NFL: Players can stay in locker room for national anthem, but all must stand if on field

The NFL has come up with its answer to the controversy surrounding players who kneel during the national anthem

The league announced Wednesday it will allow players to remain in the locker room while the anthem plays. However, teams will be fined if players and other personnel on the field “do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”

The regression candidates tend to lose 4.2 more games the season after they got “lucky” in close games. The progression candidates tend to win 4.5 more games the season after getting “unlucky” in close games. Both close wins and close losses should be treated much closer to ties, at least when trying to project forward.

The Steelers (8-2) and Carolina Panthers (7-1) will likely disappoint in 2018 if you’re expecting their records to repeat. Pittsburgh, which has only made one of the last seven AFC Championship Games, is expected to improve based on the team’s second-highest Super Bowl odds in the AFC.

Some key changes owners will vote on in hopes of improving player safety:

Eliminating running starts for kickoff coverage teams, meaning the kicking team will line up within one yard of where the ball is kicked. The previous rule allowed players to line up five yards behind the location of the ball, but if approved, the kicker will be the only one allowed to get a running start.

Eight of the 11 men on the return must be lined up in the “setup zone” within 15 yards of the ball. This would typically be between the kicking team’s 45-yard line and the receiving team’s 40-yard line.

The first: There is a high percentage of agreement among them that player protests – especially during the national anthem before kickoff – fan a political debate that impacts the value of the game the league is selling. The second: There is a low percentage of agreement between owners on how to resolve the situation. While a segment of NFL players knelt during the anthem to promote social justice and racial equality, the act continues to be absorbed by some owners as little more than a political problem that requires resolution. Whether it’s the Houston Texans’ Bob McNair, the Dallas Cowboys ’ Jerry Jones or the Washington Redskins ’ Dan Snyder, a handful of powerful voices collectively continue to seek some kind of expiration date on kneeling during the anthem. And this is a segment that isn’t going away anytime soon.
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The Browns haven’t had much draft success over the years, which makes their hit on Thomas all the more notable.

It’s a draft tradition, in the NFL and every other sport. All the focus leading up to it is on the first round, maybe the first two; all the focus immediately after is about who won, who lost, who passed and who flunked. It’s not until long afterward that the real gems of the draft are revealed.

The Royals’ Jorge Soler, who enjoyed a six-homer, .244 isolated power spring, finally appears to be getting into a groove with the bat during the regular season, with five multihit games and a .340 batting average (17-for-50) in his past 15 contests. More importantly, he has done most of his damage against left-handed pitching (.429/.500/.714 rates this season) and has typically batted fourth or fifth against lefty starters. With the Royals set to face five left-handed starters during Week 5, Soler is worth a pickup and start in the 97.1 percent of ESPN leagues in which he’s available.

Although spoiled a little later with their other first-rounder in this draft (Brady Quinn), they were wise not to reach for a QB early and go for the best player they’ve had since 2000.

Rich Hill is on track to rejoin the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation Monday at Arizona’s Chase Field, aligning him for a favorable two-start week. His second start will come at San Diego’s Petco Park, where he had a sparkling 79 game score on July 1. With the addition of the humidor helping boost the matchups appeal of his first assignment and the minor nature of his injury, he’s worth immediately activating in all leagues for Week 5.

Thomas, who emerged as an immediate star, has made the Pro Bowl every season he’s been in the league, a decade and counting. He also has been named first-team All Pro seven times as the left tackle pick every team dreams about. It’s too bad Cleveland has wasted his presence with its constant QB carousel.

Miles Mikolas (R), 29 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates: Facing the Reds in back-to-back outings proved to be the elixir Mikolas needed to get on track. Next up is a Pirates squad meshing well with Milokas’ skills. Lately, the Bucs have been an impatient, free-swinging bunch, offering rare strikeout upside to Mikolas’ normally pedestrian punch-out proclivity. On the year, the righty has fanned 20 with just two walks in 26 innings since returning from Japan.orioles_017

Kyle Kuzma on latest injury: ‘Hard to move around on two flat tires’

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma hobbled out of Staples Center late Friday night with both of his ankles aching and the remainder of his impressive rookie season up in the air.

Already playing through a right ankle injury that he suffered earlier this season, Kuzma was limited to 18 minutes before leaving Friday night’s 113-96 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves midway through the third quarter after he suffered a mild left ankle sprain.

