Packers focus resources to improve on special teams

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And it’s no surprise that Gutekunst, the Packers general manager, and Murphy, the team president, want things to change.

It was in Week 2 last season, when the Titans, playing without starting quarterback Marcus Mariota, came up with a fake-punt touchdown pass and a game-winning field goal in the last minute to beat the Texans.

And it was most of last season when Gutekunst and Murphy watched the Packers stumble to a dead-last ranking in Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings under former coordinator Ron Zook.

To say special teams has been a problem for the Packers is to say Lambeau Field gets a tad chilly in December.

“It has,” Murphy said when asked if he views special teams as recurring problem.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

So Murphy approved an added position on LaFleur’s coaching staff. He not only has a special teams coordinator in Shawn Mennenga, who came from the college ranks (Vanderbilt) to take his first NFL coordinator job, and returning assistant Maurice Drayton, but there’s a third coach dedicated to special teams, quality control assistant Rayna Stewart (who assisted Mennenga at Vandy last year).

“It was an added position, and we’ve struggled on special teams,” Murphy said. “So hopefully one more person could be helpful there.”

So could players specifically pegged for special teams.10

Not since the days of Sean Richardson (in 2015) and Jarrett Bush (in 2014) have the Packers kept veteran players on second contracts whose primary role is on special teams. Yes, Richardson and Bush played some in the secondary, but their main roles were as veteran cover men and blockers.

In 2016, the Packers cut backup safety Chris Banjo with an injury settlement. A year earlier, he led the Packers in special teams tackles and was elected as a playoff captain following the 2015 regular season.

Banjo joined the Saints in 2016 and was named as a Pro Bowl alternate as a special teams player for the 2017 season. That year, he made just $1.05 million. He turned 29 last month but still played in every game for the NFC’s top-seeded Saints, who paid him just $1.55 million.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Last season, four of the Packers’ top-five special teams tacklers were rookies.

“I think it’s kind of the philosophy,” Murphy said. “Some teams keep players just for special teams. We’ve been one of the younger teams. Part of that is getting players that are going to be able to perform on special teams.”

After combine, Broncos still have to decide if they see QB of future in this draft

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But in the weeks to come, they still have to decide if quarterback is still high on their list of draft priorities, and whether they think any of the quarterbacks in this draft can help them fill out what is still an unfinished long-term plan at the position.

“I think that being 6-10, you evaluate every position,” Elway said at the combine. And as for this year’s draft class behind center, Elway added: “We’re still in the process of studying them. We’ll keep looking at them. I think that there are a lot of people excited about next year’s class. But we’re going to spend the time on this year’s class and see where we come out on that. I think there’s some good players in this draft too.”nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

The Broncos have the framework of a trade in place for Joe Flacco to be their starting quarterback. That deal, for what is expected to be one of their two fourth-round draft picks in exchange for Flacco, 34, will become official on or shortly after March 13 when the new league year begins.9

Elway has also said his “preference” would be that last year’s starter — Case Keenum — stays (if Keenum is willing to take a pay cut) to be Flacco’s backup. Keenum is set to earn an $18 million base salary at the moment and is guaranteed, whether he’s on a roster or not, $7 million of that base salary.

Making Flacco the Broncos’ starter and trying to keep Keenum might well say everything about what Elway really thinks about this year’s draft class of quarterbacks, and what he thinks about the ability of any of those quarterbacks to move into the lineup quickly.

It was clear as the combine drew to a close that, no matter how optimistic the league’s talent evaluators are about Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins — the top two quarterbacks in this draft — most in the league do not think either player is as NFL ready as Baker Mayfield, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, was a year ago.

In the end, the Broncos are in need of solution that goes beyond Flacco and Keenum. They do not have a quarterback on their current roster they selected in the draft, as none of the five Elway has selected since being hired in 2011 remains with the team. But to use a premium pick on a quarterback the organization isn’t totally sold on, or isn’t up to the challenge, is no solution either.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“We’re going to do everything we can, at every position, to get back to playing the way we need to play,” Elway said. “That includes quarterback and every other position on the field.”

Essam El-Hadary is about to break a World Cup record … just don’t ask him about his hands

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Essam El-Hadary’s face is broad and unlined. He has a majestic head of midnight-black hair. His eyes are clear, his smile is full, and his frame — 30 pounds lighter than it has been — is lean and unbent. He does not look 45 years old, like he’s about to become the oldest man to play in a World Cup. Sitting in a hotel lobby in Zurich, he looks more like a man at ease, like a titan of industry, content in his skin and the surrounding luxury. Only his hands betray the truth of his life and trade. He has the hands of a working man twice his age.

