Washington cuts six players, including A.J. Francis, Montori Hughes

Washington released two other defensive linemen in addition to the previously reported departure of Terrell McClain. The team announced it has moved on from A.J. Francis and Montori Hughes, too.

Washington also waived tight end Chris Bazile, linebacker Cassanova McKinzy and defensive back James Sample.

The team drafted two defensive linemen promoting the cuts of McClain, Francis and Hughes.

Bottom Line: Walton has the tools to be a solid third-down option. He does a lot of the things Giovani Bernard does, which makes this pick interesting, because Bernard has not been nearly as productive over the last two years as he was at the start of his career.

DaeSean Hamilton caught 82 passes as a true freshman and then regressed when Christian Hackenberg left, Saquon Barkley became the focal point of the Nittany Lions offense and Hamilton himself began pressing and dropping passes.

That’s a drop in one game from last year’s preseason over/under total. And it’s a suggestion that perhaps things may not be as rosy for a team that has won 12 or more games for eight straight seasons.

Four other teams are pegged at 10 or more wins, with a pair of Pennsylvania teams (Eagles and Steelers) at 10.5 and a pair of NFC North teams (Packers and Vikings) at 10.

The Rams have jumped to 9.5, and the 49ers moved to nine — three more wins than they had in 2017.

Dorance Armstrong recorded 10 sacks in 2016 despite playing through a knee injury. His production dropped to just two sacks last year. Opponents adjusted, but Armstrong didn’t. He has decent initial quickness and an adequate burst, plus a spin move, but he relies too much on his bull rush. Armstrong is active in run defense and has demonstrated some awareness as a defender in space, so he can stay on the field for three downs as an outside linebacker. He has potential as a package player and developmental prospect. The Cowboys remain in extreme Everything is Fine mode at tight end, even though everything is not fine.colts_034

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

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

Stassi, Morton lead Astros over Padres 4-1 for series win

Houston Astros right-hander Charlie Morton often marvels at the nameplates above the lockers in the corner of the clubhouse where his fellow starters sit.

Morton, the No. 5 starter on a pitching staff that is arguably the best in baseball, continued to dominate and Max Stassi hit a three-run homer as the defending champion Astros beat the San Diego Padres 4-1 on Sunday to win the three-game series.

Stassi’s first home run of the year bounced off the facade behind left field, scoring Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez, who led off the fifth inning with singles.

“You always want to contribute to the team’s win and it felt good,” Stassi said. “We haven’t been swinging the bats like we normally can, but that’s baseball. I know for sure we’ll turn it around real quick.”

Reddick later added a solo home run, also off of Padres starter Tyson Ross (1-1), to push Houston’s lead back to three runs after San Diego scored in the sixth.

Austin Hedges grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Chase Headley for San Diego. Headley advanced to second on an error by Houston third baseman Alex Bregman.

Ross allowed four runs on six hits while striking out seven in six innings.

It also doesn’t hurt Cleveland just picked up Landry, Beckham’s former receiving mate at LSU. Having such a friend around him, on and off the field, can be huge in helping Beckham rock in Cleveland.

The 49ers just paid new franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and extended current No. 1 wideout Marquise Goodwin — he and Pierre Garcon are signed through 2021. The team also splurged on running back Jerick McKinnon in free agency with the intent of giving him a feature role.

So San Francisco is fine offensively without Beckham, right?

Sure, the 49ers can get by and be productive under Kyle Shanahan, but Beckham would take things to a whole new level. The Rams, as revived rivals at the top of the NFC West, have thrown down defensively this offseason. It’s in the 49ers’ growing interest to get Garoppolo all he needs to live up to the hype around him. And they can afford the splash on Beckham.texans_079

New Jersey Devils vs. Montreal Canadiens: LIVE score updates and chat

Robertson, rubbing the baseball, nodded his head toward first base. Walk him.

Immediately, Boone screamed to catcher Austin Romine and flashed four fingers, the signal the Yankees use for an intentional walk.

Minutes later, they watched, agony stricken, as Justin Smoak ended a long battle with Robertson by crushing a grand slam, turning the Yankees’ 4-3 lead into a 7-3 defeat at the Rogers Centre on Sunday.

Robertson and Smoak went nine pitches before the slugger hit a 93-mph inside fastball well over the center-field wall.

Robertson got behind Smoak, 2-0, before battling back to get it to 2-2. The count went full when Robertson buried a curveball. Robertson threw curveballs the next two pitches and Smoak fouled them off.

I knew I couldn’t throw him another curveball, Robertson said. He had already seen too many of those and they were probably the best I had at that time.

So Robertson threw the fastball and the night was essentially over.

Boone stuck with Robertson, a righty, against Smoak, a hard-hitting lefty, instead of pitching to the righty Donaldson. Boone also could have brought in lefty Aroldis Chapman to face Smoak.

Giancarlo Stanton flew out to center field to end it.

Robertson battled Smoak for nine pitches. He fell behind, 2-0, before evening it out, 2-2.2 He threw four straight knuckle curves, with Smoak fouling off three of them, before watching Smoak crush his heater.

For a while, it looked like the Yankees would just scrape by.

A four-run third inning — highlighted by Brandon Drury’s two-run blast to center field — put them ahead, 4-1. The score would stay that way until Smoak hammered reliever Tommy Kahnle for a two-run bomb, setting the stage for his later heroics. patriots_173-223x223

‘You Are Looking Live’ at Brent Musburger in His New Home in Las Vegas

It may be a few miles removed from the strip, but the South Point Hotel Casino and Spa still feels stereotypically Las Vegas. Endless rows of video machines crowd the middle of the floor, chirping for every pull of good fortune. Restaurants line the western wall, hawking everything from fine dining to fast food. A persistent stench of second-hand smoke stains the air. But just beyond the sports book, one sight rises above the standard trappings: A brand new, $1 million television studio.

For decades, Musburger was the emcee. In Las Vegas, he’s become the main attraction.

According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets had asked the Cleveland Browns about acquiring the No. 1 overall pick, but were obviously unsuccessful.

Helton uses an anecdote to reveal Darnold’s leadership style.

I think every guy is different, Helton said. He does his leadership really in two ways. One, he is a tremendous one-on-one communicator. He can communicate with the group, and does. But I think his really special attribute of being able to go to a guy, any guy on the team, and be able to communicate one-on-one of

what he expects from them.

They’re getting a big, physical guy, Pederson said. They’re getting a guy that has still quite a bit left in the tank. The way our situation is, right now, it’s a little bit harder to keep that many guys. We have some young players that we like, but they’re getting a dynamic back and good guy.

It really doesn’t bother me that much because I know the people that say some of these things have never actually taken a snap behind center, never had a 300-pound lineman about to hit them while they have to read the defense downfield.jets_063