Cleveland expects Denzel Ward to be the No. 1 cornerback immediately

When the Browns open the season against the Steelers, look for Denzel Ward to cover Antonio Brown.

The Golden Knights are Canada’s team because they play the way Canadians are always complaining more teams should play. They were fifth in goals per game (3.27) in the regular season while rolling four lines and skating teams out of the building with nary a neutral-zone trap, which had been a hallmark of NHL expansion teams since the mid-1990s. This isn’t to say the Jets don’t also “play the right way,” having averaged 3.33 goals per game. But again, basically half the team is American so, like, they don’t even know about hockey.

The Golden Knights are Canada’s team because of Jonathan Marchessault, who is basically the embodiment of the Canadian hockey dream. He was an undrafted free agent from Cap-Rouge, Quebec, because he was a 5-foot-9 forward and scored only 40 goals with the Quebec Remparts.

Although it was overlooked on an otherwise terrible team, the Browns actually had a pretty good run defense last year. If Ward can shore up the pass defense, it’s easy to see him being one of the key building blocks for a turnaround in Cleveland.

One of the new faces is quarterback Luis Perez, who won the Harlon Hill Trophy as Division II’s top player while helping Texas A&M-Commerce to the Division II title last season. Perez will be joined by Kent State running back Nick Holley, who also played some quarterback in college before missing most of last season with a torn ACL.

Colorado safety Afolabi Laguda, Southeastern Oklahoma State tight end Codey McElroy, Oklahoma safety Steven Parker and Rice defensive end Brian Womac round out the group of players joining the Rams.

The Rams also announced that they have waived linebacker Carlos Thompson. Thompson played three games last year and got a start in Week 17 against the 49ers.

“It was different for everybody. With the younger guys, it was fun at times. I think sometimes when they come up, they don’t really have time to think, or be nervous. In a way, it relaxes the rest of the group a little bit,” said Orpik.ravens_001

NFL, NFLPA can’t afford to care about impact of kickoff changes on roster composition

As the NFL continues to explore what to do with the kickoff, one of the arguments against getting rid of it comes from the reality that the death of the kickoff would result in the elimination of certain specific roster spots that currently are devoted to players who specialize in special teams.

“I know [for] a fact this year that [the Jaguars] signed three guys because of their special teams play and gave them significant monies,” Jaguars special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said in a recent appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “You’re going to end up taking those guys away from it. Throughout the draft, you say, ‘Well, this guy has the ability to play special teams.’ You take those [kickoff] plays out of the game. . . .

In the NFL, every closing door opens another. The broader concern comes from ensuring that the doors will be open to full participation in football at every level. Removing or restricting or dramatically changing the so-called “most dangerous play in the game” seems to be far more important to the NFL than keeping employed those players whose skills extend only to the kickoff as currently constituted.

The NFL began a two-day player-safety summit Tuesday with owners, coaches, game officials, former players and a representative of the NFL Players Association.

The NFL ratified the safety rule five weeks ago. Everyone still is trying to figure out what type of play exactly officials will throw a flag. The most egregious violations are subject to ejection.

“That’s what I came here for,” Chargers Coach Anthony Lynn said during a break in Tuesday’s meeting, via Maske. “I want to know how the officials are going to officiate this in real speed. We’re sitting here watching all this stuff on video, and that’s easy. I’ve asked six times, ‘Can you rewind that back?’ Well, they [officials] don’t have that option on the field. I just want to see how they’re going to do it — the language and how we’re going to do this and how they’re going to officiate it when it’s full speed on the field.”broncos_067_6141aadcadbef790-180x180

Kahlil McKenzie, Raiders G.M. Reggie McKenzie’s son, goes to Chiefs

Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie may get a couple of chances to watch his son play in person during the 2018 NFL regular season, but he’ll likely be rooting for him to do well in a losing cause when those opportunities come up.

But we’ll start here with a franchise that was at a legitimate crossroads heading into the offseason, armed with the second overall pick, and staring at a landscape that juxtaposed a solid quarterback class against a generational running back talent. On one hand, Gettleman and Shurmur could use their pick on the quarterback, buy some time for a rebuild, and push their window to build out. It would be like the Packers did in drafting Aaron Rodgers behind Brett Favre in 2005. On the other, they could give the 37-year-old franchise QB a teammate who could help extend his career in the way Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley ignited the careers of Dak Prescott and Jared Goff. They chose what was behind Door No. 2, which means it’s go time for everyone.

Beachum spoke Tuesday in Manhattan at the annual Gridiron Gala charity event, which benefits the United Way of New York City. Beachum was honored at the event — along with Giants defensive lineman Damon Harrison (an ex-Jet) — for his work in the community.

