Report: Yannick Ngakoue still wants trade, has no plans to sign tag

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The Jaguars want Yannick Ngakoue on their 2020 roster. The defensive end wants a trade.

With two weeks until the deadline for franchise players to sign a long-term deal, that’s where the sides sit.

Nothing has changed with Ngakoue’s stance, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports, and Ngakoue has no immediate plans to sign the tag.

Ngakoue got into a Twitter spat with Tony Khan, the team’s senior vice president of football administration and technology, earlier this offseason.

The relationship between Ngakoue and the team turned sour last summer when the Jaguars offered him a deal that averaged $19 million annually. He sought $20 million annually and held out for 11 days in training camp before playing last season for $2.025 million.

The Jaguars placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Ngakoue, worth $17.8 million for 2020.

Report: NHL restart to happen in Toronto and Edmonton

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Rather than tempt fate by opening a sports league in the United States right now, the NHL is avoiding that problem altogether.

According to Bob McKenzie of TSN, the two hub cities for the NHL playoffs are will be Edmonton and Toronto.

Those locations are part of a larger CBA negotiation between the NHL and its players union, and a vote of players is expected later this week.

Early reports suggested that the NHL wanted one American city and one Canadian city to host the restart, with Las Vegas the presumptive favorite.

But COVID-19 rates in Nevada have spiked, making it less desirable as a destination than on the other side of the closed border. The U.S.- Canadian border has been restricted since March.

The NBA’s planned reopening in Orlando is scheduled for the end of this month, but Commissioner Adam Silver said he couldn’t guarantee the league would be able to finish its season.  MLS is also attempting to return in its own Orlando bubble, and six players from one team (FC Dallas) tested positive for COVID-19 today.

Harrison Butker: A ton of kickers can kick a 65-yard field goal, just need a chance

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Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker got some attention this offseason when he posted a video of himself kicking a 77-yard field goal on an empty practice field. In a game, however, Butker has never even come within 20 yards of that.

But Butker says that a 65-yard field goal is very doable. He said he and a lot of other NFL kickers can make one in game conditions from 65 yards or farther, as long as they’re given the opportunity.

“In terms of the NFL record, there are a ton of kickers that have the leg to make a field goal . . . in a game situation,” Butker said, via ESPN. “It’s just, does the coach want to put the kicker out there, because if he misses, now the other team gets the ball with great field position? So you kind of have to get set up with end-of-half, end-of-game situations. I don’t think we’ve had that situation where it would have been that long of a field goal. But I think definitely when it’s warm out, I’d be prepared to make that kick. I feel super comfortable kicking from distance. Obviously, we’re not going to be kicking field goals from [77 yards] most likely in a game, but it’s going to help me a lot when it’s a 55-yarder, wind’s in your face in January and February. That’s what I’m training for, to be able to make those kicks.”

The current NFL record of 64 yards was set by Matt Prater in Denver in 2013. Other kickers would surely be able to break that record, but many of them have never been given the opportunity to attempt a 65-yard field goal. And to paraphrase Michael Scott quoting Wayne Gretzky, you miss 100 percent of the field goals you don’t attempt.

A.J. Bouye: I didn’t know how to handle everything that went wrong in Jacksonville

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Cornerback A.J. Bouye joined the flood of veteran players who have left the Jaguars since the team’s AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots in January 2018 when he was traded to the Broncos this offseason and he said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that a ticket out of Jacksonville was “definitely something that I wanted.”

Bouye was asked during the interview what went wrong for the Jaguars after they came close to knocking off New England in that game and couldn’t point to one thing as the reason why they couldn’t sustain that success. He said it seemed that everything that “could happen” did happen, including players being driven by ego, a lack of innovation in the game plan and what he called “the Tom Coughlin thing” in reference to the former exec’s acrimonious relationship with some players.

“I just never was a part of something like that,” Bouye said. “Being in Houston before that and even seeing how the guys in Denver just gelling together with the chemistry between the players and the coaches. It was just something different and I didn’t know how to handle that. . . . It was so many things. From fighting in the locker room and disagreements to people wanting to be gone, I’ve just never seen that before.”

Bouye no longer has to worry about why things went off the rails with the Jaguars and can devote his attention to trying to get the Broncos on track after three straight losing seasons.

Packers sign AJ Dillon

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The Packers got another rookie under contract, a guy who should create some interesting competition.

Running back A.J. Dillon just tweeted out a photo of himself signing his rookie deal with the Packers.

The second-rounder from Boston College ran for 1,685 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, capping a three-year college career in which he 4,382 yards and 38 touchdowns.

The Packers have a very good back in Aaron Jones, who scored 19 touchdowns last year, making Dillon’s arrival a lesser version of taking quarterback Jordan Love in the first round.

Largest video display in NFL is complete

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SoFi Stadium announced on Wednesday that the largest videoboard in all of sports has been completed.

