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Will Smith’s widow calls his killer’s 25-year sentence too lenient

AP

Cardell Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter on Thursday in the death of former Saints defensive end Will Smith, and Smith’s widow says that’s not enough.

Racquel Smith released a statement criticizing Judge Camille Buras for the sentence, saying Hayes received compassion that he didn’t show to Smith.

“My family and I are extremely disappointed with today’s sentencing and the leniency showed by Judge Buras for the defendant,” Racquel Smith said in the statement. “While we know nothing will ever bring Will back, we were hopeful that Judge Buras would have issued a stronger sentence to more justly reflect both the nature of the crimes and the tremendous loss and pain that my family has suffered as a result of Mr. Hayes’ violent actions on the night of April 9, 2016.

“This ordeal has been a nightmare for me and my family. There are no winners here today. Today’s sentencing does not bring back Will and leaves another child [Hayes’ son] to grow up without a father. I pray for the other families of New Orleans that are dealing with the same tragedy that comes with the loss of life at the hands of senseless violence. Will loved this city and we must do better together to enact serious change so that Will’s unnecessary murder is not in vain.

“My heart is full of gratitude for the entire staff of the New Orleans District’s Attorney’s Office and the members of the Police Department who worked tirelessly on this case. I am particularly grateful to District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and his assistant district attorneys Jason Napoli and Laura Rodrigue for their hard work in presenting this case with such precision and passion. Their ability to convey the facts of the case while also caring so deeply about justice for Will and my family is something I will never forget. And to all of those who continued to pray alongside us through this very difficult time, we heard you and we are so appreciative for the continued outpouring of love and support.

“I will continue to shine my light for my Superman. Each day, we continue to heal and work through our pain and feelings of enormous loss. Will’s dedication to his family, his love for his community and his desire to live life to the fullest will continue to inspire me, Willie, Lisa, Wynter and everyone else who loved him. We are hopeful that we can finally focus on what brings us joy — remembering Will for the man he was and the life he lived. We will carry our memories of Will with us every day for the rest of our lives.”

Buras could have sentenced Smith to anywhere from 20 to 60 years in prison for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. Racquel Smith was also shot in the incident, which started as a confrontation between Hayes and Smith over a minor traffic accident.

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John Schneider says odds aren’t very good for Richard Sherman trade

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While the Seahawks have been open about the availability of cornerback Richard Sherman on the trading block, General Manager John Schneider said Thursday night the chances of such a deal seem slim.

Right now, I don’t think the odds are very good,” Schneider said in an interview with 710 ESPN, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “But if someone comes cruising along and something happens and we do something, it happens.”

The Seahawks have fully entertained the idea of dealing one of its biggest stars that offseason. It’s a tact they haven’t really taken before since Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll assumed control of the team in 2010, though Schneider has said they entertain pretty much any idea that comes across his desk.

Nevertheless, Sherman twice blew up at coordinators on the sidelines last season and doubled-down on his criticism of Darrell Bevell for a pass play called from the 1-yard line against the Los Angeles Rams in December. He’s going to be 29 years old this year and has two years remaining on his contract. He’s scheduled to make $11.43 million in base salary in 2017 and $11 million in base salary in 2018.

Schneider says cap considerations would be one of the reasons the team would trade Sherman.

“The only reasons we would do it is to create some cap room and trying to become a younger football team. But that’s just one option,” Schneider said.

Schneider echoed Sherman’s comments from earlier this month indicating there was no bad blood between the two sides with the trade dialogue continuing.

“We just have a great relationship,’’ Schneider said, noting he talked to Sherman on Thursday. “We have constant communication.’’

The upcoming NFL Draft would seem to be a de facto deadline for a deal to get done. If Sherman is still on the roster after next weekend, the shrinking odds he gets dealt could be reduced all the way to zero.

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Dolphins get Patriots twice in 15 days

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If, as Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry recently predicted, his team will sweep their AFC East rivals from New England, it will go down in a 15-day stretch late in the 2017 season.

The Dolphins travel to face the Patriots on November 26. Two weeks later, they host the Patriots on a Monday night. In between, the Dolphins face the Broncos in Miami.

