team that does not appear inclined to defend even if Harden steps up his effort. With Howard out of town, the Rockets will ask 22-year-old center Clint Capela to serve as their primary interior defender. Capela is a terrific athlete and served as a capable backup last season, but he’s still raw, has never averaged 20 minutes per game, and figures to become a regular target of intentional fouling tactics just like Howard has been for several seasons.
Those issues might not seem like a huge deal if not for the facts that Capela has no great backup — most other big men on the roster are undersized for the five — and that the rest of the team doesn’t exactly scream “defense-first.” Beverley is a tenacious defender, but Harden, Anderson, Gordon, Donatas Motiejunas, and many others are looking to score.
Plus, it’s hard to imagine that a Mike D’Antoni team won’t be excessively focused on its performance at the offensive end. To give just one example, it’s easy to imagine him playing the defensive sieve Anderson as a stretch five if Capela gets fouled enough to slow down the offensive flow. Such lineups will score plenty of points and make plenty of sense given the available options. But they’re not going to stop the opposition from scoring.
It’s hard to imagine that Harden’s defensive effort will make a huge difference apart from setting the tone for his teammates. For that matter, he will likely have his hands full again as the lead scorer and facilitator in the Rockets’ offense — he speaks of playing like Steve Nash, a guy who never played much defense for D’Antoni, in that same Basketball Insiders article. Would the Rockets even benefit from Harden putting a lot of effort into playing defense if his offense suffers?
The point here isn’t that Harden should give up on improving his defense. It’s that working harder at that end might not be an answer for everything, both because defense relies on a lot besides effort and, more crucially, because the Rockets could have defensive issues that one shooting guard cannot change. Harden’s defensive work rate surely matters, especially in his role as Houston’s leader. But the discussion around his effort increasingly looks more like a matter of public relations and messaging than it does an investigation into his value.
– – – – – – –
Rickie Fowler needed the kind of Thursday he had at Bethpage Black, and he needs three more days just like it to potentially earn one of eight automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Fowler opened The Barclays with 4-under 67, leaving him a shot behind co-leaders Patrick Reed and Martin Laird after Round 1 of the playoff opener. Coming into the week ranked 12th in the points standings, some 366 points behind, of all people, Reed for the eighth spot.
A two-year process to make Davis Love III’s American team comes down to this week.
“That’s the No. 1 priority coming into the year,” Fowler said. “I’d say that’s always one of the main goals for sure coming into a Ryder Cup year.”
After a lackluster showing at the men’s Olympic golf tournament, which didn’t offer Ryder Cup points, Fowler added the Wyndham Championship in hoping of stacking some points that might land him on the team or make the task this week easier. A T-22 effort in Greensboro, N.C., didn’t help his standing.
The math this week, which marks the end of automatic qualifying, isn’t all that simple, but the minimum standard is clear. At 1 point per $1,000 earned this week, Fowler needs at least $366,000. At a minimum, Fowler needs to finish alone in fourth place — and that’s if Reed tumbles and misses the cut. That’s a lot of pressure.
“I’m thinking about it,” Fowler said. “The other guys are thinking about it. So if it’s even on your mind at all, not that it’s pressure in a way, but it’s more to think about.”
Even if Fowler comes up short this week on points, he can still do enough to impress Love and earn one of four captain’s picks to round out the team. Putting together four rounds would be a good start.
“I think the Ryder Cup speaks for itself. It’s the greatest team event we have. It’s arguably the best event we have all year, or every two years,” Fowler said. “It’s a special event and something I don’t want to miss out on.”
LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Golf’s successful Olympic return
Jordan Spieth started his FedEx Cup title defense in earnest on Thursday, shooting even-par 71 in his first competitive round at Bethpage Black on Long Island.
This is the first time The Black has hosted the playoff curtain-lifter since 2012, before Spieth was a PGA Tour member. After getting a few days to learn the A.W. Tillinghast design and playing it in Round 1, Spieth has come to realize there’s a warning sign before the first tee for a reason.
