Tagged in: mvp

Denver Broncos LB Von Miller ‘at peace’ if this is final year with team

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller reported for his 11th campaign Tuesday, and while he has always hoped to be a “Bronco for life,” he says as he enters the last year of his contract that he wants to play several more years and is “at peace” if that is eventually somewhere else.

“I would like to keep playing. Whether that’s here with the Denver Broncos or somewhere else, I’m totally at peace with that,” Miller stated as the Broncos’ veteran players reported Tuesday for training camp. “I want to play five to seven more years, I think I said that a couple weeks ago.”

Miller, who was the Broncos’ first-round pick in the 2011 draft, is the team’s longest-tenured player. The Broncos engaged his contract option for the 2021 season in March, the last year of the six-year, $114.5 million deal he signed in 2016 several months after he had been named MVP of Super Bowl 50.

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He turned 32 in March, is about to be a father and said he wants to keep playing so his future son will be able to see him play.

But after worrying about his future for most of the summer of 2020, Miller said he’s taking a calmer approach this time around, even as he hopes to finish his career with the Broncos.

“I’m not really thinking about this is the last year of my contract, [or] will I be with the Broncos,” Miller said. “Last year, to be honest, that was really on my soul. I really wanted, I really wanted — of course I want to be here. I want to stay here for the rest of my career, but getting past that is kind of a release for me.”

Miller had powered through a bevy of offseason workouts in 2020 in hopes of leaving his eight-sack season in 2019 behind and helping end the current Broncos playoff drought, but he suffered a season-ending ankle injury days before the season opener and did not play in a game. His eight-sack total in ’19 was the lowest since 2013, when he had five.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio has already predicted Miller is again poised to have a big year in 2021, and general manager George Paton said picking up Miller’s option was an easy decision. “We wanted Von to be a Bronco … he’s going to have a Pro Bowl-type season,” Paton said earlier this year.

“Sitting out last year, it really helped me be at peace,” Miller said Tuesday. “Being at peace and being content, they are two totally different things. I feel like you can be at peace with whatever happens, but you still want to go out there and lead the league in sacks, you still want to get Defensive Player of the Year, still want to get all this crazy stuff, but I’m at peace with whatever happens.”

With 106 sacks in 135 career matches, Miller is the Broncos’ all-time sack leader, and he enters the 2021 season as the league’s active sack leader, five ahead of J.J. Watt.

Since Miller missed the 2020 season and Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb missed most of the 2019 season with a knee injury, Miller has plenty of optimism for what the two may be able to do together in the defense this year. Chubb was named to his first Pro Bowl last season.

And in the 20 games Miller and Chubb have played together, they have combined for 29.5 sacks.

“He looks ready to go, I’m ready to go, this might be the one … I’m excited to see the things me and Bradley can do,” Miller said. “I feel great … I’m still running the same, still lifting the same as those guys. …” Miller added later.

“I’m hoping to play another five to seven years, maybe even more. I don’t want to put a number on it — if it’s less, it’s less. I’m at peace I’ve played in the league long enough. I’ve been in the league 11 years, so every single year after this is just a true blessing. I want to play a long time.”

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The Milwaukee Bucks To First NBA Championship In 50 Years

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points on Tuesday night to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA Championship in 50 years.

Only six other players have scored 50 points or more in the NBA Finals. Only one other player has done it to clinch the title: Bob Petit had 50 in 1958 to win it all for the (then) St. Louis Hawks.

Led by two-time league MVP Antetokounmpo, the Bucks dominated the early part of the game, rocking the Phoenix Suns back on their heels from the outset. But Suns’ floor general Chris Paul took them on a run that had Phoenix back in the lead by halftime.

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Antetokounmpo took over in the 3rd, going for 20 points in the period, a single-quarter feat of force no other player has achieved in the Finals since Michael Jordan did it 28 years ago.

Antetokounmpo ended the game with 50 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks and — possibly most remarkable for him — made 17 of his 19 free throws.

The final score was 104-98. Bucks in 6.

It was a sweet victory for Milwaukee, who got to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in front of their home crowd, tens of thousands of whom crowded outside Fiserv Forum to witness the win together on big screens.

The Bucks’ last — and only other championship — came in 1971, when they were led by another all-time great big man named Lou Alcindor, who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After three more seasons Abdul-Jabbar went to the Lakers.

Antetokounmpo could have done the same thing once he was with the Bucks for three years. He could have left small market Milwaukee for the lights of L.A. or New York, but he stayed a Buck and signed a new contract in 2016.

In 2020, he redoubled his commitment and signed a $228 million contract, declaring in a Twitter post, “This is my home, this is my city.”

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Astros club 4 HRs, beat Orioles 13-0 for 10th straight win

José Altuve silenced the booing fans at Camden Yards with a two-run homer, José Urquidy pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the Houston Astros stretched their winning streak to 10 matches by breezing past the Baltimore Orioles 13-0 Wednesday night.

