Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski could get traded as team’s frustration grows

Rob Gronkowski could find himself on another squad in 2018.

According to the Boston Sports Journal, which cited an unidentified team source, the Patriots tight end is at risk of being traded as coach Bill Belichick’s aggravation with him seemingly grows.

The Warriors stretched the lead in the second quarter. Durant scored on a 3-pointer — his first field goal of the game — and added a driving layup to put the Warriors up 55-41. Golden State led by as many as 18 in the second quarter and were up 64-50 at the break.

The Suns never seriously challenged after that.

“These are the dog days right now,” Phoenix interim coach Jay Triano said. “You can see with the number of guys we’ve got banged up. A lot of guys can’t make it through (82 games). Teams that are going into the playoffs are going through the same things.”

Phoenix has won twice — in 28 games — since Jan. 31 and is guaranteed to finish no better than 21-61, the second-worst record in the franchise’s 50-year history. Only the 1968-69 mark of 16-66 was worse.

“Smoked that ball, huh?” Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. “The center fielder ran after it like he had a chance for a second, scared everybody. Wasn’t even close.”

It marked Ohtani’s third straight game with a home run as the Angels won 13-9.

“It’s very impressive, yeah,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. “You don’t see too many guys do that on the mound and at the plate. Any.”

Ohtani, who is batting .462 (6-for-13) with six RBIs at home, drew a walk on four pitches with the bases loaded to pull the Angels within 8-7 in the fifth.

The 23-year-old will be on the mound Sunday, getting his first home start against the Athletics. The right-hander beat them in Oakland on Sunday, giving up three runs and three hits in six innings, with one walk and six strikeouts.cardinals_029

Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp retires after 15 seasons

Patrick Sharp called it a career in Winnipeg, the city where his hockey journey began.

The Chicago Blackhawks forward and Winnipeg native played his last NHL game Saturday night. Sharp got a standing ovation in the third period after the announcer told the crowd the 36-year-old is retiring after 15 NHL seasons, 11 with Chicago that included winning three Stanley Cups.

“Being born in Winnipeg and then hearing the ovation from the crowd, seeing the other team tap their sticks and clap their hands, that hit hard and I’m just thankful for it, grateful for it,” Sharp said.

Sharp finishes with 287 goals and 620 points. He cracked 30 goals four times and was an All-Star in 2011.

The Blackhawks acquired Sharp in December 2005 for a third-round draft pick, and he became a core member of the Stanley Cup-winning teams.

After the 2015 title, he was a victim of the salary cap and was shipped to Dallas, where he played for two seasons. He returned to Chicago, where he has maintained a home, on a one-year deal this past offseason with hopes of another Cup run. But the Blackhawks stumbled to last place in the Central Division.

Phoenix has won twice — in 28 games — since Jan. 31 and is guaranteed to finish no better than 21-61, the second-worst record in the franchise’s 50-year history. Only the 1968-69 mark of 16-66 was worse.

The past three seasons, the Suns have won 23, 24 and 20 games. Highly competitive in the Steve Nash era, they will miss the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.

Phoenix has lost 31 of its last 34. The Suns have a 25 percent chance of securing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Warriors: It was the eighth time that Thompson has scored at least 20 in a quarter. … Durant didn’t score a point until he made one of two free throws with 6:27 left in the half. … Warriors last loss to the Suns on Nov. 9, 2014 in Phoenix. … Warriors have won in Phoenix the last seven tries. … With the win, Golden State is 10-4 in the second half of back-to-backs this season.cardinals_088

NFL changing controversial catch rule

The NFL is reportedly set to change the controversial catch rule that has frustrated fans and players alike.

According to the Washington Post, the change will eliminate the requirement that a player maintain control of the football after hitting the ground for the play to be ruled a catch.

Al Riveron, the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Officiating, said the NFL Competition Committee reviewed several controversial plays to help determine what should constitute a catch. He tweeted out a video of those plays, which included the James no-catch as well as Eagles running back Corey Clement’s 22-yard TD catch in the Super Bowl.

In a 13-2 loss to the Angels, Tomlin allowed four home runs in three innings. He gave up eight runs and eight hits overall with one strikeout and one walk, throwing 77 pitches.

On Monday, Indians manager Terry Francona revealed that Tomlin was pitching with a stiff back.

He hurt it on the third hitter of the game, said Francona, who said Tomlin backed off on his between-starts work.

The Indians also gave Tomlin an extra day’s rest. His normal day to pitch would have been Monday, but the Indians moved him back to Tuesday.