“It’s up there in the top few toughest courses I’ve ever played,” Spieth said. “If they made the greens firm today, it would have been unplayable on a few holes. It was very tough, challenging, but fair today. We just had it really, really tough in the afternoon with those winds so high.”
And that’s saying something considering this year’s major championship lineup included Oakmont Country Club, one of the world’s most difficult courses — a fact Spieth acknowledged ahead of the tournament.
“Oakmont is obviously challenging any time we play a U.S. Open, it’s tough,” he said. “But as far as an everyday-type golf course, obviously they grow the rough up here more than unusual. … You don’t have to do too much to [Bethpage Black]. You grow the rough up; you’ve got the fairway that bends this way or this way, and you hit into it and you’re fine. If you don’t, you’re penalized for it.”
Spieth felt that penalty down the stretch. After making three birdies in the first seven holes, he only made one more the rest of the way, on the par-5 13th. The world No. 3 knows that if he intends to move up from a tie for 33rd, five back of the lead after Round 1, he’s going to have to spend more time in the short grass.
“I think I hit seven (fairways) today, so I only hit half of them,” he said. “In order to win out here, you’ve got to hit more than that, so that’s really my takeaway today. Just need to drive the ball a bit better.”
LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Golf’s successful Olympic return
Miss something that happened on Dr. Saturday’s social media presence? Well, we’ve got your roundup right here. Don’t let this happen again. Always be in the know by following Dr. Saturday on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.
Hawaii is pretty good at these scholarship videos. A long snapper climbed a high dive to find his scholarship last week, but now that the Rainbow Warriors are in Australia to face Cal on Friday, the program got some koalas involved in Ryan Tuiasoa’s scholarship reveal. Sort of.
Watch RB Ryan Tuiasoa get more than just a close-up of a koala at Sydney's Taronga Zoo, he received a scholarship! pic.twitter.com/b6Y9zf0gLN
— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) August 25, 2016
Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich also revealed the helmets his team will wear Friday.
Night before the night before. Helmets ready pic.twitter.com/eLUtyNLAn2
— Nick Rolovich (@NickRolovich) August 25, 2016
Oregon’s new facility, named for Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, is pretty special.
— GoDucks (@GoDucks) August 25, 2016
The preseason coaches All-SEC teams were revealed.
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) August 25, 2016
Oregon State’s team finally got a glimpse of its brand new locker room.
— OregonStateFootball (@BeaverFootball) August 25, 2016
The Houston Board of Regents approved a $20 million indoor facility for the Cougars football program Thursday.
— Hunter Yurachek (@HunterYurachek) August 25, 2016
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has an app! For real!
— Bill Haisten (@billhaisten) August 25, 2016
— Mike Gundy (@CoachGundy) August 25, 2016
East Carolina is making some lofty promises in its effort to join the Big 12.
Also obtained letter ECU AD Jeff Compher sent Big 12 claiming school would deliver “entire state of North Carolina." pic.twitter.com/z7Zd4pUOPN
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) August 25, 2016
Baylor will be without Travon Blanchard, one of the team’s top defensive backs, for the season opener at least. He could be out longer.
Baylor nickelback Travon Blanchard to miss season opener after minor knee surgery: https://t.co/SMjiOIGM9X
— John Werner (@JohnWernerTrib) August 24, 2016
UConn coach Bob Diaco’s food analogies are next level.
This explanation from Bob Diaco … pic.twitter.com/60zEtYBox7
— Mike Anthony (@ManthonyCourant) August 25, 2016
Adidas has some sweet new team-affiliated shoes.
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) August 25, 2016
Old Dominion has some new black alternate uniforms.
— Bobby Wilder (@ODUCoachWilder) August 24, 2016
Stan Verrett is ESPN’s choice to replace the late John Saunders on college football Saturdays on ABC.
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) August 25, 2016
Mississippi State’s defense lost a few players to injury.
Mullen says Tolando Cleveland will miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Cedric Jiles has a broken arm will be out until Oct.
— Michael Bonner (@MikeBBonner) August 24, 2016
As a person who looks for the positive in most situations, I think we all owe Billy Butler a “thank you” this week. For one, we got to talk about the transgressions of an athlete not named Ryan Lochte. And beyond that, he reminded us all of a very important lesson that’s often worth a refresher.