He holds them up for examination with equal parts pride and reticence. Seeing El-Hadary’s hands without gloves is a little jarring, like seeing a lion shaved of its mane. “Egyptian hands,” he calls them. They are huge and incalculably damaged. Several of his fingers look as though they’ve been smashed with hammers. He has knuckles where the human hand is not meant to have them.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Has he broken all of his fingers? “Almost,” he says, before tucking his hands back out of sight.10

He has been a professional goalkeeper since 1993, earning 156 caps for Egypt. Saves made, not goals allowed, have left the plainer scars. “Life has sometimes been difficult,” he says through a translator. “Football has made me. But I always feel like I’m at the beginning. I always feel like I’m starting over.”

El-Hadary seems destined to answer the call for Egypt once again in Russia. (His principal domestic rival, 26-year-old Ahmed El-Shenawy, injured his knee in April and will not be fit for the tournament.) El-Hadary has mixed feelings about the record he is poised to break, the way he feels conflicted when he’s asked to show his hands. He says he’s been beset by media requests. He has turned most of them down.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Goalkeepers have long been football’s most probable ancients. It’s the position for which wisdom can most compensate for physical decline. The World Cup’s longevity record is held, at least for the moment, by Faryd Mondragon, who was 43 when he played goal for Colombia in 2014. Dino Zoff remains the oldest winner of a World Cup; he was 40 when he captained Italy to victory in 1982. Peter Shilton of England and Pat Jennings of Northern Ireland also played into their 40s.

El-Hadary looks to outstrip them not by weeks or months but by years. In Africa, he is already regarded as an all-time great — Didier Drogba called him his “best opponent” — but he knows that breaking Mondragon’s mark, possibly during Egypt’s opener against Uruguay on June 15, will subject him to the most intense global attention of his storied career. He also knows too well every question that will follow.

The unbearable hope — and inevitable pain — of supporting England at a World Cup

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“You’ve got to face the fact there may now be a meltdown. OK?,” said a senior member of the squad this week. “I don’t want anybody to panic during the meltdown. No panic. Pro bono publico, no bloody panic. It’s going to be all right in the end.”

Yes, it’s time for another England World Cup campaign, and it doesn’t matter that the senior member of the squad is Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, or that he happened to be talking about the Brexit negotiations, now into what seems like their ninetieth year, and with no end in sight.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

An English World Cup campaign will almost certainly include a meltdown, and there will be panic, and introspection, and calls for something, anything, to be done to — or by, or for — somebody. But it’s going to be all right in the end. It’s just that as with Brexit, nobody knows when the end will be or whether any of you old enough to be reading this will live long enough to see it.9

England’s two friendly victories this past week, against a poor Nigeria team and a workmanlike Costa Rica, allowed the nation (or the nation’s football commentators, at least) to accentuate the positive. The thumping header with which Gary Cahill opened the scoring against Nigeria got them excited about set pieces; more ominously, it earned Cahill the man-of-the-match award. The willing, likeable but tortoise-paced centre-back is not the recipient one might have been hoping for in a home game against Nigeria, with Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling all up the other end.

In the game against Costa Rica, TV pundit and former England manager Glenn Hoddle enthused about the left-footed full-back Danny Rose putting a left-footed cross into the penalty area from the left side of the pitch. “Lovely to see,” said Hoddle. “Natural.“cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Nothing came from the cross and if you have a season ticket at Rochdale, you’ve probably seen something similar in every home game this season but keep it to yourself. England need to keep morale high and if that means praising an international footballer for kicking the ball with his stronger foot, then so be it. Pro bono publico, no bloody panic.

Bregman hit in 1st appearance since surgery

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On the morning of his spring debut Saturday, Alex Bregman woke up early because of a nightmare about being hit by a pitch.

Hours later, as Houston’s third baseman prepared to take the field against the New York Mets following his recovery from surgery on his right elbow, he was still thinking about his dream. He asked a teammate to borrow a guard to cover his other elbow.

The move proved fortuitous: On his third and final plate appearance, Bregman was plunked by Jeurys Familia on the protected elbow. Infield prospect Alex De Goti, who provided the guard, became Bregman’s hero.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“De Goti saved my life today or else I would have been on the shelf for a minute with the other elbow,” Bregman said laughing.

Bregman was limited early this spring after having arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in January. He said after the game that both elbows were OK, but that the surgically repaired one felt better than the other, which was bruised from the pitch.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Other elbow’s good. This one is sore.”10

He walked on his first two plate appearances. Bregman started at third base but didn’t see any action on the field with Justin Verlander giving up just two hits in three innings.

“I got to throw the ball across in between innings,” Bregman said.