Jeremy Bates didn’t ‘overhaul’ Jets’ offense, but what might it look like?

Since Jeremy Bates was the Jets ‘ quarterbacks coach last season, it seemed reasonable, when he was promoted this offseason to offensive coordinator, that he would retain some of the schematic approach used last year by coordinator John Morton. broncos_180_031bf3018bc85802-180x180

It must have been fantastic to find out you weren’t the center of the universe, Sauer marveled.

If Johnson’s wishcasting bears fruit — if Darnold does indeed lift Gang Green to greatness — Mike Maccagnan’s bold trade up to No. 3 overall will provide enough material to keep NFL Films busy for years to come.

The Jets couldn’t soar those Darnold winds, though, without the whims of the Browns and Giants atop the draft.

Last season, Pro Football Focus graded him as the 30th best safety in football — in the same range as players like Tashaun Gipson, Tre Boston, Duron Harmon, and Jamal Adams — which indicates that he’s a starting-caliber player or at the very least, a rosterable player. At 26, Reid should be able to play in the NFL for several more seasons, provided he eventually gets signed. Kaepernick, who started the protests against racial injustice in August 2016, hasn’t found a new team since he became a free agent last spring. In the meantime, Kaepernick has followed through on his pledge to donate $1 million to various charities while his collusion suit against the league moves forward.

A routine sack ends the golden-armed quarterback’s career. A franchise savior falls into the general manager’s lap at the trade deadline. The front office misevaluates a potential godsend as a fringe NFL starter.

After wandering in the quarterback wilderness for decades, the New York Jets have arrived at a watershed moment in the organization’s timeline with the addition of Sam Darnold, according to CEO Christopher Johnson.

I honestly think (people) are going to look back 20 years from now, Johnson said Tuesday, via ESPN.com, and say this is the moment the Jets shifted into a new gear, that they became a great team.

Praise doesn’t get much loftier.sharks-001

Flames name ex-Hurricanes coach Bill Peters as new head coach

The Flames have hired Bill Peters as the team’s head coach.

The Flames introduced Peters at a news conference on Monday at Scotiabank Saddledome. The 53-year-old from Three Hills, Alberta, resigned as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday after four seasons and a year remaining on his contract.

The Flames fired Glen Gulutzan and assistants Dave Cameron and Paul Gerrard last week after missing the playoffs with a 37-35-10 record.

In his NHL head coaching debut, Peters went 137-138-53 with the Hurricanes but wasn’t able to get the team into the playoffs.

Carolina was looking for a new general manager as Ron Francis was reassigned within the organization, so Peters’ tenure there would have eventually been subject to the new GM’s approval.

After leading the Spokane Chiefs to Western Hockey League and Memorial Cup championships in 2008, Peters spent three seasons coaching the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs and then joined the Detroit Red Wings coaching staff.

He was an assistant for Mike Babcock in Detroit for three seasons before heading to Raleigh, N.C.

Butler, who had eight points, five rebounds and five assists in the 122-104 loss, injured the knee in a Feb. 23 loss to the Rockets. He underwent surgery to repair the meniscus in his knee and missed 17 games before returning to help the Timberwolves win the final three games of the regular season and earn the franchise’s first playoff berth in 14 years.

A buzzer-beater. A 25-point comeback. A team moving on to the second round. Wednesday’s NBA playoff action had everything, and we have it all here.

“He had surgery, so it’s a concern any time someone’s hurt,” Thibodeau said when asked if Butler’s knee would be an issue in the offseason.

Butler was not asked about his knee during his postgame media availability, which he did in the Timberwolves’ locker room during Thibodeau’s news conference.

Butler declined to answer a question about the knee as he exited the locker room. Thibodeau said Butler was not bothered by the knee during the series until Game 5.

The Timberwolves were down 11 when Butler left the game, and they never cut the deficit to single digits.

“He just said it was sore,” Thibodeau said. “We wanted to use caution.”dolphins_001

Baker Mayfield dons jorts, re-creates Brett Favre’s draft-day photo

On the eve of the NFL draft, Baker Mayfield turned back the clock and showed he’s having a ton of fun with one of the biggest moments of his life just hours away.

The Heisman Trophy-winning University of Oklahoma quarterback posted a photo on Twitter that re-created the well-known Brett Favre image from the 1991 draft, when the future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback received a call from the Atlanta Falcons, who had just picked him in the second round.

“It’s not like booking an NBA playoff game. The true odds could be minus-500 or minus-5000. This stuff is inexact,” Bogdanovich said.

As for significant line movement, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson opened as a minus-110 favorite at the Westgate over fellow quarterback Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State and closed at minus-900. Only the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner was taken in the first round.

