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Aaron Rodgers: ‘Definitely’ will finish career with Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers stated Tuesday he doesn’t know how many more seasons he will play — admitting that the three-year, $150 million contract extension he signed in March shouldn’t be an indicator — but he knows where he will conclude his career.

A year after he skipped the Green Bay Packers’ mandatory minicamp as part of his offseason of discontent with the organization, he was asked whether he planned to finish his career with the only team he has ever played for in the NFL.

“Yes, definitely,” Rodgers said.

That was in doubt as recently as March, when everything from retirement to asking for a trade was on the table.

Rodgers put any of that doubt to rest on Tuesday after the first practice of the Packers’ mandatory minicamp. He had previously skipped most of the voluntary offseason program to instead work out in Southern California.

“I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” Rodgers said with a smile, channeling his inner Marshawn Lynch.

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He may have only been half joking. A source said that last June, after Rodgers skipped the mandatory minicamp, the team sent him a letter informing him that he would be fined for his absence.

Tuesday’s practice was his first opportunity to throw to newly acquired receivers.

Sammy Watkins (signed as a free agent) and 2022 draft picks Christian Watson (second round), Romeo Doubs (fourth round) and Samori Toure (seventh round).

The only key member of the Packers’ offense not in attendance was receiver Allen Lazard, who has not yet signed his restricted free-agent contract.

“I miss the guys,” Rodgers said, “I love being around the guys. It’s been a nice offseason. I appreciate my [training] team back in Southern California and the work we put in. But it’s good to be back out here with the guys. Good to meet Christian and Romeo and get reacclimated with some of the older guys. It’s just about timing and them feeling the cadence and the urgency and stuff, and just nice to be back in the building with these people.

“They’ve been great about me taking care of myself the way I best need to. Obviously it’s worked out the last couple years by my play, and I expect nothing less.”

Packers coach Matt LaFleur originally wasn’t sure how much work he would give Rodgers on Tuesday, but after seeing that the reigning MVP was in good shape, he allowed Rodgers to take part in almost every drill, including some 11-on-11s that were at a jog-through speed.

The Packers are coming off three straight 13-win seasons but failed to reach the Super Bowl in any of them, including two losses in the NFC Championship Game.

And now Rodgers has to deal with life after Davante Adams, the All-Pro receiver who wanted out of Green Bay and was traded this offseason to the Las Vegas Raiders.

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Longtime Buffalo Bills DE Jerry Hughes signs contract with Houston Texans

The Texans have signed veteran defensive end Jerry Hughes, a source told ESPN, confirming multiple reports.

It marks a homecoming for Hughes, who is from Sugar Land, Texas, and played at Stephen F. Austin High School.

Hughes is the latest in the group of veteran defensive ends general manager Nick Caserio has added to bolster the Texans’ defensive line. On Tuesday, the Texans announced they signed Hughes’ former teammate with the Buffalo Bills, defensive end Mario Addison.

Last week, Houston also added defensive end Rasheem Green. Hughes’ signing was first reported by NFL reporter Jordan Schultz.

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One of the few players who were retained by the Bills from the previous regime when Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane took over, Hughes was the longest tenured Buffalo player last season.

The 12-year veteran played in all 17 matches but registered his lowest percentage of defensive snaps played (51.8%) since the initiation of his career.

Hughes, who turns 34 in August, was selected as the 31st-overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2010 draft, but he had a slow start to his career.

After three seasons with the Colts, he was traded to the Bills for linebacker Kelvin Sheppard in 2013.

The following nine years of Hughes’ career were spent with the Bills, a team with which he found success. He had 10 sacks in each of his first two years in Buffalo and concluded with at least four in all the following seasons, outside of 2021 (two).

Last season, he led the team in pass rush win rate (20.9%). Hughes is fourth all time in Bills history with 53 sacks and has 58 total in his career. He also has seven postseason sacks.

Hughes has been a longtime leader of the team’s defense as the team has continued to invest in youth, especially on the defensive line.

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Atlanta Falcons, star DT Grady Jarrett reach three-year extension worth up to $51 million

The Atlanta Falcons are keeping one of their cornerstone defensive players around for the foreseeable future.

The club agreed to a three-year extension with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett on Tuesday that is worth up to $17 million per year in new money and $51 million in totality for the extension if he reaches certain incentives, a source confirmed to ESPN. The extension contains $34.5 million guaranteed.

