Category Archives: NFL

Star receiver Deebo Samuel asks San Francisco 49ers to trade him

For the past few months, the San Francisco 49ers have repeatedly stated they’d like to keep wide receiver Deebo Samuel for a long time. On Wednesday, it became clear that Samuel and the Niners don’t quite see things the same way.

Samuel, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, told ESPN’s Jeff Darlington that he has asked the 49ers to trade him. Samuel declined to offer specific reasons for requesting the trade but acknowledged that he has informed the team of his desire to leave.

That comes on the heels of what has become an increasingly turbulent relationship between the two sides following Samuel’s breakout 2021 season. In recent weeks, Samuel has scrubbed any mention of the 49ers from his Instagram account, unfollowed the team and removed most photos of him in the team’s uniform from the platform. When the Niners opened their offseason conditioning program on Tuesday, Samuel did not attend, and sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he was not expected to participate in any on-field work during the voluntary portion of the offseason program.

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Samuel’s trade request comes at a time when the salaries for wide receivers have skyrocketed.

The Las Vegas Raiders gave Davante Adams $28.5 million per season on an extension after trading for him, and the Miami Dolphins rewarded Tyreek Hill with a contract averaging $30 million per season one week later after acquiring him from the Kansas City Chiefs. Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs also received a lucrative contract extension recently.

Despite all of that, at every chance this offseason, San Francisco general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have stated they intend to keep Samuel with the team well into the future. At the NFL owners meetings at the end of March, both sounded optimistic that deals for Samuel and defensive end Nick Bosa would be forthcoming.

“Like I’ve long said, those guys are going to be a part of us for a long, long time,” Lynch said. “They’re fantastic players. They’re very much at the core of who we are and they’re fabulous players, fabulous people and a big part of who we are.”

Shanahan said he wasn’t involved in the negotiations but was also adamant that Samuel remains a foundational player for the franchise.

“But we need to figure it out,” Shanahan said. “Those are guys who have earned a lot, two guys that I’m hoping that they are Niners forever, or at least as long as I’m here.”

After the 49ers lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game, Samuel was asked about staying with the Niners long term on a new contract.

“That is not my call,” Samuel said then. “That’s out of my hands.”

But Samuel now seems to be taking matters into his own hands. The 49ers have been open to working out a deal with Samuel, but those talks have not gone anywhere. In the meantime, there are other wideouts who are also still in line for big-money deals.

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Carolina Panthers OC Ben McAdoo says QB Sam Darnold is the team’s starter

New Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo emphatically stated “yes” on Tuesday when asked whether Sam Darnold was his starting quarterback and added that the third pick of the 2018 draft was one reason he took this job.

Seconds later, the former New York Giants head coach tempered his yes by adding that coach Matt Rhule has a say over the decision but that “the way it is in the building right now, Sam is our starting quarterback.”

Darnold and P.J. Walker are the only quarterbacks under contract for 2022, and the Panthers are vetting quarterbacks as candidates for the No. 6 pick in the draft.

“One of the things I’ve been working on is being better talking to you people [media], so announcing the starting quarterback here I just put my foot in my mouth,” said McAdoo, who was fired by the Giants after the 2017 season.

“That wasn’t something I should have said.”

But McAdoo has liked parts of Darnold’s game since the New York Jets drafted him No. 3 out of USC.

He told the New York Post in 2018 that Darnold had a “lot of magic in his game,” although he wondered aloud whether Darnold ever would be the franchise-saver the Jets needed him to be. At the time, he couldn’t get past the flaws in Darnold’s throwing mechanics and ball security.

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“I think he’s special,” McAdoo told the Post. “He’s obviously a talented guy, he can make plays with his feet. I’d just have a hard time drafting a guy in the first round where you don’t necessarily like the way he throws.

“He can overcome it, guys have, but that’s something that’s a challenge for me. I’m gonna be looking at that, trying to fix it, because it’s a fundamental flaw, and I believe in the fundamentals. The quarterback, his No. 1 job is to pass the football. If I don’t like the way he throws the ball, I have a hard time picking him, right?”

