Tagged in: 2020

Minnesota Vikings bring back DT Sheldon Richardson

The Minnesota Vikings continue to prioritize their pass rush during mandatory minicamp.

One day after the team and defensive end Danielle Hunter agreed to a reworked contract for 2021, the Vikings brought back defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a one-year, $3.6 million deal with incentives that could elevate the value to $4.35 million, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Richardson, who played with the Vikings during the 2018 campaign, said he was approached by Minnesota several weeks ago with an offer and waited to sign until Tuesday after not working out a deal to return to Cleveland Browns, where he played 2019-20.

“You know, I started something there. Honestly, just couldn’t come to an agreement with what I wanted from Cleveland,” Richardson said. “And me being cool with the organization here and knowing everything with what Zim [coach Mike Zimmer] and Coach Dre [defensive line coach Andre Patterson] bring to the table for me … they put me in position to make plays earlier in my career. It was a perfect fit.”

The Browns released Richardson in April in a move that created $11 million in salary-cap space. He started 31 matches in Cleveland and registered 4.5 sacks during the 2020 season.

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This is the second time Richardson has signed a one-year contract with Minnesota.

In 2018, the 2013 first-round pick inked an $8 million deal with the Vikings and proceeded to notch 47 pressures and five sacks that season. That performance helped him earn a three-year, $36 million contract with the Browns as a free agent in 2019.

But this time around, Richardson doesn’t view his contract as a prove-it deal to earn another big payday.

“I’m proven,” Richardson said. “I’ve proven my talent last year, years ago and pretty much every year I’ve played in the league. The way the business works, they hold you five days before the draft and there’s no more money in free agency. You’ve got to take what they hand out.”

After concluding with a franchise-low 23 sacks in 2020, shoring up several areas along the defensive line has been a priority for Minnesota this offseason. The Vikings signed defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to a two-year, $21 million contract in March.

Although Tomlinson is set to occupy the three-technique spot opposite nose tackle Michael Pierce, Richardson’s athleticism and physical tools will help Minnesota upgrade its interior pass rush.

“I get in where I fit in, simple as that,” Richardson said. “This will be the first year where I’ve not started, so I’m just getting in where I fit in.”

Richardson, 30, played primarily as a three-technique in Cleveland but has played several positions throughout his eight-year career, starting out as a defensive end with the New York Jets before being moved to outside linebacker.

Playing other positions on the D-line is something Richardson said he’s willing to do if needed. “It’s as simple as that. I don’t mind it,” he said.

“I’ve played outside linebacker before in this league, so I really don’t mind it at all. And I was 330 when I did that. I’m 286 right now and feeling good. Like I said, just trying to get back in football shape and let the chips fall where they [may].”

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Washington LB Thomas Davis Sr. says he’ll retire after 2020 season

Washington Football Team linebacker Thomas Davis Sr. will retire at the end of this campaign, he said in an Instagram post.

Washington (6-9) can extend Davis’ final season by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles to win the NFC East on Sunday.

Davis, 37, has played 16 years in the NFL — the first 14 with Carolina and then the past two with the Los Angeles Chargers and Washington. Davis has served mostly in a backup role with Washington this season. He has played in seven games and received 132 snaps from scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Washington coach Ron Rivera signed him because of Davis’ leadership and his familiarity with what Rivera wanted from his players.

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Rivera trusted Davis because of how he played for him in Carolina, where he made the Pro Bowl three consecutive seasons, from 2015 to 2017. He was a first team All-Pro performer in 2015, the year Carolina reached the Super Bowl. Davis signed a two-year deal with the Chargers in 2019 but was released last offseason.

Davis also endured three torn ACLs.

As a reminder of how he endured, Davis posted pictures of cleats on Instagram that sum up his career. One cleat has written on it “3 ACL Tears. 3 ACL Recoveries.” It also shows how many Pro Bowls he earned. On the other cleat, it reflects him winning the 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Carolina drafted Davis with the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft; he had played linebacker and free safety at Georgia. He was considered a top safety prospect before that draft, but the Panthers moved him to linebacker.

His speed and athleticism helped him have success in the NFL. In 199 games, Davis recorded 1,151 tackles, 29 sacks, 18 forced fumbles and 13 interceptions.