Though Bregman declared his right elbow 100 percent, the 2018 All-Star Game MVP said he’ll need a few more games this spring before he’s where he wants to be.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“I’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready for the season, but I’ve got plenty of time,” he said.

Jose Altuve played second base for the first time this spring after serving as the designated hitter in his first two games. He is coming off surgery to repair a fractured kneecap.

The 2017 American League MVP doesn’t have a hit yet but walked twice in three plate appearances Saturday.

“I feel better than what I thought,” he said. “I’m really happy. I feel good. I feel like I’m where I want to be right now.”

Manager AJ Hinch was glad to see two of his stars back on the field and was encouraged by their work.

“Good, productive day,” Hinch said. “Just seeing them on the field together is nice. I like when our good guys play.”

Royals’ Perez injures UCL, could miss season

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Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez damaged the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, raising the possibility the 2015 World Series MVP may need Tommy John surgery and miss the season.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Perez was hurt during a workout Wednesday, and the team said a MRI on Thursday revealed the damage. Perez will travel next week to California for a second opinion from Los Angeles Dodgers head team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

The 28-year-old has been an All-Star for six straight seasons and won Gold Gloves in five of the last six years. He hit a career-low .235 last year and had 27 home runs and 80 RBIs for the second straight season.9

He has a $10 million salary this year and is owed $13 million in each of the following two seasons.

Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria are the other catchers on Kansas City’s 40-man roster. Gallagher, who appeared in 35 games during the past two years, has a .218 career average with two home runs and 12 RBIs.

Viloria, 22, was a September callup last season and has appeared in only three major league games, his only experience above Class A.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Drew Butera, the Royals’ primary backup the past three years, was traded to Colorado on Aug. 31 and signed a minor league contract with Philadelphia last month.

Iguodala: Curry still ‘underrated,’ No. 2 PG ever

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Golden State superstar Stephen Curry has won two MVP awards and three NBA championships, but he is still “underrated,” according to Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala.

In fact, Iguodala believes that Curry is the second-best point guard of all time at this point in his career.

“I still think he doesn’t really get the respect he deserves,” Iguodala said after watching Curry drop 28 points in a 120-117 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night. “Guys think he uses a lot of screens and guys think they can draw mismatches with him defensively, but he’s a real problem. I think I told [Kevin Durant], he said he missed me on the shot he took, and I said, ‘Y’all two are like Michael Jordan, there’s no such thing as a bad shot.’ That’s for real, and people don’t understand the presence they bring to the court. Especially on the offensive end.”

Iguodala, who later said that Magic Johnson is the best point guard of all time, does not think that Curry ever will get the respect he deserves.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“It is what it is sometimes,” Iguodala said. “But when you sit down and have serious conversations, that’s when you — he’s the second-best point guard ever — you argue that.”9

Curry took Iguodala’s comments in stride after helping the Warriors finish off a win at the end of a long four-game road trip.

“Every day he texts me when I wake up in the morning and tells me that same comment,” Curry said, with sarcasm. “I got some work to do to get to No. 1 apparently.”

Iguodala’s comments also gave Curry a chance to promote the tour he has set up for prospects who fly under the radar.

“Underrated.com,” Curry said after being told of Iguodala’s “underrated” remark. “Check out the tour. They’re in Philly today and tomorrow. I’m trying to share that with the world for sure. Underratedtour.com, sorry.”

Curry said he is not thinking about his own legacy at the moment, but his teammates already know the powerful force he has had on the game all over the world.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

“Most important is [his] impact on the game of basketball,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “Have you been to a high school game or a middle school game — Mark Jackson said a few years ago, ‘Steph is ruining the game of basketball.’ We all was pissed off like, ‘What, what is he talking about?’ I went to some high school games, and I said I see what he’s talking about. He’s not talking about Steph per se that’s ruining basketball, but he’s making a lot of other people think they can do what he does. And it ain’t the case. And so organization good, game good, team good, but the game of basketball is really where he makes his hay.”

Celtics owner: ‘Worst February’ I can remember

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Count Boston Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck among those disappointed with the team’s performance of late.

Speaking Saturday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Grousbeck said the Celtics just finished the “worst February” he can remember since taking over the team in 2002. The Celtics were 5-6 last month, including a finishing stretch in which they lost four straight games.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Grousbeck acknowledged that the Celtics aren’t necessarily worried about finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference, adding that the team as constructed has “the capability of getting to the Finals.”1

“We also have the capability of losing in the first round,” Grousbeck said, according to Boston.com. “We have a very, very good set of opponents in the East, all of whom have beaten us in the last month.”