But in a sense McAdoo picked Darnold when choosing to come to Carolina after spending last campaign as a consultant for the Dallas Cowboys.

“Sam does have some magic in his game,” McAdoo said in his first interview since being hired on Jan. 24. “He’s got some athleticism to him. I’m excited to work with Sam. We’ve been working the last few days here to get up to speed on offense, and he’s shown flashes of being a good player in this league.”

That doesn’t mean the Panthers are more likely to take a left tackle than a quarterback at No. 6. They’ve spent the past few months evaluating quarterbacks and used seven of their 30 official visits on the position.

The Panthers have had visits with — Liberty’s Malik Willis, Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe and Nevada’s Carson Strong.

Willis, Pickett and Corral, according to draft analysts, are the most likely to go in the first round, with Pickett considered best prepared to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL.

McAdoo doesn’t put a lot of stock in being game ready.

McAdoo appears open to Darnold being his starter despite reports the Panthers are interested in trading for Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. League sources told ESPN that the team simply has been doing due diligence on the position and that if such a trade occurred, it would be after the draft.

McAdoo said in the 2018 Post article that Mayfield had an “edge” about him but that he didn’t see “a lot of pro-style football in his tape.”

McAdoo declined to talk about Mayfield on Tuesday. “I’d love to comment on your question, but this isn’t my first rodeo,” McAdoo said. “I’m going to keep the comments to players on our roster right now.”

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Cleveland Browns make Denzel Ward NFL’s top-paid CB with five-year, $100.5 million extension

The Cleveland Browns are signing Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward to a five-year, $100.5 million contract extension that includes $71.25 million guaranteed, Tory Dandy of CAA Sports, who negotiated the contract, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

At age 24, Ward is now the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history. The $20.1 million average annual salary puts him ahead of Jalen Ramsey, who had been the highest-paid cornerback at $20 million per campaign on the deal he signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 2020.

Ramsey congratulated Ward on his new deal, tweeting: “I been waiting on somebody else to touch that 100 club & you DEFINITELY DESERVE IT @denzelward … congrats.” Ward is now under contract with the Browns for six more years, through the 2027 season. He is under contract for $13.294 million this season after the Browns exercised the fifth-year option on his contract last year.

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The Browns selected Ward fourth overall in 2018, the same draft the team selected quarterback Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall. Ward got a second contract from the Browns, but Mayfield and the franchise are headed for a separation after Cleveland traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson and signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million extension.

The Browns have spent $340.5 million in guaranteed money on all contracts this offseason, the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

That involves extensions, not only the money given to free agents, and $301.25 million of that total was given to Watson and Ward.

Ward tweeted thanks to the Browns “for continuing to believe in the home grown kid and allowing me to represent this organization and city of Cleveland where I’m from.” He also thanked Dandy for the work he put in to finalize the deal.

Ward has been selected to two Pro Bowls in his first four seasons — his rookie year in 2018 and in 2021. He has 10 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and 50 passes defended in 52 games.

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Indianapolis Colts signing CB Stephon Gilmore to two-year deal

The Indianapolis Colts are giving cornerback Stephon Gilmore a two-year, $23 million contract that contains $14 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Gilmore becomes the second veteran addition to the Colts’ secondary this week, after Indianapolis signed safety Rodney McLeod on Thursday.

Cornerback was a position of need for the Colts after they traded starter Rock Ya-Sin to the Las Vegas Raiders for pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue and did not re-sign starter Xavier Rhodes.

The Colts have reshaped their defense after the departure of coordinator Matt Eberflus, who is now the head coach in Chicago, and hired Gus Bradley as his replacement. Indianapolis’ defense now features the five-time Pro Bowler Gilmore, Ngakoue and DeForest Buckner on the line, linebacker Darius Leonard, and one of the league’s best slot corners in Kenny Moore. All five of those players have been selected to at least one Pro Bowl in their careers.

