Report: Team personnel ‘angry’ with Roger Goodell over NFL Draft

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of the NFL Draft has become a source of controversy within the NFL.

Goodell is pushing ahead with a virtual draft on the scheduled dates of April 23-25. This comes despite many teams wanting to see the event postponed. Perhaps worse, Goodell has threatened disciplinary action against anyone who publicly criticizes his decision not to postpone the draft.

That last act has particularly infuriated team personnel, according to Peter King in his “Football Morning in America” column. King says personnel are “angry” with Goodell for both the decision to go ahead with the draft, as well as his public censorship of dissent.

“Why on earth would you ever threaten an opinion?” one prominent NFL individual texted King.

Teams have voiced their opinion privately about the status of the draft. There is frustration that teams cannot scout and interview prospects due to travel restrictions. Those restrictions are in place for a good reason, but that may be more reason to just postpone the event. That won’t be happening, and there isn’t anything these personnel can do about it.

 

Report: Multiple teams prefer Justin Herbert to Tua Tagovailoa

Some NFL teams definitely appear to harbor continued doubts about the health of Tua Tagovailoa.

According to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, multiple teams have Justin Herbert higher on their draft board than Tagovailoa. This is largely down to Tagovailoa’s health as he recovers from hip surgery. NFL teams are hesitant to trust third party doctors when they cannot look at Tagovailoa themselves. This is in contrast to Herbert, who has no such injury concerns.

This goes along with reporting that indicates that NFL teams are looking at Tagovailoa as an increased gamble due to the lack of direct access to him during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s not his fault, and it would probably be different in a normal draft process. It’s up to teams to figure out if Tagovailoa is worth the risk. For what it’s worth, some teams are probably more convinced than others about Tagovailoa’s recovery.

 

Bucs GM: Tom Brady has not lost arm strength, can still throw it deep

Tom Brady may have to throw more deep balls in 2020 than he has thrown in any other season of his NFL career, and it’s not unreasonable to view that as a potential problem for a quarterback who will turn 43 in August. That is obviously something the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked into, and they don’t sound the least bit concerned.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht said on ESPN’s “Get Up!” Monday morning that the team does not believe Brady’s arm strength has diminished based on the quarterback’s tape from last season.

“We felt that he had the ideal arm for Bruce and his system. He can still throw it deep,” Licht said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “We felt the mobility was still the same as he’s always had, which he’s never been able to out-run anybody but he’s good in the pocket in terms of eluding pressure with his poise and his instincts. We did not see a decline in his arm talent whatsoever and in fact we felt like he could play for over two years for us. Hopefully, that’s the case.”

The system Brady helped created in New England is one that emphasizes getting the ball out quickly and throwing a ton of short routes. Arians has typically coached with a much different style, as his quarterbacks utilize a lot of deep dropbacks and throws down the field. Brady’s arm strength may be put to the test more than ever in Tampa Bay, so time will tell if he’s still able to deliver the ball accurately downfield.

Of course, Arians has already said the Bucs’ offense next season will likely be a combination of the coach’s philosophies and what Brady is comfortable with. We shouldn’t expect to see Brady slinging the ball deep the way Jameis Winston and Ben Roethlisberger did while playing under Arians.

 

Report: Dak Prescott contract talks deadlocked over guaranteed money, length

The Dallas Cowboys are trying to get a long-term deal done with quarterback Dak Prescott, but there are a few key issues yet to iron out.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, there are two main issues holding up a Prescott deal right now. The first is guaranteed money, specifically how much Prescott will get in the first two years of the deal. The bigger issue is contract length. The Cowboys like to give out long-term deals, but Prescott wants a shorter contract so he can take advantage of a widely anticipated rise in the salary cap in the coming years.

The two sides are talking, and it appears that both sides are confident something will ultimately get done. There is also no rush to agree a new deal. Basically, while everyone is optimistic, there’s a lot to work out before Prescott commits his immediate future to Dallas.

 

Eric Reid seeks to invalidate new NFL CBA

The new NFL collective bargaining agreement may be facing a legal challenge already.

Free agent safety Eric Reid has enlisted lawyer Mark Geragos to try to invalidate the new CBA. In a letter to the NFLPA, Reid’s lawyer alleges that the version voted on by the players had different language than the one posted on the NFLPA’s website after passage.

The letter is correct that there is a difference in wording in the section about the league’s disability plan. It’s not clear why that is the case.

Reid was one of many players opposed to the CBA in the first place. His requested remedies — invalidation or a new vote — both seem unlikely, but that language certainly should be clarified.

 

Report: ESPN has massive open offer to Drew Brees for ‘Monday Night Football’

ESPN is desperate to make a major addition to its “Monday Night Football” broadcast, but there appear to be no options remaining for the 2020 season. As a result, the network is shifting its focus further down the road. How far down the road may depend upon how much longer Drew Brees intends to play.

Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage reported on Sunday that ESPN has made an eight-figure offer to Brees to make him the lead analyst for “Monday Night Football.” ESPN is said to be willing to strike an agreement now with Brees that would assure his spot in the booth when he is done playing. Network executives hope such an arrangement would allow them to avoid a potential bidding war with NBC, which might also be interested in Brees.

Brees recently signed a new two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, though it is unclear if he plans to play in 2021. ESPN could probably stick with Booger McFarland and Joe Tessitore for another season, but the network seems intent on replacing the duo. If Brees is going to play two more seasons, that would complicate ESPN’s plan.

ESPN tried to lure Tony Romo away from CBS before the former Dallas Cowboys star signed an extension, and they also made a mammoth offer to Peyton Manning. The fact that they are trying to strike a deal with Brees when he is still playing in the NFL says a lot about how their search has gone.

 

Bengals owner Mike Brown met with Joe Burrow for combine interview

Mike Brown apparently is trying to make his best impression on Joe Burrow to make sure his future franchise quarterback is satisfied.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that the Cincinnati Bengals owner met with Burrow at the NFL Scouting Combine. Rapoport says that is not unusual, but Brown’s aim was to address any concern Burrow may have had about playing for the Bengals.

“Brown wanted to be the one to address any concerns that Burrow may have had. He wanted to be the one to talk to the top prospect, lay everything out, and make sure Burrow had all the information to make whatever decision would be necessary,” Rapoport said.

Rapoport also noted that the Bengals then uncharacteristically spent money in free agency. They paid players like D.J. Reader, Trae Wayans, and Xavier Su’a-Filo.

There was some chatter in February that Burrow could pull an “Eli Manning” and refuse to play for the Bengals. But it seems like the two sides got on the same page. All in all, Burrow’s interview with the Bengals was said to have gone well.

Burrow is expected to become the No. 1 pick in the draft, which will be held April 23-25.

 

THE FIVE MOST IMPROVED TEAMS OF THE NFL OFF-SEASON

  1. Arizona Cardinals

Notable additions: WR DeAndre Hopkins (trade), DT Jordan Phillips, OLB Devon Kennard, OLB De’Vondre Campbell, DT Trevon Coley

Notable losses: RB David Johnson (trade), DE Rodney Gunter, ILB Joe Walker

The Cardinals may have gone 5-10-1 last season, but they appear to have a franchise quarterback in Kyler Murray and a decent coach in Kliff Kingsbury. They now have one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL, thanks to what can only be described as a mental lapse by Houston Texans head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien. DeAndre Hopkins was shipped to the Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a second-round pick and what was basically a swap of fourth-round picks. Johnson’s contract was burdensome for the Cardinals as well, so the fact that they rid themselves of that while picking up a true No. 1 wideout is absolutely incredible. The Cardinals also retained several offensive linemen and signed linebackers Devon Kennard and De’Vondre Campbell. They have some more work to do on defense, but the Cardinals could surprise some people this season. The Hopkins trade alone makes them a winner this offseason no matter how the draft goes.

 

  1. Miami Dolphins

Notable additions: CB Byron Jones, LB Kyle Van Noy, DE Shaq Lawson, RB Jordan Howard, LB Elandon Roberts, OL Ereck Flowers

Notable losses: None.

The Dolphins entered the offseason with more money than any other team, and they haven’t been shy when it comes to spending it. They have made several big moves, including making Byron Jones the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. They also made some underrated signings such as Ted Karras, Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah and Kyle Van Noy. While I probably wouldn’t pay Ereck Flowers $10 million per year, he proved he’s a starting guard while with the Washington Redskins last season. Miami has room to overpay for certain players if it truly feels they are worth it. Depending on what the Dolphins do at the quarterback position, they could experience a quick turnaround in 2020.

