The Browns will be on ‘Hard Knocks’ in 2018. Here’s what we want to see

The NFL announced Thursday that the Cleveland Browns will be featured on the next season of HBO’s Hard Knocks. They were one of six teams that couldn’t decline being the subject of this upcoming season, as per the NFL’s rules.

How your grandpa thinks bets are currently placed: Bettors sneak into a seedy bar under a railroad trestle, filled with people with guys like Walter White, Nicely-Nicely and Tony Bagabocceballs. There, scofflaws hand wads of twenties over to scar-faced men in fedoras and mumble things like “Let it ride on the Cleveland Browns. Papa needs a new pair of Air Monarchs!” If the bets pays off, they squander the money on wanton women and bathtub gin (which is probably a real thing in Brooklyn bars). If they lose, a guy who looks like Danny Trejo breaks their fingers in the parking lot.

Browns general manager John Dorsey, who kept his decision to select Mayfield secret until the day before the draft, admitted reluctance that his team will be forced to open its facility and practices to HBO’s cameras. But the Browns couldn’t opt out. NFL rules only exempt teams that have a first-year head coach, have made the playoffs in the past two seasons or have been on Hard Knocks in the last 10 years from participating. The Browns were one of six teams (along with the Broncos, 49ers, Ravens, Chargers, Redskins) who could not say no this year.

There will probably be breakout stars, like 2017 No. 1 pick Myles Garrett, a defensive end who is as quirky off the field — he loves dinosaurs — as he is menacing on it. There’s wide receiver Josh Gordon, who returned last year after a drug-related suspension that lasted more than two seasons. There’s Taylor, underappreciated during his tenure in Buffalo (a team he took to the playoffs in 2017) and likely to be overshadowed in Cleveland. And then there’s Mayfield, the charismatic 2017 Heisman Trophy winner who was the most polarizing player in college football — and possibly in this draft class — because of his brash personality.cowboys_052

Forrest Lamp had knee procedure during comeback from torn ACL

Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams is trying to win over doubters after not doing much during his rookie season.

Williams may have fallen short of expectations, but the first-round pick did get on the field. That’s more than second-round guard Forrest Lamp was able to do after tearing his ACL during training camp.

In the days after Kirk’s death, there was an outpouring in Pella and across the NBA. The community where the Korver family is a pillar was devastated. For decades, the Korvers had been there for families in distress. Kevin had visited so many people in the hospital, presided over so many funerals, offered so much support. Now the roles had been reversed.

“Kirk was very beloved in his own right here,” said Wade Van Vark, who taught the Korver boys math at Pella High School. “Like the other brothers, he was a role model, a hero to a generation of young kids. The Korvers have done so much for so many here and touched so many lives that to know they were hurting in that way, to see them go through that, it was crushing to our community.”

The vote needed three-fourths approval, or at least 24 owners, to pass.

“Look, we all know that the Cowboys are the team that networks would like to see as much as possible on their schedules, so they’re getting the experience with the top-notch groups that come through there when you talk about a production meeting,” said Stephanie Druley, ESPN’s senior vice president of event and studio production. The experience prepares former Cowboys stars to “be extremely eloquent and able to understand sort of what this side of the camera is like,” she added.

Similarly, CBS chairman Sean McManus and lead play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz were impressed with Romo’s personality/football acumen long before he retired. Both thought Romo would be a TV natural. Nantz knew he was right as soon as the duo sat down to call their first practice game.

“This is going to sound crazy to say, but by the time we finished the fourth quarter of that [practice] game, I thought he was ready to go on the air,” Nantz said during the NFL playoffs. “His instincts are off the charts.”ravens_011

NFL, NCAA will again use undrafted underclassman as scare tactic

Every years, college football players who are old enough to vote, smoke, serve in the military, and in many cases legally drink make the adult decision to stop playing football for free and to attempt to play football for money. Even if the NFL and the NCAA would prefer that they continue to play football for no pay and, in many cases, an education they neither want nor take seriously but instead actively work to undermine at the express or implied urging of their coaches in order to devote maximum attention to football.