Mind your own business.
The clash of Butler and Danny Valencia — baseball’s best teammate fight since Jonathan Papelbon choked Bryce Harper — happened simply because Butler didn’t know when to shut his mouth.
I tackle the life lessons that Billy Butler has taught us in this week’s installment of my Open Mike video series. While this certainly applies to MLB clubhouses, it’s also good practice for everyday actions like posting on Facebook.
According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Valencia popped Butler in the head because Butler told a cleats rep that he should drop Valencia’s endorsement deal and that Valencia was lying about wearing that specific brand of cleats. Here’s what happened next, according to the Chronicle:
“Don’t you ever loud talk me in front of a rep. That was wrong,” and walked aggressively toward Butler. Butler turned around, took a couple steps toward Valencia, and according to both witnesses, said, “I can say whatever I want and your b— ass isn’t going to do anything about it.” One player said that the men leaned in, bumped heads and then started pushing each other, Valencia started swinging and hit Butler in the temple.
Butler ended up on the disabled list with a concussion — a very clear reminder that he crossed the line. But let’s all take a positive from this, friends:
Mind ya business. Don’t get punched in the head. And thank Billy Butler for reminding us the hard way.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
When Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich clobbered a curveball from Edinson Volquez to deep center in the first inning of Thursday’s contest, he probably felt pretty good about its chances of leaving the yard.
The shot may not have been a no-doubt, sure-fire home run, but Yelich had history on his side. Since Marlins Park opened in 2012, no player has been able to rob a home run there. That’s the type of stat that seems insane, but apparently it’s true.
Or … well … it was true. You see, Kansas City Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson isn’t a big fan of history. Dyson tracked Yelich’s ball to the deepest part of center field, timed his jump perfectly and made a fantastic grab to rob Yelich of a home run.
With that, fans experienced the first ever robbed home run in the history of Marlins Park.
Jarrod Dyson (@Royals) robs Miami’s Christian Yelich of a HR in the 1st inning.
It is the first HR robbery in Marlins Park history.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 25, 2016
“How can that possibly be true,” you might be asking. “Why hasn’t a player robbed a home run at Marlins Park before today?”
Well, if you’ll recall, the Marlins moved in and lowered the outfield fences during the past offseason. According to an article written by Craig Davis of the Sun Sentinel back in January, the move was made specifically so outfielders would have an opportunity to rob homers.
The fences will be lowered in most areas to enable outfielders to attempt leaping catches of balls headed for home run territory.
The good news: It worked! The bad news: It worked for the wrong team!
We should really focus on the important thing here, though: Did you see that catch by Dyson? It was amazing, and probably one of the few that can contend for “catch of the year.” The timing, the jump and the smoothness of the route … just wow! Combine that with the end result, and the historical aspect, and you’ll be hard pressed to find many better this year.
While Yelich would love to have added another home run to his stat sheet, we can’t imagine he’s too upset. Dyson made a phenomenal play on the ball. All you can do if you’re Yelich is tip your cap, and watch the replay a million times until you begrudgingly enjoy it.
(BLS H/N: CBS Sports)
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
Tim Beckman’s time at North Carolina did not last long.
A day after Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora confirmed that Beckman, the former Illinois head coach, had joined his staff as a volunteer, Beckman has stepped down.
“I appreciate the opportunity Coach Fedora gave me to stay connected to the sport and be around one of the best staffs in the country,” Beckman said in a university release. “His willingness to help a friend was a benefit both personally and professionally.”
Beckman said in his statement he did not want to “cause a distraction.” That he did shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Beckman was fired just before the 2015 season after an investigation into his conduct as a coach. Among other things, the review found Beckman “pressured or influenced” players “not to report or play through” injuries. He was also accused of using abusive language and other inappropriate tactics. The review also said Beckman “violated standards related to sports medicine protocols and scholarships” in his treatment of his players. The investigation also said Beckman “pushed players and athletic trainers beyond reasonable limits in systematic fashion.”
