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Packers among teams looking to trade up in 1st round

By any other name, Khris Middleton’s game has been sweet

List of proposed rule changes for 2018 season released by NFL

When the NCAA instituted the targeting rule where players were ejected for hits to the head and neck area, the game went through a drastic change. It looks like the Chargers and the Redskins want to implement a similar change in the NFL.

Washington and Los Angeles were two teams prominently featured Thursday when the NFL released proposed rule changes to be discussed by owners next week.

Gonzalez said he thought the ball was going to clear the fence by a little more.

“But Spangenberg did a good job,” Gonzalez said. “He was playing deep and he got to the spot quick and he made the catch. When he was coming down, it looks like on the video he dunked the ball, like that was an alley oop or something. I got lucky on that one. It really gave the team momentum but it was a tough loss.”

Gray opened impressively, striking out the side in the first, but then quickly got into trouble. He gave up four singles around a double play, including Manuel Margot’s RBI hit in the second, and was tagged for five runs in the fourth.

Edelman said he immediately thought of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people died.

“With the emotions of what happened, and I have a kid now, I said, ‘Holy Toledo, what is going on?’” Edelman told the Times.

He called his assistant in Boston, Shannen Moen, and told her to go through the comments of his most recent Instagram post to find the one in question.

Moen found the comment, which read, “I’m going to shoot my school up watch the news.” She called Boston police, who did a background check of the profile that posted the threat.

The email and IP addresses linked to the account was traced to Port Huron, Mich., and police there went to the address linked to the account for further investigation.

Andrew Luck addresses return timetable, says he hasn’t thrown football yet

Andrew Luck seemed to be in good spirits as he addressed the media on his recovery and what’s in store for his NFL career.

Luck missed all of the 2017 season and a large chunk of 2016 with a lingering shoulder injury, but he indicated the recovery process is moving along well.

If I wasn’t making progress, it would freak me out and we would have to change something, Luck said, via the IndyStar. But I am.

Luck said he was not ready to disclose the timetable of his return, but that he will get back on the field better than ever. He said he plans on entering camp without any limitations.

Pacers: Victor Oladipo extended his streak of consecutive games with a steal to 63, tying him with Gary Payton for the fifth-longest streak in NBA history. … The Pacers have lost 12 of their past 15 regular-season meetings with the Raptors. … Indiana is 20-20 on the road.

Raptors: Ibaka matched a career best with five made 3-pointers. … Toronto had 20 rebounds in the first quarter. … The Raptors won 56 games in 2015-16, when they had 32 home victories. … Toronto had 23 turnovers, a season worst. … The Raptors set a season best for points allowed.

Casey is the third coach in NBA history to improve his team’s win total in six of seven seasons. The others were Boston’s Red Auerbach (1955-56 to 1961-62) and Phoenix’s John MacLeod (1974-75 to 1980-81).

We’ve reduced the number of returns, Packers president Mark Murphy, who is a member of the competition committee, said. But we haven’t really done anything to make the play safer.

While it’s not likely the kickoff would be eliminated for 2018, the future of the play is in doubt. Murphy added the message for teams is, If you don’t make changes to make it safer, we’re going to do away with it. It’s that serious. It’s by far the most dangerous play in the game.

This discussion is the latest addition to rules surrounding player safety that have emerged at the owners meetings, which includes a controversial new rule that would eject any player who lowers his head to initiate contact with his helmet.

Texas’ Bartolo Colon struck out four straight during two scoreless innings in his first relief appearance since 2016 with the New York Mets. The 44-year-old right-hander started the fifth game for the Rangers before Martin Perez came off the disabled list to join the rotation.

It was the 10th relief appearance compared to 529 starts for Colon, who is in his 21st season.

New football league eyes start after 2019 Super Bowl

A new football league will be joining the ranks of the NFL and the soon-to-be resurrected XFL.

Two months after Vince McMahon announced he was going to start the XFL again in 2020, Charlie Ebersol, the son of McMahon’s former XFL partner Dick Ebersol, said he was going to create the American Alliance of Football, ESPN.com reported.

According to Ebersol, the new league will debut Feb. 9, 2019, one week after Super Bowl 53. The league will have eight 50-man teams consisting of players who didn’t make the NFL cut and run 10 weeks.

There are 28,000 Division I football players. Only 1,700 have NFL jobs, Ebersol said. We’re looking for those Kurt Warners working in grocery stores and we think we will find them.

According to Ebersol, he plans on fully incorporating Fantasy Football and a media plan into the league. He said he was strategic in choosing the time of year the American Alliance of Football will play, since people still crave Fantasy Football and watching games once the season is over.

Fifty nine million people play fantasy and 20 million people play only fantasy football, Ebersol. We have to be able to take advantage of the people who just stop playing fantasy when the NFL season ends.

The Jets are also expected to select a quarterback in the draft after acquiring the third overall pick last Saturday in a trade with the Colts.

A crowded quarterback position isn’t stopping the 25-year-old who says he’s still capable of performing at a high level.

