All posts by phnseo

Usman defeats Masvidal to retain belt

Kamaru Usman pushed Jorge Masvidal up against the cage. He struck Masvidal with his shoulder, stomped Masvidal’s feet and dug in with hard punches to the body.

With an opponent coming in on a week’s notice, Usman’s strategy was clear: grind and wear Masvidal out. And it worked entirely.

Usman overpowered Masvidal via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) in the main event of UFC 251 on Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. With the win, Usman retained his UFC welterweight title.

Usman vs. Masvidal came together only in the past eight days. Usman’s scheduled opponent, Gilbert Burns, tested positive for the coronavirus on July 3, just hours before the UFC charter was set to leave Las Vegas for Abu Dhabi.

Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the UFC was able to come to terms with Masvidal — who balked at the promotion’s initial offer for the fight six weeks ago — to fight for the 170-pound title as a late replacement.

“‘[Masvidal] is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” Usman told UFC play-by-play announcer Jon Anik after the fight. “I had to switch gears and prepare for him on a week’s notice. … I had to make a mental shift. I trained for Gilbert. I had a completely different game plan.”

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The addition of Masvidal, one of the UFC’s biggest stars, actually made the fight more highly anticipated. Masvidal and Usman had been feuding since a verbal altercation on Super Bowl radio row back in February.

Usman’s 12 consecutive victories ties lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov for the longest active winning streak in the UFC. That figure also ties Georges St-Pierre for the longest winning streak in UFC welterweight history.

Usman (17-1) has never lost in the UFC.

The Nigerian-born Florida resident has not lost since his second pro bout, in 2013. Usman, 33, was coming off a fifth-round TKO over Colby Covington at UFC 245 in December, the latest UFC title-fight finish ever. This was Usman’s second title defense.

Masvidal (35-14) stopped Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz within an eight-month span last year, making him one of the hottest pugilists on the UFC roster. The 5-second KO of Askren was the quickest in UFC history.

Masvidal, a 35-year-old Miami native, had 48 career fights coming in, which was the second-highest total ever for a fighter competing in his or her first UFC title bout.

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Houston J.J Watt says it’s still too early to make call on playing

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said Wednesday that it’s too early for players to make a decision on whether they’ll play this campaign given the many unknowns that remain with the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve been on the NFLPA calls the last couple times we’ve had them,” Watt said on a conference call when asked whether he’s made a decision on whether to play.

“I don’t think we’re anywhere … I don’t think we’re at a point yet where people are making that decision because we don’t have enough information yet to be making decisions like that. So I think that it’s a very fluid process, and I think it keeps coming up. Obviously … the report date gets closer and closer. But as of right now, we really don’t have enough information to make a decision like that, I would say.”

The Texans report to training camp July 25. They are programed to open the season at the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 10.

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Watt was asked whether he believes it is necessary to play preseason matches. The league canceled the NFL’s preseason-opening Hall of Fame Game and shortened the preseason from four games per team to two in order to help players acclimate to being back on the field after going through a virtual offseason program. Last week, a source told ESPN that the NFL Players Association’s board of player representatives voted to recommend canceling all 2020 preseason games.

“If the doctors and the PA doctors decide that it’s not in the best safety interest of the players to have them, then we don’t have to,” Watt said. “But I also at the same time think about undrafted guys and the guys who make a roster in the fourth preseason game and how special that is and how many opportunities would be missed from that. So I’m on both sides of the fence.

“I think obviously as a vet, personally do I think that preseason games for somebody in my situation is absolutely necessary? I would say, I don’t think so. But I think there are a whole bunch of people who need those opportunities and who live for those opportunities. I mean, it can literally change a life. So I see, I see the other side of it where somebody could literally have their entire dream come true because of those games, so that’s a very difficult debate to have.”

Watt stated he hoped the NFL was looking at the way the other leagues are operating in their attempts to return to play.

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Indians clear outfielder Franmil Reyes to rejoin workouts

Cleveland Indians outfielder Franmil Reyes has been cleared to return to the team after attending an Independence Day party without a mask.

Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters Reyes was tested for COVID-19 and isolated himself from the team after it became known he was maskless around other people.

“I want to make sure everybody understands that there was nothing egregious,” Francona told reporters Tuesday. “So we called him and told him that he needs to test again when it’s appropriate, and that’s for the medical people to tell us, before we can let him back to practice. Again, he’s not in the penalty box—I want to make that perfectly clear—it’s just the way we have to operate right now.”

