Tagged in: play

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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Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes thinks he’s ready to play after toe surgery

Patrick Mahomes won’t play in his first 2021 regular-season game for more than three months, but the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback said he’s ready for the game now.

“If there was a game [today], I’d be able to play in it, I think,” said Mahomes, who had surgery in February to repair turf toe.

“There’s still stuff I’m going to have to work through. I have to continue to rehab, continue to keep strengthening that stuff. But it’s good to be able to get out there earlier than the schedule had me and be able to get some work in.”

The Chiefs originally hoped Mahomes would be able to participate in offseason practice by the time the team’s mandatory minicamp arrived, which is in two weeks.

But Mahomes has been a full participant since the Chiefs started practice last week.

He took all of the usual starter’s snaps in practice Thursday and made some impressive throws, including a post pattern to Mecole Hardman.

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Mahomes also elaborated on his comments from last week saying he wanted the Chiefs, with the NFL’s expanded regular-season schedule, to be the first team ever to finish a season 20-0.

“I believe the question I was asked is, what record did I want to break?” Mahomes said.

“To me, records don’t mean anything if you’re not winning that last game at the end of the season. It’s about going in every single week with the mindset that we’re trying to win, we’re going to win. And at the end of the day whatever the record is, if it’s 20-0 or wherever it is, you win that last game of the season and you’re going to be happy with whatever happened earlier in the season.

“People get all hyped up about saying 20-0 because you have to take it one week at a time, but at the end of the day you want to continue to win every single week. I’m not going into the season hoping I lose any games.”

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Roger Federer to play the French Open, will prepare for it with tournament in native Switzerland

Roger Federer revealed Sunday he will play at the French Open, and the Swiss star is preparing for it on home clay at a tournament in Geneva next month.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion revealed his plans on his official Twitter page.

“Happy to let you know that I will play Geneva and Paris. Until then I will use the time to train. Can’t wait to play in Switzerland again,” Federer wrote.

Federer will aim for his 104th career title at the Geneva Open, which takes place May 16-22 — shortly before Roland Garros starts in Paris on May 30.

The 39-year-old Federer won his only French Open in 2009 and lost to 13-time champion Rafael Nadal in the semifinals two years ago.

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He did not play there last year.

Federer had a repeat operation on his right knee after a first procedure in February 2020. When that bothersome knee kept swelling up after bike rides or walks with his four children, he announced in June that he had had a second surgery.

The seventh-ranked Federer made his comeback from a 13-month injury layoff at the Qatar Open last month, defeating Daniel Evans in three sets and then losing in three to Nikoloz Basilashvili after failing to convert a match point.

Federer is also trying to earn Wimbledon for a record-extending ninth time, having lost to Novak Djokovic in a fifth-set tiebreaker two years ago. Federer served for the match and had two championship points.

The grass-court major was canceled last year for the first time since 1945 because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is arranged to be played June 28 to July 11.

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New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson out for Thursday’s game; still on for NBA All-Star Game

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson missed Thursday night’s contest versus the Miami Heat because of irritation in his right fifth toe, but sources told ESPN that he is still anticipated to play in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game.

Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy stated the toe irritation is something Williamson has been trying to play through recently.

“It’s one of those things that’s just continued to get a little bit worse,” Van Gundy said. “Obviously, a lot of minutes last night and the whole thing. So it got worse. But it’s been something that he’s had.”

Williamson will be a part of Team Durant in the All-Star Game. Williamson played 38 minutes in Wednesday night’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. Though he ended with 28 points, he was upset that he shot just 8-of-16 from the free throw line. After the match, he spent roughly 40 minutes getting up extra shots on the Smoothie King Center floor.

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Thursday night marked the second game Williamson misses this season but only the first for an injury-related issue.

He missed a game on Jan. 13 in Los Angeles versus the Clippers because of an inconclusive COVID-19 test.

Williamson was voted in as a Western Conference All-Star by coaches after posting some of the best interior scoring numbers the league has seen since Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal. The 20-year-old forward is the fourth-youngest All-Star in NBA history behind LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and Kobe Bryant.

J.J. Redick was also ruled out for the contest due to right heel soreness. After a slow start to the season, the veteran sharpshooter caught fire in February, connecting on 47.6% of his 3-point attempts over a 12-game span.

The Pelicans entered Thursday night in 11th place in the Western Conference standings, three games behind Memphis for the 10th and final play-in tournament spot.

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New York Giants’ Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 after opting out last season

New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 as long as the situation is right, he told ESPN in a phone conversation this week.