The Lakers are already without Brandon Ingram (concussion protocol), Lonzo Ball (knee contusion) and Isaiah Thomas (hip surgery). Ingram has missed four straight games, and while he is improving, the forward probably will be out Sunday against Utah. Ball has missed the past five games because of his knee injury.

Kuzma, who entered the game averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds, said his latest ankle injury was different than the one suffered to his right ankle. Kuzma also injured his right ankle last season while in college at Utah, in addition to spraining it this season.

Just really throbbing, Kuzma said of how his left ankle feels. [It’s] a little different than my last one. My last one was an inside sprain. This is an outside sprain. Two different types of feelings.

This time it is just a little bit harder to get out there and try to run, Kuzma added of having to leave the game in the third quarter. Both ankles are hurting.

I was completely caught off-guard by this,” he said. I’ve never in any way done anything to try to intentionally cheat the game. I’ve taken the same supplements for the last seven or eight years and never had any issues … been tested numerous times over the years while taking the same stuff.
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Unfortunately, this is some of the things that happen when you take supplements. I’ve never tested positive for steroids or HGH. This is not one of those situations. It ended up being an estrogen blocker that triggered a positive test for me. I just want you guys to know that in no way would I ever do anything to cheat this game or try to create a competitive advantage over anybody.

Davis, the 14th pick of the 2005 draft and 2014 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year, already planned to have his role lessened this season to make more time for Shaq Thompson in nickel situations.

Draft will give fans of each team their own section

In 17 days, the draft does Dallas — and Dallas will do the draft like no other city ever has.

“This is going to be the most talked-about draft in history,” NFL draft historian and custodian Gil Brandt tells Peter King of SI.com. “And not just because quarterbacks could go one through four, or four of the top five picks. But this will be an incredible extravaganza. For years to come, people will compare every draft to Dallas. The saying, Everything’s bigger in Texas, will definitely apply.”

The total difference between No. 15 and No. 17: $1.004 million. The total fee paid by the 15th pick, at a maximum rate of three percent: $378,000.

So if an agent could get Jackson drafted by the Cardinals (who need a quarterback) at No. 15 instead of the Chargers (who need a quarterback) at No. 17, the contract value arising from two-spot difference would pay the entire fee, with more than $600,000 left over.

Sherman is going to continue to believe what he believes, for reasons that perhaps only he knows. The truth continues to be that good agents provide a valuable service to their clients. It’s abundantly clear that Jackson would have benefited from those services, and that those services may have paid for themselves, and then some.

He played in 15 games last season, catching 12 passes for 160 yards and a score.

As explained in November 2016 in the aftermath of an extensive SI.com article looking at the state of football in America, a silent majority of football fans may want old-school football. It’s generally regarded as uncouth or non-mainstream for reporters or broadcasters to say that, since most who cover sports have tried (consciously or not) to steer the discussion toward an unconditional embrace of safety, safety, and more safety in football.

Meanwhile, plenty of fans don’t want safety, at least not at the professional level. MDS recently made an excellent comparison between football and karate. Parents don’t want to see their kids get kicked in the face, but those same parents will pay $64.95 every four or five weeks to watch adults kick each other in the face during UFC events.texans_135

Manziel’s allegation of “toxic” quarterback room cries out for response from Brian Hoyer

Quarterback Johnny Manziel’s Wednesday interview on The Dan Patrick Show, part of an obvious effort to parlay lingering media attention into another NFL opportunity, included a misguided attempt to blame the Browns for not realizing that Manziel was conning them in 2014. Manziel also mentioned that, when he arrived as a rookie in Cleveland, no veteran quarterback was there to help him.

We’re currently trying to track Hoyer down and get him either on the record or on PFT Live. And we’ll continue to keep our eyes and ears open for anything from Hoyer reacting to the fairly strong allegation made by Manziel.

Given that Hoyer currently plays for the Patriots, chances are that he won’t be saying anything. Or that if he says anything, it ultimately will be nothing.

He will get a new punter to snap to, with the Broncos having signed Marquette King on Thursday.

It would be no shock to see the Browns trade out of the No. 4 spot. If Cleveland finally gets their quarterback at No. 1 and another franchise has a quarterback in mind, the Browns could parlay that second first-round pick into a package that would add more impact players down the board. It’s a strategy Cleveland has used before, but the fact Dorsey has five picks in the first two rounds to work with provides the opportunity for some packaging. Given how active the Browns have stayed on the trading block this offseason, it’s a real possibility.

