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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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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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Lions host Vikings for second straight year on Thanksgiving

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Last year, the Vikings and Lions played an exciting game on Thanksgiving. It was exciting enough to do it again.

The Lions will host their NFC North rivals again in 2017, a scheduling move that likely hasn’t happened in years.

After Minnesota and Detroit play to start the day, the Cowboys will host the Chargers. In prime time on NBC, Washington hosts the Giants.

In 2006, the NFL added a rotating night game to the traditional Thanksgiving doubleheader featuring the Lions and Cowboys hosting games.

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Cardell Hayes sentenced to 25 years for killing Will Smith

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Cardell Hayes learned his sentence for killing former Saints defensive end Will Smith a little more than a year after shooting Smith following a traffic accident and altercation in New Orleans.

Hayes was convicted of manslaughter for killing Smith and Judge Camille Buras sentenced him to 25 years in prison on Thursday. Hayes was also sentenced to 15 years for attempted manslaughter for shooting Raquel Smith, Will Smith’s widow, but the two terms will run concurrently. Hayes had argued he acted in self-defense when he shot Smith.

“This case has presented a highly unique and emotional set of facts,” Buras said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “The jury did reject the state’s theory that the defendant had acted with specific intent to kill Will Smith or Racquel Smith. The jury likewise rejected the defense’s theory that Cardell Hayes had acted in self-defense. Many things have been said regarding this case. The court does feel compelled to say how profoundly sad and tragic this case is, that three (Smith) children have lost their father, a wife her husband, and a family their cherished loved one. The Hayes family also has experienced loss. However, we are a society that functions based on the adherence to law. Whatever happened that night, this court finds it does not warrant what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

A spokesman for district attorney Leon Canizzaro’s office said the D.A. and the Smith family are disappointed in the length of the sentence.

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Reuben Foster discloses positive drug test at Scouting Combine

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The Scouting Combine officially didn’t go well for Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. Apart from being sent home after an altercation with a health-care worker at the hospital where prospects are poked and prodded, Foster failed the drug test.

Foster, acknowledging that someone eventually was going to violate his privacy rights by reporting on a failed drug test under the substance-abuse policy, opted to disclose the situation to one of the outlets that would have been ready and willing to violate his privacy rights by reporting on the failed test.

This is something that’s going to get out,” Foster told Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. “I don’t make excuses. I’m a real dude. I try to be a good person. . . . I just hope the coaches understand and that’s all I can hope and pray for.”

The positive result came from a diluted sample. Foster explained that he was sick before the Scouting Combine, with vomiting, diarrhea, and cramping. He opted against an IV, obtained medication from a doctor, and began to hydrate.

“I couldn’t eat much, but I had to drink water and Gatorade,” Foster said. “Then a few coaches said something about me being too light. And I’m a coach-pleaser. I don’t care what everybody thinks, but I care what coaches think. So I drank and ate as much as I could without throwing up. Then I went in there, drinking and drinking water, trying to flush out my system from whatever was making me sick and trying to keep my weight up and took the test.”

The explanation makes sense for the most part. The claim that he was “trying to flush out my system from whatever was making me sick” feels a bit like a Freudian slip, since the rule regarding diluted sample arises from the concern that people will consume excess water in an effort to flush evidence of banned substances from his system.

Foster doesn’t know what any of  this will mean to his draft stock, but he embraces the possibility that he’ll slide.

“If it’s first round, second round, whoever takes me will get a good football player and an All-Pro,” Foster said. “I hope I go on Thursday, but I can’t control that.”

He also has no qualms about being placed in the drug-testing program. Which is good, because he will be.

And that’s the primary risk that a team will be taking in accepting his version as true. If he’s instead saying what he has to say to salvage his draft status, teams need to be sure that he will consistently choose football over whatever substance may have been in his system once he knows he’ll be tested on a regular basis.

After all, he knew he’d be tested at the Scouting Combine, and he failed the test anyway. If the dilution was indeed the result of an effort to conceal banned substances and not something that happened as he tried to deal with an illness, it’s fair to worry that he’ll fail more tests.

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DeShone Kizer: I have Tom Brady’s brain in Cam Newton’s body

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Former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer is certainly not lacking for confidence.

Kizer told Tom Pelissero of USA Today that he believes he has a combination of Tom Brady’s brain and Cam Newton’s body and can put that together into one package that can be the best quarterback in NFL history.

“Name a college quarterback who goes into the game-plan meetings on Monday and throws his notes at the coaches,” Kizer said. “No one else game plans the way I do. No one else prepares the way I do. No one else knows football the way I do. No one else is as big as I am. No one else is as powerful a runner as I am. Pat Mahomes might throw the ball 80 yards and I can only throw the ball 72, but I guarantee he can’t throw an out route the way I can. No one else can do what I can do. And I’ve truly figured out in this process, if I can maximize all my potential in every aspect of the game – this is bold – I do have the ability to be the greatest quarterback to ever play. Imagine taking Brady’s intellect and Brady’s preparation and putting it on a guy with Cam Newton’s body. Why can’t I be the greatest? The only thing stopping me from it is me. That’s what’s driving me now.”

