James Harrison: ‘It feels good’ to reach Super Bowl
While remarkable, no one should be surprised the New England Patriots are heading to the Super Bowl for the eighth time in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
What is strange is James Harrison will be joining the Patriots in their quest to win a sixth Super Bowl title since the 2001 season. While it might seem remarkable how quickly things have evolved over the last month for the one-time Patriot hunter, the goal always remains the same for Harrison no matter whose colors he’s wearing.
As for Brady, Harrison isn’t surprised that the man who he has made a career out of chasing during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers overcame a hand injury to wreak havoc on the Jaguars.
You expect that, Harrison said. I mean, he hasn’t missed a game with any sort of injury except for the ACL when he missed a season. That’s what you expect from him.
If Brady and Harrison continue to live up to their reputations as game-changers in Minneapolis on Feb. 4, the veteran linebacker could add a third Super Bowl ring to his impressive list of accomplishments.
We’ll see. I haven’t tried it in a couple days, Brady said. You know, we got a few things that we’re gonna try and hopefully it can help me be effective. You know, a lot of people deal with injuries. This is one for a quarterback, obviously on my throwing hand, I don’t love to deal with, but I don’t have a choice.
Brady made half of his throws Friday without a glove and performed well, sources informed Rapoport. Two days prior, Brady was gushing blood after suffering a cut to his right thumb, which required several stitches. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported the injury was the result of a collision with running back Rex Burkhead during Wednesday’s practice.
Brady, previously listed as questionable, deflected all injury questions during his presser Friday and wore gloves on both hands while doing so. He might sport only one Sunday.
Vikings fans donate $140K to Saints P Thomas Morstead’s Foundation
As the playoffs roll along, NFL fans continue to celebrate victories by giving to those in need. The latest example of this trend comes from Vikings fans donating to Saints punter Thomas Morstead’s foundation.
The play is the only time in NFL playoff history that a game-winning TD has been scored with 0:00 on the clock. Despite the heart-wrenching situation, Morstead still went back out on the field for the NFL-mandated conversion. One Vikings fan noticed this then told fellow fans on Reddit to donate to Morstead’s What You Give Will Grow foundation in light of his gutsy performance and notable display of sportsmanship.
The Reddit post was made on Monday and by Tuesday morning over $3,000 had been raised. By Wednesday morning donations had passed $12,000.
That number has grown exponentially after Morstead released this video making a promise to personally deliver the check to the Children’s Minnesota — free-standing pediatric health system in Minneapolis — if donations got to $100,000.
I’ll do whatever is best for the team to help us get a win, Ramsey told WJXL-FM in Jacksonville, per Hays Carlyon of gridironnow.com. Whether it’s guarding anybody. It doesn’t matter.
It’s intriguing to ponder, but coach Doug Marrone gave no indication Wednesday that Ramsey would be employed against Gronkowski. After Steelers wideout Antonio Brown scorched the Jaguars a week ago, plenty of attention will go toward Patriots deep-threat Brandin Cooks.
Along with Cooks, fellow wideouts Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola can riddle a defense, while New England’s versatile stable of runners — James White, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis — all pose a threat through the air.
It’s a pick-your-poison offense, leaving the Jaguars stuck with the task of stopping a flock of pesky pass-catchers, jack-knife runners, head-swirling satellite backs — and Gronk.
Fox hires Michael Vick as NFL studio analyst
Michael Vick has found a new job. Fresh off his official retirement with the Atlanta Falcons, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback announced Friday that he will join Fox Sports as an NFL studio analyst this season.
Through it all, Vick said he began paying attention to broadcasting, so he expects his transition to Fox to be a smooth one.
I think I’m ready for it, Vick told USA Today when asked whether he’s ready for more public scrutiny thanks to his increased visibility. I have already been through that during my career and have had a lot of practice doing interviews. You have to be careful because anything you say can go viral.
He added: I have never criticized guys, but I will be critical. Great players understand that. I’ve seen the reactions from my teammates watching shows in the team lounge when they disagree with something. I’m a credible guy, and I think people will respect that.
