All posts by phnseo

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton stepping away after 16 years with franchise

Sean Payton revealed his decision to step away Tuesday, 16 years after he was hired as the New Orleans Saints’ coach, though he stressed multiple times that “retirement is not the right word.”

Payton, 58, said he doesn’t plan to coach another team in 2022, adding, “That’s not where my heart is right now.” And since he has three years left on his contract, the Saints would have to agree to trade compensation if he wanted to coach another team.

However, Payton didn’t rule out a return to coaching in the future. And he said he is interested in pursuing a TV analyst job, though he insisted that neither he nor his agent Don Yee have talked with any media outlets yet.

“I don’t know what’s next — and it kind of feels good,” Payton said during an emotional 90-minute news conference at the team’s practice facility. “But, man, I felt like it was time. … But not with any regret. There’s some excitement, like, ‘All right, what’s next?'”

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Payton explained that he had been considering this departure all the way back to training camp before confirming how he felt over the past two weeks. He said owner Gayle Benson, general manager Mickey Loomis and team president Dennis Lauscha all tried to talk him out of it. And he thanked Benson for encouraging him to go on vacation for the past two weeks before making a final decision.

The Saints are now the ninth NFL team with a head coaching vacancy.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. are two obvious candidates for a possible promotion, considering the Saints just posted their fifth consecutive winning season and aren’t necessarily looking for an overhaul.

Payton mentioned Allen by name while explaining that he and the Saints never discussed any sort of arrangement where he might possibly come back after a one-year hiatus.

Payton admitted that he searched the internet Monday night for tips on how to avoid crying during a news conference.

He started by singling out Benson, Loomis and Lauscha individually, calling Loomis “one of my best friends.” And he presented Benson with a piece of king cake — a traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras dessert — saying it was his version of TV character Ted Lasso’s biscuit tradition.

Payton made his mark as the winningest coach in Saints history and one of the NFL’s all-time great offensive minds. The Saints signed Brees two months after Payton was hired in 2006, and they led New Orleans to the first Super Bowl triumph in franchise history in 2009.

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Milwaukee Bucks’ Grayson Allen suspended one game for foul on Chicago Bulls’ Alex Caruso

The NBA on Sunday suspended the Milwaukee Bucks’ Grayson Allen for one game for his flagrant 2 foul on Alex Caruso that caused a fractured wrist for the Chicago Bulls guard.

The league punished Allen, who was ejected from the Bucks’ 94-90 triumph over the Bulls on Friday night after receiving the flagrant 2 foul, for what it deemed was “unnecessary and excessive contact,” according to a news release. Allen will serve his suspension during the Bucks’ next game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

The Bucks said in a statement that they “disagree” with the suspension. “We disagree with the suspension. We support Grayson and look forward to him rejoining our team for Friday’s game vs. New York,” the team said

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Caruso is arranged to have wrist surgery Monday that will sideline him for six to eight weeks.

“Nothing is changing from what happened the other night to where we are now, and the best thing we can do as a team is just move on,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said during a video conference before Sunday night’s 114-95 loss to the Orlando Magic.

“That’s really the only thing we have control over. I feel bad for Alex that he’s going to be out this long more so than anything else.”

Friday marked the first time this season Allen, who is in his first season with the Bucks, has been called for a flagrant foul and only the second time in his NBA career. In 2019, he was ejected from a Summer League game for picking up two flagrant fouls within seconds of each other.

The suspension will cost Allen a $27,963 game check, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Although the Bulls are poised to be without Caruso and Lonzo Ball, who is scheduled to undergo knee surgery this week, they could be getting some reinforcements back from injuries soon. 

Zach LaVine (knee) and Javonte Green (groin) are both expected to meet the team on Monday in Oklahoma City. Donovan stated there is “a chance” both players are available to play.

“Provided everything goes well,” Donovan said. “We’ll see where they’re at physically.”

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Baltimore Ravens fire defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale

The Baltimore Ravens have fired defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale with one year left on his contract.

This surprising shake-up represents the first move made by the Ravens since they lost six consecutive games to end the season and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh issued a statement Friday saying he and Martindale “agreed to move forward in separate directions.”

“We have had a great run on defense, and I am very proud of what has been accomplished and the work he has done,” Harbaugh said in his statement.

“Don has been a major contributor to the success of our defense since 2012, and especially since he became defensive coordinator four years ago. He has done a great job. Now it is time to pursue other opportunities.

“Sometimes the moment comes, and it’s the right time. I am personally grateful for our friendship and for everything he has done in Baltimore.”

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According to a source, the sides couldn’t reach an agreement on a one-year extension for Martindale through 2023.