It will be a challenging stretch for a team that got to the playoffs last year for the first time since 2008. The only good news is that their bye comes before the game in Foxboro.

The rematch will be one of four prime-time games for a franchise that once was among the league’s elite — and that could be moving back in that direction now, with coach Adam Gase quickly turning a perennial also-ran into a contender.

The other three night games come back-to-back-to-back for Miami, with a Thursday night trip Baltimore on October 26, a Sunday night visit from the Raiders on November 5, and a Monday night stop in Carolina on November 13. Those six games, sandwiched around the bye, will go a long way toward determining whether the Dolphins are ready not just to get to January, but to win some games once they arrive there.

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Los Angeles hosting simultaneous NFL games three times

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Three times this year the Los Angeles metropolitan area will host two separate NFL games at the same time.

On September 17, the Los Angeles Rams will host the Washington Redskins at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in a 1:25 p.m. PT kickoff while the Chargers are hosting the Miami Dolphins in a 1:05 p.m. PT kickoff at the StubHub Center.

On December 10, the Rams host the Philadelphia Eagles in a 1:25 p.m. PT kickoff while the Chargers play at 1:05 against the Redskins. Both teams finish the regular season at home in Week 17 on December 31 as well. The Rams host the San Francisco 49ers with the Chargers playing the Oakland Raiders. Both games kickoff at 1:25 p.m.

It’s a unique situation for the NFL to manage until the opening of the new stadium in Inglewood in 2019. The Coliseum and StubHub Center are 12 miles apart. The distance between the two stadiums should help alleviate some traffic overlap issues with the games.

While the Jets and Giants share the New York market, they play in the same stadium. The only time the Jets and Giants can play simultaneously in New York is when they are playing each other once every four years (preseason excluded). The Los Angeles reality of the next two season creates these unique scenarios where the Rams and Chargers are home the same weekend.

Outside of those three weeks when the teams play at the same time, the Rams and Chargers aren’t playing in Los Angeles the same week the rest of the year.

 

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No prime time for Jaguars or Browns this year

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The good news for the Browns and the Jaguars is, they won’t have to worry about short weeks.

The good news for fans in places other than Cleveland and Jacksonville, is that it’s easier to not watch the Browns and Jaguars.

Those two have the distinction of no prime time appearances on either Thursday, Sunday or Monday nights.

(Assuming they aren’t flexed into a night game, of course.)

While that’s a benefit in not having to deal with short weeks, it also appears to be a concession to complaints about the quality of the Thursday Night Football schedule, since two of the worst teams in the league (they combined for four wins last year) aren’t forced to appear.

Ten teams make five prime time appearances, with the Chiefs, Falcons, Cowboys, Broncos, Packers, Patriots, Raiders, Eagles, Steelers and Washington getting the most run.

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Monday Night Football has nine divisional matchups, all 2016 playoff teams

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ESPN has lobbied for a better Monday Night Football schedule. While the overall quality is debatable, the slate includes nine divisional matchups, along with appearances by all 12 2016 playoff teams.

The slate includes one appearance from national brands like the Cowboys, Steelers, Patriots, and Packers. Eight teams appear twice on MNF: the Broncos, Chiefs, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Lions, Vikings, and Washington.

As expected, the Week One doubleheader includes Saints-Vikings and Broncos-Chargers. None of those four teams made it to the postseason in 2016.

None of the games currently stand out as stinkers. Based, however, on the inevitable reality that plenty of teams expected to be good won’t be, some of the late-season games could end up being more crappy than compelling.

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Texans-Bengals kicks off Thursday Night Football schedule

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There have been plenty of criticisms about Thursday night games over the years, but they aren’t going anywhere and this year’s schedule of games under the Thursday Night Football banner includes a few late-season Saturday and Monday games as well.

The package will also be featured on a variety of broadcasters this year. NFL Network will show all of the games, either exclusively or as a simulcast with NBC or CBS. Ten games that are part of the package will also be streamed on Amazon after they won the bidding for the rights for the first time.