So when a chunk of those players inevitably aren’t selected in a seven-round draft, the guys who weren’t picked become the cautionary tale for next year’s crop of players who may choose to leave the NFL’s free farm system prematurely.

So to those 37 players who weren’t drafted: Don’t let the NFL, your college coaches, or anyone else allow you to live in regret. Be optimistic, be determined, and be hopeful to make the most out of your talents at the next level as an undrafted free agent. You’ve already made the decision to not spend another year of playing football for free, so it’s not like you’ll make any less money this year as a result of your decision to try to play in the NFL.

The segment is must-listen/watch/whatever, especially if you’re considering an investment of sorts based on a team doing better, or worse, than projected.

From Philly at 10.5 wins to Arizona at 5.5 wins (eeesh) and the other 14 in between, where are the best bets to beat the number, or to fail? There’s only one way to find out what we think.

“I’d say, you know, Coach Belichick obviously had a big influence on everyone that worked there over the years. I’d say every job that you have in the building, whether you’re the equipment manager, the head scout, a position coach, as long as you do your job to the best your ability, everything in the organization gets better. That’s what I’m trying to preach to my scouts and my personnel department and I know Matt is preaching the same things to his coaching department. If we just take our jobs really seriously and do the best at our jobs every day, we’re going to make this team better.”

Colts GM Chris Ballard calls Quenton Nelson the easiest pick ever

The Colts took former Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth overall pick in the draft. That’s an unusually high pick for a guard, but Colts GM Chris Ballard said it was an easy call — the easiest call he’s ever seen in any draft room.

Ballard called the selection, “the easiest pick I’ve ever been a part of,” according to the Indianapolis Star.

Even if North Carolina State pass rusher Bradley Chubb had been available, Ballard still said Nelson was his guy.

You better bring it every day because you know those guys will. They’re big-name guys.

It’s gonna be good just to be around them — and not only motivating, but also a wonderful opportunity at the same time. These guys are great players for a reason.

Roback signed his first professional contract after attending a mini-camp workout last week with the Baltimore Ravens.

He was supposed to fly out for a workout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend, but those plans are scrapped.

There were no financial terms announced, but it’s sure to be less lucrative than what Wheaton stood to make in the second year of the two-year, $11 million deal he signed with the Bears in 2017. Wheaton flopped for the Bears, catching just three passes for 51 yards in 11 appearances before being released earlier this offseason.

Wheaton had more success in some of his four seasons with the Bears, but will need playing time to match those years and it will be far from guaranteed with Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins on the depth chart already.

Team owner Martha Ford, lauded by Detroit Police in 2016 for her stance against domestic violence and commitment to changing the culture in the NFL, also did not know about the allegations.

It’s been nearly a month since the Cowboys let Dez Bryant go, and Bryant remains a free agent without having drawn much interest from the 31 teams that could be in play for his services. But Bryant still has one NFL owner on his side: his former employer.broncos_097_312ca0ceef10d394-180x180

Report: Nike files to trademarks new ‘OBJ’ logo for Odell Beckham Jr.

Based on a new trademark request by Nike for Odell Beckham Jr., it appears we’ll be seeing some new product with a new OBJ log hit the shelves sometime in the near future.

ESPN’s Darren Rovell shared the image and noted the sports gear manufacturing giant has filed to trademark said logo.

Bears iPad among items stolen from first-round pick Roquan Smith’s car

Roquan Smith, the Bears’ first-round pick in last month’s draft, is missing a Bears iPad after it was stolen from his car over the weekend.

The Dolphins invested a fair amount in Gesicki by drafting him 42nd overall (fun fact: Rob Gronkowski was also drafted 42nd in 2010) and he’s certainly an impressive athlete for his size (6’6/252). Miami filled its slot void by signing Danny Amendola this offseason, but even if he stays healthy (that’s always a big if with Amendola), I don’t see him coming close to the 160 targets Landry drew in 2017. That should open up looks for Gesicki, especially in the short passing game, where Ryan Tannehill has traditionally done most of his damage.