Tomlin will drag a 24.00 ERA into the start. In two starts against the Tigers last year, he was 1-0 with a 4.35 ERA. In 16 career appearances against Detroit, Tomlin is 7-6 with a 5.19 ERA.

One of Tomlin’s biggest challenges will be dealing with longtime Indians nemesis Miguel Cabrera. In 684 career at-bats against the Indians, Cabrera is hitting .333 with 45 home runs and 151 RBI in 688 at-bats.

Cabrera’s career numbers at Progressive Field: a .330 batting average, 24 home runs and 82 RBI in 367 at-bats. Cabrera’s career batting average vs. Tomlin is .370 (10-for-27), with two home runs and seven RBI.cardinals_127

Jim Kelly leaves intensive care, on his own two feet

Bills legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly got some good news Friday, and he took it as you might anticipate.

Via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, Kelly’s doctors are encouraged by his response to surgery to remove cancer from his jaw.

Angels: Los Angeles put a starting pitcher on the DL for the third time this season, leaving the club with three starters and 10 relievers on its 25-man roster. JC Ramirez went on the 10-day list with a right elbow strain after lasting just two innings and walking five A’s in his loss Saturday.

Athletics: After a day off in Los Angeles, Sean Manaea (1-1, 1.15 ERA) takes the mound at Dodger Stadium to open a two-game interleague series. He threw eight innings of stellar one-run ball against the Texas Rangers in his previous start.

Angels: Garrett Richards (1-0, 5.06 ERA) takes the mound Monday when Los Angeles opens a road trip against the Rangers. The long-injured righty hasn’t pitched against the Angels’ AL West rivals in Arlington, Texas, since May 1, 2016.

He caught only 40 passes for 440 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games last season after signing a two-year, $11 million deal with the Ravens a year ago. The Ravens released him last month.

Maclin, who turns 30 next month, had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2014 and ’15.

None of the Bengals players have knelt during the national anthem, but they did link arms as a team in a show of unity during the anthem prior to their game against the Packers on Sept. 24. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has said he is proud of how his team handled things last year, but has also said he doesn’t want anything to get in the way of football.

In it, Flaherty’s slider was dancing like it did during his ever-so-brief 2017 stint in the bigs, responsible for seven of his nine strikeouts and 10 swings and misses overall. It cemented his status as one of the best “No. 6 starters” in baseball, behind a rotation that has three potentially weak links (performance or injury with each) in Miles Mikolas, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright, making it likely that Flaherty will be called upon for at least a half season’s worth of starts.texans_124

Michael Bennett’s lawyer: Case will be exposed as “ludicrous”

The lawyer for Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett says the accusation that he pushed and injured an elderly, disabled woman at last year’s Super Bowl will be exposed in due time as nonsense.

“He knows he didn’t do this,” Hardin said. “He’s assuming the system will ultimately conclude that once they get all the information. But it’s obviously a very embarrassing and humiliating thing to go through, walking out of a court room with a bunch of TV cameras and in handcuffs, particularly for something you didn’t even do.”

Bennett was a player for the Seahawks at the time of the incident in question but was traded this offseason to the Eagles.

“We’re going to try and encourage completion of college degrees or vocational training if that’s what the player feels like he needs to give him something,” Polian said. “Football is a terminal career for everybody. They need to get on with the rest of their lives. They’re going to have to, so we’re going to try and help in that regard.”

All of this sounds great, but the Alliance still must generate enough appeal to gain ratings traction for TV/cable partner CBS. Toward that end, the Alliance is forecasting a faster-moving product than the NFL with a 30-second play clock and a target game time of 2 1/2 hours.

There was a lot of give and take between the coaches and the league, the General Managers and the league, the owners and the league, and everybody. One of the things that we want to do, we want to try to continue to take the head out of the game. In order to do that, a lot of different conversations have to take place. I know that Rick McKay and the Competition Committee are working hard to develop the rule. I think basically the gist of the rule is we do not want the head to be used as a weapon. We’ve got to understand what that means relative to the plays that we’re looking at.”

So what are they looking at? The NFL has disputed the notion that the rule would have applied to fewer than 10 plays in 2017, with McKay calling the new rule a “substantial change” to the game. As O’Brien explains it, however, he seems to be under the impression that the new rule will encompass only a small handful of instances.texans_103

Rams are done for the moment, to preserve their 2019 comp picks

Few teams have been busier this offseason than the Rams.

But after this week’s deal for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, General Manager Les Snead’s left to admit he might be done for a bit, and he’s following the lead of a few teams looking to protect future assets.

After trading for cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, signing Ndamukong Suh after he was cut by the Dolphins, they appear to be finished for the moment.