Being an athlete and ultimate competitor, as a player, I welcome competition, Bridgewater said Wednesday, via ESPN.com. I’m confident in the athletic training staff and the coaching staff that they can get me back to the player that I once was.

In addition to competing for the quarterback spot, Bridgewater has been recovering from a torn ACL, which kept him on the sideline for the 2016 season. He was deemed fully recovered by the middle of the 2017 season, but was only used in one game with the Vikings.

James Harrison wants to play, hopes to sign somewhere after draft

The oldest defensive player in the NFL isn’t ready to hang up the cleats yet.

James Harrison, the outside linebacker who ended last season with the Patriots, is planning to keep playing and looking to sign with a team that needs a player like him after the draft, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

Stanton isn’t completely sure it is a timing or mechanics issue, but he will spend the next couple of days trying to figure out the problem. After a day off Monday, the Yankees face the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday for the start of a three-game series. It will be Stanton’s first time participating in the rivalry.

“Just got to do more homework. A lot of these guys it’s the first time seeing them,” Stanton said, referencing his switch from the NL to the AL. “You just got to battle. If you don’t feel right, just find a way to battle and try to put the ball in play, which hasn’t worked out. But we’ll be all right.”

The boos Stanton heard as the game ended on his extra-inning, swing-and-miss strikeout were similar to those that reverberated throughout the ballpark in the eighth inning, when he went down in another clutch situation. Both booings were loud and cranky.

In the end, the report says, a trade is “highly unlikely.”

In other words, Beckham is, indeed, available to be traded. But the Giants are going to demand a hefty price — presumably quite a bit more than the price the Rams just paid to get Brandin Cooks from the Patriots — and other teams are probably not going to pay that kind of price for a player who is going to demand to become the highest-paid receiver in the NFL.

The Giants’ offseason program begins on Monday, and coach Pat Shurmur says he expects Beckham to participate. If Beckham shows up on Monday, that would be a strong indication that the player and the team are on the same page — or at least close enough to being on the same page for Beckham to remain in New York.

If Beckham does not show up, however, that might indicate that the sides are far enough apart that a trade could make sense. Even if, right now, the Giants don’t have any offers that come close to what they want for Beckham.

Donte Jackson runs fast at Pro Day but doesn’t get under 4.3

LSU cornerback Donte Jackson wanted to run lower than 4.27 at the Scouting Combine and thought he might have a chance to challenge John Ross‘ record 4.22. Jackson was fast but not that fast.

So instead of standing on his 4.32 from the combine, Jackson ran again for scouts at LSU’s Pro Day on Wednesday.

He ran a hand-held time of 4.31, Sheldon Mickles of The Advocate reports.

Melvin proved worthy, setting a school record with 17 pass break-ups during his senior season along with 55 tackles, an interception and forced fumble. However, that still wasn’t impressive enough to get picked in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Melvin received a $10,000 bonus when he signed with Tampa Bay, beginning a journey that brought him to Miami and then Baltimore the next year after his Bucs release. Although he initially flashed talent when thrust into an injury-ravaged Ravens secondary late in the 2014 regular season, Melvin’s tenure in Baltimore is best remembered for his getting savaged by New England quarterback Tom Brady in a playoff loss.

Melvin would actually play for the Patriots the following season after his Ravens release but didn’t set roots there, either. He re-signed with Miami and then got cut at the end of the 2016 preseason.

Instead, the Cavs were left to digest how they put themselves in position to need a second-half surge of that magnitude just to make it a game.

The NBA playoffs are imminent, which means LeBron James will again be expected to transform into the legend who found his way to the NBA Finals in seven straight years. The key to understanding “playoff LeBron” starts on the defensive end of the floor.

“I mean, we dug ourselves that hole,” James said after a 44-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist night (his career-high 18th triple-double on the season) was spoiled by the defeat. “So we’re a prideful team, and the only way we get back into the game was just kind of get scrappy and play a little bit more physical, make some shots. But no, listen, we was down 30, and for us to come all the way back, it just shows what we’re capable of doing.”

Rick Neuheisel to coach in Alliance of American Football

It looks like Steve Spurrier won’t be the only familiar name coaching a team in the new Alliance of American Football.

Alex Marvez of Sporting News reports that Rick Neuheisel will be coaching a team based in Southern California. Spurrier was announced as the coach of the league’s Orlando franchise over the weekend.

Not that James was going to argue the call made in his favor by referee Lauren Holtkamp with 1.9 seconds to go.

“I was still trying to get my hands on the ball to kind of get it up there to try to get a four-point play, but it didn’t happen,” James told reporters. “I wasn’t able to get it up there.”

The Cavs ultimately weren’t able to complete the comeback, as the Sixers won their 13th game in a row to take a half-game lead on Cleveland for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. If Philadelphia — which has the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks remaining on its regular-season schedule — wins out, it will hold on to the No. 3 spot, even if Cleveland finishes 2-0 in its home-and-home set against the New York Knicks to close out the schedule.

He’s visiting the Bills (who pick 12th and 22nd) this weekend. He has also either met with or had workouts for the Chargers (17th), Saints (27th), Giants (second and 34th, unless they trade), Steelers (28th), Patriots (23rd and 31st) and Bengals (21st).

