Tagged in: players

Kansas City Chiefs not in ‘rebuilding mode’ despite losing key players, GM says

The Kansas City Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill and opted not to re-sign Tyrann Mathieu. They have some seemingly obvious holes on their roster just a few days before the 2022 NFL draft.

General manager Brett Veach still resisted the idea the Chiefs are in any kind of rebuilding effort.

“When you have Pat Mahomes, we’ll be wired to go after it every year,” Veach said. “Even though you may make moves and you may trade really good players, it doesn’t mean [there won’t] be another counterpunch and that we [won’t] try to be aggressive in another way. You just have to be smart and flexible in what you do. What’s needed to do that is draft resources and cap space.

“Just because you trade away a great player doesn’t mean we’re in a rebuilding mode by any means. It just means we’re going to find a new set of resources and we’re going to try to be aggressive.”

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The Chiefs after losing Hill, Mathieu and starting cornerback Charvarius Ward look to need help at wide receiver and in the secondary. They also need edge rushers to improve a pass rush that was 29th in the league last season in sacks.

The Chiefs did sign wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and safety Justin Reid. But after losing Hill and two of last season’s other top receivers, and being without Mathieu, Ward and one of last season’s top defensive backs in terms of playing time in Daniel Sorensen, the Chiefs could still use help.

They have a league-high 12 draft picks, counting two in each of the first four rounds.

As for replacing Hill, Veach stated, “On one end, it’s very hard to replicate a talent like Tyreek Hill. But I also think there’s a mindset or idea forgetting how good a coach Andy Reid is. He’s won with all types of quarterback and all different types of offensive schemes.

“Our staff is very dynamic and, look, we had Tyreek Hill and we were able to implement a lot of RPO stuff and a lot of vertical attack stuff, but it doesn’t mean when you have a talent like Pat Mahomes and a Hall of Fame coach like Andy that you can’t rewire and retweak your offense and how you do things. There are multiple ways we scored points over the years.

“Would you like to find someone like Tyreek? Yeah, but I think every team would. If you don’t, there are many ways to win games. Our offense is I think extremely flexible, a lot more flexible than what people think. For us and what we do, we’re going to go out there and collect good players.

They might not be 4.2 guys but if they’re good football players, we’re going to put them into position to make plays and win a lot of games.”

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Seattle Seahawks agree to trade QB Russell Wilson to Denver Broncos, get three players, picks

After weeks of negotiations, in one of the biggest trades in NFL history, the Denver Broncos have agreed to send a significant package of players and draft picks to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, sources told ESPN.

The Broncos have agreed to trade quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defensive lineman Shelby Harris, two first-round picks (2022 — No. 9 overall — and 2023), two second-round picks (2022 — No. 40 overall — and 2023) and a 2022 fifth-round pick to the Seahawks for Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick, sources said.

The trade gives Denver the quarterback it has sought since Peyton Manning retired, and it gives Seattle a foundation on which to rebuild without the quarterback who led the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl title.

Upon Wilson’s approval to waive his no-trade clause, the Seahawks will send him to Denver, concluding his historic 10-season run in Seattle that included nine Pro Bowl selections, one Super Bowl title and more wins than any quarterback ever has posted during his first 10 seasons in the league.

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The Broncos were Wilson’s preference, if he was traded, sources told ESPN’s Brady Henderson.

Wilson also will have to pass a physical. The trade can’t be officially announced until Wednesday, March 16 at 4 p.m. ET, which is the beginning of the 2022 league year.

Denver acquiring Wilson has nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers’ decision to return to Green Bay. Denver general manager George Paton initiated trade talks with Seattle for Wilson at least two weeks ago. But in recent days, as trade talks with Seattle heated up, it became clear that Wilson was the Broncos’ Plan A.

The Broncos and Packers have not discussed a Rodgers trade this offseason.

The Seahawks quietly were listening to offers for Wilson and got calls from multiple teams. One league source estimated the total to be over a dozen teams.

Wilson sensed he was going to have to move on, and if he did, he wanted to be going to a winning program. Denver, with all its offensive talent and its tough defense, is in “win-now” mode.

