Film Study: Saints salvage Payton gem

Film Study: Saints salvage Payton gem

Any playoff loss is crushing.

The New Orleans Saints would have had an especially tough time accepting defeat Sunday given how many opportunities the offense left on the field.

Coaches spend so much time crafting plays to beat specific defenses that it’s hard to stomach when the designs work but the execution fails. For much of Sunday, Saints head coach Sean Payton might have felt like he’d ruptured his spleen.

Payton dialed up a possible touchdown on the first play, but it turned into an interception.

The Saints sent Alvin Kamara wide left to join Michael Thomas on the weak side of an empty formation, and ran Kamara and Thomas vertical. Knowing those two would draw free safety Chandon Sullivan’s attention, Payton sent Ted Ginn Jr. on a post from the other slot, covered only by undrafted rookie Cre’Von LeBlanc. The speedster got behind LeBlanc, but Drew Brees — under slight pressure — left the throw well short, and LeBlanc made a terrific leaping grab.

The third quarter brought deja vu. Midway through the frame, Payton called a pin/anchor concept off play-action, with Thomas running a sit route toward Sullivan and Swiss Army knife Taysom Hill running a post from the other side. Sullivan bit hard downhill on Thomas, and Hill — coming from a condensed formation — easily ran away from Avonte Maddox, who had to maintain outside leverage. Brees’ throw was well short again, this time despite a pristine pocket, and Maddox broke up a would-be 46-yard touchdown.

It got worse the next play.

Payton put Hill at quarterback and split Brees wide left in an empty set. The Saints’ tendency with Hill at QB is to run, and Payton knew Sullivan would be responsible for Hill if he ran. At the snap, Sullivan dropped down from center field, and Kamara — from the inside slot of trips — zipped uncovered up the seam, hauling in a perfect throw for a touchdown. But this was also not to be, as Andrus Peat was called for holding Haloti Ngata.

Luckily for the Saints, they were able to overcome the missed chances. Brees — who also fumbled a snap on another deep design off play-action — atoned by carving up the Eagles’ zones with in-breaking intermediate routes to Thomas. Likewise, New Orleans executed two of Payton’s short-yardage designs perfectly in critical moments.

On fourth-and-goal from the 2 in the second quarter, Payton had Thomas motion from wide left toward the formation for an apparent quick screen behind two blockers (often called a shield slant), an increasingly popular short-yardage tactic around the NFL. But it was actually a fake-screen-and-go, with Brees pump-faking, Thomas going back outside and Keith Kirkwood releasing to the corner after faking a block. All three sold it well, and Kirkwood came open easily for the TD.

Midway through the third, Payton kept what would become an 18-play drive alive with a crafty pick play. He had tight end Josh Hill align to Brees’ left in shotgun before motioning to the right wing just before the snap. With a head start on man-coverage mark Malcolm Jenkins, Hill ran to the flat as Kirkwood’s route rubbed Jenkins, creating an easy third-and-3 conversion.

The Saints ultimately survived despite wasting some of Payton’s best designs, a credit to their resiliency and overall firepower.

Like a great basketball scorer, Brees has gone cold from deep but is compensating by getting to the rim and the charity stripe. Still, he might need to hit a few 3-balls against the Rams next week.

–Stubbornness dooms Bradley, Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers didn’t beat themselves Sunday — the suggestion is unfair to the New England Patriots — but they sure helped.

In our Week 16 film study, we worried that coordinator Gus Bradley’s static Cover-3 scheme would come back to bite the Bolts in the postseason. In our divisional-round preview, we wondered if Bradley would change up against Tom Brady, especially given Brady’s recent struggles against blitzes.

Other than some occasional third-down wrinkles, Bradley stuck to the same predictable Cover-3 on early downs Sunday. The result was an utter disaster, as the Patriots marched to five straight touchdowns while barely ever reaching third down — they faced just three third downs total on the latter four TD drives.

Brady and coordinator Josh McDaniels are wizards at opening zone windows. They happily picked L.A. apart, probing at soft spots with checkdowns to running backs and springing wide-open crossers by using hard play-action to suck up and misdirect second-level defenders.

Brady can make those throws in his sleep, and do it quickly enough to foil any pressure. It’s tough enough for edge rushers to turn the corner on Gillette Stadium’s slick turf, but it was downright impossible for Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram with Brady knowing exactly where to go on every play.

Bradley and the Chargers should have known better.

Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons — who run the same Cover-3 scheme, albeit with more diverse calls mixed in — knew they couldn’t just play zone in Super Bowl LI against Brady, and their man coverage hounded him for three quarters. The zone-heavy Pittsburgh Steelers took years of punishment before finally conceding they had to change up against Brady. (Ironically, they haven’t had another shot at him in the playoffs since.)

Heck, the Patriots’ own defensive game plan on Sunday — Bill Belichick’s normally simple scheme morphed into Baltimore-style amoeba fronts with myriad disguises to stress Philip Rivers — illustrated their own hesitance to giving a cerebral quarterback predictable looks.

Had the Chargers thought similarly, they had the talent to challenge the Patriots. Casey Hayward, Desmond King, Derwin James and Adrian Phillips are versatile matchup pieces who can handle down-after-down man coverage. The injury-bitten linebacking corps would be vulnerable, but safety depth could have compensated. Given more time to get home, Bosa and Ingram might have harassed Brady.

Instead, Bradley didn’t even have adjustments prepared for when the plan (predictably) flopped. With Rivers and L.A.’s run defense struggling, it might not have mattered anyway, but the approach never really gave the Chargers a chance.

-How L.A. squashed Dallas’ run game

The Los Angeles Rams knew their normal run defense wouldn’t be enough to stop Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

L.A. allowed 5.07 yards per carry during the regular season, dead last in the NFL. It wasn’t a huge worry much of the year, as the Rams stormed out to big leads and either forced teams to abandon the run or waste time doing it.