The Texans will visit Cincinnati on September 14 in Week Two to kick off the package of games. That game will be shown only on NFL Network. The rest of the schedule is below.

Week Three: Rams at 49ers – NFLN

Week Four: Bears at Packers – CBS, NFLN, Amazon

Week Five: Patriots at Buccaneers – CBS, NFLN, Amazon

Week Six: Eagles at Panthers – CBS, NFLN, Amazon

Week Seven: Chiefs at Raiders – CBS, NFLN, Amazon

Week Eight: Dolphins at Ravens – CBS, NFLN, Amazon

Week Nine: Bills at Jets – NFLN

Week 10: Seahawks at Cardinals – NBC, NFLN, Amazon

Week 11: Titans at Steelers – NBC, NFLN, Amazon

Week 13: Redskins at Cowboys – NBC, NFLN, Amazon

Week 14: Saints at Falcons – NBC, NFLN, Amazon

Week 15: Broncos at Colts – NBC, NFLN, Amazon

NFL Network will also air the Vikings-Browns game from London in Week Eight with a 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff time. In Week 15, they will air a pair of Saturday games with the Bears and Lions kicking off at 4:30 p.m. ET and the Chargers visiting the Chiefs at 8:25 p.m. ET. The Colts and Ravens will play on the network the next Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET and NFL Network closes out its season by joining up with NBC and Amazon to show the Steelers at the Texans on Christmas Day.

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Steelers-Texans and Raiders-Eagles to play on Christmas Day

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With Christmas Day falling on a Monday this year, the NFL has made a minor adaptation to their normal schedule.

Instead of having a Sunday Night Football game on Christmas Eve, the NFL has scheduled two games for Christmas Day. The Houston Texans will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 4:30 p.m. ET kickoff on NBC. That contest will be followed by the Oakland Raiders traveling to the Philadelphia Eagles for a standard 8:30 p.m. ET kickoff for Monday Night Football.

The schedule tweak means no football on Christmas Eve night or Christmas morning.

In addition, there are two games on Saturday, December 23 as well. The Indianapolis Colts will play the Baltimore Ravens at 4:30 p.m. ET and the Green Bay Packers will host the Minnesota Vikings at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

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Sunday Night Football schedule starts with Giants at Cowboys

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The Giants and Cowboys have been a popular pairing for Sunday Night Football, and this year will be no different.

The 2017 season schedule is officially out, and NBC’s first Sunday night game features the Giants heading to Dallas on September 10.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package actually kicks off with a Thursday night game between the Chiefs and Patriots. And NBC will also show the Thanksgiving night game with the Giants traveling to Washington.

Here’s how the rest of the Sunday nights shake out, with the caveat that the league uses flexible scheduling and may change some of these games to put better matchups in prime time:

Week 2: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

Week 3: Oakland Raiders at Washington

Week 4: Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahawks

Week 5: Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans

Week 6: New York Giants at Denver Broncos

Week 7: Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots

Week 8: Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions

Week 9: Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins

Week 10: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

Week 11: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Week 12: Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 13: Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks

Week 14: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 15: Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders

Week 16: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

The Sunday night schedule will end in Week 17 with whatever is the game with the biggest playoff implications.

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Patriots launch title defense with visit from Chiefs

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This year’s short straw goes to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Andy Reid’s team will hit to road on Thursday, September 7 to launch the 2017 season, facing the Patriots in New England on the night they find a spot to hang their fifth banner.

The Chiefs had to play at New England at some point anyway; it’s arguably better to get it out of the way early. And if Reid, who always does well with extra time to prepare, can take full advantage of the next five months to prepare a game plan for the opener, maybe the Chiefs can emerge from their visit to Foxboro with a 1-0 record.

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Chargers to host Dolphins in their first L.A. home game

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The Chargers will open the season on Monday night in Denver, which means they will have a short week to prepare for their first game in Los Angeles since announcing their move from San Diego earlier this year.