Jarrett is now signed through the 2025 season at a total value of $67 million, including the money he was slated to earn in 2022.

The news of the terms of the deal was first reported by WSB-TV in Atlanta. The Falcons confirmed that Jarrett agreed to a three-year extension but did not disclose financial terms. Jarrett — who celebrated his 29th birthday Thursday, the first day of the NFL draft — was a fifth-round pick by the Falcons in 2015 out of Clemson.

The player from Conyers, Georgia, became a starter for Atlanta in his second season, in 2016. He made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2019 and 2020 and has started every game he has played in for Atlanta since the start of that 2016 season.

In all, he has played in 110 games — starting 95 of them — with 359 tackles, 26.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries.

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Jarrett, the son of former Falcons linebacker Jessie Tuggle, moved around a bit from defensive tackle to defensive end in defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ 3-4 scheme last season in an attempt to create even better matchups.

Jarrett (6 feet, 305 pounds) became the focal point of opposing offensive lines, sometimes facing triple-teams as he tried to work off of blocks.

“Based on the way Grady plays and his reputation, I think people will account for him in protection,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “We also move him around a little bit too, but yeah, I mean, if you’re playing us, you’re certainly going to account for him in your protection schemes.”

With Jarrett staying, he will become one of the key leaders for the Falcons as they transition most of their roster.

He’s the second Falcons player to receive a long-term extension this offseason, joining left tackle Jake Matthews. The team also traded quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts and in the past 12 months traded wide receiver Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans and had receiver Calvin Ridley suspended for at least one year for gambling.

Atlanta is in the middle of restructuring its front seven as well, with Jarrett as the centerpiece. Linebacker Foye Oluokun signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency, and the Falcons signed Rashaan Evans to potentially replace him.

The team has brought in three new edge rushers — signing Lorenzo Carter and drafting Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone — to try to lighten some of the attention opposing teams give to Jarrett every down. Atlanta also signed defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, potentially to offer Jarrett more help on the interior.

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World No. 1 Ash Barty, 25, announces retirement from tennis: ‘I’m so happy and I’m so ready’

Australia’s Ash Barty, the No. 1-ranked women’s tennis player in the world, has announced her retirement from the sport at the age of 25.

Barty stated in an emotional video posted Wednesday local time on social media: “I’m so happy and I’m so ready. I just know at the moment in my heart for me as a person this is right.”

The announcement comes less than two months after she obtained her home Australian Open, her third Grand Slam singles title.

“It’s the first time I’ve actually said it out loud and, yeah, it’s hard to say,” Barty told her former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua in the video interview. “But I’m so happy, and I’m so ready.

“I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top of the level anymore. I am spent.”

Barty, who left tennis in 2014 to pursue a professional cricket career but returned to the sport two years later, won her three major singles titles on three different surfaces — on clay at the 2019 French Open, on grass at Wimbledon last year and on the hard courts of Melbourne Park at the Australian Open in January.

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The WTA Tour stated Barty has held the No. 1 ranking for 114 consecutive weeks.

She is the second woman to retire while being ranked No. 1 in the world. Justine Henin retired on May 14, 2008, after spending 61 consecutive weeks ranked at the top. Henin also was 25 at the time of her retirement, but did come back two years after her announcement, reaching the final of the 2010 Australian Open before stepping away for good in 2011.

“Ashleigh Barty with her signature slice backhand, complemented by being the ultimate competitor, has always led by example through the unwavering professionalism and sportsmanship she brought to every match,” WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement.

“With her accomplishments at the Grand Slams, WTA Finals, and reaching the pinnacle ranking of No.1 in the world, she has clearly established herself as one the great champions of the WTA.

“We wish Ash only the very best and know that she will continue to be a tremendous ambassador for the sport of tennis as she embarks on this new chapter of her life. We will miss her.”

Barty said tennis has “given me all of my dreams, plus more, but I know that the time is right now for me to step away and chase other dreams, and to put the rackets down.”

She noted in her Instagram caption that she leaves the sport “feeling proud and fulfilled” and said there will be more to come at her news conference on Thursday.

Earlier this month, Barty pulled out of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells and the Miami Open, citing a need for ongoing recovery after winning the Australian Open.