But knowing a big day from Elliott would be Dallas’ easiest path to victory, Wade Phillips compensated for his unit’s biggest weakness with an excellent plan.

The first step was using heavy personnel, even when the Cowboys’ offense went lighter. On early downs, Phillips kept his base 3-4 on the field against three-WR sets, and even a snap against four-wide. The aggressive approach — which inherently leaves a linebacker or safety on a wideout, usually in the slot — is one Phillips has used selectively against run-heavy opponents in recent years. The most notable example was the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 victory against the Carolina Panthers, when Phillips deployed 3-4 with three cornerbacks and one safety.

Phillips then put his three interior linemen — nose Ndamukong Suth and tackles Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers — in a “Bear” front (aligned over both guards and the center), preventing double-teams and making it difficult for linemen to climb to the second level. Knowing he’d face single blocking, Suh shot gaps aggressively and gave center Joe Looney issues (including on a fourth-and-1 stop), while linebackers Mark Barron and especially Cory Littleton stayed clean and flowed freely to contain Elliott. The NFL’s rushing leader got free on occasion — like a dazzling 15-yard run on a cutback late in the first half — but he rarely had lanes to reach the open field.

Dallas did exploit the aggressive plan at times, including on its two longest completions of the game. The Cowboys’ first touchdown came safety Lamarcus Joyner in man coverage in the slot on Amari Cooper, who spun Joyner around and ran away from him on a crosser for a 29-yard score. Cooper also came wide open on a crosser from the slot midway through the third quarter. Though Dak Prescott didn’t see him, Cooper drew the eyes of Marcus Peters, who busted his deep-third zone and allowed a 44-yard gain to Michael Gallup after Prescott improvised.

But the Cowboys didn’t punish the Rams enough, even as Phillips stuck with the tactic despite Aqib Talib missing much of the third quarter. Prescott repeatedly declined to exploit healthy cushions under L.A.’s zones, and Dallas barely even tried Cooper in the slot aside from the two aforementioned plays. More often it was Cole Beasley (hobbled by an ankle injury), with Cooper outside against Peters or Talib.

Phillips also fooled Prescott a few times with slight wrinkles, like blitzing an inside linebacker and dropping and outside ‘backer, which produced free rushers or forced Dallas to keep Elliott in to block. Prescott threw a would-be interception that was dropped by OLB Samson Ebukam after he dropped as Dante Fowler Jr. rushed from the other side.

With Prescott unable to make them pay repeatedly, the Rams enjoyed a numbers advantage against the run virtually all game. When Dallas used multiple backs or tight ends, Los Angeles simply brought more bodies into the box. In passing situations, Phillips trotted his nickel package out. The Cowboys could have adjusted d– whether by putting Cooper in the slot more often or perhaps going hurry-up to take advantage of the Rams’ substitution patterns — but they never did.

All told, Dallas ran 22 times for just 50 yards (2.3 average), only their second game below 3.2 yards per carry all year. The Rams’ offensive control — 36:13 time of possession, including 20:12 before halftime — surely helped, but it was easily the run defense’s best performance of the season.

Great strengths are what get teams into the postseason, but major weaknesses usually knock them out. Phillips deserves tremendous credit for concealing his unit’s Achilles heel against one of the NFL’s most suited teams to exploit it.

-How K.C.’s D surprised against Indy

Before the Rams concealed their poor run defense through scheme, the Kansas City Chiefs did so with brilliance in other areas against the Indianapolis Colts.

Like the Rams, the Chiefs’ run defense (4.97 yards per carry allowed) was horrid in the regular season but likewise protected by huge leads. Facing a mauling front five in the snow seemed ominous, but K.C. followed its regular-season formula to obscure the weakness yet again.

The Chiefs didn’t exactly plug run lanes. They shot two gaps early for tackles for loss — exploiting right guard Mark Glowsinki, the line’s clear liability — on plays that were otherwise well blocked. Dee Ford declined to honor two zone-read fakes to make unblocked tackles, and squatty-but-quick rookie nose tackle Derrick Nnadi flashed. (K.C. actually sat Chris Jones for Nnadi on early downs in nickel, presumably because of Jones’ lack of run-defense discipline. Jones played just 31 snaps — a season-low, excluding his Week 5 ejection.)

With an Eric Ebron drop and sharp coverage from K.C. early, Indianapolis opened with a spree of three-and-outs.

The Chiefs’ pass-rusher-rich defense is built to defend leads, making it a perfect complement to the offense. Not only does Kansas City’s attack rack up points, but it usually does it early, with Andy Reid’s scripted plays tearing defenses limb from limb. Patrick Mahomes & Co. obliged Saturday, racking up 17 quick points, and game script quickly favored the Chiefs, like it has almost all year.

Staked to a three-score advantage, Kansas City’s run defense became essentially moot. Indy ultimately proved very efficient on the ground — 14 carries for 87 yards (6.2 average), with six runs gaining at least 6 yards and a 14-yard run wiped out by a weak holding call — but it was irrelevant.

Where the Chiefs’ defense really shined was in the secondary, as the group (literally) covered for a slow-starting pass rush, quite the opposite of the tendency for most of the season. K.C.’s DBs were much more disciplined than Houston’s were last week in matchup zones, sniffing out Frank Reich’s early-down shot plays off play-action and preventing Andrew Luck from firing deep. The Chiefs also played right up to (or barely past) the line of being too physical against the Colts’ receivers, clinging to their hip pockets and daring referees to make ticky-tack calls.

Given more time to get home and a wealth of obvious passing situations, the rush eventually woke up. Justin Houston cleaned up a coverage sack and exploited Glowinski inside for another. Ford gave right tackle Braden Smith trouble to the inside a few times before getting around the edge for a strip-sack.

Even so, it was far from the rush’s best performance. Jones got his hands up for three batted passes but rarely actually got near Luck. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo and left guard Quenton Nelson were rock solid, and Luck had plenty of time on several dropbacks.