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Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman opts out of 2020 season

Marcus Stroman’s recuperation from a torn left calf muscle was almost complete, and he was in line to possibly make his season debut for the New York Mets next week versus the Miami Marlins.

But the idea of traveling to one of the country’s coronavirus hot spots played a factor in Stroman’s decision Monday to opt out of the 2020 campaign.

“Obviously, you see the Cardinals, the Marlins, you see spikes everywhere in the country, you see protocols not being handled properly from citizens everywhere,” Stroman said during a Zoom call. “You see us going to Florida soon. That was a big discussion I had with my family. Going to see the Marlins soon, that’s something I don’t want to be in that situation.”

Stroman, booked to become a free agent after the season, is the second Mets player to opt out this month. Designated hitter Yoenis Cespedes left the team Aug. 2. Stroman said he had daily conversations with his family about what to do. His grandmother and uncle have compromised immune systems and are around his mother on a regular basis.

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“This was a decision I had to kind of take myself out of it and look out for the best interests of my family,” Stroman said.

His decision came four days after he threw 85 pitches in his second simulated game and a day before he was arranged to throw another simulated game.

On Sunday, manager Luis Rojas expressed hope it would be the last simulated game for Stroman, who was injured during the Mets’ summer workouts. New York’s next road trip is to begin Friday at Philadelphia and conclude with a four-game set at Miami Aug. 17-20.

Rojas said he understood Stroman’s decision but was surprised.

“He wanted to do another one just to play it safe and see how he felt coming out of it and then come join us,” Rojas said Monday. “But, once again, we fully support him.”

Stroman will go on the restricted list, allowing the Mets to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Stroman’s exit further weakens a rotation that looked like one of the best before the pandemic shut the game down in March. While two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom has been impressive in four starts, Noah Syndergaard is out for the season after Tommy John surgery and Michael Wacha went on the injured list Sunday with a shoulder injury Sunday.

With Stroman out, rookie left-hander David Peterson, who is 2-1 with a 3.78 ERA in his first three big league starts, is locked into a rotation spot. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said relievers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman are possibilities to fill the fifth spot.

Stroman was 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 starts last season for the Mets, who acquired him a little over a year ago. He grew up on Long Island about 50 miles from Citi Field.

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Chiefs RB Damien Williams will opt out of 2020 season

The Kansas City Chiefs have stated that RB Damien Williams has informed the team of his decision to opt-out of the 2020 campaign.

Per the NFL’s opt-out agreement, Williams will receive an advance on his salary, commensurate with the high-risk or voluntary opt-out designation. He’ll receive no credited season for 2020. His contract will toll, or pause, and resume in 2021.

That means the Chiefs will have some instant salary-cap relief, but they’ll add that amount back to the 2021 salary cap. Williams, 28, joined the Chiefs as a free agent in March of 2018. He took a backseat to former Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt initially but would earn the starting role after Hunt’s dismissal from the team.

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In 2019, Williams was named starting running back by offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy ahead of training camp.

They’d bring in LeSean McCoy to split time with Williams in a committee approach to the backfield. Williams would separate himself late in the season, appearing in 11 matches, rushing for 498 yards and five touchdowns on 111 carries. In Super Bowl LIV, Williams scored the go-ahead touchdown and the touchdown that would put the game on ice for Kansas City.

The Chiefs are uniquely prepared for this opt-out with a deep running back room that added Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the draft and DeAndre Washington in free agency.

Still, this means that the most veteran running back on the Chiefs’ roster is Darrel Williams, who joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2018. They’ll have to get the new players up to speed and ready in a short amount of time.

Williams scored six touchdowns in the Chiefs’ three postseason games.

Starting guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif also opted out of the 2020 season.

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NFL shortens preseason to just two weeks as league continues to plot its 2020 strategy

The NFL has taken its next step in adjusting its calendar to prepare for a return to action amid the coronavirus pandemic

The NFL has shortened its 2020 preseason to two games, a source said, part of a larger acclimatization plan for players following an unprecedented virtual offseason program during the coronavirus pandemic.