There were members in the organization who were caught off guard by the parting of ways with Martindale. The decision came 12 days after the Ravens’ season-ending, 16-13 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and came after Martindale had participated in personnel meetings last week.

Martindale also was asked to address the players in the final team meeting a day after the season ended.

The move was revealed while the Ravens’ brain trust — Harbaugh, owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Eric DeCosta — was holding its annual organizational summit.

Baltimore ranked No. 25 on defense last season, the first time the Ravens had finished out of the top 10 in Martindale’s four seasons as defensive coordinator. The Ravens also permitted the second-most yards (363.4) in the franchise’s 26-year history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Martindale, 58, had been with the Ravens since their 2012 Super Bowl season and was known for his ultra-aggressive style. The Ravens regularly ranked among the highest-blitzing teams.

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Deiveson Figueiredo edges past rival Brandon Moreno to reclaim featherweight title in trilogy bout

Mexican fans showed up in droves on Saturday to witness the UFC’s first Mexican-born champion, Brandon Moreno, defend his title for the first time. But by the slimmest of margins, Deiveson Figueiredo spoiled the party.

Figueiredo (21-2-1) reclaimed the 125-pound title he lost to Moreno (19-6-2) in August by defeating his rival in a unanimous decision. All three judges scored the flyweight title fight, which co-headlined UFC 270 inside the Honda Center, in favor of Figueiredo, 48-47.

Saturday’s result brings the rivalry to an even record of 1-1-1. The two fought to a draw in December 2020, before Moreno dominated Figueiredo in their second meeting. After losing by submission in the rematch, however, Figueiredo looked like a completely different fighter in the trilogy, as his cardio and mental preparation was obvious.

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“Today is my day,” Figueiredo stated. “For this moment, for Brandon, for us to give you the gift of a fight of the night, for everyone who was here. I’ve been away from my family for four months. I’m ready for a fourth fight against Brandon in Mexico.”

According to UFC Stats, Moreno outlanded Figueiredo 106-95 in total strikes.

But Figueiredo landed several devastating strikes, including a heavy right hand that knocked Moreno down, badly hurting him, at the end of the third round.

“I feel like I threw the better combinations with more speed, maybe he connected a little bit more power,” Moreno said. “Obviously, I thought I won, but it is what it is right now. I feel I was putting better pace on the fight. I don’t know. I need to watch the fight again and see what happened.”

The trilogy fight saw the best of both men. Moreno’s boxing and footwork were on display all night. He had great success with his left hook at the end of exchanges and was hard to track down in wrestling scrambles. Figueiredo answered with heavy low leg kicks that knocked Moreno off balance and powerful right hands.

Figueiredo left his native Brazil ahead of Saturday’s fight to train with former flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo in Arizona, and his adjustments clearly paid off. His patience was better, and his weight cut during fight week was noticeably improved from August.

Moreno’s popularity exploded after he acquired the belt. Saturday’s crowd was heavily in his favor and played a big role in the UFC setting a new gate record at the Honda Center. In the main event, Francis Ngannou fought Ciryl Gane for the UFC’s heavyweight championship.

The loss was Moreno’s first since May 2018.

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Strong fourth quarter carries San Francisco 49ers past Green Bay Packers, into NFC Championship Game

The San Francisco 49ers simply will not go away.

The same Niners that were once 3-5 and headed for a long offseason full of questions are now headed to the NFC Championship match for the second time in three seasons.

To get there, San Francisco had to pull out the type of late-game magic that has been a hallmark of its late-season surge to the playoffs. The result was a wild 13-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night at Lambeau Field.

The 49ers await the winner of Sunday’s NFC divisional game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams.

After a disappointing offensive performance, the Niners pieced together the drive they needed at the biggest moment, with wide receiver Deebo Samuel taking a handoff nine yards for a first down on third-and-7 at Green Bay’s 38.

Samuel’s run set up place-kicker Robbie Gould’s winning 45-yard field goal as time expired.

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“This team has been through a lot,” San Francisco tight end George Kittle said. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity. We’ve dealt with a lot. We’ve lost games by making mistakes. We’ve won games dirty. This is a gritty team. It’s a salty team, and we just keep bouncing back.”

That toughness has been on display a lot over the past couple of months.

The Niners went 7-2 over their final nine games to get into the postseason.

That run culminated in a 17-point comeback triumph over the Rams in the final week that clinched a playoff spot.

The Niners went 7-2 over their final nine games to get into the postseason. That run culminated in a 17-point comeback triumph over the Rams in the final week that clinched a playoff spot.