 

  1. Buffalo Bills

Notable additions: WR Stefon Diggs (trade), DE Mario Addison, LB A.J. Klein, DE Vernon Butler, DE Quinton Jefferson

Notable losses: DE Shaq Lawson, DT Jordan Phillips, LB Lorenzo Alexander

Most people are going to remember the Bills’ 2019 campaign as the one where they choked in the AFC wild-card game, but that’s not fair. They improved in every way, had one of the best defenses in the NFL and went 10-6. They appear to be a team on the upswing, and they have already taken advantage of the offseason early on. The Bills traded for former Minnesota Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs — which gives quarterback Josh Allen a true No. 1 wideout for the first time in his career. The Bills’ defense also got better, as they made additions such as Quinton Jefferson, Vernon Butler and Mario Addison to the defensive front. This roster really doesn’t have any glaring holes, and they should be the favorite to win the AFC East with Brady now out of the division.

 

  1. New Orleans Saints

Notable additions: WR Emmanuel Sanders, S Malcolm Jenkins

Notable losses: QB Teddy Bridgewater, WR Ted Ginn Jr., LB A.J. Klein, CB Eli Apple, S Vonn Bell

The Saints are all-in when it comes to 2020. They felt like they had the team to go all the way last year before they were upset at home by the Vikings — just the latest of the many postseason woes Saints fans have experienced recently. They got Drew Brees back for another go and signed an important weapon in Emmanuel Sanders. With the San Francisco 49ers, the 33-year-old experienced somewhat of a rebirth. In 10 regular-season games, Sanders caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns. Sanders helped bolster the 49ers’ offense, as San Francisco made it all the way to Super Bowl LIV, where they fell to the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-20. The addition of Sanders should take some pressure off Michael Thomas, who broke Marvin Harrison’s record for the most receptions in a single season in 2019. Brees orchestrated the seventh-best passing offense in the NFL last year, and this unit should take another step forward with this addition. On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints may have lost Vonn Bell, but they gained Malcolm Jenkins and re-signed D.J. Swearinger. That gives New Orleans two experienced and talented safeties who are capable of captaining a defense. The Saints got better this offseason — not that they needed to. Now it just comes down to executing in the postseason.

 

  1. Los Angeles Chargers

Notable additions: CB Chris Harris, OT Bryan Bulaga, DT Linval Joseph, LB Nick Vigil, RG Trai Turner (trade)

Notable losses: QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, FB Derek Watt, S Adrian Phillips, LB Thomas Davis, WR Travis Benjamin

After a disappointing 5-11 campaign, the Chargers made the decision to move on from quarterback Philip Rivers. While that will be the headline this offseason, the Chargers have actually made some important moves that could put them in contention in 2020. They re-signed dual-threat running back Austin Ekeler, let Melvin Gordon walk, franchise tagged Hunter Henry and made some important defensive additions such as Linval Joseph and Chris Harris Jr. The Chargers’ 2019 campaign was derailed due to injuries, so you should expect them to improve in 2020. Like everyone else, I do wonder if Anthony Lynn truly wants to roll with Tyrod Taylor under center next season, but either way, this defense will be able to support whoever is playing quarterback for the Chargers next year.

 

FIVE TEAMS THAT COULD TRADE UP IN THE NFL DRAFT

Miami Dolphins

First-round picks: No. 5, No. 18 and No. 26

Potential target: Quarterback

Miami was very active in free agency. Fans should not be surprised if that philosophy carries over into the draft. The Dolphins have 14 picks and there is no chance that they make all of them. From the beginning, the Dolphins have been linked to a quarterback early in the first round. Oregon’s Justin Herbert or Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa could be targets in that scenario. If they hold tight, look for Miami to make another move or two in the first round to secure an offensive tackle or two of its choosing. The Dolphins could also be a destination for one of the falling defensive talents, should there be a run on offensive tackles and quarterbacks in the top 10. The franchise has needs across the board, but quarterback and offensive tackle need to be addressed significantly.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

First-round picks: No. 9 and No. 20

Potential target(s): Defensive tackle and offensive tackle

Jacksonville has two picks in the first round after parting with star cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Jaguars acquired additional draft capital in trades involving veterans A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell. All of those transactions add up to a treasure chest of 12 picks. With picks early and in the middle of the first round, the Jaguars could be power brokers as they look to repair some of the potholes on their roster.

Defensive tackle and offensive tackle make a lot of sense. An imposing interior defensive lineman would free up Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen to make plays on the edge. The idea of the AFC South franchise selecting a quarterback should not be ruled out either.

 

Minnesota Vikings

First-round picks: No. 22 and No. 25

Potential target(s): Cornerback and wide receiver

Minnesota has lost most of its secondary to free agency. The Vikings need to address those positions heavily. After trading Stefon Diggs, they need another wide receiver or two to share the burden left upon Adam Thielen. Edge rusher, linebacker and the offensive line are also needs. The Vikings have oddly created several problem areas, so stashing their 12 picks might be in their best interest.

If Rick Spielman chooses, he can take a couple of pretty good players in the latter half of the first round, or he could become aggressive and move up in an effort to land a better prospect.

 

New England Patriots

First-round pick: No. 23

Potential target: Quarterback

New England is publicly pushing the narrative that it’s satisfied with Jarrett Stidham as the franchise’s next quarterback. But if Bill Belichick was not sold on Stidham, would he say that publicly? The answer is no. He needs Stidham and the rest of the NFL to believe that he can win with the second year player out of Auburn. It allows the head coach to make some moves in the night, whether that be for Cam Newton or securing another QB in the first round. The Patriots own 12 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. They have plenty of current and future assets to make a move up if they desire.

 

Green Bay Packers

First-round pick: No. 30

Potential target(s): Wide receiver or linebacker

Green Bay has not selected a wide receiver in the first round since 2002. The franchise has traditionally not valued the position that early. However, the Packers were also known to be really conservative in free agency until this past year as well. It is a new regime, which means new tendencies. Aaron Rodgers is quickly approaching the end of his storied NFL career and the Packers need to make a play to surround him with weapons right now. They have 10 picks over the course of those three days. Do not be surprised if they make a move for a wide receiver.

Other teams that make sense in a trade-up scenario:

Los Angeles Chargers

First-round pick: No. 6

Potential target: Quarterback

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

First-round pick: No. 14

Potential target: Offensive tackle

 

Dallas Cowboys

First-round pick: No. 17

Potential target: Cornerback

 

Philadelphia Eagles

First-round pick: No. 21

Potential target: Wide receiver

 

Baltimore Ravens

First-round pick: No. 28

Potential target(s): Wide receiver or linebacker

 

NFL MOCK DRAFT 5.0

  1. Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow | QB | LSU

Despite rumors to the contrary, this has been set in stone for quite a while. Burrow won’t make trouble about playing in Cincy, and the Bengals finally get the franchise quarterback they so desperately need.

 

  1. Washington Redskins

Chase Young | EDGE | Ohio State

This is another no-brainer pick. Unless Washington gets a huge offer from a QB-needy team trying to jump ahead of everyone else on the board, this has to be the selection. Young is the best overall prospect in this year’s class, which makes him a steal anywhere else but No. 1 overall.

 

  1. Detroit Lions

Jeff Okudah | CB | Ohio State

I’m betting the Lions would love to move down from this spot, and they’re sure to have plenty of willing trade partners with some talented QB prospects on the board. If not, though, expect them to replace the recently traded Darius Slay with Okuda, this year’s best corner prospect by far.

 

  1. New York Giants

Tristan Wirfs | OT | Iowa

Any of this year’s top four offensive tackle prospects could make a strong case to go here, which is good news for the Giants, who need a franchise player at the position. Wirfs is a rare athlete for his size, and has as much upside as any other tackle in the class. He’s ready to protect Daniel Jones from Day 1.

 

  1. Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa | QB | Alabama

It’s highly likely that the Dolphins will need to move up to get Tagovailoa on draft day, but in this scenario, they’re able to land him without moving up. Yes, there will be durability concerns, but Tagovailoa’s recovery appears to be ahead of schedule. At full strength, he would easily be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick.

 

  1. Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert | QB | Oregon

Landing a franchise quarterback without having to trade up would be an ideal outcome for the Chargers, who let Philip Rivers walk and will be comfortable with Tyrod Taylor as their bridge. That said, Herbert is polished and experienced enough to take over sooner than later.

 

  1. Carolina Panthers

Isaiah Simmons | LB | Clemson

The retirement of Luke Kuechly took the NFL world by surprise, and left the Panthers with a gaping hole in their defense that they weren’t planning on having to address this offseason. While a presence like Kuechly is not easily replaced, landing a rare athlete and playmaker like Simmons to help fill the void is far from the worst possible outcome. No matter where Simmons lines up at the next level, he’s going to be a game-wrecker.

 

  1. Arizona Cardinals

Jedrick Wills | OT | Alabama

After trading for DeAndre Hopkins, the Cards aren’t likely to spend a top-10 pick on another pass-catcher, no matter how much Kyler Murray might like to throw to CeeDee Lamb again. Instead, the Cards opt to improve the protection for their young quarterback. With D.J. Humphries back, Wills slides in as the immediate starter at right tackle.