So, with that, his tenure as a member of the Saints ended on Monday with his release, according to a source who confirmed news originally reported by the Boston Globe.

The move isn’t entirely unexpected. It seemed as though New Orleans was planning to move on for months before this move was made.

Two former Detroit Lions employees have filed a lawsuit against the team and the National Football League claiming they were discriminated against because of their age and race when they were fired in January.

The men, Michael Richardson, 52, of Taylor, and Robert Yanagi, 58, of Northville, were employees in the Lions’ video-operations department. Yanagi was Richardon’s boss.

The lawsuit was filed April 5 in Wayne County Circuit Court, with Richardson and Yanagi seeking damages as a result of loss of past and future earnings, emotional distress and damage to their professional reputations.

Source: LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball leave BC Vytautas due to injuries

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball have ended their stint in Lithuania because both of the brothers are hurt and there are only two games left in the season, sources close to the Ball family told ESPN’s Chris Haynes.

The early exit had the approval of the team, BC Vytautas, the sources told Haynes.

But Vytautas head coach Virginijus Seskus said he was shocked at the siblings’ departure.

“It’s just another proof they came here to make a show, not for basketball. It’s sad they didn’t understand what we gave them. We understand how they helped us, but they don’t,” Seskus told Lithuanian outlet

The defense became the first in NFL history to fail to record an interception in the first 10 games of the season and generated only 14 takeaways all season compared to 30 in 2016.

The Raiders have brought in more than 20 free agents this offseason as Gruden has tried to put his imprint on the team. One of the most significant moves was the signing of receiver Jordy Nelson to replace Michael Crabtree, who was released to make room.

But there are also some key pieces missing, most notably 2016 AP Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, who is not participating in the offseason program while seeking a long-term contract before he can become a free agent next offseason.

Starting left tackle Donald Penn is still recovering from foot surgery and last year’s top two draft picks, cornerback Gareon Conley (shin) and safety Obi Melifonwu (hip), aren’t taking part in team drills.

“It was pretty amazing. People from everywhere: China, Philippines, Australia, Sweden, Germany, England, you name it,” said Brian Killingsworth, the team’s chief marketing officer.

“We thought it was really special. And that’s where this VGK Worldwide thing took off,” Killingsworth added, referring to a social media hashtag created for the campaign.

For most of their inaugural season, the Golden Knights had focused on “Vegas Born” as a mantra, celebrating the fact that they were the first major professional sports team in Las Vegas. But the playoffs have broadened their horizons: They’ve thought locally, and now they’re acting globally.

According to Killingsworth, the Knights contacted many of the international fans who responded to that initial tweet through direct message. Each fan was sent a T-shirt design that the team had been selling for the past month: a “name tag” that reads “I’m From [Blank Space] But I Cheer For Vegas Golden Knights.”

Fans were encouraged to write in their geographic information in that white space with a marker, and put those images on social media.

“We’ve racked up quite a shipping bill, but it’s a direct response to our fans,” said Killingsworth.dolphins_019

Odell Beckham Jr. works with trainers at Giants’ first minicamp

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was on the sideline, working with trainers Tuesday while the New York Giants held their first minicamp practice of the year.

Thus, Cobb will start Wednesday in the delayed start of this series between the only two AL East teams with losing records.

The rainout will be made up as part of single-admission doubleheader on May 12.

It was the 27th major league game to be postponed this season, the most related to weather through April since the commissioner’s office started keeping records in 1986. Detroit’s game at Pittsburgh was washed out later Tuesday, raising the total to 28.

Cobb, 30, spent his entire career with the Rays before signing with Baltimore as a free agent on March 21. Over six years with Tampa Bay, the right-hander was 48-35 and one of the leaders of the staff.