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“He kept saying we would spar, he knows the score and knows what was going on but we ended up sparring [Yuriorkis] Gamboa and he had to get pulled out of the spar. Bearing in mind I wasn’t even in training camp but he had to get pulled out because he was beginning to get a bit of a pasting.

Gilmore played the 2021 season with the Carolina Panthers, who traded a 2023 third-round pick to the New England Patriots in October to get him.

The Panthers added the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in hopes that he could replace first-round pick Jaycee Horn, who experienced a season-ending foot injury in Week 3 at the Houston Texans.

Gilmore, 31, was on the physically unable to perform list when he arrived in Carolina, still recovering from offseason surgery on a torn quad and not eligible to return until Week 6.

He was activated in Week 8 and played the final eight matches, starting three. He had an interception in his Carolina debut at Atlanta to preserve a 19-13 triumph then followed that with another in his home debut versus New England. After the season, he was added to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.

He said after the trade that he did not appreciate the way New England handled his quad injury, suffered in Week 15 of the 2020 season.

Gilmore, who grew up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, had told ESPN before a late-season game at Buffalo that he would like to return to Carolina. The Panthers liked the veteran leadership brought to a young Carolina secondary.

Complicating the issue was 2018 second-round pick Donte Jackson, 26, who re-signed with the Panthers on a three-year deal last month. The 10th overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Bills, Gilmore has 27 interceptions and 116 passes defended in 10 seasons.

“Ugas was there and after he was inviting me out for dinner with him and his missus. I thought: ‘That’s a bit odd,’ I look at that and think ‘I fancy my chances.’ If he does beat Spence, which I believe is not likely, but it is a fight I’d love in the future.

“I didn’t take him up on dinner. I told him I was busy but as I was walking through the casino, I see him and his missus having food and I went over to say hello and thought ‘That couldn’t have gone anymore awkward really.’

“It’s not that we are from the same country or live the same lifestyle so I was thinking ‘Why does he want me to go to dinner?’ What are we going to do? Sit there and stare at each other. I found it very odd. I don’t know what his motive was.

“I would love to do it for real. I want to test myself against the best in the division. Every challenge they put in front of me I come through it. I’m top five in every governing body and No. 1 in Britain.”

Benn is closing in on a world title shot which he hopes to get later this year or in 2023, as long as he defeats California-based Van Heerden (28-2-1, 12 KOs), a southpaw from South Africa.

Benn added: “I’ve done a lot of southpaw sparring and I love challenges, I love overcoming them. I think I have shown in my last few performances that I can beat any style put in front of me. I think I fill him in, to be honest. I’m prepared for a hard fight.”

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Green Bay Packers sign veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins

The Green Bay Packers are finally adding to their receiver room by signing veteran Sammy Watkins.

The team revealed the deal on Thursday but didn’t reveal terms. A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Watkins’ contract is for one year and worth up to $4 million.

The Packers have lost three of their top receivers this offseason, headed by All-Pro Davante Adams in a trade to the Las Vegas Raiders. They also lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Chiefs) and Equanimeous St. Brown (Bears) in free agency.

The Packers’ top remaining receivers are Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers.

They haven’t used a first-round pick on a receiver since 2002 (Javon Walker) but have two picks in each of the first two rounds after the Adams trade, putting them in position to address that spot high in the draft.

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Packers head coach Matt LaFleur coached Watkins with the Rams in 2017, and Packers receivers coach Jason Vrable was in Buffalo when the Bills drafted him fourth overall in 2014.

Watkins, 28, has had difficulty staying healthy throughout his career.

He continued to struggle with injuries in his only season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021, ending with career lows in receptions (27) and receiving yards (394).

He has missed 30 matches over the past seven seasons, and he hasn’t played a full season since his 2014 rookie season.