 

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Derrick Brown | DL | Auburn

I’m sure Jags fans are sick of their team spending first-round picks on defensive linemen, but considering they can’t seem to retain their best veterans, they have to keep reloading. Yannick Ngakoue seems to be headed elsewhere, so it’s a good thing they took Josh Allen last year. Marcell Dareus won’t be back to help a dismal rush defense, so that’s where Brown comes in. A rare athlete for his size, Brown is a dominant force who can wreck opposing offenses all by himself.

 

  1. Cleveland Browns

Mekhi Becton | OT | Louisville

The Browns are in a perfect spot to address their biggest need and get ideal value at this spot. Any of the top four offensive tackle prospects would be a fantastic pick for Cleveland, and it’s Wills in this scenario, a player who could easily be a top-five pick. Becton’s arrival would allow the newly signed Jack Conklin to stay at his comfortable right tackle spot.

 

  1. New York Jets

Jerry Jeudy | WR | Alabama

This is a good problem to have for the Jets, who need both a franchise left tackle and a No. 1 receiver, both of which would be huge helps for Sam Darnold. Yes, the WR class is deeper, but the Jets might prefer getting to pick the best of the bunch at that position instead of taking the fourth-best offensive tackle. Jeudy is the most polished and pro-ready pass-catcher in this year’s loaded class.

 

  1. Las Vegas Raiders

CeeDee Lamb | WR | Oklahoma

Derek Carr and the Raiders desperately need a true No. 1 receiver after the Antonio Brown debacle blew up in their faces. While a strong case could be made for Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III, Lamb is a more complete prospect with a bigger frame, so he gets the edge here.

 

  1. San Francisco 49ers (from IND)

Henry Ruggs III | WR | Alabama

George Kittle is Jimmy Garoppolo’s No. 1 target, but the 49ers need to give him an elite wide receiver prospect to balance out the target share. Ruggs is a dangerous weapon who can stretch the field vertically and after the catch, capable of turning every touch into a huge play. The 49ers made a big trade for this pick, and they need someone who can make an immediate impact.

 

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Andrew Thomas | OT | Georgia

Tampa Bay desperately needs a starting-caliber tackle at this pick, which means they may get nervous and have to move up to make sure they land one of the top four. Thankfully in this scenario, that doesn’t prove necessary. Thomas is talented enough to not only start at right tackle immediately, but could even push longtime starter Donovan Smith at left tackle.

 

  1. Denver Broncos

Javon Kinlaw | DL | South Carolina

The early run on the top receivers hurts the Broncos, who would have to move up if they want to land an explosive pass-catcher to pair with Courtland Sutton. Instead, they switch gears and go defense, taking one of this year’s most dominant and versatile interior linemen. Kinlaw backed up strong film with a dominant performance in Senior Bowl practices.

 

  1. Atlanta Falcons

K’Lavon Chaisson | EDGE | LSU

This entire defensive front needs help in a bad way, outside of Grady Jarrett. In this scenario, the value is better on the edge than along the interior, and Chaisson is the best fit. He’s got size, length and athleticism, and can handle all three phases of playing on the edge.

 

  1. Dallas Cowboys

CJ Henderson | CB | Florida

After letting Byron Jones walk in free agency, the Cowboys need to find themselves a corner who can fill his shoes. While that’s a tall task, Henderson has all the physical tools to quickly develop into that kind of player. His experience going up against top talent in the SEC on a weekly basis has Henderson ready to make an immediate impact.

 

  1. Miami Dolphins (from PIT)

Josh Jones | OT | Houston

After getting their franchise quarterback earlier, the Dolphins now turn their attention to protecting their investment. There are already four offensive tackles off the board, but while this may seem like a reach, Jones has loads of potential. His impressive week at the Senior Bowl against top competition is proof of his limitless upside.

 

  1. Las Vegas Raiders (from CHI)

Kenneth Murray | LB | Oklahoma

The Raiders got the perfect pick for their offense at No. 12 overall, and here, they get the exact same thing for their defense. This unit desperately needs a difference-maker at the heart of the action, and Murray has both the physical traits to be that three-down playmaker, and the leadership ability to transform the identity of the entire defense. He’ll make an instant impact, and the Raiders leave the first round with a cornerstone player on each side of the ball.

 

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR)

Kristian Fulton | CB | LSU

In just a couple of years, the Jags have gone from having one of the league’s most promising corner tandems to trading away both Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. With two first-round picks in this year’s draft, they absolutely have to use one of them to find a starting-caliber corner. Fulton has the height, length and cover skills to shoulder that responsibility from Day 1, and he’s been tested by some of the most talented pass-catchers in the country.

 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles

Denzel Mims | WR | Baylor

After filling their biggest need on defense by trading for Darius Slay, the Eagles free themselves up to do the same for their offense with this pick. Mims backed up his strong film by blowing up the NFL Scouting Combine, showing off the size and athleticism it takes to be a top target at the next level.

 

  1. Minnesota Vikings (from BUF)

Jalen Reagor | WR | TCU

In trading away Stefon Diggs, the Vikings lost a polished route-runner and explosive playmaker from their passing game. It only makes sense for them to use one of their first-round picks to fill that void with a similar player, and Reagor has the skill set to be the perfect fit.

 

  1. New England Patriots

Jordan Love | QB | Utah State

As hard as it may be to believe, the Tom Brady era if officially over in New England. The Pats are still high on Jarrett Stidham, but his upside is nowhere near what Love brings to the table. He’s still plenty raw, but Love has all the physical and mental tools to quickly rise to the top of this depth chart and take command of the next generation for the Pats.

 

  1. New Orleans Saints

Trevon Diggs | CB | Alabama

Marshon Lattimore is still one of the league’s top corners, but the Saints could use an upgrade on the other side of the field. Diggs has the size, length, athleticism and ball skills to quickly develop into a valuable playmaker at the next level, making it difficult for opposing quarterbacks to choose which side of the field they want to challenge.

 

  1. Minnesota Vikings

Xavier McKinney | S | Alabama

There are bigger needs on both sides of the ball for Minnesota, but the value just isn’t there at corner or offensive tackle. Instead, they opt for the best safety in this year’s class, grabbing a smart, athletic and punishing defender in McKinney. The Vikings would have one of the league’s most talented safety groups if this is the pick.

 

  1. Miami Dolphins (from HOU)

Cesar Ruiz | OL | Michigan

Let’s keep with the “protect Tua at all costs” mentality here. Yes, it would be tempting to take the top running back off the board here, but the depth of this year’s class should give Miami better value on Day 2. Instead, they grab this year’s best interior blocker in Ruiz, who is just 20 years old and already as athletic and physical as they come.

 

  1. Seattle Seahawks

Antoine Winfield, Jr. | S | Minnesota

Gone are the days of Earl Thomas roaming the Seattle secondary, but if the Seahawks want to try and recreate that kind of presence for the future, Winfield is about as close as they can get. The son of a Pro Bowler by the same name, Winfield was a one-man wrecking crew for the Golden Gophers, and he could instantly bring the swagger back to what was once one of the NFL’s most feared defensive backfields.

 

  1. Baltimore Ravens

Jonathan Taylor | RB | Wisconsin

Mark Ingram’s absence was painfully evident when injuries kept him out of the lineup in 2019, which means the Ravens need to find a succession plan for their veteran runner. They get their pick of some talented runners in this scenario, and Taylor’s performance at the NFL Combine proved he’s more than worthy of being the first running back off the board. He would make the NFL’s best rushing attack even better from Day 1.

 

  1. Tennessee Titans

Yetur Gross-Matos | EDGE | Penn State

The Titans are built for sustained success, which should allow them to play the “best player available” game here. Thankfully for them, this scenario gives them a fantastic balance of value and need. Gross-Matos is the prototype for today’s NFL edge defender, and his strong finish to the 2019 season proved he’s still worthy of first-round consideration.

 

  1. Green Bay Packers

Justin Jefferson | WR | LSU

This pick simply has to be another weapon for Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers have some fantastic options in this scenario. Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Colorado’s Laviska Shenault, Jr. would be solid picks, but after Jefferson’s combine performance, he may have just leapfrogged those names on some draft boards. He’s a polished, complete player who would pair extremely well with Devante Adams.

 

  1. San Francisco 49ers

Ross Blacklock | DL | TCU

Considering how few picks they have overall, I’m betting the 49ers would love to move back from this pick. If they can’t, though, they still have plenty of attractive options in this scenario. After trading away one of the league’s best interior defenders in DeForest Buckner, the 49ers are able to replace him with another disruptive force in Blacklock, who is younger and cheaper.

 

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

A.J. Epenesa | EDGE/DL | Iowa

Another team that probably wouldn’t mind trading back, the Chiefs can also just wait for the value to fall to them. That lines up with their biggest needs in this situation, as a versatile defensive linemen like Epenesa would be a huge boost to a front that needs to reload with some youth. Despite disappointing at the combine, Epenesa’s film should still prove him to be a first-round pick.