Fedora inexplicably said Wednesday that Beckman was fired because he “didn’t win enough games” and that he was “very comfortable” adding Beckman to the staff. Beckman and Fedora previously worked together at Oklahoma State in 2007.
“I don’t believe everything I read, all right. I know Tim. I know his side of the story, also. So I was comfortable with it,” Fedora said Wednesday per the News & Observer.
Fedora also said Beckman wouldn’t be working with players. A photo from practice shows that was not the case.
And remember, Beckman's not working with players. pic.twitter.com/AD5kctEjXC
— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) August 25, 2016
UNC chancellor Carol L. Folt said in a statement she was “surprised and disappointed” to learn Beckman had joined Fedora’s staff.
“The decision for Mr. Beckman to withdraw from his volunteer position was the right thing to do, and moving forward I don’t expect this situation to recur,” she said. “I continue to put a great deal of trust in Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham and coach Fedora to educate and develop our student-athletes and to ensure we meet the high standards we all expect at Carolina.”
Beckman went 12-25 (4-20) during his time at Illinois. He has denied all allegations made against him.
The coach reached a settlement with Illinois in April.
– – – – – – –
This is The StewPod, our baseball podcast with a dash of pop culture. If you dig the show, please subscribe and review us on iTunes.
When Clayton Kershaw went on the disabled list in late June, the Los Angeles Dodgers season was supposed to get a lot more stressful. Sure, the team had a slim grasp on the top National League wild card spot at the time, but that lead could easily crumble without the best pitcher in baseball.
Instead of faltering, Los Angeles has played it’s best baseball of the season. The team went 15-9 during July, posting a season-high .625 winning percentage for the month. That success has continued in August, pushing the club to the top of the NL West. After trailing the San Francisco Giants by six games at the start of July, the Dodgers now lead the division by three games.
They’ve done this without Kershaw and demoted outfielder Yasiel Puig. They’ve also done it despite tying the major-league record by placing 27 different players on the DL in a single season. It seems as if two-thirds of those players have been starting pitchers.
How have the Dodgers been able to succeed despite the injury gods smiting them every day? Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal is here to sort that out. Grandal joined this week’s StewPod to discuss what’s been driving the Dodgers the past few weeks, and whether the injuries have been a mental drain on the clubhouse.
On top of that, Chris and Mike banter about the A.J. Ellis trade, and try to sort out what happened in the Billy Butler/Danny Valencia fight. As always, Bad News Ramen joins the program for his popular Three Strikes segment.
Here’s a full rundown of this week’s show:
• Intro: A.J. Ellis is gone and the Dodgers are sad
• Yasmani Grandal talks about the injuries and the Dodgers’ recent surge
• Bad News Ramen gives his Three Strikes
• Who is at fault in the A’s clubhouse fight?
• Important questions: Which BLS member do you want to punch?
[Music: “It’s Been a Long Time” by Rakim]
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –
The Colorado Avalanche brought in Jared Bednar as head coach not just for his winning pedigree, but also because of his strategy as a bench boss.
Bednar, who was hired Thursday morning, said he likes to push an attack mostly based on speed and pressuring the puck. The team believes will mesh will with fleet-footed forwards like Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene.
“I have a style of play I think works in today’s game,” Bednar said in a conference call with reporters. “I think you have to be an aggressive team. I think you have to – the game is getting faster every day. You have to play an up-tempo style. You have to attack. That’s not just offensively but defensively as well. I think that for us should be set from Day One in training camp – the tempo and the pace we play with and the aggressive style I would like to play. I think that’s something you start Day One in training camp and keep trying to improve and keep trying to get better in those areas every day and throughout the course of a season so your team gets better and faster as the year goes on.”
After Patrick Roy left the organization on Aug. 11, Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic spoke with candidates with varying types of experience to try to figure out who fit best with the team. According to the Denver Post, the Avs had interest in San Jose Sharks assistant Bob Boughner, Chicago Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen, Bednar, Washington Capitals assistant Lane Lambert, Utica Comets coach Travis Green and New York Rangers assistant Scott Arniel.