It consists of 70,000 square feet and it stretches for more than 120 yards.  It weighs 2.2 million pounds, and it has more than 260 speakers embedded in it. The wattage can power 1,500 home theater systems.

And the reality is that most fans will likely be seeing it from home, not in person.

That’s the obvious irony of the boast from the new Rams/Chargers venue regarding the video display. The way things are going, no one will be there to see it at all in 2020. At this point, all we can reasonably hope for (given the current path of the pandemic) is that the players will be there to see it.

Randy Moss on Cam Newton: We’ll see how fun Patriots offense can be

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Cam Newton isn’t the first big-name player to join the Patriots during Bill Belichick’s run with the organization and one of the other names on that list is looking forward to seeing the quarterback hit the field with his new team.

Randy Moss spent three-plus seasons playing in New England and he posted 50 touchdowns during his time with the team, so there were no shortage of good times while he was there. Many of those touchdowns were thrown by Tom Brady and his long run in the lineup meant that the team didn’t adopt some of the offensive trends that have moved through the league in recent years.

During an appearance on ESPN, Moss suggested that is going to change with Newton in New England and predicted the result will be enjoyable.

“I think we are getting ready to really see how fun that offense can really be,” Moss. “Not discrediting anything Tom accomplished, because he accomplished some great things, but I think being able to have a guy like Cam Newton that can run the ball, they are able to spread guys out, and then being able to be that viable threat in the passing game that he can just tuck the ball and run. I just think that what we’ve seen coming out of New England for the past, let’s say 20 years, there is going to be a change in New England.”

While Moss is optimistic about Newton and the Patriots, he also sees one question mark about Newton’s chances of success. His career completion percentage of 59.6 is lower than any season of Brady’s seasons as the starter for the Patriots. Moss thinks the team is set for a “possible Super Bowl run” if Newton can up his accuracy and that kind of team success has been the true measuring stick for fun in New England.

Tony Dungy on Washington: “It’s not hard to change the name”

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Washington coach Ron Rivera believes that now isn’t the time to discuss whether the team’s name should change. Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy believes that time already has come and gone; Dungy tells William C. Rhoden of ESPN.com’s The Undefeated that Dungy already has stopped using the name on the air.

“It’s not hard to change the name,” Dungy told Rhoden. “When I’m on the air, I try to just refer to them as Washington. I think it’s appropriate. If the team doesn’t want to change, the least I can do is try not to use it.”

Appearing on 670 The Score in Chicago earlier this week, Rivera defended the name in part by saying that the name was always the name when he was growing up, and it’s simply what the name is and has been for decades.

Dungy, who is older than Rivera and has been in and around football longer than him, isn’t swayed by that thinking.

“You can say, ‘This has been a historic name and we’ve used it for this team for X number of years, but in this day and age, it’s offensive to some people, so we’re going to change it,'” Dungy told Rhoden. “I don’t think that’s hard.”

It’s not hard. Especially not now. Beyond being the right thing to do in this moment of racial reckoning and awakening, a new name could energize the team and attract new fans. To the extent that some fans would disavow the franchise if it dares to abandon a dictionary-defined slur as its primary method of identification, are those really fans that any franchise should want?

Yes, Cam Newton will still celebrate like Cam Newton in New England

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Playing for the Patriots typically means leaving a significant chunk of a person’s individuality at the door. Which has raised the question of whether Cam Newton will still be Cam Newton while playing for Bill Belichick.

There surely will be an adjustment, like there is for anyone who previously didn’t play for the Patriots and now does. But it won’t be nearly as extreme as some have suggested.

Consider this clip from Felger & Mazz on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, as harvested and posted by the @BackAftaThis Twitter account. The hosts debate whether Cam will continue his Superman celebration in New England, with Michael Felger speaking disapprovingly of the gesture and suggesting that Bill Belichick won’t allow it.

For starters, Belichick allows it. Look at this compilation of Patriots celebrations. Newton has a trademark first-down celebration, his Superman touchdown gesture, and a habit of finding a child in the stands to whom to give the football. None of that is problematic or objectionable or in any way contrary to the Patriot Way.

“No Superman,” Felger nevertheless said. “I don’t wanna see Superman. Bill doesn’t wanna see Superman. He doesn’t want you taunting the opponent like that.”

Click here. It will take you to the spot in the Patriots celebration compilation where Tom Brady throws a touchdown pass to Mike Vrabel in Super Bowl XLIX against the Eagles — and Vrabel taunts the Eagles by flapping his arms like they were wings. (Safety Rodney Harrison did the same thing after icing the game with an interception.)

Rich Eisen of NFL Network pulled no punches in responding to the argument that Belichick won’t tolerate the “celebrating and showboating” of Cam Newton.