Denver has been trying to find a suitable quarterback since Manning retired, just as the organization tried for years to find a suitable quarterback after John Elway retired. Enter the 33-year-old Wilson.

Wilson will join a Broncos team managed by new head coach Nathaniel Hackett. The team’s offense includes wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and running back Javonte Williams.

The Broncos’ odds to win the Super Bowl improved from 25-1 to 12-1 Tuesday at Caesars Sportsbook. Only three teams — the Buffalo Bills (15-2), Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) and Green Bay Packers (10-1) have better odds to win the Super Bowl than the Broncos at Caesars Sportsbook.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, saw their odds to win the Super Bowl fall from 40-1 to 75-1 at Caesars. Wilson beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII and will become the first quarterback to start for a team he defeated in the Super Bowl, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

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Free agent Matt Harvey could be suspended by MLB after admission of opioid distribution

If Matt Harvey can find a team willing to sign him, he could immediately be suspended for at least 60 days for saying that he provided opioids to Tyler Skaggs on several occasions, a Major League Baseball official told ESPN on Wednesday.

Harvey’s admission in federal court Tuesday qualifies as distribution under MLB’s drug policy, the official told ESPN on the condition of anonymity.

Harvey, currently a free agent, would be able to appeal any suspension.

“Once the trial is complete, MLB will conduct a comprehensive review of the potential violations of our drug program,” MLB said in a statement.

MLB can’t take any action, however, until it reaches a new labor agreement with the players’ association.

Harvey received immunity from the government in order to testify, and may not be criminally prosecuted for anything he admitted to in court, unless he lied.

The other players who testified — C.J. Cron, Mike Morin, Cam Bedrosian and Blake Parker — testified to their own opioid use but did not say they ever distributed drugs to anyone else.

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Under MLB’s drug policy, those players would not face suspensions, unless they previously violated the policy regarding drugs of abuse.

Unlike players caught using performance-enhancing drugs, player using drugs of abuse like opioids or cocaine are referred to an evaluation treatment board for their first offense, and the violation is not made public. The board then develops a treatment plan that the player must follow.

The players testified Tuesday and Wednesday in the federal criminal trial of Eric Kay, the former Los Angeles Angels communications director. Kay faces two felony charges of distributing fentanyl and causing Skaggs’ drug-related death in July 2019.

Both sides will give closing arguments Thursday. With the exception of Parker, the players stated Skaggs introduced them to Kay and said they could get oxycodone from him. Parker said he couldn’t recall who introduced him to Kay.

The players went on to describe how Kay sometimes left pills for them in their lockers, and how some snorted or ingested the pills in the clubhouse.

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Curry, Warriors beat Kings 113-98 in short-handed showdown

Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors gave his son an early 5th birthday gift by permitting the boy to help on the sidelines running towels, shooting shirts and masks to Warriors players along their bench.

And dad delivered his first triple-double of the season to boot.

Green notched his franchise-leading 31st career triple-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists with Draymond Jr. an equally big star as Golden State held off the Sacramento Kings 113-98 on Monday night in a matchup of short-handed rivals due to COVID protocols.

“You like that?” Green shared of his postgame chat with young Draymond Jr., or “DJ.”

“It was fun, Daddy,” the boy answered before his father made clear, “We can’t do it all the time, we can do it sometimes.”

Green was thrilled with the opportunity for his son, who he praised for being “well-behaved” and doing just enough while staying out of the way.

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The Vikings’ final three matches are at home versus the Los Angeles Rams and at NFC North champion Green Bay before they host Chicago in the finale. The result in this one was hardly a surprise given the state of the Bears (4-10).

Chicago lost for the eighth time in nine games, and with 14 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, that seemed inevitable. Receiver Allen Robinson was on it, as was the starting secondary.

The health issues also hit the coaching staff, with all three coordinators testing positive for the coronavirus during the week.

Defensive coordinator Sean Desai was cleared to return hours before kickoff. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was not cleared, so Nagy called plays. And special teams coordinator Chris Tabor was out.