Yordan Alvarez, Abraham Toro and Chas McCormick also homered for the Astros, who outscored the lowly Orioles 26-3 during a three-game sweep. Houston’s 10-game run is its longest since May 2019 and two short of the club record.

“To me, we’re doing what we’re capable of doing and I still think we’ve got a couple of guys who can get better,” Astros manage Dusty Baker said. “The guys are feeling good about themselves and that’s what you want.”

Altuve was greeted with jeers every time he stepped to the plate during the series, mostly because he was the Most Valuable Player during a 2017 campaign in which the Astros won the World Series but were later found to have been stealing signs.

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The Astros leadoff man has heard boos from opposing fans in almost every stadium this season, but Altuve has nevertheless hit 17 home runs, including a drive in the fourth inning off Thomas Eshelman (0-1) that made it 6-0.

“They spoiled some good pitches and put some good swings on some balls that were in the zone,” Eshelman said.

Alvarez and Toro connected in the seventh off knuckleballer Mickey Jannis and McCormick added a solo shot in the eighth.

Urquidy (6-3) didn’t need to be dominant on a night in which the Astros banged out 17 hits, but the right-hander nevertheless struck out six, walked one and permitted just one runner past second base. He’s won six of his last seven decisions and gone seven innings in three consecutive starts.

“He had outstanding control,” Baker said. “He always has control, but tonight he had command. He threw some quality strikes. He’s getting better and better each outing.”

Baltimore has lost 13 of 14 and Thursday will seek to snap a 19-game skid on the road in Buffalo versus the Toronto Blue Jays.

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George Springer debuts for Toronto Blue Jays, goes 0-for-4 in loss to Washington Nationals

Erick Fedde went six strong innings, Josh Harrison hit a three-run homer and the Washington Nationals defeated Toronto 8-2 in George Springer’s Blue Jays debut Wednesday night.

Fedde (2-2) permitted one run and two hits, including a fifth-inning solo homer by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. The right-hander struck out seven and walked three.

“With cutter, sinker, the combination is really good because he works both sides of the plate,” Washington manager Dave Martinez stated. “Today he threw a lot of curveballs, and it was effective for him as well. When you get can all those pitches in the strike zone as you can see he’s real tough to hit.”

Harrison got his third homer in 16 at-bats against Steven Matz (4-1), a three-run shot in the fourth that made it 6-0. Springer, who signed a team-record $150 million US, six-year deal this off-season, went 0 for 4.

The World Series MVP when Houston won its first title in 2017 missed time in spring training and the start of the season because of a strained oblique and later due to a right quadriceps strain.

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“He ran fine, saw a lot of pitches, which is good,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Trea Turner had four hits and Josh Bell also homered for the Nationals.

Toronto got an eighth-inning solo homer from Bo Bichette.

Matz, obtained from the New York Mets in January after going 0-5 with a 9.68 ERA last season, had won his first four starts for Toronto. He gave up six runs and eight hits over 3 2/3 innings.

The lefty is 1-8 against Washington. Since the start of last season, Matz has permitted 22 earned runs and eight homers over 14 innings in four games versus the Nationals.

“He just wasn’t as sharp today,” Montoyo said. “He still has the stuff but didn’t locate as well.”

Ryan Zimmerman drove in two with a single during a three-run third. Bell hit a two-run homer in the fifth.

Toronto loaded the bases with two outs in the third but failed to score when Turner, at short, fielded Randal Grichuk’s slow grounder barehanded and threw him out at first.

“I remember that ball just trickled by me … you’ve got to be kidding me,” Fedde said. “I think my initial reaction was `Oh no, it’s bare hand.’ Then an unbelievable play.”

Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen went 0 for 3 with a walk. He is hitless in a career-long 34 at-bats.

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John Harbaugh guarantees Baltimore Ravens will pick up Lamar Jackson’s fifth-year option

For those who had any doubts, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh stated Tuesday that the team will pick up quarterback Lamar Jackson’s fifth-year option before Monday’s deadline.

“Guarantee it,” Harbaugh said on “The Rich Eisen Show.”

Jackson will make a guaranteed $23.1 million in 2022, a significant raise from his $1.7 million salary this season. This will be the highest fifth-year option in the league next season, tying Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

By exercising Jackson’s option, the Ravens will squash the speculation that the team will let Jackson to “graduate” after four seasons.

An NFL Network analyst recently suggested the Ravens could trade up to draft a quarterback this week and move on from Jackson before his heightened salary-cap hit limited Baltimore’s spending.

Harbaugh made it clear that won’t be the case. “He’s definitely going to be our quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the plan, absolutely.”

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Jackson, 24, has won more games (30) than any other NFL quarterback since taking over as Baltimore’s starter midway through the 2018 season and became the second unanimous league MVP in 2019.