It continued versus the Dallas Cowboys last weekend, when the Niners nearly coughed up a 16-point advantage but managed to squeeze by to advance to the divisional round against the Packers.

But Green Bay presented a unique challenge, one that for most of Saturday looked like it would be too much for the 49ers to overcome. As they’ve done for most of the past 2½ months, the Niners didn’t flinch.

It has become the signature trait of a team that is not as dominant as the 2019 juggernaut but that makes up for its shortcomings with an unrelenting will to win.

The Niners became the first team since the 1988 Buffalo Bills to block a punt and a field goal in the same playoff game. San Francisco also became just the fourth team to win a postseason contest without an offensive touchdown since 2000.

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Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo 3 preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight elites Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo will collide for the third time this weekend at UFC 270 inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Though the record heading into their rubber match stands only slightly in favor of Moreno at 1-0-1, it’s impossible to deny that he has all the momentum. After all, the rematch saw the Mexican athlete put on a masterclass, a dominant showing in all areas of martial arts that seemingly sent Figueiredo packing to Bantamweight.

Instead, “Daico” stuck around, and when Alexandre Pantoja was unable to accept a title shot due to injury, Figueiredo was in prime position for a shot at retaking the belt.

Could this be his last fight at Flyweight one way or another? Perhaps, and Friday’s weigh-ins may be a spectacle to keep an eye on.

Moreno has been very good since he first joined the UFC roster, but his skills and confidence has exploded in the last 1.5 years.

The Flyweight king now possesses arguably the division’s sharpest jab, slick counter combinations, and his wrestling/grappling remain quite potent.

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Is there really any room for improvement based on the rematch?

In their second battle, Moreno immediately jabbed his adversary up, kept him swinging at air, and landed punishing shots from his back foot. He took him down, dropped him and choked him out.

The same tools Moreno found success with last time are likely to be available again here, as Figueiredo is 34 years old, deep into his professional career, and unlikely to full revamp his game in half a year. As such, it would be wise for Moreno to start quickly and keep momentum in his corner.

If Moreno starts the fight by blasting Figueiredo’s nose with stiff jabs and making him miss, it’ll really damage his opponent’s confidence, and the fight likely looks like a continuation of the rematch.

Figueiredo got beat up last time out, but that doesn’t mean the Brazilian sucks now. “Deus da Guerra” remains one of the division’s heaviest hitters, an all-offense fighter known for brutalizing opponents.

Seventeen finishes in 20 wins as a Flyweight is massive.

For as great as Moreno’s performance was in the rematch, Figueiredo’s was equally flat. The Brazilian never found his timing, tried to force exchanges, and ultimately didn’t look that upset when he lost. In short, it wasn’t his night, and “Daico” definitely has more to offer than he showed at UFC 263.

For Figueiredo, not chasing Moreno is the key. Due to the power in his hands, Figueiredo has grown accustomed to swinging big, and if he misses, most opponents pulled too far away to answer back.

Instead of hunting the knockout from the first bell, Figueiredo has to take his time and attack easier targets, notably the lead calf and torso.

If Figueiredo is cutting off the cage and looking to slow Moreno down with attritional damage, he’ll eventually get the brawl he wants.

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Cincinnati Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson clears concussion protocol, OK to play Saturday

The Bengals will have their top pass-rusher available for Saturday’s playoff game.

Defensive end Trey Hendrickson successfully cleared the concussion protocol and will play versus the Tennessee Titans in the teams’ AFC divisional-round playoff game, Bengals coach Zac Taylor said on Thursday.

“He’s been in these moments before,” Taylor said in a teleconference with local reporters. “He’s one of our premier players. It’s good to have him.” Hendrickson left the team’s 26-19 wild-card-round victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Jan. 15 and entered the league’s concussion protocol.

He made progress toward returning throughout the week, starting with limited participation at Tuesday’s practice and then practicing in full on Wednesday.

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Since signing with the Bengals in the 2021 offseason on a four-year, $60 million deal, Hendrickson has been one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.

In the 2021 season, he tallied 14 sacks, which led the team and is the most in a single season in Bengals history since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. He also ranked ninth in the NFL in pass rush win rate among edge rushers during the regular season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

The return of Hendrickson boosts a defensive line that will still be short-handed against the top-seeded Titans. Bengals defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier in the week.

He left the victory over Las Vegas with a foot injury and tweeted on Thursday that he had successful surgery.

Saturday’s game against Tennessee is Cincinnati’s first divisional-round game since January 1991. The Bengals are looking to make their first appearance in the AFC Championship Game since 1988.