Cousins, who struggled last week, didn’t exactly dominate in this one. He was 12 of 24 for 87 yards with an interception and got sacked four times. The two-time Pro Bowler also connected with Justin Jefferson for a 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter and threw a 7-yarder to Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the third.

Dalvin Cook ran for 89 yards, after going for 205 versus Pittsburgh in a sooner-than-expected return from a dislocated shoulder.

D.J. Wonnum had a career-high three sacks and the Vikings recovered three fumbles on the way to their second straight win after back-to-back losses.

“It’s not just playing better, it’s getting better,” Zimmer said. “It’s getting better in the run defense, getting better in the pass coverage, it’s getting better in protection. It’s getting better in running the ball. It’s all those things. We’re trying to get better so we can get to that spot where we’ve got to get to.”

For the Bears and their fans, it was another frustrating outing.

Fields threw for 285 yards and ran for 35 in his second game back after missing two with broken ribs. The rookie completed 26 of 39 passes playing behind a line missing both starting tackles, with right tackle Larry Borom on the COVID list and left tackle Jason Peters out with an ankle injury.

Robert Quinn and Akiem Hicks each had two sacks. Quinn has 16 this year, leaving him just shy of Hall of Famer Richard Dent’s franchise record of 17 1/2 in 1984. But Chicago committed nine penalties for 91 yards in a sloppy performance that had fans again booing at times and making their feelings about coach Matt Nagy known, chanting “Fire Nagy!”

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Odell Beckham Jr. is free agent after clearing waivers for Cleveland Browns

Former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has cleared waivers Tuesday and is eligible to sign with any team as a free agent.

Beckham wants to spend the rest of this season with a playoff contender and in a winning environment, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier in the week.

Multiple teams with winning records and established offenses are expected to be interested in Beckham, sources told ESPN.

Certain players already have reached out to Beckham, pitching the merits of their organization, according to sources.

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The Browns excused Beckham from practice last week while the sides negotiated his exit, which was finalized Friday.

After he was officially released Monday, Beckham was suitable to be grabbed by the other 31 teams, but none wanted to put in a waiver claim and pick up his renegotiated contract of $7.25 million by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Cleveland must pay Beckham $4.25 million but will save $3 million.

Beckham, 29, had 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns in six matches this season. He had only two 100-yard games in 29 games after joining Cleveland in the 2019 blockbuster trade with the New York Giants.

He asked to be traded and never developed an on-field connection with Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Beckham essentially forced his release last week when his father shared an 11-minute video on social media — hours before the trade deadline — of plays in which Mayfield didn’t pass him the ball.

The three-time Pro Bowler had 1,035 receiving yards in his first season with Cleveland but suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2020 and was out when the Browns ended a long playoff drought and won their first playoff game in 26 years.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Antonio Brown tests positive for COVID-19

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have placed wide receiver Antonio Brown on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team revealed Wednesday.

Brown has tested positive for the virus, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Brown is the third player, along with inside linebacker/special teams captain Kevin Minter and practice squad wide receiver Travis Jonsen, to be placed on the list this week.

“Kevin and A.B. are both on the COVID list. With A.B., we’ve got plenty of guys with a proven track record at that position,” Arians stated, pointing to their depth at wide receiver with Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson.

“Kevin will be missed as far as special teams, but we’ve got some young guys ready to roll.” Arians said Minter and Brown technically still have an opportunity to play Sunday, but the team is preparing as if they won’t be available.

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Brown, like every one of his teammates and all members of the Bucs’ coaching staff, is fully vaccinated, and per NFL rules, needs two negative tests 24 hours apart to return, as long as he is asymptomatic.

Players who are vaccinated are not subject to the mandatory 10-day quarantine as unvaccinated players.

Brown’s 138 receiving yards through two matches is second-most on the team this season, and he’s arguably the Bucs’ most versatile route runner — he can go deep but also is extremely productive using his suddenness inside.

Last year’s team moniker was “beat the virus,” and Arians has largely attributed losing only four starters to COVID-19 — for a total of six games — with winning the Super Bowl.