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Novak Djokovic gets warm welcome in Dubai before tennis tournament

Novak Djokovic on Thursday received a warm welcome in Dubai, where he visited the world’s fair following the global discussion around his decision to stay unvaccinated.

After being twice detained and deported from Australia ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam Tournament last month, Djokovic was in the United Arab Emirates for the Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“I’m excited to go out on the tennis court next Monday,” the Serbian tennis star said when asked by The Associated Press how he feels after the recent twists and turns of the legal dispute over his travel visa. “I miss tennis honestly after everything that has happened.”

Djokovic this week doubled down on his decision to stay unvaccinated. The No. 1-ranked tennis player stated he would skip the French Open, Wimbledon and other tournaments if he was required to get a coronavirus vaccine to compete.

Djokovic reiterated in an interview with Serbia’s state RTS television on Thursday that he keeps “an open mind” about the possibility of getting vaccinated in the future but remains willing to miss upcoming majors because of his refusal to do so.

“I am not exclusive, anything is possible in life,” Djokovic said. “I decided at this moment not to do it and I am ready to bear consequences.”

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The government of Dubai does not require visitors to be vaccinated to enter.

The men’s tennis tour event starts next week.

As he ambled into the pavilion Thursday surrounded by a sea of journalists, fans clapped and chanted “Nole,” his nickname.

Djokovic posed for selfies with adoring fans and set off on a guided tour of Serbia’s national pavilion at Expo 2020 days before he was due to hit the courts. The pavilion was hosting an event for his foundation, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, which promotes early childhood education in Serbia.

“I’m proud to be on this stage,” Djokovic said after his wife, Jelena, gave a presentation about the foundation’s work with children.

He said it was often hard to be involved as much as he wanted to be with the foundation given his whirlwind tournament calendar.

But he quickly acknowledged: “It’s not as busy as it used to be.”

The audience burst into applause. Wearing a crisp white shirt and black mask emblazoned with his foundation’s logo, Djokovic gave high fives to toddlers and nodded encouragingly as he heard about Serbia’s startup scene at the pavilion’s multimedia exhibit.

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Seattle Mariners acquiring utility player Adam Frazier in trade with San Diego Padres

The Seattle Mariners have got second baseman/outfielder Adam Frazier in a trade with the San Diego Padres. Going to San Diego will be hard-throwing left-handed reliever Raymond Kerr and outfielder Corey Rosier.

Frazier, who turns 30 in December, was an All-Star last season for Pittsburgh, which dealt him to the Padres. He’s in line to play in a super-utility role, especially if Seattle signs a big-name free-agent infielder.

“We thought we were at the goal line to acquire Adam at trade deadline last year,” Mariners president Jerry Dipoto stated.

“Obviously we missed out and we stayed in touch with the Padres as we headed into the offseason knowing that they had a pretty robust roster. And we just liked the player so we stuck with it.”

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The Mariners revealed the move on Twitter with a nod to the TV show “Frasier.”

Frazier is under contract for $7.5 million this season and can enter free agency after the 2022 season. He finished fifth in the National League last season in hits (176) and batting average (.305) and added five home runs and 43 RBIs.

“Adam, to me, is one of the better strike-zone managers in baseball,” Dipoto said. “He’s got great contact skills. In an era where strikeouts are prevalent, he doesn’t strike out. His strikeout rates would be good in any era, really.”

“That’s how I feel I can impact the team; play good defense and try to hit the baseball. Get on base any way I can,” Frazier said.

Dipoto stated the club is having conversations with multiple free agents and made contract offers to a couple of them, one of whom he called “notable.”

“We felt like adding Adam made us a deeper team without stopping us from doing anything else we would have wanted to do,” Dipoto said. “That’s double the fun. We can continue to add to our team because Adam is so versatile.”

In six MLB seasons, Frazier has a career .281 average with 313 runs scored and 215 RBIs.

Kerr, 27, is a power lefty who can hit 100 mph. Rosier, 22, had an excellent debut in 2021.

Kerr was added to the Mariners’ 40-man roster just last week. He split time between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma last season. Rosier was a 12th-round pick in the 2021 amateur draft out of UNC Greensboro. He spent last season at Single-A Modesto.

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Jordan Mailata, Philadelphia Eagles reach 4-year, $64 million extension

The Philadelphia Eagles are signing left tackle Jordan Mailata to a four-year, $64 million extension, Mailata’s agents confirmed to ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.