Plus, sportsbooks could not weather the storm of the prop bet of 1.5 Notre Dame players drafted in the first round. The Westgate opened the over at minus-240 and closed it at minus-1600. Two Irish players — Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey — were taken within the first nine picks.

“We tried to look at eight mock drafts of guys we trust,” Salmons said of posting the betting lines 11 days in advance of draft night. “It’s hard to do your everyday job and then also read up on draft stuff when you have a certain group of bettors that are tracking this nonstop.”

Time will ultimately tell how each team fared. However, we do know for sure Las Vegas lost on this particular draft night.

Perez was activated along with outfielder Alex Gordon before Tuesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Perez was behind the plate and batting cleanup while Gordon was in left field and hitting seventh.

“I’m excited to be back on the field. It’s time to go,” Perez said. “They asked how I was feeling. I’m feeling great. You know me. I like to play hard. I like to compete. I like to help my team win.”

The Royals have had a hard time with that lately. They were just 5-15 heading into their game against Milwaukee, all of those games with fill-ins Drew Butera and Cam Gallagher behind the plate.sl_cardinals_043

Victor Oladipo says LeBron James should’ve been called for goaltending on late block

Another LeBron James block keyed a big playoff victory for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo contends it should’ve been called as goaltending.

With the score tied at 95 on Wednesday night, Oladipo — who shot just 2-of-15 in the Game 5 matchup — drove the left side of the key and was at the rim when James swooped in for a block. The play was reminiscent of his Game 7 block on Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

Oladipo, however, thought his shot hit the backboard first and that goaltending should have been called. TV replays showed the ball appeared to hit the glass before James touched it.

“Dalvin’s knocked the rehab out of the park,” Sugarman said. “He’s done a great job. He’s been here every day since the injury occurred, post-surgery.”

The Vikings started their offseason workout program last week at their sparkling new training facility, with state-of-the-art equipment that certainly hasn’t hurt Cook’s quest to come back as the same dual-threat player who was briefly on display last season after being drafted in the second round out of Florida State .

Cook took part in strength and conditioning activities on the indoor turf with the rest of his teammates on Tuesday, when the Vikings opened a portion of the workout to reporters.

“You’ve got to trust yourself and know that you did everything in your power to get your knee back to where it’s at,” Cook said.

“I’ve got a lot to prove,” Bryant said Friday in a media conference at the Raiders’ facility. “I don’t want to be just a one-dimensional player. I have a lot to work on, all aspects of my game. I’m going to do that, just to prove to myself that I can be great.

“I’ve seen the Steelers practice, in my previous position [on ESPN’s Monday Night Football]. The man knows how to practice. The guy knows how to prepare. He’s been through a lot in his life and he’s got something to prove, and I think we’re catching him at the right time … I got a lot of confidence in this young man. I think a change of scenery can unleash his greatness.”

Gruden also said running back Marshawn Lynch should be happy with the acquisition because Bryant’s ability to stretch the field will help the Raiders’ rushing attack.

No official decision had been reached Thursday night, according to multiple sources close to the situation, but the months-long process of evaluating Patterson’s waiver request is nearing its conclusion.sl_cardinals_006

Acuna singles, scores in MLB debut, Braves beat Reds 5-4

Prized prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. looked like a polished veteran.

The 20-year-old Acuna singled and scored the tying run in the eighth inning of his big league debut, and the Atlanta Braves went on to beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-4 Wednesday night.

Joey Votto’s two-run drive, his second homer in two nights, got the Reds on the board in the fifth.

Reds starter Brandon Finnegan, who opened the season on the disabled list with a strained left biceps, allowed two earned in five innings.

“We made it tough on Brandon Finnegan,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “We missed a couple opportunities and fell behind early but we scored four after missing a couple. It came back to bite us.”

Braves starter Matt Wisler was roughed up for nine hit and four runs in five innings.

Adam Duvall was called out to end the fifth inning while trying to score the tying run from first on Scott Schebler’s double, but a video review requested by the Reds led to the call being overturned after a 2-minute, 10-second look.

A 33-second video review showed that Nick Markakis beat out what originally was ruled to be a double-play grounder with nobody out in the Atlanta ninth.

Wall said he started to feel fatigued down the stretch on Wednesday as the Toronto Raptors pulled away for a 108-98 win on Wednesday to take a 3-2 series lead. Wall had 26 points, nine assists and nine rebounds but did not score a point as he missed his last three shots and had two turnovers in the final nine minutes of the game.

“I definitely do, I feel like that,” Wall said when asked if he feels he can take over a playoff game at any point after the Wizards’ shootaround today. “But at the same time, I think last game I kinda like ran out of gas a little bit the last five minutes and I gotta do a better job of — not taking time off — but letting other guys create or create for other guys and let those guys make plays at times.

