Eagles running through a million different things after kickoff rule changes

The NFL’s 32 special teams coaches have a new challenge this year as the league’s decision to change kickoffs have thrust them into uncharted water heading into the regular season.

The changes, which include no running starts for the coverage team and a ban on wedge blocking by return teams, have been described as making kickoffs look more like punts, but Eagles special teams coach Dave Fipp isn’t sure exactly what things will look like once teams are on the field. That’s why he’s running through as many options as possible while coming up with a plan.

Williams is heading into the final year of the four-year contract he signed as a fourth-round draft pick in 2015. His base salary this year is $1.9 million, which is a bargain for a player of Williams’ caliber.

Last year was a big adjustment, Gathers said, via the Dallas Morning News. I was going for more trying to be quicker, trying to be faster. But that hurt me in the blocking game a lot where I felt like I was just a body, just a body catching a blow.

A bigger Gathers will, he hopes, be a better Gathers.

Now coming off, I’m delivering the blow, Gathers said. I’m delivering the shot.

Cowboys coach seems to like what he sees from Gathers during offseason practices.

Wentz and Watson, both recovering from torn ACLs, have been able to work a fair bit during recent practices. Watson, whose injury happened a month before Wentz’s and was less extensive, is expected to be able to do some drills this week and be ready for the start of training camp. Wentz has been participating in 7-on-7 drills already, and the Eagles are hopeful that they can have him back in time for Week 1. But with Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles still there as an obviously capable backup, there’s no reason for the Eagles to take any risks by rushing Wentz back. Expect them to continue to bring him along slowly.

Dolphins waive tackle Sean Hickey

The bottoms of rosters are churning this time of year. The Dolphins announced this morning that they had waived tackle Sean Hickey. He’s been knocking around the league the last four years, showing up in camps with the Saints, Patriots, Jets, Vikings, and Dolphins. He was on Miami’s practice squad all of last year, but hasn’t played in an NFL game.

So the owners turned their attention to eliminating their presidential scrutiny. Trump played them for fools. Did they really think he would back off when they’re such an easy target? Did they really think he wouldn’t be petty? Did they really think Trump’s rocky 35-year relationship with the NFL would be ignored when he finally has the league whimpering before him?

Two weeks after the NFL gave Trump what it thought he wanted, he started demanding more. Disinviting the Eagles and reigniting the anthem issue are just the latest indicators that Trump cannot be appeased. It’s not really about the anthem, either. It’s about having a convenient sucker to bully and impress a base of supporters who would rather weaponize patriotism than practice all of its complex principles.

The Seahawks will be his sixth team. Marshall saw his 2017 season with the Giants cut short by an ankle injury. That came on the heels of a subpar 2016 with the Jets, so it’s unclear exactly how much the veteran has left at this point.

Upon learning these facts, the president decided to change the event so that it would be a celebration of the American flag with Eagles fans and performances by the United States Marine Band and the U.S. Army Chorus.

Long, who donated his salary to charity last season and spoke out after violence erupted in his home town of Charlottesville last summer, sharply criticized Fox News for using the images of players in prayer.

Time to see what else JuJu can do (rhyme intended). 

After winning all five of the December games Jimmy Garoppolo started and averaging 28.8 points, the San Francisco 49ers decided to put all of their eggs in his basket. Now, Garoppolo is a very rich man and officially the franchise quarterback in San Francisco.

How will he look as a September starter after his first full offseason as a member of the 49ers? That’s the $137.5 million question.

It’s been a bumpy offseason for the New England Patriots. Key players Nate Solder, Malcolm Butler, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis and Brandin Cooks are gone. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have encountered more  bad press related to Brady’s personal trainer, and there’s even been buzz surrounding Brady’s contract as well as his future with the team.

Not the ideal way to cope with the hangover stemming from a painful Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

But a lit fire under Brady could actually be a good thing for the Patriots. The last time Brady wasn’t happy, he returned from a four-game suspension and led the Pats to 14 wins in a 15-game span that culminated with their Super Bowl LI victory.

My goal is to not miss a game, Wentz told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio earlier this month. “I feel I missed plenty last year. I want to be out there with the guys. It’s a fluid process. We’ll see what happens, but I’m confident I’ll be back Week 1 and ready to play against Atlanta.”

Eagles fans have a lot to look forward to, including the banner ceremony that will precede the team’s first game back in Philadelphia, but Wentz’s return has to top that list.

