Patriots coach Bill Belichick shuts down talk on absent Tom Brady

The drama surrounding Tom Brady and the Patriots took another sharp turn Tuesday, when head coach Bill Belichick refused to talk about his starting quarterback.

After months of speculation regarding a possible retirement, Brady is expected to play for the Patriots next season. However, the five-time Super Bowl champion, who turns 41 in August, has not shown up for the Patriots’ organized team activities, and Belichick didn’t want to talk about absent players.

Both Brady and Gronkowski are expected to play for the Patriots in 2018, though retirement talk followed them all winter. It’s possible the two veterans are just resting their bodies until training camp, but Belichick doesn’t seem happy about the situation.

Game 6 is in Cleveland on Friday night, with the decisive seventh game back in Boston on Sunday if necessary. The home team has won every game so far in the series, and none has been closer than nine points.

LeBron James had 26 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Love scored 14 for the Cavaliers, who are trying to reach the finals for the fourth consecutive season. James has played to the end in seven straight seasons.

The Celtics opened a double-digit lead in the first quarter and nursed it the rest of the way, holding on through a four-minute scoring drought that saw Cleveland score nine straight points to cut the deficit to 83-71. But Terry Rozier hit Horford with an alley-oop to snap the skid, and that was as close as the Cavs would get.

James seemed to tire in the fourth, scoring just two points on four shots. He finished 1-for-6 from 3-point range in the game; the Cavaliers made just 9 of 34 attempts from beyond the arc and shot just 42 percent overall.

Sanchez is trying to reconnect with Gray

I think there is some of the ebb and flow of a season of hitting and those things are going to kind of happen, the manager said. I think Miggy — without getting too wonky with it — when he’s in sync with how he loads with his bat and everything, when that’s on point, he’s electric offensively.

So I think sometimes maybe that gets a little out of whack. What I’ve seen though, through this, when he’s not on fire like he was or hitting all the extra base hits, I’m still seeing a lot of really competitive at-bats. I’m seeing him with still the ability to lay off pitches outside the zone that they’re trying to get him to chase as a young player, making that adjustment to him.

Andujar has seen his batting average drop from.300 through his first 20 games to.271, or a 29-point fall, come Friday. Over his last 10 games, he’s hit.211 with a.441 OPS — no extra-base hits.

After hitting three homers from April 17 through April 23, he’s hit none.

He said he watched the Texans’ most recent five games from last season and has been studying the playbook to enter camp as prepared as possible. ”I kind of have a feel for how this process goes before having even gone through it,” Reid said. ”It’s still different going through it myself for the first time, but it is nice for having that rough road map and having a feel for how these things go.”

And if either it was really hidden or he wasn’t super thorough, I could see how this could happen.

The Lions use an employment background screening company that conducts background checks on all hires, and that firm produced a report on Patricia during the hiring process that did not include any reference to his Texas arrest.

It’s unclear what, if any, information the firm uncovered about the case while vetting Patricia, but when the Lions went back to examine why they only recently learned about the incident, they discovered that Massachusetts employment law prevents the screening company from providing, or them from using as part of their employment decision, information about an arrest, indictment or conviction more than seven years old.

Because Patricia was a resident of Massachusetts at the time of his hiring, the Lions were subject to those laws as well as other local and federal regulations.

(We) always (do) the right thing in our employment practices, including background checks, interview questions, employment practices at all levels, whether it’s a player, coach or executive, Lions president Rod Wood said Friday.colts_010

The Penguins won the Patrick Division during the regular season and finished seven points ahead of the Capitals.

The Penguins won the Patrick Division during the regular season and finished seven points ahead of the Capitals. But Washington, as is tradition, took Game 1 of the series in Pittsburgh. In Game 2, the Capitals roared back from a 5-3 deficit after two periods with three goals in 8:09 in the third period for a stunning 6-5 lead.

As we previously stated about hope preceding heartbreak, the Capitals tied Game 6 with 2:40 left to go at Mellon Arena on a Calle Johansson goal, seeking to push this back-and-forth affair into a Game 7. Instead, Martin Straka scored at 13:04 of overtime in soul-crushing fashion — stealing the puck from Sergei Gonchar at the Capitals’ blue line and beating Olaf Kolzig on a breakaway — to give the Penguins the series. Gonchar, clearly a Manchurian Candidate-like sleeper agent for Pittsburgh, would win the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009.