The Bucs hit the road this week for one of the more challenging parts of their schedule. They take on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, and then next week, they’ll travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to take on the New England Patriots.

The Bucs lost to the Rams 27-24 last season, with the Rams limiting the Bucs to just 209 passing yards, among the lowest of their season.

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Leylah Fernandez, one day after turning 19, tops Elina Svitolina, advances to US Open semifinals

With no players from the United States left to pull for in the US Open, the fans are adopting a neighbor from the North to treat as one of their own: Leylah Fernandez, an unseeded Canadian teenager with an exciting game and enthusiasm to match.

A day after turning 19, Fernandez reached her first Grand Slam semifinal — and became the youngest player to get that far in the women’s bracket at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova in 2005 — by adding a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) triumph versus No. 5 Elina Svitolina on Tuesday to earlier wins over past US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber.

“I obviously have no idea what I’m feeling right now,” said Fernandez, a left-hander with quick baseline reflexes who is ranked 73rd and participating in only the seventh major tournament of her nascent career. “I was so nervous. I was trying to do what my coach told me to do.”

That coach is her father, who isn’t in New York; he stayed home and is offering tips in daily phone conversations. That helps, certainly, as does the loud backing she has been receiving from the spectators, who rose and cheered wildly each time Fernandez raised a fist high above her head or wind-milled both arms after winning a key point in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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“Thanks to you, I was able to push through today,” she told the crowd after edging Svitolina, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist whose two Grand Slam semifinal runs include the 2019 US Open.

Not requiring any encouragement to get out of his seat was Fernandez’s fitness coach, who would leap and shout, pointing fingers or waving clenched fists.

Svitolina’s husband, two-time major semifinalist Gael Monfils, offered similar support from Ashe’s other guest box.

It was touch-and-go down the stretch — even after Fernandez grabbed the opening set, and even after she led 5-2 in the third. One way in which she held a clear advantage: Of points that lasted more than eight shots, Fernandez won 26, Svitolina 16.

Five times, Fernandez was two points from winning but failed to collect the next point. Finally, at 5-all in the tiebreaker, she moved to match point when she smacked a down-the-line passing shot that got past Svitolina with the help of a bounce off the net tape.

Fernandez put up both palms, as if to say, “Sorry about that bit of luck,” while Svitolina put a hand to her mouth in dismay.

Svitolina’s backhand contributed to her undoing late, and when a return from that side landed long, it was over. Fernandez dropped to her knees at the baseline and covered her face; Svitolina walked around the net to approach Fernandez for a hug.

Next on this magical ride for Fernandez will come yet another test versus a player who is ranked higher and has more experience on the sport’s biggest stages: Aryna Sabalenka.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, matched her best result in a Grand Slam tournament by reaching the semifinals via a 6-1, 6-4 triumph over French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who was seeded No. 8. Sabalenka acknowledged having confidence problems in the biggest tournaments earlier in her career, saying she has worked with a psychologist to deal with those fears.

It seems to be working, as Sabalenka made her initial Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will try to go a step further in New York.

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New England Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore reports to training camp

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who had skipped June’s mandatory minicamp, reported to the team on Thursday, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates. Gilmore was subsequently placed on the active/physically unable to perform list due to a partially torn quad sustained in December.

While the majority of Patriots players report for training camp on Tuesday, quarterbacks and players recovering from injuries were booked to arrive Thursday.

There was a question whether Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, would report. He had stayed away from voluntary practices in the spring, as well as mandatory minicamp, while publicly expressing a desire for the team to upgrade his contract.

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Gilmore is scheduled to earn a base salary of $7 million in 2021.

The Patriots had advanced him $4.5 million of his 2021 salary last year, contributing to the under-market wage for this season.

Gilmore, who turns 31 in September, is in the final year of the five-year, $65 million contract he signed with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in 2017. The deal included $40 million in injury guarantees and $31 million fully guaranteed at signing.

At the time, a contract with those guarantees and an average of $13 million per season was viewed as a strong deal. The cornerback market has since exploded, with Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams topping it with a contract averaging $20 million per season.