Al Horford’s 3-point attempt with 1:18 remaining seemed to come after the 24-second clock had expired in a five-point game. Instead, Celtics rookie Semi Ojeleye tapped out a rebound as Bucks players motioned for a whistle and Terry Rozier hustled to secure the ball.

Thon Maker was whistled for a foul for making contact with Rozier’s head while chasing the rebound. The Celtics didn’t score on their ensuing possession but were able to take the clock down to 48 seconds before the Bucks regained possession.

The Celtics emerged with a 92-87 triumph to take a 3-2 lead in the series.

Asked after the game about the lack of a 24-second violation, Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe vented.

“I think it was bulls—, point blank,” Bledsoe said before a Bucks media relations staffer ended his postgame session with reporters.

Bucks coach Joe Prunty was asked if he got an explanation about the non-call.

“For entertainment value, that was probably one of the better Game 7s you’ll see,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who stopped just 20 of 24 shots. “It was only a one-goal game going into the third and we shut it down and scored some good goals.”

Danton Heinen scored his first NHL postseason goal, Patrice Bergeron had a goal and two assists, and David Krejci had three assists for the Bruins. In his first NHL postseason action, DeBrusk had seven points in seven games.dolphins_125

Yawkey Way name change gets green light from Boston

Boston officials Thursday approved changing the name of Yawkey Way, the street outside Fenway Park, because of allegations that former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey was a racist who resisted hiring black ballplayers in the 1940s and ’50s.

The Red Sox filed a petition with the commission in February and said that restoring the Jersey Street name is intended to reinforce that Fenway Park is “inclusive and welcoming to all.”

Principal owner John Henry told the Boston Herald last year that “I am still haunted by what went on here a long time before we arrived.”

Yawkey owned the Red Sox from 1933 until 1976. The Red Sox were the last Major League Baseball franchise to field a black player, when infielder Pumpsie Green was called up in 1959, 12 years after Jackie Robinson debuted for the Dodgers.

Prior to that, the team chose not to sign several prominent black players, including Robinson and Willie Mays.

The Yawkey Foundations acknowledged that in its statement but said the good it has done far outweighs the negative, including the more than $300 million the foundation has provided to organizations throughout the city.

Snell enters the game against the Red Sox riding a most unusual streak for him: He has posted back-to-back starts without a walk, representing the first time he has done so during his professional career since way back when he was a rookie baller in 2011 — and he faced just seven batters in each of those games back then, compared to 23 and 25 during his active streak.

Remarkably, Snell has done this despite having yet to improve upon the one aspect of his game that might result in a significant breakthrough — getting strike one. Through five starts, he has a mere 54 percent first-pitch strike rate, and in both of his walkless outings, his rate was just 52 percent. In fact, since his major league debut on April 23, 2016, Snell’s 55.1 percent first-pitch strike rate is fourth worst among pitchers who have faced at least 1,000 batters.

In other words, Snell is going to need to show some sort of improvement getting ahead in counts before I’d fully buy into the idea that he’s at the level of a top-40 fantasy starting pitcher. Considering some of his other improvements, however, I am more than willing to buy in at anything even slightly beneath that price point, because I think it’s an area in which he’ll improve.

For one, Snell has shown a noticeable increase in fastball velocity since a mid-2017 demotion to Triple-A Durham so he could refocus and polish his mechanics. As a rookie in 2016, he averaged 93.5 mph with the pitch, and in his first eight starts of 2017 (pre-demotion) he averaged 93.6 mph. In his 21 starts since then, he has seen that speed increase to 94.8 mph. As a result, Snell has allowed a .307 wOBA with his fastball during that span, down from .412 in his career before the demotion.


Story’s power, Freeland’s arm help Rockies beat Padres 8-0

Kyle Freeland’s left heel throbbed after being hit by a liner.

The pain actually helped him bear down and make some of his best pitches.

“I was thinking more about my heel than my mechanics,” Freeland said.