That makes the performance of the Chiefs’ secondary — playing without Eric Berry — all the more impressive. Despite Kansas City’s offense going scoreless on its first five drives after halftime, the Colts never came close to making it a one-possession game, as the Chiefs allowed just two plays over 20 yards and none over 30.

Another such performance next Sunday would likely mean a Super Bowl LIII appearance.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

Bradley shoots 63, leads RBC Canadian Open by 1

Bradley shoots 63, leads RBC Canadian Open by 1

Bradley shoots 63, leads RBC Canadian Open by 1

Keegan Bradley shot a 7-under-par 63 on Thursday to grab a one-stroke lead after the first round of the RBC Canadian Open in Hamilton, Ontario.

Bradley was even par through six holes at the Hamilton Golf & Country Club before going on a tear that saw him reel off five consecutive birdies and seven birdies overall on his final 12 holes.

“It was solid almost top to bottom,” Bradley told the Golf Channel. “I hit almost every fairway, almost every green, then holed some putts. With me, it’s all about the putter. If that thing gets going, I can do stuff like today.”

Bradley is one shot clear of a group of five players at 6 under that includes Nick Taylor, who is one of 12 players in the field attempting to become the first Canadian to win the country’s national event since Pat Fletcher in 1954.

Also shooting 64s on Thursday were Roberto Castro, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen and PGA Tour rookie Sungjae Im of South Korea.

Adam Hadwin, the most successful Canadian player on Tour over the past several years, is among a group of eight players at 5 under. That pack also includes FedEx Cup leader Matt Kuchar and former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, a Northern Irishman who spent hours on Tuesday trying to locate his clubs from Air Canada.

Top-ranked Brooks Koepka, playing for the first time since winning the PGA Championship last month, is at even par. So, too, is sixth-ranked Justin Thomas, who added this event last Friday after missing the cut at the Memorial.

Like Koepka, Rory McIlroy is making his debut in the event, using it as a tune-up for next week’s U.S. Open. The fourth-ranked Northern Irishman is four shots off the lead after carding a 3-under 67 on Thursday.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson, ranked No. 2 in the world, is at 1 over, as are Bubba Watson and Spain’s Sergio Garcia.

Bradley will have to keep up his phenomenal all-around play to hold off the deepest field the Canadian Open has seen in recent memory. Bradley entered the week ranked No. 37 in the world after missing the cut in two of his past three events. His most recent victory came at the BMW Championship last September, and Bradley has only two top-20 finishes this year.

He hit 12 of 14 fairways Thursday and all but one green while needing only 29 putts during his bogey-free round.

“Today was one of the best of the year, if not the best,” Bradley said of his ball-striking. “I knew that if I just put myself in the fairway, which I did today … I was having these short irons in. I’m pretty dialed in right now, so I was able to really get that close, and then hole those putts.

“It’s a lot of fun … it’s a lot more fun doing that.”

NOTES: Bradley came in fourth place in the Canadian Open last year. … The event moved from July to June for the first time since 1989. … Scott Piercy (263 in 2012) holds the tournament scoring record at Hamilton G&CC, which first hosted the event 100 years ago. … Johnson is seeking to become the seventh player to successfully defend a Canadian Open title.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles, QB Wentz agree to 4-year extension

Eagles, QB Wentz agree to 4-year extension

The Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles, QB Wentz agree to 4-year extension

The Philadelphia Eagles locked up franchise quarterback Carson Wentz on Thursday, with the sides agreeing to terms on a four-year contract extension through the 2024 season.

ESPN reports the extension is worth $128 million, with a max value of $144 million and a record of more than $107 million guaranteed. Combined with the final two years of his rookie deal — including $4.1 million in 2019 and $22.8 million in 2020 — Wentz’s contract is worth $154 million, with a max value of $170 million, over six years.

“I can’t even explain to you right now how excited I am to be a part of this great city for this many more years,” Wentz said in a video on Twitter.

“It means the world to me. From the moment I got drafted here, I knew this place was special and I knew they had the most passionate fans in the world in all of sports, and I knew we had the opportunity to build something truly special. …

“It’s going to be a fun ride.”

The Eagles in April exercised the fifth-year option on Wentz’s rookie contract for the 2020 campaign, worth about $22.8 million.

Wentz, the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, has passed for 10,152 yards, 70 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in 40 career games. He finished third in MVP balloting in 2017, when he passed for a franchise-record 33 touchdowns in 13 games before tearing the ACL in his left knee. Backup Nick Foles directed the Eagles through the playoffs and to a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots.

Wentz, 26, returned from the injury to play in 11 games last season and passed for 3,074 yards and 21 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He missed the final three regular-season games and both playoff contests with a back injury but is healthy and participating in OTAs.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Wentz signs extension through 2024

NFL notebook: Wentz signs extension through 2024

The Philadelphia Eagles locked up franchise quarterback Carson Wentz on Thursday,

NFL notebook: Wentz signs extension through 2024

The Philadelphia Eagles locked up franchise quarterback Carson Wentz on Thursday, with the sides agreeing to terms on a four-year contract extension through the 2024 season.

ESPN reports the extension is worth $128 million, with a max value of $144 million and a record of more than $107 million guaranteed. Combined with the final two years of his rookie deal — including $4.1 million in 2019 and $22.8 million in 2020 — Wentz’s contract is worth $154 million, with a max value of $170 million, over six years.

Wentz, the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, has passed for 10,152 yards, 70 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in 40 career games. He finished third in MVP balloting in 2017, when he passed for a franchise-record 33 touchdowns in 13 games before tearing the ACL in his left knee. Backup Nick Foles directed the Eagles through the playoffs and to a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots.

Wentz, 26, returned from the injury to play in 11 games last season and passed for 3,074 yards and 21 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He missed the final three regular-season games and both playoff contests with a back injury but is healthy and participating in OTAs.

–New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady clarified to reporters that his attempt to trademark the nickname “Tom Terrific” was not done with the intent to use the moniker but rather to stop its use.