“I just want what I’m worth, however that plays out. Every player should be paid what they’re worth. That’s just how it is,” Gilmore told longtime NFL reporter Josina Anderson earlier in July.

Of his quad injury, Gilmore told Anderson: “I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt since the surgery. I’ve been running a lot, building full speed.”

Gilmore was one of eight players placed on the PUP list on Thursday, with quarterback Jarrett Stidham another notable player on the list.

Outside linebacker Chase Winovich, defensive tackle Byron Cowart, linebacker Terez Hall, tight end Dalton Keene, core special-teamer Brandon King and wide receiver Devin Smith were the other players placed on the PUP list.

Running back Rhamondre Stevenson (fourth round, Oklahoma), linebacker Cameron McGrone (fifth round, Michigan) and safety Joshuah Bledsoe (sixth round, Missouri) were rookies previously placed on the active/non-football injury list.

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Kansas City Chiefs re-sign defensive end Alex Okafor to 1-year deal

Veteran defensive end Alex Okafor has signed a one-year contract to return to the Kansas City Chiefs, just days before the first players start reporting for training camp.

The Chiefs did not disclose financial terms in announcing the deal Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Okafor has 30 sacks and 183 tackles in eight NFL seasons, including the past two with the Chiefs. He joined the club as a free agent from New Orleans in March 2019, signing a three-year, $18 million contract.

Okafor made an immediate impact in helping rebuild the Kansas City defense, recording five sacks and 21 combined tackles in 10 games. A torn pectoral muscle in Week 15 forced him to finish the season on injured reserve. He missed playing in the team’s triumph over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV.

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The veteran signed a restructured contract in August 2020 that reduced his salary cap figure for that upcoming season by $2 million and voided the final year of his original three-year deal.

A hamstring injury limited Okafor to 11 games last season.

He finished with three sacks and 16 total tackles. He contributed in a backup role during the team’s playoff run, picking up five total tackles in three postseason contests, including one stop versus Tampa Bay in the team’s 31-9 loss in Super Bowl LV.

Okafor expects to compete for a backup role behind anticipated starters Frank Clark and Chris Jones as the team’s edge rushers. Competition at defensive end also includes veteran Taco Charlton, second-year pro Mike Danna and 2021 fourth-round draft pick Joshua Kaindoh.

Clark was charged in California with felony possession of an assault weapon stemming from a traffic stop in March. In June, he was arrested in Los Angeles after police said they saw a submachine gun in his car. Chiefs players begin reporting to training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph on Friday.

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Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling not interested in Tottenham move as part of Harry Kane deal

Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling would not be keen on a move to Tottenham as part of a deal to bring Harry Kane to the Etihad Stadium, sources have told ESPN.

ESPN reported on Monday that City were readying a £100 million offer for Kane that could include players heading to Spurs as part of the arrangement.

Reports have suggested Sterling is one of the names in the frame, along with Gabriel Jesus and Aymeric Laporte, but sources have informed ESPN the England winger is not open to the idea of being considered in the deal.

Sources close to City and Tottenham told ESPN a formal offer for Kane has not been made.

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Sterling has been a key part of City’s success under Pep Guardiola, winning the Premier League title three times.

However, the 26-year-old lost his place in the starting XI towards the end of last campaign as Guardiola favored Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez. All three started the Champions League final loss to Chelsea.

Sterling was left on the bench for both legs of the quarterfinal versus Borussia Dortmund and again in the semifinal triumph over Paris Saint-Germain.

He has two years left on his contract after signing an extension in November 2018.

Sources have told ESPN that if he were to leave City this summer, it would be on his terms rather than as part of another deal.

Kane is keen to leave Tottenham this summer with City, Manchester United and Chelsea all registering an interest with his representatives.

Sources have told ESPN that even if City made a £100m bid, it is likely to be rejected by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who values the striker at more than £150m.

Kane still has three years left on his contract after signing a long-term deal in 2016. The 27-year-old’s future has also been complicated by Spurs’ ongoing search for a new manager after the dismissal of Jose Mourinho last season.

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