He’s the first player in NFL history to produce 5,000 yards passing and 2,500 yards rushing in his first three campaigns.

Harbaugh pointed out how the Ravens have scored more points than any other team in Jackson’s two full seasons as a starting quarterback.

“I feel like it all points to one thing and the thing he talks about all the time: He wants to win a Super Bowl,” Harbaugh said.

“I think he’s a very unique guy. He’s a guy that’s different in a lot of ways than any quarterback that’s ever played. Lamar is somebody that just kind of breaks the mold a little bit. He does it in a way that a lot of people didn’t anticipate. They didn’t see this coming. He’s very determined — and we’re very determined — to prove those people wrong.”

In March, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta stated the team is “confident and committed” to getting a long-term deal done with Jackson.

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Star receiver Julian Edelman, 34, retires, ending 12-year career with New England Patriots

Patriots star receiver Julian Edelman, who helped New England win three championships and was the MVP of Super Bowl LIII, declared his retirement in a video posted on social media Monday.

The NFL transaction wire released Monday stated that Edelman had his contract terminated by the Patriots, but the roster move is expected to be a technicality as part of his retirement, a source told ESPN.

“It was a hard decision, but the right decision for me and my family,” Edelman said. “And I’m honored and so proud to be retiring a Patriot. … It’s been the best 12 years of my life.”

Edelman, who turns 35 next month, was limited to six matches last season because of a chronic knee injury. He spent his entire 12-year career with the Patriots and ranks second in NFL history with 118 postseason receptions, behind only Jerry Rice’s 151.

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Edelman caps his career in second place on the all-time Patriots chart for receptions (620), behind only Wes Welker (672).

He is fourth on the team’s career receiving yards list with 6,822 receiving yards, behind only Stanley Morgan (10,352), Rob Gronkowski (7,861) and Welker (7,459).

Edelman was still playing at a high level last campaign, totaling a career-high 179 yards in a Week 2 loss to the Seahawks. But the nagging knee injury ultimately landed him on injured reserve in late October, and while there was hope he might return late in the season, he wasn’t healthy enough to be activated.

Because of his health, the Patriots went into the 2021 offseason unsure of Edelman’s status, which contributed to their agreeing to contracts with receivers Nelson Agholor (two years, $26 million, with $15 million guaranteed) and Kendrick Bourne (three years, $22.5 million, with $5.25 million guaranteed) on the first day of free agency.

Edelman was also entering the final year of his contract.

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QB Cam Newton returning to New England Patriots on 1-year deal

Cam Newton is re-signing with the Patriots on a one-year deal, sources have confirmed to ESPN.

The contract is worth up to $13.6 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. About $6 million of the deal is tied to incentives, a source told ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

Newton posted a video on Instagram later Friday with a caption that read in part, “Run it back!! Chapter 2.”

Newton, who will turn 32 in May, hoped to return to New England after signing a modest one-year deal with the team in 2020. On the “I Am Athlete” podcast in late February, he said he would be open to another one-year deal in New England. “I’m getting tired of changing (teams),” the quarterback stated.

“I am at a point in my career where I know way more than I did last year. Yes, I would go back.”

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In 2020, Newton was 242-of-368 for 2,657 yards passing, with 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But while that production didn’t meet his personal standard — in part because the receivers and tight ends around him weren’t high-caliber options — he was effective as a rusher, with 592 yards on 137 attempts (4.3 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns.

Newton had started hot in 2020 after joining the Patriots in late June, but after testing positive for COVID-19 in early October, he said it was a challenge for him to catch up to the pace of the team’s ever-evolving offense.

His performance dipped notably, and he said it reinforced how important it is to be with a new team in the offseason.

The Patriots went 7-8 with Newton at the helm and concluded 7-9, missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season.

Before joining the Patriots, Newton, the No. 1 pick in 2011, was released by the Carolina Panthers after missing 14 games in 2019 with a Lisfranc injury and the final two matches of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury that also required surgery.

He spent nine seasons with the Panthers and was named the NFL MVP in 2015, when he accounted for 45 total touchdowns in the regular season and led Carolina to Super Bowl 50, where it lost to the Denver Broncos.

Newton, who holds most of Carolina’s career passing records, has thrown for 31,698 yards and 190 touchdowns with 118 interceptions and has rushed for 5,398 yards and 70 touchdowns.

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Bills advance to AFC championship with 17-3 win over Ravens

In what was supposed to be a showdown between Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Taron Johnson literally stole the show.

If not for the wall separating the field from the stands in the back of the east end zone, the Bills cornerback might still be running after returning an interception 101 yards for a touchdown that propelled Buffalo to its first AFC championship game appearance in 27 years.

Johnson’s pick-6 of Jackson’s pass with 41 seconds left in the third quarter helped secure a 17-3 triumph over the Ravens in a divisional-round playoff game Saturday night.