Brady, who filed to trademark the term last month, has drawn heavy criticism from New York Mets fans, as longtime Mets pitcher Tom Seaver earned the nickname “Tom Terrific” during his time with the Mets from 1967 to 1977. Brady said Thursday he regrets filing the trademark, adding he did so only so nobody else could.

“It’s unfortunate,” Brady said.

“I was actually trying to do something because I didn’t like the nickname, and I wanted to make sure no one used it, because some people wanted to use it. I was trying to keep people from using it, and then it got spun around to something different than what it is. Good lesson learned, and I’ll try to do things a little different in the future.”

–Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse joined the Detroit Lions and reunited with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

The one-year deal reportedly is worth $2.3 million, according to multiple reports.

Kearse, 29, played for Bevell with the Seattle Seahawks but played most recently for the New York Jets. He caught 37 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown last season.

–The Arizona Cardinals claimed offensive tackle Desmond Harrison off the waiver wire.

The Cardinals had the first claim for the 25-year-old lineman, who was waived by the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday after he missed the first day of minicamp.

Head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters Harrison missed a flight and was “a little late.” He added that the team “just decided to move on.”

–New England Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the Navy during a ceremony at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Cardona, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was promoted from lieutenant junior grade. The event was held on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose father, Steve, coached and scouted for the Navy football team from 1956-89, was in attendance to say a few words.

“Congratulations to Lieutenant Joe Cardona on his promotion,” Bill Belichick said, per ESPN. “And obviously a day to remember our World War II veterans on D-Day. The 75th anniversary, that’s kind of a big one for us. I want to recognize all the things that they did.”

–Field Level Media

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Report: Cardinals to claim OT Harrison

Report: Cardinals to claim OT Harrison

The Arizona Cardinals will

Report: Cardinals to claim OT Harrison

The Arizona Cardinals will claim offensive tackle Desmond Harrison off the waiver wire, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Thursday.

The Cleveland Browns waived Harrison on Wednesday.

By league rules, the Cardinals can’t put in a waiver claim for him until later Thursday afternoon, but they have first claim on the waiver wire. Rapoport said the 25-year-old lineman already was spotted in an airport headed to Arizona

Harrison played his rookie season in 2018 with the Browns as an undrafted free agent. He started the first eight games, but when coach Hue Jackson was fired, Harrison was benched and didn’t play again.

–Field Level Media

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Patriots LS Cardona promoted to lieutenant in Navy

Patriots LS Cardona promoted to lieutenant in Navy

New England

Patriots LS Cardona promoted to lieutenant in Navy

New England Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the Navy on Thursday during a ceremony at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Cardona, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was promoted from lieutenant junior grade. The event was held on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose father, Steve, coached and scouted for the Navy football team from 1956-89, was in attendance to say a few words.

“Congratulations to Lieutenant Joe Cardona on his promotion,” Belichick said, per ESPN. “And obviously a day to remember our World War II veterans on D-Day. The 75th anniversary, that’s kind of a big one for us. I want to recognize all the things that they did.

“…[We’re] happy to recognize Joe on this day. It just makes it a special day for all of us.”

Cardona, 27, was drafted by the Patriots in the fifth round in 2015. He has played in all 64 possible games through four seasons despite his commitments to the Navy, and he signed a four-year contract extension last June.

–Field Level Media

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Pats’ Brady clarifies ‘Tom Terrific’ intentions

Pats' Brady clarifies 'Tom Terrific' intentions

Pats’ Brady clarifies ‘Tom Terrific’ intentions

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady clarified to reporters on Thursday that his attempt to trademark the nickname “Tom Terrific” was not done with the intent to use the moniker but rather to stop its use.

Brady, who filed to trademark the term last month, has drawn heavy criticism from New York Mets fans, as longtime Mets pitcher Tom Seaver earned the nickname “Tom Terrific” during his time with the Mets from 1967 to 1977. Brady said Thursday he regrets filing the trademark, adding he did so only so nobody else could.

“It’s unfortunate,” Brady said. “I was actually trying to do something because I didn’t like the nickname, and I wanted to make sure no one used it, because some people wanted to use it.

“I was trying to keep people from using it, and then it got spun around to something different than what it is. Good lesson learned, and I’ll try to do things a little different in the future.”

After news of the trademark filing emerged, the Mets posted on Twitter saying that only Seaver should be called “Tom Terrific.” In a show of bipartisan support, two New York congressmen — Peter King and Tom Suozzi — both told TMZ Sports the same on Wednesday.

“There’s only one ‘Tom Terrific,’ and that’s Tom Seaver,” King said. “Brady should stay up in New England.”

“(King is) a Republican, I’m a Democrat, and we both agree there will always only be one ‘Tom Terrific,'” Suozzi added.

Brady reiterated Thursday that he meant no disrespect to Hall of Fame member Seaver, a three-time Cy Young Award winner.

“I don’t like the nickname,” Brady said. “I don’t like when people give me many nice compliments, certainly that. It wasn’t something I was trying to do out of any disrespect or ill manner, or anything like that.”

–Field Level Media

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Lions sign WR Kearse

Lions sign WR Kearse

Wide

Lions sign WR Kearse

Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse joined the Detroit Lions and reunited with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

The one-year deal reportedly is worth $2.3 million, according to multiple reports.

Kearse, 29, played for Bevell with the Seattle Seahawks but played most recently for the New York Jets.

Kearse caught 37 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown last season.

Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay were Detroit’s top receivers last season but have been unable to participate fully in offseason workouts as they recover from injuries. The Lions signed slot receiver Danny Amendola in free agency.

Kearse, entering his eighth season, did not bow out of New York peacefully, saying he was overlooked by the Jets and rookie quarterback Sam Darnold in 2018.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos RB Lindsay hopes to be ready for camp

Broncos RB Lindsay hopes to be ready for camp

Broncos RB Lindsay hopes to be ready for camp

Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay has been out of action with a right wrist injury since Dec. 24, and he — along with new head coach Vic Fangio — is looking forward to getting back to work when the team reports to training camp in mid-July.