 

IDEAL LANDING SPOTS FOR TOP-FIVE REMAINING NFL FREE AGENTS

We’re coming up on the third week of the NFL offseason, and while many huge contracts have been handed out some top free agents are still looking for homes. Among them is a former league MVP, and three of them are former No. 1 overall picks, which is pretty wild all by itself.

So where will the top-five remaining NFL free agents land? We have some ideas about that.

 

Jameis Winston, quarterback: Tennessee Titans

Despite starting 70 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the past five years, Jameis Winston is not going to land a starting gig anywhere in 2020 right off the bat. It would be somewhat ironic if he did get signed by the Titans, as he’d be in the same position as Ryan Tannehill was last year when he was traded to Tennessee and backed up Marcus Mariota.

The Titans make sense because that Tannehill has been through the ringer during his career and could be a tremendous influence on Winston, for starters. Secondly, if Tannehill were to get injured and miss time, Tennessee — a team that has an outstanding overall roster and a good offensive line — needs an experienced backup who can continue to push the ball downfield on play-action.

 

Everson Griffen, defensive end: Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are poised for a deep run in the playoffs and could challenge the Kansas City Chiefs this season now that Philip Rivers has once again teamed up with head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. The team’s defense is already stacked with talent at all three levels, especially after trading for All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

Adding an experienced, dominant edge rusher like Everson Griffen would be the icing on the cake for the Colts. It would also provide the savvy veteran with the perfect opportunity to close out his career in style on a contender. Indy still has plenty of cap space to make Griffen a big offer. He and Justin Houston would be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks with Buckner inside.

 

Jason Peters, offensive tackle: Seattle Seahawks

It remains to be seen just how much gas Jason Peters has left in the tank. He missed three games last season due to injury and is 38 years of age. But the nine-time Pro Bowler is worth a low-risk signing, to be sure. When he’s healthy, Peters is one of the best offensive tackles in football. And he still has the fire to play.

Adding Peters to an offensive line in Seattle that features Duane Brown, Ethan Pocic, B.J. Finney and D.J. Fluker would give the Seahawks an outstanding run-blocking unit that can also protect Russell Wilson better than what we’ve seen the past few years. Sure, Seattle signed Cedric Ogbuehi to a one-year deal, but Peters would represent a huge upgrade.

 

Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end: Arizona Cardinals

There are reports out there indicating Jadeveon Clowney wants upwards of $20 million per year. With a history of injuries, he’s not going to get that kind of cash any time soon due to the NFL’s inability to have players take physicals in an ordinary manner due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He may not get that kind of cash at all, and many believe Clowney will be forced to take a one-year deal in 2020.

Regardless, the Cardinals make a ton of sense for Clowney in 2020. They are going to be a highly competitive team, for starters, now that the offense has the firepower it needs to maximize the talents of young Kyler Murray. Secondly, adding Clowney to a defensive front that includes top pass rusher Chandler Jones would give the Cardinals one of the most frightening duos in the league. Finally, Clowney would be able to face the Seahawks two times a year.

 

Cam Newton, quarterback: New England Patriots

The Patriots may not be able to offer much in the way of money to Cam Newton. They currently have the second-least cap space in the NFL (per Over The Cap) with just over $700,000. So, it would take some creative maneuvering by New England to bring Newton into the fold.

That said, it’s not impossible from a financial perspective — just very challenging.

Money issues aside, Newton going to the Patriots makes too much sense. This franchise currently has Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer and Cody Kessler as its three quarterbacks — perhaps the worst trio in the NFL. Newton would instantly make the Patriots a contender, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is smart enough to make the most out of the former MVP’s talents.

 

REPORT: ‘EVERYTHING’ ON TABLE FOR NFL, INCLUDING CANCELED SEASON

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the United States, there is an increasing sense that the NFL season won’t go down as it normally does.

There has already been some concern voiced by NFL coaches that the season may be delayed. Then on Sunday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk made it clear that “everything is on the table” looking ahead at the 2020 season, including no games being played at all.

Answering questions in a mailbag session, Florio addressed the elephant in the room.

“…YES, IT’S POSSIBLE THAT GAMES WILL BE PLAYED IN EMPTY STADIUMS. IT’S POSSIBLE THAT SOME TEAMS WON’T BE ABLE TO PLAY IN THEIR HOME MARKETS. IT’S POSSIBLE THAT NO GAMES WILL BE PLAYED AT ALL.”

Florio also pontificated that another drastic solution could keep the season alive.

“THEORETICALLY, IT’S POSSIBLE THAT THE NFL WILL BUILD IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE A CORONA-FREE CAMPUS WHERE ALL PLAYERS, COACHES, TRAINERS, DOCTORS, BROADCASTERS, OFFICIALS, ETC. WOULD SPEND THE ENTIRE SEASON SEQUESTERED FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD, WITH GAMES PLAYED ON A SERIES OF FIELDS FROM WHICH THE GAMES WOULD BE TELEVISED, WITH NO ONE ELSE PRESENT. (I HAVEN’T HEARD THAT THIS IS A POSSIBILITY, BUT IT’S ONE THAT THE LEAGUE DEFINITELY SHOULD BE CONSIDERING.)”

The COVID-19 situation in the United States is very real, and it’s very dangerous. As of Sunday afternoon, Johns Hopkins University data showed that more than 137,000 Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus, and that over 2,400 have died from complications stemming from COVID-19.

Sunday evening, speaking live from the Rose Garden at the White House, President Donald Trump announced that the CDC’s initial 15-day guidelines to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic — which includes no gatherings of 10 people or more — is being extended at least until the end of April. With that in mind, and considering how Dr. Anthony Fauci has stated he expects COVID-19 to circle the globe for the next 12-18 months, it’s reasonable to assume the NFL, and sports in general, may not be able to operate normally for some time.

 

Tua Tagovailoa could livestream a ‘pro day’ to NFL teams?

Though predraft visits for collegiate prospects have been scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the draft itself is still going to take place as scheduled. As such, teams will not have as much intel as they would like prior to draft night, so players with medical and/or character red flags may find themselves slipping down draft boards.

One such player is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Though it would be surprising to see him fall past the Dolphins’ No. 5 overall selection, the individual pro day that Tagovailoa was supposed to hold on April 9 has been canceled, as Mike Rodak of AL.com notes, so that’s one less piece of critical information that interested teams will have.

Similarly, clubs that could be in the market for the southpaw signal-caller will not be able to evaluate him during medical re-checks that were supposed to take place shortly before the April 23 draft. So the team that drafts Tagovailoa will be taking a leap of faith that his surgically repaired hip will not jeopardize his professional career.

On the plus side, reports last month indicated that Tagovailoa’s MRIs showed that his fracture is healed and that there has been no loss of blood flow. Last week, videos of him dropping back and throwing passes were posted to his Instagram account, and his reps have obviously passed along glowing reviews.

“He’s moving really, really well,” said co-agent Chris Cabott, who also indicated that the response from NFL teams has been overwhelmingly positive, via Rodak. “To this point, we don’t have any medical concerns. Obviously in any given situation, it’s a day-by-day situation, but his road to return has not been interrupted.”

As Rodak suggests, Tagovailoa could schedule a livestreamed or taped version of his individual pro day, and while no plans have yet been made in that regard, Cabott said he would continue working with individual teams to make sure they have as thorough of an evaluation as possible. That includes FaceTime, Zoom, or WebEx interviews and continuing imaging scans, which Cabott said would be provided to teams upon request.

So Tagovailoa’s prospects still appear to be on an upward trajectory. As of now, look for him to hear his name called within the first five picks of next month’s draft, with the Dolphins, Chargers, and Washington (and even Bengals) looming as potential landing spots.

 

REPORT: JAGUARS LEGEND TONY BOSELLI HOSPITALIZED DUE TO COVID-19

Jacksonville Jaguars legend Tony Boselli was reportedly admitted to a Jacksonville-area hospital due to complications from COVID-19, per Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report.

Freeman reported Sunday that Boselli was initially in the intensive care unit, but is “doing better” while still receiving treatment.

The former NFL star is 47 years old. He played eight seasons in the NFL before injuries derailed his career and is routinely talked about as one of the best players in league history to not be voted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

 

German Tennis Federation VP: Wimbledon Championships to be canceled

It looks like this year’s Wimbledon Championships will be canceled due to COVID-19, according to the German Tennis Federation. A final decision will be made on Wednesday.

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) had a board meeting last week and noted that both postponement and cancellation were serious possibilities.

The Wimbledon Championships are currently set to be played from June 29 to July 12, but that is unlikely to happen, according to German Tennis Federation Vice President Dirk Hordorff.

“I am also involved in the bodies of the ATP and WTA,” Hordorff said, according to Sky Sports. “The necessary decisions have already been made there and Wimbledon will decide to cancel on Wednesday. There is no doubt about it.