San Diego lefty Eric Lauer (0-1) had a rough outing in his major league debut. He allowed seven runs, six earned, over three innings.

“Like I said to him on the mound when I took the ball from him, `There’s going to be a lot of really good days ahead. You’re going to remember this because you’re going to come back from this one and have a lot of really good days,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “Definitely not the debut I know he was looking for, but humble beginnings are a good place to start from.”

One consolation: Lauer picked up his first big league hit on a bloop single.

“It kind of hurt my hand a little bit but I’ll take it,” Lauer said.

With its season at stake, Indiana played hard, aggressive and tough.

And it showed with a record-breaking victory margin.

Kevin Love hurt his left wrist on a hard fall midway through the second quarter and wound up scoring just seven points while shooting 3 of 10 from the field.

James took a shot, too, cutting the side of his left eye when he ran into Thaddeus Young’s elbow on a drive late in the first half. No foul was called and James returned with a bandage protecting his face.

But with a relaxed Oladipo figuring out how to defeat the Cavs’ double teams, he rediscovered his shooting touch. Oladipo finished with 13 rebounds, 10 assists and was 11 of 19 from the field and 6 of 8 on 3s to keep the Pacers in charge most of the game.

After the Pacers erased a 22-17 deficit with a 12-2 run, the Cavs never led again.

“We just got hot,” said Paul, who had 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the third quarter and 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting in the game. “Guys started making shots. We talked going into the game about being aggressive, and I think we all just tried to do that.”

Houston, which led by one point at halftime, opened the second half with an 11-0 run as Harden and Paul combined for all the scoring. The Rockets led by double digits the rest of the game, putting the Timberwolves on the brink of elimination as the series returns to Houston.

“Obviously everybody will look at the 50 points that we scored in the quarter, but it was our defense,” Paul said. “We finally started getting them to take tough shots, we were getting rebounds and we’re tough in transition. You’ve got James coming downhill, myself and the way we’ve got the court spaced with shooters is big. That really turned it up for us.”

The sharpshooter is still listed as questionable for Game 1 on Saturday.jets_029

Trout hits 10th HR, Ohtani shaky, Angels beat Astros 8-7

Shohei Ohtani didn’t have a great start. Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons and the Los Angeles Angels did plenty to finish off the Houston Astros.

Trout hit his major league-leading 10th homer and the Angels overcame another shaky outing by Ohtani to beat Houston 8-7 Tuesday night, tying a team record with their 11th straight road win.

Simmons homered twice with a career-high five RBI, connecting for a tiebreaking, three-run drive in the seventh inning. The Angels also won 11 in a row outside Anaheim in 1988.

Ohtani yielded four runs on six hits and five walks in 5 1/3 innings. The two-way star from Japan was tagged by Boston in his previous start and left after two innings because of a blister problem.

“You look at the five walks, but I tell you, Shohei wasn’t missing by much,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “As the game went on he got really good command of his split, threw some terrific pitches. Just had to work hard … he had good stuff, gave us a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Cam Bedrosian walked one in a scoreless ninth for his first save.

Morton, who entered the game with an AL-leading 0.72 ERA, allowed five hits and a season-high four runs, while walking a season-most five in four-plus innings.

“The big inning that he struggled, there were a few close-call walks and a few infield singles — that inning took a lot out of him,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He didn’t look like he could throw the ball where he wanted to, which is uncommon of him.”

“Earlier today,” he said, “our city was impacted by a horrific incident that claimed the lives of nine people and injured many others. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, the first responders and to all of those affected. All of Toronto is with you.”

Maple Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey spoke to the crowd in a taped message saying, “On behalf of myself and my teammates, we’d like to send our deepest thoughts and sorrow to all the victims and the families, and the brave men and women first on the scene who do so much to keep everybody safe, thank you so much.

“Hold your loved ones tight. Give them an extra kiss ’cause I know I will, ’cause you just never know anymore.”jets_058