He made two of the biggest catches of the season for Baltimore, setting up winning scores versus the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, but Watkins had no catches — and just three targets — in his final four games as he fell behind Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay on the depth chart.

In his eight-year career, Watkins has totaled 348 receptions for 5,059 yards receiving and 34 touchdown catches for the Bills, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and Ravens.

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Derek Carr agrees to 3-year, $121.5 million extension with Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a multiyear contract extension Wednesday.

The Raiders did not disclose terms of the deal, but a source confirmed to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that Carr agreed to a three-year, $121.5 million extension that contains a no-trade clause and runs through the 2025 season.

Carr also mentioned Wednesday that he will be with the Raiders for “four more” years and stated he would have understood had the new regime of general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels wanted “somebody new” at quarterback.

“But the fact that they keep believing in me and watching the tape and saying, ‘Wow, we want you to be here for some more years or some more time,’ that means more to me, way more to me than any of the other stuff it has to do with,” Carr said. “It was very clear to me how they felt about me from day one.”

Carr, 31, is arranged to make $19.87 million in base salary in 2022. He signed a five-year, $125 million extension in 2017 that was, at the time, the richest contract in NFL history.

His new money average per year of $40.5 million (for the extension only) ranks fifth among NFL quarterbacks.

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“Derek Carr has been the leader of this franchise for a long time and we are thrilled to continue that relationship moving forward,” McDaniels said in a statement released by the team.

“He has been a great example of someone who always puts the team first and we appreciate his desire to keep doing that while leading on and off the field. It is clear how much Derek cares about this organization, his teammates and winning. I look forward to the opportunity to work with him this season and beyond.”

Carr reiterated Wednesday that he only wanted to be a Raider and was “crazy enough” and willing to play out the final year of his deal in 2022.

“I told my agent, ‘I’m either going to be a Raider, or I’m going to be playing golf. I don’t want to play anywhere else,'” he said. “That’s how much this place means to me.

Carr is coming off a season with a career-best 4,804 passing yards and had 23 touchdowns, a career-worst 14 interceptions and 40 sacks, the second-highest total of his eight-year career.

The Raiders went 10-7 and played in the postseason for the second time since 2002 despite a turbulent season marked by the resignation of coach Jon Gruden, the arrest of receiver Henry Ruggs III and the release of cornerback Damon Arnette.

Las Vegas lost in the wild-card round at the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals 26-19 as Carr threw a fourth-and-goal interception in front of the goal line with 12 seconds left.

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Jacksonville Jaguars’ Travis Etienne on track with rehab after missing ’21 with foot injury

Missing his entire rookie season because of a foot injury was rough on Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr., but the 25th overall pick in 2021 managed to find a bit of a silver lining.

At least he wasn’t as fully immersed in Urban Meyer’s disastrous 11-month tenure — which ended shortly before 1 a.m. on Dec. 16 — as his teammates were.

“Just seeing the results, you’re definitely like, ‘Whew, if there was any year to miss, I missed a great one,'” he said.

Jokes aside, Etienne is happy to be back on the field for the beginning of the Jaguars’ voluntary offseason conditioning program under new head coach Doug Pederson.

He stated he’s still limited in some of his weight-room work but is doing “the majority of the stuff” in terms of on-field work and is 85-90% recovered from the Lisfranc injury to his left foot that he suffered during a preseason match last August.

He expects to be fully cleared by training camp. Etienne said the only time the injury still bothers him is after a long workout. Then it’s a little sore.

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“It’s actually crazy because I was talking to my mom about this the other day,” Etienne said. “If I didn’t know I had a screw in my foot, I couldn’t tell. I feel like that’s a testament to where I’m at in my transition and how I’m healing.

“The screw is there. I think I will take it out. I could leave it there forever. I know most guys say leave it there, it never bothers them, but I just don’t want to be 40 years old with a screw in my foot, really.”

Etienne makes light of the injury now, but he wasn’t handling things as well in the days and months after his surgery.