“This is absurd,” Eisen tweeted. “Cam is an absolute delight. He gives footballs to delighted children when he scores. Way to cement the stereotype that Boston sports fans are only happy when they’re unhappy.”

So, yes, Cam will still be Cam on the football field. He’ll pause before smiling and dramatically pointing with both hands after gaining a first down. He’ll pretend to rip open his shirt to reveal an “S” under it when scoring a touchdown. He’ll find a child in the stands to whom he’ll give the ball. And Belichick won’t have an issue with any of it.

Giants Super Bowl ring heist masterminded by Patriots fan

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In June of 2008, a jewelry store in Attleboro, Massachusetts, was burglarized, and millions of dollars worth of jewelry was stolen — including Super Bowl rings for the Giants, who had beaten the Patriots four months earlier and chose a Massachusetts jeweler to make their rings. It was a professional operation that involved destroying the store’s alarm, cutting a hole in the roof, and making off with a safe that weighed 1,000 pounds.

“Whoever did this knew what they were doing,” the police captain investigating said at the time.

It turned out that the thief did know what he was doing — and knew that he was going to a jewelry store to take the rings from the team that had beaten his own favorite team.

The thief, Sean Murphy, was a Patriots fan who first learned about the location of the Giants’ Super Bowl rings when perusing sports news online that offseason. A long article about Murphy at Bloomberg.com reveals that he was angered by the Giants’ shocking Super Bowl win, which included the Eli Manning-to-David Tyree pass that was one of the greatest plays in NFL history — or in the mind of Murphy, one of the luckiest plays in NFL history.

“They don’t deserve them,” Murphy thought of the Giants’ rings, according to Bloomberg.

Although Murphy’s burglary was well-planned and successful, he had less success figuring out what to do with the rings after the burglary. You can’t exactly go around advertising that you have stolen Super Bowl rings for sale, so he held onto the rings, eventually gave one as a gift, and it wasn’t long after that until the authorities tracked him down. He’s been behind bars since, both for the jewelry heist and a burglary at a Brinks armored car depot, but only recently told his story publicly, saying he’s hoping to sell his story for a movie. It’s certainly quite a tale.

Ivy League will announce its fall sports decision next Wednesday

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The Ivy League has announced that an announcement is coming.

“With return to campus protocols still being developed and introduced by Ive League institutions, the council of Ivy League presidents intends to announce a final decision regarding the status of intercollegiate athletic activity for the fall term 2020 on July 8,” the conference announced via Twitter. “That decision will be communicated first to Ivy League directors of athletics, coaches, and student-athletes, followed by the wider Ivy League campus community, media, alumni, and the public.”

SI.com recently reported that the Ivy League currently is considering a seven-game, conference-opponents-only approach for the fall, or a postponement of the seven-game season to the spring.

The fact that the decision has been characterized as “final” seems ominous, because the only decision that truly would be final would be to cancel the football season altogether, with no postponement or alteration of it.

The Ivy League doesn’t generate the same kind of revenue that the Power Five conferences realize. But the schools produce a fair amount of NFL talent, with long-time quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick being the most notable Ivy Leaguer currently in the NFL.

Regardless, all college football programs are getting closer and closer to the point where some big decisions need to be made, as is the NFL.

Steven Sims wants to be another Steve Smith for Ron Rivera

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When wide receiver Steven Sims heard that Ron Rivera was hired as Washington’s next head coach, he reached out to his agent for some information about the former Panthers head coach.

Sims is listed at 5-10 and 176 pounds and he told Sam Fortier of the Washington Post that his agent told him that Steve Smith was the “only small receiver” that Rivera ever had in Carolina. While that’s not entirely true, Smith was certainly the most prominent and Sims said learning that “was more motivation than I ever needed.”

“It wasn’t a bad talk,” Sims said. “It was right after we signed [Cody] Latimer, right after the draft. It was like, “[Rivera] brought in bigger bodies. I was like, ‘Okay, that’s what he likes.’ I’m not saying I’m on the cut block. I’m just saying: ‘Be different. Be another Steve Smith.’ He started off the same guy. They only thought he was going to be a returner, and he’s a [potential] Hall of Famer. . . . He was a small guy who played big. He wasn’t going to limit himself to being 5-9.”

Smith played sparingly on offense during his rookie season and Sims spent most of the 2019 campaign as a returner who rarely got on the field as a wideout. He closed the year with 23 catches and four touchdowns in his final five games, however, and the rapport he’s built with last year’s roommate Dwayne Haskins could help him use that as a springboard to better things in his second NFL season.

Adam Silver won’t guarantee that NBA season will be concluded

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The NFL has been waiting and waiting and waiting (and waiting) to see how other sports operate in a pandemic. Meanwhile, none of the other major American sports have returned to play.

On Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver declined to guarantee that his league will successfully complete its 2019-20 season via the “bubble” approach in Orlando.