Both Dineen and Arniel had been NHL head coaches before. Bednar and Green had no NHL coaching experience. Boughner and Lambert both only had NHL experience as assistants though both had been head coaches at different levels of hockey.
“We didn’t want to just limit ourselves to one certain style of coach. I wanted to see what was out there,” Sakic said.
As of Wednesday, Sakic said he was down to two candidates. When he woke up Thursday, he had decided to offer the job to Bednar, who won the AHL’s Calder Cup last season with the Lake Erie Monsters – the farm team of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Bednar owns a 251-158-42 (.603) record as a head coach, which includes two seasons in the ECHL.
“I know from talking to a lot of different people that he’s a very demanding coach but fair to the players and the players respect that and they play for him,” Sakic said. “The way he asks his teams to play the game, I think it’s a real good fit for our group.”
Bednar stayed away from any grand predictions for the upcoming season with the team. He said he’s watched a bunch of Colorado’s games and believes his coaching style can help several players reach their potential.
Even though the Avs have struggled of late, they have a young core that has high-end skill.
Duchene scored 30 goals last season and had 70 points two seasons ago. MacKinnon was the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft and still has loads of promise. As an 18-year-old rookie he won the Calder Trophy with 63 points in 82 games. Captain Gabriel Landeskog is just 23 and has notched between 52 and 65 points in each of his full seasons.
“I think it’s a group of forwards who can especially be dynamic guys who play fast and I see it as it being a good fit as well,” Bednar said. “Like I mentioned earlier, the league is getting faster every day and we have to find a way to put a structure in place that gets these guys playing an up-tempo style so they have support all over the ice as well to kind of bring the group together and move forward from there.”
Roy, a Hockey Hall of Famer who won two Stanley Cups as the Avs’ goaltender, was hired before the 2013-14 season and led the Avalanche to a Central Division title and 52-22-8 record. That year Roy won the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL’s coach of the year.
Since then the team failed to make the playoffs and last season, Colorado dropped to 82 points in their worst showing with Roy. Overall the Avalanche has missed the postseason five of the last six years.
Bednar will certainly have his work cut out for him without a full summer to prepare for training camp. But he stills thinks there’s enough time to get up to speed in time for the upcoming season.
“It’s probably not the ideal situation but I’ll rely on the coaching staff that’s in place and the management team and get into Denver as quickly as possible and utilize everyone’s expertise and their experience in a lot of those areas and help us get organized here as quickly as possible,” Bednar said. “We still have a significant amount of time before camp opens and I think there’s plenty of time here to get organized and get prepared for that. I’ll spend my time familiarizing myself with not only digging deeper into the players and how we want to play, but talking with those guys and getting their expertise and opinions on everything as we put our plan together going into training camp.”
– – – – – – –
Four more programs — TCU, Auburn Wisconsin and Virginia Tech – announced their starting quarterback decisions Thursday.
First, for TCU, Gary Patterson confirmed what had been assumed all offseason: Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill will start.
Hill landed at TCU after a tumultuous tenure at A&M. His career got off to a dazzling start as the heir apparent to Johnny Manziel in 2014, but he was benched after a string of bad games and later suspended for off-field behavior. Overall, Hill threw for 2,649 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2014.
Hill then transferred to TCU before the 2015 season and took a redshirt. Now a junior, Hill beat out sophomore Foster Sawyer for the starting role. Sawyer saw action in four games in 2015, including one start against Oklahoma.
The Horned Frogs open their season Sept. 3. against South Dakota State.
In the SEC, Auburn has opted to go with Sean White over senior Jeremy Johnson and junior college transfer John Franklin III. White, a sophomore, started six games for the Tigers in 2015, throwing for 1,166 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions.
“I think he’s improved in all areas,” Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said in a release. “He competed at a high level last year and battled through some injuries. He understands the offense. He’s in a good spot. We have confidence in Sean and, more importantly, his teammates have confidence in Sean.”