Harold Landry, DE/LB, Boston College: It would only be fitting for the Matt Patricia era in Detroit to kick off with a pick from the New England area. What Landry lacks in a strength he makes up for with his explosive burst and top-notch elasticity.

James Daniels, C, Iowa: The interior of Cincinnati’s offensive line is still in disrepair, and Daniels can serve as a stabilizing force for years.

Will Hernandez, G, Texas El-Paso: Richie Incognito’s retirement means the Bills are now without their three best starters from last year’s offensive line. The powerful Hernandez would open holes for LeSean McCoy, who last year averaged less than 4 yards per carry for the first time in his career.

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: With Nate Solder gone, New England could try to scrape by at left tackle with LaAdrian Waddle and Tony Garcia, last year’s third-round pick who missed the entire season with blood clots in his lungs. But the better tactic might be to grab McGlinchey to keep the pressure off Brady (and his eventual successor). 

Marcus Morris, Celtics forward: “It happens. I think everybody probably thought the game was over with 0.5 [seconds] left. We guarded the 3-point line, he got a long 3 and made it.”

As he grinds in football, Murray has been proving himself and more in baseball.canucks_668

Lions might draft a RB, but Bob Quinn is good if they don’t

Allen Park – Given the Detroit Lions’ struggles moving the ball on the ground the past few years, and the quality of depth at running back in this year’s draft class, there’s a working assumption the team will take one, potentially as early as the first round.

Not so fast, according to general manager Bob Quinn.

“I don’t know, tell me who’s going to be on the board in the second, third, fourth round,” Quinn said. “I mean, I don’t know.”

Adding Blount this offseason made all kinds of sense for the Lions. The 250-pounder gives the Lions much needed size in the backfield. Plus, he’s an accomplished short-yardage option.

Gronk has yet to commit to playing in 2018, and he hasn’t attended the start of the Pats’ offseason program.

ESPN, starting with Jim Valvano, has made a long habit of hiring any big-time, freshly fired, scandalized college football or basketball coach. Though Paul Pierce was among the NBA’s all-time anti-social acts, on and off the court, TNT couldn’t wait to hire him.

ESPN, naturally, will do nothing to have Rodriguez publicly amend such a sweet story that made neither sense nor history. For 21 years it employed a lead baseball analyst, Joe Morgan, who had total recall of things that never happened, without censure.

In 2007, Mets infielder Luis Castillo made an awkward catch of a wind-blown pop-up in Wrigley Field. Morgan explained that Castillo is unfamiliar with the wind in Wrigley because, he said, “Castillo has played his entire career in the American League.”

The Wild were livid about one in particular, when Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey delivered a vicious-looking cross-check to Eric Staal’s neck that knocked Minnesota’s leading scorer to the ice during a Wild power play that went unnoticed by the officials. Morrissey had an assist on Scheifele’s goal and also helped thwart a Wild breakaway later in the game, and a red-faced coach Bruce Boudreau said afterward that Morrissey should have been ejected.

They decided not to call it because we were already on the power play, Boudreau said. It cost us the game.seahawks_059

Rams have plenty of cap space in 2019, and they’ll need it

The Rams are building a team designed to go for broke in 2018, with the offseason acquisitions of players like Brandin Cooks, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. But can they afford to keep all of those players in 2019?

The good news is, the Rams are in great salary cap shape for 2019: According to, the Rams have $81 million in 2019 cap space, the second-most of any team in the NFL.

The bad news is, the Rams are going to need every penny of that cap space in 2019 to keep their top players in Los Angeles.

Peters, as the Chiefs’ 2015 first-round draft pick, has an affordable salary of $1.7 million this year. But that salary will skyrocket to $9.5 million when the Rams pick up his fifth-year option for 2019. Ditto for the Rams’ own 2015 first-round pick, Todd Gurley, who whose salary likewise skyrockets from $2.3 million this year to $9.6 million next year.

Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner is on the franchise tag this year, which means he’s not under contract in 2019, which means the Rams are either going to lose him or pay him a whole lot of money a year from now.

After a full medical evaluation, it became clear that Cravens was dealing with head trauma.