Grousbeck’s uncertainty echoes comments that some of his team’s players have made during the season. Amid that losing stretch to finish February, guard Marcus Smart said the team is “just not together,” while Kyrie Irving has more than once discussed the need for some of the younger Celtics players to mature and understand their roles.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Heading into Sunday’s game against the Houston Rockets (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC), the Celtics (38-25) sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for fourth and home-court advantage in the first round.

“I really have a lot of hope for these guys,” Grousbeck said. “I give us a chance. I don’t think anybody wants to play us in the playoffs. I really do think, after 16 years in the league, that these guys still have a chance.”

Seahawks ride rebuilt roster to NFC wild-card berth

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It will be the Seahawks’ seventh playoff appearance in coach Pete Carroll’s nine seasons in Seattle. According to ESPN Stats & Information, only the New England Patriots have more in that span, with nine. The Seahawks made the playoffs only 10 times in the 34 seasons before Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived in 2010.

The victory Sunday capped another comeback from an 0-2 start. Since the NFL expanded its playoff format to 12 participants in 1990, only 28 teams through 2017 had reached the postseason after starting 0-2. One of those teams was the 2015 Seahawks.

“There’s an emotion to it that’s deep, and it’s because there wasn’t very many people that thought we could do this,” Carroll said, sharing a sentiment that was repeated in some form by several players in the locker room. “Most everybody thought we didn’t have a chance.“cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The win that put the 2018 Seahawks in the playoffs was arguably their most impressive of the season. The Chiefs, who still own the AFC’s best record, opened as a 2.5-point road favorite and came to Seattle averaging a league-best 35.6 points per game.

Seattle’s defense, with one starter in free safety Tedric Thompson missing and several more banged up, held MVP front-runner Patrick Mahomes & Co. in check through two quarters. The Seahawks took a 14-10 halftime lead with the help of two takeaways, both forced fumbles that Seattle recovered. The first set up Wilson’s go-ahead touchdown throw to tight end Nick Vannett, and the second thwarted a Chiefs scoring opportunity at the end of the second quarter.10

Carson gave the Seahawks a 7-0 lead on their first possession with a 4-yard touchdown run. He finished with 116 yards on 27 carries to become Seattle’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Marshawn Lynch in 2014. That capped his comeback from the leg injury that ended his promising rookie season after four games last year.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“If you remember, I told you guys he was the most well-conditioned guy that showed up when we returned in April,” Carroll said of Carson. “There was nobody that was more fit, nobody was more ready for the work. I don’t know how he did it, but he’s just unbelievable, and that commitment that he has, it carried through the whole season.”

The deterioration of the Seahawks’ post-Lynch running game was among the leading reasons they finished 9-7 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011. They had finished between first and fourth in rushing from 2012 through 2015 before they dropped to 25th and 23rd the past two seasons.

The Seahawks, back atop the league in the category this season, produced 210 yards on the ground (including two kneel-downs for minus-2 yards) and an average of 4.9 yards per carry Sunday night. They were without right tackle Germain Ifedi because of a groin injury and lost left guard J.R. Sweezy to what Carroll called a sprained ankle in the first half. That forced D.J. Fluker and his not completely healed hamstring into the game and moved Ethan Pocic from right guard to left guard.

Fractured hip lands Seahawks safety Delano Hill on injured reserve

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The Seattle Seahawks have placed strong safety Delano Hill on injured reserve because of a fracture in his hip.

Coach Pete Carroll announced the move Tuesday and called it a non-displaced fracture that Hill suffered in Sunday’s game.

Hill started the past two games while Tedric Thompson was sidelined by chest and ankle injuries. With Thompson out, Seattle had moved Bradley McDougald to free safety with Hill playing strong safety.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“He was playing great ball. The hopes for him coming back next time around and being a big factor for all the playing time and competing and all that, it’s there. He was playing his best game,” Carroll said of Hill on Tuesday. “He played really well — hits, running, tackling, all kinds of good stuff, pressuring. So very, very bright future for him and this will set him back for a while, but it’s not something he can’t recover from.”9

On his 710 ESPN Seattle radio show on Monday, Carroll praised the way Hill played and didn’t dismiss the possibility of keeping him in the starting lineup for Seattle’s wild-card game against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, even though Thompson is expected to be back this week.

The statuses of left guard J.R. Sweezy and cornerback Shaquill Griffin remain uncertain. Carroll said Tuesday that Sweezy is moving around well without a limp or a boot on his sprained foot, but he’ll be a game-day decision. Griffin sprained his ankle Sunday and will try to practice later in the week, Carroll said.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Akeem King stepped in at left cornerback for Griffin on Sunday and would start in his place if needed against Dallas, Carroll said.

The Seahawks re-signed receiver Malik Turner from their practice squad to fill Hill’s roster spot.