Unlike the NHL and NBA, MLB is not having its players convene in a “bubble” format. They are free to go home when workouts end, and MLB will be traveling via plane, staying in hotels, etc. over the course of its regional 60-game campaign.

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Francona said the team spoke with its players after video of Reyes attending a party made rounds on social media.

Reyes, 25, is heading into his first full season with Cleveland after a midseason trade from the San Diego Padres in 2019. The right fielder played 150 matches last year, hitting 37 home runs and driving in 81 runs with a .249/.310/.512 slash line. 

Also, outfielder Delino DeShields Jr., who tested positive for the coronavirus, is traveling to Cleveland after he had one negative test. The team says DeShields experienced minor symptoms from the virus. He’ll be tested again when he arrives and can rejoin his teammates as long as he doesn’t test positive again.

“He was obviously excited. Said he was planning on traveling like the Michelin Man today through the airport,” Francona stated DeShields is in his first campaign with Cleveland, which obtained him in December from Texas in the trade involving ace Corey Kluber.

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Rafael Devers joins Red Sox for summer camp

Rafael Devers didn’t work out with his teammates at Fenway Park for the first week of summer camp because the Red Sox feared he had been exposed to COVID-19.

After three tests came up negative, however, Devers was cleared to return and joined his teammates at Fenway Park on Wednesday afternoon for live batting practice.

He had been working out at Boston College with other possible positive cases, manager Ron Roenicke said, out of an abundance of caution.

“We had some guys that were possibly exposed to somebody with coronavirus,” Roenicke said via Zoom on Wednesday.

“This group has tested negative three times. We will continue to test them, just because we’re being overly cautious. That’s kind of why we’ve separated some of the guys from the later workouts.”

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Devers hopes to bat in Thursday’s intrasquad scrimmage, Roenicke said, because he’s eager to lock in his timing at the plate versus big league pitching.

If all goes well, he’d likely play third base in Friday’s scrimmage.

“He’s concerned about seeing velocity,” Roenicke stated. “We were able to do that over there with him with the pitching machine in the cage. He’ll do that again and see live BP today, which is helpful, and then if he’s ready for a couple of at-bats, we’ll have him in the intrasquad tomorrow.”

Added Roenicke: “I know with him, he’s a little concerned, because he’s trying to catch up and make sure he’s getting all the work in that he needs.”

There’s no overstating Devers’ significance to the lineup after a breakout 2019 in which he hit .311 with 32 homers, 115 RBIs, and a league-leading 54 doubles and 359 total bases. With Mookie Betts in Los Angeles, Devers is expected to be one of the driving forces in the lineup, alongside Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez.

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Short handed Nets reach deal with veteran guard Jamal Crawford

When the Brooklyn Nets boarded their plane out of New York on Tuesday, there were only 12 healthy players on board. But reinforcements are coming. Jamal Crawford is signing with the Nets for the remainder of the season, league sources told ESPN.

Crawford, 40, will fill one of the Nets’ three vacant substitute roster spots. Crawford is qualified to be signed after Brooklyn had three players — Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Taurean Prince — test positive for the coronavirus.

All three have been ruled out for the campaign restart in Orlando, Florida. Wilson Chandler, citing familial obligations, also did not make the trip. The team signed forward Justin Anderson in his place.

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Now the Nets have two roster spots available to be filled.

According to NBA rules, Crawford could fly or drive to Florida. If he hasn’t been tested regularly since June 23 — when the league started testing players every other day — he will need to quarantine and be tested every day for a week in Orlando before he will be eligible to join his new teammates on the court.

Crawford hasn’t played in the NBA in the 2019-20 season. He most recently played for the Phoenix Suns and scored 51 points in the last match he played in 2019. The 20-year veteran has averaged 14.6 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over the course of his career.

The Nets arrived in Orlando on Tuesday as one of the 22 NBA teams listed to resume games on July 30. They are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the Orlando Magic, who currently hold the final playoff spot.

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Masahiro Tanaka returns to Yankee Stadium only two days after taking 112 mph liner to head

The Yankees had their Sunday brightened by Masahiro Tanaka, who came to the ballpark and seemed well a day after being hit in the head by Giancarlo Stanton’s line drive.

They’re hoping Yankee Stadium’s lights will do the same this week.