Lindsay, who suffered the injury in a loss to the Oakland Raiders, required surgery to repair ligament damage and has missed the team’s workouts since. While on the practice field during OTAs and this week’s minicamp, he has focused on strength and conditioning while the rest of the players go through team drills.

“The surgeon told me [it would take a few months to recover] … but when you hear it, it’s ‘OK, OK,’ but when you have to go through it and now it’s like four months in, you’re like, ‘Man, now it’s going to be six months,'” Lindsay said Wednesday at minicamp. “It’s a long process, but it’s worth it. … It’s your livelihood, you’ve got to be OK and they want to put me in the best position to make plays.”

Lindsay shed a bulky wrist brace this week and has been catching passes from the jugs machine, showing progress.

After Wednesday’s practice, Fangio said he expects Lindsay to be ready for training camp.

“I haven’t seen him out on the field, but I think he’s a very intense competitor, wants to do well and has his priorities in order,” Fangio said. “I think he can already be classified as a good pro even though it’s his second year, and that’s probably why he had the very good rookie season. Everything that I’ve learned about him is all good.”

Asked if they are taking extra precautions with Lindsay and his wrist, Fangio said, “No, it’s not heightened. It’s a particular injury where they tell me everything’s gone well and they just don’t want it to get bumped on yet. He can go out there and do everything. They just want to use this time and the next five weeks to make sure he’s ready to go.”

Lindsay, who became the first undrafted offensive rookie ever to earn Pro Bowl honors, amassed 1,037 yards and nine touchdowns on 192 carries last season. His average of 5.4 yards per carry tied for second in the league.

Regarding his current status, Lindsay said, “I feel like I’m very close. It’s going to come down to the head coach and our training staff to make the decisions. I trust them. For me, I’m going to be ready when it’s time. That’s it. When they say it’s time to go, they say I’m going today, I’ll be ready.”

–Field Level Media

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49ers extend LT Staley through 2021

49ers extend LT Staley through 2021

The San Francisco 49ers signed

49ers extend LT Staley through 2021

The San Francisco 49ers signed left tackle Joe Staley to a two-year contract extension Monday, the team announced Wednesday evening during its “State of the Franchise” presentation for season-ticket holders.

Staley was set to enter the final year of a six-year, $44.7 million contract, with expected earnings of $8.6 million in 2019, but is now under contract through 2021. Additional terms of the extension have yet to be reported.

Staley appeared on the show alongside other players, coach Kyle Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and CEO Jed York.

“Honestly Jed, since the moment you guys drafted me in 2007, it’s been my absolute honor to play for my franchise,” Staley said, “and I wanted nothing more to complete my entire career with this franchise.

“…What we want to do is bring you a championship trophy. I want to because this is the only franchise that matters to me.”

Staley, who will turn 35 in August, has 174 career starts since the 49ers drafted him 28th overall in 2007, reaching six Pro Bowls. He started all 16 games last season for the first time since 2015, allowing 3.5 sacks, per STATS LLC. That was his lowest single-season figure since 2013.

San Francisco drafted tackle Mike McGlinchey ninth overall last year, but he will remain on the right side for the forseeable future.

–Field Level Media

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Browns waive former LT Harrison after tardiness

Browns waive former LT Harrison after tardiness

The

Browns waive former LT Harrison after tardiness

The Cleveland Browns waived former starting left tackle Desmond Harrison on Wednesday, a day after he missed the first practice of the team’s mandatory minicamp.

Head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters Harrison missed a flight and was “a little late.” He added that the team “just decided to move on.”

Harrison, 25, started the Browns’ first eight games in 2018 at left tackle — the first player to start at the position following stalwart Joe Thomas’ retirement — as an undrafted rookie out of West Georgia. He was a late scratch in Week 9 with an illness and was inactive the rest of the year after losing the starting job to Greg Robinson.

Robinson was re-signed to a one-year, $7 million deal this offseason.

Harrison was once considered a potential high draft pick after joining Texas as a top high school recruit, but he was suspended three times by the Longhorns and spent two years away from football before joining West Georgia in 2017. He starred at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine but still went undrafted.

–Field Level Media

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Koepka ‘could care less’ about Canadian Open result

Koepka 'could care less' about Canadian Open result

Koepka ‘could care less’ about Canadian Open result

Brooks Koepka acknowledges that his debut appearance at this week’s RBC Canadian Open is geared specifically toward preparing for next week’s U.S. Open.

The world’s top-ranked player told reporters that “I’ve not touched a club” since winning last month’s PGA Championship. That victory marked Koepka’s fourth major title in the past eight majors, and the two-time defending U.S. Open champion’s sole concern this week is in sharpening his game for Pebble Beach.

“I could care less what happens (this week),” he said, per the Golf Channel. “I just want to feel good going into next week. As long as I can leave feeling confident, striking the ball very well, starting it where I want to, finishing where I want to, hitting some good putts … it doesn’t matter if they do go in or not. I just want to feel confident leaving.”

The Canadian Open benefitted greatly from the move to June from its traditional July slot. Pegged between two majors, it boasts a field featuring Koepka, No. 2 Dustin Johnson and No. 4 Rory McIlroy.

Koepka has played the week before all four of his major victories, including finishing no better than 30th the week before his two U.S. Open triumphs.

“The result doesn’t really matter this week,” he said. “It’s just how I feel I’ve played. Am I hitting enough good shots and really finding a rhythm?”

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: LT Williams reportedly wants out of D.C.

NFL notebook: LT Williams reportedly wants out of D.C.

Seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent

NFL notebook: LT Williams reportedly wants out of D.C.

Seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams wasn’t present Tuesday for the start of the Washington Redskins’ mandatory minicamp, and it was presumed he wanted a new contract.

