Larry Fitzgerald, Eli Manning, Greg Olsen finalists for NFL Man of the Year

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Panthers tight end Greg Olsen were selected as the three finalists for the 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

The winner will be announced Feb. 4 at the NFL Honors awards show the night before Super Bowl LI.

Larry, Eli and Greg are not only top-tier athletes, but also men of great character, integrity and generosity of spirit. Their passion for community and helping others is having a positive impact on countless individuals and communities, and it’s something we should all celebrate NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. We commend these impressive men for setting the standard for NFL players and athletes nationwide.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that ever since Munn publicly praised Rodgers and their traditions shortly before the start of Week 12, the Packers have been riding high on an eight-game win streak. Maybe the love and support Munn provides to Rodgers has partially led to his success.

We, of course, wont ever know. Because football media culture precludes us from eulogizing the woman behind the signal caller.

And instead, if the Packers do fall before securing another Lombardi Trophy in the next few weeks, you can be sure the internet trolls will berate Munn.

Overall, Green Bays defense performed better than in a 30-16 home loss to Dallas in Week 6 despite the Cowboys actually netting five more yards (429 to 424). Running back Ezekiel Elliott was held to a more modest 125 yards on 22 carries after gouging the Packers for 157 on 28 carries in mid-October. Prescotts numbers also dipped in yards per attempt (9.1 to 7.9) and completion percentage (66.7 to 63.2) from that first meeting.steelers_012

Ref denies crew’s admitting to missed facemask call on Seahawks’ Paul Richardson

Referee Brad Allen disputes that he or anyone on his crew admitted they missed a facemask penalty on Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson during his spectacular touchdown catch in Saturday nights wild-card game in Seattle.

NBCs Michele Tafoya reported during the broadcast that Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said a member of the officiating crew told him they got it wrongby not throwing a flag on Richardson for grabbing safety Tavon Wilsons facemask as he made the catch. Wilson drew a flag for defensive pass interference on the play.

You look out there, theres two uprights youre looking at, Gano said, via the Charlotte Observer. I know the league talked to them about it before when we played here a couple years ago. So its a bit bush-league.

But once again, its not a reason why I performed poorly. It just adds another element.

Although the NFL wouldn’t officially comment on the incident, there is a league policy regarding video during kicks.

Use of video boards to distract the visiting team’s kicker during field goal attempts or extra point attempts is prohibited. Distracting video includes, but is not limited to, extreme close-ups of the face of the visiting team’s kicker and fast zooming in and out.
In cases like this, the league will check the video feed of the team to determine if a violation occurred. If they determine a team violated the policy, they will contact the club and issue a warning. If there have been previous warnings, which Gano claims there have been, the league will fine the team.rams_089

MLB Draft 2017: Why the Twins should skip the two-way star at No. 1

While holding the first pick in the MLB Draft is a somewhat “dubious honor,” to quote Crash Davis from “Bull Durham,” it does provide a team — the Twins this year — the opportunity to help turn around their organization’s fortunes.

So far this spring, three names have been linked with the Twins’ top pick in the 2017 MLB Draft: Hunter Greene, Kyle Wright, and Brendan McKay. The first two would be solid choices; the third would not. More on that in a bit.

Merchant hit .265 and stole 33 bases in 50 games that first season. The next year, while playing for the Pirates’ Class A affiliate in Augusta, Ga., he separated his throwing shoulder while diving for a ball. His season ended after 60 games.

The Pirates traded Merchant the next season, including him in a five-player deal that ironically landed him in the Mariners organization. While playing for Class AA Jacksonville in 1991, Merchant broke his right ankle.

“I knew that night I was in trouble,” he said. “I never got my speed back again.”

Merchant went on to also play in the Reds, White Sox and Royals organizations. His career also included two stints with independent league teams and time in the Mexican League. His best year came in 1993 while playing for the Reds’ AA affiliate in Chattanooga, Tenn. There, he hit .301 with 17 home runs in 109 games, earning him his first promotion to Triple-A.nike_cardinals_1608

It’s sort of a strange tribute because four of the six players spent their entire careers with the Dolphins.

The immortal moments of Sunday’s game put it on that pedestal, too. Julian Edelman’s ricochet catch late in the fourth, on the game-tying drive, is arguably the greatest in Super Bowl history.

The fact that the Patriots pulled off two touchdowns and a couple two-point conversions to tie it — brutally hard to do under any circumstances — qualifies it, as well.

Brady had no choice but to keep throwing it after falling so far behind, and after throwing his first postseason pick-six ever … and he set Super Bowl records for passes thrown and yardage.

There were unsung heroes like James White and Marcus Mitchell, MVPs humbled like Matt Ryan, stars who shined in defeat like Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, strategic blunders, dramatic turning points, unforgivable gaffes even by the winning team (the clanked extra-point kick).