The pain was pretty intense in the first 48 hours, and he couldn’t put any weight on his foot for six weeks, which left him homebound and a little depressed.

It wasn’t until he was able to get back into the Jaguars’ facility to start rehab that he started feeling better.

“I didn’t realize it then, but I kind of was in a depressed state, just not being able to do the things I love to do,” Etienne said. “It was my foot, so I couldn’t do anything. So it was just really weird, and I really didn’t realize how much it took a toll on me, but having my mom there, she kind of helped me just stay in tune with myself and not let me lose myself. When I was able to get back into the building to the guys, that really helped me a lot, just seeing them each and every day and just living through them.”

It’s still too early to know how the Jaguars plan to use Etienne this season. Meyer envisioned a Percy Harvin-type role for Etienne as a rookie, which is similar to the way the San Francisco 49ers use Deebo Samuel.

Etienne said he’d be fine with that, but he might have to be the Jaguars’ feature running back early in the season if James Robinson isn’t fully recovered from the Achilles injury he suffered last December.

Regardless of how the Jaguars use him, they need him to produce the kinds of big plays he did at Clemson. The Jaguars had 31 big plays (runs of 20 or more yards and receptions of 30 or more yards) the last two seasons, which ranked last in the NFL.

Etienne was one of the most explosive players in the country during his four seasons at Clemson. He led all players in the NCAA with 55 runs of 20 or more yards from 2017 to ’20. On those big plays, he scored 21 touchdowns and rushed for 2,053 yards, an average of 37.3 yards per rush.

Etienne also had six receptions of 30 or more yards, giving him 61 explosive plays.

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Philadelphia Eagles sign Olympic hurdler and former Oregon Ducks WR Devon Allen to 3-year deal

The Philadelphia Eagles signed Olympic hurdler and former Oregon Ducks receiver Devon Allen to a three-year contract  last Friday.

Allen, 27, hasn’t played football since 2016 when he was with the Ducks. He put his football career on hold to pursue track and field and has done quite well in that pursuit, concluding fifth and fourth in the 110-meter hurdles in the past two Olympics.

Allen caught the attention of scouts at Oregon’s pro day earlier this month when he ran an unofficial 4.35-second 40-yard dash. That led to a visit with the Eagles and then eventually a three-year deal, which is a standard contract for undrafted free agents.

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He suffered a pair of knee injuries at Oregon and appeared in a total of nine matches over his final two seasons.

His first year at Oregon was his best, as he had 41 receptions for 684 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 16.7 yards per catch.

A three-time national champion in the 110-meter hurdles, Allen told reporters at Oregon’s pro day that he intends to compete at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships in June and the World Athletics Championships in July before turning his attention to football.

“I’m going to put football on the back burner for now,” he stated, via the Oregonian. “I wanted to come to pro day and announce that I’m taking this seriously. The goal is to get ready for Worlds, compete at Worlds, win, break the world record, and then July 18th when Worlds is done, go to camp the next week.”

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Baltimore Ravens re-sign DE Calais Campbell to 2-year, $12.5M contract

Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell is coming back to the Baltimore Ravens on a two-year deal, the team revealed Saturday.

Campbell’s contract is worth $12.5 million but could be as much as $16.5 million with incentives, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Campbell, 35, decided to return for his 15th NFL season after briefly contemplating retirement, saying he still has a desire to play after watching the Los Angeles Rams celebrate their championship.

He now will get to conclude his career in Baltimore after spending the past two seasons there and will try to get that elusive Super Bowl ring.

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Over the past two days, the Ravens addressed two areas of need while bolstering their leadership on defense, bringing back middle linebacker Josh Bynes on Friday and then keeping Campbell on Saturday.

Ravens Lamar Jackson and Tony Jefferson II took to Twitter to share their reactions to Campbell’s return.

A six-time Pro Bowler, Campbell has long been known for his capacity to get to the quarterback.

But he was more of a run-stopper than a pass-rush force in his two seasons with Baltimore, where he managed 4.5 sacks, including 1.5 last season.