He was a little bit overshadowed playing on the same D-line with the more highly touted Bradley Chubb at N.C. State, but Street made the most of his opportunity in the spotlight at the Shrine Game.
Thomas had a good week of practice and got a couple of QB pressures in the game, — I was actually a little disappointed with those plays. He had an opportunity for a couple sacks in those situations but didn’t quite finish them off. He has an ideal NFL body, and while he doesn’t have it all figured out yet, I think he’s going to be a mid-to-late-round pick. A team is going to be very excited to work with him because of his potential to be a disruptive force off the edge.
There wasn’t a lot of buzz about Cabinda during the week of practices, but he made a big impression on me during the game Saturday. He was physical coming downhill to make plays, showing some thump inside. Cabinda was Penn State’s leading tackler in 2017, and it was easy to see why on Saturday. He can help an NFL team on defense and special teams.
Injuries: Tom Brady jams right hand, X-rays negative
The New England Patriots dodged a serious bullet ahead of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, quarterback Tom Brady jammed his right throwing hand at practice Wednesday after accidentally being run into by a teammate. Brady’s X-rays, however, revealed no structural damage and the issue sounds manageable, Rapoport said.
2. Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told reporters that safety Andrew Sendejo would go through individual drills on Wednesday after leaving last week’s win over the New Orleans Saints with a concussion. Sendejo officially was listed as a limited participant.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen (back) and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle) did not practice Wednesday.
3. On a positive note for the Philadelphia Eagles, cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring) was a full participant during Wednesday’s practice, per Rapoport.
A former head coach for the Chiefs, Haley will take over an offense that habitually flat-lined over the past two seasons under coach Hue Jackson. It’s unclear if Jackson will retain play-calling duties, but it’s impossible to imagine the hyper-experienced Haley joining the staff without full power to call his own plays.
His relationship with Big Ben aside, Haley’s offense thrived in Pittsburgh, finishing top-10 in points over the past four seasons and consistently whipping defenses with the likes of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.
Cleveland doesn’t offer that brand of star power, but the Browns boast a talented offensive line, a handful of playmakers — Duke Johnson, Isaiah Crowell, Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman and David Njoku — and a boatload of valuable draft picks.
Patrick Mahomes to start at QB for Chiefs vs. Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs fans will get a glimpse of the future on Sunday.
Coach Andy Reid said Wednesday that rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes will start the team’s regular-season finale versus the Denver Broncos.
With the Chiefs locked into the No. 4 seed after winning the AFC West, the first-round pick will take his first snaps since a dazzling preseason.
During the Chiefs’ midseason floundering, many fans begged the coaching staff to burn Mahomes’ red-shirt season and replace Smith under center, despite K.C. still leading the division. After the veteran quarterback found his magical deep ball with offensive coordinator Matt Nagy calling plays, most of the outcry died down, and the Chiefs won the AFC West for the second straight season.
During the preseason, Mahomes flashed the raw playmaking skills that prompted the Chiefs to trade up in the first round to nab the quarterback, despite Smith’s presence on the roster. The rookie owns otherworldly arm talent, athleticism, escape ability, and a gunslinger mentality.
In a game that has no playoff implications, Wednesday’s announcement brings a sparkle of excitement to the Sunday afternoon tilt in Denver. It’s a chance for Chiefs fans to see their exhilarating future quarterback in action for the first time since August.
In addition to Norton, the team named former Colts quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer as its new offensive coordinator and Mike Solari as its offensive line coach.
Fans of the San Francisco 49ers might jump out of their seats and say wait, but he just joined our staff! That’s correct — Norton’s hiring as assistant head coach on Kyle Shanahan’s staff was announced Jan. 8 — but Norton has an out in his contract that allows him to take the Seattle defensive coordinator job, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported.
The 49ers released a statement acknowledging Norton’s consideration of external opportunities.
Last week, Ken was presented with an opportunity to once again coordinate a defense, Shanahan said. Because of how we feel about Ken as a coach, we understand and respect his desire to pursue the position.
Ben McAdoo interviews for Cleveland Browns’ OC job
Former New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo is back on the grid.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that McAdoo interviewed for the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator job, per a source informed of the situation.