The Dolphins will be the visitors for the Chargers’ first home game in the city since they called it home for the 1960 season in the AFL. The game will kick off at 1:05 p.m. PT and it will be followed by two more home games. The Chiefs will come calling in Week Three and then the Eagles will visit in Week Four.

In addition to being the Chargers’ first games in their new city, the games will also be the first played at the StubHub Center. The stadium was built with soccer in mind and it’s 30,000-seat capacity will provide a very different look than the stadiums we’re used to seeing on NFL Sundays.

The Broncos (Week Seven), Bills (Week 11), Browns (Week 13), Redskins (Week 14) and Raiders (Week 17) make up the rest of the Chargers’ home slate.

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NFL continues with three 9:30 a.m. ET games in London

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The NFL keeps extending its international series of games, and it continues to extend the length of the days of football.

Contrary to previous reports that the league wanted to ditch the 9:30 a.m. ET kickoffs for London games, three of the four games scheduled for the UK will be breakfast specials here in the United States.

That includes the Sept. 24 Ravens-Jaguars game at Wembley, the Oct. 1 Saints-Dolphins at Wembley and the Oct. 29 Vikings-Browns game at Twickenham Stadium.

The Oct. 22 Cardinals-Rams game will be a 1 p.m. ET kickoff, meaning it will be played under the lights in the UK.

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Lions get their wish with two of first three at home

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The Lions asked the NFL for more early home games, and the NFL delivered.

Detroit’s 2017 schedule includes games at home in Week One and Week Three. That follows two consecutive years in which the Lions played three of their first four on the road, something Lions President Rod Wood told the league he’d like to avoid.

So this year the Lions will open at home against the Cardinals, then travel to face the Giants on Monday night in Week Two before returning home to take on the Falcons in Week Three.

Of course, as we pointed out after Wood made his request, the Lions can’t have it both ways: Detroit plays at home every Thanksgiving and prefers to play at home the week before Thanksgiving as well, so they won’t have to travel during a short work week. In five of the last six seasons the NFL has accommodated the Lions by letting them play at home on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

But this year, the Lions are at Chicago on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and then will host the Vikings on Thanksgiving. Traveling on a short work week will be the price of getting two early home games.

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Falcons to open new stadium with NFC title game rematch

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The Falcons will get a little extra time in the preseason to get their new building ready.

And when Mercedes-Benz Stadium opens for the regular season, the wait will be worth it.

According to Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the Falcons will christen their building with a Week Two NFC Championship Game rematch against the Packers on Sunday Night Football.

The Falcons will open the regular season on the road against the Bears.

After three construction-related delays for the opening of their new building, the Falcons are expected to play in the third and fourth weeks of the preseason there. But the Georgia Dome is still standing, just in case.

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ESPN personalities spar over the Wonderlic

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One of the few things I’ve learned over the 15-plus years of running this website is that it’s wrong to make light of low Wonderlic scores, for a variety of reasons summarized below. On Thursday, a case of ESPN-on-ESPN crime emerged over the issue of Wonderlic shaming.

After Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (who routinely reports Wonderlic scores with no scrutiny or criticism) leaked running back numbers from the 50-question test, ESPN’s Darren Rovell compared the 11 generated by Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook to a variety of professions.

Via Ryan Phillips of TheBigLead.com, ESPN’s Bomani Jones reacted bluntly: “Wonderlic shaming is wrong, man. Stop it.”

Here’s why it’s wrong. First, the NFL does a horrible job of securing the results of what should be a confidential process. (I’ve argued for several years that the kids should refuse to submit to it because of the league’s inability to keep the numbers under wraps.) Second, the test is irrelevant to football ability; the league continues to administer it only because of the old-school desire for apples-to-apples comparisons for the sake of having apples-to-apples comparisons. Third, some of the players don’t even realize that they’ll be taking the test, have done little or no preparation for it, and have no idea that someone will be leaking the results to the media, allowing others to pass judgment on something that they surely regard as a low-priority aspect of the high-stress, low-sleep excursion to Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine.

We stopped reporting on Wonderlic scores several years ago, one of the rare occasions in which we received fair criticism, we considered it carefully, and we changed the way we do things. Others would be wise to do the same.

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