Raiders schedule 2018: Jon Gruden returns to less of a grind

The Raiders improved by four games in the standings the last time Jon Gruden coached his first season in Oakland. Twenty years later, the Raiders would love some deja vu to help them get closer ot the 12-4 team they were in 2016, not the disappointing 6-10 of’ ’17.

What will help Oakland is a favorable strength of schedule based on last season’s results. This season’s opponents went a combined 121-135 (.473). tied with Cincinnati’s schedule for third “easiest.”

Bottom line: The Raiders will be significantly better under Gruden in time, but the coaching change plus remixed personnel in a difficult division will hold them back in the short term. Although Oakland will hang around in the AFC wild-card race because of the schedule’s weaknesses, the team will fall short of its surprise 2016 form. Record prediction: 8-8

The NFL commissioner broke his silence Monday and released a lengthy statement that highlighted the importance of preserving the integrity of the game and requested a federal framework for legalized gambling.

The full statement read:

As it was for my predecessors, there is no greater priority for me as the Commissioner of the National Football League than protecting the integrity of our sport. Our fans, our players and our coaches deserve to know that we are doing everything possible to ensure no improper influences affect how the game is played on the field. This week’s ruling by the Supreme Court has no effect on that unwavering commitment.

Vikings draft kicker Daniel Carlson

Kai Forbath‘s days appear to be numbered in Minnesota.

He’s just a professional. The definition of it, Aaron Judge said.

According to ESPN, the cleats were designed by Corey Pane, who works with Brown. Pane indicated that up to 15 Steelers will have the customized cleats, but it’s unclear who will wear them on Sunday.

The players likely will only be able to wear them during warmups, as the NFL has strict rules regarding dress code.

Shazier’s teammates have found a way to remember him on the field as he continues to recover from an injury suffered Monday against the Bengals while making a tackle. He underwent spinal stabilization surgery on Wednesday.

The team has not provided details of the surgery or the prognosis, but his doctor, David Caho, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “without a doubt he is done for the season,” adding the surgery, “does not rule Shazier out from football in the future.”

Greene’s case is part of a pattern in Elizabeth, McMahon said.

The discovery phase of this litigation will further reveal many other instances where (the Elizabeth Police Department)has allowed, condoned, and encouraged a systemic, ratified, and sanctioned policy of unlawful stops, searches, arrests, and acts of excessive and unreasonable force, wrongful arrests, racial profiling and malicious prosecution, only to fail to discipline personnel for such actions, much less properly supervise and train to prevent further abuses, the suit states.

Now in his late 20s, Greene is trying to get back into professional football.

He signed with the Jets in the offseason, but his one-year contract guarantees him only $500,000.

Thus, Bridgewater’s spot on the roster is tenuous at best after the Jets drafted Sam Darnold with the third overall pick.

Gase also noted, once again, Miami’s decision to stay put in the draft. sabres_071

Eagles reportedly pick up option to keep HC Doug Pederson through 2020

The Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII just two years after hiring Doug Pederson to be their head coach. Not surprisingly, they have rewarded him by picking up his contract option for a fifth year, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, which keeps him in Philly through the 2020 season.

Pederson, of course, is a former backup quarterback who became one of the NFL’s hottest young coaches as a member of Andy Reid’s staff, both with the Eagles and then with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Two of the Colts’ first three picks in last week’s draft — Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson (first round) and Auburn’s Braden Smith (second) — were guards. They will be inserted on the left and right side of the line, respectively, between left tackle Anthony Castanzo, center Ryan Kelly and the winner of the Denzelle Good/Joe Haeg battle at right tackle.

You know what? Let’s zoom in on that thing and try and count all the diamonds on it. Jason Witten’s retirement gift is pretty sparkly.

It’s no surprise that Jones got Witten an expensive retirement gift, and that’s because the tight end has been a star in the organization for the past 15 years.

The age-old question of best player available vs. team need is always in play. I was adamant that, in the first two rounds, we would pick our highest rated player regardless of position (unless it was a quarterback and we were set there). Coaches are notorious for wanting to fill needs for immediate help. The team president and GM are more likely to look long-term.

We would take one of the five players on our ready list, and the next highest rated player would be inserted into the fifth spot. In the later rounds, we would often select a player further down our top five list if we felt it was a position we needed to fill. If two players were rated equal, we went with the position of need.