Stock for the Louisville-based company, which is one of the NFL’s biggest TV advertisers, was down about 12 percent in trading Wednesday after it cut expectations for earnings and sales growth for the full year. Although the league’s TV ratings were down a year ago, Papa John’s sales grew. According to WDRB, executives said the company’s sales are expected to grow this year and in 2018, but company shares are down about 23 percent.
You need to look at exactly how the ratings are going backwards. Last year the ratings for the NFL went backwards because of the elections. This year the ratings are going backwards because of the controversy, Schnatter, who donated $1,000 to Trump’s campaign, said, and so the controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country.
Houston has a powerful defense that will again have J.J. Watt after he was injured and missed much of this past season. The Texans also have a proficient offensive line and running game and might regard themselves as a viable Super Bowl contender if they can add Romo and he can stay healthy and in the lineup.
The Broncos likewise can offer Romo a high-powered defense as a complement, and they are only one season removed from winning a Super Bowl title in quarterback Peyton Manning’s final season.
I don’t think anybody would argue that Lattimore has been anything but the best rookie corner in the league when he has been on the field.
So, with no other rookie pass-rusher besides Garrett playing well enough to receive votes, this battle comes down to two players: White and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. With all due respect to guys like Jamal Adams and Marcus Williams, who have spent the season playing safety at a high level, it would be shocking if one of these two corners didn’t win the award.
No team has asked more of any rookie corner than the Saints of Lattimore, and he has consistently come through. Much of the Saints’ improvement can be traced to Lattimore’s presence; consider that through Week 16, they had allowed a passer rating of just 74.3 with Lattimore in the lineup, which rose to 97.2 when Lattimore was on the bench or injured. (Data for Week 17 isn’t yet available.)
White’s candidacy, then, is based on availability. Lattimore missed three games and played only six snaps in a fourth, costing him what amounts to one-quarter of the season. He played 711 defensive snaps. White didn’t miss a game and played 98.6 percent of Buffalo’s defensive snaps. The 27th overall pick, White made it all the way to 1,056 snaps, more than any other rookie defender. And while he might best be known for incurring Gronkowski’s wrath on a cheap shot that earned Gronk a one-game suspension, White has been an above-average cornerback all season.
Obviously Thomas is coming back from injury and starting him off by playing back-to-back games probably isn’t smart, but you’d think the Cavs would hold off and allow him to return against Boston.
But Thomas didn’t really want to do that. If he’s going to play the Celtics, he said, he wants to do it at full strength and not on a minutes limit.
Isaiah Thomas: There was no way I was going to come back against Boston. And play 17 minutes. It’s too big of an opportunity to just play against my former teammates, my former coaches, the city that gave me my biggest opportunity.
The Ravens are becoming a more complete team.
The Jaguars ran into the Jimmy G express in yet another failed West Coast trip, and with it, they saw streaky Blake Bortles go cold. They need to use the Tennessee trip to tighten some screws.
With their running game a little bottled up, Joe Flacco has found his groove while the defense keeps doing its thing.
The Chiefs have kept it simple and thrown it back to what made them so successful offensively earlier in the season. Now their defense has finally risen to make big plays, too.
The Falcons’ season has been full of frustration, because as Dan Quinn and Marquand Manuel have had the defense rise up, Steve Sarkisian and Matt Ryan keep making the offense hit snags.
If you’re going to war, you know you want him in your foxhole, he continued. That’s best compliment I can pay him. Besides he gets me open shots, if I’m going into a fight or war, I know I want him in my corner. Period.
He just doesn’t care about stats and all that, All-Star game, he’s not concerned about that, Aldrich added. Which I think makes him so good in that aspect.
Aldrich is in his eighth season in the NBA and has played for six different teams during his career. He compares Butler to Draymond Green in the sense that making winning plays matter more than any stats ever could.
We have some younger guys on our team that want to get where he’s been and kind of what he’s been able to do with being an All-Star, and it just shows, Aldrich tells SB Nation. You can be a guy on a bad team and get all the stats and you still may not be an All-Star. It’s about winning and putting yourself in the best position to win.