OK, Pittsburgh Steelers fans are probably most looking forward to another year with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell running things on offense. But there’s nothing particularly new or notable regarding that trio, which should continue to dominate in 2018.

The question is whether Pittsburgh’s famous offensive core might have room for one more (rhyme not intended), because it often looked like wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had that potential during a magnificent rookie season. 

NFL trade news: Jets’ Christian Hackenberg dealt to Raiders for 2019 conditional pick

Christian Hackenberg’s time in New York has come to an end before it even began.

Jets coach Todd Bowles announced Tuesday the team has traded the quarterback to the Raiders for a 2019 conditional seventh-round pick.

Hackenberg did not participate in workouts during the first day of the team’s OTAs Tuesday, though he did speak to reporters about the adjustments he made this offseason and discussed why it took so long to enact those changes.

“Today is a day of harvest where we see the seed you have planted all these years,” Kyle said to his parents, fighting through tears. “You will always have four sons; there will always be four.”

THE CAVS GAVE Kyle as much time off as he wanted after his brother’s death. When he returned to the team after a week, he also had to deal with a nagging foot injury and ended up taking another week off to manage the issue.

He would end up playing in only four games before the start of the playoffs. In the first round, he went scoreless in two of the first three games against the Indiana Pacers. Then in Game 4, he broke out with 18 points and made two vital 3-pointers that helped win the game and turn the series for the Cavs.

The Bills need depth behind Kelvin Benjamin, and Shepard has experience.

He spent the first four years of his career with Tampa Bay. In 72 career games, Shepard has 47 catches for 634 yards and four touchdowns.

As Carolina’s head coach, Rivera earned the responsibility of formally presenting to prospective owners how the football organization operates. With the chance to briefly meet the winning bidder through that process, Rivera came away learning Tepper already knows a lot about how to do well in the NFL.

“He’s got a sense and feel for football,” Rivera said. “He’s been around it. He owned a small percentage of the Steelers. So he’s got a feel. It was good, and I know eventually we’ll sit down and talk football and talk about this team.

Matt Jones among seven dropped from Colts roster

The Colts have opened up seven roster spots for new faces.

Roback, 23, goes down as one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in Eastern history, even if he didn’t get picked up in April’s NFL Draft — he was vying to become the second Eastern quarterback ever to be drafted, after the Lions took Charlie Batch in the second round in 1998.

There was some pre-draft buzz he could be a sleeper pick, but it never materialized, which Roback acknowledged was disappointing.

There’s a feeling that you get when you sit there and you wonder, and you don’t know what’s next, he said.

That’s a feeling I’m not going to forget. That’s a feeling I’m carrying with me and always will. That’s the motivation.

Gray, 25, was found dead just before 10 p.m. ET Monday night as authorities were called to the house when a friend found injured and unresponsive.

Officers found weapons, digital scales and marijuana inside the residence. A kidnapping of two males on Tuesday morning was thought to be in connection to Gray’s death. Gray had pleaded guilty to a marijuana possession charge last year.

“We have a long way to go but we will get to the bottom of it,” deputy Randy Christian said. “At the end of the day, it will likely all be over drugs and drug money.”

Gray signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina State in 2014. He appeared in four preseason games that year and recorded three tackles.

Despite plenty of adversity during his collegiate career — Roback lost his starting job after new coach Chris Creighton was hired, and he was suspended early in his redshirt junior season — the Toledo, Ohio, native owns Eastern records in touchdown passes (57) and yards of total offense (8,876), and is second in completions (745) and passing yards (8,653). Two years ago, despite the early season suspension, he led the Eagles to their first winning season since 1995 and their first bowl game since 1987.

Sources: WR prospect Antonio Callaway tested positive for marijuana at combine

Former Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway, whom some personnel evaluators consider as talented as any wide receiver in this week’s draft, tested positive for marijuana at the combine, NFL sources said.

Callaway also was one of nine Florida players last season who allegedly used stolen credit card information to fund bookstore accounts, and he was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession and possession of drug equipment during a traffic stop by Gainesville police in May 2017.

One talent evaluator said Callaway had enough talent “to one day wear a gold jacket.” Now it might be a challenge for Callaway to get drafted.

Asked recently about his past mistakes, Callaway said: “I mean, I matured. I’m past that. I don’t dwell on it or nothing. It happened. It happened, so I can’t cry over spoiled milk. I was young. I was dumb. I was immature. I’ve grown a lot, actually. Got a beautiful girl [his daughter, Aulani, was born in February] to look after, so I ain’t got no choice but to be a man.”