It’s sort of a strange tribute because four of the six players spent their entire careers with the Dolphins. Only Little, whose first two seasons were spent with the Chargers, and Madison, who played the final three seasons of a 12-year career with the Giants, were with other teams.

“In this day and age, we try to get players to retire as Dolphins,” executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said during the signing ceremony. “This means a lot to us, our legacy. We’re all so proud of it and all the contributions you guys have made, it means a lot to all of us. We thank you guys and we’re proud that you’re Dolphins.”

The six players combined for two NFL MVP awards — Griese in 1971 and Marino in 1984 — 14 first-team All-Pros selections and 25 Pro Bowl invitations.

Griese helped lead the Dolphins to their only two Super Bowl championships during their undefeated 1972 season and again in 1973.

Marino retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards, completions, attempts and touchdowns — and remains among the top five all time in each of those categories.seahawks_011

Ironic twist to Cam Newton’s Super Bowl 51 commercial for Buick

Mahomes, a gunslinger, reminds of a less refined version of Matthew Stafford. He has similar arm talent and reckless behaviors that will give his future offensive coordinator headaches early in his NFL career. But in a quarterback class that, as of now, doesn’t have a sure bet as a top prospect, I can live with taking the passer who has the most upside as a quarterback.

Mahomes is still skittish in the pocket (because of a lack of development, not out of fear of contact) and makes throws and decisions much harder than they should be. But once he can be reigned in as a progression passer, Mahomes could be similar, if not a better version of Matt Stafford or, at worst, Jay Cutler. He’s worth a top 20 pick and could emerge as a top 10 candidate by the time the process is through.

Cam Newton is set to star in a Super Bowl commercial for Buick, the same brand of car that crashed into his truck on December 9, 2014.

The Carolina Panthers quarterback suffered two back fractures when his Dodge truck collided with a Buick sedan and flipped multiple times.

Fast forward two years later — and the 27-year-old will promote the car brand on the sports world’s biggest marketing stage, alongside supermodel Miranda Kerr.
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Brock Osweiler says ‘film for the past 2 years’ proves he’s a starting QB and, uh, OK Brock

Brock Osweiler’s 2016 was so bad the Houston Texans gave up a second-round draft pick just to get out from under his contract. They were eager to jettison the young passer despite having only Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden at quarterback behind him.

Yet even with a dire history as an NFL passer, Osweiler still believes he’s in line to start for the Cleveland Browns this fall.

The Browns’ offseason salary dump acquisition told reporters he’s “absolutely” a starting-caliber quarterback Wednesday, just months after his 72.2 passer rating ranked him second-to-last among NFL QBs. When WKRK The Fan’s Daryl Ruiter pressed him on the issue, he pointed to his underwhelming resume as proof.

Ruiter: “Are you good enough to be a starting quarterback in this league?”

“Von be everywhere, man, but I’m going to try and get somewhere with him this summer, for sure,” said Beasley. “I’ll probably go to him, to be honest.

“Oh, it will help me out a lot. The attention that Von gets year in and year out is unbelievable. They respect him as a pass-rusher, and I’m headed in that direction. So I can learn a lot from him in that case.”

It’s not just a personality fit for Kaepernick in Bennett’s eyes. He also feels that the skills Kaepernick brings on the field are a good match for the Seahawks, who have an offense that favors the run.yankees_1179_40942faa042d5251-180x180

NFL Draft 2017: DeShone Kizer: Worth the wait to land with Browns

DeShone Kizer was thrilled to see his patience rewarded after he was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Browns.

The Notre Dame quarterback was left to wait in the green room during Thursday’s first round as he was the only one of the consensus top-four passers not to be taken.

He did not attend day two of the draft in Philadelphia, but saw his slide ended at pick No. 52 by a team close to home.

“Is it helping players in terms of their accountability? And, obviously, addiction is a sickness and you want to make sure — obviously, there’s accountability but it’s also a program that helps players get better. I think personally, I know Jerry and I think that it might could be done better and we just need to take a look at it. Like I said, it’s been the same program that’s been in place for many, many years and I think all things to do with the NFL, we should all want the very best for our players. We should want the very best for our organizations and we should want the very best for our fans, and that’s anything that has to do with the NFL.

“In my opinion, we should take a long hard look at how we’re doing this and see if there’s a way, a better way to do it. What that is, I don’t have the answer. But we have a lot of smart people that can get in there and analyze something and really make some good decisions and see if there need to be changes.”

The Cowboys have seen several players — most notably Randy Gregory, multiple times — test positive under the current substance-abuse policy.

Jones added that that changes in the way marijuana is viewed — by society and, in several states, by the law — is part of the context of any re-examination of the policy, including testing and types of discipline, while also keeping a primary goal of helping players “who have sicknesses and addictions.”