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Ball’s triple-double carries Hornets past Celtics, 111-102

LaMelo Ball had a triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Charlotte Hornets to a 111-102 triumph over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

Terry Rozier led Charlotte with 28 points against his former team. Miles Bridges scored 22 and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 18 for the Hornets, who won for the ninth time in 12 matches.

“To come in here and get a win — we want to make a statement,” Rozier said. “We want to get to where they’re at as an organization.”

Dennis Schröder paced Boston with 24 points. Jaylen Brown scored 21 and Al Horford had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“I thought we had a lot of good looks and we moved the ball really well,” Brown said. “They made a lot of tough baskets. They came and outplayed us.”

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Boston star Jayson Tatum was hampered by foul trouble and concluded with just 12 points on 5-of-19 shooting in 35 minutes. The Celtics had won five of six.

“I thought part of the foul trouble affected him overall as well as some other guys,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “That was my message to the team: Impact the game when the shot’s not falling.”

The Celtics were just 14 of 46 on 3-point attempts.

Boston sliced a 12-point deficit to 88-84 early in the final quarter but Charlotte scored 10 of the next 14 points, pulling ahead 98-88 on Oubre’s 3-pointer from the left wing with 4:55 to play. Ball had nailed a 3 from the left corner two minutes earlier.

“The competitiveness and resiliency was there in the fourth quarter,” Hornets coach James Borrego said.

The Celtics cut it to 102-96 on Horford’s 3 with 2:48 left, but Ball nailed a 3 from in front of Boston’s bench and Rozier followed with one on the Hornets’ next possession.

Boston trimmed the margin to six one more time, but Rozier nailed another 3 to seal it in the final minute.

Ball grabbed a rebound with 0.2 seconds left to complete his triple-double. He said Bridges reminded him how close he was.

“He was like: ‘Box out and you’ll get that last rebound,’” Ball said, pointing to Bridges sitting next to him at the postgame news conference. ”I said, ‘Oh, you’re right!”

Rozier hit three from beyond the arc in a 62-second span of the third quarter, pushing the Hornets’ lead to 75-61. They were up 86-74 entering the fourth.

“To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” Rozier said. “We just want to keep going. We’re not satisfied. We’ve got to stay humble and keep on having fun and playing out there. That’s the main thing.”

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Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield has shoulder surgery, eyes return to ‘my true self’

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield says he is on track to getting “back to my true self” after undergoing surgery Wednesday to repair a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder.

Dr. Orr Limpisvasti, the orthopedic surgeon for the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, performed the surgery on Mayfield’s left shoulder in California.

“Surgery went great. Was a complete success,” Mayfield said in a video posted to social media. “Now it’s on to the road to recovery. It’s one of those steps to get back to my true self. … This is not the end of my story.”

The Browns stated the likely time period for Mayfield’s recovery is four to six months. He will start physical therapy on his shoulder next week and is expected to be cleared by training camp, if not sooner, a source told ESPN.

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Mayfield, who suffered the shoulder injury in Week 2 and played through it for the rest of the season, will start light throwing in April and should be able to participate in the off-season program on a limited basis, the team said.

After the Browns’ Week 17 game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mayfield admitted that he was “pretty damn beat up.”

With Cleveland already eliminated from playoff contention, Mayfield sat out the team’s season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 9.

Even though Mayfield concluded 27th in the league in QBR (35.3) this season, Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry declared last week that the Browns “fully expect” the 2018 No. 1 draft pick to be their starting quarterback in 2022 and “bounce back” from his injury-plagued season.

Mayfield will be entering the final year of his rookie contract, which will pay him close to $19 million in 2022 after the Browns exercised his fifth-year option last offseason.

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LA Clippers extending Paul George’s period of rest a few more weeks to see how elbow responds

The LA Clippers are extending Paul George’s period of rest for the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow a few more weeks to see how it responds, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

George has not played since scoring 17 points in a victory at the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 22.

He initially suffered a sprained elbow versus the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 6, and rested and rehabbed for two weeks, missing five matches.

He felt better and returned to play in two games, but after feeling pain in the elbow, he underwent an MRI and the Clippers revealed on Dec. 25 that he had a torn UCL in his shooting elbow.

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The initial timetable George would need to see how the elbow healed was three to four weeks before being reevaluated.

The Clippers were 17-15 when George last played. Without their star guard, the Clippers have gone 5-8 since.

Coach Ty Lue’s team has been hit hard by injuries and COVID-19. It entered the season without Kawhi Leonard, who is rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in Game 4 of the Clippers’ second-round series against the Utah Jazz on June 14.

They also have had to play stretches without starters such as Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac at times this season.

The Clips enter a difficult stretch in which they play their next eight games on the road.

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