“We’re excited. It’s not done yet, we’re not done yet,” Johnson exclaimed. “It’s just a blessing. Our defense stepped up to the challenge.” Johnson’s return matched the longest in NFL history and punctuated a stellar defensive outing in which Buffalo (15-3) limited the NFL’s top running offense to 150 yards on 32 carries.

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Jackson, last season’s NFL MVP, was sacked three times and did not return after sustaining a concussion following the final play of the third quarter, and two plays after Johnson scored. He finished 14 of 24 for 162 yards passing, while being limited to 42 yards rushing on nine carries.

Allen, an MVP candidate this year, finished 23 of 37 for 206 yards and a touchdown.

In a season in which the Bills relied mostly on their dynamic Allen-led offense to outscore opponents, the third-year quarterback was gratified to see Buffalo’s defense make a difference in a game the pass-happy attack was kept mostly in check.

The Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994 on their way to making — and losing — their four consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week’s victory over Indianapolis, winning its first postseason match since the same year.

The Bills, have won eight consecutives to match their best streak since 1990 and will play the winner of the AFC’s other divisional playoff between Cleveland and Kansas City on Sunday.

The fifth-seeded Ravens (12-6) had their season come to an end after leading the NFL in yards rushing for a second consecutive year. Baltimore clinched its third playoff berth in three years by winning its final five regular-season games. The winning streak came after a 1-4 skid capped by a 19-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 2 in a game rearranged three times due to COVID-19 issues.

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Howie Kendrick retires after 15 MLB seasons

Howie Kendrick announced his retirement Monday after 15 major league seasons.

In an Instagram post, Kendrick thanked each of the teams he played for in the majors, concluding with the Washington Nationals, the team he won a World Series title with in 2019.

“To the fans, without your support and love for the game, our stage and lights would not shine as brightly as they do. Know you will be missed as well. I will always love the game of baseball and will constantly reflect on the lifelong memories made. For now, it’s time to drop the mic and enter a new stage of my life,” he wrote.

In 2019, Kendrick was the MVP of the National League Championship Series and hit the go-ahead homer in Game 7 of the World Series to help the Nationals victory the franchise’s first title.

Kendrick, 37, hit .275 with two home runs and 14 RBIs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season for the Nationals. The team declined his $6.5 million mutual option for 2021 after the season, and he received a $2.25 million buyout from Washington.

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The veteran infielder went on the injured list with a left hamstring injury on Sept. 9 and was shut down for the season.

In four seasons with the Nats, Kendrick hit .316 with 30 home runs and 113 RBIs.

Overall, Kendrick was a career .294 hitter with 127 home runs and 724 RBIs. In addition to the Nationals, Kendrick played two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, nine seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and 39 games with the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2017 season.

Kendrick, a Florida native, was initially drafted by the Angels with a 10th round pick in 2002. His steady production as the Angels’ regular second baseman for several seasons established him as a solidly underrated player. Kendrick’s later career saw him become a multi-position specialist and veteran bat for multiple teams.

Last season, Kendrick’s production slipped across the abbreviated 2020 season, but suffice it to say he’s securely a Nationals franchise legend for that home run above.

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Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh won’t say if Lamar Jackson will play vs. Dallas Cowboys

Starting quarterback and reigning NFL regular-season Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson was one of a handful of Baltimore Ravens players who tested positive for COVID-19 amid the club’s worrisome coronavirus outbreak that caused its showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers to be postponed on three occasions.

Baltimore was without Jackson during Wednesday’s 19-14 defeat at Heinz Field, and head coach John Harbaugh refused to say if the signal-caller will be available for the upcoming contest versus the Dallas Cowboys that was rearranged to Tuesday night.

“I think I already answered that,” Harbaugh replied when asked about Jackson’s status during Thursday’s media availability, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. “When the doctors clear them for practice, that’s when we’ll have them,” he added about the 17 Baltimore players now on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

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2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III filled in for Jackson versus Pittsburgh but suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter that knocked him out of the game. Griffin rushed for a team-high 68 yards but completed just seven of 12 passes for 33 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

Trace McSorley substituted Griffin and completed two of his six attempts, one of which was a 70-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marquise Brown.

Harbaugh did say that punter Sam Koch won’t be needed as an emergency QB, which suggests two of the three players at the position will be ready to go by Tuesday evening.

The Ravens players had a day off and will return Friday for their first full practice since Nov. 20, a span of two weeks. The outbreak in Baltimore limited the team to a couple of walk-throughs. The Ravens had no positive tests Wednesday, which ended a stretch of 10 consecutive days with at least one player testing positive.

“We need to have some good practices and get our football sea legs under us so we can go out there and perform the way we want to,” Harbaugh said. The Ravens have lost three consecutive games to fall to 6-5.

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