Browns general manager John Dorsey didn’t provide many hints on the team’s draft strategy when he met with reporters last Thursday, saying that he expected at least four quarterbacks to be picked in the first round.

The Browns, coming off an 0-16 season, are expected to select a quarterback with one of their first two picks. ESPN’s Mel Kiper projected Cleveland to select Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen at No. 1 in his most recent mock draft, with Mayfield going to the Miami Dolphins with the 11th overall pick.

USC’s Sam Darnold also is widely viewed as a candidate for Cleveland with the first overall pick, and UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has been projected ahead of Mayfield among draft-eligible quarterbacks.

Mayfield, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, recently visited with the Browns. Dorsey referred to Mayfield as a “pleasant fella” during his Thursday news conference.

“The only thing I care about is, do guys win?” Dorsey said. “Does he have accuracy? Does he have a strong arm? Can he throw the ball in the red zone in tight windows? Can he drive the ball? At the end of the game, does he win? That’s what I look for.”

NBA says referees missed violation on Celtics in Game 5 versus Bucks

The NBA’s last-two-minute report confirmed that referees missed a 24-second violation on the Boston Celtics with little more than a minute to play in Tuesday’s Game 5 of a first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks expressed frustration that referees failed to whistle what seemed like an obvious infraction. The NBA confirmed the missed call in their daily review and also noted that Al Horford should have been called for a travel before he took a shot trying to beat the shot-clock buzzer.

“Not a good enough one,” said Prunty. “I was asking for a shot clock violation. I didn’t think he got the ball off, so I said, ‘That’s a shot clock violation.’ That was my discussion. You’ll have to ask them if they can review it. I just know what I said, it’s a shot clock violation. Didn’t get the ball off.

“For me, maybe I had a good view of it, I just didn’t think he got it off, so I voiced my opinion on that.”

In a meeting with a pool reporter, referee Ken Mauer said the potential shot clock violation was not reviewable.

That he was there and rehabilitating his ankle was a positive step for the team during an offseason that has included Beckham trade rumors. New coach Pat Shurmur said before the minicamp practice that he expected Beckham to be on the roster this season.

The relationship between Beckham and the Giants appears to be mending several weeks after a controversial video emerged. In the seven-second clip on social media, Beckham is in a bed next to a pizza, holding what appears to be some sort of brown cigarette or cigar, while a woman next to him has a credit card and what looks like a white, powdery substance aligned in rows.

Cobb, now with the Baltimore Orioles, was scheduled to face his old team on Tuesday night before the game was postponed by rain.

“This is the playoffs. It’s going to be war,” Rubio said. “You’re playing seven games and you’ve got to win four. We know that it’s going to be another war next game, and we just need to be tough but at the same time mentally ready for that. We’re not backing down, but at the same time we know we have to be ready for a fight and respond.”

Paul George picked up a technical early for shoving Joe Ingles, Steven Adams got one for slapping away Rudy Gobert’s arm, Quin Snyder for arguing a call, Ingles one for bumping George and Raymond Felton and Gobert picked up double technicals during a light skirmish.

Altherr goes deep to back Arrieta, Phils beat D’Backs 5-3

Aaron Altherr came through in a clutch spot again.

Altherr hit a go-ahead three-run homer, Jake Arrieta outpitched Zack Greinke and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3 Wednesday night.

“Big spot in the game, those kinds of moments I focus in a little more,” said Altherr, who had a game-ending RBI single against Pittsburgh on Sunday. “My timing has definitely been better. I feel a lot more relaxed at the plate.”

Arrieta, the 2015 NL Cy Young award winner with the Cubs, has been outstanding in four starts for Philadelphia. The Phillies are off to a 15-8 start.

“Jake is one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “He models the behavior we want from (everyone).”

Arizona had Arrieta on the ropes in the fourth when Paul Goldschmidt reached on third baseman Maikel Franco’s throwing error, A.J. Pollock singled and Daniel Descalso walked to load the bases.

Arrieta then walked Chris Owings to force in a run. But Jarrod Dyson hit a bouncer to the mound and Arrieta threw home to get the first out. Franco then made an excellent, backhanded play on Jeff Mathis’ sharp grounder, stepped on third and threw to first for a double play.

Cowboys fans have not been pleased with Goodell since he established and upheld running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension last season. Without Elliott, the Cowboys (9-7) went 3-3 during his absence and missed the playoffs.