“The Redskins brought me in, they told me they wanted me to get checked out, make sure I was all right,” Cravens said. “I go to a doctor and he tells me I’m going through something I didn’t even know I was going through. He said this is the reason why you feel this way and you’re in no condition to be making these decisions because of this and I guarantee if you rehab and get yourself better, you won’t be feeling this way.

“Once I got cleared in December, it was like I was a completely different person. Looking back at myself I’m thinking, that’s crazy. I thought I was just messed up but come to find out, I was going through something I wasn’t even aware of.’’

His former team wasn’t willing to wait for Cravens to get healthy; Washington placed him on the reserve/left squad list before Cravens could return from a four-week leave. His new team wanted him, obviously. And Cravens is now preparing to make an impact on the Broncos defense; he says that he’ll play strong safety in the base package and linebacker in third-down packages.buccaneers_044

New catch rule passes unanimously

The NFL’s owners voted 32-0 to approve a new catch rule, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports.

But when we look ahead to 2018 and the uptick in snaps McKinley should see after defensive end Adrian Clayborn left in free agency, I expect the former UCLA star to elevate his game as a pass-rusher with more technique at the point of attack.

For the majority of edge rushers in the league, that developmental jump comes in their second seasons. With tape to study, and game reps to lean on as teaching tools, this is when we see real growth in counter moves and the ability to set up offensive tackles. McKinley already has displayed the burst to get off the ball — and his motor never stops. Now, add in the core fundamentals to pair with that 4.59-second 40 speed on the edge Look out. McKinley is in a spot to boost his profile as one of the top young edge defenders in the NFL.

Butler, entering his sixth NFL season, played the past three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and totaled 43 catches for 794 yards and six touchdowns while serving mostly as the No. 4 receiver behind Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley.

Butler was selected by Oakland in the seventh round out of San Diego State in the 2013 draft and played his first two seasons with the Raiders.

Overall, the 28-year-old receiver has appeared in 61 games, with 73 catches for 1,177 yards and eight touchdowns.

When free agency opened, the Chiefs surprisingly paid a premium price to land wide receiver Sammy Watkins. But when we look at the Kansas City offensive system under coach Andy Reid, Watkins is yet another weapon — in an offense loaded at the skill positions — to build around Mahomes. And the young quarterback brings the big-time arm, the ability to make off-schedule plays and the movement skills that mesh with Reid’s playcalling.patriots_089

Oakland considers suing NFL, Raiders over relocation

It will be fitting if the final year or two of the Raiders’ existence in Oakland occurs under the murky cloud of the thing that late owner Al Davis loved so much: Litigation.

As explained by the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland and Alameda County officials are considering filing an antitrust lawsuit against the league and the Raiders over the looming relocation of the team to Las Vegas.

Mauro, who was released by the Cardinals last Friday, started seven games in 2017 and made 22 tackles, including one sack.

Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.Nen time right?Watson was steady not spectacular as Pittsburgh slowly faded from contention, finishing with 15 saves and allowed a career-high 10 home runs 70 appearances.

I wish they were more influential.

Sometimes, they warm without coming.He attributed the hacking of a 2015 to faulty software.

Now no one knows yet whether Gettleman intends to trade or re-sign Beckham, 25, who wants a mega-deal that matches his incredible talent. But by trading Pierre-Paul, Gettleman has brought himself to a crossroads:

He is now at the juncture where he must decide to pay Odell — and he freed up cap space to do that with the JPP move — or trade him to a team that will.

The main thing I want to emphasize when you talk about these guys, it’s a starting point.Did he have his yet?Part of the reason Segura was Fantasy MVP is because nobody saw his 2016 coming, and though the explanation for it has some credibility and his track record makes it not completely isolated event, investing him, whether real life or Fantasy, is a risky proposition.If the Rockies decide to move CarGo or Blackmon this, we be seeing Dahl as the replacement.

At 8 a block by Tariq Owens led to a Ponds fade away jumper and the Johnnies were down by one.If Escobar does regress, expect him to be ousted from his starting position by July.Alvarez is still quite, and he turn 27 years old mid-.49ers_127

Let’s talk with theoretical physicist Ronald Mallett about the nature and perception of time.

We’re here learning about time itself.

In a way, there are actually really two broad perspectives on time: One is the physical, the other is psychological, Mallett says. By the physical, what I mean is the perspective that physics has on it, which is independent of us.