One report Wednesday, however, said that isn’t the case. Instead, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported that Williams wants out of Washington because of how the team addressed surgery he had in April to remove a tumor from his scalp.

La Canfora said numerous sources confirmed that Williams’ issues with the Redskins are not related to money. Instead, he wants to be traded or released “due to their handling of his recent medical situation. Has vowed not to play for them,” La Canfora wrote on Twitter.

Coach Jay Gruden addressed the report with the media on Wednesday and didn’t deny La Canfora’s reporting. He said he found out a few days ago that Williams wouldn’t be showing up at minicamp and said he hopes he changes his mind and rejoins the team.

–Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard admitted that he knew linebacker Bobby Okereke faced a sexual assault allegation in 2015 at Stanford when the team selected the linebacker in the third round of April’s draft.

An independent student-run website at Stanford called The Fountain Hopper detailed Okereke’s situation on Tuesday and reported that the Colts knew of the allegation when they selected him. A Title IX investigation in 2016 sided with Okereke, so he didn’t face discipline.

According to Ballard, Okereke informed the Colts of the situation at the Senior Bowl in January. Ballard said the team studied documents from the Title IX case and was comfortable with selecting Okereke.

–The Cleveland Browns waived former starting left tackle Desmond Harrison, a day after he missed the first practice of the team’s mandatory minicamp.

Head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters Harrison missed a flight and was “a little late.” He added that the team “just decided to move on.”

Harrison, 25, started the Browns’ first eight games in 2018 at left tackle — the first player to start at the position following stalwart Joe Thomas’ retirement — as an undrafted rookie out of West Georgia. He was a late scratch in Week 9 with an illness and was inactive the rest of the year after losing the starting job to Greg Robinson.

–The Baltimore Ravens agreed on a four-year rookie contract with first-round wideout Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.

Like all first-round contracts, the deal comes with a fifth-year team option. No terms were announced, but the expected value based on Brown’s No. 25 draft slot is $11.8 million over the first four years.

Brown is recovering from a Lisfranc injury in his foot and has not participated in offseason practices, but he is expected to be ready for training camp.

–Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Justin Evans is recovering from a surgical procedure on his heel, not on the toe that ended his 2018 season, head coach Bruce Arians said on Tampa Bay WDAE radio.

Evans was in a walking boot when mandatory minicamp opened Tuesday, with many speculating it related to last year’s toe injury. Arians clarified Wednesday that it is a heel issue, and Evans will be in a boot for a few weeks.

Evans, 23, has started 19 of 24 games through two seasons after he was a second-round pick in 2017.

–Former Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Allen Bailey visited the Atlanta Falcons, ESPN reported.

Bailey, 30, has also visited the New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks. He had career highs of six sacks and 10 quarterback hits last season while playing mostly on the interior for the Chiefs.

–Former Denver Broncos safety Darian Stewart visited the Indianapolis Colts earlier this week, NFL Network reported.

Stewart, 30, was released by the Broncos to save cap space in March. He started 58 of 61 games over the last four seasons, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2016.

–The Buffalo Bills signed defensive tackle L.T. Walton and tight end Nate Becker, releasing defensive tackle Quindarius Thagard and tight end Moral Stephens to make room on the roster.

Walton, 27, played in 36 games (four starts) for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the last four years, making two sacks. Becker is an undrafted rookie out of Miami (Ohio) who spent time briefly with the Detroit Lions earlier this offseason.

–The Panthers signed former Bucs cornerback Javien Elliott, waiving guard Brendan Mahon to make room on the roster.

Elliott, 25, played in 36 games (seven starts) over the past three seasons, with one interception and two pass breakups.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Redskins’ Williams wants out over medical care

Report: Redskins' Williams wants out over medical care

Report: Redskins’ Williams wants out over medical care

Seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams wasn’t present Tuesday for the start of mandatory minicamp, and it was presumed he wanted a new contract.

One report Wednesday, however, said that isn’t the case at all. Instead, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported that Williams wants out of Washington because of how the team addressed surgery he had in April to remove a tumor from his scalp.

La Canfora said numerous sources confirmed that Williams’ issues with the Redskins are not related to money. Instead, he wants to be traded or released “due to their handling of his recent medical situation. Has vowed not to play for them,” La Canfora wrote on Twitter.

Coach Jay Gruden addressed the report with the media on Wednesday and didn’t deny La Canfora’s reporting. He said he found out a few days ago that Williams wouldn’t be showing up at minicamp and said he hopes he changes his mind and rejoins the team.

“I’m just trying to focus on the guys that are here right now,” Gruden said. “I know Trent knows how much we need him and want him back. That’s the only thing I can do from here. As far as what happened with him and the doctors, that’s between he and the doctors, and hopefully we get that cleared up soon.”

Gruden gave his support to the doctors.

“I think our medical staff has done a good job,” he said. “Where the frustration might lie is the timing of the diagnosis. Maybe he wishes it was diagnosed a little bit sooner.”

Gruden would not discuss the specifics of the medical condition.

NFL Network reported in April that Williams had an operation to remove a growth or tumor on his head that doctors initially feared was malignant, but he was expected to be fully recovered for the season.

Williams has two years left on his existing contract worth $24 million, which includes base salaries of $11 million in 2019 and $12.5 million in 2020.

The seven-time Pro Bowler will turn 31 before the start of training camp. Williams has been with the Redskins since 2010, when they made him the No. 4 overall selection in the NFL draft.

Reliable swing tackle Ty Nsekhe left Washington for Buffalo during free agency. Former New York Giants first-round pick Ereck Flowers has been working as the first-team left tackle, and 2018 third-rounder Geron Christian is also competing for the swing tackle job.

–Field Level Media

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D.J. downplays split with swing coach

D.J. downplays split with swing coach

D.J. downplays split with swing coach

Dustin Johnson downplayed the recent announcement of his split with swing coach Claude Harmon III as he prepares to defend his title at the RBC Canadian Open ahead of next week’s U.S. Open.