The deal, which runs through the 2025 season, could be worth up to $80 million and involves $40.85 million guaranteed, agents Jeff Nalley and Graylan Crain told ESPN.

It was completed Saturday, just before the team left its facility to fly to Atlanta for its season-opener versus the Falcons. “Excited to be here for another four years, representing this team and city,” Mailata said in a video posted to Twitter by the Eagles.

“I can’t wait to keep representing my family and everything that I have in me. Give it to you guys to get this championship here. Remember, Go Birds, baby!”

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Mailata’s ascension has been nothing short of remarkable.

A former Australian rugby player, he had no prior football experience and could barely name an NFL team when he arrived at IMG Academy to train in January 2018 as part of NFL’s International Player Pathway program.

Standing at 6-foot-8 and 346 pounds, his athletic gifts were obvious, but he didn’t even know how to put on or take off a helmet at first, let alone grasp the complexities of a pro offense.

He was selected by the Eagles in the seventh round (233rd overall) of the 2018 draft.

Mailata, 24, did not play his first two seasons in the NFL, but he showed marked improvement under the tutelage of offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.

He started 10 matches last season as the Eagles’ offensive front was hit hard by injuries and proved himself well.

He entered this summer in a competition for the starting left tackle spot with former first-round pick Andre Dillard, who was held back by multiple injuries. Mailata became the clear favorite to win the job as the weeks went on.

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Kawhi Leonard declines $36 million player option for next season

Kawhi Leonard has declined his $36 million player option for next season, becoming a free agent, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The expectation is that Leonard will negotiate a new deal to stay with the LA Clippers.

Yahoo Sports first reported that Leonard has declined his option.

Leonard’s decision comes in the wake of having surgery on July 13 to repair a partially torn right ACL that kept him out of the LA Clippers’ final eight playoff games.

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Leonard could potentially miss a chunk of the upcoming season.

The Clippers stated in their news release revealing the surgery that there was no timetable for his return.

Despite the injury, Leonard remained the biggest star in the league with a decision to make this summer concerning his future.

He decided between opting into his contract for $36 million in 2021-22 with the option of then signing a four-year, $181.5 million extension that would start in 2022-23 or declining the option and potentially signing a four-year, $176.2 million deal.

Leonard averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 52 regular-season games during his second campaign with the Clippers. He missed nine out of 10 regular-season games in April due to a foot injury.

Prior to Leonard’s knee injury, the Clippers got a glimpse of their potential with Leonard and Paul George playing their best basketball together on the playoff stage.

Leonard averaged 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 57.3 percent in 11 postseason matches.

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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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Shohei Ohtani launches 31st home run in victory, tying Hideki Matsui’s record for most in MLB season by a Japanese-born player

Shohei Ohtani hit his major-league-leading 31st homer of the season for the Los Angeles Angels, tying Hideki Matsui’s record for the most homers in a Major League Baseball season by a Japanese-born player.

Ohtani crushed a 459-foot solo shot off Baltimore’s Thomas Eshelman in the third inning Sunday, clearing the ficus trees behind the center-field fence.

Ohtani finished 1-for-4 as the Angels won 6-5. Juan Lagares doubled to deep center in the ninth inning, scoring two runs as Los Angeles rallied past the Orioles.

With his 14th homer in the past 17 games, the Halos’ two-way sensation tied the MLB homer record for Japanese-born players set by Matsui in 2004. Matsui needed 159 matches to hit his 31 homers for the Yankees, while Ohtani has done it in just 81 games for the Angels while also making 12 starts on the mound.

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“I’m really excited to be at the same level with somebody I looked up to since I was young,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “However, it’s still the first half, so like I’ve said before, I want to continue to build up one hit at a time.”

Ohtani also extended his own major league record for the most homers in a campaign with at least 10 games pitched.

With his 29th and 30th home runs on Friday, Ohtani tied and passed Babe Ruth’s record of 29, set in 1919.

Ohtani passed Mike Trout on Friday for the most homers in Angels history before the All-Star break. He is also the first player in American League history to record 30 homers and 10 stolen bases in his team’s first 81 games of a season.

Ohtani was voted to his first major league All-Star team last week. Ohtani’s next mound start is Tuesday night versus Boston. It will be his final pitching performance before the All-Star Game in Denver.

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