“This is necessary in the current situation. It is completely unrealistic to imagine that, with the travel restrictions that we currently have, an international tennis tournament where hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world would travel [can happen]. That is unthinkable.”

Of course, anything can happen, but at this point it looks like the tournament will be canceled. Tennis fans should prepare themselves for no Wimbledon for the first time since 1945.

 

OHIO STATE WRESTLING

OLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State redshirt freshman Sammy Sasso picked up National Freshman of the Year honors from Intermat for the 2019-20 season. Sasso won 24 of 27 bouts, including a 9-0 mark during the Big Ten dual gauntlet. He was seeded third at 149 pounds entering the since-cancelled NCAA Championships.

Sasso garnered bonus points in more than half of his victories, amassing five pins, four tech falls and four major decisions. He got it done versus the nation’s elite as well, posting a dozen top-25 triumphs and spending multiple weeks as the top-ranked wrestler in the country at 149 pounds.

This award, presented each year since 2006 to the best college freshman wrestler in all divisions for his/her college wrestling performance during the 2019-2020 season, is based exclusively on the balloting of writers at InterMat. Each writer is asked to select five freshman wrestlers and rank them from first to fifth. Point values are assigned to each placement, ranging from one point to a wrestler listed fifth on a voter’s ballot, up to nine points for a first-place vote.

Sasso received four first-place votes (out of ten) from the InterMat staff, for a total of 60 points to put him No. 1 in this year’s InterMat Freshman of the Year voting. In second place was Shane Griffith of Stanford, who was the top choice among three InterMat staffers, earning a total of 53 points. Two other freshmen who earned at least one first-place vote: David Carr of Iowa State, taking fourth place with 45 points, including two first-place votes … while Stanford’s Real Woods received one first-place vote, for a total of 25 points.

He is the second Buckeye to earn this honor, following in the footsteps of Logan Stieber (2012).

2020 InterMat Freshman of the Year Voting Results

1st-5th Place Votes: 9-7-5-3-1

Total Votes/(First-Place Votes)

  1. Sammy Sasso, Ohio State 60 (4)
  2. Shane Griffith, Stanford 53 (3)
  3. Aaron Brooks, Penn State 48
  4. David Carr, Iowa State 45 (2)
  5. Real Woods, Stanford 25 (1)
  6. Tony Cassioppi, Iowa 14
  7. Travis Wittlake, Oklahoma State 3
  8. Brayton Lee, Minnesota 2

 

InterMat Freshman of the Year Past Winners

2019: Mekhi Lewis, Virginia Tech

2018: Spencer Lee, Iowa

2017: Mark Hall, Penn State

2016: Jason Nolf, Penn State

2015: Isaiah Martinez, Illinois

2014: Jason Tsirtsis, Northwestern

2013: Alex Dieringer, Oklahoma State

2012: Logan Stieber, Ohio State

2011: David Taylor, Penn State

2010: Kyle Dake, Cornell

2009: Andrew Howe, Wisconsin

2008: Mike Grey, Cornell

2007: Jake Varner, Iowa State

2006: Dustin Schlatter, Minnesota

 

TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY-1975

SAN DIEGO – The University of California, Los Angeles won the National Collegiate basketball championship tonight for the 10th and last time under the direction of Coach John Wooden. The Bruins, proving speed more valuable than muscle, raced up and down court from start to finish to beat a powerful University of Kentucky team, 92-85, in Wooden’s final game before retirement. When it was done, the crowd of 15,153 at the San Diego Arena remained to give Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, a standing ovation for about four minutes.

In increasing their record of national basketball titles to 10 in the last 12 years and 8 in the last 9, the Bruins beat the school closest to them in national titles. The Wildcats have four. Although he would not admit it, this victory in his final game of 27 seasons as the U.C.L.A. coach may have been Wooden’s most satisfying. This was a team not as strong as many of his former national champions-one not rated certain of the crown when the season began.

Wooden said following the thrilling triumph, “To say I thought we would win [the title] back then would be stretching a point.” But Dave Meyers, the senior star of the team, said: “I wanted to do it for Coach all season. He’s done a masterful job with the team that lost [Bill] Walton and [Keith] Wilkes,” stars of the three preceding seasons.

Most unexpected of all, however, was the fact that U.C.L.A. beat Kentucky using only six players. This was the first time Wooden used only six players in a national championship game. It paid off as the halfdozen slim, tall men kept up an unusually fast pace and achieved what U.C.L.A. teams in 1964 and 1965, and from 1967 through 1973, had achieved. And those teams had such star players as Walt Hazzard, Lew Alcindor, Sidney Wicks and Bill Walton. The mighty six who won this year’s crown were Meyers, Marques Johnson, Rich Washington, Pete Trgovich, Andre McCarter and Ralph Drollinger, the man who came off the bench and had the finest game of his career.

Drollinger, the 7-foot-1 junior who has been criticized because he was not an Alcindor or Walton, was unusually strong under the boards. The frail Drollinger stood in there for 16 1/2 minutes and beat off the Kentucky rebounders Coach Joe Hall kept fresh by sending them into the game in relays.

Trgovich, a 6’4″ senior guard, had an excellent night on defense and scored 16 points. Washington, the 6’9″ sophomore who was voted the outstanding player of the tournament, paced U.C.L.A.’s scoring with 28 points. Meyers had 24 points, Drollinger 10, McCarter 8 and Johnson 6. It just didn’t matter that Kevin Grevey, Kentucky’s leading scorer, had 34.

 

TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY

1948       At Ebbets Field No. 2, the Dodgers play their first exhibition game at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, which will remain the team’s home for 61 years. Amidst much fanfare, including Governor Millard Caldwell throwing the ceremonial first pitch, Jackie Robinson homers in the first inning as Brooklyn beats its top farm club, the Montreal Royals, 5-4.

1958       Larry Doby returns to the Indians when the Orioles trade him to Cleveland, along with Don Ferrarese, in exchange for Gene Woodling, Dick Williams, and Bud Daley. The 34 year-old veteran outfielder, who broke in with the Tribe in 1947 as the first black player in the American League, will have a solid season, hitting .284 in a part-time role with the fourth-place team.

1961       The Professional Baseball Rules Committee rejects the Pacific Coast League’s proposal to use a designated hitter for the pitcher by a vote of 8-1. The first use of the DH will occur in the American League in 1973.

1968       The American League’s new franchise in Seattle chooses Pilots as its nickname. The name originated from the coastal seaport city’s association with the airplane industry and co-owner Dewey Soriano’s part-time job as a harbor pilot.

1982       The Rangers trade outfielder/first baseman Al Oliver to the Expos for outfielder/third baseman Larry Parrish and minor league first baseman Dave Hostetler. Oliver will capture the National League batting crown, hitting .335, in the first of his two seasons with Montreal.

1984       On a televised episode of ABC’s Sports Beat, Howard Cosell informs interviewee Roger Maris of the Yankees’ plan to retire the slugger’s number 9 at the Old Timers’ Game ceremonies in July. The former Bronx Bombers’ reaction is at first is disbelief, followed by a genuine pleasure for being recognized for his achievements during his seven years with the team.

1993       Bill White, the first black to serve as a league president, resigns from his National League post. The former Cardinal first baseman will remain at the job until March of 1994.

1994       The Mets trade hard-luck right-hander Anthony Young to the Cubs for shortstop Jose Vizcaino. A-Yo holds the major league record for the most consecutive losses by a pitcher.

1994       The White Sox assign NBA superstar Michael Jordan to the Birmingham Barons of the Class AA Southern League. Before returning to the NBA, the 31 year-old outfielder, will play just one season of professional baseball, hitting .202 in 134 games for the minor league team.

1995       A crowd of 47,536 fans flocks to the first baseball game ever played at Coors Field. The exhibition game, played with replacement players due to the strike, ends with the Rockies beating the Yankees, 4-1.

1996       For the first time in history, the major league season opens with a game played in the month of in March. At the Kingdome, the Mariners beat the White Sox in 12 innings, 3-2.

1998       On Opening Day, Pokey Reese, filling in for shortstop Barry Larkin, who is on the DL, makes four errors on his first three chances in the Reds’ 10-2 loss to San Diego at Cinergy Field. The 25 year-old infielder will win the Gold Glove as a second baseman in 1999 and 2000.

1998       In the longest scoreless opener in National League history, pinch-hitter Alberto Castillo’s single with two outs and the bases loaded gives the Mets a 1-0, 14-inning victory over the Phillies. The most extended Opening Day game in major league history occurred in 1926 when the Senators blanked the Philadelphia A’s in 15 innings, 1-0.

1998       In front of a sellout crowd of 47,484 at Bank One Ballpark, the Arizona Diamondbacks lose to the Rockies, 9-2. The seven-run difference matches the ’62 Mets and the ’77 Mariners for the most-lopsided loss by an expansion team in its first game.