[It’s] never ‘full steam no matter what,'” Silver said during a TIME100 Talks discussion. “One thing we’re learning about this virus is that much is unpredictable.”

Nine days ago, as positive coronavirus cases spiked in Florida, Silver reportedly was “resolute but somber” when discussing the ability of the NBA to accomplish its Orlando objective.

Silver added that, even if the season resumes in the Orlando bubble, a “significant spread” of the virus at the Disney World complex could spark cancellation of the balance of the season.

Silver also was asked to identify what would qualify as a “significant spread.”

“Honestly,” Silver said. “I’m not sure,. We have a panel of scientists, doctors, experts that are working with us. We’re going to see as we go. . . . Certainly, if we have a lot of cases, we’re going to stop. You cannot run from this virus. I am absolutely convinced that it will be safer on this campus than off this campus, because there aren’t many other situations I’m aware of where there’s mass testing of asymptomatic employees. So in some ways this is maybe a model for how other industries ultimately open.”

We’re going to see as we go. Get used to that vibe, because it feels like that’s exactly what the NFL is doing. Which means that the specter of an abruptly pulled plug will hover over football season from this moment through the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl.

NFLPA president: Every answer leads to “three more questions”

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The NFL and NFLPA continue to talk about how to open camps safely, but one of the problems they’re having is that the targets keep moving.

Trying to plan around a virus that’s spreading at record levels in large swaths of the country makes things difficult, and that’s one of the problems the league and union are having at the moment.

“There are a lot of questions unanswered, and even when you do come up with an answer, it brings up three more questions,” NFLPA president JC Tretter said, via Mike Jones of USA Today. “It’s kind of constantly trying to plug the holes, and you’re just trying to stay afloat.”

That reality makes progress on a plan difficult, with the clock ticking toward the scheduled July 28 opening of training camps.

According to Jones’ report, the goal is to have agreement on important issues sometime late next week (specifically mentioning between July 8-10), to give players time to make travels arrangements to return to work.

“The NFLPA and NFL are in the same exact place, where we want whatever makes for the safest possible environments for all our constituents, whether they be players, coaches, trainers, medical staff — anyone in that team environment,” NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said last week. “We’re going to work very hard together to educate everyone about the steps that we feel collectively are the most effective in reducing risks for everyone.”

Coming up with those steps is the current challenge, but the bigger one is recognizing any plans will have to be flexible, and subject to change throughout the season.

Can NFL pull it off in 2020? Bill Cowher says, “I don’t know”

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NBC analyst Rodney Harrison expressed concern on Tuesday regarding the ability of the NFL to play a season in a pandemic. CBS analyst Bill Cowher has similar misgivings.

“I mean, there’s so much anxiety and worry about what’s next, to do the right thing because it varies from state to state,” Cowher told Ed Bouchette of TheAthletic.com. “Testing will be everything, making sure the fans feel comfortable and safe; more importantly, the players. Even if it doesn’t involve fans, maybe what we can do is be able to still see it on TV. But testing will come down to being everything as it comes to playing a season this year.”

Cowher also told Bouchette that Cowher and his wife had COVID-19 earlier this year, following a trip to Honolulu and a March 12 return flight through the Newark airport. Symptomatic but not diagnosed with it at the time, they tested positive for the antibodies in April.

Nearly four months later, the nationwide situation doesn’t seem much better. So can the NFL pull off the 2020 season?

“I don’t know,” Cowher told Bouchette. “No. 1, the players have to feel comfortable with whatever they come up with from a testing standpoint, from a protocol standpoint. I totally understand the reluctance. Even though they say young people aren’t getting it, you also have people who have asthma, people who have underlying conditions in their families — they’re going back to their homes with parents who may now be elderly. It’s not like you can isolate yourself from everybody, particularly during a season that’s five months long. . . . I still think we have a long way to go. It’s going to come down to the league and the NFLPA feeling comfortable moving forward, and even within that, if they come up with a set of guidelines, and now a player who doesn’t feel comfortable, he may not want to be part of it. It affects people differently not only from a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint. . . . I think we have to respect that.”

Rodney addressed the mental standpoint on Tuesday. At a time when players should have laser focus on football, they’ll be thinking about whether the guy next to them in the locker room or across from them on the field have the virus. Given the extent to which coaches pride themselves on avoiding “distractions,” this is the ultimate distraction.

“Again, if somebody tests positive, who’s to say another player says, ‘I don’t want to go out there and play because, you know what, I don’t want to subject myself to it,'” Cowher told Bouchette. “What do you say to that player, that you have to go out there and play?”

That’s another issue for which the league will need to plan, not make it up as they go. Players shouldn’t be expected to make a final and binding opt-in-or-opt-out decision before training camp begins. Instead, they should have the ability to yell “stop the ride” whenever they decide that they’re no longer comfortable with the risks to themselves, or to their families.