Johnson announced over the weekend that he will work with longtime coach Alan Terrell and continue to work with Claude Harmon’s father, Butch, via video.

“I really haven’t had a coaching change,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday. “I’ve always worked with coach Terrell. I’ve always worked with Butch and Claude. So it’s not really a change.”

Claude Harmon also works with top-ranked Brooks Koepka, and texted Johnson from last week’s Memorial Tournament that he believed it was time to move on. Johnson, the world’s No. 2 player, worked with Terrell at the PGA Championship.

Johnson, who has one PGA Tour victory this season at the WGC-Mexico in February, finished second to Koepka at Bethpage Black last month.

Terrell recruited Johnson to Coastal Carolina in 2004 and runs his branded golf academy in South Carolina. Johnson also sends weekly swing videos to Butch Harmon, who decided last season to stop traveling the Tour.

Koepka is the two-time reigning U.S. Open champion, while Johnson is a two-time winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Either one could arrive in California next week as the No. 1-ranked player, depending on how the RBC Canadian Open plays out.

“I feel like I’m rested. I’m mentally sharp, and I’m ready to go for the last push through the end of the year,” Johnson said. “I’ve got a lot of really big tournaments coming up, and for me it’s just about putting myself into position to have a chance to win.”

–Field Level Media

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Colts knew LB Okereke faced sexual assault accusation

Colts knew LB Okereke faced sexual assault accusation

Indianapolis Colts general manager

Colts knew LB Okereke faced sexual assault accusation

Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard admitted Wednesday that he knew linebacker Bobby Okereke faced a sexual assault allegation in 2015 at Stanford when the team selected the linebacker in the third round of April’s draft.

An independent student-run website at Stanford called The Fountain Hopper detailed Okereke’s situation on Tuesday and reported that the Colts knew of the allegation when they selected him.

A Title IX investigation in 2016 sided with Okereke so he didn’t face discipline.

According to Ballard, Okereke informed the Colts of the situation at the Senior Bowl in January. Ballard said the team studied documents from the Title IX case and were comfortable with selecting Okereke.

“When we looked at it and talked about it and talking to the young man, an incident from four years ago, no discipline by the university and he was never charged with a crime,” Ballard told reporters. “And then you look at his track record from that point to now. Team captain. Lott Trophy quarterfinalist. He graduated with a degree in management and engineering. He’s working on his master’s.

“From 2015 to 2019, from everything we gathered and high recommendations that we got, it felt appropriate to take him.”

A New York Times story in December 2016 reported that an unnamed Stanford football player wasn’t disciplined by the school or football program after a disciplinary board of five panelists didn’t return the needed four votes to say a sexual assault had occurred. Ballard said Okereke told him he was the unnamed player.

Documents studied by the New York Times and The Fountain Hopper displayed that three of the five panelists believed a sexual assault occurred. The accuser was reportedly angry about the decision and eventually left Stanford to avoid having to see Okereke on campus.

“(These things are) very difficult,” Ballard said. “Not only from our perspective from trying to get the information, but from the university perspective. You have a he-said, she-said incident. I don’t want to sit here and act like we don’t have sensitivity for both sides of it.

“But as I’ve kind of said, it happened four years ago and because there were no charges or disciplinary actions by the university and then his track record from everything we know to this point has been good.”

Ballard said the Colts didn’t attempt to speak to the accuser or her lawyer because no disciplinary measures were taken.

The Fountain Hopper said the NFL didn’t respond to multiple requests for comments regarding the Okereke situation.

Okereke, a team captain, played in 51 games at Stanford and had 240 career tackles. He had 19 tackles for loss (including 10.5 sacks) and also forced three fumbles.

–Field Level Media

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Mets to QB Brady: There’s only one ‘Tom Terrific’

Mets to QB Brady: There’s only one ‘Tom Terrific’

Mets to QB Brady: There’s only one ‘Tom Terrific’

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s request to trademark the nickname “Tom Terrific” is getting slammed, particularly by two former New York Mets who were teammates of Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver.

“Maybe it’s the new athlete,” former Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool said Tuesday in a USA Today story. “Maybe it’s the ‘I’ generation, who can only think about himself. He’s the greatest quarterback who ever lived and I supported him over the years, and any time I’m rooting in football, I’m rooting for Tom Brady. But when you ask me about Tom Terrific and having played behind a guy like (Seaver), there’s only one guy who can be called Tom Terrific and that’s him. But when you’re first in line, I think there should only be one of any kind. (Brady) is the second model.”

Seaver, though, never filed for a trademark of the nickname that first was popularized by the “Tom Terrific” cartoon. Seaver is now battling dementia.

According to the USA Today report, Brady’s company, TEB Capital, has filed for two “Tom Terrific” trademarks, one for trading cards, posters, and signed photographs, and another for clothing.

On Monday, the Mets tweeted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, making their point with a photo of the right-handed Seaver during his heyday with the Mets.

“Hey @uspto, with all due respect to @TomBrady…There’s only one #TomTerrific to us. #LGM #Mets,” the tweet read.

A planned protest Tuesday at an Upper East Side restaurant in New York never gained momentum as, along with Kranepool and former Mets outfielder Art Shamsky, only a few fans showed up. But some reportedly grabbed Brady No. 12 jerseys and threw beans at them, then tossed them in a trash can.

Shamsky, who played with the Miracle Mets team that included Kranepool and Seaver and won the 1969 World Series, interviewed Seaver in 2017 for a book he was writing about the aftermath of that team.

“Tom Seaver will always be known as ‘Tom Terrific,'” Shamsky said Tuesday. “He will always be the face of the Mets, and one of the greatest pitchers who ever pitched in the major leagues.”

Seaver won 311 games in a 20-year career. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame with a then-record of appearing on 98.84 percent of voters’ ballots.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Bell works out at Jets’ minicamp

NFL notebook: Bell works out at Jets' minicamp

Running back Le'Veon Bell

NFL notebook: Bell works out at Jets’ minicamp

Running back Le’Veon Bell took part in on-field workouts at the New York Jets’ mandatory minicamp Tuesday after skipping most of the team’s spring voluntary workouts.