1998       The Tigers spoil the Devil Rays’ major league debut, beating the American League’s newest team, 6-2 at Tropicana Field in Tampa. After Hall-of-Famers Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Al Lopez, and Monte Irvin throw out ceremonial first pitches, Wilson Alvarez, the losing pitcher, hurls the first pitch in franchise history – a ball to Detroit’s center fielder Brian Hunter.

1998       With a rare on-the-field appearance, Hank Aaron helps to mark Milwaukee’s historic return to the Senior Circuit as the Brewers play their inaugural game as a National League team, losing to the Braves at Turner Field, 2-1. Milwaukee is the first team since the inception of the American League in 1901 to switch leagues.

1998       Mark McGwire hits the first of his historic seventy home runs when he goes deep off Ramon Martinez in the fifth inning of the Cardinals’ 6-0 victory over L.A. at Busch Stadium. The Redbirds’ first baseman becomes the first player in franchise history to hit a grand slam on Opening Day.

2003       On Opening Day for most of the clubs, MLB.com, the website of major league baseball, has more than 10 million hits, setting a new record. The previous mark was set last season on the final day of online voting for All-Star Game starters when 3.6 million visitors were attracted to the site.

2003       Substituting for his son, a former lefty first baseman at Yale named George Bush throws the Great American Ball Park’s ceremonial first pitch when the Reds make their debut in their new ballpark. The former president and the sell-out crowd of 42,263 flag-waving fans enjoy the patriotic pregame ceremonies and then watch the Pirates rout Cincinnati, 10-1.

2003       At Shea Stadium, the Mets Opening Day lineup includes the first regular starting double-play combination in major league history featuring natives from Puerto Rico. Second baseman Roberto Alomar and shortstop Rey Sanchez combine to make two twin killings as the Cubs drub New York, 15-2.

2004       With a 12-1 defeat of the Devil Rays in Tokyo, Kevin Brown becomes the second pitcher in history to have defeated all of the thirty major league teams. The 39 year-old right-hander joins Al Leiter, who accomplished the feat last season pitching for the Mets.

2005       The Orioles and MLB agree on a deal which will allow the televising Nationals games. A joint venture backed by MLB will let fans in the Baltimore-Washington area to enjoy telecasts of both franchises and will ensure the Orioles fans in the nation’s capital will still have an opportunity to watch their ‘Birds’.

2007       In the MLB’s inaugural Civil Rights game, the Cardinals beat the Indians at AutoZone Park in Memphis, 5-1. The exhibition game, planned to be an annual event, is designed to celebrate and honor baseball’s historical role in the nation’s civil rights movement.

2008       On Opening Day, the Reds pay tribute to Joe Nuxhall by wearing the number 41 on their uniforms. The team’s beloved broadcaster, who spent over 60 years with the organization, including his major debut as a 15 year-old hurler, died during the off-season at the age of 79.

2008       Outside of Wrigley Field, the Cubs unveil a statue of Ernie Banks done by Lou Cella. The typographical error on the base of the statue, “Let’s play two,” is quickly corrected when the sculptor comes down to the ballpark two days later and carves the needed apostrophe.

2009       The Tigers unexpectedly release Gary Sheffield despite having $14 million left on the $28 million, two-year contract extension given to the DH/outfielder after being acquired from the Yankees in a trade for prospects. The 40 year-old nine-time All-Star needs to hit one more dinger to become the 25th major league player to hit 500 career home runs.

2010       Denard Span hits a hard foul line drive into the seats that strikes his mother in the first inning of an exhibition game in Tampa. The Twins’ stunned leadoff batter runs into the crowded stands and stays with his mom while she is treated by paramedics until she returns to her seat, slightly shaken but intact.

2013       Shintaro Fujinami, a first-round draft selection last Fall, sets a record for rookies drafted out of high school when he makes his first professional start pitching for the Hanshin Tigers just three games into the season. The 18 year-old Japanese right-hander, who allows two runs in six innings and will take the loss in the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ 2-0 victory at Jingu Stadium, makes his mound debut a game sooner than Daisuke Matsuzaka (1999) and Hideaki Wakui (2005).

2013       The Astros beat the Rangers in their American League debut, an 8-3 victory in a nationally televised game played at Minute Maid Park. After 51 years of playing in the National League, Houston agreed to move from the NL Central to the AL West to give each league 15 teams with an equal number teams in each division, as a condition of the approval of the sale of the team to Jim Crane.

2018       Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who goes 3-for-4 in the team’s 3-2 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field, becomes the first American Leaguer to have multiple extra-base hits in the first three games of the season. In 2015, Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez also accomplished the feat, collecting at least two hits in each of LA’s first three contests when he compiled ten hits his first 14 at-bats of the season.

 

WORLD SERIES HISTORY-1913

In a classic rematch, the New York Giants (who had just won their third consecutive pennant and were making their third consecutive World Series appearance) squared off against their post-season rival Philadelphia Athletics. Giants manager John McGraw was still trying to escape the recurring questions surrounding his selected pitching rotations in the previous Fall Classic that had resulted in a Red Sox victory. Once again, he had taken his team through another magnificent season while winning the National League pennant by 12½ games, but many fans had lost faith in his post-season coaching capabilities. Pitching aces Rube Marquard, Christy Mathewson and Jeff Tesreau had been given a second chance and were determined not to make the same mistakes that had cost them game-winning leads in the 1912 championship. Connie Mack’s A’s were a worthy opponent and many felt that this series would go down to the wire like the last one.

Marquard was given the Giants’ start in the opener and was shelled for five runs and eight hits in five innings. The last Series’ hero “Home Run Baker” validated his handle by driving in one run in the fourth and knocking a two run home run in the fifth. The Athletics’ Chief Bender, faired the same and gave up an unlikely eleven hits while managing a slim 6-4 victory. The Giants’ veteran journeyman, Christy Mathewson was given the ball for Game 2. “Matty” as he was called by teammates, was coming off of his next-to-last 20+ victory season in the majors as he posted a 25-11 record. The Bucknell star was matched up against his former collegiate rival, Eddie Plank from Gettysburg University. Both aces were at the top of their game, matching each other pitch-for-pitch through nine scoreless innings. Surprisingly, it was Mathewson himself, who managed to turn his adversary with a tenth inning single setting up a 3-0 triumph.

For Game 3, Mack decided to take a page from the last Series and start a bright twenty year-old rookie named “Bullet” Joe Bush who had won fourteen games for him during the regular season. McGraw answered the challenge with his own young gun, Jeff Tesreau, who had successfully debuted as a rookie in the previous Fall Classic. Philadelphia proved to be the better team that day and whopped the Giants’ 8-2. The A’s maintained their Series leading momentum well into Game 4 and were leading 6-0 after five innings. That was until Fred Merkle stepped up to the plate and fueled a Giants’ comeback bid with a three run homer in the seventh. Bender was able to recover and the A’s managed to hold on for a 6-5 victory. The win was Bender’s fourth straight in Series competition.

Trailing three games to one, New York’s Christy Mathewson once again, found himself sharing the mound with Game 1 rival Eddie Plank. However, this time Plank was in control, allowing only two hits in a shocking 3-1 decision and Series deciding victory. For the third consecutive year, the New York Giants had played magnificent during the regular season, only to fall short of a championship. It was a heartbreaking defeat to the players and their fans. McGraw and his Giants vowed to shake their “curse” and restore the club to its former post-season glory. Little did they know that it would be four years before they would get another chance.

Home Run Baker had led the A’s with a .450 batting average and seven runs batted in. Eddie Collins hit .421, while Wally Schang contributed six RBIs and a .357 average. Chief Bender’s performances in Games 1 and 4 boosted his Series victories to six. Mathewson, pitching in what would be his final Series, wound up with a 5-5 lifetime mark in the Fall Classic. At one point, he was 4-0 after splitting two decisions in 1913.

 

BASEBALL’S BEST EVER: DOUG ALLISON

SABR.ORG

In an era when baseball players were supposed to be upper-class gentlemen and amateurs, Doug Allison didn’t fit the mold. He came from working-class origins and he was one of the first players to turn professional. Allison introduced two innovations that now are universally followed by all modern catchers.

Douglass1 L. Allison was born in Philadelphia on July 12, 1846, sixth of the seven children of Elizabeth Clark Allison and John Shaw Allison, a weaver. Both of Doug’s parents were immigrants – his mother came from Scotland around 1818 and his father from England about 1827. They met and married in Philadelphia. Doug grew up in Manayunk, a working-class area in the northwestern part of Philadelphia. (The family lived briefly in rural Cecil County, Maryland, around 1860.) There is no record of his ever having played baseball as a child.