Whether Kizer actually has the same mind for football as Brady would be difficult to measure, but he doesn’t have Newton’s body: Kizer is shorter than Newton, lighter than Newton and did worse than Newton on every test of speed and agility at the Scouting Combine.

NFL teams like players with confidence, but Kizer’s confidence may come across as arrogance to some NFL teams. If there’s a case of a player taking his confidence too far, this may be it.

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Jim Harbaugh: Kaepernick’s protests should be celebrated

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Former 49ers coach (and current Michigan coach) Jim Harbaugh has praised the football abilities of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Harbaugh now says Kaepernick’s non-football activities should be praised, too.

“Colin Kaepernick was alone in his early protests last year when he boldly and courageously confronted perceived inequalities in our social-justice system by refusing to stand for the national anthem,” Harbaugh writes in Time as part of its recognition of him the magazine’s decision to name Kaepernick one of the 100 most influential persons in the word. “At times in our nation’s history, we have been all too quick to judge and oppose our fellow Americans for exercising their First Amendment right to address things they believe unjust.

“Rather than besmirch their character, we must celebrate their act. For we cannot pioneer and invent if we are fearful of deviating from the norm, damaging our public perception or — most important — harming our own personal interests.”

A belief that Kaepernick is currently being blackballed sneaks out from between the lines of the four-paragraph tribute.

“I thank Colin for all he has contributed to the game of football as an outstanding player and trusted teammate,” Harbaugh writes “I also applaud Colin for the courage he has demonstrated in exercising his guaranteed right of free speech. His willingness to take a position at personal cost is now part of our American story.

“How lucky for us all and for our country to have among our citizens someone as remarkable as Colin Kaepernick.”

Harbaugh’s current words carry a much different message than his remarks from last August, after Kaepernick began his protest.

“I acknowledge his right to do that, but I don’t respect the motivation or the action,” Harbaugh said on August 29, He later clarified those sentiments, but his support was still equivocal: “I apologize for misspeaking my true sentiments. To clarify, I support Colin’s motivation. It’s his method of action that I take exception to,” Harbaugh said via Twitter that same day.

Today, nearly eight months later, Harbaugh is all in. Unfortunately, none of his former NFL peers seem to be.

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Raiders pick up 2018 option on Khalil Mack’s contract

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The question heading into this offseason was never whether the Raiders would pick up their 2018 option on defensive end Khalil Mack’s contract or not.

Mack started on the path to being one of the best defensive players in the league shortly after joining the Raiders as a 2014 first-round pick and was voted the defensive player of the year for the 2016 season. That made it a no-brainer that the Raiders would exercise the option, something Peter Schrager of FOX Sports reports they officially took care of on Thursday.

The big questions around Mack’s status with the Raiders is when will he sign an extension that keeps him with the team well beyond the 2018 season and how big will that contract be given what Mack’s done as a professional.

The Raiders have said they plan to move onto contract extension talks after the draft. They don’t have an option on quarterback Derek Carr’s contract for 2018, however, and that may make his extension a more pressing matter in the short term.

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Cyrus Kouandjio found partially clothed, asked cops to shoot him

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Bills tackle Cyrus Kouandjio wasn’t at practice Thursday. And that’s the least interesting thing about his day.

According to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, Kouandjio was involved in a bizarre incident in which police found him partially clothed and asking police to shoot him.

According to the report, an Erie County Sheriff’s deputy found Kouandjio lying in a field after climbing over an electric fence. It was near the scene of an accident. A police source told the News that Kouandjio yelled, “Shoot me!” as police approached.

It sounds a little like Cardinals pass-rusher Chandler Jones turning up at a Massachusetts police station shirtless last spring, displaying erractic behavior.

“We are aware of the matter involving Cyrus and are carefully monitoring his condition and gathering more information,” the Bills said in a statement. “We don’t have all of the details, so we won’t have any further comment at this time.”

Kouandjio was not arrested, but he was taken to a nearby hospital for observation.

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Eli Manning on fraud allegations: I’ve done nothing wrong

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The Giants released a statement through their law firm last week saying that an email released by the attorney for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing Manning of passing along memorabilia fraudulently described as game-used was “taken out of context.”

Manning responded to the accusations himself on Thursday. The quarterback said that his track record speaks for itself and said that he was angry that people have “turned” on him because of the allegations leveled in the suit.

“I have never done what I’ve been accused of doing,” Manning said, via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. “I’m more angry than anything. I’ve done nothing wrong and I’m still being attacked.”

The Giants, their equipment manager and memorabilia dealers Steiner Sports have also been named as defendants in the lawsuit. Manning believes he will ultimately be exonerated of any wrongdoing, although there appears to be several steps to go in the legal process before that will happen.

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Cam Newton was trying to be a leader by playing hurt

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton seems to understand that he’d be better off this season if he had sat out the end of last season, knowing he’d need surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff.

But he said he felt an obligation to his teammates during a difficult 2016, which he still takes a measure of pride in finishing even though they fell well short of the playoffs.