The draft in which we had the most discussion during the hour before we were on the clock was in 1998 with the Vikings. Wide receiver Randy Moss, with his obvious top five-level talent but questionable character after several off-field incidents, was the player we were considering.

Vikings’ Kentrell Brothers suspended 4 games by NFL

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Kentrell Brothers was suspended Friday without pay for the first four games of the 2018 regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, the league announced.

Brothers is eligible to return to the Vikings’ active roster on Sept. 28, following the team’s Sept. 27 game against the Los Angeles Rams. Brothers is allowed to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.

Brothers has appeared in 26 games over the last two seasons for Minnesota, primarily on special teams. He took just eight defensive snaps over 16 games in 2017.

He will miss games against the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams.

Players do not face suspensions for the first violation, but they do enter the league’s substance abuse program. That means they’ll be tested more regularly, and the consequences ramp up with each violation.

It’s unwise for players to celebrate 4/20 on April 20, because they’re running the risk of getting hit with a random drug test. And they’d better not even tweet about 4/20. Former Colts punter Pat McAfee found that out the hard way.

Gaine’s praise of Clowney is almost an understatement. The first-overall pick of 2014 has emerged as one of the game’s true havoc-wreaking, run-detonating physical freaks.

The vision of a healthy Clowney, J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus still doubles as a tantalizing dreamland for Texans fans — especially now that a starry quarterback has been found on the other side of the ball in Deshaun Watson.

It might take some time, but the Texans will get this contract done. Book it.

First base
Colin Moran (L), 25 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins (RHP Jose Urena): Moran has been in a strict platoon, posting a .890 OPS facing right-handers. With a 13 percent walk rate and 15 percent contact rate, he’s in good shape against a pitcher who usually allows plenty of baserunners.steelers_057

Flyers’ Sean Couturier to sit out Game 4 with lower-body injury

The dirty work of Mitchell’s development is Bryant’s top priority. He’s the assistant who conducts the rookie’s individual workouts, pregame shooting routines and film sessions — scouting opponents, reviewing games, watching other stars to try to learn their tricks. Bryant is the constant voice in Mitchell’s ear.

The Golden Knights became the first team in the Stanley Cup playoffs to clinch a ticket to the second round after sweeping the Los Angeles Kings in four games. Vegas became the first franchise in NHL history to sweep a postseason series in its inaugural season.

Over the summer, Vegas management had tempered expectations. General manager George McPhee publicly declared a goal of making the playoffs in the team’s third season and winning a Stanley Cup in six.

“We don’t have high expectations for this year,” owner Bill Foley told ESPN in August. “We’re going to be competitive. If we’re going to lose a game, we’d like to lose by a goal or two, not lose by five or six. We don’t want to be a walkover team. We want to be competitive. We want to be entertaining on the ice. We want to score some goals.”

Instead, the Golden Knights have been one of the biggest success stories across all sports. Vegas became the first NHL team to make the postseason in its inaugural season since 1979-80, when the Oilers and Whalers reached the playoffs after joining the league as part of its merger with the WHA. The Oilers featured Wayne Gretzky, while the Whalers had Gordie Howe on the roster. It was also a time when just five of the league’s 21 teams didn’t make the playoffs.

Aminu is easily Portland’s best option on Davis. If Portland had its full wing contingent — with Maurice Harkless — Terry Stotts would probably experiment some with Aminu at center. But Harkless is hurt, though upgraded to questionable for Game 2. Collins is a rookie. Nurkic is important on both ends.

Davis was ridiculous on defense. I mean, look at this 12 seconds of hell:

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier are finalists for the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward in the NHL.

Bergeron is nominated for the seventh straight season and is one of just two players to have won the award four times. Hall of Famer Bob Gainey also has won it four times.jets_013

Giants’ Mara reiterates Beckham stance: ‘He’s not on the block’

Amid more reports Tuesday stating that the New York Giants are listening to trade offers for Odell Beckham Jr., franchise co-owner John Mara again stated the superstar receiver isn’t being shopped.

Former Astros first base coach Rich Dauer, who has recovered after almost dying when he suffered an acute subdural hematoma during Houston’s victory parade, threw out a ceremonial first pitch. Dauer wept openly the entire time he was on the field and wiped his puffy eyes with a handkerchief after he tossed the strike to Hinch. More tears came as he embraced Hinch at the plate and they continued to flow as he received big hugs from Correa, Altuve, Springer and many other Astros.