“So [during] those last five minutes, kind of like Game 4 here, I can have the energy to make plays for myself but also for my teammates. I think that kind of hurt us in the last game.”

Game 6 will be Wall’s 10th game since returning from left knee surgery at the end of March. He is averaging 38.8 minutes and has played 43 and 44 minutes each in the last two games. Wall is averaging 26.6 points, 12.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 2.6 steals in the series.jets_055

Joe Prunty: Have to make sure Giannis gets more shots in Game 6

After attempting just 10 shots in Tuesday’s Game 5 loss to the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo vowed to come out more aggressively in Thursday’s Game 6 in Milwaukee.

“It’s on me,” Antetokounmpo said. “As I said, I had open shots, but they wasn’t my shots, so I didn’t feel comfortable to take them. I think my teammates did a great job finding me, but come the next game, in Game 6, I got to be more aggressive, make more plays because definitely my teammates need me.”

Celtics big man Semi Ojeleye was tasked with staying in front of Antetokounmpo throughout the night, but it was a team effort, as Celtics coach Brad Stevens repeatedly threw bodies at the 23-year-old star.

“Giannis is a heckuva player,” Stevens said. “You’re not going to be perfect against him. You’re not going to hold him down by any means. He makes plays for other people. He’s very unselfish, if he’s not the one scoring. But we just felt like we needed a little bit more ball pressure overall, and so that was the decision to go smaller. Semi is a guy who has been a versatile defender for us all year, and that’s a tall task — to ask a guy to guard Giannis the whole night.”

Miller grabbed the back of his leg after throwing two pitches to Anthony Rizzo. He was visited by Francona and a team trainer before walking to the dugout.

“Him not throwing another pitch was really smart on his part,” Francona said.

Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion hit sixth-inning home runs for the Indians. Brandon Guyer connected in the fifth.

Lindor’s leadoff homer against Jon Lester (2-1) broke a 1-all tie, and Encarnacion homered into the bleachers with two outs. Lester had allowed only one hit until Guyer’s two-out home run in the fifth tied it.

Miller relieved Trevor Bauer (2-2) with a runner on first and Cleveland leading 3-1. Bauer held the Cubs to one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings. Cody Allen pitched the ninth for his fifth save.

Miller hasn’t allowed a run in 10 innings this season. He fell behind Rizzo 2-0 before grabbing at his leg.

Cleveland added a run in the eighth on Rizzo’s throwing error at first base. Rizzo had an RBI single in the fifth.jets_108

Jets select QB Sam Darnold with No. 3 overall draft pick

Hoping to end their long search for a franchise-caliber quarterback, the New York Jets selected USC’s Sam Darnold with the third overall pick Thursday night in the NFL draft, signaling the start of a new era.

The Jets, who traded up three spots last month, chose Darnold over UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield went to the Cleveland Browns with the No. 1 pick. That Darnold went to the Jets was a surprise, as he was long projected as the likely top pick.

Darnold said he wasn’t discouraged that he wasn’t the No. 1 pick, claiming he knew it was a possibility from the outset. Fair or not, he’s perceived as the Jets’ savior.

Maccagnan said it wasn’t until Thursday that he first thought Darnold could fall to them. It’s believed he was the highest-rated quarterback on the Jets’ draft board. They held a secret private workout with him recently and later brought him to their facility for a visit.

On his visit, team officials took him to dinner and “maybe one or two of us ordered cocktails,” Maccagnan said. “Of course, Sam isn’t legal, so we were joking around with him a little.”

Darnold turns 21 on June 5.

“He’s very young,” Maccagnan said. “We feel he has a bright future.”

Backstrom was asked whether the Capitals enter this showdown as the underdog despite winning the Metro Division.

“Yeah, but it doesn’t really matter if we’re underdogs or not,” he said. “They won the Stanley Cup two years in a row. Good for them. We’re going to play in the second round against them. It’ll be fun.”

You Again?

Sidney Crosby has spent his career getting the best of Alex Ovechkin. Here’s how the two compare in their teams’ head-to-head matchups, which include three postseason series.

Pittsburgh and Washington have met in the playoffs 10 times in their respective franchise histories. The Penguins have won nine of those series, four of them in seven games. The Penguins have never won a Stanley Cup without beating the Capitals in the playoffs during their run, including all three Stanley Cups of the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin era.

In 2009, the Penguins won an epic seven-game series that featured the famous Game 2 that saw Alex Ovechkin and Crosby both tally hat tricks. The Penguins captured Game 7 in D.C., 6-2. In 2016, the Penguins ousted the Capitals in six games after losing Game 1 on the road in overtime. In 2017, the rivals went seven games again, with the Penguins winning Game 7 at Washington, 2-0.jets_281