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) August 25, 2016
White replaced Johnson as starter in Auburn’s fourth game last year. In seven starts, Johnson threw for 1,054 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Franklin III began his career at Florida State and landed at Auburn after a season at East Mississippi Community College. Many thought Franklin would win the job because of his mobility, but in the end, the coaching staff went with White.
Auburn’s season opens Sept. 3 against national runner-up Clemson.
In the Big Ten, Wisconsin will turn to fifth-year senior Bart Houston under center when it opens up against LSU at historic Lambeau Field. It will be the first career start for Houston, who edged out redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook.
“I felt like Bart did everything he needed to do to earn the right to get the start,” Badgers coach Paul Chryst said.
Houston has appeared in 15 games in his career, including seven last season. He completed 27-of-47 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns in 2015. His best effort came against Illinois, when he threw for 232 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 22-of-33 throwing in a 24-13 win.
The #Badgers have their starting QB.
Paul Chryst names Bart Houston starter for opener vs. LSU.https://t.co/gxXcA3cdit
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) August 25, 2016
Meanwhile in Blacksburg, Hokies coach Justin Fuente told reporters junior college transfer Jerod Evans has been given the nod. Evans beat out fifth-year senior Brenden Motley and true freshman Josh Jackson.
Evans, who began his career at Air Force, arrived at VT in January after putting up big numbers at Trinity Valley Community College (Texas) in 2015. He had been committed to Fuente at Memphis and switched his commitment when Fuente took the Tech job.
“For now, (Jerod) has had a few more predicted outcomes in terms of executing at a little bit higher level,” Fuente said. “He’s a good athlete and that plays into it as well. I’d just say, for now, that he’s had a few more of those predicted outcomes.”
???? – https://t.co/n4wrdTRndO
— VT Football (@VT_Football) August 25, 2016
Fuente noted that one of the other quarterbacks could see action in the opener against Liberty on Sept. 3. The Hokies face off with Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway in Week 2. Motley started six games in 2015 after Michael Brewer was injured. Motley threw for 1,155 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
– – – – – – –
Rio police have charged American swimmer Ryan Lochte with filing a false robbery report stemming from an incident at the Olympic games.
Lochte initially said that he and three other teammates were pulled over and held up at gunpoint by individuals claiming to be police officers after leaving a party in the early morning hours of Aug. 14. After evidence revealed that the four swimmers were not pulled over, and were instead involved in an altercation with armed security guards at a Rio gas station who accused them of vandalizing a bathroom, Lochte retracted his claims, saying he “over-exaggerated” parts of the story.
According to the Associated Press, Lochte will be informed of the charges in the U.S. and the indictment will be sent to the International Olympic Committee’s Ethics Division.
As Lochte’s story began to fall apart, the other three swimmers involved in the incident — Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen — were called in for questioning from Rio police before being allowed to leave the country, but Lochte had already flown home. Earlier Thursday, Lochte was summoned to testify in front of Brazil’s justice department.
The AP reports that the penalty for the charges carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison. If Lochte is found guilty, Brazilian authorities could ask the U.S. to extradite Lochte.
In the wake of the incident, four of Lochte’s sponsors, including Speedo and Ralph Lauren, dropped him and he is awaiting punishment from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Not all is lost for the 12-time Olympic medalist, though, as he is reportedly set to compete on the latest season of “Dancing With the Stars.”
After Arizona lineman Zach Hemmila died earlier this month, the Texas football program reached out to the Wildcats to offer support.
Wildcats tight end Josh Kern shared a photo of a handwritten letter and notes from the Longhorns.
— Josh Kern (@KernJosh17) August 24, 2016
Arizona spokesman Blair Willis told the Austin American-Statesman that Texas is one of 50 football programs across the country (from high school to the NFL) to send a card to the Wildcats to offer condolences.
“It’s been hard, but it’s been neat to see the outpouring of support,” Willis said. “It’s so easy to share stuff on social media, but to follow up in the days or weeks to come with something tangible that you can put in the office and let everyone see is kind of nice.”
Hemmila, Arizona’s starting center, died in his sleep Aug. 8 of unknown causes. The fifth-year senior was 22 years old.
– – – – – – –