In 1864, during the Civil War, Allison enlisted in the Union Army. He served as a private in Company L of the 192nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. The company was organized at Philadelphia and mustered into U.S. service on July 7, 1864, for a term of 100 days. Allison served more than the 100 days, mustering out on November 11, 1864. Later Allison became partially deaf and applied for a disability pension. A later story in the Boston Globe attributed his deafness to military service: “Allison was a gunner in Fort Sumpter [sic] during the late war, and is the only survivor of three batches of gunners of six men in each batch. His service during the war accounts for his impaired hearing.”2

That report is not accurate. During Allison’s time of service, the 192nd was never engaged in combat or ever stationed at Fort Sumter. However, it engaged in heavy artillery drills at Fort McHenry in August 1864.3 Heavy artillery firing can cause significant hearing loss, whether in combat or practice.

It has been erroneously reported that Doug and his brother, Arthur, who also later played major-league baseball, served in the same unit during the Civil War and learned baseball from fellow Union troops. The roster of Company L lists Doug and an older brother, Albert, as members of the unit. But Arthur was only 15 years old at the time and therefore probably not in the Union army.

In 1866 and 1867 Doug worked in a brickyard and played baseball as a catcher for the Masonic Club of Manayunk. The unsophisticated young man with a working-class background apparently didn’t understand the ways of uptown living. The first time the Masonic Club put him up in a hotel, he sat in his room all morning, waiting for breakfast to be served, even though he had not placed an order. He assumed some hotel employee would bring it to his room.4

Catching was hazardous duty in baseball’s early days. No catcher wore gloves, chest protector, mask, shin guards or any other protective gear. Broken fingers, gnarled hands, mashed toes, and chipped teeth were visible marks of the trade. Catchers stood about 20 to 25 feet behind home plate and tried to catch pitches on the first bounce. They also had to contend with foul tips, errant swings, thrown bats, and baserunners crashing into them.

Allison made the position even more dangerous with his first innovation. In order to reduce the ability of baserunners to steal bases, he stood directly behind the batter. In 1907 he told a reporter,

Not that I wish to claim any such record, for after all it does not carry any great weight or glory, but just the same I think figures will prove that I was among the first, if not the first, of any of the backstops to attempt that . . . way back in 1866. My success in that style of play was remarkable, and naturally the talk of the place, until our game began to draw crowds simply because Allison was behind the bat . . . This is not egotism, but the fact, and my method soon had lots of imitators.5

As the advantages of moving closer to the batter became obvious, other catchers followed Allison’s lead. Soon the practice became universal.

In 1868 Allison played for a strong amateur club, the Philadelphia Gearys. Scouting for prospects in the area were John Joyce and Alfred Gosham, two officials of the Cincinnati Base Ball Club. They had a special need for a catcher who could handle the fastballs slung plateward by Asa Brainard from the pitcher’s box only 45 feet away. Allison was catching for the Gearys that day. Not only did he handle himself well behind the plate, but he also hit a long home run to center field in his first at-bat. Impressed, the Cincinnatians invited him to their hotel room after the game. In walked a tanned, freckle-faced, scruffy appearing, poorly-dressed young man in a straw hat. Joyce and Gosham got him a haircut, bought him a suit of clothes, and took him back to the Queen City with them.

The Cincinnati Base Ball Club was still supposed to be an amateur outfit in 1868. In order to maintain the ruse, the players who were imported from the East were given jobs in the businesses of the team’s backers. They reported for work every morning, were visible to callers, and were paid small salaries, although many of them did little, if any, work. They could pretend they didn’t play ball for a living.6 Allison was given a job as a granite cutter, a trade for which he was qualified from his previous work in Philadelphia. How much granite he cut in Cincinnati is not known.

Owned by Aaron Burt Champion and managed by Harry Wright, in 1869 Cincinnati became the first baseball club to openly pay salaries to all of their players. Called the Red Stockings in recognition of the knee-length crimson hose the players wore, the club became the most dominant team ever to play the game. They defeated all their challengers in the Midwest, conquered the best teams in the East, and swept a Western tour, winning 56 or 57 games7 in that undefeated season.

Allison caught almost every game for the Red Stockings during their winning streak. The club listed only ten players on its roster – nine starters and one substitute. Allison usually batted fourth in the lineup, not because he was a slugger like the cleanup hitters of the modern era, but because he was a slow runner. Harry Wright wanted speedsters in the top three spots, thinking the middle of the order was the best place for those slow afoot.8 Allison hit .469 against other professional teams in 1869. On the occasions when Allison was injured and unable to play, Wright had to juggle his lineup to get the position covered. Wright’s brother, George, was the best player of that era, but was reluctant to catch. He had been a catcher for the Gothams during the amateur era, but he said “One day a foul tip struck me in the throat and it hurt me so much that I never afterward was able to muster up sufficient courage to catch.”9

One time that George Wright did replace Allison behind the plate was in a June 24, 1869, game in Baltimore. Allison was hit over the left eye by a foul ball. Wright took over catching duties, and James Fowler replaced him at shortstop. Fowler was the team’s scorekeeper. He does not appear in the team photo or on their roster, but he played three innings in that game.

He said, “Mr. Champion says that I slept through all these matches; if I didn’t play I talked and helped in that way. I am happy to be a member of the Cincinnati Nine—or rather Eleven.”10

Allison was immensely popular with the cranks (as fans were known in those days) but not with Cincinnati management or newspapers. He acquired a reputation for being egotistical, temperamental, and lazy. Given that Allison’s frequent injuries were caused by his playing so close to the batter, his asking for a day off to recover from an injury was probably justified. But team management and the press saw it as a sign of laziness. On the other hand, his insistence that pitchers chase their own wild pitches while he stood at the plate was more appropriately regarded as an act of laziness.11

Allison’s second innovation, and his greatest contribution to the catching brotherhood, came on June 28, 1870. After missing the previous game with sore hands, he donned a pair of buckskin mittens. This was the first time any baseball player at any position ever wore a fielding glove. Allison had a Cincinnati saddle maker craft the mittens for him in 1869, but knowing the ridicule that other players would heap upon him, he avoided wearing the mitts until that historic June day.12

Allison’s fear of ridicule was well founded. In the macho world of nineteenth-century baseball, wearing a glove was considered unmanly. Unlike Allison’s first innovation, this one was slow to be adopted. The best fielding infielder of the 1880s, Bid McPhee, played nearly his entire career without donning a glove. Eventually, however, the need for self-preservation outweighed the desire to appear tough, and wearing gloves while fielding became de rigueur among all baseball players, not just catchers. The glove has evolved to the point that today’s article would have been unrecognizable to Allison and his contemporaries.

After Allison slumped somewhat in 1870 the Cincinnati newspapers were merciless in their castigation. The Commercial complained that his “organ of self-conceit has been terribly enlarged this season….The public expects work, and no fine airs, and no exhibitions of crooked temper and exaggerated self-importance.”13 The Gazette proclaimed that “[his] lazy antics are utterly without excuse, and he does not gain any credit by indulging in them.”14

On June 14, 1870, the Red Stockings winning streak came to an end as they lost to the Brooklyn Atlantics in a hard-fought game, 8-7. After the loss, dissension on the club, which had been muted during the glory days, came out in the open. Two cliques emerged, divided over drinking and discipline. The Wright brothers, Gould, and McVey opposed what they considered rowdy behavior; the others had a different opinion, particularly about off-field conduct, and objected to Wright’s strict discipline. During the controversy, President A. B. Champion resigned on August 2, as did Vice-president Thomas G. Smith and Secretary John P. Joyce. All three officials claimed demands of their private businesses prevented them from giving sufficient attention to baseball responsibilities.

The amateur Red Stockings had incurred a deficit of $6,000 in 1868.15 In 1869 the professional club showed a small profit and gave each player a $50 bonus as a reward for the undefeated season. The club paid $9,300 in salaries to the starting nine and a utility player. Doug Allison received the median salary of $800. In 1870 it was still mid-season when Champion resigned, so the final balance sheet was not yet available. But attendance was down, expenses were up, and other professional clubs were trying to entice players away from Cincinnati. Club officials estimated it would require some $16,000 to $17,000 to cover the costs of player salaries, grounds upkeep, equipment, uniforms, and advertising in order to keep the club afloat for the 1871 season.16 Raising that amount of revenue did not seem possible.

On November 21, 1870, newly-elected President A. P. C. Bonte issued a statement for the executive board:

Upon information thus obtained, we have arrived at the conclusion that to employ a nine for the coming season, at the enormous salaries now demanded by professional players, would plunge our club deeply into debt at the end of the year….therefore we have resolved to hire no players for the coming year.17

The first openly all-professional club in the history of baseball had reverted to amateur status.

Meanwhile, a new professional baseball club was established in Boston, and its owners offered Harry Wright the positions of manager, captain, and secretary. On November 30, Wright accepted the offer. He was invited to bring other Cincinnati players to the Hub. George Wright joined his brother in Boston, as did Charlie Gould and Cal McVey. Wright did not pursue the others, for he wanted no drinkers, “growlers, or shirkers”18 on his team. Wright considered Allison disqualified on all three counts.