The World Series mattered to him, living mattered more, Hinch said. That moment hit a lot of us.

However, Gettleman was visibly angered by trade speculation and rumors that Beckham won’t set foot on an NFL field without a new contract, reports Jarrett Bell of USA Today Sports. The GM also said you don’t quit on talent while discussing Beckham, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Earlier in the day, head coach Pat Shurmur simply said Beckham is on our team right now, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Beckham’s contract situation – he’s set to enter 2018 on a fifth-year option that will pay him $8 million – figures to dominate storylines all offseason until there is a resolution.

Stigmatized as the one defensive lineman in football the Eagles don’t want to keep on their roster, the productive Curry was underrated by traditional metrics last season. He had only three sacks, but he tied Chris Long for the team lead with 18 quarterback knockdowns, which are usually a better predictor of future sacks than sacks themselves. (A pass-rusher with 18 knockdowns will usually generate about eight sacks.) The concerning thing, perhaps, is that Curry has a track record of underperforming those totals; while he racked up nine sacks on 11 knockdowns in 2014, the Marshall product has turned 45 knockdowns into only nine sacks over the three ensuing seasons.patriots_013

JuJu Smith-Schuster: Vontaze Burfict PED excuse can’t be serious

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict faces a four-game suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy and reportedly plans to argue that the positive test came from using medications prescribed following a concussion and/or a shoulder injury last December.

Bennett was traded from the Seattle Seahawks to the Eagles earlier this month. He was a member of the Seahawks during the alleged incident. 

The “suspected and admitted marijuana usage in conjunction with alcohol consumption” is what prompted the arrest, according to the police report.

Lane was released by the Seahawks last week after ing the first six seasons of his career in Seattle. He had one year remaining on his current deal with the team but the Seahawks had tried to trade him to Houston in November as part of a deal to acquire Duane Brown. Lane was pulled from the deal after he failed a physical with the Texans.

Lane appeared in 70 games with Seattle with 21 starts.

He is scheduled to be arraigned on March 26. The violation is subject to possible league discipline as well.

Nashville Predators forward is the only National Hockey League player who play for the host nation at this year’s IIHF World Championships being held Germany this month.Jakub Zboril, DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn, the 13 th, 14 th and 15 th picks the 2015 draft, respectively, failed the team’s conditioning test.It’s only been one day of practice, but these teams need to come together a hurry.46 overall pick they acquired the trade, the Bills took Oregon linebacker Kiko, who made a strong case for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, earning the moniker 楾he Legend of Kiko’ Orchard Park.

Pryor only saw the field for 37 percent of Washington’s offensive snaps last season after signing a one-year deal with the team last March. Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Ryan Grant were the preferred options for Kirk Cousins in Washington’s offense. Pryor caught just 20 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown in nine games for Washington last season.

Pryor had caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and a touchdown in 2016 with Cleveland after making the conversion to receiver from quarterback.49ers_017

Rarely does a playoff team flip a switch so hard, but Kansas City did, and it did so rather successfully.

It started with trading Alex Smith and anointing Patrick Mahomes as the new starting QB. Gone are Marcus Peters, Derrick Johnson and Albert Wilson. Arriving are Kendall Fuller, Anthony Hitchens and Sammy Watkins.

Fuller can end up being better than Peters all-around, and he will be much less of a headache for coach Andy Reid. Hitchens can make a ton of plays like Johnson did for many years, and at 25, he’s a decade younger.

Daniel was behind Carson Wentz in 2016, but the Eagles felt his advice was so important that they ate more than $4 million to cut him and replace Daniel with Nick Foles instead.

Cousins made top-market money up front and landed with a contender that will help him push his career to a higher (see: winning) level of success. The NFC runners-up from 2017 are the new NFC favorites for 2018.

They’re not playing together again. Brees got his two-year deal to return to the Saints, while Graham leaves Wilson and the Seahawks…. to join Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The tight end has had a blessed career as a young basketballer-turned-veteran-red-zone-receiving-stud. Graham by default should work out for Green Bay after the Martellus Bennett disaster.

They’re the best. The Blackhawks have obviously slipped a few notches, while the Penguins have won back-to-back Cups.