Assuming Cleveland doesn’t draft Barkley in the first round, it would be a good idea to target either LSU’s Derrius Guice or Georgia’s Sony Michel, both of which would add depth to the backfield of Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. Cleveland should also target offensive line help in the second round and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and Pitt’s Brian O’Neill fit that description.
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NFL suspends Jalen Collins a fourth time

Former Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins is not currently on an NFL roster, and today’s news makes it less likely he ever will be.

Collins has been suspended for the first 10 games of the 2018 NFL season, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

“We could’ve just gave in, but the guys showed pride and came out and fought tonight,” Lue said of his team, playing on the second night of a back-to-back after needing a 17-point fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Washington Wizards on Thursday. “Hats off to them. They played very well, and we might see them down the road.”

James just doesn’t want to have to rely on too many comebacks in the future.

“I mean, you don’t want to be in that situation,” he said. “If you’re down 30 in the postseason, that can lose you a series. You don’t want to hang your hat on, ‘OK, well, we can come back from deficits like that.’ You want to try to play well, but we know what we’re capable of as far as that. We’ve come back. We came back last night; we came back today. So, it’s all about defense. And when we defend, we can do some real good things offensively.”

“I can honestly say we can’t do much more now,” Snead said, via Peter King of SI.com.

Snead admitted that he’s unlikely to add even the cheapest free agents at this point, because he doesn’t want to risk 2019 compensatory picks.

While the exact formula isn’t known, comp picks are doled out based on the net loss of unrestricted free agents. Players who were released by their previous team or untendered restricted and exclusive rights free agents don’t count toward the formula.

The winners are the teams who lose top unrestricted free agents. So the Rams (Sammy Watkins, Trumaine Johnson), Patriots (Nate Solder, Malcolm Butler), Panthers (Andrew Norwell), and Washington (Kirk Cousins) appear to be the teams ready to cash in on third-rounders next year.

And for that reason, teams are slow-playing it until after the draft, when the rules change. If an unrestricted free agent doesn’t receive a tender from his prior team by May 8, he can then sign with a new team without affecting the comp pick formula.
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Saints sign Benjamin Watson for his ability, not his familiarity with the offense

The Saints did not necessarily sign tight end Benjamin Watson for his familiarity with the offense. That was just an added bonus.

New Orleans added Watson because he was available and because he played well last season for the Ravens when he caught 61 passes for 522 yards and four scores.

Steve Spurrier: Yes, the “Ol’ ball coach” is getting old with Spurrier set to turn 73 in April, and his two-year NFL head coaching run with Washington was disastrous. Spurrier, though, did later regain his mojo as South Carolina’s head coach for 11 years. Spurrier also is the kind of presence that will draw fans and media attention if connected with an Alliance team stationed in the Sunshine State Orlando, I’m looking at you based on his legacy at the University of Florida.

Spurrier last October publicly said he was open to coaching again under the right circumstances.

The Boston Herald reports that Belichick chastised Gronk in front of teammates for being a TB12 client, an effort from Belichick to keep other players from following the instructions of Guerrero instead of the team’s training staff.

Whatever Guerrero is doing with Brady and Gronkowski, it seems to be working: Brady is still playing at an MVP level at age 40, and the oft-injured Gronkowski stayed healthy last season through the Super Bowl. So perhaps it would be wise for Belichick to ease up on his contempt for the TB12 Method.

Yes, he gets emotional at times during games. It’s an emotional game. Yes, he enjoys the celebrity that flows from his football skills. But his football skills remain unparalleled. Yes, he wants to be paid $20 million per year. Yes, a video recently emerged that appeared to possibly show Beckham doing possibly something that a high percentage of football players do — smoke marijuana in their spare time.
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Chiefs bring Kerwynn Williams in for a visit

The Chiefs weren’t exactly shorthanded in the backfield, but they continue to look for options.

Per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Chiefs brought former Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams in for a visit.

O’Brien’s comments are encouraging, if the goal is to see minimal impact — and maximum predictability. The only question is whether his views are consistent with the league’s intentions. As written and presented, this seems to be about more than using the top of the head as a weapon, because the league banned that technique outside the tackle box in 2013. There’s a vague area between the facemask and the top of the helmet that the new rule seems to be encompassing. For now, it’s impossible to know where the line will be drawn, and how the NFL will enforce this provision in a fair and consistent way.