That’s part of the reason the Patriots haven’t spent much in free agency (such that they ever do), and the Panthers filled their veteran safety need by signing Da’Norris Searcy (who was cut by the Titans) as opposed to one of a large group of qualified unrestricted free agents at that position.

Snead needs to stockpile all the picks he can, since he doesn’t have a first- or second-rounder this year. With so much high-end talent on his roster, he’s going to need to balance the books with cheap rookies, and the prospect of free draft picks in 2019 is enough to dissuade him from signing more help right now.

That marks Collins’ fourth suspension. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season, then suspended for the first 10 games of the 2017 season, then suspended four more games in 2017. Collins has been suspended for violating both the league’s substance-abuse policy and the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy.

Realistically, it’s unlikely that a player with Collins’ checkered history will get another chance in the NFL, but he would be eligible to sign with a team now and play during the regular season after sitting out 10 games.

Collins is a talented player who was the Falcons’ second-round draft pick in 2015 and has eight career starts. His inability to pass drug tests may result in him failing to realize his talent.

The versatile, positionless lineup he went with meant sacrificing minutes for Cavs big men Nance and Tristan Thompson — something that would be more difficult to do if Philadelphia has center Joel Embiid healthy and on the court — but it was effective.texans_091

Jim Kelly leaves ICU as doctor hails ‘solid progess’ in recovery from cancer surgery

Jim Kelly has taken another big step in his recovery from oral cancer surgery, as he has been released from the ICU.

Kelly’s wife, Jill, posted the good news on Instagram Thursday.

Blessing upon blessing. Last day in the ICU, read the post, which showed Kelly walking.

First day in his new room…with a bathroom. Praise God!

In the short period he’s been here, he’s brought speed which backs teams off, he’s brought a physical presence, which keeps some people honest, coach Peter DeBoer said. For me, the biggest thing is he’s probably added a goal a night for us. When Patty Marleau left, and we asked guys to take a step, you’re not scoring as much as you normally would, and there was a lot of 2-1 games and we found a way to battle things out. Eventually, Jumbo going down, it started to catch up with us. That extra goal a game that he’s added to our lineup, whether it’s him scoring himself or creating a goal, that’s a difference in this league.

Kane was hampered late in the season by an undisclosed injury that forced him to miss two games before returning for the season finale against Minnesota on Saturday.

As the 71st anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the major league color barrier approaches Sunday, MLB said the percentage was up from 7.7 last year and 8.27 the previous two seasons.

MLB based its figures on the 750 players who were active on March 29 and did not include the 127 who were disabled, suspended or on paternity leave. The percentage peaked at 19 in 1986, the league said, citing Mark Armour of the Society of American Baseball Research. The league said previous accounts attributing a high of 27 percent in the 1970s included dark-skinned players from Latin America, according to Armour.

MLB launched the RBI program in 1989, and the commissioner’s office said it served about 130,000 boys and girls last year from ages 5-18, including 16,648 in softball.

The first Urban Youth Academy was started in Compton, California, in 2006, and others have since opened in Cincinnati; Dallas; Houston; Kansas City, Missouri; New Orleans; Philadelphia and Washington. Each complex typically has two full fields, a softball field and a youth field, and last year drew 39,728 participants. The goal is to have every team eventually support an academy.cardinals_024

Saints re-sign Michael Mauti

The Saints have re-signed linebacker Michael Mauti to a one-year deal, his agent, Mike McCartney, tweeted.

Mauti, 28, spent the past three seasons with the Saints. He has played 35 games with four starts for New Orleans, making 42 tackles and a sack.

The physical difference in Vander Esch entering the NFL Combine was obvious on what is now a 6-4, 256-pound frame. Even with the newfound bulk, the sideline-to-sideline speed and athletic ability Vander Esch displayed at 240 pounds in 2017 transferred to a standout showing.

Vander Esch blazed a 4.65-second time in the 40-yard dash and notched a 38.5-inch vertical jump, which tied for second among all linebackers, edge-rushers and defensive linemen.

“I think that’s my ideal weight and what I’ll play the best at, especially at the next level,” Vander Esch said. “I mean, the dudes are bigger, faster, stronger so you’ve gotta do everything you possibly can to keep up with everybody.”

Even if the Steelers want Vander Esch — and there’s no guarantee they feel the same way as draft pundits linking them together — he could already be off the board by the time Pittsburgh selects at No. 28 overall in the first round.

Bryant was averaging 1,312 yards a season in the three years before he signed his contract. In the three years since signing his contract, Bryant has averaged 678 yards a season. Given that Bryant is owed $12.5 million, it’s easy to see the Cowboys cutting him.