Encouraged by Tanaka’s progress after Saturday’s scare, the Yankees are planning to hold intrasquad night games Monday and Tuesday in the Bronx as they prepare for the July 23 start of a 60-game regular season condensed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 7 p.m. scrimmages will both air on YES Network, giving fans at least a couple of live looks at the defending AL East champions this summer. Left-hander J.A. Happ is expected to start against young righty Clarke Schmidt on Monday, and new ace Gerrit Cole — signed to a $324 million, nine-year free agent deal last winter — is set to pitch Tuesday.

New York has also been working to calendar exhibition matches in the next 2 1/2 weeks with other clubs, possibly the Mets, but nothing has been formalized. “We’re putting a premium on live reps as much as we can,” manager Aaron Boone said.

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Sunday’s second day of summer camp certainly went smoother than the first. The opener carried a somber feel after Stanton’s comebacker drilled Tanaka in the right side of his head in the third at-bat of the session.

Left-hander James Paxton said Sunday that Stanton’s shot was measured at 112 mph (180 kph).

Tanaka was released from the hospital Saturday night after a CT scan came back negative, and he is in concussion protocol. Boone is cautiously optimistic Tanaka could be ready by opening day.

“I think all the signs are pointing that he really dodged a bullet there,” Boone stated.

All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman and catcher Gary Sanchez took the field Sunday after missing Saturday’s workout. They arrived in New York a day later than teammates due to travel issues and had to wait for results from intake virus testing.

Chapman threw a bullpen, and Sanchez took live at-bats against Paxton, who looked sharp in his first simulated game of this camp.

Paxton is ramping up following back surgery in February that would have cost him much of the campaign if not for the delay.

The big left-hander walked Sanchez to start, then struck out Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade and Sanchez successively. It was an encouraging sign for a club already without starter Luis Severino for the year due to Tommy John surgery and now facing questions about Tanaka’s availability.

“I had no problem with the back,” Paxton said. “Everything felt really good.”

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Browns DE Vernon restructures contract, will get $11 million guaranteed in 2020

The Cleveland Browns have renegotiated defense end Olivier Vernon’s contract, an unnamed source told ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates.

Vernon was set to make $15.25 million, non-guaranteed, in 2020.

Now, Vernon gets $11 million guaranteed through a $7 million signing bonus, $3.75 million in base salary and a $250,000 workout bonus, according to Yates.

Vernon, 29, is also entitled for $2 million more in incentives.

There were reports earlier this offseason of the Browns’ interest in signing free agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney, 27, and Griffen, 32, remain free agents as of Tuesday morning.

However, OverTheCap.com showed the Browns had $37.27 million left in cap space before renegotiating Vernon’s deal.

It means the Browns still could add either Clowney or Griffen and keep Vernon.

At the same time, the Browns likely need to let some of the salary cap space roll over to next offseason to offer Garrett a contract extension.

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Garrett, 24, is entering his fourth season in the league and is due to make $4.61 million this season.

The Browns already picked up Garrett’s fifth-year option in 2021, which is worth $15.18 million.

In the offseason, Pro Football Focus reporter Ben Linsey ranked Garrett and Vernon as the second-best edge defender duo in the NFL.

In 2019, Vernon played in 10 matches, compiling 26 tackles, four tackles for a loss, 11 quarterback hits and a career-low 3.5 sacks.

Pro Football Focus graded Vernon as the Browns’ third-highest graded pass rusher.

Vernon missed three games after injuring his knee during a Week 9 loss to the Denver Broncos.

In Week 13 versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, Vernon played only 10 snaps before missing three more games.

Vernon played in the regular-season finale versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Injuries forced Vernon to miss time during the last three seasons, playing in 11 games for the Giants in 2018 and 12 games in 2017.

However, Vernon did not miss a game during his first five seasons in the league from 2012-2016. Headed into the 2020 season, Vernon is entering the final year of his contract after the Browns acquired him in a trade with the New York Giants.

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Chiefs Patrick Mahomes agree to 10 year contract extension

Patrick Mahomes, a year removed from his first league MVP award and just four months after leading the Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl LIV, is about to cash in on his early success. Mahomes, the first player in league history to win league and Super Bowl MVP honors before his 25th birthday, has come to terms on a 10-year deal with the Chiefs, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The contract is reportedly the richest deal in NFL history. Also, per Schefter, Mahomes’ 10-year extension is worth $450 million with a $140 million injury guarantee. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports Mahomes’ 10-year extension will be guided by a mechanism that ensures the quarterback’s annual salary never drops below certain cap thresholds — in other words it will always be above a certain percentage of the NFL’s salary cap.