James added that roughly half of the championship teams during his career thus far — six out of 14 — have come from the supposedly weaker East.

I’ve been a part of the Eastern Conference my whole career and we’ve been very, very competitive, James said. There’s been years where we weren’t as good. If I can think from once I got into the league, it’s been us, I’ve done it three times, Detroit, Boston, Miami in ’06, that’s like [six] championships out of 14 years. That’s [about] half, right? So what are we talking about?

An NBA-record seven teams are at least 20 games below .500 at the All-Star break. And those seven teams will face one another a combined 17 more times, which is when we may learn the true depths of this year’s tanking.

Not only do the current standings have an unprecedented logjam at the bottom, but many experts anticipate a loaded NBA draft, assuming certain underclassmen declare.

“You can probably get five franchise-changing players this year,” ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose told host Bob Ley on Outside the Lines this week. “[Tanking is] almost worth it for those teams.”

Hornacek will likely use some combination of Ntilikina, Burke and Mudiay regularly in the backcourt.

After averaging 19.2 PPG, 17.4 FGA and 3.3 FTA in January, Andrew Wiggins has averaged just 12.9 PPG, 12.7 FGA and 1.4 FTA in seven games this month. What is the likelihood he returns to his January-level production?49ers_077

Murray’s 38 points lead Nuggets over Trail Blazers 104-101

Nuggets: Murray’s previous career high was 32 points. … F Wilson Chandler came off the bench after starting all 42 games in which he had played this season. … F Kenneth Faried was inactive with left ankle soreness.

Denver caught a break when the officials reversed themselves and decided to review a ruling that the Nuggets knocked the ball out of Lillard’s hands with 9.2 seconds left.

Tennessee (14-5, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) earned its fifth win in six games and withstood a brilliant performance from Vanderbilt’s Riley LaChance, who scored all of his 25 points in the second half as the Commodores got to within two in the closing minutes.

Bowden is shooting 53.8 percent (35 of 65) from 3-point range this season. His efficient night came after he had just two points in a loss at Missouri and went scoreless in a victory at South Carolina last week.

“It’s tough for me,” Middleton said. “He took my game to another level. He took this team to a whole other level. Today was a tough day.”

Assistant Joe Prunty was promoted to replace Kidd for the rest of the year. After a slow start, the Bucks heeded the new coach’s call to focus.

The sharpshooting Middleton couldn’t miss in the final minute.

Brogdon had a steal with 40 seconds left after the Bucks double-teamed guard Devin Booker in the backcourt. Brogdon lobbed a cross-court pass to Middleton, who hit a jumper from the left corner with 24 seconds left for a 105-100 lead.

Told that teammate Al Horford had suggested that the Celtics need to play like “we’re fighting for our lives right now,” Irving downplayed Boston’s first three-game losing streak of the season.

Redskins’ uniforms vs. Cowboys still a mystery

“That would put us on edge, put us on go,” he said. “You feel good, look good, you play good. … We’ve been trying to bring that all-burgundy back for a minute now, you know what I mean? I’d love if they let us decide to play in ’em.”

“The Committee is continuing its work towards finalizing a contract extension with the Commissioner, consistent with the mandate provided in the unanimous May 2017 Resolution. Regardless of what may have been reported, the Committee is working within the financial parameters outlined to the ownership at the May meeting. The negotiations are progressing and we will keep ownership apprised of the negotiations as they move forward. We do not intend to publicly comment on our discussions.”

A unanimous 32-0 vote by owners in May authorized the six-member compensation committee to finalize and approve the extension for Goodell, and normally that would be the only vote needed.

The Vikings’ offensive line was down two starters against the Panthers as Minnesota, looking to clinch a playoff spot in Week 14, lost 31-24.

Minnesota was also without starting right tackle Mike Remmers for a fifth straight game. Remmers went down with a concussion against Cleveland and was in the league’s concussion protocol until Week 12. He then sustained a lower-back injury during the week of practice for Atlanta and has not practiced since Nov. 29.

Nick Easton, who competed with Elflein at center throughout training camp, slid over from his spot at left guard to fill in for the injured rookie. Easton last started at center against Chicago in Week 17 last season.

Reserve lineman Jeremiah Sirles started at left guard, while Rashod Hill started again at right tackle in place of Remmers.