“But at the end of the day, I felt as if there was another thing that was achieved,” Newton said, via Bill Voth of the team’s official website. “I wear the ‘C’ patch on my jersey with great pride, and I feel as if it comes around again, would I reconsider it? Yeah, but also knowing those guys that I’m going to give every single thing that I have to give for this game, for the fans, for my teammates, especially.”

Newton’s three weeks removed from surgery on his throwing shoulder, which he tried to delay and rehab his way around. But that delay also puts the start of training camp in some degree of jeopardy, since he won’t throw again until at least late June.

“Was it smart?” Newton said. “People may say it wasn’t, but at the end of the day, I think the bigger picture was I’m one of the leaders on this team.

“I just want to set a good standard that, listen, the team comes first and I’m just going to put myself in position to try to lead this team as much as possible.”

Of course, he won’t be leading them through the offseason program, when the team is trying to “evolve” an offense without its most important part. Whether that’s a smart thing or not will be determined when he eventually gets back on the field.

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Kirk Cousins: There are bigger challenges in NFL than my situation

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Quarterback Kirk Cousins received the franchise tag for the second straight year earlier this offseason and there have been plenty of people wondering whether he or the Redskins had much interest in striking a long-term deal that would tie their futures together.

That question has been complicated on the team’s end by the departure of General Manager Scot McCloughan and on Cousins’ side by speculation that he’d prefer to be traded to another club. Cousins said that isn’t true on a podcast with Peter King of TheMMQB.com because he’d be willing to commit to the team if they were willing to make a commitment to him.

He also added that not getting the deal isn’t a major problem for him, however, and said that he likes the feeling that he has to continue to prove himself. He also knows things could be a lot worse than making nearly $24 million for the coming season.

“There are far greater challenges in this league than the situation I’m in,” Cousins said. “I mean, there are guys getting cut, not knowing where they’re going to have move their families, not knowing where their next job’s going to be. That’s a much tougher situation than where I am. So I feel very fortunate and look forward to the opportunity that I have in Washington.”

The two sides have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal, but Cousins continues to sound like a player willing to bet on himself.

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Sean Payton testifies at Cardell Hayes’ sentencing

AP

Cardell Hayes was convicted of manslaughter in the death of former Saints defensive end Will Smith and attempted manslaughter in the shooting of Smith’s widow Raquel last December and he is expected to be sentenced for those crimes by the end of the week.

A sentencing hearing in New Orleans on Thursday saw Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras deny a defense motion for a new trial and victim-impact testimony about Smith from family, children he coached on his daughter’s basketball team and Saints coach Sean Payton. Payton praised Smith’s leadership and said he was going to join the team’s coaching staff last year before being killed in April.

“He was special,” Payton said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Rare. Not as a player, but as a man and a person and a teammate. I wanted more of this ‘special,’ and 2016 would have been his first year (coaching), this past year.”

Raquel Smith also testified and castigated Hayes for not owning up to what he did and for saying that Smith shot at him in the absence of any evidence that Smith fired a weapon during the altercation that led to his death.

Hayes faces 40 years on the manslaughter charge and 20 years for attempted manslaughter. Prosecutors are seeking the maximum 60 years and the hearing continues with defense witnesses on Thursday.

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Browns could trade up from No. 12 to draft Mitchell Trubisky

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The Browns have talked about trading down from the No. 1 overall pick, and about trading for a veteran quarterback. But what about trading up from their second first-round pick, No. 12 overall, to draft a quarterback?

According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, that’s a possibility, and the quarterback they’d be trading up for is North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky.

“We are open to it,” Browns G.M. Sashi Brown said, although he didn’t say whether Trubisky is the player they’d move up to draft.

So if the Browns’ dream scenario is to come out of the first round with both Myles Garrett and Trubisky, they could take Garrett first overall and then package some of their other picks with the No. 12 pick to move back into the Top 10 and get Trubisky. Doing that, however, would run counter to the Browns’ general strategy of accumulating more picks by trading down.

“Generally, we value picks,” Brown said. “We think no matter how prepared you are there is always a lot of uncertainty in the draft. Every team misses. We’re not going to be different in that regard. We like young talent. We’ve said the draft is going to be the pipeline. We don’t want to get into a habit of turning two picks into one, so to speak. We just don’t think that is a good way to do business over time.”

So if the Browns do trade up for Trubisky, that would be a departure from their strategy of accumulating picks. If they think Trubisky is a franchise quarterback, however, a departure from their strategy could be wise.

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Patriots explain difference between 2015 and 2017 White House photos

AP

The Patriots visited the White House on Wednesday, an event that generated plenty of photos. One specific photo has been compared to a specific photo from their last visit to D.C. to celebrate a Super Bowl win, because it seems to show a much smaller contingent for the trip to see President Donald Trump.

Not so, says the Patriots. The team has taken to Twitter to explain that the photos “lack context,” adding that, in 2015, more than 40 members of the team’s football staff were standing on stairs. This year, there were seated on the South Lawn.

It’s unclear whether the Patriots made this clarification on their own, or whether they were asked to do it. It’s possible that the topic will come up during Thursday’s press briefing from Sean Spicer.

On Thursday, Spicer won’t have Rob Gronkowski around to offer his help.

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