To start last year’s draft in Philadelphia, Goodell was soundly jeered and actually playfully implored the crowd to boo louder, which they obliged.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has had his tussles with Goodell as well. He recently was forced to pay part of the NFL’s legal fees for the Elliott case as well as his fight against Goodell’s contract extension, but Jones said he is hoping the crowd takes it a little easy on the commissioner and thinks about future drafts returning to AT&T Stadium.

“I don’t know of anybody, maybe other than me, that’s had more boos than Roger has,” Jones said at the pre-draft news conference. “I know about how that works. I do hope we can be positive in our reception. We are going to do something pretty special, and he did have a final say in that.”

Staubach’s draft experience was far different from what those will experience the next three days. He found out by reading the Washington Post that the Cowboys drafted him in the 10th round in 1964. The AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs took him in the 16th round.

Rob Manfred: Mound visits way down, inning breaks much shorter

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he is encouraged by pace-of-play changes that have limited mound visits and reduced the time between innings at major league games this season.

Speaking in Toronto on Tuesday before the Blue Jays hosted the Boston Red Sox, Manfred said the new rules have sped up games without any disruption. Mound visits without pitching changes averaged 3.79 per game through Sunday, down from 7.41 for the 2017 season.

“This has really been a unique April for us,” Manfred said. “We’ve set a record for the number of games that have been canceled and, probably more troublingly, we’ve played a lot of games in really tough weather. I think we have 12 cities that have been more than 10 degrees below their average temperature for the month of April.”

Still, Manfred said the solution isn’t as simple as scheduling early-season games in domes and warm-weather cities.

Richards outpitched Clayton Kershaw just months removed from working as a substitute elementary school teacher, and the Marlins took advantage of a wild outing from the Dodgers’ ace to beat Los Angeles 8-6 on Wednesday night.

Richards struck out 10 and pitched one-hit ball over 4 2/3 scoreless innings in his fifth major league start. The former independent league right-hander was pulled after throwing 100 pitches.

“We couldn’t figure him out,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

“I just focused on keeping the ball down and attacking the zone early, throwing strikes and looking ahead,” Richards said. “We were just, fastball-changeups a lot. Trying to keep them off balance.”

Richards’ offseason jobs have included teaching and working for the Miller-Coors brewery since going undrafted out of Drury University. He joined a Marlins’ Class A affiliate in 2016 after being noticed while pitching for Gateway of the independent Frontier League for two seasons. He spent this winter working at a school in his hometown of Aviston, Illinois, according to the Miami Herald.

“Trevor was really good today” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s really what we needed.”

Sanchez walkoff homer gives Yanks 4-3 win, sweep of Twins

Gary Sanchez had a moment he will remember.

Sanchez hit a three-run homer off Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning, and the New York Yankees rallied to beat the Minnesota Twins 4-3 to complete a four-game sweep and extend their winning streak to six.

“It’s definitely a very exciting moment,” Sanchez said through a translator. “The other special moment for me was when we made it to the playoffs last year, so this one is definitely up there.”

Minnesota completed an 0-7 trip, its first winless road swing of at least seven games since Aug. 10-16, 2001. The Twins have lost eight straight to New York, including last year’s AL wild-card game, and 13 of their last 14 at Yankee Stadium, counting the postseason.

“I think this is going to build up the character of this team,” Minnesota general manager Thad Levine said.

Dellin Betances (1-1) struck out the side on 13 pitches in the ninth for his first win since June 27. The big right-hander struggled to keep from flying open on his delivery during the second half last season and early this year, causing control problems.

“It’s the embodiment of hope in the middle of the offseason, where nobody wins or loses and where college fandom leads into the NFL,” said Peter O’Reilly, senior vice president of events for the league.

AT&T Stadium has been configured to hold more than 20,000 fans for each day of the event. A lottery was held for the free tickets for each of the three days of the draft, with 10,000 people getting two seats apiece to a particular day.

The draft has come a long way from its origins in 1936, when newspapers didn’t even bother to cover who was picked. The first televised draft was broadcast by ESPN in 1980, but it wasn’t a fan event until 1995, when the league moved it to Madison Square Garden.

The draft eventually moved to New York City’s Radio City Music Hall for nine years.

“For the last years in Radio City, we felt there was more demand by getting up close and personal,” O’Reilly said. “We felt that Day 3 was a bit sleepy and we wanted to see what we did if we opened up that door.”

The show went on the road to Chicago (2015 and 2016) and Philadelphia (2017) with great success, as measured by interest inside the building as well as outside, where the league brought experiences to fans previously only seen at the Super Bowl.