Durability has been a problem for Campbell with the Ravens. After his streak of 98 straight starts ended, Campbell missed six of his past 25 games with Baltimore.

He is one of four NFL defenders since 2000 to record at least 700 tackles and 85 sacks. Among all active players, his 93.5 career sacks rank 10th and his 773 career tackles are 12th. Campbell is still in search of that first Super Bowl championship after six trips to the playoffs.

He played nine seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, who selected him in the second round of the 2008 draft, and three with the Jacksonville Jaguars before being traded to the Ravens in March 2020 for a fifth-round pick.

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Ian Happ gets 3 hits as Cubs beat Brewers 5-4 on opening day

Ian Happ offered Nico Hoerner some friendly advice after he hit the majors’ first homer of 2022.

“Keep hitting more,” Happ cracked. “Yeah, try not to get cold after that.”

It was that type of opening day for the Chicago Cubs.

Happ had three hits, including a tiebreaking two-run double in the seventh inning, and the Cubs defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 on Thursday.

Hoerner hit a two-run homer and Kyle Hendricks pitched neatly into the sixth, leading Chicago to the triumph on a chilly, overcast afternoon at Wrigley Field. Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki reached three times and scored in his first big league game.

“Who had Nico in the first homer pool?” Cubs manager David Ross joked after the win.

On a day stuffed full of firsts and debuts, Milwaukee ace Corbin Burnes and catcher Omar Narváez became the first battery to use baseball’s new electronic pitch-calling system in a regular-season game. The 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner permitted three runs and four hits in five innings.

“Never really actually found the command of the cutter,” Burnes said. “Kind of one of those things, I found it a little bit in the third, but then I just kind of lost it.”

Suzuki singled in the fifth for his first big league hit and walked twice. The 27-year-old finalized an $85 million, five-year contract with Chicago in March in the Cubs’ biggest move of the offseason.

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“In all my at-bats I was able to be myself,” Suzuki said through a translator, “so just enjoyed the game today.”

Andrew McCutchen, Willy Adames and Rowdy Tellez each had two hits for Milwaukee, and Lorenzo Cain drove in two runs. McCutchen served as the designated hitter in his first game with his new team after agreeing to a one-year deal last month.

The Brewers erased a 3-1 deficit with two runs in the seventh, but the Cubs went ahead to stay in the bottom half.

With runners on the corners and two outs, Happ hit a drive off Jake Cousins that caromed off the wall in center. Clint Frazier and Willson Contreras scored on Happ’s second double of the day.

Happ, who homered on baseball’s first pitch of the 2018 season, had elbow surgery in February, but he is feeling pretty good now — about himself and his team.

“Burnes starting Game 1, to be able to kind of put up some runs there and then get a few more and tack on, that says a lot for where we’re at as a team,” Happ said.

The reigning NL Central champions got one back on Cain’s sacrifice fly in the eighth, but David Robertson worked the ninth for his first save since 2018 and No. 138 for his career.

Milwaukee went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base.

“It felt like a game, we didn’t time our hits very well,” manager Craig Counsell said.

Aaron Ashby (0-1) got the loss. He was charged with one run and three hits in 1 2/3 innings.

Making his third consecutive opening-day start, Hendricks permitted one run and three hits in 5 1/3 innings. The right-hander, who had a career-high 4.77 ERA last year, struck out seven and walked three.

Chris Martin (1-0) got two outs for the win in his Cubs debut.

The Brewers jumped in front when McCutchen singled and scored the majors’ first run on Cain’s groundout in the fourth. But the Cubs responded with three in the fifth.

Patrick Wisdom hit a sacrifice fly before Hoerner drove a 1-1 pitch from Burnes into the bleachers in left for a tiebreaking two-run shot. It was Hoerner’s first big league homer since Sept. 21, 2019, against St. Louis.

“Sometimes it just lines up,” a smiling Hoerner said.

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