Did the Spurs let Harden or shooters beat them?

On the offensive end David Lee carved up Houston’s second unit. He plays the style of bully-ball that only Nene can really match up with. But with Gasol in the game as well, Nene was drawing that assignment, leaving Lee to bully Dekker, Anderson or even Ariza.

Also, Pau Gasol is suddenly a legitimate three point shooter so the Spurs don’t even mess with their spacing by playing him and Aldridge at the same time.

The challenge for Houston will be keeping two Spurs big men from controlling the game when James Harden is on the bench to torment then or when Nene is on the bench.

Did the Spurs let Harden or shooters beat them?

In games one, two and four the Spurs let Harden beat them, but not with a flurry of points. He was a better passer and assist man in several of these games and could have had 20 assists in game two if any Rockets shooters hit shots in the first half.

Harden’s three point shot wasn’t present for each of these games, but he played the role of puppet master so well. Driving to the basket and finding pocket passes, lobs and cross court flings.

Eric Gordon burned the Spurs in game two. He led the Rockets in scoring and shot 7 – 12 from three. He was the one Rocket finding and capitalizing off of open threes.

Ferguson committed to play for Sean Miller at Arizona before opting to turn pro in Australia. He put up an underwhelming statistical year in the NBL, but he has the tools to be drafted in the top 20. The 6’7 wing is an explosive athlete who can stroke three-pointers. His ultimate success in the league will be determined by his defense.

nike_chargers_507s — Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
The Bulls have a type in the draft. They prefer college veterans to one-and-dones. They value winning pedigrees. The same formula that led Chicago to Denzel Valentine last year could attract them to Justin Jackson, who broke out as a shooter and scorer in his junior year at UNC.

college football players who have graduated in four or five years are also able to be drafted.

Cleveland’s talk of not selecting the consensus top prospect in the 2017 NFL draft looks like a smokescreen — especially after the former Aggie started following a handful of Browns on social media. Still, you can never count out the possibility of Cleveland surprising everyone to make a universally-panned move.

Foster’s horrible, terrible, bad, no-good combine started with him failing a drug test and ended prematurely after he got into a shouting match with a hospital worker. Cook has been accused of battery and cited for mistreating puppies. With a greater eye on off-field problems than ever before, they are likely to slide to a draft spot that fails to match their immense talent.

After these grades are released, underclassmen can pull their names out of the draft process and return to school, no problem. But If you’ve signed with an agent before the deadline, your college playing days are over.

Obviously, college football players who have graduated in four or five years are also able to be drafted.

If you have graduated, your draft eligibility is only good for the year after you’ve graduated. If you didn’t go to college, it’s once four seasons have passed since you or your classmates (if you didn’t get a diploma) graduate high school.

Of course, you can also tell the league no, like the first draft pick ever did. Even after all that, McKinley never let his situation deter him from his goal — a promise he’d made to his dying mother that he’d play Division I football and everything that came after.

On Thursday night, his hard work paid off. The Falcons traded up from 31 to add him to their roster with the 26th pick of the draft. His breakout 2016 season, bolstered by a series of solid offseason workouts, has set expectations high for an extraordinary young man.

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Who had the best suit of the 2017 NFL draft?

Fashion is important to the NFL draft. Ultimately, the team’s picks matter most, but clothing is like, the second biggest thing.

Here are the best suits of the night. And the worst. Honestly, in my eyes, these are all great.

For one thing, it’s a nice feather in Brady Hoke’s cap. Virtually all of these recruits, including the former five-star Peppers, were the former Michigan coach’s. Hoke was fired two years ago after a disappointing run, and nobody thinks it wasn’t a good idea to do that and replace him with Harbaugh. If you want to dock Hoke for last year’s two-draftee output, feel free, but you should also credit him for this year.

It’s also a good player development show for Harbaugh and his staff. His program hasn’t won the Big Ten yet, or even its East division. But these players were part of mediocre to bad teams under Hoke and two good ones in a row under Harbaugh. It’s not like his staff didn’t have anything to do with this. Even Pete Carroll agrees.

The Buckeyes are 2-0 on the field against Harbaugh, and Urban Meyer has signed slightly higher-rated recruiting classes than UM’s two years in a row.

Last year, when Michigan was getting all of two guys drafted, Ohio State was notching the best college draft class in history with 12 total picks. This year’s Buckeyes count was just seven to Michigan’s 11. The Wolverines might as well put it on the board.

Looking at college numbers before last year’s draft, Goff didn’t stand out from his peers in any major way.

Goff was able to get the ball downfield while taking few sacks. That’s good. The main red flag: shouldn’t the No. 1 pick check more boxes? He’s lanky, his Combine stats and completion rate were okay, he threw a few too many picks, and he offers nothing from a rushing standpoint. Is that a guy you want to trade away your draft for?
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