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It is unusual to see a contract extension of this length  — and with those clauses and parameters — but it’s also rare to see a quarterback accomplish what Mahomes has this few years into his career. Back in January, CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora reported that the Chiefs were formulating to offer Mahomes a record-setting contract that would pay him at least $40 million a season.

The 10th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Mahomes was entering the final original year of his four-year, $16.4 million rookie contract.

The Chiefs did pick up his fifth-year option back in April.  Had Mahomes played under his fifth-year option in 2021, he would have made $24,837,000, according to CBS Sports’ Joel Corry. Mahomes is now slated to join the list of the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks.

In terms of annual salary, Russell Wilson currently holds the title as the league’s highest-paid quarterback, receiving an annual salary fo $35 million. The league’s other top-paid passers involve Ben Roethlisberger ($34 million), Aaron Rodgers ($33.5 million), Jared Goff ($33.5 million), Kirk Cousins ($33 million), Carson Wentz ($32 million), Dak Prescott ($31.4 million) and Matt Ryan ($30 million), according to Over the Cap. 

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WBC orders Luke Campbell-Ryan Garcia fight for interim lightweight title

The WBC has ordered a fight between Luke Campbell and Ryan Garcia for the organization’s interim lightweight title.

This occasion became available after the WBC’s top-rated lightweight, Javier Fortuna, opted to face Jorge Linares on Aug. 28. Campbell and Garcia are ranked second and third by the WBC, respectively.

“I’m finally getting to fight a southpaw my favorite fighters to fight! Bring it on luke Campbell,” Garcia wrote on Twitter. The entire WBC lightweight title scenario is a bit of a quagmire. The WBC “franchise” champion is Vasiliy Lomachenko, the organization’s regular champion is Devin Haney, and Fortuna-Linares will be contested for the WBC’s “Diamond” title.

It’s not clear just how this will ultimately be cleared up, or if the winner of Campbell-Garcia will face any of the other champions in the foreseeable future.

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While it’s an enticing matchup on paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this fight is destined to happen.

Both sides must come to an agreement, and recently Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs) and his promotional company, Golden Boy Promotions, have been at odds. The popular young prizefighter was arranged to kick off Golden Boy’s return to action on July 4, but was unable to come to terms.

It has become a very public spat between the two parties, who are meeting later this week, according to Eric Gomez, the president of Golden Boy Promotions.

“We just got the letter today [from the WBC], so we’re in the process of talking to Ryan,” Gomez said. “We’re going to talk to his team, we’re going to see what he wants to do.

“That’s one of the guys he’s said repeatedly that he wants to fight,” Gomez said regarding Campbell.

First and foremost, it seems as though the relationship between Garcia and Golden Boy has to be mended. “We’re meeting with team Ryan later this week, most likely Friday,” Gomez said.

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Cleveland TE David Njoku asks Browns for trade

Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku has demanded a trade before training camp, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday.

“It is in David’s best interest to find a new team at this time,” Njoku’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said, via Schefter. Training camps starts July 28.

The Browns would like to keep him, per the report. The team exercised Njoku’s fifth-year option in April, keeping him under contract through the 2021 campaign.

The news, however, reportedly wasn’t shocking to the Browns. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the team has known for about a year that he has been unhappy in Cleveland.

Njoku, who turns 24 next Friday, missed most of the 2019 season with a broken wrist and a concussion. The former first-round draft pick out of Miami has 93 receptions, 1,066 yards and nine touchdowns in 36 matches with the Browns. He started 14 of 16 games in 2018, his second season, and caught 56 passes for 639 yards with four touchdowns.

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It may be in Njoku’s “best interest” to leave because of who joined the team.

Cleveland added Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper in the offseason, reportedly agreeing to a deal minutes into the so-called legal tampering period. They agreed to a four-year, $42 million deal that made him the NFL’s highest paid at the position.

Then in the 2020 NFL draft, the team selected tight end Harrison Bryant out of Florida Atlantic in the fourth round.

Stefanski has said he has formations including three tight ends! Njoku is with a coach who is close to being obsessed with the position.

A healthy Njoku in the proper frame of mind is with an offense where he could have a huge season.

Njoku has to realize Berry was part of the 2017 Sashi Brown front office that traded up into the first round to grab him with the 29th pick. Berry was a significant talent evaluator for that front office and has a stake in Njoku playing well. It’s part of the reason the 2021 option was picked up. Berry thinks the 24 year old can play, period.

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