Winning. In order to win, a team needs a leader. Thibodeau says that’s where Butler has made the biggest strides in his game.
During his early years in Chicago, Butler didn’t need to lead. He had an electrifying Derrick Rose and a cast of vets to take him by the wing. Butler just needed to play his part. The rest would eventually come.
By the way, the Celtics are in line to have another top-five pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
The 49ers need look no further than the team across the field from them Sunday (and last week against the Jags) to see teams can make huge leaps in one year. The Rams were 4-12 last season before rebounding to 11-4 and playoff-bound this year. There are other similarities, too �� both teams have young, offensive-oriented coaches who do a great job of scheming for opponents, a big help to young QBs. This 49ers-Rams rivalry has the makings of once again being a fun one to watch over the next several years, as does 49ers-Seahawks.
Lynch will need to fortify Garoppolo’s supporting cast through the 2018 draft and free agency in order for the 49ers to ascend to playoff contention next season. Rookie George Kittle (39 receptions) is an effective tight end, and Carlos Hyde is a good running back, but there are no elite wide receivers on the roster. Buffalo cast-off Marquis Goodwin leads the team with 54 catches for 939 yards but just one TD.
The Niners’ defense has been the focus with recent first-round draft picks, including safety Eric Reid, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and this year’s two first-round picks, defensive end Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster. This group creates a nice nucleus for continued growth. The special teams are led by kicker Robbie Gould, who is having an outstanding season (37-of-39 on field goals, including 6-of-6 against Tennessee).
The Boston Celtics remain in first place in the Eastern Conference, having conceded the slot for 24 hours recently. Kyrie Irving is a surefire All-Star and dark horse MVP candidate. Jayson Tatum is a top-three Rookie of the Year candidate, which is absolutely wild for a 19-year-old who joined a really good team. Despite the catastrophic injury to star free agent pickup Gordon Hayward in Game 1, Boston actually looks capable of challenging LeBron James and the Cavaliers for a trip to the NBA Finals.
Boston traded the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick in the deal that brought Kyrie Irving to New England. But the other major trade the C’s made last summer �� sending the No. 1 overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 3 pick and a future choice �� means Boston could pick in the top five for the third straight season despite making the playoffs each year.
Here’s the thing about baseball: Even the most dramatic moments are extremely plausible.
So, for instance, we have 1911, the year of Charlie Victory Faust. Faust was virtually unmatched for sheer strangeness and improbability, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. Faust pitched two innings (allowing one run) and batted once (hit by pitch) for the New York Giants, but he wasn’t really a player, as became clear almost immediately after he talked manager John McGraw into giving him a tryout. Rather, he became something between a mascot and a team joke and a good luck charm, and in the months he spent with the Giants they won a staggering 80 percent of their games. Then the Giants kicked him out, more or less, and immediately slumped; over the next three years he spent extended periods in mental institutions before dying in 1915.
Just about every home run in history was hit by a player already known to be capable of hitting a home run, while even a perfect game is just the most likely thing happening 27 times in a row. The excitement comes from combining uncertainty and stakes — rolling dice for money is exciting — rather than any literal I Can’t Believe What I Just Saw emotion.
‘Skunk in the outfield’: How the most epic trick play in history broke baseball
For 2 minutes, 32 seconds of pure chaos, a high school state championship game in Rhode Island entered a parallel universe — and unleashed the longest hardball stalemate of all time.
LaVar clearly has a vested interest in his son playing more minutes and wants to see him succeed, but by voicing that interest he’s undermining the Lakers’ coaching staff in a way that doesn’t look great for the organization.
The Lakers tried to prevent this by limiting media access to the families, friends and agents of players, but that obviously isn’t solving this problem. LaVar Ball was in Lithuania with LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball when he made these comments — the Lakers can’t stop that.
LaVar essentially ran former Chino Hills High School head coach Stephan Gilling out of town with constant nagging and criticism about how he was running the team and coaching the Ball brothers. Once their feud became public, Chino Hills dropped Gilling as their coach.
He also pulled LaMelo out of Chino Hills partially because LaVar asked new coach Dennis Latimore to add four new players to their roster to play with his son and Latimore refused to do so.