However, Jerry Jones has always liked Bryant, and it’s Jones’s team. It’s possible that Jones will decide to give Bryant another year to prove himself. But it’s also possible that Bryant, who once looked likely to be a Cowboy for life, could be gone before turning 30.

“I don’t want to be a head coach,” Spurrier said during a news conference at Duke University. “There’s too much involved with being the head coach. But a high school somewhere to coach quarterbacks and pitch the ball around, that might be something that someday I might want to do again. But it’d have to be the right situation.

“Major college football these guys work 11 months a year now. It’s so different than back in the ’90s or even the 2000s as far as the total number of hours these guys work. I don’t look forward to that.”texans_027

La’el Collins hopes to stay at right tackle but will do whatever Cowboys ask

La’el Collins wants to stay at right tackle, but it isn’t going to be his decision. Whether he stays or moves back to left guard likely depends on whether new tackle Cameron Fleming or new guard Marcus Martin proves the better fit in the Cowboys’ offensive line.

Collins, 24, makes it clear he would prefer to play right tackle, saying, “I like playing tackle, so hey, I think that’s where we’ll be.” But he also said he will do what’s best for the Cowboys, and what’s best might require a move back to left guard.

“Man, at the end of the day, I’m here to help the football team,” Collins said. “I think we’re in the right direction. I think we’ll be where we need to be.”

Collins played through injuries last season, including back pain late in the season, and was one of only two players to play all 1,065 offensive snaps. Center Travis Frederick also played every offensive snap.

“Guys are going to play through pain,” Collins said. “That comes with the game. It’s all about what you can play through. I feel good. Every Sunday I woke up I feel like I was able to play, and that’s what I did. I took that approach, and I did what I could in between.”

Marcus Semien’s clean one-out single to left broke up Ohtani’s bid for a perfect game, but he finished the inning with his 12th strikeout. Mixing 99 mph fastballs with precipitous breaking pitches and tremendous professional cool, Ohtani (2-0) was too much for Oakland — until the seventh, when he showed resilience too.

“I wanted to keep a clean zero on the board,” Ohtani said. “One hit would [mean] two runs, and it’s a huge difference. I wanted that strikeout, and I got it.”

Ohtani struck out the side twice during the latest feat in a series of early-season superlatives by the 23-year-old prodigy. He won his pitching debut in Oakland last weekend with six strong innings, and he homered in three consecutive games in Anaheim between starts in his attempt to become the first regular two-way player in decades.

“Especially with how my spring training went, I wasn’t really imagining [the start of the season] to be this good, to be honest,” Ohtani said. “I feel better every day. I feel like I’m getting used to everything more and more each day. But it’s just the first week.”

He was sharp from the beginning on a gorgeous day in Orange County, striking out the side in the first inning on 15 pitches. Ohtani struck out the side again in the fifth inning, and he fanned every Oakland batter except Jonathan Lucroy at least once.patriots_121-223x223

Trevone Boykin arrested, charged with aggravated assault

Free-agent quarterback Trevone Boykin was arrested at his home in Mansfield, Texas, on Wednesday and charged with aggravated assault, according to The Associated Press. Boykin’s girlfriend, Shabrika Bailey, said in a recent interview with WFAA-TV in Dallas that he severely beat her, breaking her jaw. Mansfield police were able to review footage of the March 21 incident captured by his home security video system. Boykin, 24, was released from the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad Tuesday after the interview. He has denied assaulting Bailey, and his agent told the TV station that her statements are false.

That’s why players with domestic-violence incidents and DUIs are still given chance after chance to keep their place in the league – and arguably no one in the NFL has more talent than Beckham. If the Giants ultimately decide a middling return is acceptable for a talent of Beckham’s quality, they only have themselves to blame when it’s inevitably labeled as one of the NFL’s worst-ever moves.

I’m going to put my fan hat on, and obviously at some point we have to, owner Robert Kraft said, when asked if finding a quarterback in the draft is a high priority for the team. Not just that, but think what happened in the’08 season when in the first quarter against Kansas City, Tom [Brady] goes out. How many people would have said that Matt Cassel would have led us to an 11-5 season I put my faith and confidence in Bill [Belichick]. He knows his responsibilities. Anything can happen, even if Tom comes in [and is in] tip-top shape.

Part of why the networks pay us the funding they do, and the reason this is the best entertainment product in America, is you don’t know — one play can change a whole season. One play with one person. To do a good job managing an NFL franchise, we’ve always said understanding quality depth management, that’s our business.nike_broncos_048-500x500