Solder, who opted out this past season because of concerns for his family with COVID-19, has yet to have that discussion with the team regarding his future. He was considered a high-risk opt-out and his contract tolled.

He is planned to make $10 million in 2021 while costing $16.5 million against the salary cap this season. The Giants haven’t been in a rush to make any moves with the new league year still almost three weeks away. Like everybody else, they’re waiting to see the official salary-cap number for the 2021 season. Then they’re expected to meet with the veteran tackle.

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Solder, 32, was the Giants’ starting left tackle in 2018 and ’19 after signing a lucrative free-agent contract.

He had spent the previous seven years of his career with the New England Patriots, where he won a pair of Super Bowls.

The decision to opt out last season centered around Solder’s family. His oldest son Hudson has battled cancer. So has Nate. Solder and his wife Lexi also had a newborn.

Solder had stated late last year on the Sports Spectrum podcast with former NFL quarterback Brock Huard that if he had another opportunity to play, he would probably take it. He also noted that he was still working out, but hadn’t prioritized his conditioning and weight lifting like he would during a regular football season.

The Giants now have a decision to make if they are going to move forward with Solder. They would save $6 million this season against the salary cap if he’s released, and $10 million if they made it a post-June 1 cut.

New York drafted a pair of tackles in last year’s draft, including Andrew Thomas with the No. 4 overall pick out of Georgia. Thomas started at left tackle and, despite early struggles, got better as the season progressed.

Third-round pick Matt Peart is expected to compete for the starting right tackle spot this year. Cameron Fleming, who started last season, is a free agent.

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Richard Sherman wants to play two more seasons before retiring

Set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman’s next NFL stop is likely to be his last.

Sherman, who will be 33 in March and has long maintained that he wants to play until he’s 35, told Stephen A. Smith on his ESPN+ show Stephen A’s World on Monday that he intends to follow through on that plan and laid out what the rest of his NFL career might look like.

“I only want to play two more [seasons],” Sherman stated. “I want to get on a competitive team. I think I still have a lot to give to the game. I think I still have a lot that I want to accomplish and I think I can go out there and help a defense come together like it should and reach their potential, reach the heights that the defenses that I’ve played on have reached.”

When the new NFL league year opens on March 17, it will be Sherman’s second foray into unrestricted free agency but the first time following the expiration of his contract. In 2018, Sherman quickly signed with the 49ers after the Seattle Seahawks released him after seven seasons there.

At the time, Sherman was coming off a ruptured right Achilles suffered in November 2017. Acting as his own agent, Sherman negotiated a three-year, $27.15 million deal with the Niners that contained heavy incentives should he return to his previous All-Pro form.

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Sherman did just that in 2019, earning his fifth Pro Bowl nod and a spot on the second-team All-Pro squad. But the 2020 season was essentially a lost one for Sherman, who had a calf injury all season and appeared in just five matches.

In December, Sherman said it would take a “miracle” for him to return to the 49ers, given their many free agents and lack of salary-cap space to keep them. Among the players Sherman expects to get lucrative contracts from the 49ers before he would be in the mix are left tackle Trent Williams, cornerback Jason Verrett and linebacker Fred Warner, who is not yet a free agent but is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

That position hasn’t changed, either, as Sherman is still expecting to depart.

In speaking to Smith on Monday, Sherman mentioned the Las Vegas Raiders as a potential destination. New Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was Sherman’s defensive coordinator in Seattle in 2011 and 2012, and is expected to install a similar defensive scheme to what Sherman played in with the Seahawks and the 49ers.

Furthering that connection, Raiders coach Jon Gruden raised some eyebrows last week when he showed on the podcast Sherman co-hosts with Cris Collinsworth and told Sherman the Raiders “are looking for an alpha presence in our secondary, somebody that could play this Hawk 3-press technique with the read step. If you’re available and interested, maybe you and I can get together at some point off air.”

In addition to the Raiders, there’s also an obvious tie to the New York Jets, who just hired former Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as head coach. No matter where he heads, Sherman seems intent on finishing his career on his terms and his timetable.

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Chiefs’ Le’Veon Bell, Sammy Watkins and Buccaneers’ Antonio Brown, Antoine Winfield Jr. expected to play in Super Bowl

Several injured players for the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to be healthy for Super Bowl LV.

Chiefs running back Le’Veon Bell (knee) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf), as well as the Bucs duo of wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle), are all likely to be ready for Feb. 7, sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini.