Lucroy joins Nick Hundley of the Giants, Rene Rivera of the Angels and Chris Stewart of the Braves as the fourth free-agent catcher to sign a one-year major-league contract this offseason. Welington Castillo’s two-year, $15 million deal with the White Sox was the biggest for a free-agent catcher, while Chris Iannetta agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with the Rockies and Alex Avila signed for two years and $8.25 million with the Diamondbacks.

Lucroy batted.310 with 2 homers and 13 RBIs in 46 games for the Colorado Rockies after being acquired in a midseason trade with the Texas Rangers. The two-time All-Star catcher hit.242 with 4 homers and 27 RBIs in 77 games for the Rangers before that.

“I’ll put it up against anybody’s,” the right-hander added. “And at the end of the season, we can look at the numbers and see how we all fared.”patriots_001

2018 NBA All-Star Game: Reserves leaked ahead of announcement

The 2018 NBA All-Star reserves — as selected by league head coaches — were leaked ahead of Tuesday’s 7 p.m. ET scheduled announcement on TNT.

Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Karl-Anthony Towns, Russell Westbrook and LaMarcus Aldridge were named Western Conference reserves, according to multiple reports and later confirmed by the NBA.

Rooney’s favorite NHL goalie is Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights, and it’s not difficult to see the parallels between them. The manner in which Fleury has carried himself through adversity — remaining a beam of sunshine even after playoff disappointments or frustrating losses or being jettisoned to an expansion team — defines him. He lifts his teammates with his play and his attitude. Rooney did the same for the U.S. Olympic team. Whatever tension her teammates felt as the gold-medal game went to a shootout against Canada, Rooney undercut it by flashing that huge grin before the shootout and, as Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson notes, during it.

“Wanna be one of the first to Congratulate you on this accomplishment/achievement tonight that you’ll reach!” James wrote. “Only a handful has reach/seen it too and while I know it’s never been a goal of yours from the beginning try(please try) to take a moment for yourself on how you’ve done it!”

“The House you’re about to be apart of has only 6 seats in it(as of now) but 1 more will be added and you should be very proud and honored to be invited inside,” he continued. “There’s so many people to thank who has help this even become possible(so thank them all) and when u finally get your moment(alone) to yourself smile, look up to the higher skies and say THANK YOU! So with that said, Congrats again Young King ????! 1 Love! ”

James will join Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Dirk Nowitzki as the only players to score 30,000 points in their NBA career when he does eventually eclipse the number.

Clayton Keller is playing more like a seasoned veteran than a wide-eyed rookie.

He’s also a big reason for the Arizona Coyotes’ late-season surge.giants_151

Josh McDaniels will not be the next head coach of the Colts.

According to ESPN, McDaniels has decided not to take the job and to remain as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator.

The Colts announced Tuesday, they had agreed to terms with McDaniels to be their new head coach. In fact, they had set up an introductory press conference to announce his hiring Wednesday.

Now called Hard Rock Stadium, the venue that the NFL’s Miami Dolphins call home originally was named Joe Robbie Stadium when it opened in 1987. It has been renamed seven times since and has hosted five Super Bowls, with the old Miami Orange Bowl having hosted South Florida’s other five Super Bowls.

Thanks to its most recent renovation project, which was completed in 2016, Hard Rock Stadium will have a new look when the Super Bowl arrives in 2020.

While the stadium’s seating capacity was reduced from 75,000 to 65,000, the renovation that featured new video boards, suites and seating pods is at least one of the reasons the NFL is returning for Super Bowl 54.

“You know, I think we’re close,” Blank said when asked about his team’s chances of winning the franchise’s first Super Bowl, via “Obviously, we were there last year. We got to the second round this year. We could have proceeded further, but we didn’t. So, I think the team is in good shape.

“We have some areas that need to be improved on and worked on. And I think the coach (Dan Quinn) and (GM) Thomas (Dimitroff) are aware of those. That’s why we have the draft and free agency, and we’ll be focused on those.”

The Falcons went 10-6 this past season, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles in the divisional playoff round. Atlanta will return almost every key player, but the offense averaged just 22.1 points per game after averaging 33.8 in 2016.

“I feel good about where we are,” Blank said. “I think our defense was consistently good throughout this past year. Our offense didn’t have that consistency. I think another year of (offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian) in the system and a year with (new quarterbacks coach) Greg Knapp, I think we’ll be in good shape.”