Although Wright didn’t want the dissident ex-Red Stockings on his team, other baseball executives were not so discriminating. The first major league, the National Association, held its inaugural season in 1871. Doug Allison and four of his Cincinnati teammates signed with the Olympics of Washington, D.C.

Allison hit .331 in the nation’s capital, the highest batting average on the club. It was in fielding, though, that Allison’s star shone most brightly. He led the league in double plays by a catcher in his first season and ranked in the top five four additional times. He led the league in fielding percentage twice, was second once and third once. He ranked in the top five in range factor and putouts four times each, and in assists twice.

Most of these achievements did not come with the Olympics, however. In the next four years he played for five different clubs: Troy Haymakers; Eckfords of Brooklyn; Resolutes of Elizabeth, New Jersey; Mutuals of New York; and the Hartford Dark Blues. In 1873 he managed the Resolutes for 23 games, compiling a horrific 2-21(.067) record.

The National Association folded at the end of the 1875 season, and Allison accompanied the Dark Blues into the new National League. He played two years for Hartford and parts of two seasons for Providence. In 1879 he was back in this National Association, which by then was a minor league. He divided the season between the Capital City club of Albany and the Rochester Hop Bitters.

At the end of the 1879 season Allison’s career in professional baseball was interrupted for three years. In 1880 he was working as a stone cutter and living in Bucyrus, Crawford County, Ohio, with his wife Catherine (nee Hoffman), whom he had married in Butler, Ohio, on March 6,1872, and their three-year-old daughter, Blanche. On January 21, 1880, a newspaper reported that Allison had written a letter to the managers of the Cincinnati club, asking them to engage him as a change (i.e., backup) catcher.19 However, the letter did not accomplish its purpose. By 1882 Allison was back in Washington playing baseball with a semipro club sponsored by the U.S. Post Office.

Allison returned to the major leagues for one final game with the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association on July 13, 1883. He had a good day at the plate, going two-for-three and scoring two runs. Errorless in the field, he caught five innings and played two innings in the outfield. But at the age of 37 he had played his last game in Organized Baseball.

After retiring from the game Allison remained in Washington, working for various government offices. An 1891 newspaper reported, “Today he receives a yearly salary of $720 for sitting in a chair and watching the curiosities of the National Museum.”20

In the 1900 census Allison was identified as a government clerk. The 1910 census specified that he was a clerk for the U. S. Post Office. He worked for the Post Office the rest of his life.

Despite his reputation for self-centeredness as a player, Allison was capable of empathy and compassion for others. For example, his teammate from the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, Cal McVey, had fallen upon hard times. His home had been destroyed and his wife seriously injured in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Later McVey was working at a mine in Nevada when a 30-foot fall crippled him.

For a time McVey lived in a small shack, depending upon charity for food and clothing. In 1914 Allison wrote to Garry Hermann, president of the Cincinnati Reds, asking if his old teammate might be given a small monthly pension: “He helped put baseball on the map…and was one of the greatest players of his day.”21 McVey was given a small allowance.

Douglass Allison died on a Washington sidewalk near his home on December 19, 1916, while walking to his job at the Post Office. He was 70 years old. According to his death certificate the primary cause of death was endocarditis, an inflammation of the inside lining of the heart chambers. The immediate cause was acute cardiac dilatation. He was buried in Washington’s Rock Creek Cemetery, near other family members.

Notes

1 Most reference books spell his name with one s. However, early census reports and his tombstone use the Douglass spelling.

2 Boston Globe, March 24, 1876, cited in baseball-fever.com.

3 http://civilwarindex.com.

4 Stephen D. Guschov, The Red Stockings of Cincinnati. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1998, 30.

5 Doug Allison, cited in http://baseballhistorydaily.com/tag/doug-allison.

6 John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011, 144.

7 The Red Stockings won 56 games outright. The game against the Troy Haymakers on August 26 ended in a 17-17 tie when the Haymakers left the field in protest of an umpire’s call. The Red Stockings claimed a victory by forfeit. If that win is counted, the Red Stockings had 57 victories in 1869.

8 Richard Puff, “Douglas L. Allison,” in Frederick Ivor-Campbell, Robert L. Thiemann, and Nark Rucker, eds. Baseball’s First Stars, Cleveland: Society for American Baseball Research, 1996, 2.

9 George Wright, cited by Guschov, 32.

10 James Fowler, cited in http://baseballhistorydaily.com/doug-allison.

11 Puff, 2.

12 Guschov, 30

13 Cincinnati Commercial, cited by Guschov, 118.

14 Cincinnati Gazette, cited by Guschov, 118.

15 Guschov, 17.

16 Ibid, 134.

17 Ibid., 134-35.

18 Ib.d, 134.

19 New York Tribune, January 21, 1880. A change player in the nomenclature of the era was a substitute or back-up player.

20 Macon Telegraph, June 20, 1891.

21 https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dcs-doug-allison-the-king-of-catchers-braved-the-old-game-with-guts-and-no-mask/2014/10/05/d03b347e-4afc-11e4-a046-120a8a855cca_story.html

 

BASKETBALL’S BEST EVER: WILT CHAMBERLAIN

Wilt Chamberlain was the first NBA player to score more than 30,000 cumulative points over his career, and the first and only player to score 100 points in a single game.

Who Was Wilt Chamberlain?

Known as “Wilt the Stilt” for his 7’1″ frame, Wilt Chamberlain was a Harlem Globetrotter before joining the Philadelphia Warriors. He achieved an average of 30.1 points per game over his career and holds several records, including for most points scored in one season (4,029) and most points scored in a single game (100). Chamberlain was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978. He died in Bel-Air, California, in 1999.

Early Life and Education

Wilton Norman Chamberlain was born on August 21, 1936, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Chamberlain was regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time as the first NBA player to score more than 30,000 points during his professional career.

Chamberlain was a standout player at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia. He played on the school’s varsity team for three years, scoring more than 2,200 points in total. Standing at 6’11” tall at the time, Chamberlain physically dominated other players. He eventually reached his full height of a staggering 7’1″ tall. Many of his nicknames were derived from his stature. He hated being called “Wilt the Stilt,” or “the Stilt,” which came from a local reporter covering high school athletics. But Chamberlain didn’t mind “The Big Dipper,” or “Dipper,” a nickname given to him by friends because he had to duck his head when passing through a doorframe.

When it came time for college, Chamberlain was sought after by many top college basketball teams. He chose to attend the University of Kansas, making his college basketball debut in 1956 with the Jayhawks, and leading the team to the NCAA finals in 1957. The Jayhawks were defeated by North Carolina, but Chamberlain was named “Most Outstanding Player” of the tournament. Continuing to excel, he made the all-America and all-conference teams the following season.

Basketball Career

Leaving college in 1958, Chamberlain had to wait a year before going pro due to NBA rules. He chose to spend the next season performing with the Harlem Globetrotters before landing a spot with the Philadelphia Warriors. In 1959, Chamberlain played his first professional game in New York City against the Knicks, scoring 43 points. His impressive debut season netted him several prestigious honors, including the NBA Rookie of the Year and NBA Most Valuable Player awards. Also during this season, Chamberlain began his rivalry with Celtics defensive star Bill Russell. The two were fierce competitors on the court, but they developed a friendship away from the game.

Chamberlain’s most famous season, however, came in 1962. That March, he became the first NBA player to score 100 points in a game, setting a league record for the highest number of points scored in a single game (which he still holds today). By season’s end, Chamberlain racked up more than 4,000 points—becoming the first NBA player to do so—scoring an average of 50.4 points per game. At the top of his game, Chamberlain was selected for the All-NBA first team for three consecutive years: 1960, 1961 and 1962.

Chamberlain stayed with the Warriors as they moved out to San Francisco in 1962. He continued to play well, averaging more than 44 points per game for the 1962-63 season and almost 37 points per game for the 1963-64 season. Returning to his hometown in 1965, Chamberlain joined the Philadelphia 76ers. There he helped his team score an NBA championship win over his former team. Along the way to the championship, he also assisted the Sixers in defeating the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Division Finals. The Celtics were knocked out of the running after eight consecutive championship wins. Crowds gathered to watch the latest match between two top center players: Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

Traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1968, Chamberlain again proved that he was a competitive and successful athlete. He helped the Lakers win the 1972 NBA championship, triumphing over the New York Knicks in five straight games, and was named the NBA Finals MVP.

Retirement

By the time he retired in 1973, Chamberlain had amassed an amazing array of career statistics. He had played in 1,045 games and achieved an average of 30.1 points per game—the NBA points-per-game record until Michael Jordan broke it in 1998. To this day, Additionally, Chamberlain remains notable for never fouling out of an NBA game.