He worked with the first-team offense in 11-on-11 drills in what was his first competitive football since January 2018, when he last played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bell sat out last season in a contract dispute and signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets.

–All-Pro Todd Gurley likely won’t be the workhorse out of the backfield for the Los Angeles Rams this season.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Rams are going to incorporate a number of running backs into the game in 2019, including Darrell Henderson, their third-round draft pick in April.

“The days of Todd Gurley just being the straight-up, every-down bell cow are probably over, just based on his knee, his age, the position, the amount of carries he’s had.” Rapoport said. “This is a team that is clearly ready to spread the ball around.”

–All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman retired in San Francisco at age 31.

Bowman earned four All-Pro selections and three Pro Bowl invitations during seven-plus seasons with the 49ers. Released during the 2017 season, he joined the Oakland Raiders and made 10 starts. He did not play in 2018.

–Seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams skipped the start of mandatory minicamp as he seeks a new contract with the Washington Redskins.

Williams has two years left on his existing contract worth $24 million, which includes base salaries of $11 million in 2019 and $12.5 million in 2020.

Williams, who turns 31 before the start of training camp, underwent knee surgery last year and in April had an operation to remove a tumor from his head.

–Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson showed up for the start of mandatory minicamp and restated his desire to be traded.

Johnson was a no-show for the Browns’ voluntary offseason program last month after reportedly telling the team he wanted to move on.

General manager John Dorsey has said that second-year back Nick Chubb will be the starter in 2019 for the Browns, who also signed former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt in February.

–Indianapolis Colts rookie center Javon Patterson tore his ACL during organized team activities and will miss the 2019 season.

Coach Frank Reich confirmed the injury to Patterson, a seventh-round pick from Ole Miss. The Colts were expecting him to compete for a backup job on the interior of their offensive line.

–The New England Patriots released tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who signed a one-year deal in April and was expected to compete for a role after the offseason retirement of star Rob Gronkowski.

Rapoport reported that Seferian-Jenkins is dealing with personal issues that will take him at least a month to resolve.

–New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s request to trademark the nickname “Tom Terrific” is getting slammed, particularly by two former New York Mets who were teammates of Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, Ed Kranepool and Art Shamsky.

Seaver, who is now battling dementia, never filed for a trademark of the nickname that first was popularized by the “Tom Terrific” cartoon. According to a USA Today report, Brady’s company, TEB Capital, has filed for two “Tom Terrific” trademarks, one for trading cards, posters and signed photographs, and another for clothing.

–Field Level Media

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Patriots release TE Seferian-Jenkins

Patriots release TE Seferian-Jenkins

The New England Patriots released tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on

Patriots release TE Seferian-Jenkins

The New England Patriots released tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on Tuesday.

Seferian-Jenkins signed a one-year deal in April and was expected to compete for a role after the offseason retirement of star Rob Gronkowski.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Seferian-Jenkins is dealing with personal issues that will take him at least a month to resolve.

It is possible that New England will consider bringing him back in July prior to training camp.

Seferian-Jenkins, 26, has caught 116 passes for 1,160 yards and 11 touchdowns in 43 games over five NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014-16), New York Jets (2016-17) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2018). He was the Bucs’ second-round pick in 2014.

His best season came with the Jets in 2017 when he had career bests of 50 receptions and 357 yards.

–Field Level Media

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PGA Tour adds Bermuda to 2019-20 schedule

PGA Tour adds Bermuda to 2019-20 schedule

The PGA Tour added the island of Bermuda to the 2019-20 schedule, with the Bermuda Championship making its debut from Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 2019.

On Tuesday, the tour announced a five-year agreement through 2023 with the Bermuda Tourism Authority as the title sponsor

PGA Tour adds Bermuda to 2019-20 schedule

The PGA Tour added the island of Bermuda to the 2019-20 schedule, with the Bermuda Championship making its debut from Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 2019.

On Tuesday, the tour announced a five-year agreement through 2023 with the Bermuda Tourism Authority as the title sponsor of the tour’s first annual event on the Caribbean island.

The tournament held at the Port Royal Golf Course will feature an anticipated field of 120 players and a $3 million purse, with 300 FedExCup points awarded to the champion.

“We are excited to add the Bermuda Championship to the PGA Tour beginning next season,” executive vice president Ty Votaw said in a statement. “Bermuda is an appealing year-round destination, and the players will love visiting in the fall, plus we will be hosted by an outstanding golf course. It promises to be a wonderful opportunity to showcase Bermuda — a beautiful island destination that embodies genuine hospitality — to the world.”

The Bermuda Championship will be played the same week as the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China.

–Field Level Media

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Redskins LT Williams wants new deal

Redskins LT Williams wants new deal

Redskins LT Williams wants new deal

Seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams skipped the start of mandatory minicamp Tuesday as he seeks a new contract with the Washington Redskins.

Williams has two years left on his existing contract worth $24 million, which includes base salaries of $11 million in 2019 and $12.5 million in 2020.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden confirmed Williams’ absence.

“We have been talking to Trent a little bit here and there. He is not here, you are right,” Gruden said. “As far as holding out for whatever reasons, that is between Trent and (senior vice president of football operations) Eric (Schaffer) and (team president) Bruce (Allen). Hopefully, we’ll get it all situated soon and get him back here.”

Williams, who turns 31 before the start of training camp, underwent knee surgery last year and in April had an operation to remove a tumor from his head.

Williams played a full 16-game regular-season schedule only twice in his first nine seasons.

Gruden said the veteran lineman will be missed this week.

“Well he is the best tackle in pro football,” Gruden said. “He’s a great player for us, a great leader. We would love to have him here without a doubt. I know his teammates support him and we support him without a doubt, but hopefully we get it situated where he comes back.”

–Field Level Media

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