It’s also possible that coaches like O’Brien may have a lot more to say about the situation if/when the league provides information suggesting that the rule will be truly as sweeping and significant as many fear it will be.

“Sometimes you get lucky,” Verlander said.

Verlander didn’t need much luck against Mauer and the Minnesota Twins. He struck out nine over seven dominant innings, Carlos Correa had two hits and the Houston Astros won 2-0 on Monday night.

The right-hander followed his strikeout of Mauer in the sixth by striking out Miguel Sano and getting Eddie Rosario to pop out, freezing up Minnesota’s rally on a chilly night with a first-pitch temperature of 35 degrees.

Verlander gave up three hits and walked one while helping the reigning World Series champions match their best 11-game start by going 9-2.

The right-hander improved to 11-1 in 14 games, including the playoffs, since being traded to Houston last season. He’s 7-0 with a 1.20 ERA in eight regular season starts since the trade.texans_006

Roger Goodell: NFL focused on’taking the head out of the game’ with new rule

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrapped up the league’s annual meeting Wednesday in Orlando, and the implementation of a rule change that prohibits lowering the head to initiate contact was one of the key points of his news conference.

Our focus is taking the head out of the game, to make sure we’re using the helmet as protection and not a weapon, Goodell said.

Goodell indicated that league representatives will meet with meet with coaches, medical staffs, and players from all 32 franchises over the offseason to address and educate the clubs about the rule change, which could yield ejections in certain cases.

Additionally, Goodell said that there’s support among the coaches to use replay review to confirm ejections.

If we’re able to have replay to confirm when there’s one of these fouls when it happens in the game, then we should be able to use replay to confirm when an ejection may be necessary, Goodell said. I believe that our coaches and clubs feel (using replay for ejections) is the appropriate thing to do.

Among some of the other more notable topics Goodell addressed included:

With regard to the clarification of the catch rule, when asked if the league applied the new language of the rule in Eagles running back Corey Clement’s touchdown catch in Super Bowl LII in which the ball appeared to move as it hit the ground, NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron said the the old standard was used to confirm the catch. In order for us to overturn the call, we had to see clearly indisputable evidence, Riveron said. There was some slight movement, but we didn’t see loss of control. We didn’t see indisputable evidence that he did not have possession of the football.

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Nick Saban touts Minkah Fitzpatrick as a top-five pick

A week after former UCLA coach Jim Mora was far less effusive than he arguably should have been when praising former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, Alabama coach Nick Saban has said all the right things about former Crimson Tide defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.

“As a player, is he a top-five pick? Yeah,” Saban recently told Scott Petrak of the Elyria (Oh.) Chronicle-Telegram.

Saban also was asked whether Fitzpatrick’s drive and obsession with perfection makes him a clone of his college head coach.

“I wouldn’t put that on anyone,” Saban said. “He’s better than me in a lot of ways.”

For us, the more (talent) the better. We didn’t want to have just one option at those positions. We wanted to turn a weakness into a strength.

What position developed better than what you could have reasonably expected?

Roseman: I would look at the corner position. I give a lot of credit to our coaches. It was a very young position for us. We also took a free agent in Patrick Robinson and put him in a position (at slot cornerback) to have success. In the draft, we added Sidney Jones. We knew there was a chance he wouldn’t play throughout the course of the year (because of an Achilles tendon injury) so we were concerned about the depth.

“I’d like to think I’m learning from my life,” Luck said, via Holder. “I’d like to think everybody does that in a sense. If you look back — I don’t want to get into shoulda, coulda, woulda — but I’ve learned from the point of injury on. ‘If it ever happened again, maybe this is how I would handle it.’”

Luck is taking his time, trying to get his throwing motion corrected.

“I wouldn’t say [I am] changing my throwing motion,” Luck said. “There are things in my throwing motion that I can do better from the ground up, and that’s a big part of what I’ve been working on, making sure I am using my body as efficiently as possible to throw the football and not over- or under-compensate in any way.”

The Jazz just didn’t always show that. From Dec. 5 to Jan. 15, they went 4-15. The only team worse during that stretch? The Orlando Magic (2-16). Utah’s offense hit rock bottom, registering a 100.6 offensive rating during that span, which was the worst mark in the league.texans_025