The presence of so many teams looking for an eventual replacement rather than an immediate starter is interesting, since Philip Rivers and Drew Brees and Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady aren’t getting any younger. The Bengals can’t be so in love with Andy Dalton that they can’t think about a future without him, while the need in Buffalo is probably more immediate.

Rudolph has prototypical pocket quarterback size and was certainly productive in college, and might be drafted much higher than anyone anticipates simply because of the law of supply and demand.

INFO: When is the 2018 NFL Draft?

Baseball’s got talent, but how much, at which positions and how far into the future?

One bit of conventional wisdom in baseball is that talent tends to be evenly distributed among the different positions. This is more myth than rule because shortstops and first basemen aren’t born; the people running baseball teams choose whom to play and where. David Ortiz probably would have been a terrible shortstop, but there was no law of physics preventing the Red Sox from calling Big Papi a shortstop.

Before 2010, when up-the-middle WAR represented 50.1 percent of the overall WAR (FanGraphs flavor) in the league, the middle positions had passed the 50 percent mark only five times in 109 years, going back to 1901. From 2010 to 2017, it happened in six of the eight years.

You can also see the effect of baseball throwing off the traditional idea that any offensive contribution from a position is just the cherry on top. Teams don’t generally throw in the towel on offense from any position these days unless they can help it. It would be much harder today for a player like Johnnie LeMaster, who put up a 66 OPS+ over 3,000 plate appearances from 1978 to 1984, to persuade his team not to research better options.

While the shoe wasn’t an exact remake by any stretch, the white upper, thick black panel and red accents throughout brought back memories of James’ debut sneaker for longtime fans of his line. Originally inspired by the infamous silver Hummer H2 he drove during his senior year of high school, the Zoom Generation featured typeface similar to the Hummer’s bold badge. The lettering resurfaced here yet again on the tongue strips of the LeBron 15.

In addition to the tribute to his first shoe, James also sported a LeBron 15 honoring Ken Griffey Jr.’s first shoe from over two decades ago. With a black upper, teal accents, similar font accents and a remixed version of Griffey’s iconic Swingman logo, the shoe also incorporated the large forefoot Swoosh from the first Air Max Griffey. The Kid himself, now 48, got in on the fun as well, mimicking LeBron’s pregame picture style to snap a few photos of his own pair.

Around the league, PJ Tucker sported yet another exclusive pair of retro Jordans, this time an Air Jordan 3 made for the Marquette basketball team valued in the thousands. Trey Burke continued his resurgent play in a rare Galaxy-themed Nike Hyperdunk from 2011, while John Wall returned to action in a player exclusive edition of the Adidas BYW X, featuring WALL WAY in massive lettering along the side, and Just a kid from Raleigh in more subtle fashion down the heel.

Marquette King eyes punting for the Broncos

The Raiders cut him abruptly, and the Broncos could be giving him a landing spot.

Punter Marquette King has spoken to the Broncos about a possible alliance with the obvious goal (at least collateral goal) of tormenting the Raiders.

“Marquette would love an opportunity to come visit there,’’ King’s agent, Wynn Silberman, told Mike Klis of 9News.com. “Obviously, Denver is a punter’s dream. They’re high on his list.”

Averett also believes he impressed during the Combine interview process because of his ties to Saban and how many schemes he was forced to master. That knowledge from learning pro-style defenses should lead to an easier transition than the one he experienced coming from high school to Alabama.

“Teams will ask what coverages we play,” Averett said. “And I’ll say, ‘Cover-1, Cover-2, Cover-3, Cover-4, Cover-5, Cover-6, Cover-7 …'”

More work awaits in the NFL from both an educational and physical standpoint with Averett needing to add weight to his 6-0, 185-pound frame. But this time, he’s truly ready for the challenge.

“I’m glad I stuck with it,” said Averett, who is projected to be selected between Rounds 1 and 3. “I mean, look now. I’m just very blessed to be in this situation.”

When that day finally arrives, Donald will become the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. That means the Rams have to cut corners in other areas and find less-costly solutions. Parting ways with high-priced veterans like Ogletree who just received an $8 million signing bonus last October as part of a four-year contract extension and Quinn is an example. Snead said their departure has left the Rams still looking for replacements with the draft approaching.

Other top-tier young talents like Peters, Goff and running back Todd Gurley also will be angling for big-money deals as their rookie contracts move closer to expiration. The same goes for safety LaMarcus Joyner, who was designated as the team’s 2018 franchise player. And it would apply to Beckham, who won’t practice for the Giants until he receives a contract extension, per NFL Network.

As history has shown, not every one of Snead’s personnel moves has paid dividends. Extending the contract of wide receiver Tavon Austin in 2016 has proven a huge mistake. Snead also was not able to re-sign Sammy Watkins after sending a second-round pick to the Bills during the 2017 season for the wide receiver’s services. That still stings even though Watkins’ departure to the Chiefs will be mitigated by LA receiving a third-round compensatory pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.