All four missed their conference championship games Sunday. Watkins played in 10 games for the Chiefs in the regular season. He was out earlier in the season with a sore hamstring and later with a calf injury, and he did not play in either of the Chiefs’ previous postseason games.

Watkins concluded the regular season fifth on the Chiefs with 37 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns.

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Bell joined the Chiefs in October after he was released by the New York Jets. Since his arrival, he has had a lesser impact for the Chiefs than had been expected.

After the Chiefs lost Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a stretch, they passed over Bell and made Darrel Williams their featured back in a Week 16 game versus the Falcons and in the divisional-round playoff game against the Browns. During the regular season, Bell rushed for 254 yards in nine games for the Chiefs.

Winfield suffered an ankle injury in practice last Thursday and missed Friday’s practice.

He still flew to Green Bay with the team, but after he tested his ankle out in warm-ups, it was deemed the best course of action for him to sit out the match.

Brown, who led the Bucs in targets the final five weeks of the regular season, suffered a knee injury in the divisional game against the New Orleans Saints. He did not practice last week, nor did he make the trip to Green Bay, as the team felt he wasn’t as far along as it had hoped in his recovery and thought a plane ride could cause further swelling. Brown caught a 36-yard touchdown in the wild-card game against Washington.

The Bucs’ other starting safety, Jordan Whitehead, who forced two fumbles, left Sunday’s victory over the Packers with a shoulder injury and did not return.

Whitehead underwent an MRI on Monday, but sources told ESPN’s Jenna Laine that it’s too soon to tell whether he’ll be able to play in the Super Bowl and that they’re taking it one day at a time to see how it goes.

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New Orleans Saints won’t rush Drew Brees to return despite looming Week 15 showdown vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The New Orleans Saints are in no rush to bring back Drew Brees, and there’s still no timetable for when the quarterback might play again as he recovers from his 11 fractured ribs and punctured lung, league sources told ESPN.

Brees was hoping to return in Week 15 versus the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Saints want to see their veteran quarterback make a full recovery, be able to throw without any limitations and have complete range of motion before they consider reinserting him into the starting lineup, according to sources.

Until that happens, the Saints are prepared to keep playing with Taysom Hill as long as they need, including Sunday’s game in Philadelphia versus the Eagles.

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Brees will be questionable at best to play next Sunday against Kansas City, and he would not have been able to play against Philadelphia, according to sources.

Brees, 41, was placed on injured reserve Nov. 20, forcing him to miss a minimum of three games.

He said at the time that he hoped to be ready to play by Sunday’s game against the Eagles.

A source told ESPN earlier this month that Brees was progressing in his recovery from the injuries and was tracking to play as early as Sunday.

The Saints (10-2) own the best record in the NFC and can clinch the NFC South title with a victory Sunday over Philadelphia or a loss by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) versus the Minnesota Vikings.

Hill will make his fourth consecutive start Sunday and has added a different dimension to the Saints’ offensive attack, rushing for 176 yards and four touchdowns while leading New Orleans to a 3-0 record over his first three starts.

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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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NHL teams clear to reopen facilities Monday in Phase 2 of return to play plan

The National Hockey League is transitioning to Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan, as teams will be allowed to reopen training facilities in their cities on Monday if local regulations allow it.

On a “strictly voluntary basis,” players can participate in small-group team training, with a maximum of six players at one time plus a limited number of staff members in the facility. This training will include small group sessions for on-ice workouts for players only, with no coaches or other team personnel allowed on the ice. Players must wear face coverings at all times in the facility, except when exercising or on the ice.

Many NHL players haven’t skated since the league paused its regular campaign on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The NHL said teams can immediately start preparation for the players’ return, including the planning of medical tests and education sessions about new safety protocols.

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In late May, the NHL circulated a document to teams detailing how training facilities should reopen to maximize player health and safety. Everyone involved in Phase 2 will be administered a laboratory-based reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test 48 hours before they can participate.

If local testing capacity allows, everyone participating in Phase 2 will be tested “at least twice weekly” afterward, according to the NHL. Players will check their temperatures daily and will have their temperatures checked before entering the facilities. They’ll also keep a log of temperatures and any symptoms that could signal a COVID-19 infection.

The return to training facilities is a major step toward the opening of NHL training camps in July, ahead of what the league hopes is a return to conclude the season at two hub cities in a previously announced postseason format.

The NHLPA voted to approve that format, but has yet to vote on an actual return to the ice. The NHLPA will receive feedback from players during this return to training facilities. The feedback will help with negotiations about training camp regulations and issues regarding what life could be like in those hub cities.

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