In essence, the league canceled Weeks 1 and 4 of its original preseason calendar. It had previously canceled its Aug. 8 Hall of Fame game. Most players will still report to training camp on July 28, but the first preseason matches won’t be played until Aug. 20-24. The second week of preseason games are scheduled for Aug. 27-31. Each team will play one home game and one on the road.

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Teams that travel will depart on the day before games.

The primary driver for restructuring the preseason was a consensus between the NFL and NFL Players Association that players will need more time than normal to get in football shape this summer.

No teams were able to practice on the field during the offseason, and many gyms and other conditioning settings have been closed. The NFL’s standard preseason has been four games since it was shortened from six games in 1978. It is expected to be cut further when owners activate a provision in the collective bargaining agreement to extend the regular season to 17 games, which they can do as early as 2021.

When that happens, the preseason would shrink to no more than three games for each team. Of more immediate worry, however, is the health of players during training camp in 2020.

The NFL/NFLPA committee will soon issue a set of guidelines that spells out an acclimatization program for the 23 days of training camp prior to the first preseason game.

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NBA approves 22 team format to finish season

After several months on hiatus, the NBA made significant headway in returning to play. On Thursday’s board of governors call with league commissioner Adam Silver, the owners approved a plan to conclude out the remainder of the 2019-20 season at Disney World in Orlando, where eventually, a champion will be crowned, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The vote required three-fourths support to pass, and it received a 29-1 vote from owners on the call, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The owners now need formal approval from the National Basketball Players Association before the league can move forward. The NBPA is expected to hold a virtual call on Friday to approve the plan that the owners just voted on, according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein.

The league is targeting a start date of July 31, where 22 of the 30 NBA teams are expected to participate in Orlando. That will include the 16 current playoff teams as well as the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards.

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Teams will play an abbreviated version of the regular season that will consist of eight games, as well as a play-in tournament for the eighth seed in both conferences.

The tournament will only happen if the No. 9 seed finishes within four games of the No. 8 seed, in which case the No. 9 seed will have to beat the No. 8 seed twice to earn the final playoff spot in their conference. The playoffs will be a best-of-seven series in each round, with the NBA Finals finishing no later than October 12.

While NBA seasons had previously been shortened by labor disputes, never has the league halted operations so abruptly only to pick them back up months down the line. That creates a number of questions leading into the resumed season, including how teams will prepare after so much idle time.

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after two members of the Utah Jazz, later revealed to be Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, a number of players and league figures have tested positive, including Kevin Durant, Marcus Smart and New York Knicks owner James Dolan. Those who did test positive have since recovered, and no new positive tests have been made public since. 

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Bears Decline Fifth-Year Option on QB Mitchell Trubisky, Reports Say

In a not-so-surprising move, the Chicago Bears are apparently declining their fifth-year contract option for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Trubisky, the team’s first round draft pick in the 2017 draft, could possibly become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2020 NFL season, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

“The team has liked Trubisky’s attitude since the Nick Foles trade, and it’ll be an open competition,” Pelissero said. “A chance for Trubisky to make himself a lot of money before his contract expires next March.”

The Bears were fast approaching a deadline to determine whether they would pick up Trubisky’s fifth year option.

By declining the option, the Bears quarterback could potentially become a free agent after the 2020 season, but if he has a successful year, the Bears still have options to keep him, as they could either re-sign him to a new extension or apply the team’s franchise tag to him, preventing him from seeking a contract with another team.

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In three campaigns with the Bears, Trubisky has compiled a 23-18-0 record, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 8,554 yards and 48 touchdowns. He has also thrown 29 interceptions and been sacked 93 times.

The 2019 season represented a step back for Trubisky, as he completed a lower percentage of his passes and threw for seven fewer touchdowns than he had in the previous season, despite throwing 82 more passes.

Earlier this offseason, the Bears sent a fourth round draft pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire Foles, who will compete with Trubisky for the team’s starting job.

Bears G.M. Ryan Pace has drafted four players in the first round of the NFL Draft, and is now 0-for-3 on keeping players beyond their first contract. The team also declined the options on wide receiver Kevin White and linebacker Leonard Floyd, and will face a decision next season on the contract of linebacker Roquan Smith.

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